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[personal profile] invida_fic
Title: A Damsel in Distrust (4/?)
Author: invida
Rating: PG-13 for the swears
Word Count: 3600
Fandoms: BBC Sherlock, Veronica Mars
Timeline/spoilers: entire series of Veronica Mars, up to A Scandal in Belgravia of Sherlock.
Disclaimer: I know the law, and the law would win.
Summary: Veronica Mars meets Sherlock Holmes. How well did you think it would go?
Acknowledgements: Thanks to [ profile] aud_woman_in for the beta, encouragement, and a willing ear. Thanks to [ profile] maybe_amanda for giving me the idea for an actual plot. Thanks to DC for the challenge.

Sherlock must have said something to John. That was the only reason Veronica could think of for John to be acting this way so suddenly. Like he'd abruptly turned off. Oh, he was exceedingly polite; just no longer attentive except to watch her when he didn't think she'd notice.

She sat outside Speedy's Café. John had lent her his laptop, and she was surfing and catching up on the news at home while she waited for her friend Mac to log on for a chat. But California was eight hours behind, and Mac would still be at her summer job.

The time difference might have only been three hours, if the FBI hadn't rescinded her internship offer. Considering all the other scandals her name had been attached to, she didn't know why the Feds had drawn the line at the implication that her dad had covered up her break-in at the Kanes'. She would have put money on Jake Kane extending his influence, just like he did everywhere else.

But she didn't have money to make bets, not after buying a plane ticket to London at the height of travel season. She refused to think about how many textbooks she would've been able to buy next semester with the cost of her flight. But once she found Logan, they'd go home and she'd get a few PI cases to keep her afloat.

The slow connection at the café finally coughed up a recent article on the Neptune Register website describing current Sheriff Vinnie Van Lowe's half-assed efforts to find Logan. Balboa County law enforcement apparently had bigger priorities than searching for the spoiled son of a suicide victim and a murdering lech, no matter that their movies were still a mainstay of the local late-late show. Once she'd realized that Logan was missing and not just off binging or "finding himself," her dad had insisted she go through legitimate channels. Her record couldn't risk any more blemishes, especially when it was beginning to affect her future. She inhaled deeply, remembering how hard had it been to swallow her pride and present Van Lowe with her case that Logan was missing.

Vinnie, so smug, so flippant, just dismissed her. He was a vapid version of Sheriff Lamb. She'd almost preferred Lamb's cruelty to Vinnie's incompetence. At least Lamb knew when Veronica was insulting him.

It wasn't until Veronica got Trina, Logan's sister, to make a stink about not being able to get hold of Logan that his disappearance got any attention. But a millionaire bad boy going AWOL doesn't garner the best kind of media attention. Soon no one seemed to care.

And now here she was in London, one of the cities she most wanted to visit before she died. But instead of taking in the sights and enjoying herself, she was sitting at a café, hunched over a borrowed laptop, reading an internet article about how her ex-boyfriend's trail had gone cold and now was suspected of wanting to not be found. Impossible. No, she knew Logan. Things were going well. They'd been taking things slowly. Okay, they hadn't actually said they were getting back together, but it was obvious. At least it was to her. And all his smiles, touches, and innuendo told her it was obvious to him too.

The lid of the laptop lowered suddenly and she sat up, surprised to find Sherlock sitting across from her, his palm on top of the now closed computer.

"So how do you see this playing out?"

Veronica rolled her eyes at his attempt to be dramatic. "Well, I see myself pointedly ignoring you while I open the laptop again. I'm going to finish my coffee while I Skype with my IT Guru back home. She's going to do what she does best and then tell me who did it, and then I'll go back to Jake Kane, and he is going to give me the information I want. I'll have cleared my name and I can thank you for nothing by continuing to pointedly ignore you for the rest of my life. Then you can pretend I was never here. We'll all get what we want."

Sherlock slouched down in his chair, his hands clapped together with his fingertips pressed to his lips as he regarded her coolly. "That's going to be rather difficult."

"Because you're going to stop me?"

"If I have to."

"Is that why you sent John on your little errand? So you can stop me? I thought you told Lestrade you'd help."

"That was before I knew what this was really all about."

"What what is all about?" Veronica asked with irritation.

"You're really going to do this? Play coy? Did he not tell you who I was? It doesn’t work with me."

"Are you on drugs or something? Did who not tell me what? John? You sent him off on some goose chase to get him away from me."

"For his own protection."

Veronica shook her head with a laugh. "Riiiight. And not at all because you don't want me to make you look like an idiot in front of him?"

Sherlock sniffed haughtily. "I have never cared what I look like to anyone. You are letting him make a fool of himself over you."

"And you don't?" Veronica shot back.

"I treat him like he's foolish. There's a difference. I don't dupe him into believing anything else. Stop trying to change the subject."

Veronica threw her hands up in frustration. "I don’t know what the subject is!"

He leaned forward. "You, why you're really here, and your benefactor."

"Benefactor?" she squinted at him in confusion. "Okay, you're the one who wants answers, so you have to start making sense or we're going to be doing this dance for a while."

"I've heard that the truth is a rather renowned place to start."

"Everything I've told you has been true."

"And yet, you haven't told us everything. Like who Logan Echolls is."

Without even blinking at him, she said, "Aaron and Lynn Echolls' son."

"So the tabloids say. They also say he's your boyfriend."

"Ex-boyfriend," she corrected him.

"You seem to have rather a lot of those."

Really? He was going to go there? Did no one have any imagination? She expected better from the English. "No more than the average girl my age. How many do you have?"

Sherlock ignored her gibe. "You're really going pretend you don't know so that I have to spell it all out?"

Veronica shrugged. "Sure. I could use a laugh."

"Logan Echolls has been missing for weeks. Neither the media nor the local police have taken much interest. You, on the other hand, have led a crusade with both to keep his case from going cold. One can only assume that with your private detective background that his trail has led you here."

Veronica sat back and looked at him impassively. "Other than my friend's name, none of that has exactly been a secret."

"But the reason you've gone to Jake Kane is, is it not? You were going to break into his flat, but before you got a chance to search his flat, you were accused of stealing his intellectual property."

"We know this already."

"Is that when you contacted him? To fix it for you?"

Veronica frowned. "Detective Inspector Lestrade?"

"Don't be obtuse."

"I know three men in this country: you, John, and Greg Lestrade. So which of you did I contact? Here's my phone. Check its history." She held out her cell to him.

"You know exactly who I mean." Sherlock said, waving her hand away. "The name. The name no-one says."

"Now who's being coy?" Then Veronica narrowed her eyes at him and asked, "Or am I being punk'd? Did Dick put you up to this? No, this is too elaborate for that jackass. My dad? Is he trying to teach me another lesson?"

"Moriarty," Sherlock gritted out impatiently.

Veronica looked at him blankly. "I got nothing. Who's Moriarty?"

"I told you, this act? It won't work."

Veronica let out a frustrated sigh. She pushed back from the table and stood. "Look, there's no way you're going to believe me and I'm tired of trying to convince you –"

Sherlock rose with her. "I'm not finished."

He reached for her as if to stop her. In a panic, she grabbed her mug and held it close to herself and immediately felt like an idiot. A mug was not a Taser. Recovering, she said, "Well, it can wait until I get another coffee. I have a feeling I'll need to a steady stream of caffeine to get through this." Then she sidestepped him and stomped into the café.

As Mr. Chatterjee poured her refill, she contemplated how she was going to convince Sherlock she was telling the truth. But telling the truth about what exactly? He claimed she wasn't giving them the whole story, and yet getting a straight answer out of him was like trying to find the end of a roll of packing tape.

"A word of warning, young miss," Mr. Chatterjee said as he pushed the full mug of coffee towards her. "I see you are talking to Sherlock Holmes. He is the most infuriating man alive. Do your best to avoid him."

She turned to see Sherlock sitting down again and drumming his fingers on the table. "Wish I could but he's making himself unavoidable at the moment."

"Then do not listen to a word he says. He thinks everyone is merely a puzzle to solve. He stirs up trouble and damn the consequences!"

Veronica nodded. Yes, a puzzle. Of course. She'd been approaching Sherlock all wrong since he sat down. Stop opposing him and figure this out with him.

She paid Mr. Chatterjee and thanked him, then made her way outside.

She sat and said, "Okay, so let's say you're right --"

"I'm right," Sherlock said matter-of-factly.

Veronica rolled her eyes. "Kudos. I can tell how tough that was for you. So let's walk through what you think is happening here. You think I contacted this Moriarty guy after Jake Kane accused me of theft. Why?"

"I assume a deal. You want to be clear of the charges and find this Logan Echolls. He wants something in return. Most likely the software that was stolen. You retrieve it for him as payment."

"And what the hell has he done for me? I'm still accused and Logan is still missing."

He pointed to himself. "Me."

Veronica barked out a laugh. "Oh, yeah, because you've been a godsend so far."

"He knows I will solve this."

"But he didn't get me in touch with you. Detective Inspector Lestrade did. And Greg was doing my dad a favour."

"Moriarty may have set this up before you arrived. He knew you'd have a connection here."

"That's a stretch, and you know it. And besides, it makes no sense. If he set it up so I'm here to get you to help me, then he would've had to know that Jake's software would be stolen, know that I'd be here, know my history with Jake Kane to get me accused, and then wait for me to contact him. And if that were true, then he'd either be the one who stole Jake's software or know who did it. And if that's the case, why involve me at all? That plot is just too complicated."

"Fine," Sherlock leaned forward. The last time she'd seen him this enthusiastic was when he'd first deduced her. "Let's simplify it then. Perhaps there is indeed a third party who stole the software. Then you got accused, contacted Moriarty, and he worked it out so you'd be in touch with me, I'd solve it, you'd abscond with the software and give it to him, then he'd give you the whereabouts of Logan Echolls."

"Except, I've been trying to solve this without you. Actually solve it. Not running around, trying to get the goods on me. And if this Moriarty person knew my reputation, like you suspect he would've, then he'd know that I don't need your help."

"Then you're a distraction --"

"I bet you say that to all the girls," Veronica interrupted, taking a mocking swipe at his arm.

He glared at her. "To keep me from the real case."

"Which is?"

"Well, there we have it, don't we?" Sherlock leaned back with his hands clasped in front of him. "So what is the real case here, Veronica Mars? You see that it all goes back to the fact that you aren't telling us everything. And don't think I haven't noticed that you haven't answered my question. What do you really want from Jake Kane?"

"And you haven’t answered mine. Who is Moriarty?"

"I asked first."

Veronica gave him a withering look. "Very mature."

Sherlock shrugged. "If I cared how I appeared, I wouldn't get any answers."

She took a sip of her coffee to bolster herself before she began, and grimaced at the taste. Some things were just better at home. She said, "Hate to disappoint you, but John already knows this. I was trying to get information about a member of a group Jake Kane runs. My goal, if I had actually got to break into his apartment, was to find out how the group contacts each other without having to actually ask Jake. If you haven't noticed yet, he's not usually inclined to be helpful to me."

"I wonder why," Sherlock remarked.

She stuck her tongue out at him and she swore she saw the corner of his mouth quirk up momentarily. But as Sherlock continued to look at her expectantly, she realized he thought she should have more to say. She gave him a tilt of her head. "Your turn."

Sherlock briefly narrowed his eyes at her, but then began. "Jim Moriarty is a Consulting Criminal."

"And what the hell is that? Like a hitman?"

"Sometimes. But more to the point, he would procure you a hitman to help you achieve your illicit endeavours."

"I don't get it. Does he work for the mob or something?"

Sherlock shook his head. "Completely independent."

"So he's like a criminal administrator for hire?" she asked skeptically. "Like how you solve mysteries because they're there and you're good at it, he commits crime because there's opportunity and he's good at it?" She'd run into a lot of bad guys in her time but never someone who was evil for the sake of evil. Her bad guys usually suffered from a tragic combination of circumstance and stupidity.

Sherlock nodded. "Indeed. My polar opposite. He's at the heart of dozens that I've been able to trace, and possibly hundreds, of conspiracies, corruptions, felonies – from the minor to the heinous. He doesn't have a pattern to the 'cases' he takes. I suspect for that very reason: so that he doesn't have a pattern."

Veronica pointed at him. "But you've seen one."

"I know when he's involved and this clearly has his signature all over it."

"Okay. But did you ever think that maybe it's not me though? The person who's hired him. I mean, there are other players involved here. I'm just the one who has had the misfortune of getting stuck with you."

Sherlock frowned, putting a finger to his lips, taking a moment to digest her suggestion. She would've thought he was mocking her, but then he asked, "Like?"

"Jake Kane, for one."

Sherlock gave a derisive snort. "What would a software billionaire need with a consulting criminal?"

"Please. Jake Kane might be a cutthroat businessman, but he's practically the Mr. Bean of crime. You've googled him by now. You've read about how he tried to cover up his own daughter's murder."

"Yes, your father's self-published book was a page turner. I especially enjoyed the part where he was thrown out of office for bungling the case."

Veronica thumped her fist down on the table. "A case we solved. And if it weren't for Jake Kane's interference, it would've been solved a hell of a lot sooner." Sherlock stared at her fist. Damn it. It just took the mention of that awful time when she'd lost everything to send her into fits of insecurity. Embarrassed, she pulled her hand back and busied herself with her mug again, idly stirring her coffee. If for nothing else than to show Mr. Chatterjee, who was now suspiciously glancing out the shop window at them, that she was still interested in his bland creation.

"Touché," Sherlock said, at last. "Nonetheless, what possible crimes would he need to commit that he couldn't buy his way out of?"

"He has a son and granddaughter on the run from the law. The very son he covered up a murder for. If Duncan reached out to him, I can't imagine a crime he wouldn't commit."

"But why ask you to find the code? Moriarty would surely be able to track it down with his resources."

Veronica shrugged. "Got me. He was just a suggestion."

After a long pause, Sherlock asked, "Have you got another?" She had to suppress a smirk. He would never admit it, but he was enjoying this. Her arm would have to be twisted to admit it too.

"How about his right-hand man, Clarence Wiedman?" she said.

"The big chap you were with on the smoking terrace? And what's his story?"

"Former military intelligence, did a stint in the FBI. Something happened to make him quit all that and go do grunt work for Jake Kane with unwavering loyalty. Maybe that something has reared its ugly head again."

"Dear Jim, please will you fix it for me…" Sherlock whispered.

Veronica quirked an eyebrow, waiting for an explanation, but Sherlock merely inhaled sharply as though he'd come out of a trance, then asked, "Anyone else?"

"Gory Sorokin. He's the person I want Jake to get a hold of for me."

"And what's he got to do with all this?"

"He's the one who took Logan. I know he did. He threatened him and then they both disappeared at the same time. You don't need to watch a Law & Order marathon to know that adds up. So maybe your buddy Moriarty is helping Sorokin hide Logan."

"I know that name," Sherlock said, "Sorokin."

"It's possible. His family is connected. Like international-mob-connected."

"No. That's not it. And if his family is part of a crime syndicate why would he need Moriarty's help?"

"Maybe they're not helping him this time. Maybe a schoolyard fight isn't something they want to be involved in."

"Maybe," Sherlock conceded. "It's going to bother me. I do know that name. His name specifically: Gory Sorokin. Something I read. Recently. Shut up a moment. It will come to me."

He closed his eyes, put his fingers to his temples and muttered, "Think, think, think…"

With his eyes still screwed shut, his hands started waving about in a furious dance. Veronica looked around them to make sure no one was watching this bizarre display. She glanced at the café window to catch Mr. Chatterjee shaking his head and pointedly gesturing at him, as if to say to Veronica, "See?"

Finally, Sherlock's head snapped up and his eyes popped open. "Gorya Sorokin. He's missing."

"Yeah. I just said that," Veronica said. All that production just to repeat what she already told him? She added, "Most likely his family is hiding him. Probably in Eastern Europe."

"No. He's missing as in abducted. It's been reported by his family to Interpol. A reward has been offered." Sherlock took the laptop from Veronica, opened it and started typing away.

Veronica paled. "That's…that's impossible."

"Explain," he demanded, not taking his eyes off the screen.

"I told you, his family is connected. They would never go to the authorities. They'd find the person who took him and there would be major repercussions."

"And yet, here we are." He presented the laptop to her. An article on Gorya 'Gory' Sorokin's disappearance graced the screen.

"Shit. Shit. Shit!" Veronica said as she scrolled through the article. It was exactly as Sherlock said. She could feel her anxiety start to tighten in her throat. How had this news not made it back to Neptune yet? No, this could not be happening. Gory was her only lead.

"Not going according to plan then?" Sherlock asked in amusement.

Veronica glared at his smug expression. "Fuck you."

"As charming as you are, that would be most unhelpful at this point."

She felt her rage boil over at his attempt at a joke. "Then fuck off."

"Not until we've got everything clear."

"Let me make this clear," she said and stood. "I don't fucking care if you don't understand what's going on. It doesn't matter now."

She turned to make her escape before her tears started. There was no goddamn way Sherlock Holmes was ever going to see her break down. But her getaway was thwarted when she ran straight into an elegantly tailored three-piece suit.

She looked up ready to tell this jackass to watch it, unconcerned if she lived up to the stereotype of the American tourist. But when she met cold disdainful eyes staring down a hawkish nose at her, she closed her mouth. This was no klutz. She took a step back, suddenly unsure of herself. There was something about this stranger that was forbidding and yet familiar. She found him incredibly disconcerting.

"Is this she, Sherlock?" the suit asked indifferently, still staring severely at her.

"Indeed, brother. And she's been most uncooperative."

Part 5
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