Kids like murder dollhouses and bear traps, right? That’s Sherlock’s train of thought as Joan prepares for a visit from a case worker from an adoption agency. The worker will be helping Joan prepare to baby proof the house for an adopted child. Sherlock, clearly to Joan’s surprise, is equally enthusiastic about prepping the house. The bear trap will have to go, though.
But first, murder! Bell summons our detective duo to a crime scene at an office. The victim is Leland Frisk, face down on his desk with a spilled wine glass. The bottle of wine is still at the scene, a fancy, expensive dessert wine. It smells like almonds, which means cyanide. They also find another wine glass, still wet, that someone wiped down. Two partial fingerprints remain, surely the killer’s. But Frisk ran a business that helped companies and employees relocate to new cities. Who would want to kill over that?
But wait, there’s more! In the office they find a room full of filing cabinets. The door has been busted open. The cabinets contain normal files but also folders full of salacious materials. Blackmail? Sherlock notices that the blackmail material is all connected to individuals famously suspected of hiring hits. In yet another locked room is a huge cache of weapons. The scandalous material is not for ordinary blackmail, but to keep Frisk’s “clients” from ratting him out. Frisk was a hitman.
So now we’ve gone from not having a motive for murder to having too many. Any one of Frisk’s former clients might have killed him and stolen back their files to keep the secret of their crime. But there’s only one file missing. If they can figure out which client that file was on, maybe they’ll know the killer’s identity. Among Frisk’s massive store of weapons, they find another intriguing clue. It’s a bizarre device that suffocates people, leaving behind no signs of force except for a ring of broken blood vessels around the mouth.
Joan meets with an FBI agent who was investigating two of the hits they now believe Frisk committed. The FBI agent hadn’t known about the majority of Frisk’s crimes. But she had tied together two recent suspicious deaths. The agent had suspected that the same hitman was involved in the two cases and had been looking for connections. Frisk used his relocation business to launder his payments. It wouldn’t have been long before the FBI noticed that. Joan wonders if that’s why his murder happened now. Maybe one of Frisk’s clients was afraid their crimes would be revealed if Frisk was arrested.
Meanwhile, Bell and Sherlock talk with Sherry Lennox, Frisk’s assistant. She claims to have not known that Frisk was a contract killer. Plus, she’s got an alibi for the time of his death. The detectives hope that by comparing her records to Frisk’s, they can see which of Frisk’s files are missing. Sure enough, they find something, a client with the infamous name of Cal Medina. He owned a pharmaceutical company, but his company didn’t make drugs. Instead, they bought the rights to existing drugs and hiked the prices way up. Medina is a thoroughly vile individual who is, of course, in no way based on any sort of notorious real person.
Back at the brownstone, Joan is on the phone with her caseworker. She never showed up for the home visit. But when Joan attempts to reschedule, the caseworker point blank refuses.
A good way target to take out one’s frustrations on is scummy Pharma Bros. The detectives question Cal Medina. All signs seem to point to him being the killer. His print was on the wine glass and he owns the same kind of wine that was used to poison Frisk. Yet Medina claims to have an alibi, and it’s hard to argue with: he was meeting with one of the most trusted politicians in the area…and it’s totally a coincidence that Medina has donated to her campaign in the past.
But that’s enough that the DA isn’t willing to prosecute. So Sherlock decides they’ll just have to get Medina for the hit that he ordered from Frisk. Too bad they don’t even know the victim’s identity.
It wasn’t just Joan’s meeting with the caseworker that was cancelled. Now the agency is telling Joan that they’ve denied her entire adoption application. She’s somehow missed two appointments with them, including the home visit, and the agency feels that shows a lack of responsibility. But that’s weird, since Joan never even heard about that first appointment and, as it turns out, was told the wrong date for the home visit.
She angrily confronts her lawyer, Gary, who is responsible for liaising with the agency and working out her schedule. He slimily denies responsibility and pins it all on her. This could mean a delay of several more months for Joan.
Sherlock has been working on identifying the man Medina ordered a hit on. Based on Lennox’s files, he knows roughly where and when it happened. That still leaves a lot of potential victims. Sherlock pauses momentarily to drag Big Pharma. There are certain conditions called “orphan diseases.” These illnesses only affect a small group of people, meaning there’s not as much money to be made off them. As such, pharmaceutical companies tend to neglect or “orphan” them. Medina made these diseases his niche. He’d buy the rights to medications for these diseases and then jack the price way up. Since the diseases have few other treatments, people have no choice other than to pay or…I guess, die. How is Medina not the person that got murdered in this episode? Even people in Medina’s own company find this practice atrocious, but since Medina is CEO, there’s nothing they can do.
Then Sherlock ambushes Joan by asking her what happened with the home visit. Joan reluctantly explains the whole mess. She hadn’t wanted to tell Sherlock because she was worried he’d go nuclear on Gary the slimy lawyer. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing. But Joan, bless her, worries any revenge would screw up the chances of Gary’s other adoption clients. Which…Joan is so kind. On the other hand, I’d argue that if Gary messed up her case, he could be doing the same to others, and so Joan might be helping them more by bringing Gary down. But I digress.
Sherlock feels that Joan doesn’t trust him. But Joan explains that she worries she’s pressuring him into co-parenting. She doesn’t want to drag Sherlock in any more than she already has. In the end, Sherlock promises to follow her lead about what to do with Gary.
Remember all that stuff about orphan diseases before? That wasn’t for nothing. It leads Sherlock to Medina’s victim. His name was Peter Romano and he was a researcher who potentially found a cure for one of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. This was bad news for Medina, who had just raised the prices for the only medication for that same condition. Then Romano choked to death on food before finishing his new treatment. Sherlock, looking at Romano’s autopsy, can immediately tell his death wasn’t accidental. There’s a ring of bruises around his mouth. He was killed with the weird device from Frisk’s office earlier.
Bell and Sherlock confront Medina at a restaurant. But partway through the accusation, Sherlock is distracted by the restaurant’s sommelier. He’s changing the wine glasses at Medina’s table on Medina’s insistence. Sherlock suddenly asks for a list of restaurants that Medina frequents.
Why do wine glasses matter? Certain kinds of alcohol have specific glasses for serving. Medina is the kind of upper class snob that cares way too much about that. Yet the dessert wine that killed Frisk was served in the wrong kind of glass. That makes the detectives suspect that Medina wasn’t there when Frisk was killed. On further examination, they discover that the other partial print on the glass from the crime scene originally came from a waitress at one of Medina’s favorite restaurants. The wine glass was stolen and planted at the crime scene in order to frame Medina as Frisk’s murderer.
Examination of security footage from the restaurant proves this point. It also gives the detectives the identity of the thief. It was Frisk himself. He framed Medina for his own murder. So wait, was it even a murder at all, or did he kill himself? Why?
The detectives decide it’s time for another talk with Lennox, Frisk’s assistant. She’s the one that first pointed them Medina, after all. She must be part of the frame-up.
Lennox admits to all of it. She did know that Frisk was a hitman, but Medina was never actually Frisk’s client. Frisk didn’t kill Romano. But he did find out that Medina was responsible for that hit and wanted Medina held responsible. So he planted the wine glass and the weapon used to murder Romano to point whoever investigated Frisk’s murder to Medina. As Bell questions Lennox, Sherlock explores the house and finds the motive for all of this. A sick child. To be specific, Lennox and Frisk’s son…who has cystic fibrosis.
Frisk had handled all the payments for his sick son. When the price of one of his medications went up, he paid for that too. But when Frisk researched the medicine, he learned of the story of Romano and his mysterious death. As a hitman himself, he’d recognized it as a hit. He revealed to Lennox his real identity as a killer and enlisted her help in getting revenge on Medina. They’d hoped that if Medina was arrested, he’d lose control of his company and the prices would go down again. But then Frisk had discovered the FBI were hot on his trail. With no time left, he’d turned to this desperate plan.
Sherlock’s only regret is that they weren’t able to fulfill Frisk’s dying wish and get Medina too. Maybe he still can.
Meanwhile, Sherlock being Sherlock, he wasn’t able to totally resist meddling with Joan’s problems with her lawyer. He found a potential solution, in the form of a king. Yes, a king. King Wilhelm of Bohemia is a king in name only, as Bohemia no longer exists a country. But (as Sherlock dramatically explains), he has a son, and that son has been up to some stuff. Namely, selling “adult adoptions,” in which he adopts an adult so that person can inherit his title. The king is not happy at this scam. And guess who has been helping the prince run his little scam? That’s right, slimy Gary! Sherlock leaves it up to Joan as to what she should do with this information.
Frisk wasn’t able to find a way to conclusively prove with the existing evidence that Medina ordered the hit on Romano. Sherlock can’t either. But a different idea occurs to him. Surely Frisk wasn’t the only hitmen who didn’t want his past clients talking. What might a hitman do if he thought one of his clients was going to spill?
While, as it turns out, he might try to kill that client, giving the police the chance to identify the hitman, arrest him, and offer him a deal to sell out his employer (cough Cal Medina cough). Which he happily does. Frisk’s dying wish will be fulfilled after all.
One last storyline to wrap up. Joan decides after all to use the gift Sherlock gave her. She confronts Gary. Either he can fix things with the agency and step down as Joan’s lawyer and this whole thing can go away, or she can use his scam with the prince of Bohemia to create a nice scanda. The choice he makes surprises no one.
But Sherlock has something to say about the adoption. He hasn’t felt pressured by Joan to co-parent. But it’s naive to think he won’t be a part of this kid’s life. He loves Joan, so he’ll love her kid too (although he doesn’t put it like that). He won’t be the child’s dad, but maybe instead he’ll be Uncle Sherlock. Or, as he puts it, Uncle Detective.
- My summary is long this week, so my thoughts will be brief!
- Not to be too personal, but I had a bad day yesterday and “Uncle Detective” really healed my soul
- King Wilhelm of Bohemia is a reference to the Arthur Conan Doyle story “A Scandal In Bohemia,” which is also the story to introduce Irene Adler. Fairly intriguing considering that Moriarty has recently resurfaced.