The Detective and the Woman
hasn’t tired you out too much.’
    ‘Oh, I hope so too,’ put in Tootie suddenly, wandering over. ‘Marion plays, so it will be a huge treat for her.’ Ambrose calmly followed in his wife’s wake, and her conversational partner, the tall stranger, stood at the edge of the group, looking on without comment.
    ‘Oh, Mr Murphy,’ said Mina, turning toward him after a moment, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t done the honours. Our newcomers are Lavinia and Bernard James. This is Mr John Murphy of Montana, enjoying his first taste of south Floridian life.’ The large man’s voice was predictably booming as he greeted hostess and guests.
    ‘No one’s done the honours for us, either,’ said Tootie once he had subsided, ‘but we’re quite capable of it ourselves. I’m Tootie McGregor, and this is my man himself, Ambrose.’ Far from embarrassment, Ambrose McGregor seemed massively pleased to be possessed of such an outgoing wife. He smiled at Irene, who said her hellos in a quiet voice. ‘My goodness, you’re lovely,’ said Tootie, taking a good look at her. ‘And American. I’ve no wonder you chose one of those British men to marry. If our boys talked like that, this state would be far more populated.’ Mina Edison looked vaguely horrified. Her stepdaughter, the only non-speaking participant remaining, appeared vastly amused.
    To the relief of the hostess, a young maid came in just then to signal the beginning of dinner. Holmes held his arm out for Irene, who took it and seemed relieved—whether genuinely or not, he was unsure. ‘I’m afraid I must insist on taking my own wife through, Mrs Edison. Our time apart has been most distressing,’ he explained, with a benign smile at their hostess. Marion Edison made her own introduction of herself to Irene on the way to the dining room, smiling in a genuinely friendly way before taking the arm of the Montana cattleman. Holmes wondered what age the others ascribed to Irene. She looked younger than her thirty-two years, though she could also look older. Mina seemed to regard her as an equal, which was fortunate under the circumstances.
    Holmes’s wish for the evening would have been to take on the inventor, to listen to Thomas Edison and exchange ideas with his brilliant mind, but Bernard James did not have such capacities. Instead, his real objective was to draw out Tootie McGregor and her husband, whom he had only met once before in a larger party. They were prominent in south Floridian society and undoubtedly knew the business of everyone in town. The wife hardly seemed like a difficult subject for such a task, though he was less sure about her quiet husband. Burroughs, too, was an unknown quantity, though any connection to a plot between an English solicitor and a Central American entrepreneur seemed farfetched at best. Nevertheless, Holmes kept his eyes on everyone.

Chapter 5: Irene
    I was nervous, I’ll confess, as I took my seat at the large dining table. Holmes had spent the afternoon briefing me and then quizzing me about the details of the lives of Bernard and Lavinia James, and I had dutifully learned locations and dates and pleasing filial anecdotes. But facts, even emotionally affecting ones, are far from the reality of taking on a character. Holmes had assured me I could behave as myself, but at the same time I was strongly aware of the fact that Lavinia James was far from Irene Adler in her experiences and habits. In addition to this, I would also be required to concentrate on the others in the situation, some of whom Holmes would have met, but all of whom would be strangers to me. Once or twice, I nearly told Holmes to continue the investigation if he liked, but to consider himself divorced from the unfortunate Lavinia, who wished to return instead to her much less complicated life as the celebrated contralto Irene Adler. Each time, one look at Holmes’s provoking face steeled my resolve. The great detective might be wildly skilled at this sort of

Similar Books

Master of the Moors

Kealan Patrick Burke

The Big Bang

Roy M Griffis

Dream Shard

Mary Wine

The Flowers

Dagoberto Gilb

Deadlocked

Joel Goldman