Murder on Cold Street (Lady Sherlock #5) - Sherry Thomas Page 0,1

a squeeze. “You must be Mrs. Treadles. How do you do? Inspector Treadles has been a great friend to and champion of my brother Sherlock. In his hour of difficulty, we will of course make his welfare our overriding concern.”

“Oh, thank you, Miss Holmes!” cried Mrs. Treadles. “Thank you!”

She looked down. Her eyes widened, as if she’d just realized that she’d been clutching at someone to whom she hadn’t been properly introduced. With a clearing of her throat, she let go of Holmes and took a step back.

Holmes, who couldn’t possibly be unaware of the faux pas, managed to give a highly creditable impression of not having noticed. “I was just about to attend to my brother. Lord Ingram, would you conduct Mrs. Treadles to 18 Upper Baker Street in five minutes’ time?”

Inspector Treadles knew very well that Sherlock Holmes was but a nom de guerre for Charlotte Holmes. But apparently, he had not yet informed his wife of this fact and Mrs. Treadles still believed that a bedridden savant dwelled at 18 Upper Baker Street and imparted his wisdom via Miss Holmes, his sister and oracle.

And apparently, Holmes had decided that this was not the moment to dispense with all fiction.

When she was gone, Mrs. Treadles turned to Lord Ingram. “Robert was absolutely amazed at what Sherlock Holmes and his friends were able to do for you at Stern Hollow, clearing your name so decisively. I can only hope that—that he will be able to do the same for Robert.”

A desperate hope glittered in her eyes, but it seemed more desperation than hope.

He went to her, took her hands, and made himself speak past the lump of fear blocking his airway. “Dear lady, you have come to the right place. Holmes will not let h—his friends down. You may depend on that.”

She smiled wanly. “Thank you, my lord. Thank you.”

“Now, is there anything I can do for Inspector Treadles? He saw to it, when I was in police custody, that I was treated as respectfully as possible. May I do the same for him now?”

She shook her head. “He has friends in the force—I’m certain they have seen to his comfort and dignity.”

She did not sound more than halfway sure. Of her husband’s current state of comfort and dignity, or of the stalwartness of his friends?

Lord Ingram chose not to question either. “Then is there anything I can do for you, Mrs. Treadles, as the inspector’s friend—and yours?”

“I—I can barely remain still now. Would you mind, my lord, if we took a walk outside while we wait?”

The day was cold and gray, the air so saturated with moisture it might as well be raining. Mrs. Treadles marched along the railing of Regent’s Park, her head down, her gloved hands holding on to her forearms. Her garments were black—mourning attire, but not widow’s weeds—he recalled belatedly that her brother had passed away in the summer, toward the end of the Season.

The pavement was crowded with hawkers, sandwich-board men, and children trailing in their governesses’ wake; he steered her by the elbow to keep her from colliding with a woman selling roasted chestnuts. At the nearest park gate, they turned around and made for 18 Upper Baker Street, where he rang the doorbell and said, “I will leave you here, Mrs. Treadles. I’m sure you would wish for some privacy for your discussion with Miss Holmes—and her brother.”

“Oh, no, please don’t go! If I hadn’t found Miss Holmes at home today, I would have called on you next, my lord. And cabled Stern Hollow if you weren’t in town.”

She exhaled, a trembly breath. “I’d like to be prouder and not need anyone’s help. But it’s Robert’s life and our future at stake and I shall feel a lot better if I can have your counsel as well as Sherlock Holmes’s.”

In recent years he had begun to grapple with his own, sometimes overwhelming, desire to serve. Unchecked, that urge to be someone’s knight in shining armor had led to an unhappy marriage—not to mention exploitation by a brother who understood his weakness. In fact, only days ago, Holmes had declared, her eyes boring into his, You are not a tool to be deployed at the whim of some reckless master, and you don’t have to prove your worth by leaping at every task other people are too afraid to do.

For that reason, he had offered his help here, but not jumped in to take charge. But he was glad that Mrs. Treadles