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Chapter Eighteen, "Things that go bump in the Night," a Sherlock Holmes Baker Street Adventure is now posted.
"Things that go bump in the Night"
by John Pirillo
Challenger and Miss Heaven made a fine couple on the dance floor, as a small band played a merry tune with a nice Scottish beat to it. Her hair flew about in fluffy circles while his tailcoat flung up and down, giving him an almost comical appearance. But no one could laugh because he was obviously having the time of his life.
Conan swigged down his mug of ale, then eyed the bar tentatively as Watson dabbled rather awkwardly at a bowl of soup he had no appetite for. "Watson, you really need to stop worrying so much about Missus Hudson."
"It's not that."
"Then what is it?"
"Just not that. Oh, everything else."
Conan eyed his friend. "Such as?"
Watson finally tossed his spoon down on the table and crossed his arms. "I should be there beside her to protect her."
Conan smiled. "Now, don't you feel better for speaking up?"
"I feel like horse crap." Watson growled.
Conan sighed, then watched Challenger again as he danced with Miss Heaven. "Never knew he had that in him."
"I'm sure he didn't either." Watson said with disapproval.
"Why are you so upset about him finding a little romance?"
"And you don't? You're the writer of mysteries. Does it make sense to you that a man would walk into a strange pub and the woman singing would be singing just for him?"
"I've seen stranger." Conan responded, and upon Watson's dour look. "And so have you, might I remind you."
"Looks can be deceiving." Watson blurted out.
"In this case I think not. I think she truly likes him."
"How can you tell?'
"She never takes her eyes off him. She looks like a woman drowning who has found site of land at the last moment when she had given up all hope."
"Very poetic, but..."
"You still have your doubts."
"Well, I suppose that's not something I can fix, so I'm going to bed. It's been a long day. Good night, Watson."
Conan starts to walk away, then comes back. "Oh, and tell Challenger I've reserved a separate room for him, so he doesn't need to bother coming to the room we had planned on sharing."
Watson's eyebrows rose, but he made no comments.
The music stopped and Challenger and Miss Heaven came back to the table to sit.
Challenger wiped at sweat on his forehead. "I haven't danced this hard for years."
Miss Heaven touched his arm. "Exercise is good for the soul."
Challenger smiled. "If all exercise were this lovely, I'd have to agree with you."
Watson, tired of being ignored finally said. "So what about the shop? You said you were going to ask her about it?"
Challenger started to wave Watson off, but he was having none of it. He turned his chair so he was looking into Miss Heaven's startled face. "You say you've been living here for years. Am I correct?"
"Seems like decades, but yes. That is true."
She fidgeted a moment with Watson's discarded spoon, irking him even further, but he held back his anger and waited. She finally stopped and looked into his eyes. "Okay. Not that long, but it sure seems that long."
Challenger began to fidget now, not knowing what she might say next that would expose everything he thought she was as a scam and a lie. "Really, Watson, we needn't bother this woman with our problems."
"Yes, we do. Need to do that." Watson shot back, his eyes dancing with anger. He turned back to Miss Heaven. "And have you heard of the shop, "Father Dethers?"
Suddenly, she tensed. She looked at Challenger. "You never told me you were looking for that shop." She emphasized "that" so strongly that both Challenger and Watson couldn't miss the import of what she was saying.
"I only asked if you knew of a rather obscure shop with oddities in it." Challenger interjected.
She got up suddenly. She turned to leave, then looked back at Challenger. "I've made an awful mistake. Please forgive me!"
"Wait!" Challenger asked as she strode to the stage, and then headed back stage and out of view.
Watson looked at his friend, who seemed on the edge of collapsing. "For God's Sake, man, go after her!"
Challenger jumped to his feet, groaned when his right leg began to cramp, then hobbled across the dancing floor to the stage. Watson had other ideas. He headed for the front door and exited.
Challenger reached the stage and climbed its three steps to the top and headed for the side, where curtains were drawn. He shoved them aside and went behind the back stage wall. It was empty. There was no sign of anyone. He looked at the floor and it was dusty from being unused for a long, long time. His eyebrows raised in disbelief. "This is not possible."
"Miss Heaven!" He shouted.
He went several feet, then crashed into a large painted wall. The floor and back wall were nothing more than a piece of scenery.
Outside, Watson quickly strode to an alley adjoining the pub and went swiftly down it. He reached the end of it just as Miss Heaven came rushing out, a bag in each hand. He blocked her path. "Going somewhere?"
She looked furtively about for a means of escaping him, just when Challenger came out the back door. She finally set the bags down and stood there like a frightened little girl, sobbing at the top of her lungs. "I've failed. I've failed."
Watson and Challenger both exchanged glances, confused by her actions.
She sat down on her bags, put her head in her hands and wept as if the world were ending. Challenger stood there, unsure what to do, until Watson nudged him.
He dropped to a knee and pulled her against his chest and put an arm about her, holding her close. He didn't say a thing. This was one time in his life when words weren't necessary.