Chapter Fourteen of "Things that go bump in the Night," a Baker Street Adventures novel starring Sherlock Holmes and Watson is now posted.
"Things that go bump in the Night"
by John Pirillo
At first he incredulous. How could someone so beautiful, who sang like an angel, be attracted to him. He was no particular looker. He was more like a gentleman's cowboy with his gruff appearance and manners, and yet somehow she was drawn to him like a moth to candlelight at night.
Her name was Darling Heaven. A stage name, but the one he knew her by at this particular moment. She was seated alongside him and his dear friends, Conan and Watson, who looked distracted as he worried about his friend, Holmes and his lovely friend, Mrs. Hudson, whom they all adored and loved.
"I remember I was just a young teenager when the dinosaur escaped and ran rampant in downtown London." She mused quietly, sipping at a cup of tea, while he held a mug of steaming coffee in his own.
His companions, Conan and Watson were nursing ales, listening quietly to the conversation, each lost in their own thoughts as they politely gave Challenger the lead in this conversation. He loved them for that. Right now he could use a little about of affection in his life. He hadn't had someone dear and close to him since...
He shook his head, to shake out those memories and Darling grew frightened for a moment, immediately stopping her words with him. "Did I say something wrong?
Her voice trembled like a young girl who had just been upbraided by her parents for speaking out of turn. He immediately put a large hand over her pale hand and patted it. "Nothing you could say or do would be wrong with me." He said, as gallantly as he could muster.
She almost giggled like a young girl, then caught herself, blushed and looked away a moment at the others, who discreetly averted their eyes so they didn't interfere with the conversation going on. "I knew when I saw you enter..." She began, turning her eyes back on him again. "...I knew there was something special about you."
"Dinosaurs." He brushed the compliment off with a shrug of his body.
Her turn to be reassuring. "No. You. Your fame means nothing to me."
His turn to be both embarrassed and ashamed of himself, for assuming that had anything to do with her interest in him. He looked back into her eyes and they were wide open, like a tunnel guiding his consciousness into the interior of her soul. And it was spot clean and innocent. Well, at least as innocent as anyone can be in this day and age.
He sighed. "Yes. Fame can be both bright and beautiful and a curse. I thank you for your kind words and thoughts."
She did giggle this time and then he laughed with her.
Conan figured it was time to join in, now that things had calmed down a bit. "So how did you come about to become a singer here at The Bright Elf."
She fidgeted a moment with the lace below her ample bosom, which drew all men's attention for a few embarassing moments before they looked hastily away when she looked up with a knowing smile. She knew the affect her bosom had on men and didn't blame them. It came with the territory. Her overly large brown eyes widened further for a moment with the tease of a smile, then she played with one of the gold and brown tresses of her hair as she spoke. "More like dumped."
Challenger made a sound of disgust. "What manner of man would just dump a woman?"
She looked into his face, saw the concern eteched across his craggy face and beneath his shaggy eyebrows and felt comforted. "Not one like you."
Again, Challenger looked down to the tabletop, truly humbled by her words. For he had not always been a good man.
He remembered his more temptuous years as a teenager when every woman he saw, including those many years older, were open to interpretation and invitation. There wasn't a single girl he met or woman who hadn't shared his clumsy attempts at becoming intimate. He wasn't a great lover, just a very ambitious one and he got results. His mind attracted girls and women like a hot flame did moths.
He also remembered the turning point of that time.
He was just nineteen. Still a boy in many ways, though a man in the worldly sense, in that he knew how to slip between a woman's finer parts and manage wealth like it were butter. His parents weren't rich, but he spent their money as if they were.
He remembered his father taking him aside one evening. It was quite late and stormy outside. The wind was slamming tree limbs against their windows, sometimes quite loud and harshly. The servant had gone home earlier out of the kindnesss of his father's heart, who feared for his life if he left at midnight as he usually did. The weather could be quite brutal that time of year.
"Son, it's come to my attention that you have become a father."
Challenger had become as rigid as a board. How had that happened? He had not asked to be a father. He had been careful to make sure he was in the safe time with his companions. Had one lied to him.
"Miss Penny's father came to me this morning while you were at the University."
"He did." Challenger had stated, stunned. "And he said what?"
He feared the next words, for he wasn't ready to become a man of means and a father at the same time. He still had many fields of flowers he wanted to explore. Perhaps those days were the halcyon moments that stirred up his wanderlust which eventually led him to the Lost Worlds he later explored and exploited.
"Not what you think." His father had told him, his eyes measuring Challenger's response.
"I don't know what to think."
"I'm sure you don't, as you spend more of your time of late doing the young ladies, rather than doing with the young ladies." His father replied in a scolding voice. "Unlike a proper young man who conducts his physical activities in harmony and balance with what is good and kind to all about him."
Challenger paled. His father rose.
"As of this day I am severing you from your family heritage. You must live on your own, work on your own, love on your own. I will not bear the burden of your guilt, nor the dishonor of a son who uses the opposite sex as if they were bonbons for consumption."
His father had been an honorable man. Unlike many, he never even touched his lips to Challenger's mother before they were wed. He had always told his son that love was bigger than physical contact, that it was the union of two souls and the body was the bridge between them when both were united in love...in other words...marriage.
"But father...." He began to protest.
"No. My mind is made up. And do not seek your mother's charity, for in this we are as one, as in all other things."
His father clapped his hands and a new servant entered the room with a single piece of luggage.
"Harold here will drive you into town, where you may seek a residence worthy of a young man of very little substance, and then with great urgency you shall seek your fortune. I pray you God's Speed and that someday you will return to me the man I had hoped you would become."
His father had walked from the room, leaving Challenger crushed, his heart breaking.
Perhaps that was the point of the lecture and the banishment all along, to open up the bridge between Challenger's bright mind and the true soul he should have become.
Whatever his father's original motives were, it worked. He was never able to return triumphantly to his father, for he had been gunned down in the House of Lords. It was at that time that he had first met Sherlock, who had been assigned to discover the murderer's idenity.
Shaking off that memory, he looked away at another table, then back at his hands once more.
He sighed. "I was not always like I am today. You honor me too greatly."
She took his hands between hers and he felt the heat of her pouring through him. He looked up into her face, and it was completely guileless. "You are an honorable man now. And that's all that matters. The past is done. As long as we don't keep repeating it, then we're a better person now than before. Don't you agree?"
That moment she won the hearts of all three men, for they did indeed agree. There wasn't one there who hadn't made a mistake in the past that they still regretted. Perhaps, the mistakes were small ones, or greater, but mistakes they had been, missteps they wish they had never made.
Challenger didn't answer her for fear of starting to babble like a baby and even so his eyes began to mist from the kindness of her words. She reached up and caught a tear. "This is the greatest treasure our world has to offer."
He took her hand and pressed it to his lips. "No, you are, my dear. You are!"