Sherlock Holmes: The Reddening Sun 2
If you missed Part 1, read it here.
"Please do me the honor of sharing your story and I will do my best to shed some light on the matter.”
She fell pale at his overwhelming knowledge. “Mr. Holmes, this is absurd. You must think so little of me, you who can read the entire life of a person with only a glance.”
“I think nothing of the sort,” he consoled her. “If I did not value you, I would not use my time to study you. The problem that has drawn you here is important to you, therefore it is important to me. Pray, enlighten me.”
Though his cordiality remained intact as always it did, I hinted an impatience in him. The case from the paper clearly occupied his mind, but he must tend to his clients before pursuing other petty crimes that only concerned him on the basis of fascination.
Miss Mortimer fiddled with her engagement ring nervously, noticeable now that Holmes had called attention to it. “I will try my best to keep my tale concise, for I do not wish to keep you. But in order for you to fully understand, I must give you context. I was widowed early in my marriage and left with my boy, Samuel, but understand that it wasn’t a grievous occurrence. The late Mr. James Mortimer took to drink soon after our vows and became unbearable to be around. We believe that the bottom of the bottle is what brought him to his end, since we merely found him in his study one night, unmarked by any physical ailments but all life gone from him. I accepted this as a blessing and went on to raise Samuel and keep up our usual routines.
“I swore that if I were to marry again, I would only betroth myself to a man with sound morals and no vices. I happened on this rarity sooner than I could have imagined. Mr. Tom Bradford worked as a stableboy at Mollohan Inn. I live not far from there and our paths crossed on many occasions. He was devilishly charming and a perfect gentleman. I spurned his advances at first since he came from such a humble background, but my heart led me in other directions. Soon I accepted his hand and we were set to wed.
“All was well for awhile. Life continued as it had, but with my days a little brighter thanks to Tom. I could hardly believe my good fortune. The first sign of trouble came when I spoke to my son about the coming nuptials. I had only introduced Tom to Samuel once and the two seemed to get along as far as I could tell. But when I confessed my intentions to Samuel, he protested to the point of falling to a tantrum.
“‘You can’t marry Mr. Bradford.’
“‘Why ever not?’
‘“He’s a bad man.’
“‘I assure you he is not.’
“Then Samuel muttered the most curious thing that, to this day, I have not been able to clear from my mind. He said, ‘With the reddening sun, his world shall be ash.’”
“Pardon me,” Holmes interrupted. “Of what age is your boy?”
“And, to clarify, you are sure he said ‘his world’?”
“Yes, he was very specific.”
“He’s quite the poet for such a young lad,” I commented.
“He’s never spoken this way before,” she said, her face growing sallow. “When I asked him to explain, he refused and left me to ponder this strange riddle alone.”
“Alone no longer,” Holmes corrected. “Though, I suspect you did not hurry to London to inquire on the nonsensical ramblings of a child. Some other events led to your presence here.”
“The queerest events,” she confirmed. “Nothing that condemns my Tom, but plenty to throw him into question. Trusting him entirely, I confided Samuel’s strange words and behavior to my fiancee. He remained quiet as I explained in worry and panic that my son didn’t approve of our matrimony. When I finished, he spoke not a word and sauntered from the room under the thrall of some sort of daze. I followed him and implored his focus, but nothing could shake him. He left out the front door and, as concerned as I was, I could not justify leaving Samuel in the house alone, so I let Tom depart in this unfit state. I paced my room the following night without any rest, so absorbed by the bizarre hysterias taking control of my son and fiancee. No explanation could make sense of it.
“The next morning I received news of my uncle’s passing, as you so cleverly deduced, Mr. Holmes. I was the only remaining heir and the fortune of my ancestry was bestowed on me. I dealt with these affairs, received my inheritance, and used a spare amount to ease my discomforts, hiring house staff and purchasing new attire for Samuel and myself. All of this was over a fortnight and within this time, Tom did not visit me once. I feared I had frightened him off and that I may never see him again. Yet with the ring still on my finger, my loyalty must stay with him.
“Finally, two nights ago, I saw him again. He commandeered a horse from his stables, a stolen one, since Tom did not own a steed himself, and he hauled sacks on the animals back.”
“How many?” Holmes asked.
She pinched her brow in thought. “Three or four. They were medium sized and stacked on top of each other, so I took little notice.”
“Thank you. Do go on.”
“He was in such a rush I had little idea what to make of it. He begged for Samuel and I to leave with him, yet I couldn’t hear of such a thing. No matter how many questions I asked, he avoided all and continued to urge me along with him. As much as I cared for him, I wouldn’t abandon my home, especially after I had just achieved a fortune. Soon he gave up on me and he trotted off. This time I was sure that he was gone from my life, and perhaps the better for it. I despised such folly and needed none of it.
“But the reason I have come here today, Mr. Holmes, is because one more odd event darkened my doorstep, this being the most peculiar of all. I woke yesterday morning and rose to greet my staff only to find that Tom breakfasted with an air of complete comfort in my home. When I demanded to know his business, he treated me as if I were unwell. According to him and all of my household staff, he had been making daily visits for several weeks and his presence was to be expected. Any mention of his daze or his arrival with the horse were met with confusion and worry by all, as if none of this ever transpired. In my desperation, I asked Samuel about his strange words and harsh feelings toward Tom, and he denied that he ever spoke ill of my fiancee. So taken aback was I that I spent yesterday confined to my bed feeling rather faint. Only today did I gather myself enough to travel here and seek your help, Mr. Holmes. This supposed delirium of mine weighs heavy on mind, and I beg you to bring me answers.”
To be continued in The Reddening Sun 3...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber