Sherlock Holmes: The Reddening Sun 7
To my surprise, the servant led Miss Mortimer and Mr. Bradford into the study as we entered through the adjoining door. Bradford trembled and paled, white as a ghost.
“I apologize, Mr. Holmes,” Miss Mortimer greeted. “Though you requested meeting at such a strange place, I assumed we would maintain our privacy, for this is a matter I do not wish to share with many.”
“I assure you that all parties present have a right to hear the results of my findings, for all are involved. For instance, this is Detective Inspector Athelney Jones who will be arresting Mr. Herman Farley here for the murder of your husband and your uncle.”
All gazes widened at Holmes, agog at this accusation, including my own. Jones made no indication at following Holmes’ instructions. Most of the present company didn’t believe this outlandish supposition, but I knew better. My friend would never jeopardize his record by carelessly jumping to a verdict.
“You are mistaken,” Miss Mortimer insisted. “My late husband died of drink.”
“It was made to appear so. Of course, slipping an entire bottle of laudanum into his glass would be an easy feat once he was already inebriated so, in a way, his incessant drinking did end his life. No one bothered checking his body since the cause seemed obvious.”
Jones said, “But you couldn’t have checked his body.”
“True, I had to make my deductions using other means. It was simple to decide that a medical man was involved. Mr. Farley, you are a druggist, are you not?”
Farley straightened himself, his face flushing a raging purple from the constant debasement. “I am hardly the only person that has knowledge of such medicines. Your companion here is a doctor, as far as I understand. It is just as likely that he could have overdosed this man.”
“This fact cannot condemn you, I agree, but it is quite coincidental since you are also so closely acquainted with Mr. Tom Bradford here.”
After a guilty glance between the two men, Holmes explained, “I suspected, but thank you for confirming it. I admit that the recollection of your occupation from the newspaper article was a far stretch from being involved in Miss Mortimer’s affairs, but since both cases came to me around the same time, I decided to pursue the possibility. When I found the bottle within Mr. Mortimer’s study where he passed away, the inkling crept into me. Then upon finding out that Mr. Bradford only entered that room once and became entirely put off by it, more ideas formed. I wired to Chatham where I found out that a druggist had cared for Miss Mortimer’s uncle the night of his demise and a bottle of laudanum had been utilized. This gave me everything I needed. No one knew of a visitor to Mr. Mortimer on the night of his death, but I believe he had one, a medical man come to show concern for his health due to his abundant drinking.
“During my time in Wembley, I inquired about the deceased parents of Mr. Tom Bradford. The mother fell ill a few years ago, but a father was never present, as far as anyone can remember. Therefore, in filling the spaces of my narrative, I had a murdering druggist with no motive and a curious fiancee with no father all tying to the same crimes.
“It’s been believed that Mr. Farley had no children, as his late wife was never with child, but no one ever considered that another woman may have given birth out of wedlock. Farley has remained a father to the boy, though secrecy was necessary. The bond ran deep enough that Mr. Bradford confided his desires to his father, who then executed a plan to grant Mr. Bradford’s wishes.
“Though the lovely Miss Mortimer had not yet taken notice of our fetching young stableboy due to her own stresses, Mr. Bradford certainly admired her. Conscious of the sorrowful life she led, he longed for her to abandon her husband since he knew he could provide her with happiness. This is the confession that slipped from his lips to Mr. Farley. A father wants what is best for his son, especially such an impressive woman as Miss Mortimer.
“Farley came to Mr. Mortimer under the pretense of caring for him and on that fateful night, he widowed Miss Mortimer. Unaware of his father’s involvement, Mr. Bradford seized the opportunity as soon as possible. All was well until young Bradford entered the study to see the familiar laudanum bottle from his father’s collection. He realized his father’s villainy and guilt plagued him. Distraught, but unable to report to the police, for his own father would be condemned, Mr. Bradford sought a way to right this wrong, for the sake of his coming marriage. He happened upon the broker of crime and managed a way into the fold, through his acquaintances at the inn, no doubt. He asked for revenge without harming Mr. Farley and a plan was devised.”
Holmes borrowed a pen and paper from the desk and scribbled a message across it. “To uncover this plot, we only had a convoluted statement from the mouth of a child. ‘With the reddening sun, his world will be ash.’”
He presented the page to us in triumph. Scrolled across was, With the Reading son, his word will be ash.
“The boy made sense out of nonsensical whisperings. Bradford had visitors at the house one day, as Miss Mortimer relayed to us, most likely delivering news of the coming plan. They waited in the sitting room where they likely talked amongst themselves, but everyone always underestimates the curiosity of a child. Samuel Mortimer understood enough to be wary, but not enough to truly expose the criminal activity brewing within his own halls. When his mother spoke of the engagement to Mr. Bradford soon after, Samuel knew he must stop it, but knew not what words would stay her. Therefore, he repeated what he could from the overheard conversation, lacking in the meaning behind them. We must not judge our dear boy, however, for even the correct words do not paint a very enlightening picture.”
“I admit they mean little to me,” Jones said. “The Reading son must be Mr. Bradford here, illegitimate son to Mr. Farley of Reading, but what of this word turning to ash?”
To be continued in The Reddening Sun 8...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber