Martha Hudson had always had her suspicions about Tom. Sure, he was attentive and loving when he remembered to be, and loud and abusive when he didn’t. But every man was like that, when he had been down the pub and had a few too many. It didn’t matter.
But then Tom started disappearing for days at a time, and when he came home with a bloody nose and black eye and told her to pack up, they were moving to Florida, she didn’t protest overmuch.
After all, her hips were still bruised.
Florida was hot and the tea was strange. Martha missed Baker Street and London fiercely, especially when Tom would leave her for weeks on end and come back tanned and well-muscled.
They settled into a pattern that lasted for years. Martha got a job at a shop and befriended a younger girl who loved costume design. Melissa came into work in the strangest outfits Martha had ever seen, but she smiled indulgently as Melissa chattered about her latest designs.
Tom would disappear and come back, drink and brood about their small house for a few days, and then leave again.
Five years later, Martha heard a noise late at night. Tom was gone, so she stood on shaking legs and grabbed the large knife she slept with under her pillow. Could never be too careful, not with her alone and all those nasty people about. Gripping the knife tightly, she crept down the hall and flicked on the light, hoping to surprise whoever had broken in. Tom whirled from the sink, cursing loudly.
“Martha! What the hell you doing up?”
Martha’s eyes narrowed as she took in the blood that covered her husband’s shirt and arms. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s fine, Martha. Go back to bed.”
“But, Tom, if it’s not yours then whose is it?”
“Go. Back. To. Bed.”
Martha backed down the hall, knife still clutched in her hand.
She went to Melissa three days later, and asked for a disguise. Martha was tired of being left in the dark to wonder about why he was covered in blood. Well, she knew why, but she wanted to know why he was doing this.
Melissa had laughed when Martha asked for her assistance.
“Going undercover to spice things up?” she asked as she adjusted the wig.
Martha smiled. “Something like that, dear.”
“Wouldn’t do to get caught, then, would it? Want to keep it a mystery for him.”
“No, getting caught would ruin it. Can’t spoil the surprise, after all.” It might mean her life if she was.
Four months passed before she finally caught him red-handed in the act of murder.
Martha didn’t sleep that night. Her mascara, always so thick when Melissa put it on, ran down her cheeks. She had to wear extra concealer the next day to hide the grey streaks she couldn’t scrub off.
But she kept following Tom, and after four more months, she witnessed five murders. She took careful pictures with her mobile phone⎯Melissa had taught her how.
When she had enough information to have a solid case, she went to the library and, with the librarian’s help, found the website of Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective from London. She noted his email address, and with more help, set up an email account.
Taking a deep breath, she typed out her plea for assistance, and clicked send.
The next day, when she opened her email at the library, there was a curt message from Mr. Holmes demanding more information. She didn’t have much to give him⎯in the eight months she’d been trailing Tom, she’d only seen him at home twice. It had been eight months since she had gone in public with her own face.
She told Mr. Holmes as much and clicked send again. Her email chimed five minutes later.
Will arrive in two days. Meet at Starbucks on Main St. 2 PM.
Two days later, Martha Hudson walked down the street without a disguise. There was no reason to hide anymore, after all. Tom would be taken care of. Mr. Holmes would make sure of it. And then she could go home to London and be at peace at last.
She opened the door to Starbucks, head held high and shoulders back.