“We found the murder weapon!” Daisy announced as soon as her head popped through the open manhole.
Lavinia’s nose wrinkled in disgust at the stench that wafted up alongside her friend, but Beanie was just relieved to see Daisy in one piece. Anything could have happened to her underground. However, that relief didn’t go quite far enough as offering Daisy a hand when she seemed to be covered in something putrid and slimy. Luckily, Daisy was athletic enough to climb out on her own and even turned around to assist Hazel in getting out as well.
“Are you sure?” Kitty asked.
“Of course I’m sure!” Daisy scoffed. “There can’t possibly be that many pistols lying around the sewers of London.”
“At least not directly under the countess’s lodgings,” Hazel quietly added.
Daisy nodded in agreement before turning her attention back to Kitty to see if she had any other complaints. That soon turned into bickering over some of the finer points of the case as Lavinia rolled the manhole cover back in place over the sewer. None of them wanted to leave signs of their late night excavation or an open tripping hazard with a nasty drop.
As the others were busy arguing over what to do next, Beanie moved to Hazel’s side. After crawling through a sewer for over an hour Beanie couldn’t imagine Hazel was ready for any more investigating this evening. Indeed, from her demeanor all Hazel seemed to want to do was wring out whatever had left her hair sodden and gross before going to bed—after a bath of course.
Still there was one thing Beanie wanted to do before letting her friend go to her justly deserved rest. So she tapped Hazel on the shoulder to get her attention.
“Hey Beanie, checking on the murder weapon?” Hazel asked, giving her a tired smile. “It’s currently wrapped in about six handkerchiefs in my bag, but Daisy swore up and down as we made our way back here that she was going to run it over to the inspector as soon as we reached the streets. I’m a little surprised she hasn’t already done so.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say,” Beanie said. “I mean, I haven’t seen you at all today, so this is my first chance to finally say—”
The rest of the sentence was cut off as a nearby bell tower rang out the next day. Beanie deflated as the twelve bongs sounded. All she had had to do was say two words in a timely fashion and she hadn’t even managed to do that.
“Oh drat and I had so wanted to wish you happy birthday on your birthday,” Beanie cried. Hazel reached out a hand and gave her shoulder a squeeze.
“Don’t feel bad about that,” she said before leaning in a little closer. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Beanie nodded, though her eyes were already starting to water from the stench. She didn’t have a clue how they’d get Daisy and Hazel back to the hotel or up to their room for a bath considering their current predicament. Hazel was far worse off than Daisy and Beanie had a feeling that she must have fallen into something down there to be in such a vile state.
“You’re the first person to mention it and I spent the entire day at Daisy’s side,” Hazel whispered. She jerked her thumb at the others and from the corner of her eye it looked like one of their friends was currently shaking another one, but that wasn’t her current concern. “Considering the fact you said something within five minutes of seeing me, I’d said you were positively timely.”
“Thanks Hazel. Did you have a good birthday?”
“I’m happy we found the evidence we need to convict a murderer, but I certainly didn't expect to be climbing through a sewer on my birthday."
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do so,” Beanie said, shuddering. The mere thought of going into that dark place full of awful things made her toes curl. “I can’t believe you went down there.”
“It wasn’t my first choice either,” Hazel chuckled. “But Daisy insisted we had to look, so down we went. At least it paid off.”
“You didn’t have to go with her,” Beanie protested. Hazel shook her head.
“I couldn’t let her go alone,”
“Hazel, Beanie, let’s go!” Daisy called. “We have to swing by Scotland Yard and then onto the hotel. Or I suppose you could head straight there, Hazel, I can’t imagine you want to stay in those clothes longer than you have to.”
“I really don’t,” Hazel agreed. She trotted over to Daisy’s side. Beanie followed after her.
“Can you believe it though?” Daisy asked, grinning broadly. “We solved a murder from start to finish in less than a day! This date will live on as a benchmark for all our future casework, Watson! When you write up the casebook I want you to include the date as part of the title something like ‘On the eighteenth of…” She halted in her tracks as she trailed off midsentence.
“Is there something wrong?” Hazel asked, raising an eyebrow. “Usually, you don’t break off midsentence when giving orders.”
“I—Hey, Kitty, can you take our findings into the station for me?” Daisy asked.
“What? I thought you wanted to burst in and give the inspector all the details about where and how you found it,” Kitty said.
“I will, but you would do a perfectly serviceable job dropping off the evidence tonight and,” Daisy paused to grab Hazel’s hand. “Hazel and I are too foul for company at the moment. I’m afraid I must beg off for the both of us.”
“Suit yourself,” Kitty said with a shrug. She reached over and relieved Hazel of her satchel. “Anyone want to come with me? Lavinia? Beanie?”
“Sure,” Lavinia shrugged.
“I just want to go to bed,” Beanie said.
“Be safe,” Kitty said, fondly chucking Beanie’s chin. “Though with those two around I suppose any mugger will run in the opposite direction the moment he gets the faintest whiff.”
With that decided the group split in two. As Beanie began the walk back toward their hotel with Daisy and Hazel she made a point to stay upwind of the pair. Soon that meant she had outstripped them and found herself waiting on a corner for them to catch up. There was no one else in sight and it was a pleasant night, so Beanie let her mind wander until she realized she could hear Daisy speaking.
“That still doesn’t excuse the fact I let the case overtake everything else,” Daisy quietly murmured.
“No,” Hazel agreed, “but I’m used to it.”
Beanie realized she probably wasn’t meant to be hearing this conversation. Daisy never apologized and if the impossible happened, she certainly didn’t want an audience. Her best course of action was to ignore everything they said in hopes of avoiding any embarrassment, even if the others probably would eavesdrop on a secret conversation like this, and tune them out entirely. Unfortunately, there was nothing else around to tune them out with.
“You shouldn’t be,” Daisy huffed. “I shouldn’t have forgotten your birthday. I’m going to make it up to you.”
“We’ll celebrate your unbirthday—all your unbirthdays!” Daisy faltered momentarily. “You do know what an unbirthday is, don’t you, Hazel?”
“If you’re referring to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, of course I do,” Hazel said. “I simply can’t believe you’re going to try and celebrate all of them. Do you really mean for an entire year?”
“Absolutely. All three hundred and sixty-four of them,” Daisy promised.
There was a tender quality to her voice that Beanie didn’t normally associate with Daisy. It was enough to make her look over her shoulder at the other girls. To her surprise Daisy had both her hands wrapped around Hazel’s hand and was gently rubbing it with her thumbs. Small smiles graced both of their mouths. Beanie had a feeling that they had forgotten she was even there and honestly, she didn’t want to draw any attention. Despite being constant companions, she had a feeling they rarely got the chance for this sort of moment.
“I won’t hold you to that promise,” Hazel said.
“I’ll hold myself to it,” Daisy insisted. “I mean, the celebrations will vary some from day to day—we can’t possibly have all our friends over every day for a grand party, after all—but I will acknowledge your unbirthday. Each and every one.”
“And then you’ll never forget my birthday again because only planning one celebration a year is far easier,” Hazel laughed.
“Exactly,” Daisy agreed. Hazel was still laughing and so it caught her entirely off guard when Daisy ducked forward and kissed her. Beanie didn’t know if Daisy was intentionally aiming for Hazel’s cheek or if she missed because she was going after a moving target, but Daisy caught her on the cheek. A moment later she pulled back with a grimace on her face and her tongue stuck out. “Ugg, what is on your cheek?”
“I don’t know and I don’t want to know! It’s your fault I fell into one of the canals in the sewer.”
“I didn’t realize your face had brushed any of the water!”
“We were in a sewer, what did you think would happen, Daisy?” Hazel demanded.
“If I get sick from kissing you I expect you to stay by my side and nurse me back to health.”
“If you get sick from kissing me, then I’m going to be sick as a dog in bed beside you from taking the original drubbing!” Hazel took a deep breath. “Let’s just get back to the hotel and take that bath. We can table this nursing nonsense until we’re both showing symptoms or at least clean.”
“Right ho, Watson,” Daisy agreed. She turned her attention forward and locked her eyes on Beanie. “What are you doing dallying there, Beanie? We’ve still got another six blocks.”
“Of course, Daisy, I just didn’t want to get lost,” Beanie said.
“Come on then,” Daisy said as she and Hazel walked past. “I’d offer you an arm, but I doubt you’d want to take it.”
Beanie had to agree wholeheartedly with that statement. She followed Daisy and Hazel all the way back to the hotel. Upon arrival the hotel staff initially didn’t want to let the three of them inside, especially Hazel, but Daisy used her best peerage voice and bullied them into not only letting them in, but ensuring that hot baths for all three of them were immediately sent up to their rooms. By the time Beanie finished with her hot soak she was so tired she simply crawled into bed.
When she awoke in the morning Beanie was surprised to find an engraved invitation to a Miss Wong’s unbirthday party on her breakfast tray. She could barely believe that Daisy had found the time to have engraved cards printed since last night, but was sure that if she had received one, Kitty and Lavinia had as well. Beanie grinned as she munched on a scone and reviewed the itinerary written in the margins of the card. It seemed that Daisy had quite the day planned for them all in honor of Hazel. She was sure that there was going to be a very merry year of unbirthdays indeed.