“Are you settled in yet, Marie?” John asked, “It’s not too far from the main house if you need anything.”
Moving to London was something I had always wanted to do. My books were somewhat popular, and I didn’t have anything keeping me in Chicago. Besides, paranormal romance novels could be written anywhere, so why not live somewhere steeped in haunted castles and ancient burial grounds?
“I think it’s perfect, John,” I reassured my cousin, as I put my cell phone on speaker, “everything I was wanting. It’s nice having a fully furnished house to rent, especially when it’s clear the owners have such respect for the history involved.”
My house was actually a gatehouse for a larger manor, but the couple who owned the property had decided to rent out the smaller home. I had never met them, but John knew them and had vouched for me when I explained to him how I’d like to rent a house for awhile until I found a permanent place of my own.
Although, this house was already growing on me, with its small library overlooking a nearby river. In the dim light of dusk, I could almost make out the white gazebo on one side of a charming bridge. The other side had a path leading up to the back door. John’s voice brought me out of my musings.
“I understand that you wanted your own place, but Rosie and I would have loved to have you stay with us.”
My cousin John Watson had been inviting me to visit for years, but I’d been busy trying to prove I could support myself as a writer. I didn’t want to visit London as a tourist, I wanted to live there as a successful author. And after my latest book was optioned for movie rights, I finally felt worthy of renting a home of my own, in a small area north of London that was near enough to the city for visits, but far enough to see the stars off my small balcony. Tonight, there were clouds, but I didn’t think rain was in the forecast.
“Oh I know, but eventually I would have wanted to look for something of my own, and I don’t think I would have found anything close to as nice as this house. Are you sure the rent isn’t too low?”
“The family isn’t hurting for money, Ree,” he laughed, using my childhood nickname. “When they heard my favorite cousin was moving from the States, they insisted you at least look at the gatehouse. Violet Holmes is a force to be reckoned with once she has an idea in her head. You’ll like her. Her husband isn’t as intense, but still very entertaining.” A voice in the background cut through our chat. Something about a seven.
“You do realize I’m not at your beck and call, Sherlock,” John snapped. A pause, then a sigh. “Sorry, Ree. The child calls. I’ll have to see who can watch Rosie.”
“Well, if your friend can wait, I can be by in less than an hour. Unless you’d like to drop her off here? I do have a nursery set up here, though I’m not sure why.”
“Oh, I’d forgotten we’d stayed there a few months ago. We were having our place repainted and Violet insisted a hotel was out of the question. But it’s a bit late for you after spending your day moving into a new home.”
“Nonsense, I’ll be up for hours yet, and I don’t have anything planned for tomorrow. Bring my baby cousin over for a girls' night.”
“Well, if you’re certain it isn’t an imposition,” he said just as his friend loudly was telling him that I’d already agreed and why was he dawdling on the phone.
Another voice, female and amused, told him to be patient.
“Sherlock seems a bit intense,” I giggled. “He’s right though, stop dawdling and bring me my little cousin.”
John laughed. “We have to go, but our friend Molly is here visiting so she’ll bring Rosie over, if that’s okay? I had wanted to properly introduce you tomorrow at your party. She would have watched Rosie, but she’ll probably be doing the autopsy later.”
“Tell Molly I’ll be watching for her, and I still don’t think I need a welcome party ...but I am happy that I’m having one.” A loud mumbling was heard. I laughed. “Sounds like someone thinks we’re still dawdling. I’ll let you go and we can catch up in the morning when you come for your daughter.”
Hanging up, I went upstairs to make sure the nursery was ready for a guest. Everything was immaculate, but I pulled out an extra blanket just in case Rosie needed it later. I never thought I’d live in a house with a nursery, but it did make it easier for John and Rosie to visit.
Satisfied that the room was in good order, I glanced out of the large bay window and frowned. The wind had been getting louder, and I hadn’t noticed. I wondered if I should go to my cousin’s house, but Molly was probably already on her way. I put on the tea kettle thinking that Molly might need some if the rain hit before she and Rosie arrived.
Smiling to myself, I wondered about John’s life since he’d been involved with the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Most in America were only slightly aware of him, but in my line of work, I tended to follow the careers of crime experts. Sherlock Holmes was fascinating to me. I had toyed with the idea of writing him into my next novel somehow, but doubted he’d be flattered. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t study him. I turned off the kettle, and pulled down two mugs.
A knock at the door startled me, it was too soon to be Molly so I cautiously glanced out the front window. A dark haired woman was frantically texting and looking up at the darkening sky. I opened the door just as the downpour started, and a large thunderclap shook the ground. The woman screamed and I slammed the door.
Cursing under my breath, I yanked the door open and motioned for the drenched woman to come inside. She looked like she was uncomfortable being inside, and I didn’t see a car outside. Only a day in my new home, and I had a little mystery to solve.
“Are you lost? I’m not sure how helpful I can be, I just moved in.”
The woman smirked as she wiped rain from her face. “I’m not lost, I am here to determine your ability to watch Rosie Watson.” At my blank stare, she tilted her head to stare back at me. “You look like Dr. Watson, but there’s something extra there. You seem more interesting.” I continued to stare at her. “My employer sent me over to spy on you. But he’s being ridiculous, and I’m not standing out in the rain looking through windows like a stalker.”
“Your...employer?” I was wondering if there was an asylum missing an inmate.
Another knock, this time from inside the garage, and we both jumped. Rushing over, I opened the door to see a smiling woman holding a sleeping Rosie Watson. The woman walked inside, putting a large diaper bag down on the kitchen table.
“You must be Marie, I’m Molly Hooper. Oh you’re making tea. The winds just came out of nowhere, didn’t it? It’s lucky we could come in through the garage and not get soaked.” She then realized we weren’t alone and glanced at my other guest. “Hello Anthea, is Mycroft here as well?”
“You know each other?” I asked, and Anthea shrugged. I tried again. “Who is Mycroft? And why did he send you to spy on me? Why is he interested in Rosie? And why wouldn’t I be capable of watching my cousin?”
Molly sighed, hands on hips. “Really, Anthea. Mycroft promised he would back off the stalking.” She turned to me, shaking my hand as she shifted Rosie to her other hip. “Sherlock’s brother Mycroft is a bit overprotective of us all, even if he pretends otherwise. We,” she paused, “well, we’ve had a rough year. I’m sure John must have told you.”
“Some. It’s a bit hard to believe it all, but John’s never been one to exaggerate.” I took Rosie from Molly, kissing my cousin’s head. “I’m not sure why Sherlock’s brother would even know Rosie was coming out tonight.” Anthea looked vaguely guilty.
“Please tell me you aren’t still bugging John’s house,” Molly said, exasperated. Anthea hid a smile, “I’ve never bugged Dr. Watson’s home.”
“He really has people monitored? How powerful is this man?” A sudden thought hit me. “This house isn’t monitored, is it?”
“Not on the inside, no.” Anthea took off her coat, and I hung it up in a nearby closet. “Since this is his parents property, he does have the grounds watched. But I’m sure Dr. Watson mentioned that to you before you moved in, it was one of the stipulations of being allowed the rental.”
“Well yes, he said there was a private security guard, but I wasn’t thinking I’d have someone watching me. And how is it I’m safe enough to live near Mycroft’s parents, but he wasn’t sure I could be trusted with my own cousin?”
Anthea looked amused. “Caught on to that, did you?” She leaned in and whispered. “He’s actually a fan of your books, and was hoping to learn more about you without actually coming by himself. But the old man can fess up and come by on his own. I’m not his puppet.”
A loud boom of thunder shook the house, and Anthea jumped again. Molly rubbed her shoulders lightly. “come on now, Thea. It’s just rain.”
“I’m not afraid of rain,” Anthea said roughly, but she looked nervous. “I should be getting back.” Lightning lit up the sky, shadows racing across the dimly lit room.
“I don’t think even you could go back tonight. The roads leading back into the city are flooded. I’ve already told Sherlock I may not get back until tomorrow. Maybe we can stay with the Holmes tonight. They certainly have the room.”
“Don’t be silly,” I found myself saying. “I have three guest rooms upstairs. Pick one out and you,” I said, turning to Anthea, “I’m sure we can find you something dry to change into. I’ll get some snacks together and we’ll get to know each other better.” And I’d find out more about Mycroft Holmes, I thought to myself.
“You mean like a sleepover?” Anthea asked, taking a deep breath.
“A sleepover,” Molly smiled. “That sounds lovely. The case the boys are on doesn’t involve any dead bodies, so I’m most likely not going to be needed.” We looked at Anthea who was watching the sudden storm with something like fear. She yelped when Molly tapped her shoulder. “Anthea, let’s go up and get you into some dry clothes while Marie puts Rosie down for the night.” I left them to sort out their plans, and took Rosie up to the nursery, next to my room. Settling her into the crib, I brushed the hair off of her face and bent down to give her a kiss on the forehead.
I quickly changed into a T-shirt and sleep shorts, then went back to the nursery to turn on the baby monitor I’d found earlier that day. I took the other monitor with me so I’d hear if Rosie woke up during the storm.
Coming back downstairs, I made a fire in my new study, and went into the kitchen to slice some meat and cheese, placing it on a small platter. Adding some water crackers, I pulled a chilled bottle of wine from my wine fridge, and got three glasses out. Molly walked in, and grabbed the platter.
“Let me help carry this. The fire is lovely. Anthea is already calming down, she simply hates storms. Funny how she’s a dead shot, but a little rain worries her.”
Anthea was warming her hands near the fire. Molly and I put out the wine and snacks, and I put the monitor where I could hear Rosie if needed.
We settled in for a long talk, and at some point, I went for another bottle of wine.
When I glanced out at the storm from the kitchen window , I could have sworn I saw a black car in the distance, but when I looked again, it was gone.