Read The Clairvoyant Curse Online

Authors: Anna Lord

Tags: #feng shui, #murder, #medium, #sherlock, #tarot, #seance, #steamship, #biarritz, #magic lantern, #camera obscura

The Clairvoyant Curse

BOOK: The Clairvoyant Curse
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The
Clairvoyant
Curse

ANNA LORD

Book Four

Watson & The
Countess Series

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Anna Lord

Melbourne, Australia

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced in any

form or by any electronic or mechanical
means including information

storage and retrieval systems—except in
the case of brief quotations

embodied in critical articles or
reviews—without written permission.

 

 

The characters and events portrayed in
this book are fictitious or are

used fictitiously. Any similarity to
real persons, living or dead, is

purely coincidental and not intended by
the author.

Chapter 1 - Camera
Obscura

 

“Fake Sherlocks! Here’s another
one! The third sham Sherlock this week!”

Countess Volodymyrovna tossed
her copy of
Tatler
on the breakfast table in the manner of
someone throwing down a gauntlet in the hope of catching Dr
Watson’s deliberately downcast eye. She wanted answers to this
latest outbreak of Sherlocks and she was not about to be fobbed off
with the usual twaddle. If Sherlock had truly perished at
Reichenbach Falls how was it that he was being spotted all over
London? And not just skulking in the shadows like some phantom of
the night but out and about in broad daylight, in full public view,
solving crimes, settling cases, catching criminals, being hailed
the hero in at least three London newspapers of good repute!

First it was
The Times
then
The Spectator
and now
Tatler
. Okay, two. Surely
all three couldn’t be making it up? But where did the stories
spring from? It was maddening not being able to follow them up
first hand but by the time she travelled by train from York to
London the stories would be yesterday’s news. She had always felt
there was something missing regarding the death of Sherlock in
Switzerland. No eye witnesses. No bodies ever recovered. Death by
waterfall was a bit too wishy-washy for her liking. So it wasn’t
exactly surprising when stories had started surfacing about the
great detective suddenly turning up in London and carrying on
business as usual.

But she had visited his little
sitting room at 221B Baker Street. And though she had seen the
proof of his existence for herself – the slipper stuffed with shag,
the meerschaum on the desk, the Stradivarius in the corner, they
were like items in a museum, a bit like a collection of Egyptian
antiquities – the tools, the artefacts, the trappings from the
tomb, everything but the actual living person who would have used
them. She couldn’t help feeling that the little sitting room had
been set up like a carefully arranged
mise en scene
with the
items belonging to Sherlock like props on a stage with the main
actor missing from the performance. A perfect diorama with
everything in its perfect place except for one thing – there was no
sense of
him
being there.

Who was feeding the newspapers
this misinformation? Who was hoaxing the public? And why? Who stood
to gain from perpetuating the myth that Sherlock had survived
Reichenbach Falls? Was it Dr Watson hoping to keep his lucrative
writing career flourishing by fictionalising cases that had never
happened? Or perhaps Mycroft Holmes, hoping that to have a famous
brother die in spectacular circumstances and then be miraculously
resurrected might perpetuate his own godlike sense of infallibility
and lend credence to his mystical political persona? Or perhaps
Inspector Lestrade because it might boost his standing with
Scotland Yard, yes, to continue to be associated with the greatest
consulting detective who ever lived might earn the bumbling
inspector a promotion within the new Detective Branch. Or could
someone from clan Moriarty be concocting the rebirth of Sherlock
Holmes for his or her own vengeful ends? Or that ruthless rogue,
Colonel Sebastian Moran – a handsome scoundrel with a talent for
mendacity – how might it profit him?

Or was she looking at this from
the wrong angle?

Perhaps Sherlock
was
alive! Perhaps he had never died in the first place. She had been
sixteen years of age, travelling with her peripatetic step-aunt,
Countess Zoya Volodymyrovna, when the incident at Reichenbach Falls
took place and news of the death of the famous British detective
shook the world. What little she knew of it she had gleaned well
after the event, most of it from the pen of Dr Watson. There was no
other version save his, no one to verify what really took place,
and even
he
had not been an eye witness to the tragedy. Was
the good doctor now rewriting his own fiction to suit himself?

Was Sherlock dead or alive?

Was he dead and was some clever
impersonator merely pretending to be him in order to cash in on his
fame? Or was he alive but choosing to live as though he were dead
to his family and friends in order to avoid endangering their
lives?

“Well?” she said
interrogatively, staring fiercely across the breakfast table.

“We are moving into the Age of
Fakery,” the doctor responded with diverting simplicity, sensing
the ferocity of her scrutiny without even lifting his bleary
eyeballs from his broadsheet, compliments of another sleepless
night battling bronchitis. “Lunatic asylums are full of fake
Sherlocks, fake Queen Victorias, fake Jack the Rippers and fake
Napoleon Bonapartes. These days everyone wants to be someone
else.”

“Except
this
fake
Sherlock isn’t in an asylum,” she pointed out with the same sort of
belligerence that usually started a war. “He’s on the streets! And
on page three! How do
you
account for it, Dr Watson?”

“I don’t. I’m not an editor.
I’m not responsible for the things newspapers print.”

“So you’re saying it’s another
bogus story?”

He warned himself against
meeting her curmudgeonly gaze. It would be like the foolhardy
charge of the Light Brigade but even more disastrous, and he didn’t
even have the energy to mount his high-horse. “I’m not saying
anything. I haven’t read the article.”

“I suppose you didn’t read the
other two articles this week either?”

“As a matter of fact I
didn’t.”

Suddenly it struck him that she
never referred to Sherlock as ‘father’. Lack of sleep was making
him slow-witted, or perhaps just slower-witted. To her he was
always Sherlock. The only other people who referred to him that way
were Mycroft and himself. He wondered if she referred to her mother
as Irene. Come to think of it, apart from the first night they met,
when she announced matter-of-factly that her mother was Irene
Adler, he could not recall her referring to her mother at all.

Was it common for children
adopted-out at birth to refer to their biological parents by their
first names? Perhaps, not having much experience with such things,
it was less unusual than he imagined. She was already an adult when
she discovered the names of her birth parents and she was currently
twenty-four years of age. On the tongue of a grown woman the
epithets ‘father’ and ‘mother’ might have sounded impossibly twee.
He also imagined them jarring with his own perspective – Sherlock
as a father! Heaven forbid! It was possibly better for all
concerned that she desisted from employing such quaint
endearments.

Even supposing for a moment
that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler really
had
been her
birth parents, there had been no emotional bond, no close
attachment, none of the things that go to make up the sum of
cherished childhood memories, so why imply otherwise? Moreover,
Slavs were well known for their love of family and she had
certainly been well-loved by her adoptive father and his unmarried
sister, so why negate all that now? Yes, all in all, she had been
extraordinarily lucky. Her up-bringing had been better than
anything any child born out of wedlock could have hoped for. In
fact, much better and much luckier than if she had been raised
either by her so-called real mother or real father. He shuddered at
the thought of any child being saddled with a diva for a mother and
having Sherlock for…

“One fake Sherlock is creative
licence,” she declared hotly, “two is careless journalism, but
three in one week and I start to smell a rat!”

Good grief! If Mycroft didn’t
pull his head in, she would soon hit the nail on the noggin and
crack their little game wide open. He made a mental note to
dispatch a telegram to the Diogenes Club as soon as practicable. In
the meantime a bit of creative licence was called for.

“I say! Look at this! It’s an
advertisement for -”

“Stop trying to distract
me!”

“Very well, don’t look.”

Deliberately, he placed the
page face down on the breakfast table as he prepared to pour
himself a fresh cup of Earl Grey tea to clear the phlegm gumming
the sides of his throat. He knew the ploy would ignite burning
curiosity like touch paper to a live flame. He stirred in some
sugar and took a gulp of tea without thinking…Hell’s bells! He
tried not to yelp.

“Tonight you can wear that
Tharvet travelling thuit I’m tho fond of,” he managed to lisp after
a few moments had passed and his scalded tongue felt slightly less
numb and thick. “I will purthath thome ticketth firtht thing thith
morning and treat you to a night at the theatre to thelebrate the
thuthethful concluthion of the penny dreadful murderth.”

She regarded him oddly. “What’s
wrong with your articulation? You sound as if you have had a
stroke. I hope your bronchitis is not a precursor to something more
serious such as lymphatic disease or brain fever. You should get
your chest seen to by a specialist. The walls in this hotel are
paper thin. Your coughing kept me awake half the night.”

“My lymph and brain is fine, as
for my cough, I apologise unreservedly, and I intend to get it seen
to as soon as we return to London, but about tonight.”

“Throw in a champagne supper
and I’ll say
oui
,” she assented, selecting a slice of toast
from the silver rack and absently applying a slather of golden
butter. “But I have something far more chic than my Charvet. You
have not yet seen my new winter ensemble – an emerald green, velvet
costume edged in ermine. It arrived the day before yesterday, all
the way from
la rue de la Veuve
. Madame Coquelicot is a
genius with a needle and thread and always sends me the best of her
Parisian couture prior to the commencement of each
saison
.
The women of York will be green with envy. And the men will say:
Who is that delightful creature on the arm of Dr John Watson? Which
theatre do you have in mind? Friargate? The York Barbican? Or the
Theatre Royal?”

“I have in mind the Unitarian
Church Hall.”

“Oh spare me! Surely you are
not hoping to save my soul? The last thing I need is a lecture on
hellfire and damnation.”

Smiling cagily, he flipped the
newspaper with the sort of cavalier insouciance he had always
secretly admired in others. “Read for yourself.”

 

PHANTASMAGORIA

Monsieur Champollion
Croquemort

Master of Ceremonies

invites you to a

MAGIC LANTERN SHOW

featuring amazing tri-unal
lens

with piano accompaniment by

Mr Crispin Ffrench

Singalong to all your favourite
melodies

and witness the paranormal
powers of the incomparable

MADAME MOGHRA

The most famous medium in all
of London

At her final performance in
York

Unitarian Church Hall

Spen Lane

7 o’clock

 

“Well spotted!” she gushed.
“That’s a nice stroke of luck. I can give Madame Moghra the thistle
brooch. Is that the plan?”

“Yes and no. You can let her
know you have a gift from Lady Moira Cruddock to pass on to her –
though I don’t think the old fraud deserves such a valuable
keepsake - and then arrange for a more suitable time to deliver it.
A silver and amethyst ornament is not the sort of thing to take
into a bawdy house swarming with pickpockets. Have you ever been to
a magic lantern show?”

She shook her head. “My
education regarding bawdy houses has been remiss. I will be happy
to rectify that tonight. I can see now why you suggested the
Charvet suit. Green velvet edged in ermine will make me stand out
like an elegant swan in a farmyard full of ugly ducklings, frowsy
old chooks and seedy looking roosters.”

Her vanity barely registered.
What did Sherlock once say? A man cannot think logically and be
held to ransom by false modesty. A man cannot be tortured by poor
esteem and trust in his superior powers of deduction concomitantly.
Notions such as modesty and humility are for those who are prisoner
to their emotions. They are not for the rational man.

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