Copper Beaches

Mind your Step

“Memory is a mirror that scandalously lies.”
― Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

“That’s why Molly is the perfect woman for me,” Sherlock said out of the blue.

John did a double take, not getting where this revelation had come from. “Why?”

“Because she’s a bit like you.”

“This is one of those sentences why the rumours about us will never stop,” John muttered and shook his head.

But Sherlock carried on, as if his best friend had not spoken.
“She stimulates the genius in me and is a conductor of light, just like you are.”

John cleared his throat and looked around. He was glad that they were alone at the moment and no one could hear the peculiar words that came out of the mouth of his best friend. He knew very well that it was meant to be a compliment, a very flattering one, but somehow it didn’t feels like it was.

They were standing outside the garden of the Rucastle’s mansion. To be precise, they were standing outside the hedge and the fence that surrounded it. It had nothing to do with the fact that they had not been invited (be clear, they had indeed not been invited) why they were standing outside the fence looking in, but because Sherlock Holmes had decided that this was the place to be. His blogger was still in the dark why he thought so.

Before their wedding-update-meeting, Sherlock had texted him that it was of extreme importance that they would travel to the Rucastle estate again and do a stroll through the garden, “because of the chair.” Needless to say that John had thought that probably Sherlock had had one of his weird I-lost-my-mind-moments, but as it had turned out, he had been quite serious about it. Therefore they had gone there the next morning. John had tried to call Miss Hunter and inform them of their visit, but he had been greeted by her voice mail. He had left a message, but had not heard back from her. Naturally that did not keep the consulting detective from going there anyway.

Therefore now Sherlock walked along the fence that went around the garden, his blogger following behind equally dutiful as clueless. Because so far there was no chair in sight – and no IKEA either.

“I knew from the beginning that the position of the chair in the sitting room was of profound importance, but I could not figure out why right away. Then Molly made a comment about her feeling as if someone was watching her when the chair was facing away from the window. And suddenly it made sense.”

“I’m sorry, it still doesn’t make sense to me.” John tried to keep up with the long strides of his taller friend, who was impatient to find the spot he was looking for. His friend would have helped him, had he known what he was supposed to be looking for.

Suddenly Sherlock stopped dead in his tracks, turned towards John and said with an excited glint in his eyes, “Someone is watching.”

John looked at him quizzically and Sherlock pointed his index finger towards a hole in the hedge.

The blonde haired man took a step forward and looked at the spot Sherlock was pointing at. Through the hole one could see directly into the sitting room of the Rucastles, where the chair stood by the window.

John turned towards his friend and stated, “I can see into the sitting room.”
He mentally berated himself as soon as the words had left his mouth, because he was “stating the obvious”, but luckily amnesia-Sherlock held back a snarky comment. Instead he only nodded and started to inspect their surroundings more closely. He knelt down and touched the grass, then he went closer to the hole and inspected it by touching the leafs (that had already turned brown and yellow). He was acutely observant, and John knew better than to interrupt Sherlock, while he was looking for clues.

After a few more moments, John dared to ask a question, because he also knew that Sherlock loved to show off by telling the rest of the world about his observations. Since his blogger was the only other person present at the moment, he could be considered as “the rest of the world.”

“So, who’s watching, Sherlock?”

Sherlock rounded his friend and pointed out the (for him) obvious clues, “The grass is trampled, which indicates that he has been here on a regular basis. The way he takes to come here tells us that he knows his way around, he is a local. From the condition of the bushes we can be sure that he has started coming here not much longer than since Miss Hunter had arrived at the Rucastles. He probably started coming here a month prior to her arrival, but not much more. And of course he is about 6 ft. tall.”

John watched his friend. Even after years of working with him, he was still amazed about his incredible observational skills.

“Of course,” John commented drily.

Sherlock looked at John, as if he had forgotten that he was there as well.
John went through Sherlock’s observations in his head again and then asked, “He? How do we know that it is a He?”

His friend grinned. “We know that because of the footprints.” He pointed towards the small trampled path that lead towards the hole in the bush. “Shoes of a young man, 6ft. tall, of athletic stature, was coming and leaving in a haste and always staying here for about an hour or two once a week.”

“I see,” was all that John could say to that. As usual he was in no place to argue with the reasoning of the consulting detective. Therefore he reached into the pocket of his coat, pulled out his notepad and wrote Sherlock’s deductions down.

Sherlock knelt down, pulled an evidence bag out of his coat pocket as well as a small jack-knife, extracted something that seemed to be trampled into the grass and put it into the evidence bag. He stored the items back into his coat pocket.

Then he stepped a few steps back and looked up. His eyes glided over the windows of the first storey of the house. Suddenly he squinted.

John looked up from his notes and went over to stand next to his friend, wanting to see what had caught the attention of the consulting detective.

“See those four windows up there, John? Two of them are nailed up.”

“Maybe the rooms are abandoned? It is a big house, after all. And there are more rooms than needed,” John suggested.

Sherlock shook his head. “No. They are not abandoned.”

“Those are the dark rooms for photography,” a voice behind them suddenly chimed in.

The investigating duo turned around and found themselves face to face with Mr Toller, the butler (Although John was not sure if “Butler” was the correct term. In Downton Abbey they were called “footman” or “valet” – from what he had heard from Mary…).

Sherlock obviously did not bother with such trivial questions. Instead he arched one of his eyebrows in that arrogant way of his and stared at the steward inquisitively, “That’s very interesting,” he said in an absolute disinterested tone.

His next words were directed at John, “Maybe we should give Mr Rucastle the advice to occupy his time with something else, because the photographs in his house (at least the ones he made) were taken by a poor amateur.”

John gave his friend a half smile.

Mr Toller did not like at all that he was being ignored. Hence he asked Sherlock directly, while trying to sound nonchalant, “No advice for me, Mister Holmes?”
When the man in the Belstaff finally acknowledged the presence of the butler, he gave him a cold look and told him, “My advice to you, sir, is to speak the truth.”
Without sparing the man a second glance he sidestepped him and went into the direction of the entrance.

After picking up the pieces of his ego, Mr Toller had decided to follow the detective. Sherlock had proven that the steward was not the only one who was capable of lying, because he had told him directly that Ms Hunter was expecting them. Henceforth Mr Toller had no other choice but to let the two men into the house and call for the governess. He had led them into the study where they were waiting for the young woman. Mr and Mrs Rucastle were not at home. Somehow Sherlock had not been surprised by that fact. John would go so far as to say that he had been well aware of it.

John looked around the room and pondered that the two candlesticks on the mantelpiece were probably worth more than all the furniture in his entire flat, when Sherlock asked, “Did you see it?”
“What?” Once again John had no clue what his friend was talking about.
Sherlock gestured around the room and into the direction of the door they had come through, probably meaning the corridor and the hall. “There are no pictures of her.”

“Of whom?” John crossed his arms in front of his chest. He hated it when people did that; acting as if the other person were to know what they were talking about. Then again, Sherlock didn’t count as “people.” Still it was annoying.

“Alice Rucastle,” Sherlock said.

“The daughter?”

“Of course the daughter, who else?” The detective rolled his eyes; another thing that was annoying, but John had come to tolerate.

Sherlock went over to the desk, opened the top drawer, smiled mischievously, closed it again, glided his fingers over the smooth mahogany surface and went on to study the other objects on the table while he explained to John, “Generally people tend to be overly sentimental about their offspring and put up pictures of them.”

Being a father himself, John tried his best not to be offended by the statement of his friend. Instead he wanted to know, “And that tells us what exactly?”

“That Mr Rucastle is neither very fond of photography nor of his daughter. But he seems to have a liking for security cameras, because they are all over the place.”

John did not have more time to ask further questions, because the door opened and Miss Hunter walked in, followed by a light-brown Chihuahua.

“Mister Holmes, Doctor Watson, I did not expect you.” She looked from one man to the other, a bit shaken.

Sherlock shrugged, but had the decency to look apologetic. “We were in the neighbourhood.” He flashed her a grin. It was one of those occasions where John was privileged to witness how charming Sherlock could be if he wanted to, for Miss Hunter’s troubled expression left her face and she smiled back timidly.

“Did Mr Toller offer you something to drink?” She asked the men, realizing that they did not have a beverage yet.

Sherlock waved it off. “No, but we don’t need anything, thank you. We won’t occupy much of your time.”

John was a bit disappointed, because he would have liked a drink. But now it would have been rude to contradict his friend.

“And who is this?” John knelt down and addressed the Chihuahua. The small dog enthusiastically wagged its tale and ran towards the former army doctor, eager to be petted.

“This is Carlos,” the governess explained.

“That’s Mr Rucastle’s dog?!” Sherlock exclaimed incredulously.

“Yes.” Miss Hunter confirmed.

“I had expected something… I don’t know… something…”

“More intimidating?” John suggested while the dog turned away from him and made its way towards Sherlock who had knelt down as well to pet the little creature.
“… bigger… maybe like a mastiff…” Sherlock finished while petting Carlos who looked at the detective with his big eyes.

Miss Hunter giggled and gestured the dog to come back to her side. The animal did as told. “Carlos maybe wished to be a mastiff. He definitely can behave like one.”

“Miss Hunter,” Sherlock turned serious, “you told us that you heard weird noises coming from the first floor from the east wing.”

The careless expression left the woman’s face and she nodded.

“Am I right to assume that said wing is located above the sitting room?”
Again the young governess nodded and paled.

“Is there any other way to enter the premises than through the gate?”


“And the gate is closed at all times and Mr Toller is in charge of who is allowed in.” Sherlock phrased it like a statement, but Miss Hunter confirmed it none the less by nodding.

“Were you able to find out what is going on, Mister Holmes?”
When Sherlock shook his head, John could see that the consulting detective meant it when he said, “I am sorry, Miss Hunter.”

The woman lowered her gaze and her fingers fumbled with the hem of her blouse.

“But we’ve found some new clues,” Sherlock added, and when she looked back up, she tried to put on a brave face and hide her disappointment.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No, just act as normal as possible and stick to your routine.”

Somehow Sherlock’s words reminded John of the ones the doctor had spoken in the hospital when they had asked how they were supposed to deal with Sherlock’s condition. Hearing them now from the patient himself seemed weird.

“I understand,” Miss Hunter nodded dutifully, “and I will let you know if something… happens.”

“Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” Sherlock asked his friend when they were on their way back to London.

John had to hold back a chuckle and quote a line from Pinky and the Brain. Maybe this version of Sherlock would recognize it?

But before John could answer his friend who was staring outside the window, his phone buzzed, indicating an incoming message. He opened it and informed his friend, “It’s from Mycroft. He tells me to tell you to have a look at the file.” John put his phone away and sighed. “Can’t he text you directly?”

Sherlock did not bother to look away from the scenery, clearly only listening to John with half an ear.

“He did. I did not answer.”

“Why not?”

“I told you. Lost daddy case. Dull.”

John shook his head. I moments like these the former army doctor could almost forget that this was not the “real” Sherlock Holmes.

“What did you pick up from the grass earlier?” John had been dying to ask the consulting detective about it since the moment he had done it.

“There was some kind of seeds in the footprints. I am quite certain I know from which plant it is, but I need to make sure. I need to run some tests.”

There was a long silence, in which Sherlock seemed to be in his mind palace again and John went through his notes of the case. He had the distinct feeling that he was missing something. Something that was in his notes, something that was staring in his face, but he could not see it.

He was almost startled, when Sherlock suddenly turned towards him and asked in a casual tone – clearly trying to make small talk, “So, what are you going to do tonight?”

John lowered his notes and gave his friend a rueful look, “The same thing Mary and I do every night, try to get some sleep.”
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