Authors: Kara L. Barney
The Hudson Diaries: The Life and Times of a Baker Street Resident
By Kara Barney
Copyright 2012 by Kara Barney
Cover Copyright 2012 by Ginny Glass
and Untreed Reads Publishing
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The Hudson Diaries: The Life and Times of a Baker Street Resident
I remember the first day I met Sherlock Holmes; Dr. Watson was indisposed at the time. Before I became the prosperous landlady of Baker Street—that was only after a narrative entitled “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” by Dr. Watson—I had been searching long and hard for work, and happened upon an advertisement in the paper, which read:
“Looking for a housekeeper of the highest standards; honest, hard-working, and true to his or her word. Does not mind solitude, and possesses a considerable amount of self-motivation, as the employer travels often.”
There was no name, only an address. Since these seemed to be the only qualifications, I sent a wire fixing an appointment and set off for Baker Street. Not knowing who or what I would find there, I came to the door and after taking a deep breath, knocked twice. A tall, thin man answered, his deep brown eyes scrutinizing my every move. Trying not to give in to intimidation, I curtsied and said, “Sir, I came as an answer to the advertisement—”
“Yes, yes…” he said, with a wave of his hand.
He swung the door wide open and without another word sat in a large wing-backed chair. After a moment, I realized that he would not direct me to a chair for myself, and so stepped in and sat immediately across from him in the nearest chair provided.
“What is your name?” he asked. I could see clearly that he was taking notes.
“Beauregard,” I said confidently, “Martha Beauregard.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
I began to tell my interviewer the general qualifications that I had told most employers. He then asked me about my family and upbringing. I answered, “My mother and I live in Charing Cross, and she is a seamstress. I have no siblings. My father…”
It was difficult for me to speak about my father; he had died from tuberculosis some months earlier, and I missed him terribly.
“Your father died?”
I hung my head, trying to answer but finding that I could not.
After a significant pause, he said, “You are of the working class, but you are quite literary and enjoy gardening. You know your way in the world, but thankfully you are naïve of the world of crime that surrounds you. Am I correct?”
I nodded, amazed at how he knew of these other private matters. “Sir, how—”
“It is a gift of mine to be very observant. Now, young lady, will you excel where others might have failed?”
I was surprised that my interviewer had called me young, when he himself was not much older than I. He could be no more than in his early thirties, his face chiseled, with deep lines around the jaw. After a slight pause, I said something very rash indeed.
“You will need to trust me, sir.”
His eyebrows shot up and he smiled enigmatically, I believe somewhat astonished. “
I trust you, Miss Beauregard? I have worked on some of the most dangerous and twisted intrigue in all of England, and I hold secrets which some would kill to possess. Not once have I found someone willing or able to enter my line of work who can also remain true. What makes you any different?”
I could sense that he was agitated, even slightly angry. For a moment I was struck dumb, and then answered, “I will do my best, sir…”
“What if your best is not enough?” he said condescendingly, “Good day, Miss Beauregard.”
I stood up, curtsied, and left immediately thereafter, not wishing to anger him further. On his porch steps I inhaled deeply and shook my head, confused at such conduct. As I left the porch, I thought I heard a cough nearby. Expecting to see someone there, I turned my head but saw no one. Disconcerted, I looked about, but still there was no one save myself nearby. I stepped off the porch, telling myself that my thoughts were strictly imaginary, but I had the strongest inclination to turn back and tell the man. I attempted to ignore it, for I did not wish to anger him further. Unable to do so for much longer, however, I revived my courage and knocked again at the Baker Street door. He again answered, moody and ponderous.
“What is it, Miss Beauregard?”
“Sir, I believe you and I were watched during our conference.”
“Watched?” his brows knitted, “By whom? Did you see anyone?”
“I do not know… No, I saw no one. But as I turned away from your porch, I heard rustling and…”
“Yes? Speak up.” he said shortly.
“A cough, sir.”
He frowned slightly. “What?”
“A cough. I heard a cough in the foliage yonder.”
His eyes bulged, and I thought I saw the hint of a smile on his lips. “Thank you, Miss Beauregard,” he replied, “Good day.”
Stunned somewhat by this reaction and his conduct toward me, I went on my way home to Charing Cross. Once there I began my domestic duties, and while my mother wished to know my progress toward employment, she did not press me when I told her I wished to speak of other things. It was several days before I saw the man again. In that interim I searched for other employment, sure that he would not call upon me. What would be my surprise, then, when one fog-ridden night, my mother and I were sewing by the fire when we heard a light but powerful knock at the door. Standing on the step, he asked if I was at home. Seeing that I was, he came in slowly, with a rather nervous countenance. My mother shut the door and a long silence followed. I finally asked the interviewer what could bring him to my home, and at last he spoke.
“May I speak with you alone, Miss Beauregard?”
My mother immediately left the room with a watchful, hesitant look on her face, probably believing this man to be a suitor.
“Please, do sit down.” I said, not having the slightest idea what might be on his mind.
He did so, and after another heavy silence, proceeded to tell me his thoughts. He said, “Firstly, I believe apology is in order. For my conduct several days past, I can only say that what I said to you is true. Not many others have been able to understand my particular needs or vigilance—I can only think of one person at present. However, the only way in which I can get a housekeeper, and hopefully an aid in those cases in which I might make use of you, is to try you out. What do you make of that, Miss Beauregard?”
“I accept your apology, sir, if that is what you mean by it.”
“It is. Secondly,” he continued, “I wish to ask you a question. What was it that drove you back to my door after I had treated you so harshly?”
After a time, and finally with a shrug of my shoulders, I said, “Call it intuition, sir.”
“If intuition is what you call it, then your intuition is one of the highest quality. Indeed, there was someone near my home during our conference together.”
In response to my look of shock, he grinned and went on. “The man you heard was my trusted assistant and confidante, Dr. John Watson. After some friendly coercion, he agreed to be part of an experiment I invented to test those who came to Baker Street seeking employment. They first, unfortunately, would be berated and rebuked by me, then Watson would create some sort of disturbance. You were the only person to return and warn me of possible danger. For that I must thank you, and tell you that I wish for you to enter my employment. Does that suit you, young lady?”
Taken aback by his narrative as well as his request, it took some time for me to accept. Once I had done so, however, Mr. Holmes introduced himself to me officially, shook my hand, and told me that I would start on the morrow. Thus began my employment with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and since then the house on Baker Street and its owner have been under my care.
The Stolen Letters
Some months into my employment with Mr. Holmes, though I had been warned of the certain dangers which might befall Baker Street, I attempted to keep the house as routine and ordinary as possible, drawing no attention to the fact that he was a private detective. I had grown accustomed to his want for quiet, though from time to time we would spend an evening by the fire discussing London and its troubles. I was also aware of Mr. Holmes coming and going often, and occasionally the serenade of his violin. On this particular morning, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson had left early and without breakfast, as is their custom in times of difficulty. I was going about the upper rooms dusting, when I heard the front door open and close. Believing it to be my master, I made my way down the staircase. I called out his name, but there was no answer. Assuming he had not heard me, I called out again on the stairs. “Mr. Holmes?” I turned a corner near his study, for I had heard sounds there, and pushed open the door; no one appeared. I followed the sound into the front sitting room, but came too late before I heard the front door open and close again.
I went to the window, disconcerted. Instead of Mr. Holmes, there stood a man of unusual height, with a pale, sickly complexion, a wicked grin spread across his face. I came out to the porch as he turned away, halted by a pistol pointed directly at my heart.
“If you attempt to pursue me, I will kill you,” he whispered menacingly, his malicious stare boring into my very soul. I blinked, and in that moment he disappeared.
I raced back into the house and sent a messenger for Mr. Holmes at once. Shaken, I awaited my master’s return with a deep sense of dread. Within the hour Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson were back at Baker Street, anticipating my explanations.
“Are you well, Martha?” asked Mr. Holmes, looking at me closely.
“Yes, I am unharmed…but I fear that something has been stolen from the house.”
“Watson, please begin a thorough search of the house—I will join you presently,” my master directed, and then asked me to explain.
When I had done so, Mr. Holmes’s brows furrowed. Deep in thought, he said, “There are few things in this house that would be of consequence, but I can think of some. Would you be able to describe the intruder to me should it come to that?”
I nodded, thinking hard. Then an idea struck me. “Rupert Hudson… He is an artist. Call upon him, and perhaps from my description he can give you your man.”
Mr. Holmes nodded and once a messenger was sent to fetch Rupert, we all three began to search the lower rooms. After an hour of exhaustive investigation, Mr. Holmes sighed, saying, “I hope that your artist can work well and quickly. Some letters have been stolen which are quite precious to me.” My heart beat nervously, and I prayed that we were not too late.
“But how did he get in?” I asked.
“I’m not sure…but thieves do have their ways.” He bent down near the door, his nose nearly touching the floor.
“Is there something there, sir?”
“How very odd.” Mr. Holmes held up his hand, squinting in the lamplight. Resting in his fingers was a thin piece of steel.
“There is nothing so strange about that, Mr. Holmes,” I said, smiling. “It probably came from a loose nail hanging in the wall. See? That picture has fallen again.” I crossed the room and picked up one of the few landscape paintings we had in the old house; being near the door, it had a tendency to fall when the door opened on a blustery day.
“Perhaps,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders, slipping the piece into his pocket.
At last Rupert arrived, and upon seeing me, kissed me on the cheek and said, “Are you all right? Who did this to you? If anyone dares to threaten you, I’ll—”
I put my finger to his lips and smiled, but then felt the gravity of the situation once more. “That is why you are here, Rupert. I hope that through my description you might draw the man who intruded upon this house today, and thereby save Mr. Holmes from potentially scandalous exposure.”