Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Brash Blonde - Chapter Nineteen

Instantly I took back everything I'd ever thought about Detective Lestrade, and some things I probably hadn't thought of yet, and anything I might think in the future. In fact, I was adding him to my Christmas card list. Right at the top, where the people who got the really nice cards lived.

My knees gave out, and I slumped to the floor, feeling dangerously close to tears. Lestrade rushed into the living room, looking around at the array of canned vegetables, the music box, the lamps, and the boxes scattered everywhere. I half expected a snarky comment about what I'd done with the place, but he only held out his hand to help me up.

"Are you hurt?"

I shook my head. "How did you know…"

"Looks like we were on the same track."

I looked at him, uncomprehending.

He guided me over to the sofa and sat me down. "Mr. Chu's been on my radar for a while too."

Oh, that track. He thought I'd actually solved this case before today. It was so flattering that I let him think it.

"He might spend his day in the park with his buddies," he went on, "but he's managed to save time in the last six months for some very unsavory activities in Chinatown." He looked at me, and I could have sworn his eyes narrowed slightly. "Despite what you seem to think of me, Miss Hudson, I do run down leads."

I made my eyes wide and innocent. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Besides, I thought a lot more of him at the moment than I had an hour ago.

"When we got a hit on Mr. Chu's fingerprints after your last break-in," he said, "I had him cold for B and E. I was across the street looking for him when I saw him let himself into this place." He glanced down at Louis Chu with open disgust. "And once the ME filled me in on a little detail from his autopsy findings, it tied a pretty neat bow on this case."

"Monkshood," I murmured. I'd have to remember to thank Watson. Possibly with a full-body massage. Nude. Him, not me. Unless he insisted on it.

Lestrade blinked. "How do you know that?"

Had I said that out loud? I didn't want to cause trouble for Watson, especially now that he'd kind of helped save my life and everything. I shrugged. "I had a chat with Dr. Watson. Very superficial. No real details. Barely more than hello, really."

He stared at me.

The front door opened, and the foyer suddenly filled with officers. Dr. Watson was among them, clearly in professional mode. He took control of the body immediately. The officers kept their distance when Detective Lestrade stepped aside to give Watson access to Louis Chu. Even though it didn't look like much could be done for Louis Chu. He was still motionless, lying facedown on a can of baby carrots.

Dr. Watson's eyes flitted to me before he went to work. I wondered if it would be awkward for him if I asked to speak to him privately. I couldn't see how. He probably fielded questions from every homeowner who had a crazy, fat little criminal break into their house and hold them at gunpoint before being shot by the police. It was only natural.

But I didn't get the chance. He moved away to let the forensic photographer do his job, then took some measurements with various instruments before he helped his assistant load Louis Chu's body onto a stretcher and followed him out the door. No more looks and no conversation. I hadn't really expected anything different under the circumstances.

Detective Lestrade motioned toward the door. "I'd like you to come to the precinct to give a statement."

I nodded. "Could I do it tomorrow morning? I need a little time to process this." And a nap. And a stiff drink. Not necessarily in that order.

"Understood. Tomorrow morning's fine. You'll probably need some time to write your report first."

Report? Oh, sure. My investigative report.

"I do need to get that to my client." I shook my head. "Paperwork."

Lestrade was a man familiar with reports and paperwork. The corner of his lip quirked upward for a second before dropping back firmly into place. He hesitated. "I'm sure you don't want to stay here while the forensic team does their job. Can I drive you somewhere?"

"I need to speak with Miss Hudson first," Dr. Watson said behind him.

It was probably inappropriate under the circumstances, but I found myself smiling. Here was my chance to tell Watson how grateful I was that he'd trusted me enough to look further into the case, to alert Detective Lestrade to his new findings, and for not calling me out on the Sherlock Holmes thing that I was pretty sure he only half believed—if that.

He pulled me aside, and Detective Lestrade wandered off toward the foyer. I opened my mouth to express my gratitude, and he said, "What exactly were you thinking?"

I closed my mouth.

"You should have known better than to come here by yourself," he said. His voice was low but harsh. "Do you have any idea what went through my mind when I heard this address? You could have been killed. You almost were killed."

I hadn't expected a lecture. He didn't have to tell me I'd almost been killed. I'd been the one staring down the barrel of Mr. Crazy's gun.

"How was I supposed to know he would break in here and hold me at gunpoint?" I asked.

His eyebrows raised. "Seriously? How many times has this place been broken into?"

Yeah, alright. I almost said, "But it's daytime," except such a feeble excuse probably wouldn't fly with a man of immutable logic.

A man with an asymmetrical pouty set of lips that seemed to be inching closer to me by the second.

My eyes went wide again, this time in genuine surprise when he leaned in and planted those pouty lips on mine, ever so briefly, just long enough to get a tantalizing taste of wintergreen, before they lifted and he whispered in my ear, "I'm glad you're alright, Miss Hudson."

And then he left.

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