Chapter Six of "Things that go bump in the Night," a Sherlock Holmes Baker Street Adventure is now posted.
Things that go bump in the Night
"Mister Dark was a squeaky old man with a face even a dog wouldn't love. He had none and none would go near him. It didn't seem to bother him. Once, when he thought I wasn't looking I snuck into the back of the shop and found a cat hanging upside down by its tail alongside a dog as well. They were quite still at the time, but looked alive, don't ask me why."
"As a child of ten I had a lot of imagination and rather little experience in the world of men, and my father preferred it that way, being the hardline Protestant that he was. He would shake his shaggy head of curly hair and make this tsk tsk sound, like a broom whisking up cinders in the hearth, then exclaim, 'Martha, Martha,' do not be a child so much, but don't be an adult just yet. I'll be letting you know when such is needed, but be careful where your hands and your eyes rest, as trouble is the nature of eyes that are not discreet."
Mrs. Hudson closed her eyes, still remembering that time. As she did the memories unfolded on the canvas of her mind and she saw that point in time again as cleary as if it were yesterday.
"Martha." Father called to her, reaching out for her hand.
Martha climbed down from the horse and buggy her father owned. While not a rich man, neither was he a poor one. He was looked up to in town as an honest man of good temper, but who was a hard one to bargain with and usually took the upper hand if one was not careful. In more modern times he would just be called a successful business man.
Martha blushed as he gave her that warm smile he always did. Her father was the sun and moon to her, even his ragged, rough old whiskers that poked out like spikes on a werewolf's face in the books she snuck out of his library to read when he thought she was sleeping and he actually was, his snores declaring to the world that nothing short of the end of the world would awaken him before dawn.
"See here, he pointed." He lifted a rugged index finger on his right finger to indicate the shop they were going to. As he did the lights came on. It was early that day. Usually, most shop keepers were already up and at it for hours by then, making the best of the daylight hours and the morning's ease of delivery. Most foot and buggy traffic was light that time of day and gave them a chance to set up the carts of food, manikins with splendid imported cloths and clothing and fine jewelry (that is fine to the eye, not to the pocket book as most of it was fake and imported from the Chinas.).
She looked up at the rather quaint sign that hung on two mermaids from a long built up keel descending from its roof like the keel of a ship. It read: "Father Dethers. We sell the unusual."
Father was a man of literature and well educated, even if by himself and not a prodigy school as the sons and daughters of the rich were educated. No, he found whatever he could lay his hands and his pennies upon and read the books until they fell apart in taters, committing their knowledge to his sharp mind. In his day he might have compared to Holmes in the adeptness of his manner and mind. He was sharp. Oftentimes he would be called upon by the local constabulary to help in petty crimes and sometimes the darker ones, though he never spoke of those to Martha.
Martha always knew they happened though, because her father would come home, his face dark with sadness and sorrow for the criminals he had to deal with and their unwilling, though sometimes willing victims.
"In here you are to be extra careful, Martha, my dear, as this man is not to be trusted further than one can throw him."
"Then why do you visit here?" She had asked in her sweet, but to the point manner.
He had tucked a grizzled hand under her chin and smiled. "The sharp words of a bright mind. Take after your father, don't you?"
I smiled. His compliments were like balloons lifting my heart to heaven.
He dropped to a knee, not worried about the grime and dirt upon the pavement below. "It's this way, Martha, some men you can do business with, but you must also keep an eye out to make sure they don't do business to you. I don't know why, but there's something off about him, something I haven't been able to read just yet. But I will. I promise. Until I know what it is that bothers me, stay close, don't touch anything and be ready to leave on my word. Okay? Promise?"
"I promise, Father." I told him.
He laughed and got to his feet. "Last time I visited he had this cute doll from the India Isles, something with eight arms and a fancy sword."
"Oh, I want it!" I cried out, happy as could be. I had no idea at the time that it was the figure of a demon, but such are the innocence of children and men. Even my father had no idea of the menace of that figure, only that it was beautifully crafted and he wanted to please me with a gift of some kind.
So we crossed the street, me minding where I put my shoes, as little puddles of horse droppings were here and there.
Father accidentally stepped in one and spent the next five minutes kicking off the mess, until he finally wasted his good hanky to clean up his shoe.
Disgusted with himself, he had flung the hanky into a trash bin that was stationed every block on the street, then took my hand again and led me inside.
The door made an odd sound as I opened it for Father. A sound like a cow mooing came from the back. "A fog horn." Father told me with amusement, after I'd jumped almost a foot in the air from fright of it.
"The lighthouses use it to warn off merchant ships from dangerous waters." He went on.
I nodded, my tiny heart beginning to slow to normal again.
The first thing I saw after that was the myriad little items that were strewn about the interior of the shop, much as vases of flowers might be, all on tiny sticks that poked into wierd colored pots with slick glazes on them and strange symbols.
Father ignored them. His eyes was on the bookshelf to the right. He immediately went there, with me close on his heels. He found what he was interested in almost immediately. It was a copy of Robin Hood, frayed and worn but still carrying a beautifully illuminated cover with gorgeous scrolls and script.
"I want this." He declared. "A man should know his history." He proudly exclaimed.
"And so you should..." Mister Dark's voice came from the shadows at the rear of the shop.
I jumped again, but Father had his arm on my shoulder, so I didn't jump quite as high, but when Mister Dark came out of the shadows I immediately wished he'd stayed there and we could leave right away. Father felt me trembling next to him. "Have courage. I won't be long."
I nodded, but my courage felt like a dandelion blowing in the wind at that moment. Going fast away.
"...For history is rich with the details of what is right...and what is wrong in our world." Mister Dark continued, though his words were twisted somehow, not coming out as if he meant what he said, but as if there were a hidden meaning rich in something terrible, dark and horrible.
I shivered again, then slipped from my father's grip, having also spotted the doll he wanted for me. It was situated near the back counter and an open area that led into the back. I kept an eye on Mister Dark, but his eyes were only on Father.
Father was a regular customer and I'm sure contributed well to the bounty of the shop and Mister Dark's livelihood.
"And how much will you be wanting for this worn clutch of papers?" My Father began in that voice that meant bargaining was ahoy.
I made it to the counter of the doll, not noticed by either man at that moment.
I reached for the doll, but something caught my eye on the other side of the counter, in the back area. Something dark was hanging from above. Somethings.
I slipped quickly through the opening, my heart beating like a drum from fear, but I was determined. "See, there, even then I was a determined woman with a mind of her own." Mrs. Hudson told Watson, her eyes on him for a moment, then she shut them again and the vision and memories returned.
"I snuck quietly, deeper and deeper into the back, and then came upon the hanging things. They were dogs and cats, but alive somehow, just hanging by their tails, not moving. It was eerie and not natural in any way. It had to have been some kind of witchcraft I thought to myself at the time. Now, I'm not so sure."
Martha stopped beneath the animals, her fear growing more and more. She swallowed, then turned to see a low counter with dolls upon it. Each one had the face of some kind of animal. She climbed onto a low stool to look closer. That's when she saw the Druid Cross. It was made of some kind of red stone, highly polished and semi-transparent. She touched it and it emitted a light ringing sound. She immediately withdrew her hand, nervous she had been betrayed. But no one came, then she turned to examine the nearest doll.
It was a tiny human shape with a cat's head. It was beautiful. Then it's eyes opened and it said. She swore it said. "Help me!"