“Who are . . . ?” Sherlock Holmes asked, his pipe almost falling from his lips. “And what are your qualifications, Miss . . . Miss?”
The young lady quietly moving about his laboratory glanced up at him inquisitively.
She knew very well that the Great Detective was unaccustomed to being surprised—and that there were few who had been allowed the privilege of seeing him so. He glanced at the burning logs in the fireplace and at the glistening bottles drying on the racks with something approaching displeasure if not surpassing it.
She curtseyed, taking her simple cotton sheath dress in both hands. “My name is Miss Mirabella H—”
“—Not important,” Sherlock interrupted. “What is important is that you were dismissed from your prior place of employment—and that you are a relative of Mrs. Hudson’s, so I have no reason to think you were hired for your credentials. How can I trust you will follow my directions to the letter, which most certainly includes not using my laboratory for your personal experimentation?”
How did he know she was Mrs. Hudson’s niece? Technically she was a relation by marriage and bore her aunt, a Scotswoman, no resemblance. The former Mr. Hudson, a successful merchant seafaring man, was brother to Mirabella’s father, a curate, who had taken more interest in education than his adventuring brother and educated all his children at home.
Mirabella felt her jaw drop in shock, which did not bode well for her powers of communication. And how would he have known about her last position?
Suddenly her prospective employer threw himself into a full circle, narrowly avoiding knocking over jars of explosive chemicals. He then moved to grab something on the newly cleaned wooden laboratory desk, waving it wildly in front of her nose. “What is this?” he demanded.
Before she could stop herself, she clutched Sherlock Holmes’ wrist to prevent him from knocking her glasses off her head. She hoped it didn’t anger him, but she could ill afford to replace them—either her glasses or her head. “Why it’s a . . . a . . . spatu . . .”
“What is wrong with you, girl, can’t you speak?” He grew wilder and most certainly closer, and she tightened her hold despite his piercing stare which would have frightened Genghis Khan.
Despite his well-tailored clothing, everything about his appearance was disturbing. Arched angular eyebrows, dark overlong wavy hair flying everywhere, and a pronounced unshaven jaw line framed by a cut on his lip as if he had quite recently been in a bar brawl. Could there be any doubt that he was not entirely stable mentally?
Not to mention that when she walked into this flat she had been met with the disturbing odors of tobacco, strong chemicals, rotting food, mold, dog hair, dust, liquor, a strange floral scent, and an overall impression of decay.
“Grrrrr! ZZZ-Zzzz-ZZzzz SNORT!” And she had been faced with a sleeping bulldog which vacillated between snoring and growling. As if the attack to her nose had not been enough, she had lived in fear of the dog awakening and attacking her in the flesh. When the dog awoke from his slumber and opened his mouth to display his massive jaws, her worst fears realized, he was less frightening than the man now before her.
“It’s a P-p-platina spatula,” she managed to utter. Only when she saw that he was instantly calmer did she release his wrist. Fighting terror, her eyes were glued to the charismatic, devilishly dark man before her. The esteemed Sherlock Holmes was a madman—and a bully.
And yet she would give anything in the world to work for this scientific genius.
She must be crazy too.