Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

BOOK: Of Dubious and Questionable Memory
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Books by Rachel McMillan

H
ERRINGFORD AND
W
ATTS
M
YSTERIES

A Singular and Whimsical Problem

(e-only novella)

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder

Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

(e-only novella)

A Lesson in Love and Murder

HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS

EUGENE, OREGON

Cover by Nicole Dougherty

Published in association with William K. Jensen Literary Agency, 119 Bampton Court, Eugene, Oregon 97404.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

OF DUBIOUS AND QUESTIONABLE MEMORY

Copyright © 2016 by Rachel McMillan

Published by Harvest House Publishers

Eugene, Oregon 97402

www.harvesthousepublishers.com

ISBN 978-0-7369-6879-9 (eBook)

All rights reserved.
No part of this electronic publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, digital, photocopy, recording, or any other—without the prior written permission of publisher. The authorized purchaser has been granted a nontransferable, nonexclusive, and noncommercial right to access and view this electronic publication, and purchaser agrees to do so only in accordance with the terms of use under which it was purchased or transmitted. Participation in or encouragement of piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of author's and publisher's rights is strictly prohibited.

Contents

Books by Rachel McMillan

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Epilogue

The Herringford and Watts Mysteries

About the Author

About the Publisher

Dedication

For Leah and Jared

I dedicate this story about siblings and friends

to my siblings (who just happen to be my friends).

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have

seldom heard him mention her under any other

name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates

the whole of her sex… there was but one woman

to him, and that woman was the late Irene

Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

A
RTHUR
C
ONAN
D
OYLE
, “A S
CANDAL IN
B
OHEMIA

Chapter One

October 1911

It all could have been avoided had we not accused Henry Tipton, Chief of Police, of stealing his neighbor's rooster. This accusation, I must note, was made before we were in possession of all the facts. My associate, Merinda Herringford, and I had very little to go on other than an anonymous note saying the bird was in danger.

Later, when our feather-flurried chase ended poorly, the
Toronto Globe and Mail
would run an article featuring a rather unflattering picture of Merinda and me in pursuit of the blasted bird. This would be but the tip of the iceberg of our humiliation, proving ever more true Sherlock Holmes's belief that it is a “capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

Rather than data, Merinda had a hunch. The Herringford and Watts detective business had been experiencing a bit of a lull, and perhaps that is why Merinda jumped to conclusions when the note arrived. I had no time for mysteries that day. I was preoccupied with memorizing the jam-making section of
Flora Merriweather's Guide to Domestic Bliss.
I was determined to master a few rudimentary housekeeping skills. (An astute reader might wonder what in heaven's name was I thinking in attempting jam in October so far out of season. I had been able to find some late-season blackberries from Murdoch's grocer—paying more than I ever had for produce—and decided to surprise my new husband, Ray.)

When Merinda invited me to sally forth, I quickly moved the jam from the stove and accompanied her, realizing halfway down Sumach
Street that I had used salt instead of sugar and the already burned concoction would smell something dreadful when Ray returned to the soot-stained kitchen (yet one more example of my less-than-exemplary domestic capabilities). But I put the kitchen out of my mind. I was blindly focused on the case at hand. So blind that just as we arrived at Chief Tipton's home, our mission was truncated by my face-first collision with a weaselly-faced man. He was wearing the badge of the Morality Squad, the plainclothes detectives who were tasked with cleaning up the streets… and would take any excuse to lock up a couple of wayward females.

I squeaked and stumbled backward, tripping over the curb in the process and tumbling into a mud puddle. My husband's second-best bowler hat fell from my head, and the long braid of hair that had been coiled underneath it came down over my shoulder.

“Rats!” I squeaked.

“You're a woman!” cackled Weasel Face. “Herringford and Watts, as I live and breathe!”

“Jemima,” Merinda sighed, “you're really not very good at this, are you?”

To add insult to injury, I could do little to salvage Ray's hat as we were dragged off to St. Jerome's Reformatory for Vagrant and Incorrigible Females, Merinda bellowing the whole way about roosters and the Chief of Police not being above the law.

The iron door of the gated institution echoed behind us with a thud.

“Surely you can contact our particular friend and newly promoted Inspector Jasper Forth!” Merinda called. But no one was listening.

The matron appeared with nondescript gray cotton dresses folded in her arms, her mouth tight as if she perpetually sucked on lemons. “Everything off,” she said with a hiss of disgust. “Everything.” And she looked pointedly at my wedding ring.

“My ring?” I squeaked. “But surely… ”

“Everything. A respectable married woman wouldn't be here in the first place,” she huffed.

We washed in freezing water and coarse lye soap. And then we were shoved into a cell.

Merinda's eyes snapped around the dark, drafty room and her lips twitched. “This is a bit of a pickle.” She took in the thin uniform and the ratty wool blankets. “But also a bit of a lark!”

I picked caked mud from my fingers, angry at the trap into which we had unintentionally fallen. Toronto's Morality Squad had wanted to lock up the notorious trouser-wearing, bowler-hat-sporting lady detectives for an age. Catching us just as we were arriving at Chief Tipton's home was a coup for them. Would they ever let us out again?

Now, cloistered in our frigid cell with a cracked window that did little to keep out the autumn air, I had dwindling tolerance for Merinda and her insufferably good mood.

“Why is it that whenever we are hired by a man, it's for some problem including fowl?” Merinda flopped back on the hard slat of a bed and folded her arms behind her head. “Honestly, it's a bit of a trial trying to establish Toronto's premiere consulting detective business when we're dashing after roosters.”

“But we weren't hired. We just got a note,” I said sourly.

“I should have smelled a rat the moment I saw that message.” Merinda did her best to fluff the hard pillow on her wooden slat of a bed. “Tipton clearly wanted the Morality Squad to lure us into this exact situation!”

Time ticked onward. A loud knock at the door came not from Jasper as I had hoped, but rather the matron. She announced where supper would be served.

Merinda and I opted against the meal. Neither of us hungry, we stayed in our room. I tried to sleep, but every tick and creak in the vacuous hall outside kept me on edge.

“Cracker jacks! It's Jasper's birthday party tomorrow.” Merinda sat up in her bed at the memory. “Well, he'd better spring us out of here by then if he wants his party. I already sent out all the invitations.”

“My poor jam.” I sighed. “I was so hoping to impress Mrs. Malone and prove I had finally ascended to the ranks of capable domesticity.” Merinda's housekeeper despaired of my ability to keep myself fed.

“Oh hush, Jemima. Just buy jam at the market like the rest of civilization.”

In the shaft of light through the bars, I watched her blow a truant blond curl from her forehead. Her mind was clearly no longer on the party. “Our pursuit of the rooster was sound. I mean, suppose I was acting a little, erm, rashly… but there is a logical explanation for… ”

“Shush, Merinda!” Dirty water dripped through the cracked ceiling to drum on my forehead. “I'm too tired and too upset for us to fall down this rabbit hole of your silly hypotheses again.”

Finally, after hours of darkness and little hope of sleep, the gray light of morning stretched over my cramped shoulders. I swallowed the sour, chalky taste in my mouth as, blessedly, the door clamored open.

BOOK: Of Dubious and Questionable Memory
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