Even the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would rave about the Baker Street mystery series! A Baker Street Wedding is another winner, and not to be missed.
"Any [Sherlock] Holmes fan would enjoy Michael Robertson's fresh new take on the Holmes stories...fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining." —CNN, Must Read Books on The Baker Street Translation
"Agatha Christie fans will revel in Robertson’s fifth novel...a classic fair play whodunit leavened with humor." —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Baker Street Jurors
The wedding of Reggie Heath and the celebrated actress Laura Rankin was reported in all the tabloids—which is to say, it was a disaster.
Now, in a remote village on the British coast, locked in by sea cliffs on one side and moors on the other, the newlywed’s plane—piloted by Laura—has landed. Reggie doesn’t understand why Laura has picked this god-forsaken hamlet for their honeymoon. What is she keeping from him?
The answers are in Laura’s past, but she’s not saying, and Reggie is out of his depth. He must have help—or his worst fears and more will be realized.
About the Author
MICHAEL ROBERTSON studied literature at Purdue University, attended law school in southern California, and worked in educational publishing and software technology for many years. He spends his spare time surfing, a few hundred yards north of the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant. He is the author of the Baker Street Mystery series, which begins with The Baker Street Letters.
Read an Excerpt
TWENTY YEARS LATER
A young woman ran across Bodfyn Moor just after dusk, with the sun gone and the quarter moon not yet risen. The white-gray rocks, embedded everywhere in the thawing mud and unseen until she struck them, punished her feet painfully, but she did not slow until she reached the top of a small rise.
She had to stop, just for a moment, because her lungs were heaving and burning. She looked behind her for her pursuers. She could not see them in the pitch-dark, nor could she hear them clearly, with the wind howling and whipping the heather about. But she was sure they were there.
The young woman had crow's-feet and shadows around her eyes, but they were not real. They were dueto an especially heavy application of Ben Nye eye makeup for the stage. Her face was lined, but the wrinkles were drawn in with a pencil. She had ruby red lips, but they were not her preferred color. And she had blood on her hands — which was advertised as tasting like peppermint, and resistant to melting under the sweat of stage lights, but easily removable with warm soap and water, unlike the blood on the hands of the character she had been cast to play.
What was real about the young woman was her jet black hair, her startling blue-violet eyes, and her very sincere desire to be an actress — and now, her very real fear of what was pursuing her.
Her parents had once told her that she could be the next Elizabeth Taylor. And after she had Googled Elizabeth Taylor, she knew that was a compliment. But, of course, she wanted to be like Scarlett Johansson. Or like Katie Holmes. Or like the tall, famously freckled Laura Rankin. Being like any of them would do.
She was young and healthy and forward-looking, and she did not believe in curses, despite what the others back at the theater rehearsal had said. A brisk walk on the moor, with the wind blowing and Wagner playing loudly in her headphones, would clear her mind, help her ignore all the nonsense, and also help put her many lines into a context all her own.
The walk had begun pleasantly enough. With headphones on, she couldn't hear the gusting wind, but she could see it — whipping the pink heather, stirring the early-spring grass. She saw patches of tall yellow gorse bushes moving in the wind, as well, and she picked her way around them; one had to avoid their thorns.
The wind stirred no dust — it was the moor, after all, not a desert, and except for the white-gray rocks, everything there was either living or had been.
She had hiked to the top of the nearest hill on Bodfyn Moor and paused, leaning against a granite tor that had withstood eons of weather, and hoping to see a couple of the wild ponies known to frequent the region. But no — not this time. In the waning light, she had seen only a large patch of head-high yellow gorse, the yellow flowers shifting and shimmering in the last ray of sun, and the branches still moving in the wind.
Which was odd. Because everywhere else the wind had stopped. The heather nearby didn't seem to be moving at all.
She took off her headphones to listen, not trusting her vision alone.
Yes, the wind had stopped.
And yet the branches of the nearest yellow gorse bush she had just passed, only a few yards behind her, had just now moved again. She was sure of it; and not only was she sure she had seen that motion but now she could also smell it — the yellow gorse, when disturbed, emitted a very distinct aroma, like coconut oil — could smell it as strongly as if someone had opened a bottle of tanning lotion.
Now it was so dark that it was certainly time to head back. She wanted to walk right back down the way she had come up, using the faint gray shapes of the rocks to guide her steps.
But that would take her right by that tall patch of gorse. And she wanted to be sure.
She felt foolish calling out. But she could not think of what had moved those bushes if a person had not.
"Is someone there?"
She took a tentative step in that direction — if she could be certain that no one was there, hiding behind the thorny branches, she was going to rush right past that stand of gorse and down the slope. As dark as the night now was, she would run down the path, and if her feet hit the rocks and she tripped, so be it — she would eventually get to the safety of the theater.
But now, as she took that step, the branches moved again — she heard them, smelled them, nearly felt them — and she heard a low, guttural, and frighteningly angry human sound.
She abandoned her plan. She turned and began to run farther out onto the moor.
And then, suddenly, she pitched forward. She put her arms out but found nothing to catch and break her fall. It was just all blackness. The surprise of it was so great that she could not even think to scream.CHAPTER 2
At the Wayward Pony, the only pub in Bodfyn, the establishment's owner had laid out a tabloid newspaper, open to the gossip pages, as he tended bar. The London-based actress Laura Rankin was getting married, and her choice of mates was a subject of discussion.
"The Daily Sun calls him 'the balmy barrister of Baker Street,'" said Charlie with some authority as he drew another pint for a customer. "Something to do with letters that he gets. And says he almost blew up the sewer under Hyde Park once."
Charlie, in his mid-thirties, with the slightly stocky and somewhat paunchy build of a former athlete, set the freshly filled glass on the bar with more emphasis than was really necessary.
"Says here he's a QC, though. Queen's Counsel," said a man in a wool cap, picking up the beer.
"So what?" said Charlie. "I'll bet you could throw a rock in any direction from the Inns of Court and bonk one of those."
Sophie, the barmaid, came over now. She was boisterous and several years younger than the man pouring the beer. "Oh, you're so right, Charlie," she said, laughing. "I'd have bonked one or two myself when I visited London last year. But they're all so stuffy!"
Charlie laughed, too, but halfheartedly. Of all the people in the pub, he seemed the most genuinely unhappy about the announced nuptials.
"Yes," he said. "She could have had a real man, not some toff."
Now an older man, with deliberately unkempt, Ensteinishly wild, gray hair, reached across the bar, and slapped a consoling hand on the bartender's shoulder.
"Let it go, lad," he said. "She was never for you. Fate had other things in mind."
"I know celebrities are no affair of mine, Mr. Turner," said Charlie. He still called the older man that, just as he had back in the day when Mr. Turner had been one of his teachers. "But that reminds me of a girl I knew in school. That one who, if you hadn't interrupted us when you did that time out back of the football field on the moor —"
Another man, about Charlie's age, slapped the bar and loudly said, "If he hadn't, that bird would have put a knee in your groin, Charlie! Just like all the others do!"
Everyone laughed. Charlie turned away, and as a distraction, he went to the other end of the bar, where the barmaid was polishing up a bit, and indicated that she had missed a spot.
"Don't worry, Charlie." She smiled as she took a swipe at the alleged spot, and then walked past him. "I won't knee you in the groin. Been there, done that."
There was more laughter. Charlie pretended that he had something more important to do in the back kitchen.
The barmaid drew a pint and went to put it down, very closely, in front of a dark-haired fortyish man, who stood out a bit from the others in the bar because he was wearing not only a glued-on salt-and-pepper beard but also a medieval tunic. The barmaid whispered to him as she delivered his beer, though not so softly that it could have been much of a secret.
"See you after?"
"It might be late, Sophie," said the man, in a bit of humble bragging, due to his having the lead role at the community theater. "Last week of rehearsal and all that, you know."
"It might be getting late here, too, luv," said Sophie, and she turned away with an attitude that should have made the costumed man consider that she was getting annoyed at his lack of commitment. But he quickly shrugged that thought away, because the front door had opened, admitting a blast of cold wind, which rustled the pages of the tabloid. He turned to look, hoping that a specific one of three young witches — or perhaps, in his most ambitious imagination, even all three of them in a group — had entered in need of a brew and some theatrical advice.
But no. It was only the director — a smallish, balding man in his fifties — and Mrs. Hatfield, the artistic director, who called out loudly to everyone in the pub, "Has anyone seen my Lady Macbeth?"
Everyone caught the urgency in her voice, and they all turned to look. The costumed actor shook his head.
Mrs. Hatfield proceeded to the back of the pub, where the barmaid was setting a basket of fish and chips down in front of the local real estate agent and his wife.
"Have you?" said Mrs. Hatfield, looking at each of them.
All three shook their heads.
"No," said the barmaid. "Sorry. Was she expected to be here?"
"No," said Mrs. Hatfield. "She was expected to be back at rehearsal. She went out for a walk behind the theater to center herself and recover her character's motivation. Or so she said. But that was forty minutes ago."
"So she went for a walk on the moor," said the estate agent. "She's done that before, hasn't she?"
"She's not from around here," said Mrs. Hatfield. "She's a city girl; she only came out to do the play. And she never takes this long."
At the far end of the bar, a man of about eighty, grizzled and weather-worn, put down his beer and said, "There's worse things than spending a night on the moor. It's not so bad in springtime. I got caught out at night more than once as a lad, when I had to chase down stray sheep." He picked up his beer again, and then quickly added, "And no smart remarks out of you, Charlie."
Charlie had just now come back in from the kitchen.
Now the costumed man stood, full of self-importance.
"Mrs. Hatfield, I'll help you look, if you like," he announced. "Charlie, lend us a torch? We'll find her in no time."
"I'm sure you will," said the barmaid.
"I'll help," said Mr. Turner, grabbing his raincoat.
The director stayed at the bar and shook his head as the party of three went out the door.
"Amateurs," he muttered. "Amateurs. How can anyone work like this?"CHAPTER 3
The next morning on Bodfyn Moor was clear and cold. Nice for visibility, but not so much for the coroner, who had to drive out from Amesbury, because Bodfyn was too small to have a coroner or constables of its own.
The coroner from Amesbury, in his fifties and standing well over six feet, had driven out willingly enough, but he already had a runny nose and scratchy throat, and now he had to get a handkerchief from his pocket to try to keep the stuff from dripping into his thick reddish brown mustache and freezing there.
He was looking down from the top of one of the moor's granite quarries at the deep, dark pool of water below. He supposed that the constables couldn't be too comfortable, either. One of them was having to squeeze into a wet suit now to go in and retrieve the body.
A small search party, perhaps slightly inebriated, hadgone out from the pub the night before, or so the coroner was told. But they had found no sign in the immediate vicinity where the hiker started out. And then, at the break of dawn, before a team of professionals could even assemble, a couple of bird-spotters had called in the bad news. That always seemed to be the way. It was always a toss-up, on the moor, whether the annual dead hiker — that seemed to be the average, one a year or so — would be found first by pensioners with cameras and binoculars pursuing yellow warblers, or by anglers pursuing brown trout. For some reason, people who had specific objectives on the moor seemed to get in less trouble than those who were merely wandering around. Especially those wandering around with headsets.
This one, a young woman, seemed to have panicked at dusk, realized that she was farther out on the moor than she intended, gotten turned around, and hurried in the wrong direction — right over the edge of the quarry.
The coroner shook his head. She wasn't the first to have done that. He doubted she would be the last. Bloody damn iPhones.
It took until midmorning for the team to finish their work. They were on foot — the area was not accessible by car — and the closest parking they had found happened to be within sight of the town's one and only pub. By the time the coroner and his team came walking back across the moor, word had gotten around.
On the outdoor deck in back of the Wayward Pony, acrowd had gathered at the coin-operated telescope that was normally used only by tourists looking for wild ponies. But Mrs. Hatfield was looking through it now, with the other pub regulars huddled in next to her.
"Oh dear," she said. "Oh dear." She had seen what the two constables were carrying on their stretcher, and now, clearly upset, she turned away.
"What? What is it? What did you see?" asked everyone around her.
Mrs. Hatfield wiped her eyes.
"Body bag," she said.
"What? Let me see that," said Charlie, and he took command of the telescope. Then he said, "Blast. Anyone got another pound?"
"I always told you that you should have made it just ten pence," said the barmaid.
"Here's one," said the actor who had volunteered the night before, as he handed Charlie a coin. "But let us all have a look, if you don't mind."
"I'll pass," said Mr. Turner. He turned away, heading back into the pub, and now Charlie seemed to have seen enough, as well.
"Aye," he said. "Getting a bit morbid, if you ask me." He put the pound coin in, relinquished the telescope to the actor, and went back into the pub himself. He saw that there was no need to draw anyone another pint — Mr. Turner had left, and everyone else was still on the back deck.
Charlie thought it was a shame about the girl, but he hardly knew her, and he still had something else on his mind. He walked over to the bar, retrieved the copy of The Daily Sun that they had all been looking at the day before, drew a pint for himself, and unfolded the paper once again on the bar. He stared at the engagement photo of Laura Rankin, sighed, and took a long draft of the beer.CHAPTER 4
LONDON, THREE DAYS LATER
Final rehearsals go badly as often as not. Laura knew this from hard experience in Covent Garden, and she knew it didn't apply just to theatrical premieres. She tried to keep that in mind this foggy, chilly morning in London — after the unmitigated disaster of her own wedding rehearsal.
Bugger. She was trying to sneak into Baker Street Chambers through the back entrance on the alley. She had been assured that the door would be unlocked. She tried it again, and it still didn't turn. She began to bang on the door with her fist, and then stopped. She looked both ways, up and down the alley. Had anyone seen her? Apparently not. Heard her? She hoped not. There was still no one in sight. The fog helped a little perhaps, but she knew a crowd of paparazzi was gathered at the front of the building, with eyes and ears wide open, and probably with listening devices, as well. She could not afford a ruckus.
She pounded again, but more softly.
Suddenly, the latch turned and the door opened from the inside. A white-haired, gray-uniformed security guard, close to eighty years of age, looked out apologetically at Laura.
"Sorry, miss. Meant to get to it earlier. Had a distraction," said Mr. Hendricks.
Laura stepped quickly inside, and he closed the door behind her. The man seemed just a bit out of breath, and she worried now that she had rushed him.
"Mr. Hendricks, are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, quite," he said, though Laura could tell his adrenaline was up, his blue eyes gleaming. He leaned in and whispered, "Thought a couple of them had sneaked through the lobby by tailgating the bank employees who had passes. But turns out they were just the usual misguided tourists, not paparazzi at all. I caught them in the lift and directed them to the Sherlock Holmes museum down the street, and then came straightaway for you."
"Brilliant," said Laura. "Thank you so very much."
"Now, you know you can't take the lift yourself," said Hendricks. "You'd be seen. I'll escort you up the stairs."
"No, Mr. Hendricks. You'll go back to your desk and catch your breath."
"I still run Regents Park every Saturday, miss. All the way around."
"Yes, but I'd much prefer it if you just glare out at the paparazzi for me and keep them at bay."
"As you wish," said Hendricks. He opened the stairwell door for her, smiled, and said, "Try not to get too winded yourself."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Baker Street Wedding"
Copyright © 2018 Michael Robertson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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