Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of Holladay Madness

"You want to go where?” asked Dr. John Watson, completely shocked.

"My parents have already bought the tickets, paid for the rooms, and car rental. Does it shock you that I like Bluegrass?" stated Sherlock Holmes.

"Yes. Yes, it does. I have heard you talk about the merits of classical music for years and nothing else. Of course, it shocks me that you say you like Blue Grass music. There is a big difference between the violin and the fiddle."

"I have been to several different local concerts featuring Irish folk music. Tennessee is another avenue of that style. In the early years of America, immigration....”

"Sherlock, I do not want a history lesson. Just tell me again where you want to go?”

“Fiddler's Jamboree, in Holladay, Tennessee. It is about two hours drive, west, from the Nashville airport along the grand music highway,” he smiled. “It should be rather interesting, don't you think?”

“And you want me to go. Why?” demanded Watson.

“I have two tickets,” replied Holmes. “I certainly do not want to ask Mrs. Hudson to go.” Sherlock went to his laptop and flipped the screen to face John. “Here is the website, see for yourself.”

John Watson sat down. While adjusting his chair, he bumped the table. That caused a flood of books and papers to fall to the already, cluttered floor. This action disturbed the thick layer of dust that Sherlock liked to collect. The dust cloud rose into the air like a small bomb and filled the rays of sunlight that filtered through the windows of Baker Street.

John closed his eyes and coughed. He had been away too long again. His friend was wearing a dressing gown that was well overdue for cleaning. Sherlock quickly evaporated leaving behind the heavy smell of accumulated depression and boredom. At least, he thought the smell was Sherlock. It could also have been a putrid draft from the lingering experiments on the kitchen table. In either case, the combination of dust and smell made his eyes water. Then, he sneezed.

“For God's sake, John! Not on the computer!” yelled Sherlock from his bedroom. He ran in with a box of tissues, threw them onto the table, and went back to his room.

The dust billowed up once more, and John reached for a tissue. “If I agree, will you clean your bloody mess before we go?” asked John, irritated.

“Yes, yes! Now read the website!” yelled Sherlock.

John looked over the site. “Well, it looks rather cozy. And now that they have air conditioning in the school gym, it should be fun.” He rolled his eyes. Then, he sneezed again.

Sherlock breezed back into the morning room. “John, I did not pick the event. My parents did. They can't go because she twisted her ankle yesterday, during a square dancing practice.” He began to sort through a large pile of random debris under his favorite chair. The detective's actions disturbed the dust into the air again and caused another sneezing fit from John.

Finding what he was looking for, he stood and looked over at John. “You have nothing to do at the moment. And it's only for a weekend.”

John turned towards him from the chair. “And how would you know that?” he demanded.

"Because you're here today, John," said Sherlock. "You haven't been here for months, and then you show up today. If you didn't have anything to do, you would not be here."

John stood up. “Sherlock, I am sorry. I am sorry that...”

“No need to apologize. Mary will be fine. And she already knows anyway.” He went into the kitchen, threw open a cabinet, and shuffled around the contents.

John stood up. “How? How do...”

Sherlock paused and peeked out from behind the cabinet door. "Do you need me to run it down for you?"

“No! No, I'll take your word for it.” John sat back down, exasperated. “Fine. Just tell me when I need to pack and if I need to take anything.”

“Mary already did it for you,” replied Sherlock. “He pulled something out of the cabinet and slammed the door.

The door to the morning room opened up. Mrs. Hudson peaked in. "What is all the noise?" she demanded. "I can barely hear the telly."

"Ah! Mrs. Hudson, John and I will be leaving tonight for the states," yelled Sherlock from his room again.

“Oh, I wondered why John's luggage was dropped off at the door.”

“What?” said John, jumping from his chair again. “What is going on?”

Mrs. Hudson jumped at John's yell. She closed the door and disappeared.

“Sherlock!” yelled John, again. He marched towards Sherlock's room, only to hear the shower on in the bathroom. John stopped and sighed. “Fine,” he said to no one. John turned around and went back into the morning room. He slumped into the chair at the table and explored the destination via the internet.

A day and a half later, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes settled into their rooms at the Magic Valley bed and breakfast, in Camden Tn. This was good in two ways. The first being that when Sherlock had been delivered into, at least a small portion of civilization, John didn't have to watch his friend's anxiety increase to historic levels as they drove through the vast Tennessee countryside. John was highly aware of Sherlock's suspicions of open country spaces.

The second was that this far out into Tennessee gave the two men a persona of anonymity; which was highly appreciated considering their popularity and famous dealings with the rest of the world. Here in this small town, mostly cut off from the internet and mobile signals for miles, they had been regarded as “tourists” and nothing more. It was quite liberating not to have to deal with, “Good lord, you must be Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective!” coming from various sources all the time. Or, the even more annoying, “Er-meh-gerd, it's Sherlock! Can I have your autograph?” from young female fans.

The only drawback to this whole scenario, thus far, had been John's well-laid plan of revenge would probably not get played out at all. He sighed his defeat as he pulled out the deerstalker cap from his luggage. "Ah well," he shrugged.

In following two days, Sherlock and John enjoyed themselves. The event was not what a modern London-ite would call “exciting.” The hospitality was relaxing. The music was enjoyable. The food was different. All the drinks had ice. The conversation was light and easy going.

Sunday morning during breakfast, the serenity of anonymity was interrupted as a well-dressed woman entered the dining room. She was a averaged sized, dark blonde, in her late fifties. From behind her glasses, blue eyes flashed quickly around the space, trying to access each male occupant.

"John," Sherlock nodded at the doorway. "I believe we have a client."

“How can you tell? She may be here looking for someone else,” replied John between bites.

Sherlock shook his head. “Her shoes do not match her purse, and she is wringing the strap nervously. Her hair is askew, and she has dark circles under her eyes. She is looking for me.”

“How could she possibly know you are here?” asked John.

Sherlock did not get a chance to answer. The woman spotted them and hurried over to the table. “Are you Sherlock Holmes?” she whispered.

“This is not the place to talk,” he said, standing up. “Come with me.”

John sighed and dropped his fork.

Sherlock escorted the lady to his room. John shut the door behind them.

“Yes, I am Sherlock Holmes. This is my friend, Dr. John Watson. Please, sit down, Mrs. Greene. Tell me why you have sought me out for the matter of your late daughter's death?”

John looked shocked. “How do you know...”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “John, did you not pay any attention to the major topics of conversation yesterday at the event?”

“I heard nothing,” said John.

Sherlock sighed.

Mrs. Greene interrupted. “You are correct, Mr. Holmes. I have been deliberating all night as to whether or not I should disregard social convention and interrupt your anonymous vacation or keep quiet. But I cannot let this turn of fate go without at least asking you first.”

“But how did you know we were here?” asked John. “Nobody recognized us at the event.”

"My grandson, William, made a delivery in Holladay on Saturday. News spreads in whispers here." She turned to John. "In this part of Tennessee, we get many celebrities; actors, musicians, writers. Most of them seek a break from the public eye. It is an unwritten rule of southern hospitality that those who live and work here, do not interfere with the privacy and solitude of famous people looking for a temporary escape. I certainly would not have if I didn't think that my inquiry is entirely legitimate and totally necessary to the situation."

Sherlock gave a quick chuckle. “Mrs. Greene, you do not need to defend yourself from social convention. Pray, continue,” insisted Sherlock.

“Ten days ago, my daughter was found, dead,” started Mrs. Greene.

"Yes, Josette Cumberland, formally Kincaid. I am aware of the case," said Sherlock.

“Not Josette Kincaid the writer!" said John.

Mrs. Greene nodded. "The same," she said, tearing up a bit. "Josette was beautiful, but a complicated girl. It is true that she suffered from depression since she was very young. But however low she appeared, she always seemed to pull out of it. She married young and often used that as a way to cope. Unfortunately, her first marriage, to James Kincaid, wasn't a wise one. After her divorce, she had a few relationships, but none of them worked. So, she decided to sacrifice her love life. Josette devoted herself to raising her children. She was always smart, but perhaps not as wise. She went back to college, started a business, tried to manage her children's education, got a job, and all of this during a three-year separation ending in the eventual divorce. She held up for two years. Then, it all fell apart."

John gave the lady some tissues. "Thank you," she said. Mrs. Greene dabbed at her eyes and took a deep breath. "She lost her job, her son began to have problems at school, her business began to slide, her home began to fall around her, her car broke down, bills began to pile up, and her health started to plummet. In an attempt to save her business, Josette agreed to expand with her ex-husband as a business partner, which was her undoing. He mismanaged it, while she was recovering from a major surgery, and she lost it. It was a devastating blow to her. Her children shortly came of college age and went to school. But the empty nest toppled her completely. She could find no resource to help her with her house. The roof came down, and it got black mold. She did manage to find a loan to repair her car, but without an income, she could not pay the loan bill."

"Josette left her home in Kansas and came back home to me. She was diagnosed with severe anxiety, severe acute gastritis, severe depression with suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and severe IBS. Her first year with us, she was in extraordinary pain and was in and out of the hospital. But, she didn't give up. She got help, went to the doctor. She went through a program that deemed her "unfit for stable employment." Having nothing else, she turned to writing."

"She wrote about everything. It was common to see her sitting and writing until late evening. Finally, after a few years of therapy and writing, she had a book. Somehow, she managed to save enough to self-publish. Josette sent the book to reviewers. One of them responded, and she got a good review. A publishing company came. Soon, she had two published novels and enough money to pay off her debts. Josette finally got her 15 minutes of fame."

"Josette bought land not far from me, here in Tennessee. She started a new business. She was able to hire her long time childhood friend to help. She found love in an unexpected place. His name is Thomas Cumberland.”

“The Thomas Cumberland?” asked Watson. “The famous dancer and stage performer?”

“Yes, the very same. Tom and Josette were happily married for five years. She was writing another novel. Her son, William, had come home to help with her business. When her daughter, Laura, gave the announcement that she was engaged, Josette was overjoyed. She liked her daughter's fiance. For Josette, this was a time of peace and stability."

"Mr. Holmes, I tell you all of this because these are all the reasons I absolutely cannot believe that my daughter committed suicide. Josette used everything at her disposal to overcome her disabilities. She was a smart girl. She fought and succeeded in rising above the worst of her life. And never in my wildest dreams would I ever believe that she could commit suicide after achieving her life's goal. And further, to do it on her daughter's wedding day? No, Mr. Holmes, I will never believe it. But no one will listen to a mother's grief. The case has been dropped and closed. But it should not be! It must be murder. I don't know how or why I just know."

Sherlock shook his head. “Mrs. Greene, the wedding. Tell me about the wedding.”
“Josette went through the ceremony just fine. When the wedding party began to arrive at the venue for the reception and dinner, she began to get stressed. We knew she was stressed because she began to show her usual signs. She got dizzy and nauseated. She grabbed her abdomen, complained about stomach pain. Her speech became erratic. And she went into a mild anxiety attack."

"A close and long time friend of her's took her to a calm spot. He gave her some tea and a moment to settle down. He came back as more people began to arrive. I think it was 45 minutes that passed. The reception tent had filled up, and we were about to be seated for dinner.

But then, she came from nowhere and rampaged through the tent. The tables of food were thrown to the ground, and the bar; destroyed. She tipped tables, pushed people over. And was screaming about turkeys."

“Turkeys?” asked Watson. “Are you quite sure?”

“I am positive. Although, it isn't exactly out of place. We understood it, even though she was clearly out of her mind. You see, we live within the town limits, on Gobbler Lane, near Turkey Creek.”

"How very American. To live in a Thanksgiving-themed place," said John.

“Yes, well,” Mrs. Greene continued. “Anyway, we couldn't contain her. She was wild and out of her mind. She escaped the people who had tried to hold her and ran into the woods. We sent out a search party, but it was too late. It's was about three hours later that they found her body floating the creek.”

“It is possible that the stress of the wedding toppled her do such a deed?” asked Watson.

Sherlock scoffed. “I believe not. A woman who is strong enough to endure that amount of loss and pain would not buckle under a wedding, Watson.” The detective stood up and went to mantle piece. “Tell me, Mrs. Greene, what kind of business?”

“Well, her first business was clothing and costumes. Her second business was bees and honey,” she said. “With her knowledge of sewing, she made Laura's trousseau. She had enough honey from the previous year to include it in the wedding dinner.”

“She planned the wedding dinner?”

“Well, yes. Josette planned the whole reception. She even catered it herself. Josette talked for months about the importance of honey in ancient wedding ceremonies and honeymoon practices. She always referred to herself as “anachronistic.” That's how she won her argument with her her daughter.”

“They argued over the wedding,” stated Watson, making a note on his mobile.

The woman nodded. "Yes. William knows more about that than I do. William is her son. But she told me briefly about it right before the wedding ceremony."

"The ex-husband, was he to be involved in the wedding?" asked Holmes.

“Not exactly. James has too many debts to be of any financial help to Laura,” she said. “his role was supportive and not much more than that.”

“And did Josette mind his presence?” asked Watson. “I would imagine that they did not get along after his mismanagement scheme failed her business.”

Mrs. Greene shook her head. "You would think so, but no. She was all right with him. It took her a long time to find forgiveness for him, but it did happen. Well, as far as I know. If she did harbor any feelings for him, she hid them well for her daughter's sake. Honestly, William knows more about that as well."

“A final question, Mrs. Greene,” said Sherlock. “This long time friend of her's, who is he?”

"Ah, that would be Jacob Davidson. They have been friends for many years. When she started her apiary, she hired him," she said. "He is very upset, as well. He blames Thomas. They had a falling out recently. And my daughter got caught up in the middle of it. He and William would know more about that than I do."

Sherlock stood up and smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Greene. I shall certainly look into this case.”

“Thank you, Mr. Holmes,” she said, standing up. Digging through her bag, she pulled out some papers and handed them to John.

Mrs. Greene left. Watson closed the door. Sherlock burst out a laugh and clapped his hands. “A real southern American, Tennessee murder, Watson! What a grand vacation!”

John unfolded the papers. “An autopsy report, news article, engagement and wedding announcement, an obituary, and contact information,” he said.

“And what does the report say?” asked Sherlock.

"Cause of death, asphyxiation due to drowning. It is labeled a suicide, just like Mrs. Greene said it was," replied John. "The other articles report the same. An engagement announcement dated about a year and three months ago. That puts it around February, 14th, 2015. That makes sense, it being Valentine's day. The wedding announced for April 10th, 2016. And today is, April 20th, 2016. Everything lines up so far." said John.

Sherlock scoffed. "Of course it does. But how many cases are solved exclusively with dates and numbers? No, there is more to this case than meets the eye." Sherlock jumped from his chair. "Come on, John. Let's go talk to William Kincaid."

Sherlock and John drove to the address provided by Mrs. Greene. As they cruised up the driveway of the modest estate of ten acres, the landscape burst into a variety of flowering trees, shrubs, and flowers. Daffodils, lily of the valley, sweet pea, azaleas, Bartlett trees, tulips, rhododendrons, honeysuckle, and all other sorts of spring blooming plants filled the docile domain.

Intermixed with the floral variety, colonies of bees littered the gardens. A parked truck sat along the driveway, next to a small cluster of hives. Two people in bee suits stood next to the truck. They watched the car come slowly up the private road before one of them stood in the way and waved at them. Sherlock came to a stop and rolled down the window.

The headgear of the bee suit came off. “Is there something I can help you with?” asked the young, blonde man.

“We are here at the request of Mrs. Greene,” said Sherlock.

The young man's eyes lit up. “Then, you must be Dr. John Watson and Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” he said. “My name is William, and you are looking for me. Go ahead towards the house. I will meet you there.”

In a few short minutes, the three men congregated on the front porch of the house. William sat down on a chair. “Would you like to sit down?” he asked.

Sherlock waved his hand in dismissal. “No, thank you. I prefer to stand.” He moved to the edge of the porch and examined the premises.

John shook his head. "No, thank you." He took out his mobile phone from his pocket. "I assume that you are William Kincaid, son of Josette Kincaid, or rather Cumberland."

“Yes, I am,” he responded.

“Your grandmother said that you knew something regarding your late mother's circumstances,” said Sherlock.

“Yes,” he said. “I agree with my Grandma. This, her death I mean, it is wrong, Mr. Holmes.” He adjusted himself in his seat. “I will tell you all that I know. I apologize if it is not as brief as you would like. But I would rather be thorough.”

Sherlock turned to William and raised his brow. Then, he huffed.

Watson chuckled. “I see you have been reading my blog.”

“I will admit to that. Although, I like the logic rather than the storytelling,” said William.

Sherlock pointed at John. “Ha!” He turned back around and chuckled. “Tell us what you know, William.”

William sat back and began. "Two years ago, I came back home to help mom with her bee business. I am a computer programmer. So, I know how to build a digital presence. I am in charge of the website, online ordering, and other things like that. I also help with honey, bees, and gardening on occasion. Occasionally, I deliver orders. When I am not doing that, I am working on my indy game. It was a good thing I came back home when I did. Mom has always had issues, but the frequency of her symptoms had increased. I had to help her a lot."

William paused to watch Sherlock pace across the porch to examine the other side of the house. Sherlock turned back and waved at him to continue. William shrugged and went on. "Tom could not help mom as much as he would want. His career kept him away, but she managed his absence. My father, James Kincaid is a retired Army veteran. He was away far more often than Tom ever was. She would laugh at him when he mentioned being away for a month or two. Mom was used to a husband being away for a year or more. Mom was with my father through two wars, 14 years and just as many, if not more, deployments. So, a couple of months absence from a current husband was nothing to her."

John nodded. "The life of a military wife is not an easy one."

William nodded. "Agreed. But, she had the wedding and the bees to keep her occupied. When she wasn't doing that, she was writing. To help her with the bees, she hired a friend she had known for a very long time. The wedding planner mediated between my mother and Laura. Mom is a successful business manager. She knows how to delegate to the right people to get things done. So, on the surface, it may appear that she was stressed out from trying to control everything. But that is not entirely accurate. The wedding was stressful, but not overly stressing."

Sherlock turned and came back from his examination of the sides of the house. He peered at William as if sizing him up.

William paid no attention to the look of intimidation from the detective. "Eight months before the wedding, the frequency of her complaints had increased. Mom took a short break from everything. She kept to herself in the calm and quiet as much as possible. But that also put a bit of strain on Tom. Her pain had created a distance between them. He left again on business. Tom came home a week or two later; he was distant at first. But then, Tom began to overcompensate. Mom never liked high-priced jewelry; store bought flowers or expensive weekend vacations. She questioned him and found that he had a moment of weakness. Tom is a high profile celebrity in theater arts. He and mom have had to deal with girls before, but this time, Tom went too far."

"And how did your mother react?" asked Sherlock.

"When mom heard his confession, she was angry. But she forgave him. Tom assured her that he would never do it again. He told her that he was absolutely in love with her and he came back to apologize, repair the damage, and try to make it through the troubled time, like “a good man should.” That same month, mom and Laura went shopping for a wedding dress. Mom didn't like that idea. She was completely against Laura paying an outrageous price for a dress that my mother could make for much less money. I was with them for that argument. During the shopping, every time Laura came out modeling a dress, mom would scoff at it. “You only wear it once, and you want to pay that?” or “I can make you a better one for one-third of that price. Eventually, Laura gave up. On the way out of the shop, Laura started yelling at mom. They argued loudly, and it got pretty heated. Laura made a comment, “If you ruin my wedding day, I will kill you! I'll just kill you!” They reconciled a few days later. She agreed to let Laura pick out whatever dress she wanted, within reason. As long as Laura allowed mom to make her trousseau and plan the reception."

Sherlock turned towards the porch banister and began to drum his fingers on the rail.

John smirked as William ignored him again."Two months after that, Tom's “other woman” showed up. She would stand out in front of the property. She tried sneaking on. She made claims that she was pregnant. She wanted money. You know, the standard “other woman” claims. Tom and mom finally got a restraining order. But that doesn't stop her from showing up at awkward moments. Tom told her, in front of mother that he wold never go back with her. As far as I know, Tom has kept his word and kept away from other women. Her complaints started to decrease. She was out in the garden more. She went back to her bees. She even talked to Jacob Davidson; he is the friend mom hired, about getting more spring flowers planted for the bees. That lasted about six weeks when it started up again. The pain, I mean. It was like an out-of-control roller coaster. On the day of the wedding...”

“No, William. I have already heard the report from your grandmother. Her version is sufficient. Tell me," said Sherlock. "When did your mother begin her apiary?"

“She started the bees before she married Thomas. I suppose that would be about six or seven years ago. She started with two hives and a small garden of mostly buckwheat. From there it grew into several colonies and a larger garden with a range of flowing plants for most of the year. She hired Jacob shortly before marrying Thomas. Her bees took off rather well. We did have a one year of loss, but Jacob helped save the business."

“The year of loss?” asked Sherlock.

William nodded. “Oh yes, that year was bad. There was too much rainfall. We lost perennials; four hives infected with foulbrood, and three by wax moths. If it weren't for Jacob, Mom would not have been able to bounce back so quickly.”

“William, tell me about the falling out between Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cumberland,” blurted Sherlock aggressively.

“Well, I didn't see too much of that. What I did witness was that Tom and Jacob were having a heated argument. They were both in Jacob's greenhouse, and I could see them through the glass as I approached. I heard Jacob say something like, "How could you do something like that to her after everything she has been through. Tom said something about it not being his business, it wasn't his place, and that he was hired to help. Tom went on to say that just because he knew my mother so long, didn't mean he was allowed to have an opinion or comment on a relationship he wasn't invited in on. Something like that. It looked like Jacob was going to punch Tom, but I walked in. Jacob turned and went back to potting plants. Tom turned and left. That was pretty much it. As far as I know, they never spoke to each other again. If Tom wanted to say anything, he told mom to do it for him and vice versa."

“What do you mean by his greenhouse?” asked Sherlock.

Well, I say 'his' greenhouse, but it isn't. Mom allowed him to take over one of the three greenhouses for his project," explained William. "Jacob wanted to propagate a new hybrid azalea. That is why Laura's flowers for her wedding were azaleas. While working on the project, he had an abundance of them. Mom thought it would be a good idea to have his prize winners instead of any other flower. Not to mention saved her and Laura several thousand dollars."

“And where is this greenhouse located?” asked Sherlock.

“There are three greenhouses, one honey house, and a storage barn. All of them are on the back of the property. The one that I saw them arguing in was the one with the bee hives inside. It is the only one like it back there," said William.

At the time you witnessed the argument between Mr. Cumberland and Mr. Davidson, what exactly were you doing to cause you to be in that location?" asked Sherlock.

“I needed to ask Jacob where the markers were,” replied Willaim.

John looked up from his note taking. “Markers? Like coloring pens?”

Willaim nodded. “You see, we have commercial hive frames, personal hive frames, and functional hive frames. We mark the honey frames with a color code. Sometimes, the color wears off from wear. I needed the marker to restore the color code to a few personal honey frames.”

"Did you find them?" asked Sherlock.

Willaim went silent and thought. "No. I didn't. The argument made forget what I was doing. Tom left. I spoke to Jacob. And after that, I left the frames in the greenhouse with him and went to do something else."

“Where can I find your sister?” asked Sherlock.

“She is inside. Someone has to take care of Tom," said William. "He did not take her death well at all." He averted his eyes. "If you can catch my meaning," he whispered.

John looked up quickly from taking notes on his mobile. “Did he, that is, has he tried?”

William nodded. “And if it weren't for me and my sister's intervention, he would have succeeded.”

“Why is he not in a hospital?" demanded John.

“I do apologize if you do not agree, Doctor. But the fact is this; Thomas Cumberland is a public figure. If word gets out that he is in this state of mind, it will assuredly degrade his very successful career. This is the south, not California!"

“And may I go inside to question them?” asked Sherlock.

“By all means,” replied William. He rose and opened the door for them.

“Good day.” Sherlock went inside.

“He means, thank you, William,” said Watson. He followed after Sherlock.

John stepped into the foyer and watched as Sherlock darted in and out of the rooms like a crazed moth. The detective's eyes lit up. He stopped for a split second in front of the Doctor. “Do you see it? Or rather what do you not see?” he asked, smiling. Then, disappeared in a rush again.

John peered around the foyer. He glanced into the living room, which had a large doorway that led into the dining room. He leaned back out again and gazed to the back of the foyer that resulted in the kitchen. Then, to his right which led to the stair. "I don't know what you mean," he replied.

Sherlock whirled back into the foyer from the living room. “Then follow me,” he said and ran up the stair.

John rolled his eyes and huffed. He followed Sherlock quickly up the stairs to the second floor. “Holmes, what am I looking for?” he asked, irritated at his friend's drama.

“Come, come,” said Sherlock, motioning him to continue down the hall. The detective turned and disappeared again.

Watson caught up with him. Sherlock stood at the door frame of a bedroom."I still don't know what I am looking for Sherlock!" he hissed, out of breath.

Sherlock turned to him and placed his finger to his lips. “Because you are looking for something that isn't there, Watson. Pay attention.” He whispered and turned back to look into the room.

John rolled his eyes and turned to look down the hall again. “Doors,” he said, shocked. “Sherlock, where are all the doors?”

Sherlock raised his brows and nodded. Then, he silently pointed to a man sitting in a chair sobbing uncontrollably. “There is why the doors are missing, John.”

A tall man in a dressing gown and pajamas, clutched a picture frame to his chest as he sat, looking almost catatonic. His dark hair had not been brushed in days. The blood-shot blue eyes had dark circles under them. A minute or two passed before he realized someone had come into his room.

He stood up and stumbled. He reached out and caught himself on the chair. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded. Then, he bent over and grabbed his abdomen.

“Mr. Cumberland, I am Sherlock Holmes. This is my colleague, Dr. John Watson. We are investigating the untimely death of your wife," said Sherlock, bluntly and narrowed his eyes.

John jumped a bit and then elbowed Sherlock. Sherlock growled and elbowed him back.

“Then, you have come to right place, Mr. Holmes. But you didn't need to investigate. The villain is clear, and he stands before you,” replied Thomas in a gravel voice.

“You mean to incriminate yourself?” asked John.

“Of course!" he yelled. Then, his voice turned into a whisper. "I pushed Josette to it. I never should...I am weak...I..." He turned away and collapsed back into his chair. "She loved me. I broke her heart."

John and Sherlock froze as they watched the man go into a strange fit of grief. He began to sob uncontrollably, then stopped altogether. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, Tom grabbed his abdomen and gave a short groan. After a second or two, he came back around. Mr. Cumberland smiled and waved to an empty corner of the room. Then, a look of horror overwhelmed his face, ending in him tearing up again. He dropped the picture frame to the floor. Another moment passed as he looked confused. John walked over to the chair, picked up the frame and gave it to him. Thomas lazily reached out for it and took it from him. Clutching the picture frame harder, he sank back into the chair, returning to the catatonic state they found him. The chain of events was so quick and bizarre, the two men could not respond.

“Dr. Watson, are you a medical man or a scientist?” A female voice interrupted from behind them. The southern accent was thick.

John and Sherlock turned to see a lovely, young woman holding a tea tray. She was in her late twenties, blonde, and brown-eyed. “I am a medical Doctor,” he replied, at little shocked by the question.

“Well, since you are here, would you please check him? I can't get him out of the house to his doctor. He won't go." She pushed her way into the room and put down the tea tray near the sobbing man. "I am Laura. William said you wanted to speak to me," she said.

While John took his vitals, Laura poured her step-father a cup of tea and stirred in some honey. When he finished, John moved back to stand next to Sherlock. Laura gently took the picture frame from her step-father and put the cup into his shaking hands. Tom responded like an automaton. He slowly sipped the tea and Laura stood to face the two men.

Sherlock examined Laura while he spoke. “William says you know about the circumstances of...”

John interrupted, "Daffodils! We understand you like Daffodils, and we want your advice."

“Ah yes! The Daffodils,” said Laura and glared at Sherlock. “Come with me and I will show you.”

Laura ushered the two men from the room, down the stairs and into the kitchen. “Dr. Watson,” she said once there, “Is he going to be okay?”

“Laura, I urge you to get him help," said John. "The grief and anxiety are too stressful for him to bear."

I have tried to get him to the Doctor. Battling him and William!" Laura slammed her fist on the counter top. “This is ridiculous, and I am...Ugh!” she slammed her fist on the table top again. "This is just too much!"

“Are you angry about your mother ruining your wedding?” asked Sherlock, unmoved by empathy.

“Oh yes, I am angry, Mr. Holmes. I am angry for lots of reasons. I am not supposed to be taking care of my step-father. I am supposed to on my honeymoon with my new husband. My mother is dead on my wedding day. There has not been a funeral, so I have no closure. The financials are tied up until the will the can be presented.The business has stalled, orders are backing up. Willaim is doing his best to help, but it doesn't seem to help. Grandma helps as best she can, but she is limited in what she can do. And my husband, Conrad, is confused and lost in the situation, he has no idea what is going on or how to handle it. So, he commits himself to helping Willaim outside until sundown. Yes, I am angry, Mr. Holmes! But not because my mother ruined my wedding. I am outraged at Thomas. It's his fault she committed suicide. And the most infuriating thing of all is that I can't tell if he is genuine or playing a part."

“From a medical standpoint, that man is not playing a game." said Watson.

“Laura, your mother's death,” said Sherlock. “It was not suicide. It was murder.”

Laura's face drained of all color. She collapsed in a nearby chair. She took a deep breath. A look of confusion swept across her face, but then was immediately replaced by anger."Stephanie McPherson," she hissed. "It had to be her." Suddenly, she seemed a million miles away.

The Doctor cleared his throat and feigned a cough. “Laura,” asked John. “Could I trouble you for a cup tea?”

Laura stood up and snapped back into a mindful state. “Yes, Doctor. I am sorry I didn't ask right off. My manners...”

Watson shook his head. "Think nothing of it, Laura," he said reassuringly.

“Who is Stephanie McPherson,” asked Sherlock.

“Tom's other woman, that's who she is,” said Laura. “It was two years ago. Thomas came home and was distant. Mom told me what she thought was going on. Shortly, before my engagement announcement, something must have happened because one day he came home and started to fawn over my mother like a lost puppy. She got angry and confronted him. Tom confessed to all. He didn't leave out any disgusting detail.”

She set out three cups and poured some tea. “Mom was angry and conflicted! Tom had been seeing Stephanie on and off for months! She didn't even tell me until after the announcement. Then, mom said that this would be a good way to pull together as a family. She wanted my wedding to be happy for everyone. So, she decided that Thomas deserved a second chance.”

“And did he? Did he keep his word?" asked John, accepting the honey pot Laura offered to him.

John added some honey to his tea, Laura took the honey pot and sat it beside the kettle. "As far as I know, Tom stuck to his word. He stopped seeing that woman. But that didn't stop that woman from seeing him. Stephanie made herself a nuisance. Not only did Tom tell mom every time she showed up, but that woman also came to make threats to my mother." Picking up her cup, she took a sip before continuing.

“The day of the wedding, that woman made another threat to ruin my wedding if she didn't get what she wanted. So, my mother went to the local department store and sent a money gram to Kansas City. If she wanted to get her money, she would have to leave town with the bus tickets my mother provided to collect it. At the very least, she would not be here to ruin my wedding day.”

“That was clever of her," said Watson. "But how did you know all of this?" He took a sip of his tea. Watson made an ugly face at the cup and sat it back down on the counter.

“Mom told me that afternoon, before the ceremony. She had just gotten back from checking on the venue for the reception. She wanted to make sure my azaleas had gotten there on time. They had to be picked and arranged that morning from the garden at her house. As far as I know, that woman is in Kansas City right now with her dirty blackmail money, and I hope she stays there! But I blame Thomas. If it weren't for him, that woman would never have been here to ruin anything. I know that mother said she forgave him, but I doubt it. She would have been better off marrying the gardener instead of that fool! She has known him for so long. My mother has had many bad relationships with men in general, and for once, I would have liked to have seen her happy with a faithful man! Instead of her heart broken by another philander."

“Another?” asked Watson. “Was this a problem for your father as well?”

“Yes, but mom was ready to oust him regardless. Their relationship was not a good one from the start. And my father wasn't exactly kind about it either. I think he ruined her first business out of spite. He just couldn't cope with her success without him. That is one of the primary reasons for her prenuptial agreement."

“Ah!” blurted Sherlock. Then, he rolled his eyes and smirked.

“That makes sense. Josette wanted security for herself before going into another marriage,” said Watson, giving Sherlock the stink eye.

Laura ignored Sherlock and turned to speak to Watson. "Absolutely. Thomas had every reason to do so as well. Both of them have a significant amount of money between them. She wanted to make sure that in the event of a divorce, he would not have any rights to her written work. Just as he didn't want her to have any rights over the royalties for productions. And in the event of adultery, the one who had committed the adultery would have to pay an outrageous alimony and forfeit any rights to any shared properties or businesses they had while married. They both agreed. And since Tom was the culprit, he should be thanking his lucky stars that mom loved and trusted him enough to forgive him. I definitely would not have!"

“How did you meet Stephanie McPherson?” asked Sherlock.

“She popped up at my last dress fitting. She stood outside and waited for me to come out. Then she made all kinds of threats. She was going to the media, that she was pregnant, how their love could not be stopped, the usual “other woman” threats that can only come overly dramatic reality TV. All she wanted was to cash in, the filthy little gold digger! We had to extend the restraining order to include the entire family!”

“Laura, where are all the doors?” asked Sherlock.

Laura looked embarrassed. "Of course, you would notice." She sighed. "My mother suffered from severe depression."

“Ah,” nodded John.

Sherlock gave a look of confusion.

John gave a quick huff. “The lack of privacy is a security measure for those who suffer from suicidal tendencies.”

“She had special doors made for the house a long time ago. Every door in the house is easy to remove and replace. Even the restroom doors. It wasn't used often. But mom was ready just in case," explained Laura. "Exercise, diet, iron supplements, honey, and lavender. She had her ways of coping."

“Honey and lavender?” asked Sherlock.

John nodded. “Homeopathic remedies, Sherlock. For depression and anxiety.”

“Your mother appears to have had many coping skills,” said Sherlock. “Tell me, was the wedding reception one of those things?”

Laura thought for a moment. "You know, it probably was. She had paused her writing. Mom joked that her muse was on vacation. Demand for the product was high last year. She was a little stressed because she didn't save back enough for sales. Jacob is the one to ask about that. But Sundays are his days off. He won't be back until tomorrow. Going back to mom,” said Laura. “she always had something brewing for herself. I remember her researching recipes and other things for the reception during her down time. Mom didn't like to be bored.”

"One final question, Laura. who inherits?" asked Sherlock.

"William and I inherit everything from before the marriage. But Thomas, William, and I share the bees and property. Everything else, goes to Thomas," replied Laura.

“Thank you, Laura. That will be all,” said Sherlock. He turned away and left the room.

“Please take my advice, Laura, get your stepfather to his doctor as soon as you can, " said Watson. "Good day and good luck."

"I will try my best, Doctor," she sighed.

“Watson!” bellowed Holmes from the foyer. “The time, Watson! The seasons wait for no man!”

Watson mouthed his apologies to Laura and followed Sherlock.

Outside on the porch, Sherlock began to pace back and forth. "John, that man's behavior is and is not grief!"

"I completely agree," said John. " Mr. Cumberland's anxiety over his wife's death is severe. His heart rate is erratic. His symptoms are perplexing at best. If I were his attending physician, I would have him admitted immediately."

The detective motioned at his colleague. "Come, Watson! Let us take a look in the back."

The pair walked through the extensive garden and past the numerous beehives to the back of the property. The three greenhouses stood side by side in a row. The honey house appeared to be an out building, attached to the large storage barn. This area faced a squared shaped courtyard, which was filled with larger maturing pots of flowers, shrubs, and small trees.

Sherlock wasted no time. “There!” he said. “That one, no doubt, is the greenhouse Willaim saw them arguing in.” He went straight towards the greenhouse closest to the honey house and storage barn.

Inside, Sherlock paced the length of the greenhouse inspecting everything. John stood at the door. "These are all azaleas," said John. "And quite mature and lovely, I must say."

I attribute that the to bees," said Sherlock pointing to the two large, three leveled hives at the end of the greenhouse. Very clever way to save money on the flowers of a wedding."

I am discovering that Josette was thrifty as well as intelligent. She must have been quite a woman," said John.

Sherlock didn't reply. Instead, he froze, smiled, then ran towards the door. Pushing John aside, he exited the greenhouse in a blaze.

John stumbled at the push, but then he followed his friend out. Sherlock bolted to the potting center. He paced around the table twice and then shot towards the storage barn. John didn't make it to the barn before Sherlock came racing out again.

Sherlock stopped in front of him. "Give me your phone, John."

"It has no signal here," he said handing it over. "See for yourself."

Sherlock snatched the phone and looked at it. He growled his displeasure.

“What did you find, Holmes?” asked John.

“I don't know yet. I need more data,” replied Sherlock.

“Well, you won't get it here,” said Watson.

Well then, it's back to our rooms in town, where I can get the internet. We will have to come back tomorrow to question Jacob Davidson," snapped Sherlock.

Monday morning, John woke up and went down to breakfast. He was halfway through his meal when Sherlock walked into the dining room. He looked like he had been up all night.

Sherlock thrust his mobile onto the table. “John, this case has just made an interesting turn,” he said, sitting down. He grabbed the coffee decanter from the table and filled his mug.

John paused, his fork in mid-air, while he examined Sherlock. The detective had that look on his face. A look that Dr. John Watson had grown to identify but never actually labeled. In all the years that he and Sherlock had been pursuing their ridiculous adventures, the doctor had simply accepted points of Sherlock's behavior without question. He never truly noticed Sherlock's trigger warnings and subsequent chaotic reactions. These responses which usually ended in Watson not being able to finish a meal while on a case with his friend.

Something in John's eyes clicked. He grunted a response to his companion. Then, the Doctor allowed his military training to kick in. John began to shove food into his mouth like a crazed stoker on a slow moving steamer.

Sherlock took a sip of his coffee. “Are you familiar with rhododendron pontiff?” he asked.

“Yes,” said John, after he swallowed. “Beautiful, yet deadly if ingested.” John picked up his coffee. “Do you believe...”

“Are you aware that azaleas are also deadly?” asked Sherlock. “And in the same manner as rhododendrons?”

John sipped at his cup and paused. “Honestly, I had not thought of it. But now that you mention it; yes. If she had ingested either of those flowers, especially the roots, the poison would mimic her symptoms of anxiety and depression. So much so, that a doctor could easily misdiagnose her,” said John. “Sherlock, do you think she was poisoned by the flowers?”

“It may also interest you in knowing that there was no evidence of those plant particulates in her digestive system,” said Sherlock. “If she had ingested the plant, there would be traces in her digestion at the time of death. Since there were no traces of the plant, a grayanotoxin screen wasn't done on the body.”

“How do you know that?” asked John.

“I was able to convince the pathologist to do a second autopsy,” said Sherlock. “There are no plant particulates but the test for grayanotoxin came back with extremely high levels.”

“Holmes, that makes no sense at all. If the levels of grayanotoxin are as high as you indicate, the root of the flower must be ingested.”

The detective shook his head. “It is not the plant. That is a proven fact.”

John took the opportunity of Sherlock's silence to begin eating again.

Two hours later, John and Sherlock drove back to the estate. As they pulled into the driveway, a woman with red hair mysteriously appeared on the road. John, in the passenger seat, turned around to look out of the rear window. But the woman had vanished again.

"That was strange," said Watson. "I could have sworn..."

"Sworn what?" asked Sherlock.

John shook his head. "Nevermind. It's impossible. Nevermind."

Sherlock and John made it down the driveway, parked, and knocked at the door.

Mrs. Greene answered. "Come in. I am glad you are here," she said. "Tom is worse. Laura and Willaim have taken him to his doctor. Conrad is out on deliveries. Jacob is in the storage barn. I have been left here to my own devices. I feel silly and useless, Mr. Holmes. Please tell me you have something."

"Mrs. Greene, I must question Jacob Davidson," said Sherlock.

John and Sherlock went to the back of the property to the storage barn. A medium build, average sized, red haired man stood at a work table inside. On his right was a pile of honey frames clearly in need of repair. Sand paper in hand, the man busied himself finishing a frame.

“Mr. Davidson?” asked Sherlock, loudly.

The red haired man dropped the frame and sand paper. Both clattered on the worktable and fell to the floor. He twirled around to face the doctor and detective. “What do you want?” he blurted.

"Mr. Davidson, I am Dr. John Watson and this Sherlock Holmes. Surely you are aware that we came to question you," he said.

Sherlock rushed over to the table as John spoke. "So sorry to have startled you," said Sherlock. He bent down to pick up the frame and sandpaper. "You were clearly engrossed in your work."

“That I was, Mr. Holmes. Thank you,” said Jacob. “Please don't, I can...”

Sherlock picked up the frame and paper, ignoring Jacob's request. “By way of apology, Mr. Davidson,” replied Sherlock. He held up the frame and paper to the gardener.

"Just Jacob, please," he said. "And thank you." He took the frame and paper from Sherlock.

"Jacob,” smiled Sherlock. “How did you come to know Josette?”

"Josette and I go back a long time. We were introduced by a mutual friend," he said. Then, Jacob sighed and rolled his eyes. "Well, I say friend. It didn't stay that way long."

"What do you mean?” asked John, taking notes on his phone.

"She was dating him. The first in a line of mistakes on her part,” explained Jacob. “I tried to warn her. But she didn't listen. But after they broke up, I remained her friend. That's been over 20 years ago.” He turned and placed the frame and paper on the table.

"What do you know of Stephanie McPherson?” asked Sherlock.

"Caught her on the property and I called the police. While I detained her, she told me about her affair with Tom,” said Jacob. “I was disgusted. After everything she has been through, after all, the work to improve herself, after all, the heartache, she just couldn't stop making the same mistake again.”

"What mistake was that?” asked John.

"Isn't that clear, John?” asked Sherlock.

"No,” replied John.

Jacob huffed. "Mr. Holmes is correct. Her mistake is men. She keeps attracting the same kind of guy." He shrugged. "You know at first I thought it wasn't her fault. Things like that, just sort of, you know, happen; especially when you're young and stupid. She even said so herself and tried to change that. Josette went so far as to reject romantic relationships. But then, Mr. Thomas Cumberland came along. He wasn't going to be any different. In reality, he was going to be worse. Wealthy narcissists need lots of attention. Tom relies on attention from his success to feed his ego. If he falls from favor, and she isn't there to pick him up, he will not be the man she thinks he is. And, he proved it."

"Obviously, that made you angry,” said Sherlock.

“Yeah, it did. I am not going to deny it. Tom and I argued about it. But I knew she wouldn't leave him despite his fall from grace.”

"Perhaps she knew it was only a moment of weakness on his part,” said John. “Josette trusted him not to make it again; she forgave him after all.”

Jacob scoffed. "My white arse, she did! Tom was worried about scandal! His whole career is based on the notion that he is a clean cut guy! That is how Tom built his fan base. His public persona is that he is "the nice guy next door." The first time the paparazzi caught him with the gold digger, that image would be over. Also, if he did get her pregnant, it would not only ruin Tom, but it would also ruin Josette. She already had a successful book about her past. Can you imagine the public outcry that would come down on his head if he had ruined her like that? After everything she had been through?"

Jacob shook his head. “Now, couple that with the circumstances of her death. Tom's career would not only be tarnished here in the south, but it would be in the gutter everywhere else too! His image, his career, and all the years he spent building it up would be gone like smoke in the wind. Josette knew that. And she also knew that because of those factors, Tom was trapped with her. At least for the moment. I promise you she didn't “just forgive him.” She did make it crystal clear that she had his nuts in her hand. And she wasn't afraid to squeeze them if he didn't toe the line.”

"That does put some light on Mr. Cumberland," said John, shaking his head. "It also explains why Willaim and Laura are trying to protect their step-father so adamantly."

"Jacob, tell me about the night you caught Stephanie McPherson," said Sherlock.

"It was before dawn. I caught her by the private hives. She snuck onto the property from the back," said Jacob.

"How do you know that?" asked John.

"She was wearing a bee suit. I keep the suits here in the storage barn," said Jacob, pointing to a wall. Sherlock and John turned to the wall to see multiple suits hanging on nails. "She had to come in here and put on a suit. The barn is the only place to do it."

"How did you recognize her in the suit?" asked Sherlock.

Jacob shook his head. "I didn't. That's why I stopped her. It was too early for any of the family to be out here. There wasn't any other hired help at the time. And we had just finished inspecting the hives the previous day. There wasn't any reason for anyone to be out that early in a bee suit on the property. I stopped her and detained her. She took off the headgear and explained everything. I called the police."

"In what manner did you detain her?" asked Sherlock.

"Double barrel shotgun, Mr. Holmes. That is usually enough to stop anything from humans to mountain lions," explained Jacob.

"I dare say," chuckled John.

"How did she know about the suits in the barn?" asked Sherlock.

The wave of emotion that overtook Jacob's face defied description. "Mr. Holmes, the answer to that is embarrassing, infuriating, and downright sociopathic."

"Ah, I see," said Sherlock. "She manipulated you into a romantic relationship to get on the property."

"How did you know?" asked Jacob.

"Becuase that is something I would do," replied Sherlock. "What else did she accomplish while in this romantic fantasy? Did she manage secret rendezvous with Tom?"

"Yes," said Jacob. "Or at least she tried. At least, I think it was the one time. There was no way to tell. At the time I caught her, we had been dating for two months. I invited her to a lunch picnic here. Halfway through, she excused herself to go to the restroom, which was in the house. She was gone for too long, so I went to find out what happened. Before I could even open the back door, I could hear Tom yelling like a lunatic. I opened the door and saw her trying to get close to Tom. Tom was running around the kitchen island, trying to stay away from her. He had his phone out, but there isn't a signal here, and the landline is in the study. So, he yells something like, "Jacob is my witness now. You can't tell her any lies." I was obviously confused, but Tom cleared that up quickly. When he identified her as Stephanie McPherson, I knew her as Angela Bouvier; I got angry. I called the police myself. The next day, Tom and Josette filed a restraining order against her. The next time I saw her was the morning, I found her in the bee suit. I think she did some jail time for it, not enough in my opinion. After that, I don't know anything more."

"Was this before or after, Laura's last dress fitting?" asked Sherlock.

"After," said Jacob. "After Laura's encounter with her, the restraining order was expanded to include the entire family. I am not family."

"What did Tom mean by you being his witness?" asked Watson.

"Well, that is where I am confused. A witness to that one particular time, yes. But I was not going to back up Tom for any other time she may have been in his company. I told him right out in front of Josette. That made Tom upset. That argument was horrible."

"Why?" asked Sherlock.

"To be honest, it's how I said it. There is no way for me to know if they did or did not have any secret meetings between them before I caught them within the two months I dated Ang...I mean Stephanie. When I said I would only back up Tom the one time and not any other time that may or may not have happen, it sounded wrong. I mean, it sounds bad when I say it now, after the fact. It also sounded like I was accusing Tom when I wasn't. And it sounded like I suspected that there were other times that they had seen each other, because I would be the only other one to know if it had occurred because I was the one dating her and bringing her onto the property. So you see, Josette was confused as to Tom's honesty and there was no way I could or could not verify it."

"I understand. Thank you, Jacob," said Sherlock. "But before I go, may I say, your azaleas are quite magnificent. How long have you been working with them?"

Jacob smiled. "It's been about five years. Not long after I came to work here."

"That will be all. Good day," said Sherlock, abruptly. John nodded at Jacob and then followed his friend out of the barn.

The doctor had to run to catch up to Sherlock. The detective was storming across the property. "Sherlock, wait! What's the hurry?"

Sherlock stopped short and turned angrily towards Watson. "I am missing something, John! Something else is here. I can feel it. I just can't see it!"

"Maybe we should find Stephanie McPherson and question..."

"We don't need to find her, John. Do you think a woman like that isn't already here? We saw her by the gates as we drove onto the property, for Pete's sake!" He yelled.

John paused for a moment. "The woman on the road," said John. "Not The Woman on the road, of course."

Sherlock froze. "Why on earth would you think that?"

"Nevermind that Sherlock, if you aren't going to question Stephanie McPherson what are you going to do?" asked John. "Question Conrad? I don't see how that will lend any more information to the case. And aside from that, he is out on delivery. And you know how important that is to..."

Sherlock's eyes lit up, and he froze. "What?"

"Further information..." said John.

"No, no," whispered Sherlock." You said "Delivery" did you not?"

John grimaced and shook his head. "Yes, Delivery is important to small business."

Sherlock grabbed John at his shoulders and smiled. "Clearly you do not understand how enormously important it is!" Sherlock turned and ran to the house. John stood looking confused. "Come on, John! It's time for Turkey!" yelled Sherlock.

"What?" yelled John, running after him.

Sherlock turned and paused. He threw his hands into the air. "Turkey, John! Turkey!"

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