I enter the room and immediately sense a disturbance and a late presence.
My eyes glide to the fireplace, where a smudge of ash lies upon the polished tile hearth. I feel a faint warmth come from within the firebox and, with a gentle whistle into the ashes, I awaken seven orange embers from within their gray ash bed.
Swiftly, I turn to the coffee table behind me and note the magazines tossed somewhat haphazardly eight inches off its midpoint. Upon closer inspection, I find a dried ring upon its surface, two and five-sixteenths inches from the coaster. I lick my finger, touch its tip to the ring and tap it to the end of my tongue. I taste a ring of smaller diameter on the opposing coaster.. Hmmm… Sweeter. Yes.
Just inside one of the table legs I spy a broken bit of popcorn kernel. I taste that as well. White cheddar. I wince at the juxtaposition of flavours, but do not judge.
I advance to the south-facing window, through which morning light provides a three-dimensional stream for dust motes to course. Dust I was certain I did not raise.
Springing to the nearby bookcase I note, with self-serving glee and some bit of distress, the lady of the house has not deemed to dust the shelves in seven–no, nine–days. And THERE! On the fifth shelf from the bottom, bare spaces, binding-sized slots shining amid the semi-matte sheen of slovenliness.
A quick assessment of the shelf and its alphabetic array of volumes and I know I have solved the case. A D shoved amid the Cs. Elementary what’s happened here, I assure myself.
A call out to the hallway and the thirteen-year-old I hallooed enters the study. She carries with her a mug of tea—green with honey, as expected—and plops rather insolently into the chair with the scarlet pillow, placing her mug within the left side of the ring of my earlier investigation.
“My dear,” I say. “Were you and Hannah in daddy’s study last night?”
“No! I know we’re not allowed in here when you’re not home. How could you accuse me of that? Mother!!” she calls.
I raise my hand and softly say, “Don’t deny it. I have all the proof I need right here.”
I point out all the clues of the evening malfeasance perpetrated in my wife’s and my absence while we attended a dinner get-together at Hannah’s parents, the Watsons’ next door.
“Okay,” she says. “But we didn’t do nuthin’. Stupid books are nuthin’ but old-timey stories. No cool London scenes, slow and wordy. In our wildest dreams we couldn’t even imagine Cumberbatch in the starring role.”
“Grounded Friday night,” I say. “No phone, no computer, no Kindle, no iPad. Just a paperback version of A Study in Scarlet, which we’ll discuss Saturday morning.”
“Mother!!” she wails just a little louder.
“Oh, and his surname is Doyle, not like Conan-Doyle. D first, not C. Now where the hell’s my pipe?”
An unedited just-for-fun lunchtime write based on my dear friend Heather Grace Stewart’s Take Ten Thursday photo prompt up there. Sorry, Heath, the poem I thought I’d do for the winter scene got run over by my Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike) fixation.