Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from either Twilight or the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
"Dr. Cullen, I need your assistance," said Sherlock Holmes.
He stood at my door, clad in a tweed suit and traveling cape, a leather bag in hand.
It was weeks since I'd last seen Holmes. I'd asked him to locate the missing mother of a child left in my care, a child who lay sleeping in the next room over. Emily's mother wasn't coming back, and I'd agreed to transport her to her nearest living relatives, cousins in America. I'd sold the London flat and most of its furnishings so my rooms were not exactly inviting anymore, but I stood aside and gestured for the detective to enter.
"I'm sorry," I waved at the near-empty room. "Emily and I are leaving in a week…"
"I understand," said Holmes. "You won't be gone long."
Gone? Then the bag in Holmes' hand meant an overnight trip at the least.
"Can't Dr. Watson be of assistance?" I suggested, at a loss as to why Sherlock Holmes would turn to me for help. If the man had any sense, he'd avoid me like the plague. He knew what I was, and I'd warned him, obliquely, of the dangers of drawing the attention of the Volturi by an overly intense interest in vampires.
A shadow passed over Holmes' thin, saturnine face. "Watson's wife is ill. I can't ask him to leave her just now. Besides, it isn't his or your medical skill that I need."
"I may need you to help me find a vampire."
Settled at last in the upholstered seats of a railway carriage, I gazed at Holmes, still unsure of how I'd ended up agreeing to a trip to the Lakes District. My housekeeper agreed to look after Emily for a few more days before leaving my employment to go and live in the rooms I'd found for her near her married daughter. Mrs. Carmichael loved Emily, and I had a feeling she'd be over at her daughter's house helping with the grandchildren far more than she'd be in those rooms enjoying her well-deserved retirement.
Packing takes but a moment when performed at vampiric speed, so Holmes and I were able to make the next train to Kendal and stow our bags in the racks above our seats just as the train pulled away from the station.
"So what now?" I asked.
Holmes smiled tightly. "Now we go to the scene of the crime, Ambleside Chase."
"In the Lakes District?"
I'd never been there, though I knew it was the land of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey and renowned for its beauty.
He leaned forward slightly and began.
"A young woman was found dead in her bedroom, stabbed to death. The room was locked from the inside, the window was broken and the ivy outside torn as though someone had climbed it to reach her room."
I tilted my head quizzically. So far I didn't see Holmes' need for my assistance. If someone had climbed the ivy and killed the poor girl, surely he knew better than I how to trace the killer.
"The room," explained Holmes, "is on the third floor. The ivy is disturbed only directly below the window. The room below it had its window boarded up long ago and is now a linen closet, so no one could have used it to exit and climb up to the third floor. The ivy at the boarded window was intact as was the ivy on the first floor. The room below that one is occupied by the woman's grandfather, a retired Major General who claims to be a light sleeper."
"Ah." I was beginning to see why Holmes wanted my help. "So you want me to see if it's possible that one of my kind jumped up to the third floor, clung to the ivy, smashed the window, and killed the girl?"
"In a word, yes."
Holmes stared at me intently. I shrugged.
"I'm at your service," I told him.
"I shall hold you to it," he said grimly. "This case is one I would not ordinarily take, were it not for the seeming impossibility of the entry point, and certain political considerations."
"Your brother Mycroft?" I suggested hesitantly. He'd mentioned having a brother in the government.
"Yes," he said, eyes narrowing as he concentrated on some memory. It was not a pleasant one, judging by his expression. "Mycroft asked me to take on the case at the behest of the woman's fiancée."
"She was to be married?"
How appalling, that a young woman on the brink of happiness should have her life cut short so tragically.
"Yes," said Holmes shortly. "She was engaged to Prince Heinrich Franz of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. As I'm sure you know, Prussia has swallowed up most of the independent German kingdoms and relations between Prussia and England aren't always cordial. A marriage alliance between Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Britain might serve to thaw relations a bit. Mycroft assures me that her majesty took a personal interest in the marriage."
"Her majesty knew the prince?" Queen Victoria had married a German prince, but there were so many German principalities whose royal families intermarried that it was possible she was related to Heinrich Franz by marriage.
"No," said Holmes. "She is very distantly related to the victim's mother, Cornelia Fitzgerald-Thomas. I doubt they've ever met or even spoken, but they would have had the marriage gone through as planned."
"So the marriage would have brought great fortune to the family."
Holmes nodded. "The Thomas family fortunes have diminished in the generations separating them from their royal roots. Fiona Thomas's death is a catastrophe for them."
"And a great grief as well," I suggested.
"Have you met Prince Heinrich Franz?"
Holmes leaned back in his seat and folded his arms.
"He is the client, I met him this morning," he said, and pressed his lips together in a thin line. I did not know Holmes well, but I could see that his client did not meet with his approval.
The train slowed to take on passengers, one of which settled in our compartment, so discussion of the case necessarily ceased. Holmes stared impatiently out the window as the grizzled interloper sat down beside him and noisily unfolded a newspaper and began to read. I sat and considered what Holmes had said. It was like a fairy tale gone horribly wrong. A handsome prince sweeping a young Englishwoman off her feet, promising to save her family from poverty and anonymity, only to have the love of his life cruelly torn from him. And yet, Holmes' expression when he spoke of the prince did not imply that the man belonged in the role of hero. To the contrary, the detective appeared to dislike the man.
I had the chance to understand Holmes' reaction several hours later when the train arrived in Kendal. We planned to take a pony trap to Windermere to stow our luggage at a small local hotel before making our way to the crime scene at Ambleside Chase, which was the name of the Thomas family estate. Instead the prince's servant awaited us at the Kendal station with a note commanding our presence at the Westmorland Hotel.
The servant, a stocky middle-aged man, was well dressed and spoke with a heavy German accent. He moved in that stiff, overly formal way that Germans seemed to favor. He got us into a carriage and in short order deposited us before the door of Prince Heinrich Franz's rooms.
The Prince and his entourage occupied nearly an entire floor of the hotel.
Heinrich Franz stood by a side table with a decanter and a glass of liquor on it and was staring out a window as we approached. He turned to watch us enter.
The prince was on the portly side with heavy jowls and the beginnings of a network of broken blood vessels over his nose proclaiming him to be a drinker. His age was beginning to show in the fine lines creasing the skin by his eyes, and the threading of silver through his hair. Watery blue eyes and plump sweaty hands rounded out the portrait of a decidedly non-fairy tale prince.
"Ah, Herr Holmes, you've returned."
Heinrich Franz's accent wasn't as thick as his servant's but it was grating. His voice was over-loud, and I was interested to hear his heart pick up speed as he walked forward. He was definitely not in the best of shape. I shouldn't be surprised at all to find fatty deposits within his arteries blocking his blood flow. His blood didn't have the healthy 'thrum' through the veins of a younger, fitter man, and his heart had to work harder because of it.
Holmes bowed his head curtly so I followed suit. In all my years as a vampire, I'd never spoken directly to royalty before, not even a minor German prince like this one. Usually we kept to the shadows, away from court life.
"Yes, I've brought my consultant, Dr. Cullen."
The prince barely glanced at me at first, then stared as he took in my appearance. Becoming a vampire lent me a physical beauty that caused people to take a second look. He looked me up and down, then shook himself and turned back to my companion.
"So have you caught Fiona's murderer yet?" he asked sharply.
"No," replied Holmes calmly. His heartbeat was steady. "I've been on the case for less than a day, and there's still much to be done."
Smack! The prince's hand came down on the table, making the decanter jump and the glass slosh its liquid over the side.
"I told you, it's the revolutionaries! They could not get to me because of Hans and Felix so they murdered my poor dear Fiona."
Hans and Felix were evidently the two humans in the next room. I caught a trace of gun oil along with the ever-present blood smell of living beings. They were bodyguards, probably military officers assigned to guard the prince.
"What makes your majesty so sure that revolutionaries want you dead?"
Holmes' voice was gentle, though not exactly conciliatory.
The prince huffed, which set his jowls shaking. "Did they not follow me here? Did Hans not see one of them at the pub? They think that Mecklenburg-Schwerin should be like England, that if I and my cousin Friedrich Franz were dead that they could take over and form a parliament to run the country. A parliament! In Mecklenburg-Schwerin! Ridiculous!"
"Your cousin is well?" Holmes asked.
"Well, yes," answered Heinrich Franz, puzzled by the change in topic.
"I understand that your cousin is next in line for the throne, so he would have to be killed first for your death to have any meaning."
The prince's jaw dropped and stayed open for a few seconds as he looked from me, to Holmes, and back again. Obviously he was unused to people contradicting him. Then his eyes narrowed and an unbecoming flush filled his cheeks. It was unattractive and distracting at the same time for it heightened his blood scent.
One pudgy finger came out and pointed at Holmes' chest.
"You will investigate the revolutionaries first, that is an order!" he yelled, spittle coming from his mouth.
"Of course," agreed Holmes. "However, to be completely sure I must investigate every possibility. Her majesty's government has made your safety my highest priority. Can you think of anyone else, anyone at all, who might want you dead?"
Immediately a look of calculation appeared in Heinrich Franz's eyes. It was gone in an instant and in its place came an expression of bland innocence. He picked up his glass from the side table and drank deeply, then wiped his mouth with the back of his fist, the gesture serving to clear it of flecks of spit as well as alcohol.
"What sort of a host am I?" he asked rhetorically. "Come, sit," he ordered and waved us to a sofa and some armchairs nearby.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
"No, thank you," I said softly. I didn't want to attract his attention any more than I had to. This was Sherlock Holmes' show, and I found it fascinating.
Holmes declined as well and we sat and waited patiently while the prince took another drink, draining his glass.
"There is one possibility," Heinrich Franz said airily. "A local girl. It ended badly. Her father swore revenge, but he is a peasant. What could he do to me?"
"What indeed?" Holmes said, raising his eyebrows sympathetically. "Still, it would be useful to know his name, if only to eliminate him from the investigation."
"You understand that she was nothing, a mere flirtation." Heinrich leaned forward conspiratorially. "I can not help it if the lower classes are attracted to me. Power is a very heady thing for those not used to it, no?"
"As you say," Holmes said neutrally. "Her name?"
"It was a flower, I think. Marigold, or Poppy, something like that," he answered dismissively. "Her father's name is Hooper. John Hooper."
Holmes stood, causing the prince to gape up at him. I realized that he was taller than the prince, and that part of the reason why the prince asked us to sit was to negate the height advantage Holmes had over him. Heinrich Franz shot up to his feet and stepped back, straightening his spine with an effort. Evidently he'd been drinking even before we'd entered the room for he tottered a bit.
"Thank you, your highness. We'll be sure to pursue these leads and report back as soon as we know anything. Come, Cullen."
He turned and left the room with me in close attendance. I suddenly wanted to be away from that awful man as soon as possible.
The carriage took us to Windermere to a small hotel on High Street. Holmes took one look at the darkening sky and scowled.
"We'll have to stay the night and go to the Chase in the morning. The light is fading, which isn't conducive to investigation."
"As you wish," I acceded, not bothering to tell the great detective that night meant nothing to me. I could see as well in darkness as in light, but he could not.
We signed in at the hotel register and deposited our luggage in our rooms upstairs.
"So what's next?" I asked as I exited the small but clean room at the same time Holmes reached his own threshold.
"We've been ordered to investigate revolutionaries," said Holmes grimly. "So since there's nothing else useful to be done, we shall visit the local pubs."
I blinked. Pubs?
"Anyone who tells you that revolutions begin in universities with the idealism of youth has not infiltrated a revolutionary ring. Evidently revolutions require copious imbibing of spirits, for they always seem to congregate in the back rooms of pubs."
That evening Holmes bought several rounds yet never seemed to drink much of anything himself. He asked a few questions here and there, but mostly he was content to let the locals talk. And talk they did, not so much about themselves as about the group of strangers with accents who rented a house 'over towards Kendal way'. There were a few muttered comments about 'dark doings' and 'secret goings-on' but nothing concrete.
Seemingly content with that bit of information, Holmes led the way back to the hotel. The streets were quiet, deserted. Our footsteps echoed on the cobblestones.
"Are you not hungry?" I asked him, realizing that he hadn't eaten anything since he collected me at my lodgings that afternoon.
He shrugged. "I often forget to eat while on a case."
I frowned. That wasn't healthy. Humans required food and rest.
"Why? Are you?" he asked pointedly, staving off my intended lecture.
"I 'ate' a day ago. I shouldn't need to hunt again for a while."
He gave me a sharp look, made as if to speak, then changed his mind.
We walked in silence for a time, then he spoke.
"I'm glad to hear it. There will be blood at the crime scene tomorrow. I asked them not to clean it until I could bring a consultant to see it. I told them you were an expert in blood."
I stopped. "You didn't!"
A bit of amusement appeared in those hawk-like eyes. "I did."
I laughed. I couldn't help myself.
"Carlisle Cullen, blood expert."
"It seemed appropriate," Holmes remarked.
We walked the rest of the way to the hotel in amicable silence.
A/N: While you don't have to read my previous story, "Dr. Cullen, I Presume?" to understand this one, if you want to know about the mystery surrounding Emily's mother, by all means go and read it. However, it's not crucial to this story and there will be very little else from the first story in this one aside from the brief mention of Emily.