A/N- This is a season 3 AU, the fourth sequel to "After the Fall" and the next one along from "The Somerton Man". If you want in on the ground floor of this series, Fall is the one to start from. :)
This, like "The Parson's Son" and "The Somerton Man", is based on a real-life case. In this instance, it's a poisoning case from 1886. From the Wikipedia Article: "A fatal quantity of chloroform was found in Mr Bartlett's stomach, despite having not caused any damage to his throat or windpipe, and no evidence of how it got there. Adelaide Bartlett was tried for her husband's murder and was acquitted. By the jury's own statement in court Mrs Bartlett's acquittal was partly secured because the prosecution could not prove how Mrs Bartlett could have committed the crime."
"What do you make of her, Mel?" Lestrade asked in a low voice. They were standing in the fluorescent-lit viewing room at the station, looking through the one-way glass at the dark-haired young woman slumped down in the interview chair on the other side.
"I think she's barking mad," was Melissa's response.
Lestrade blinked. "That's your professional diagnosis, is it?"
"Oh, please. Her initial statement was absolutely mental."
Lestrade glanced through the glass again. The young woman's face was buried in her folded arms. Pam Greer sat beside her, muttering something with one hand resting on her shoulder.
Pam wasn't a lawyer to be trifled with, and Lestrade knew it. Very decent woman, a solicitor he respected - and he didn't respect all of them. Good fun to have a drink with when she wasn't working. Had a dark sense of humour. Thought some of her clients were as dumb as Lestrade did, and more than happy to admit it off the clock. But absolutely nothing got past her in an interview.
"Well, she was three sheets to the wind at the time," he said. What a bloody nightmare that was. He hated reading any member of his team the riot act, but Murtagh and Patel had deserved it. Who in their right mind, he'd reamed the pair of them in his office half an hour before, would take a statement from a woman who was so obviously drunk? Did the expression inadmissible mean a thing to either of them? Perhaps the words suspended until further notice would get their attention better.
"You'd have to be on acid to come up with something like that," Melissa retorted. "She was holding onto his toe while he slept?"
He shrugged. "Apparently, it helped him sleep. Wouldn't that make him the barking mad one?"
"Don't know, because he's the dead one." Melissa sighed. Through the glass, they saw Sally Donovan enter the interview room and put her case notes on the table. She spoke to the young woman; Pam was the one who responded. The younger woman was as still as death.
"Anyway," she continued, "I think she's okay to be interviewed, but I'm not a psychiatrist, Greg. Tread lightly. And I want to be present for this." She squeezed his hand for a second.
"Lestrade. Good to see you again." Pam shook hands with him across the desk, but the woman beside her did not even lift her head.
"Pity about the circumstances," he said, sitting down and waiting for everyone to get settled in before proceeding with the usual. "For the benefit of the tape, interview commenced 4:42pm, September 10th. Present are myself, Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade; Detective Sergeant Sally Donovan; the suspect, Mrs. Adelaide Bartlett; her legal counsel, Ms. Pamela Greer; and forensic psychologist Dr. Melissa Brennan. As Ms. Greer has expressed concerns about Mrs. Bartlett's mental state, Dr. Brennan will be sitting in with us today, to ensure that Mrs. Bartlett gets any further assistance she might need." He looked over at the woman who still had her face buried in her arms. Then he cleared his throat.
"Adelaide...?" he ventured, leaning forward and gently touching her elbow before Melissa could tell him not to. She looked up with startling swiftness. The look in her dark, wild eyes was almost frightening.
She said nothing.
"Is it okay if I call you Adelaide?" Lestrade persisted quietly. He supposed it would be unforgiveable to drive the name "Mrs. Bartlett" home when he was trying to work out if she'd just made herself a widow.
"Addie," she murmured. "I'm called Addie."
A husky, breathless sort of voice; heavy accent that Lestrade already knew was French. He smiled briefly at her. "Addie. You can call me Greg if you want to. We just need to talk to you about what happened to your husband. Do you want a cup of tea? Coffee?"
She shook her head.
"Okay. Could you please tell us in your own words what happened last night?"
"Non," she suddenly exclaimed. "Inspecteur, vous faites erreur, je suis innocente ! Jamais je n'aurais fait de mal à mon mari ! L'empoisonner, comme ça... Mais je l'aimais ! Oh, pourquoi personne ne veut me croire... Vous me croyez, vous, Inspecteur, n'est-ce pas?-"
"Addie," Lestrade said uncomfortably, fumbling around for French he'd learned at school in 1979. "Je ne comprends pas le francais. Comprenez... uh..." He frowned. "Comprenez-vous anglais?" He couldn't see why she wouldn't understand basic English. She'd been in the country ten years, and seemed to understand when he'd asked if she'd wanted coffee.
She took a deep breath, then nodded.
"For the benefit of the recording, Mrs. Bartlett has just nodded her head," Donovan said. Lestrade usually forgot about the recording. "Mrs. Bartlett, please tell us what happened last night. In English."
Lestrade glanced across at her, and then at Melissa. As per usual, Donovan was playing Bad Cop. Adelaide Bartlett passed her hand across her eyes, and Lestrade groaned inwardly. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck interviewing a sobbing woman. Mel was going to be on at him for days about making a fragile suspect cry. But Adelaide remained dry-eyed.
"Edwin said he had a headache," she said, stiffly but with a fair degree of fluency. "He has been complaining of headaches a lot recently. He went to bed at seven o'clock."
"And what did you do?"
"I was on the internet until nine-thirty."
She shrugged. "Facebook. Emails. I have friends in France I like to talk to..."
"Okay." Officers at the scene had already confiscated Adelaide's laptop and were going through her browser history, so Lestrade knew there was no point in grilling the woman on what she was doing that night. Technology was a more reliable source of data than human memory. "And so you were on the computer the whole two-and-a-half hours?"
"Well, no. At a quarter to nine, Edwin called to me and asked me for something for his headache. I gave him two aspirin and he went back to bed. I went back to the laptop. At half-past nine I got off again because he came back down again and told me the aspirin hadn't worked. He could become... cross... when that happened."
"So he was ill often?" Donovan broke in.
"No," Adelaide struggled a little. "Well, yes that he said often that he was ill. But he wasn't. He was... I don't know how to say it in English. Someone who believes he is ill when he is not."
Before Lestrade could earn Pam Greer's lecture over baiting the suspect with the word hypochondriac, he was interrupted by his phone ringing. He glanced at the Caller ID in confusion for a few seconds before he remembered: a particularly obnoxious call from Mycroft Holmes two weeks before had resulted in him petulantly changing his name in his phonebook to Lord and Ruler of the Known Universe.
"Excuse me," he said, taking his shrieking phone out of the interview room and to the viewing station, where he watched Mel and Sally chatting it up in his absence. "Mycroft," he said, opening the call. "How can I help you?"
"You have a murder suspect in your hands," Mycroft informed him.
"A Mrs. Adelaide Bartlett. Twenty-eight years old."
"That's her. Her husband Edwin was poisoned with chloroform last night. Oral dose - huge one. Having lots of fun. What's your involvement in this business, exactly?"
Mycroft paused. "Things are about to become even more 'fun', as you call it, Inspector. Her father is Louis Jean Marie de La Trémoïlle."
"… The French ambassador to the UK?"
"And not a man to be trifled with. We need to proceed with utmost caution in this case."
Lestrade literally dug his heels into the floor, processing this for a few seconds. "I'm not letting a woman who probably murdered her husband go just 'cause of who her father is," he said.
"So I can see from the case notes in front of me. But she was intoxicated at the time, was she not?"
"Just a bit. Not admissable, and I don't need your help dealing with the boneheads who took the statement down, thanks. We're trying to get a non-pissed confession out of her right now."
"International relations are bigger and more important than the death of one man, Lestrade."
Lestrade paused, trying to keep a hold of his exasperation. Getting arsey with Mycroft Holmes wasn't going to make a bad day any better. "Okay," he said finally. "What do you want me to do with her?"
"Return her to a holding cell for now. I'll be in touch again in an hour or so once I've spoken with the appropriate people and we've decided on a course of action."
"You know I can't hold her for long," Lestrade protested.
"Then release her. You can always arrest her again later if you have to."
"Oh, that's going to look good."
"Never mind about what it looks like. We'll take care of that side of things." Mycroft paused for a few seconds. "Have you called my brother about this?"
"Are you giving me orders not to?" Lestrade ventured.
"I'd much prefer it if Sherlock was kept out of all matters political," Mycroft responded. "He tends to cause havoc with government affairs."
"Yeah, I did hear about that." Lestrade glanced through the glass to where Pam was still comforting her client. Well, she'll be pleased about this turn of events for Mrs. Bartlett, anyway. "Are you giving me an order to not let Sherlock in on this?"
"An order? No."
"Right. I'm going to return her to her cell for now. Mel thinks we'd be best off posting a suicide watch, just in case." Lestrade wasn't prepared to take any chances with his suspects anymore. "You do a bit of digging from your end, let me know as soon as possible what you want me to do with her."
"I'm thinking about it. I've got to go."
Lestrade got a great deal of childish glee out of hanging up on Mycroft Holmes. Going to his phone book again, he scrolled down for Sherlock's number. Hopefully he was in a good enough mood to pick up the phone this time. Things were too urgent for a text.
A/N- Mad props and thanks to Lucy36 for her help with my French! xx