Echoes of Holmes, McPherson, Mina, & Morrell
The First Mrs Coulter
Miss Cordelia Grant did not mourn the world of damp dressing rooms, damper lodgings and Sunday travel in a third-class railway carriage. True, her current role – lady’s maid to Mrs Gilver – was performed on a smaller stage than that of even the lowliest provincial theatre and her cast of one worked hard at thwarting most of her best ideas when it came to costume but still she thought herself lucky. There were men marching for work, women queuing for bread and soup, and her parents’ little acting company was reduced to church halls and social clubs. Miss Grant was accordingly grateful for her settled home, steady wage, and security.
Sometimes, however, the quiet comforts of rural Perthshire in wintertime failed to satisfy appetites formed during a theatrical childhood and Miss Grant’s efforts to supplement those comforts only made her chafe the more.
Today was typical. Moriarty, wheeled out during the matinee at La Scala, had riled up all her lusts like a stiff wind in a pile of leaves, and reading “The Adventure of The Veiled Lodger” in a back issue of The Strand on the way home had worsened matters—for, where the picture was silly and melodramatic, the story was clever and thrilling and left Miss Grant longing for clients to visit her, to pour their agonies into her willing ear, to gasp in astonishment when she deduced all.
She would, she decided, put in some practice right here on the Perth to Pitlochry omnibus, just in case. Reading was making her feel rather seedy anyway.
by Denise Mina
I want to point out that Shirley is not a witch. She’s not psychic either, whatever the older ones say. She’s odd, but there’s room for that here.
Shirley likes being alone and she likes room to think. Those are good reasons for living here. She’s writing a book about why DNA evidence is wrong. She says it’s an ar,t not a science. Results may come from a lab but they still need subjective interpretation. Good science doesn’t require interpretation; it’s a series of observations leading to irrefutable conclusions. She doesn’t like leaps of logic. To be frank, that’s as much as I listened to—it’s dry stuff. Anyway, she came from Glasgow but she fits in perfectly here. There’s room for odd here.
At first people thought she was psychic. Shirley knew exactly what you had just been up to. She’d say she was ‘in purdah’, wherever that is, somewhere in her house I think, writing for weeks. She’d see no one and then she would meet you, out on a hill, walking past her garden, and she’d ask you weird psychic questions: Who drained your septic tank? How did your Golden Labrador die? She knew things.
by David Morrell
Again, the nightmare woke him. Again, he couldn’t go back to sleep.
As the bells of nearby Westminster Abbey sounded two o’clock, Conan Doyle rose from his bed. Always determined not to waste time, he considered going to the desk in his sitting room to write a few more thousand words, but instead his troubled mood prompted him to dress and go down the stairs. Careful not to wake his housekeeper, he unlocked the door and stepped outside.
A cold mist enveloped shadowy Victoria Street in the heart of metropolitan London. During the day, the rumble and rattle of motor vehicles reverberated off the area’s three-story buildings, but at this solitary hour, the only sound was the echo of Conan Doyle’s shoes as he reached the pavement and turned to the left, proceeding past dark shops.
Even in the night and the mist, the back of Westminster Abbey dominated, its hulking presence rising over him. He recalled his sense of irony a year earlier when he’d finally found a suitable location for the most important enterprise of his life, noting that it was only a stone’s throw from one of England’s most revered religious sites. He hadn’t spoken with His Grace about their competing views, but he suspected that the archbishop wasn’t amused.