A Study in Charlotte

Page 76

“How did you know?” I asked, gritting my teeth. “About the virus? About what happened to me?”

“Bryony sent me a list of her demands,” she said, her voice muffled in my shirt. “Via text, of course. She had it timed to your appointment at Michener Hall. Must’ve gotten the schedule from the all-campus email.”

“Via text? Holmes, that can be used as evidence against her.”

“That’s not what we’re going to do.”


“Don’t, Watson.”

I didn’t have the strength to argue with her. “What were her demands? What does she want?”

“A pony,” she said.

I smiled against the pain. “The very prettiest pony in the land, on a golden lead. Only then will the favorite sidekick be cured.”

“You’re not my sidekick,” Holmes said softly. “That’s her first mistake.”

“What am I, then?”

But I didn’t know if I wanted to hear the answer. Not now.

She must have heard the reticence in my voice. “A pony,” she said, “and three million dollars, and safe passage to Russia, a country which, given my father’s history as well as the current state of US-Russo relations, won’t extradite her to either Britain or America to stand trial for what she’s done. Which would be moot, anyway, because she wants me to claim full responsibility for Dobson’s murder and Elizabeth’s attack.”

“Jesus Christ.” I struggled against the idea.

“She’s done the thing very completely,” Holmes said. There was a touch of admiration in her voice. “I should have known.”

“This is not your fault,” I told her, before she could go on. “You claiming it’s your fault makes it sound like I’m just a piece of cargo getting hauled next to you. No will of my own. So stop it.”


“I’m dying,” I told her, with a grim sort of glee. “You have to listen to me.”

She laughed hollowly. “Milo has the money, and he’s arranging the airfare as we speak. I’ve written out my confession. It’s done. The exchange will be made at nine o’clock in the morning. She has the antidote. I don’t know how—Dr. Warner doesn’t know how it’s possible—but she does, and even if she’s lying, it’s still a chance we have to take. We’re meeting her twenty-two hours after your infection, so you should still be—ah. It should be fine.”


“She’ll text us the location when it’s time.”

“You’re not going to jail for this,” I said. “Detective Shepard won’t let you. Wait, isn’t she in his custody? What the hell happened there?”

“Remember when we thought she stopped for gas? She switched cars at the police station. Left her Toyota in the lot and picked up another car that she’d left there.” Again, that note of admiration. “We saw her as a stupid sorority girl, and she ran circles around us.”

“And where is he now? Detective Shepard?”

“Her terms were no police involvement, no sending you to the hospital. So I don’t know. I’ve been focused on you.” I felt her shrug. “That’s the other part. You’ll die. One way or another, you’ll die if I don’t take this fall. I think it’s a good idea to listen to her, as she’s proven herself handy with a suitcase bomb.”

The door cracked open, and Milo stuck his glossy head in. If he was surprised to see his sister tucked in my arms, he didn’t show it.

“You’re awake. How are you feeling?” he asked.

Like I’d been run down by a truck. “Fine,” I said.

“Do you want us to contact your parents?”

“Oh God. My father thought—”

“—thinks you are discussing strategy with myself and Lottie until late tonight. This afternoon, Peterson and Michaels returned his car and gave him my reassurances. As we’ve decided to broker with Nurse Bryony for your cure, you don’t have a real reason to worry him. Though I understand how one’s parents could be a comfort, in a time like this.” He said the last part academically, like it was a theory he’d never personally tested.

“Right,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “No, that’s fine, don’t contact them.”

“Get some sleep,” he advised. “We’ll handle this.”

If I wasn’t included in that we—and how could I be; I couldn’t handle even standing up—at least his sister was. I nodded at him, and he nodded back, and shut the door.

“You’re not going to jail,” I said again. My mouth felt dry. “There has to be another way.”

“I need to be arrested, and convicted. Or she’ll find another way to end you. She was very specific on those terms.”


“Watson,” she said roughly, “I remember a very recent conversation where you detailed all the horrible possibilities of my death. Do you remember that? Would you like to, for just a moment, imagine what it would be like to watch one come true? Think about what this is like for me.”

“The trade-off shouldn’t be spending the rest of your life in a cell for a crime you didn’t commit!”

“No.” She curled my shirt into her fist. “No, but perhaps I should serve time for the crime I did.”

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