Prompt from the Sherlock Kinkmeme: I want to see the story of Sherlock & Mrs. Hudson's first hug, and the circumstances surrounding it.
Martha Hudson’s visit to her sister wasn’t going very well.
Martha and Eugenia MacNamara had always been quite close. When Martha married Roger Hudson and moved to America to be with him, the two sisters corresponded regularly. As technology improved, they shifted from letters to email, and hardly a week passed by without a transatlantic chat over Skype.
Still, despite their warm relationship, there was a barrier between them: Eugenia didn’t like Roger. Martha had never explicitly said anything, but Eugenia got the feeling that Martha was a little bit…afraid of her husband. Any attempt to persuade Martha to talk about it was met with a swift subject change.
Finally, Martha made her first visit since her marriage, to attend the wedding of their cousin Lucy in London. Martha flew into London to spend the two weeks around the wedding with Eugenia.
The evening before the wedding, they were giggling over a glass of wine, and Martha seemed much more in a confiding mood. When Eugenia carefully broached the subject of Roger, Martha simply said, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure – isn’t that the saying? I’ve made my bed, Eugenia.”
Vainly, Eugenia tried to persuade Martha to tell her what was wrong, but Martha would say no more. When they went to bed that evening, Eugenia couldn’t help but wonder if her sister was in some sort of danger.
The following afternoon, they both dressed up to the nines and headed to the wedding. It was a lavish affair, as Lucy was marrying into the gentry. At the reception, Martha and Eugenia sat companionably together to eat their wedding cake, watching the dancing while gossiping cheerfully about the various wedding guests.
“Who is the lady in the questionable pink dress?”
“Hmmm…you’d think, with her pedigree, she’d know better than to wear a backless satin dress with nothing underneath it.”
“Don’t you mean, with her cup size, she should know better?”
They giggled like schoolgirls.
“Ooh…who is the posh lady in the silvery-blue dress? It’s absolutely stunning.”
“That’s Lady Holmes. She’s married to Sir Siger Holmes – remember meeting him earlier? Tall, elegant gentleman, looked at you like you were something to study under a microscope?”
“Oh, yes...to tell you the truth, dear, he rather gave me the creeps.”
“To be frank, Martha, his whole family gives me the creeps.” Eugenia sipped her champagne thoughtfully, then added, “Well, except for the younger son. He’s frightfully odd, but…there’s something quite fascinating about him, really.”
“Well, he’s brilliant for starters, that’s obvious the moment you meet him. He’s some sort of detective, I couldn’t really understand the specifics – he’s not with the police or anything. Sort of…freelance, I guess?”
“Consulting detective, actually.”
Both women squealed in surprise at the rich baritone voice that spoke right into their ears, and Eugenia dropped her fork. They both whirled to find a young man with astonishing cheekbones and an unruly mop of dark curls leaning down between them. He wore a sardonic smile as he straightened up to a ridiculous height, then leaned back against the pillar beside their table.
Martha recovered more quickly than her sister.
“Please excuse us for gossiping about you, Mister…Holmes, wasn’t it?”
He waved the apology away.
“No need to apologise – boring. You’re missing all of the obvious gossip, though.” He nodded his head toward a couple that danced nearby.
“The gentleman over there is an alcoholic who has just fallen off the wagon, but is keeping it to himself. His partner hasn’t noticed because she is busy plotting a tryst with the underage waiter with the champagne tray.”
Martha and Eugenia looked in time to see a meaningful glance pass between the woman and the handsome young waiter. She arched her eyebrows and nodded toward a nearby doorway. The waiter smiled and hastily made his way out of the door. A moment later, the dance ended, and the woman excused herself, casually slipping through the same doorway. Martha and Eugenia giggled.
Their new companion gestured toward another guest.
“The man beside the punchbowl is standing there to avoid the attention of the tall brunette woman with the unfortunate nose. He might be more inclined to talk to her brother, as his proclivities lean in a decidedly more…masculine direction.”
“The orchestra conductor is in debt to bookies for gambling on horse racing. He’s also concerned about the first violinist, with whom he has been having a torrid affair. She’s pregnant. It’s not his child, of course, but he’s unaware of that fact.”
Martha was delighted – and intrigued.
“Can you do that with anyone? Spot their secrets like that?”
“It would be ridiculous to say that I’m one hundred percent accurate, but I must say that there isn’t much that escapes my observation. For example, you are married to an American, live in south Florida, have been back in London for six days, and are concerned that your husband may be responsible for a serious crime.” He grinned at the startled gasps from Martha and Eugenia.
“So, what did I miss?”
Recovering her power of speech, Martha said, “I am married to an American, I do live in Florida. Both of those were correct. But I have been in London for seven days – eight if you count the afternoon of my arrival.”
His eyebrow lifted. “And the concerns about your husband?”
“Well…” Martha paused a moment, then nodded decisively. “Yes, about that. I just may have a job for you, Mister Consulting Detective.”
Eugenia dropped her fork again.
“I’ll be in Orlando until Friday, Martha,” said Roger Hudson, barely glancing at his wife.
Smoothing back his already immaculate salt-and-pepper hair, Roger Hudson checked his handsome reflection in the foyer looking-glass. Mirror, Martha reminded herself. In America, it’s called a mirror. She had lived here for almost twenty years, and she still had to remind herself of the differences in the language.
“Of course, dear,” Martha whispered.
Roger picked up his bag and strode out to the garage. A moment later his car began to back down the drive. Martha picked up her mobile phone and sent a text.
He just left for Orlando.
Understood. Wait to hear from me. - SH
The following afternoon, Sherlock Holmes turned up on Martha’s doorstep.
“My goodness, it’s dreadfully chilly out here. Come in, come in!”
Martha took Sherlock’s expensive wool coat and carried it into the adjoining dining room to drape it over a chair. Oh, how she missed her old Victorian house on Baker Street in London. There she had a row of coat-hooks, just right for the coats, scarves and hats one needed in England. Here in her Florida patio home, and on these exceedingly rare cold days, there was nowhere to hang a coat in a convenient location.
She turned back to look at her guest. Immaculately dressed in an obviously bespoke suit, Sherlock nevertheless looked too gaunt and lean.
“When did you eat last, dear?”
Sherlock shrugged, and Martha frowned at him sternly.
“Well, you're not going to do anything else until you've had a decent cup of tea and a big slice of this plum cake I made.”
“There’s no need to feed me, Mrs Hudson. I’m here to tell you what I’ve found so far. There isn’t really time for food.”
“Nonsense, I won't hear of it. Sit down, young man.”
In no time, Sherlock was seated at the kitchen table, looking out of the little bay window into the Hudsons’ shady back garden. Yard, she reminded herself. It’s called a back yard here.
As she placed a plate of cake in front of him, Martha reached out to squeeze Sherlock’s shoulder. He looked up, his crystalline eyes wide and startled at the contact. Smiling, Martha sat across from him and poured the tea.
“So…” she stirred in a spoon of sugar, then sipped from her cup. “Tell me what you’ve found, Sherlock.”
Sherlock, chewing on a bite of the rich plum cake, regarded her with those astonishingly sharp eyes.
“I will need more evidence, but I am certain that you are correct about Mr. Hudson’s activities.”
Martha sagged back in her chair. It was one thing to suspect – another thing entirely to have her suspicions confirmed.
“What do you know?”
“Roger Hudson has been soliciting male prostitutes for years. This was easily verifiable. There have been numerous incidents where he beat and choked them as well, but he managed to hush it up with bribes to the police and the rentboys themselves.”
Martha buried her face in her hands for a moment. Sherlock’s voice continued mercilessly on.
“One of the rentboys that he roughed up attempted to blackmail your husband back in 1988. Soon after, the young man disappeared. He is listed as a missing person. I believe he was Roger Hudson’s first murder victim.”
Martha’s head jerked up in disbelief.
“1988?!” she gasped. “That’s two years before we were married! He’s been doing this all of this time?”
“I’m afraid so. As you suspected, your husband has been killing for quite a while. There are seventeen men, either cold case murder files or missing persons files, that I believe that Roger Hudson may have murdered by strangulation.”
“Seventeen! Oh, dear, this is awful! Those poor, poor boys!” Tears rolled down Martha’s cheeks. “How did I not realise this sooner? How has no one caught him at this?”
After watching her sob for a moment, Sherlock moved to her side, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder. Martha leaned against his shoulder, and Sherlock uncomfortably patted her on the back.
“Your husband is very good at covering his tracks, Mrs Hudson,” he said, “and I don’t have enough evidence yet to involve the police. It would only alert him to my involvement. I need more data.”
Martha pulled a tissue from the box on the table and wiped her eyes. Sherlock regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, then stood.
“I’ll be off now. I’m headed back to Orlando, to follow him and see what else I can discover.”
Martha followed him to the door, passing him his coat from the dining room. She hesitated, then drew a flat box from the drawer of the foyer cabinet.
"It's a bit parky out there, Sherlock dear, you should wrap up better." She opened the box and handed it to him. “I bought it for Roger’s birthday next week, but somehow…I just don’t think I want him to have something so good. I’d like you to have it.”
Sherlock gazed at the contents before meeting her eyes.
"Mrs Hudson, it might be January, but it's St Petersburg, Florida – not St Petersburg, Russia."
"Still, love, I'd feel better if you wore this."
Sherlock smiled, a slow, genuine smile that transformed his odd angular face into something charmingly boyish and attractive. Martha smiled back at him.
“That’s very kind of you,” Sherlock said, as he lifted the blue cashmere scarf from the box and looped it around his neck. Martha thought it looked wonderful on him – brought out the blue in his eyes.
Sherlock buttoned up his coat and tugged on his leather gloves.
“I’ll be in touch as soon as I have more information,” he said, as he turned toward the door. Pausing, he looked back at her intently, then leaned down to lightly kiss her cheek.
“Thank you for the scarf, Mrs Hudson.”
The following morning, Martha was filling her bird feeder on the patio when she heard the doorbell ring. Rushing through to open the door, she was nearly flattened by a bruised and bleeding Sherlock, who had been leaning heavily against the door when she opened it.
“Oh, dear, Sherlock, what happened?” Martha slipped an arm around him to steady him, then assisted him to the living room sofa. “Sit down right here and let me get the first aid kit.” She rushed off to fetch the kit, along with a bowl of warm water and clean flannels.
Returning to the living room, she found Sherlock leaning back against the cushions of her sofa, still wrapped in his coat and new scarf. Tutting, she divested him of his outerwear, then dipped a clean flannel (washcloth, she reminded herself, they call them washcloths here) in the bowl of water and wrung it out.
“Really, Mrs Hudson, I’m fine…”
“Don’t be ridiculous, boy, you’re clearly anything but fine. Hush and let me look at you.”
Sherlock subsided, surprised by Martha’s authoritative manner. Martha gently sponged away the blood and dirt from Sherlock’s face and hands, noting the abrasions on his knuckles as she did so. His injuries really weren’t too bad, mostly superficial cuts and scrapes. Of course, scalp and face wounds bled a lot, so it looked far more frightening than it actually was.
Spreading antibiotic ointment on the many abrasions and lacerations, Martha bandaged him as necessary. When she was finished, she fetched a plastic zipper bag of ice from the kitchen, clicking on the kettle as she did so. After she wrapped the ice in a clean cloth, she gently pressed it to the rapidly purpling bruise above his right eye.
“Hold this here, dear, while I make us some tea.”
Sherlock raised his hand to hold the ice in place, then quirked a smile at her.
“And maybe another piece of that delicious plum cake?” The silvery eyes twinkled like a small boy’s as he made the hopeful suggestion.
“Of course, dear!”
Over tea, Sherlock explained that he had been accosted by a couple of thugs while following the trail of the most recent missing victim. “I don’t think they were involved in any way with your husband, it was simply unfortunate timing on my part.”
“Did you find out any more information for your trouble?” Martha asked, watching Sherlock wince as he shifted gingerly on the sofa.
“I suspect that he is simply picking the rentboys up at random, and disposing of their bodies in Fakahatchee Strand, the Everglades, or other swamps. They all had a certain look, fit and blonde, so apparently Roger has a type. He picks them up on his business trips, does the murdering itself in low-rent motels, where he pays in cash to avoid a paper trail. He’s been meticulous about his crime scenes, and has made sure that finding enough evidence to link him to the crimes will be nearly impossible.”
“Oh, dear. Sherlock – what can we do? He has to be stopped!”
Sherlock smirked at her.
“I said nearly impossible, Mrs Hudson. Fortunately for you, nearly impossible is my speciality.”
Martha bustled back into the living room after tidying away the tea things – and stopped dead at the sight before her. Sherlock had nodded off on the sofa, sprawled in a boneless, inelegant heap. Martha smiled to herself as she covered him with an afghan.
Poor boy, she mused, as she tucked the woven blanket in around his slim shoulders. He’s nothing but skin and bone, startles so easily at unexpected contact, and seems shocked by any amount of kindness thrown his way. I wonder what his home life was like as a child? I’ve never seen anyone in more need of a mother.
Martha turned the lights down low in the living room and left the detective to his nap.
Martha was putting on the kettle when Sherlock stepped into the kitchen. She turned and smiled at him, noting with pleasure that the bruising above his eye wasn’t nearly as terrible as she had expected. Good job getting ice on that so quickly, she congratulated herself.
“My apologies,” Sherlock said, looking embarrassed. “I seem to have fallen asleep on the job.”
“Don’t be silly, Sherlock,” she replied. “How much sleep have you even had since you arrived in St Pete?”
“My body doesn’t require much sleep, Mrs Hudson,” he said stiffly. Sleep and food merely slow me down when I’m working.”
“Such nonsense,” Martha scoffed. “Everybody needs rest and fuel, Sherlock Holmes. It looks like your body staged a sit-in…or rather, a lie-in, I suppose.”
Sherlock’s face went through several expressions in the space of a few seconds; irritation, arrogant dismissal, and then slowly shifted to reluctant amusement. An almost imperceptible chuckle rose in his throat. Martha grinned back at him.
“I’ve just made some custard tarts, and the kettle has just boiled. Stay to tea, Sherlock?”
“Love to, thanks,” Sherlock replied with a smile.
Martha had just seen Sherlock off. The young man had snarfed down three of her custard tarts, quite the feat for someone who “doesn’t need food when working,” Martha thought to herself. She smiled as she packed away the rest of the tarts in the refrigerator.
Sherlock had told her that he only had a few more details to pull together before he would be ready to turn over the information to the police.
“At that point, you’ll need to be out of the house, Mrs Hudson,” he had said. “Roger Hudson is an extremely dangerous man. There is no doubt in my mind that you would become his hostage if you remained here for the arrest.”
Roger had never been dangerous to her before, merely cold and indifferent; but Martha had acquiesced to Sherlock’s insistence on the matter. She agreed that when she received a text from Sherlock, she would go check into a hotel in Tampa.
Martha moved around the house, gathering a few little treasures to put into her suitcase along with the few changes of clothing she had already packed. Heaven only knew what damage the police might do to her things in the subsequent search of their home for evidence.
She packed the baby pictures of her son, her sweet baby David, who had only lived a few days, stroking the shape of his little face softly. It was so long ago, part of another life altogether. Her marriage to Steven hadn’t survived the loss, and at times, she realized that she had buried her memories of that time so firmly that she had difficulty recalling Steven’s face. David’s face never dimmed in her mind, though, and she never lost that yearning to mother a little boy.
As she picked up the little crystal vase that Eugenia gave her for her wedding to Roger, she paused to remember the day so long ago when she had unknowingly tied her life to a serial killer’s. Shaking her head at the wasted years, she turned toward the suitcase on her bed.
“Going somewhere, Martha?”
The crystal vase shattered at her feet.
Roger stepped into the room, his dark eyes glittering as they fixed on hers.
“What have you been up to, darling?” he purred.
Martha, hand at her throat in fear, took a step backward, stammering, “Roger! I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow night. What a nice surprise…”
“Please,” he spat. “Don’t pretend that you weren’t packing to leave me. And don’t pretend you had nothing to do with that British guy in the fancy coat who’s been asking everywhere about me.”
Martha gulped, and opened her mouth to answer, when the phone in her pocket vibrated with an incoming text, startling a squeak out of her instead.
“What – no explanation?” He took another step toward her. “You’re not even going to try to make an excuse?”
Her pocket buzzed again. Sherlock! It had to be Sherlock texting her. Martha wrung her hands in front of her, then deliberately jammed them into her skirt pockets, as though trying to keep her anxiety hidden.
Instead, as soon as she had her hand in her pocket, she felt for the answer button and held it down, knowing her phone would call back the last number she had dialed. Since it had been Sherlock, she hoped he would realise what had happened and contact the police. Meanwhile, she needed to distract Roger, so he wouldn’t hear the call connecting.
“An excuse for what, Roger dear?” she asked, trembling. She stepped back again, toward the bathroom door. A few more steps and maybe she could close the door before he reached her. She could hear the call connecting now. She cleared her throat to try and cover the tiny ringing sound.
“Don’t ‘Roger dear’ me, Martha,” he snarled, looming closer. “You’ve been looking for a way out of this marriage for a long time now…and it seems you’ll finally get your wish.”
Martha heard a tiny voice say, “Sherlock Holmes,” in her pocket just as Roger made a sudden lunge for her. She whirled toward the bathroom door, and for a moment, she thought she would succeed in getting a door between them. Then an iron grip clamped down on her shoulder, and she was spun toward him.
“Help me!” she cried, and she heard a tiny exclamation come from the phone speakers, just before Roger’s fist crashed against her head and she knew no more.
Fuzzy carpet fibers tickled Martha’s nose.
Why am I on the floor? she wondered, as she tried to roll over. She couldn’t move properly – her hands seemed to be stuck together. Her head throbbed terribly, and the side of her face felt sticky.
Memory came flooding back, and she looked around frantically.
She was lying on the floor of her bedroom. Her hands were bound together before her with the necktie that Roger had been wearing. A bag stood open on the bed beside the suitcase she had been packing, and several of Roger’s things were protruding from it. Clearly, he had abandoned his usual meticulous packing style, and was simply cramming items in so he could make his escape.
Martha made another effort to move to a sitting position, and succeeded in propping up a bit on her elbow. Suddenly Roger loomed above her.
“Get up, my darling,” he snarled, seizing her by the elbow and yanking her to her feet. “Looks like you and I are going to take a little ride.”
“Where?” Martha couldn’t keep her voice from trembling.
“I know a nice, quiet place we can go and feed the wildlife.”
Somehow, Martha didn’t think he was talking about ducks.
His steely grip on her arm propelled Martha forward, through the doorway, out into the hall and into the living room. He shoved her into the armchair.
“You sit right here. I’ll be right back, and we’ll go for that ride.”
He turned and walked swiftly to the bedroom again. Martha began to struggle to her feet – and froze when she saw a figure in the shadows of the dark dining room.
He laid a gloved finger to his lips, and motioned her back down into the chair. Martha hastily complied, and just in time – Roger strode into the room, bag in hand.
He bent over to seize her elbow again, and suddenly Sherlock was on him.
Martha was frozen in her chair. She had seen her share of fights in action movies. She knew what a brawl between two men should look like.
This wasn’t anything like that.
Sherlock and Roger were a tangle of arms and legs. Punches and blows were flying fast and furious, not alternating in big, smooth roundhouse moves like they did in the movies. Frankly, they reminded her more of a pair of tomcats scrapping over the attentions of a lady than anything else. There were elbows and slaps and eye pokes and suddenly Roger had Sherlock on his back, his hands gripped tight around Sherlock’s slim throat.
He’s strangled seventeen men to death.
Martha’s paralysis broke, and she lurched up from her chair. Awkwardly seizing the small table lamp beside her in her bound hands, she stepped forward and swung that lamp like a cricket bat.
Baseball, she thought wildly to herself. They play baseball here.
Roger was slumped, unmoving, on top of Sherlock. Sherlock was gasping for air, struggling to climb out from under the dead weight of the unconscious serial killer. Sobbing, Martha shoved at Roger’s shoulder, helping to roll him off of Sherlock.
Once he was free, he scrambled up to a sitting position, then pulled out a jackknife to saw through the silk necktie that bound Martha’s hands.
“The police are on their way,” he choked out, “But I didn’t dare wait for them. Good job I didn’t, or you’d be the main course for the alligators in Fakahatchee Strand. Are you all right, Mrs Hudson?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she gasped. “Are you?”
“Never better,” he wheezed, his voice still hoarse from the abuse to his throat. “Turns out this scarf was an inspired idea. It provided enough protection around my throat to keep him from fracturing my hyoid bone. I thank you again for your thoughtful gift.”
Their eyes met, and they burst into a jag of slightly insane laughter as sirens grew louder in the distance.
It was now nearly one o’clock in the morning. Roger had long since been carried away in an ambulance, a watchful officer by his side. The police were finally wrapping up the scene at the Hudson’s house. Despite the chill, Martha sat outside with Sherlock, in the wicker chairs on the front porch. The head of Homicide, Major Lana Villarreal, stepped up to join them.
“Mrs Hudson, Mr Holmes, we will probably need to ask you more questions, but I know it’s been a long night. I’m going to need you to come down to the station on First Avenue tomorrow morning. All right?”
Martha smiled up at her gratefully.
“Thank you, Major. I’m really quite knackered.” At the puzzled expression on Major Villarreal’s face, Martha explained, “I’m very tired.”
“Well, try to get some sleep, Mrs Hudson, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
She turned to Sherlock. “How long were you planning to stay in America?”
“As long as necessary to secure a firm case against Roger Hudson,” he replied, coolly. “You have all of my documentation on the evidence I’ve uncovered. You should have ample evidence for a guilty verdict.”
“Would you be willing to return for a trial if necessary?”
“Absolutely. I plan to make sure this case doesn’t get bungled.”
An irritated frown crossed her face, but she simply nodded, then turned to go. “I’ll see you both in the morning then. Call if you need directions. Good night.”
They stood to watch the police begin to leave. Sherlock turned to Martha and said, "I should be going back to my hotel. Need to make travel arrangements."
Martha smiled. “Me, too.”
Sherlock regarded her shrewdly. "Ah, of course - you prefer the streets of London to the beaches of Florida. You'll be coming back home, then?"
"Yes, dear - at my time of life, when you've seen one speedo, you've seen them all."
Martha looked over at the young man beside her. He was always so prickly, so standoffish – and yet there were many moments where she sensed the lost, lonely child he once was, a child who never received enough hugs and affection when he needed them.
Stepping over to him, she leaned her head against his shoulder, slipped her arm around his waist.
"Thank you, Sherlock, for saving me."
Sherlock was startled by the contact, obviously unsure of what to do with his hands. He finally put an awkward arm around her shoulder, patting her stiffly.
“I could say the same to you. I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley with a lamp.” He paused, then smirked. “Of course, it wouldn’t be dark, then…”
She giggled a bit and nudged against him with her shoulder.
“No, silly boy – I meant, thank you for saving me from a lifetime married to a monster. He was so clever, the police would never have caught him."
Sherlock snorted at this assessment of the police, and his posture softened, his fingers squeezing her shoulder softly.
"Not quite clever enough, it seems. Criminals always seem to make at least one mistake. Roger Hudson’s was being foolish enough to marry the sharpest woman I know."
“Oh, Sherlock," she said, putting her other arm around him and hugging him softly. A moment later, she felt his arms wrap softly around her shoulders in a tentative, inexperienced hug. Poor boy, she thought to herself. I don't know how he was raised, but what he really needs is a mother.
She squeezed once more, then released him, asking, "Tea, Sherlock?"
"Do you have any more of those little custard tarts?" He grinned back boyishly.
She patted his arm affectionately.
"Let's go check in the fridge, shall we?"