Chelsea Hotel Number 1
Lucy took us back to her home, which turned out to be a hotel off the Tottenham Court Road. We were showed in somewhere around back by her brother, who was the night porter. The hotel had been in her family for generations, more or less since the days of Nell Gwyn.
Her brother, she said, knew what she did for money and turned a blind eye to it.
“Hello, Harry,” she said, kissing him affectionately. The fire escape was thrown open and we were shown through in to an industrial looking kitchen, fallen quiet now, past a side room where a high-stakes card game seemed to be taking place. The place was old – obviously added to over the years – and in this part of the building all wooden beams and musky Dickensian air. Into another dark corner with a bar and an old fashioned fire place, the boy bid us to sit down.
Sherlock Holmes looked around. “This isn’t what I had in mind at all.”
“I hadn’t thought such places still existed,” I laughed. “I feel like I’ve seen more of London now in a day than I ever did before in a lifetime.”
“Gin?” said Lucy.
“London Dry,” said Holmes. “But I never drink when I’m on a case.”
“Are you on a case, Mr Holmes?”
“I regret, one of the utmost seriousness.”
“For Queen and country?” She said. “You’re a regular James Bond. I knew you weren’t no ordinary policeman.”
“Your employer told us it’s possible the suspect we’re looking for worked in your establishment until the week before last,” I said, showing her the woman’s portrait. “But he couldn’t be sure it was her. Did you know her?”
Lucy looked. “It’s a good likeness,” she said. “yes, I reckon I knew her. I didn’t get on with her, though. Her name was Eileen, or something. Stuck-up tart.”
“Any ideas where we might find her?”
“Could be on the moon for all I care.”
Holmes sighed. “Could you tell us else anything about her? Any details at all may help us.”
She shrugged. “We did service one gentlemen together. Of course we didn’t do too much talking, what with her being mounted one end, and I the other…”
“No. Of course.”
“She tasted like cherries. Not that it helps you.”
“On the contrary. You’ve been most helpful,” I said. “Thank you, Lucy.”
“No. It won’t do,” said Sherlock Holmes, pacing around. “It won’t do at all.”
“Now look here. It may not be the Ritz or the Hilton, but this hotel’s been in my family for seven generations. I’ll thank you not to bad mouth it or me whilst you’re a guest here,” Lucy moaned. “Why do you want to find her, anyway? What’s wrong with me? I’m younger, and prettier.”
“Yes indeed,” Holmes laughed. “But you’re not a threat to national security. I’ve nothing against you or this establishment miss – Lucy. I was simply remarking that it provides us with a poor defensive position against the men who have pursued us here for the last half hour.”
I admit that this came as something of a surprise to me – as neither I nor the girl had been aware of anyone following us. “Holmes, a word in your shell-like?”
I took him aside.
“How did you know that we would find the woman from the painting at One-Eyed Jack’s? She doesn’t look like a tart.”
“I can still hear you,” said Lucy.
“They never do,” said Holmes. Besides that, I didn’t know. But I was prepared to drag you around every vice den in London on a hunch until we found her. And given our present situation, I am certain we are close.”
“And you think she went to ground because she knew the frenchman was about to croak it?”
“I don’t know, Watson. But we have more pressing concerns. Three men have been following us since we left the aforementioned house of ill-repute. From the skill with which they concealed themselves they are certainly professionals.”
“But who’s side are they on?”
“Not ours, I’m afraid. Perhaps with the secret services. Regular James Bonds, as our friend Lucy would have it.”
“Do you think we’ve put her in danger coming here?”
“I don’t think you two are policemen at all,” put in Lucy. “Who are you?”
“We haven’t been formally introduced. I am Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective. And this is my assistant Doctor Watson.”
“Lucy Hudson. Pleased to meet you.”
“Miss Hudson. I assume you intend to spend the night here? It appears that in getting acquainted with you, we aroused the wrong kind of interest in our work. No need to be alarmed, but you will undoubtedly be safest here with those you trust. Their quarrel is with my friend, and me. He will remain here and watch over you. I shall attempt to draw out our pursuers and question them. In the event that I do not return, look for me here.” and he scribbled down an address and thrust a piece of paper into my hand.
“He’s welcome to stay – but I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”
“Bloody hell. You think these people are serious?”
He smiled. It was the first time I had ever seen him do so: “Nothing I can’t handle. Miss Hudson – My companion will happily remain here – and will not move from that chair until your safety is ensured. This case should be concluded within forty-eight hours or so.” And saying that he opened up the window and hopped out into the night.
“What was all that about me being your assistant?” I jumped up, and then remembering Holmes’ promise to Lucy reluctantly sat back down in my chair.
“Bloody hell,” I said.