I’d long become accustomed to the double-takes and the snickers, but even I had to roll my eyes as the man in the Belstaff Milford coat and deerstalker cap, smoking a long-stemmed cherrywood pipe, strolled into the outdoor cafe. Before taking his seat, he inspected one of the tables and chairs carefully. Looking for weapons, perhaps?
As I watched him through the glass of the restaurant’s interior, a woman standing next to me said, “Who does he think he is, Sherlock Holmes or something?”
I sighed. “Reincarnated.”
She stared at me. “What?”
I just shook my head and paid for the bag of coffee beans in my hand before joining the man at the table. “Ah, Johnny,” he said. “So glad you could join me. Nice weather for a spot of tea.” He took off his cap and laid it on one of the empty chairs.
“My pleasure, Uncle H.” The “H” actually stood for Henry, but due to my uncle’s peculiar, um, beliefs, “H” seemed to kill two birds with one stone.
I was too young to remember when he announced to the family that he was in actuality the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, but I do know how the family has reacted ever since. Let’s just say Uncle H isn’t often added to the guest lists for weddings or birthday parties.
Somehow, he’d even managed to hang out his shingle and attract some clients, maybe due to the novelty factor, but I had it on good authority the local police were waiting for the right time to drive up the wagon with the padded walls. I mean really—the reincarnation of a fictional character?
As we drank our Earl Grey and munched on lemon scones, we chatted about the weather and cricket, something I’d had to learn about on the Internet since it wasn’t standard fare for a boy growing up in Poughkeepsie.
But there was a bit of a different air about him today, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Although as the minutes ticked by, a gleam in his eye told me there was something afoot, and he was dying to tell me about it.
“Okay, Uncle H, what’s up? I suspect this little tea party isn’t just to toast my health.”
Uncle H tapped the side of his nose. “I always knew you had promise as a sleuth, Johnny. Your talents are wasted in the accounting business.”
I gave him a skeptical eye. “And you’re not known for flattery. You want something.”
“I need something. This is one of those times when your experience with those boring little spreadsheets and tax forms of yours might come in handy.”
From flattery right back down to flat earth. But that was more like the Uncle H I knew, so I relaxed a bit. “I’m listening.”
“It’s my latest client. Art theft. She owned a John William Waterhouse painting that went missing a week ago while she and her staff were out of the house. No prints, no witnesses—save a neighbor who thought they saw a delivery van.”
“You said ‘staff.’ Was this woman wealthy?”
Uncle H peered at me. “A couple of Waterhouse paintings sold at auction for a couple million each not long ago.”
“Ah. Well, surely she must have had security in place. Alarms, cameras …”
“Rottweilers. They have free rein of her fenced property.”
“Okay, so why didn’t the dogs tear the thief to pieces?”
“Probably threw some sausages at them. It’s an old trick, I’ll hand you, but it works. My client is an animal lover. And a very intelligent woman, I might add.”
I noted a deferential tone in his voice. Very interesting. And unusual. So I couldn’t help myself and asked, “Her name isn’t Irene, by any chance, is it?”
Uncle H just blinked slowly at me for a few moments. “Come again?”
My uncle continued, “The painting was carefully removed from its frame. Very professional.”
“Was anything else stolen?”
“No, and she had other valuables that were untouched. That is, nothing else was taken except for a can of brown spray paint. She’s an amateur artist in her spare time.”
“One. Aristocles Monastero.”
“Aristocles? Nobody has names like that anymore. Not since, well …”
“The eighteenth century?” Uncle H tilted his head.
Fantastic!!!!! Great writing and mystery! Truly a fun and humorous read!