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When an entire English village is wiped out in apparent mass spontaneous combustion, London contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Holmes goes undercover to find a terror ring. In Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and mustangs, believing Holmes has abandoned her. What caused the horror in Stonegrange? Can Holmes stop the terrorists before they unleash their outré weapon again?

 

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A Case of Spontaneous Combustion

SF mystery

Stephanie Osborn

 

 

Prologue — Changes in Routine

Stonegrange was a little old English hamlet in the County of Wiltshire in the Salisbury Plain of England, much like any other such ancient British village: a tiny central square in the midst of which crouched a hoary, venerated church, surrounded by a few small shops, and residences on the outskirts tapering off into the surrounding farmlands. On Sundays the church was full, and on Thursdays the outlying farmers brought their produce in to market. The occasional lorry carried in other supplies, and the Post Office ran every day but Sunday. So small was the village that the constable wasn’t even full time.

Still and all, it wasn’t very far from a main thoroughfare, the A338, that ran through Salisbury and on down to Bournemouth and Poole, and it wasn’t uncommon for lorry drivers to stop for a bite in the local pub, or even park their rigs in an empty lot just off the square for a good, safe night’s rest. Sometimes they even used the lot to hand off cargo from one freight company to another.

So no one thought twice when a flat-bed trailer showed up overnight in the lot, a large wooden crate lashed firmly to its middle. The locals figured it was either a hand-off, or someone’s tractor rig had broken down and been hauled off for repair, while leaving the cargo in a safe place.

* * *

Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, horse trainer, detective, and one of the foremost hyperspatial physicists on the planet, answered the phone at the ranch near Florissant, Colorado.

"Holmes residence," she murmured. "Skye speaking."

"Hi there, Skye, Hank Jones here," Colonel Henry Jones, head of security for Schriever Air Force Base, greeted the lady of the house from the other end of the line. "If you don’t mind, grab Holmes and then hit the speaker phone."

"Oh, hi, Hank," Skye replied warmly. "Good to hear from you, but I’m afraid I can’t oblige. Sherlock’s not here right now. Billy Williams called him down to the Springs to update him on some new MI-5 HazMat techniques; I completed my certification last month, but Sherlock had a nasty little cold and missed out."

"Oh," Jones said blankly. "Well, are YOU available?"

"Um, I guess so, for whatever that’s worth," a hesitant Skye said. "Depends. Whatcha got?"

"Murder in the residential quarters at Peterson," Jones noted, grim. "Suspects and victim were all Schriever personnel, though, so I get to have fun with it. Joy, joy."

"And you could use a bit of help?"

"‘Fraid so," Jones sighed. "As usual, I’m short-handed right now. The Pentagon never seems to get the fact that ‘Security’ means ‘document control,’ ‘police force,’ ‘guard duty,’ ‘investigation,’ and half a million other different jobs all rolled together, on a base like this." He sighed again. "Listen, is there any chance you could meet me down there in about an hour or so, have a look around the crime scene yourself, then call your husband in when he’s available if you need to? As a favor to me? I need to get rolling on it A.S.A.P."

"Um, okay," Skye agreed after a moment’s thought. "Yeah, I can at least get started on it, and collect the initial data for Sherlock. Maybe even come to some basic conclusions and formulate a theory for us to work on. Gimme the address and I’ll buzz on down…"

* * *

The trailer remained where it was, off Stonegrange’s central square, for two days, and still no one thought to question. After all, tractors had mechanical difficulties just like the residents’ own autos and lorries, and sometimes those difficulties took a few days to repair. So no inquiries were made. The trailer was ignored.

Until, at precisely 11:02 p.m. three nights after its arrival, the crate emitted a soft, reverberating hum. No one was near enough to hear it, however—at least, no one curious enough to bother checking it out. Exactly five minutes later, a loud zap! sounded from the box.

Stonegrange was as silent as the tomb the rest of the night.

The next morning, the flat-bed trailer was gone.

* * *

Jones showed Skye into the apartment.

"I haven’t even been in here myself yet," he confessed, "so I have no idea what you’ll find."

Skye moved carefully, studying the floor and carpeting intently before allowing Jones to so much as enter the room.

"Hank," she murmured under her breath in a deeply annoyed tone, "you know better than that. This has been tromped all over."

"Yeah, so I noticed," he muttered, intensely irked. "That all happened before I got notified. Peterson security must have done it when they found the body. Sorry. I was pissed as all hell when I found out the MPs were calling me—from INSIDE the crime scene. I told ‘em to get out and stay out until we got here. And I wasn’t polite about it."

"Good. Well, let me see what I can sort out of this mess. Do keep everyone ELSE out, please," Skye decreed.

"Done," Jones gestured wordless orders at the guards by the door, who looked more than a little sheepish. "Have I mentioned you’re really starting to sound like Holmes when you’re working a case?"

"No, but thanks," Skye grinned. "That’s about the highest compliment you could give me."

"Listen, I can’t stay," Jones apologized. "I’ve got ten different things waiting for me back at the office." He waved over one of the guards. "This is Sergeant Worth; he’s in charge of the guards at the crime scene, and an investigator in training. He didn’t get here until after I called him, so he isn’t to blame for the mess either. You report to Dr. Chadwick-Holmes for now, Worth. Anything she asks, you answer, or you get. Got that?"

"Yes, sir," the sergeant nodded.

"Skye, you know where to reach me."

"That’s fine, Hank," Skye replied somewhat absently, focused and intent on observing the crime scene. "Go do what ya gotta."

"Thanks, gal." And he was gone.

"Okay, so you say we have a married couple, both in the Air Force, husband having an affair, wife now dead?" Skye verified, directing the comment at Worth while studying the rest of the apartment, including the dead woman—at whom she wiggled a confirming finger—still in situ in the living room.

"Right," Worth averred. "Of a gunshot to the head, looks to be service caliber at first eyeball. We’ll know for sure when the coroner’s done. But that’s the wife lying there for sure. So...Victim: the wife, First Louie Evelyn White. Suspect: the husband, Captain Willard White. The captain’s mistress was single, one First Lieutenant Jacqueline Holt, also suspect. We’ve already busted them both for fraternization." He pulled out a paper containing a long list. "I’ve been busy since we got notified; I hope it helps. Here are the phone records—land line and cell—for the last two weeks."

"Oh, very good," Skye decided, accepting the paper. "You’ve got good instincts there, Sergeant."

"Thanks. From my point of view, the husband and his lover are the logical suspects, although I admit their alibis are pretty decent. Here are their statements." He handed Skye another sheaf of paper. "But you can see all the calls between the two. I think one of ‘em offed the wife so they could be together."

"It’s a reasonable theory, true," Skye admitted, scanning through the list, "but let’s see what the evidence has to say before we jump to that conclusion."

Skye pulled out her forensics kit and a large lens, and fairly swarmed over the apartment, studying footprints, eliminating those of the guards—much to their discomfiture—and looking for specific evidence pertaining exclusively to who had murdered the woman. Then she focused her attention on the dead body.

"Hm," she muttered to herself. "Sergeant, hold this evidence bag for me, please…"

Worth took the evidence bag and held it open while Skye took scrapings from beneath the fingernails of the dead woman. Then he extracted another evidence bag from her forensics kit while Skye used forceps to lift hairs from the clothing of the body. She bent low, scrutinizing the dead woman’s shirt, looking for stray hairs. Suddenly Skye caught her breath.

"Bingo," she said in an undertone. "Surely not…" She wielded her lens, studying the victim’s identification badge. "Damn. They did. They really did. That’s…interesting."

"What?" Worth wondered, overhearing.

"Sergeant, hand me the fingerprint kit," Skye grinned up at him. "I got latents on the name tag. Then let me see that phone listing again. I noticed something funny about it."

"Funny ha-ha, or funny strange?" Worth asked, putting the kit in her outstretched hand.

"Strange," Skye replied. "Very strange."

* * *

One day later, the farmers began showing up in Stonegrange for the Thursday market. Joel Austen backed his lorry up to his usual spot in the farmer’s market just outside the village and got out.

"Hey, Joel!" his friend and nearest neighbour Robert Grey called. "’Bout time ye showed up, mate!"

"Aw," a sheepish Austen began as he commenced setting up his booth, "our lit’le bitch whelped this mornin’, an’ Sally ‘uz worried. She dotes on ‘at dog ‘bout’s much as ye do y’r little ‘uns. I thought I ‘uz never gonna get th’ produce picked an’ loaded."

"’Ere, lemme come he’p ye wif ‘at," Rob offered, grabbing the board that served as a counter and setting it on sawhorses while Austin arranged the bushel baskets of strawberries, peas, courgettes and rhubarb, picked fresh from Austin’s farm earlier that morning.

"Nah, Rob," Austen protested. "Ye need ter be mindin’ o’ yer own booth."

"No rush. Ain’t nobody showed yet," Grey pointed out, continuing to help Austen set up his booth. "Folk’re late ‘is mornin’, seems loyke."

Austen sat down an overflowing basket of peas and looked around. At’s weird, he thought. Tain’t nuffin movin’ in th’ whole ruddy village, an’ I don’t hear one single noise o’ any sort, not even bird song. He glanced around. Ain’t nuffin’ movin’ ‘r soundin’ in th’ entire barmy place. Just then the retrofitted clock in the church steeple chimed the quarter-hour, and it was all he could do not to jump. Ceptin’ th’ clock, I s’pose, he added ruefully to himself. Then he glanced down the street; at this time of day, there should have been a mild buzz of activity as shops opened. But all th’ shops ‘re still locked an’ empty, he thought, and tain’t no sign o’ life ANYwhere, ceptin’ me an’ Rob an’ t’other farmers f’r th’ market. ‘At’s powerful strange. He shivered. Powerful strange. Kinder...uncanny-like.

"Drought been kinda bad lately," Peter Fraley noted just then, staring at the limp trees lining the square. "Even th’ trees ‘re startin’ ter look wilted." Austen realised the others were surreptitiously studying the deserted village, too. He followed Fraley’s gaze to the trees. A few of them showed splits in the bark, though no sap ran down from the wounds, despite the time of year.

"Yeh," Bertram Farnsworth agreed. "Startin’ ter need some rain awful bad. Me melons are lookin’ mighty poorly. But where the hell is ever’body?"

He had finally stated what they were all thinking. The farmers stared at each other, puzzled.

"What ye think is up, Joel?" Grey asked Austen.

"Dunno, Rob," Austen answered, allowing his uncertainty to show then, though not his unease. "Mrs. Dayson’s one a’ me best customers, an’ SHE ought ter ‘ave been here by now, sure."

"Yeh," Grey agreed, as several of the other farmers nodded. "You’d ha’ thought th’ Second Coming ‘d happened, an’ we got forgot, somehow."

"Well, I’m goin’ down ter Mrs. Dayson’s," Austen declared, making up his mind. "Her house is just off th’ next street. Mebbe there’s been a national disaster, or sumfin’ loyke ‘at. I ‘uz out o’ th’ house afore the news came on th’ telly this mornin’, what wif th’ dog an’ all."

"All right," Grey agreed. "We’ll wait here for ye. Come back an’ let us know what in hell’s goin’ on."

Austen set off.

* * *

It didn’t take long for Skye to uncover the truth.

"Another party was in the room," she declared, comparing her latents to the service prints taken of Lieutenant Holt, Lieutenant White, and Captain White. "Not only is there an extra set of footprints on the carpet, these fingerprints don’t match. And look—one of the prints is actually made up of blood spatter. So it occurred immediately FOLLOWING the fatal wound. The other fingerprints are also partly in the fresh blood."

"Nice catch," Worth said admiringly, and Skye blushed.

"Not really," she murmured. "I mean, look." She handed the sergeant her lens. "Kinda hard to miss, don’t you think?"

"Well, yeah," Worth admitted. "Once you know what to look for, it IS pretty obvious. So now we have to identify the owner."

"I’d say check out…" Skye consulted the phone listing, "Lieutenant Mark Perkins."

"Why?"

"Look at the number of calls from the wife to Perkins," Skye pointed out, "calls that suddenly pick up in frequency about four days ago, at the same time the frequency between the husband and Holt do."

"So?"

"A MALE buddy," Skye shrugged, hypothesizing, "that she confided in, when she discovered her husband’s affair? A buddy who then decided to take advantage of the situation, maybe?"

"And got mad when she wouldn’t betray her husband," Worth nodded his dawning comprehension, "even despite the husband’s infidelity."

"It’s a theory worth checking," Skye decided. "I’m headed back to Jones’ office and see what we can see there. Go ahead and call in the coroner. We can’t leave her lying here indefinitely. Get some good in situ photos first, though."

"I took some before you and Colonel Jones arrived."

"Good. Take more." Skye waggled a finger around the room. "Focus on what I’ve examined."

"Okay," Worth agreed, completely amenable to the notion. Skye noticed, and raised an eyebrow, impressed. "It IS new evidence, after all. I’ll get on it, and I’ll keep things buttoned down here. Let me know what you find out."

"Wilco," Skye grinned then. "I’d say you’re going places, Sergeant Worth. Keep it up."

"Thank you, ma’am!"

* * *

In short order, Skye’s theory had been confirmed. She sat in Jones’ office as he correlated and identified the spurious latent prints as belonging to Perkins; sent off the forensics bags for immediate DNA identification; watched as Perkins was brought in.

She listened from behind a one-way mirror as Jones confronted Perkins with the evidence, and saw him break down, confessing his longstanding love of Evelyn White and his anger and disgust with her philandering husband, explaining that this was hardly the first time Captain White had cheated on his wife. He admitted to the argument with Evelyn over her own determination of fidelity, and his loss of control that led him to take out his anger on the woman he loved, instead of the man who had wronged her. Then he began to weep heart-brokenly.

"That’s that," Jones noted quietly, coming out of the interrogation room and addressing a saddened Skye. "We’ll put him on a suicide watch, just in case. And I’ll fill in Worth like you asked. Nice work, Skye," he added, trying to lighten the tone. "And all in a couple of hours. You’ll be home in time to have dinner ready for Holmes."

"Thanks, Hank," Skye nodded, blushing but subdued. "Really, it was pretty simple. But you’re right, I should get going."

"Okay, I’ll have the usual fee deposited into the account," Jones called after her as she took her leave.

"Thanks," she called back absently, already headed out.

* * *

"It’s just…peculiar-like, don’t ye think, Homer?" one farmer asked another, glancing around. "I ain’t never heard it this quiet in town before. Not even a bloody bird chirpin.’"

"I know, Peter, I know," the second farmer replied, glancing about anxiously. "Right creepy-like, ye know? Like one ‘a them ‘orror films, just afore some big ugly jumps out atcha wi’ a damn knife or summat."

"Oh, I know, all right," Peter replied, trying not to shiver, and rubbing his arms, then folding them tightly. "I’ll be right glad f’r Joel ter git ‘is arse back ‘ere an’ tell us what’s up."

"Makes ‘bout a dozen of us," Robert Grey interjected.

* * *

That night, over dinner, a highly satisfied Sherlock Holmes noted, "And now we are both properly certified on the handling of hazardous materials. I must confess, I am quite glad to get that little matter behind me. Those suits can be deucedly hot on a sunny summer’s day."

"I know," Skye grinned at him. "At least your first use of it was back in the winter. It wasn’t so bad then."

"True," Holmes smiled. "Quite useful, in fact, all things considered. And how was your day, my dear?"

"Oh, nothing much," Skye dissembled, hiding her embarrassment by using the undercover training that her husband himself had provided, in order to keep up a façade. She feared if he found out how she had spent her day on such a simplistic case, he would be irritated. "Wound up running down to the Springs and doing some errands. No big deal."

"Excellent, then," Holmes decided, turning his attention to his food. "Would you like to go for a horseback ride after dinner, perhaps?"

"Yeah! Sounds great, hon." Skye smiled, happy.

* * *

Only fifteen minutes after he had departed, Austen came back from his visit to Mrs. Dayson’s house at a dead run, face white to the lips. He reached the other farmers, out of breath, terror etched on his stolid, ordinary features.

"Wha’s wrong, Joel?" Grey asked, concerned.

But before Austen could answer, his white face turned a sickly green. He doubled over and began vomiting violently, purging his substantial English farmer’s breakfast. The others backed up, shocked, staying just out of range of Austen’s vomitus. Finally Austen had nothing left to purge, and he dry-heaved for several moments before panting to catch his breath.

"Joel, ye be all right, mate?" Grey murmured, moving toward his friend.

"Oh, dear Lord God," he gasped, and nearly started heaving again. "They’re dead. Ever’ last blessed one of ‘em I found, includin’ th’ animals, an’ I covered five blocks at a run. All dead. Burned ‘orrible."

"BURNED?" Grey repeated, shocked. "But none o’ th’ ‘ouses ‘re damaged."

"I know," Austen gasped. "Neither be any o’ the furnishin’s, ‘cept what they might be sittin’ in, or the like. It’s like they all just sorta…" the farmer paused, searching his memory for the right term, "spontaneously combusted."

 

Chapter 1 — Disconnects

Holmes was in the study going over the books for The Holmes Agency after tea about two days later when he noticed a discrepancy. Furrowing his brow, he studied the rather tidy sum which was definitely missing from his computer entries of their bank transactions.

"Hm," he murmured to himself, "we are several thousand dollars better off than I should have anticipated—nearly ten thousand, in fact. Roughly the amount of a basic case fee. What in Heaven’s name is that all about?"

Curious, he wheeled his desk chair over to the filing cabinet and extracted the folder containing the recent months’ bank statements. Flipping through them, he shortly found what he was looking for.

"A single deposit, from the U.S. Air Force, authorised by Colonel Henry Jones, and made out to The Holmes Agency," he noted. "Yet the date…" He looked up, grey eyes wide. There was something of hurt, of betrayal, in their depths. "But she told me nothing happened. She TOLD me nothing happened."

* * *

Dumping the remainder of the bank statements back into the folder, and heedlessly shoving the folder into the filing drawer, he reached for the phone, dialing a particular number.

"Colonel Jones? Sherlock Holmes here. I was going over our agency books, and I have a few questions, if you don’t mind. No, no, you haven’t shorted us. In fact, it seems I have an extra few thousand from you of which I have been heretofore unaware…"

The detective listened silently for several minutes. "I see," he said finally. "Yes, it does sound so. Yes, you are more than welcome. Good-bye." He replaced the phone on its cradle and stared at it for several moments. Abruptly he stood and stalked to the door of the study. "SKYE!" he bellowed. "Skye Holmes!"

Pattering feet sounded somewhere in the house, and soon Skye appeared in the doorway.

"Yeah, Sherlock?" she asked, wearing a concerned expression at his tone. The furrows of concern on her countenance deepened when she saw his face looking like a thundercloud. "What’s wrong?"

"Perhaps it is you who should tell me," he said coolly, turning and going back to the desk and the computer that sat on it. "According to our books, we are short some ten thousand dollars that the bank says we HAVE." He stared at her. "And here is the bank’s statement indicating that the ten thousand came from Colonel Jones—at the precise period of time when I was undergoing MI-5 hazardous materials training with Billy a few days ago. At the very time when you told me nothing happened." He waved the bank statement at her. "Perhaps you can explain?"

"Uhm," Skye said, face flushing guiltily. "It…wasn’t much. Hank called and said he needed some help, a domestic dispute at Peterson, with a murder involved. So, um, I…"

* * *

"Took it upon yourself to look into it without so much as saying a word to me about it," Holmes said, grey eyes colder than his wife had ever seen them—at least, directed at her. "And then lied to me about it."

"I didn’t!" Skye protested, upset. "I TOLD you I went down to the Springs on an errand! It WASN’T much, Sherlock. It was just—"

"Your first solo case, successfully solved, and you did not see fit to tell me about it?" Holmes demanded. "Your husband and, dare I say it, mentor? I should have thought you would have been shouting it to the heavens. Instead you told me nothing happened." He drew out the last two words by way of emphasis, his tone biting and acerbic.

"But," Skye tried again, "you don’t understand, Sherlock. It wasn’t that big a deal. It really was a bunch of nothing."

"So you belittle it, as well," he observed, his voice, his very demeanor, even colder than before. "You have become so good that you no longer feel the need to triumph over your first independent, successful case. Perhaps," he added, turning away so that she could not see his face and interpret his expressions, "you no longer feel the need for a mentor?"

"No, Sherlock!" Skye exclaimed, horrified. "Please, let me just tell you about the case."

"I have already had a full, detailed explanation of the case…from Colonel Jones," Holmes replied, this time with Arctic ice in his tone. "How you deduced a third party, identified said third party from the cell phone records, had Jones verify the deduction via fingerprints, orchestrated the confrontation of the perpetrator, and thereby extracted a confession. Jones was highly impressed," he added. "Hardly something to be scorned, Skye."

"Jones wasn’t at the scene," Skye said miserably. "He didn’t see how it went down. Hell, Sherlock, they didn’t need us—"

"You mean you," Holmes corrected.

"I mean either of us," Skye retorted, beginning to become irked with his irascible attitude. "Especially you. This would’ve been one of those cases you get annoyed at, because they’re so easy."

"If they are so easy for you now, then you definitely no longer need a mentor," Holmes fired back, "and perhaps no longer need—or wish—a partner."

"I never said that," Skye objected, incensed. "I never said, or even THOUGHT, anything LIKE that! That’s putting words in my mouth, and it’s not fair! Sherlock, just calm down about it. It isn’t a big deal, and frankly I think you’re over-reacting."

"Over-reacting!" Holmes spun on his wife. "I had anticipated this moment for months, Wife. I had planned how it should occur; how I would see a case perfectly suited to your abilities and hand it entirely to you. How I would watch proudly as you solved it in a deliciously systematic fashion; how I had planned a private little celebration after! How I would watch as my wife came into her own as a consulting detective! But no! You take it upon yourself to go off while my back is turned, and then treat it as if it is so much triviality! Am I so trivial in your mind, then? In your heart? Is this how you feel about my work, about our marriage?"

"No," Skye said in a quiet voice, suddenly understanding that she had inadvertently co-opted and dashed a very private, very personal dream of his.

"I should not be able to tell it from this," he responded bitterly. He flung the bank statement upon the desk and stared at it for long moments, unseeing. Then he turned, stalked past her, ignoring her imploring hand, and left the house.

He spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening in the barn with the horses.

Silently Skye tidied up the bank statements, entered the missing record into their computer accounting books, and left the study.

* * *

Skye prepared a special dinner that night, replete with all of her husband’s favorite foods; but Holmes only picked at it. When the rather dismal meal was complete, he moved into the den and sat in an armchair with a glass of brandy and his pipe while Skye put away the barely-touched leftovers. She came into the den to find that he had considerately prepared the customary glass of brandy for her as well, but it was sitting on the end table by the couch. He pointed to it without saying anything, and she took the indicated seat, well aware that normally the two would be companionably sipping their libations while leaning against each other and reading, or watching television, all while Holmes smoked his pipe.

Holmes set aside his brandy temporarily and rose, taking down his violin from the special shelf on the bookcase reserved for it. He returned to his seat in the armchair, laying the violin across his lap. He took another sip from his brandy, then scraped the bow across the violin strings randomly, producing a harsh, discordant sound. Brendan, their English spaniel, and Anna, their Siamese cat, both departed for regions unknown at the racket.

Skye’s spine crawled at the noise. Well, at least we have the appropriate theme music, she thought sadly. I never meant to lie to him. I didn’t think of it as lying. I just didn’t think it was worth telling him about. I was kind of embarrassed, to tell the truth. That sergeant could probably have solved the case himself, let alone Sherlock. I figured Sherlock would be aggravated that I’d bothered even going down to the Springs for something "so trivial," as he’d say. It never once occurred to me that he would take it this seriously. There was a lull in the violin screeching, and Skye decided to attempt reconciliation.

"Sherlock," she began, "I—"

The scraping began again, more vehement this time, and Skye silenced.

They remained so until it was bedtime.

* * *

Matters did not improve at bedtime. Holmes simply rose, put away the violin—much to Skye’s relief; the din was grating on her nerves—and headed into the master suite, where he rummaged in the dresser, snatching out something, then grabbed his dressing gown on the way to the bathroom. Skye heard the bathroom door lock, and wanted to cry. Without a word, she turned down the bedclothes and waited for him to emerge so she could complete her own bedtime preparations.

When he came out, Holmes was wearing a complete set of pyjamas from neck to ankle, slippers below that, and his dressing gown over all. He doffed his dressing gown, hanging it on the bedpost as was his wont, and crawled into bed, reaching for the book he had been reading before bed for the past several nights.

With a sigh, Skye turned to the dresser and extracted a sleep shirt, then went into the bathroom. She, however, did not so much as partly close the door, but prepared for bed with it wide open, so that had her husband wished, he could have seen her naked body, could have watched her, could have spoken to her.

But Holmes did none of these things.

When Skye came to bed, he closed his book and turned out the light, lying passively on his back in the dark; the moon was new, and very little in the way of starlight filtered through the closed curtains at the windows. Skye reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. To her surprise, the detective, who normally responded warmly to her advances, rolled over, turning his back to her and curling on his side.

Patience, Skye, she told herself, feeling rejected, and struggling with her roiling emotions. You hurt him—BADLY—without ever meaning to. I didn’t have a clue my first "solo" case meant so much to him, and on top of that, he’s taking it personally because I didn’t make a big to-do over it. He thinks that’s my attitude toward detecting in general, his chosen and much beloved profession, rather than simply that one case. And like a lot of men… Skye paused, and considered her own attitude toward science, and some women, he equates himself with his profession, so a perceived slur on it is a perceived slur on him.

He’s dealing with it, though: he came back to me from the barn, and spent the evening with me, even if it was pretty strained. And he’s here in bed, instead of on the couch or in the other bedroom. I just need to give him time, and stay here beside him, and make sure he knows how much I love him. Everything’s gonna be okay. We just need time together. After all, this is our first real argument, and we’ve been a couple for a good year now, or closing on it.

Comforting herself with these thoughts, and planning how she could make things up to Holmes the next day, Skye eventually managed to relax enough to go to sleep.

Beside her, troubled, pained grey eyes stared into the darkness most of the night.

* * *

A little past four in the morning, a knock sounded on the front door, a knock that was Morse code for "M—I." Holmes, still awake and well aware that Skye was soundly asleep, rose hurriedly, donned his dressing gown, and headed for the front door. MI-5 Major Will "Billy" Williams, team lead for the Aerotech Drive Irregulars, stood on the other side.

"Sorry to knock you up so early, Holmes," he murmured, stepping inside, "but this just came through on the secure lines, priority one. I got up the pass with it as fast as I could." He handed Holmes an envelope. "Is your wife still asleep?"

"Yes," Holmes remarked softly. "It was…a bit of a long evening."

"Ah," Williams nodded. "Training horses again?"

"Among other things," Holmes prevaricated, and Billy nodded acceptance, to his relief.

Holmes took the envelope and studied it carefully, then slit it open and extracted the missive inside.

* * *

June 8, 2:04am MDT
Cimarron Springs Hotel
Attn: Williams

Subject: Holmes

Major Williams,

Please fetch Mr. Sherlock Holmes at once and have him waiting at the airfield at Peterson Air Force Base by six o’ clock this morning, local time. Special transport will await him there to bring him to Great Britain immediately. This is a matter of the utmost urgency and secrecy. Under no circumstances is anyone save Mr. Holmes to be notified of this affair, invoking the Suspicious Circumstances clause of the National Security Act.

Director M

M:sb

* * *

Holmes stared at the document, which appeared to be a fax.

"But…what about Skye?" he wondered. "Surely the Director would not summon me without Skye."

"I don’t know, Holmes," Williams shrugged. "But Skye isn’t mentioned in there, and my head’s on the line if I tell her. Invocation of that clause invokes the entire National Security Act, and violation instantly brands me—OR you—a traitor." He paused. "And you know what that means."

"Yes," Holmes said, mind working swiftly. "Perhaps if I call and discuss the matter with the Director…"

"It may be better if you wait and ask once you get there," Billy recommended judiciously. "Skye’s American citizenship may be throwing a spanner into something, and that may be the reason the clause was invoked. If not, then it’ll be easy enough for me to get Skye headed across the Pond after you."

"That is true," Holmes admitted. "Still, I am loath to leave Skye just now…"

* * *

"We don’t have time for discussions, man! We’re on the stopwatch!" Williams paused, staring at the detective in understanding—though he did not understand as much as he thought he did. "You want to wake her and tell her."

"Yes." Holmes was decided.

"No," Williams protested. "I already told you, you CAN’T."

* * *

"What do you recommend I do, then?" Holmes snapped in annoyance. "She is my wife, Billy."

"And she understands the business, Holmes," Williams retorted. "Especially the classified part of it."

"True," Holmes said, more ruefully than Williams realised. "What do you suggest?"

"Sneak into the bedroom and pack a bag, leave her a note, and come on!" Williams urged. "I’ll pop by later and tell her you got called out on something that her citizenship conflicted with, and straighten things. We’ve just got time to get you packed and down the mountain to Schriever as it is!"

"A note? It would take less time to simply wake her and tell her myself."

"No it wouldn’t! Do you really think she’ll let you leave her behind?"

"As you say," Holmes pointed out, "she knows the business. Once I inform her that the National Security Act has been invoked, she will understand. And I can explain to her that I plan to do everything in my power to rectify the circumstances which force her to remain."

"Bollocks! She’ll still want to know what’s going on."

"No, she will not."

"Yes, she WILL! Because you know you wouldn't let it be if the shoe was on the other foot, and she's just like you! And we don't have TIME for this!" Williams argued with the detective, managing despite his frustration to keep his voice low. He glanced at his watch, then exhaled in concern. "Holmes, seriously. It’s getting late. We do not have any more time left for arguments, discussions, or anything else. I’ll barely have time to get you to the airfield as it is. Scribble a quick note, grab your things, and let’s go!"

"...Very well," Holmes acquiesced reluctantly. "Wait here."

"I’ve got orders to do that very thing," Williams noted emphatically. "GO."

* * *

He went, slipping swiftly and silently about the house as he dressed, packed, and wrote a note. In less than a quarter of an hour he and Billy were on the road, leaving the ranch—and Skye—behind.

By six-fifteen in the morning, Mountain Daylight Time, Sherlock Holmes was in the air, winging his way eastward, toward Great Britain.

* * *

Skye woke up around seven-thirty, only to find the bed beside her empty, save for a single note upon the pillow. It was written in Holmes’ firm hand, but in a way that she had come to learn denoted speed.

* * *

Skye,

Something urgent has come up.

I have been summoned to…elsewhere…post-haste. I will contact you when I can. Billy Williams is my contact-point. All communiqués must pass through him.

-Sherlock

* * *

Skye stared at the note in dismay. "He left," she whispered in chagrin so deep it approached a kind of shock. "Without waking me up, without saying goodbye, without telling me what was going on, without taking me with him. Without even a kiss. He…left."

She sprang out of bed, dislodging a sleeping cat and dog in the process, and ran about the house, searching.

"Duffel bag gone…several pairs of jeans gone…half a dozen or so of his favorite shirts…underwear," Skye tallied in the bedroom. "Boots, sneakers, and loafers, socks, all gone." She glanced at the nightstand. It was empty. "He got his book, too."

She darted into the bathroom to continue her observations.

"Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, entire toiletry kit," she enumerated, increasingly horrified. "Gone. Lord, help me."

She ran into the den and stopped dead in consternation.

"All his pipes and tobacco are gone," she moaned, looking at the rack on the mantelpiece. Skye turned around, hand on her forehead in worry, then froze, staring at the bookshelf on the far wall.

"Dear God," she whispered, devastated. "He took his violin."

Skye practically collapsed on the sofa and burst into tears.

* * *

Holmes’ aircraft put down at RAF Northolt on what was effectively the next morning, and he debarked, to be met by Captain Jeremy Huggins, of the Baker Street Irregulars division of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Huggins was, Holmes had come to learn, one of Major Braeden Ryker’s right hand men. Holmes was momentarily to learn that Huggins had been promoted and made Ryker’s second in command. So his presence at the airport spoke volumes to the detective.

"Right this way, sir," Huggins murmured, helping Holmes gather his luggage. "I see you brought your violin. Let me have that and I’ll ensure it’s handled properly while we’re in transit. The rental auto is waiting right over here."

It was, and in seconds, the detective was en route to his Baker Street flat.

* * *

Major Braeden Ryker, chief of the Baker Street Irregulars, awaited him at the flat, as did one other personage.

"Holmes, I’d like for you to meet the flat’s caretaker and housekeeper, Mrs. Louise McLeod," Ryker introduced the pair. "She has really been looking forward to meeting you. She’s been fully briefed, AND she’s a big fan of the stories about you, so I’m sure you’ll get along famously. And she’s one of us―MI-5. Officially retirement age, but there’s much more to Mrs. McLeod than meets the eye. Mrs. McLeod, Sir Sherlock.”

"Pleased, sir," Mrs. McLeod said with a slight bow of her head and a smile.

"Likewise," Holmes murmured somewhat absently, offering his hand and nodding over it. Huggins carried the detective’s luggage―including the treasured violin case—past them as they stood in the entry. “Not to be inconsiderate, but given the rapidity of my summons, perhaps it would be as well to brief me on the situation as soon as may be."

"Yes, of course," Ryker said, then looked out the door; he promptly glanced back at Holmes. "Where’s Skye?" he wondered casually.

"Not here," Holmes replied, succinct.

"Oh? Where is she?" Ryker asked, missing Holmes’ shortness in the innocence of his inquiries.

Where IS she? Holmes mentally reiterated. That is entirely too disingenuous, even for a member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Then again, Williams did not know the reason she was not summoned either. So either he is pressing to know the reason—which I do not yet know myself—or else he has heard something of what happened between myself and Skye, or at least of the case she solved, possibly through Colonel Jones and Williams, and is curious. Either way, he inserts himself into affairs where he does not belong.

* * *

"I should think that question moot, coming from you. In any event, of late, we have begun working cases independently." This answer, by design, evinced considerably more pique in the detective’s voice. And this time, Ryker did not—could not—miss the fact.

"Independently?!" the MI-5 agent exclaimed, surprised. "May I ask why?"

"No," Holmes ordered, in no uncertain terms. "Now, if you please, brief me upon this case."

Ryker blinked, nonplused, before responding.

"Um. Did you get any sleep on the flight, or do you need to crash for about ten minutes first?"

"…A bit. It will be sufficient. If we are in such a deuced hurry, then let us be about it!" Holmes declared testily.

Ryker blinked again, more than a little taken aback at the detective’s foul mood and evasiveness, then shot a worried glance at Mrs. McLeod, who returned it.

* * *

In short order, Ryker had informed Holmes of the horrible calamity in Stonegrange, and, while Mrs. McLeod took care of unpacking Holmes’ things—save the violin, which he himself carefully placed upon a shelf in the sitting room—made to whisk him off to the site.

"Oh, and here, before I forget," Ryker said, handing Holmes a new cell phone. "You’ll need this."

"I have a mobile, Ryker. Is this an upgrade? Perhaps increased security?"

"Yes, this is a new one, being issued to all agents, Holmes. It contains the latest quantum cipher chip capability. I won’t say it’s completely unbreakable, because I’ve learned better, over the years, than to use such absolutes; but if the bad guys should get the code and start translating the messages, it affects the messages and we’ll know immediately through the distortions it would create. I got mine late last week. Tap your phone to it, and all your numbers and files and records and apps and the lot will transfer to it automatically as soon as it reads the old encryption code. That’ll also activate it, and deactivate the old one. Then give me your old one, and I’ll see it gets securely wiped."

Holmes extracted his cell phone from his trousers pocket and did as instructed, tapping it to the phone Ryker held, before relinquishing his old phone and accepting the new one. He placed it into his trousers pocket as Ryker secreted the old one in a hidden jacket pocket.

"Okay, Holmes, let’s go," Ryker said, ushering the detective toward the door of the flat.

"I had wished to speak to the Director briefly," Holmes protested as Ryker tried to hurry him back down the stairs. Ryker shook his head.

"No time right now, Holmes," he demurred. "That’s away over south, and we’re headed west, out of town. The site is still in situ, and we want your trained eyes on it before anything gets moved. But it won’t last much longer before…well, before things start to…to rot," he put the matter bluntly.

"How long has it been since the incident happened?" Holmes wondered, mildly taken aback.

"For your purposes, and given the time zone difference, it’s been something like 72 hours since…whatever the hell happened, happened," Ryker noted. "We tried our damnedest to keep it quiet, but it’s gotten out, at least in Great Britain. It hit some of the, ah, the less-reputable media right after your summons; we think one or more of the local farmers leaked the information. ‘Mass Spontaneous Combustion in Stonegrange,’ and all sorts of such rubbish as that in the headlines of several of the tabloid papers and web news sites. Even a couple of telly reports, but all of ‘em on shows of the dodgy variety. Utter tripe, all of it. A few of the less reputable news reports are trying to connect it to Boscombe and Porton Downs, and Winterbourne Gunner, saying that there was an accident and something was released. But our sources indicate that all three of those M.O.D. facilities were without knowledge of the incident, actually until AFTER everybody else found out. Which says the weapons geeks are focused on the job, I suppose. They only found out when one of their people, who lived in Stonegrange and worked at Winterbourne Gunner, didn’t come in and couldn’t be reached. By that time, their inquiries dovetailed with ours, and they found out there was a...problem. Turns out their missing person was one of the victims. Gimme your phone." He tapped his mobile to Holmes’ mobile once the detective extracted it. "Have a look at the file I just passed you."

Holmes activated his phone, opened and studied the new file on the home screen, staring thoughtfully at the brunette onscreen, with her name on a sidebar next her photograph.

"Janne Löwy. Wait. Could that have been the point of the thing? To eliminate her? What was she working upon?"

"No, we’ve pretty much ruled that out already. Go to the next page in the file. She was a receptionist, no clearance, no real access to anything of consequence. And that was a helluva big overkill anyway."

"Ah. I see."

"So. Back to the media reports. We’ve been trying to put our own spin on it …"

"Spin?"

"Uh, spin in this case means to put one’s own slant on the story. To create a media bias on the particular news item, be it a quotation or an event. It usually involves applying a context to the news item that casts it in the light you want. The media specialists who apply the spin are known as ‘spin doctors,’" Ryker explained the unfamiliar terminology to the Victorian detective.

"Ah yes; I have encountered such before, though I’ve not heard it called that. What sort of spin, then?" Holmes pressed, displeased with the definition. "What kind of context have you created for this…thing?"

"Oh, just that it’s a fake story. The reporting media in question are all either print or online tabloids; you know the sort, they splash ‘Prime Minister Abducted By UFOs To Influence Parliament’ and the like all over the headlines. So it isn’t hard to discredit ‘em, and it seems to be working, which I think is why we’ve had inquiries but no reports from the mainstream media and a lot fewer follow-up articles in the yellow press. But I AM surprised to find it hasn’t hit the international news in the States yet."

"Not good," Holmes muttered to himself. "No, it has not yet made the news there that I am aware of, and I think I would be, all things considered. Granted, you say it ‘hit’ the media after I had already left, but still. I check the so-called tabloid journals less frequently than the more reputable ones, though occasionally the truth may be found there, or I should not check them at all. Nevertheless, I am sure we— I," he corrected himself quickly, "should have noticed a sensational story like THAT. So that, I should think, speaks to the effectiveness of your spin campaign. How large is the crime scene?"

"The whole village," Ryker informed him.

"The entire village?!" Holmes reiterated, grey eyes widening in shocked surprise.

Ryker only nodded.

"Yes, we do need to get there right away. Perhaps I might call M en route, then," Holmes pondered.

"Well, I was planning on briefing you en route," Ryker noted, screwing up his face. "I need to make sure you understand what appears to have happened, the time sequence, and how we know that none of the M.O.D. sites in the area were involved, and preferably before we get there."

"It is that important?"

"Extremely so."

"As much so as the Bentwaters affair last winter?"

"Uh, well, maybe not so much as all that was," Ryker hedged. "But it’s still important. You’re now our principal investigator on the case, and not only do you need to know HOW we know, you need to have the details at hand in case a member of the press ambushes you about it. Because, see, I can’t be completely certain there won’t be media on site, among other things. It SHOULD be clear. It’s supposed to be a closed crime scene, except we can’t really tape it off because it’s so big, and it’s not PUBLICALLY a crime scene, because of the spin doctoring, and..." He sighed. "It’s complicated. Anyway, you have to be ready for anything once we get there."

"Hm. Yes, I can see that. Very well. May I take the time to jot off a note to Skye, then? Such was the nature and timing of my summons that I was unable to speak with her before my departure."

"Of course, Holmes, but hurry. I have strict orders to get you to the site immediately, and I need to go over what we do and don’t know with you."

"I’ll be glad to take it by the courier drop-off," Mrs. McLeod offered, "while you two do your investigating, sir."

"Capital, Mrs. McLeod. I thank you," Holmes said, snatching up a pen and paper and hastily scribbling a brief letter.

* * *

June 9

Skye,

I have arrived safely; I am in London, or perhaps I should say, based here. I am as yet uncertain where my inquiries shall take me. I am sorry that I could not even wake you and tell you of my departure; not only was Billy in a blasted rush, but it seems that a particular act has been invoked that does not allow my speaking of the matter to ANYONE without specific permission. I intend to work on getting this permission for you, and have hopes that not only will I receive it, but will also obtain permission for you to join me—if you wish to do so. From my initial briefings, it seems only logical that an investigator of your calibre should work this case with me. And it sounds precisely the sort of case that would invite your scientific curiosity. This, quite aside from personal desires to have you beside me.

Your husband,

Sherlock

* * *

He folded the paper, placed it in an envelope, sealed it, and inscribed Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes upon its face. Then he handed it to Mrs. McLeod, who bobbed a quick curtsy.

"How long will it take to arrive?" he asked.

"Not long," Ryker answered. "It goes via special courier, and that usually means it hops a ride with a fighter jet—either one of our own Tornados, or a NATO F-16 or similar. It’ll hopscotch some, but still probably be there by this time tomorrow at the latest."

"Oh, that will do capitally, my dear fellow. Thank you, Mrs. McLeod."

"Now let’s go," Ryker said, hustling Holmes out of the flat and down to the hidden parking garage expressly for 221b Baker Street. A navy Cooper Mini awaited them.

"This is not the automobile in which Huggins drove me here," Holmes observed.

"No, Huggins returned that one to the Service lot. This is your car, Holmes," Ryker explained, "your personal car, at least when you’re in London and surrounds. I dropped a comment or two in the right places, after thinking about it a bit, and the powers that be agreed with me that you needed one. And if we’re going to call you over here to work, or make use of you when you’re in residence, at a moment’s notice, it was only fair we ensure you have one. It’s no Aston Martin with bells and whistles and ejection seats and the like, but it’ll do for your purposes, at least for now."

"But what about the congestion zone? Is not Baker Street well within it?"

"It is," Ryker explained, "but for one, this is a specially modified Cooper—it’s an experimental prototype hybrid—and for two, we made sure to put government plates on your vehicle, and three, M is taking care of the charges. Even at the lower hybrid rate, they could add up quite quickly when you’re in residence. Given…everything, and the fact that, like I said, you’ll almost certainly be working with us, at least off and on, whenever you’re in residence, it really seemed...appropriate. Because, if it weren’t for working with us, and needing to move fast on a missio— uh, case, you might not need one at all."

"Indeed. Very well, then. I thank you."

"The papers for the auto are in yours and Skye’s names, like the flat. It’s all sorted."

Holmes sighed silently at the mention of his wife, opening the passenger side door of the small car.

"Very well. Let us get started, then," he declared.

"I take it you want me to drive?"

"You know where we are going; I do not. And the matter has some urgency. It is only logical that the person who can get us there fastest do the driving. When we arrive, do you get out the forensics equipment, which I assume to be in the boot―”

"You assume correctly. Small as it is, there’s a permanent travelling forensics kit behind the hatch."

"…And let us see what we may find."

* * *

Ryker parked the small car on the square, and they got out. Holmes immediately dropped into bloodhound mode.

"Damn. It gets worse and worse the closer you get to the village," the sober agent observed.

"It does, indeed. Note, Ryker, that the foliage is most damaged here, and seems to grow mildly less damaged as I look down the street, let alone from the direction we came. We are at, or very near, to the centroid." Holmes waved his hand at the indicated vistas.

Ryker aimed his camera down the streets leading away from the square to document Holmes’ observations, pondering for a few moments before making a deduction of his own.

"But that would imply that something..."

"Precisely. And that something is what we are here to find."

It didn’t take long for Holmes to locate the tire tracks of the semi in the empty lot off the town square, and to ascertain that they were of approximately the correct age.

"Moreover," he determined, "the departing tracks are more recent than the event in question, undoubtedly; the clarity and profile of the tracks are unmistakable. Please to note the bald spot on the left rear outer tire; and the bulge on the right front."

"Probably a retread about to blow. So something was here, and then left afterward," Ryker summarised while he photographed the empty lot, making sure he zoomed in on the tracks under scrutiny.

"Precisely," Holmes nodded. "Obviously some heat source was involved."

"Looks like it." Ryker quirked his lips thoughtfully.

"And…Ryker…" Holmes murmured, stooping down to survey the soil carefully.

"Yeah, Holmes?"

"Help me scan the soil of this lot," he added.

"For what?"

"Insects. Specifically, LIVE insects."

The two men inched their way across the entire lot, meeting up at the far side.

"Nothing," Ryker said, shaking his head. "And I saw two anthills, too."

"I found three, and several nightcrawler holes," Holmes noted. "But when I dug them up with my jack-knife…" He held out his hand. Two desiccated, dusty—and very dead—earthworms lay in his palm. "Put these in an evidence bag, if you would, and let us obtain a properly uncontaminated sample of soil, then we must move on."

* * *

A quick once-over of the trees along the square showed crisp, dry leaves and split trunks and branches, with a hard, frothy material exuded from the splits. Holmes quickly licked a fingertip, wiped it along the froth, and then tasted his finger.

"Sweet," he noted. "The sap has been rendered into sugar."

"Sugar?" Ryker stared, dumbfounded. "From sap? As it came out of the tree?!"

"Indeed. Now, to the houses."

* * *

"I’ve heard this isn’t going to be pleasant," Ryker warned, as they approached the closest dwelling. A confident Holmes waved a dismissive hand.

"Death seldom is," he noted. "But I have seen it many times."

They climbed the steps and entered the house, Holmes’ sharp eyes darting hither and yon for any likely clue. There was nothing apparent in the foyer, so they pressed on into the sitting room; finding nothing there, they entered the master bedroom.

A body lay in the bed. Charred bedclothes, stained with bodily fluids, lay about it. A faintly visible miasma of charred, partially-rotted flesh filled the air with a horrid stench.

The two men froze in their tracks as they got a full view of the corpse.

"Oh, dear God," Holmes breathed, paling to a greenish hue, his thin lips going white. Beside him, Ryker emitted a guttural gagging sound.

Both men turned and bolted for the front door.

 

 

A Case of Spontaneous Combustion Copyright © 2014. Stephanie Osborn. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Few can claim the varied background of Stephanie Osborn, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery. Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several more, including geology and anatomy. In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the Cresperian Saga book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed Displaced Detective series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.”

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank. The Mystery continues.

TTB title: Burnout: the mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281
Extraction Point! with Travis 'Doc' Taylor

Cresperian series
The Y Factor with Darrell Bain. Book 2 Cresperian series
The Cresperian Alliance with Darrell Bain. Book 3 Cresperian series.

Displaced Detective series
The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus
The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival
The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed
The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident
The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings
A Case of Spontaneous Combustion

Author web site.

 

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List Price: $19.95 USD

 

  Author News

Check out Stephanie's interview in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine:
http://www.fmam.biz/showcase/showcase_author_oct16.html

Another interview in The Big Thrill
http://www.thebigthrill.org/2016/09/fear-in-the-french-quarter-by-stephanie-osborne/

Upcoming Appearances

Keep up with Stephanie on Sector Five Radio, where she is the Science and Technology Consultant "Extraordinaire"! Saturday nights at 7PM CST on KTKK 630AM in Salt Lake City!

 

Science Fiction Conventions

Upcoming Appearances

 

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