In any other situation, Inspector Sullivan might have been in disdain at the sound of the familiar voice of a companion to Father Brown. But given the circumstances. Given everything that was going on.
“Lady Felicia,” Inspector Sullivan greeted her, feeling relief washing over her. “What brings you here?”
“Well, I was just down the road with Sid actually,” she motioned to her chauffer, who tipped his hat as he approached behind his friend. “We heard screaming and came right away. You-you seem to have your hands full.”
Inspector Sullivan was rather relieved when Lady Felicia took the child from his arms and began to bounce the little girl on her hip. Sid was already moving to the other two children, both sobbing already. To the inspector’s relief and surprise, Sid got the children to call down.
“Oh, no,” Felicia breathed, finally noting the house. “Oh, these poor children.”
“I’m afraid so,” the Inspector said. “The Porter’s stove caught fire last night, and the kids got out, but the parents…”
“And with Freddie’s limp,” Sid nodded in thought, hefting up both clearly exhausted children. “They never stood a chance. Not with how much Rebecca loved him.”
“Yes,” the Inspector nodded. “Fredrick Porter insisted their children get out first. Rebecca refused to leave him once the children had gone to get help. They were, um, they were found dead in the sitting room. Smoke inhalation.”
“Well what will happen to the children?” Felicia demanded, looking rather upset and frantic. “Do they have any family they will be going to?”
“All in due time, Lady Felicia,” the Inspector tried to soothe. “We’ll start looking for next of kin as soon as possible.”
“Father Brown might know,” Sid offered, clearly trying to be helpful even if the name itself brought pure distaste to Inspector Sullivan. “He and Mrs. M also keep records of everyone in town. Especially those baptized by the church, and I happen to know that both Freddie and Rebecca were Catholic.”
“We could give the children a ride with Sid and myself,” Lady Felicia offered brightly, already nodding to Sid. “My car is just up the road, and I’m sure a nice drive might calm down the children.”
Inspector Sullivan gave a curt nod. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll be along shortly if you wish to take them now. I’ve just got to finish everything here.”
With a grateful smile from Lady Felicia, she and Sid took off to her car, both cooing at the three children with bright smiles on their faces. It-it pained Sid to see Lady Felicia like this. So happy with small children. She seemed to be a natural at motherhood. It was a pity she was infertile, especially with her knack for taking care of children.
Still. It was no time to dwell about gossip. He had work to do.
“Ah, hello again, Inspector,” Lady Felicia beamed as she bounced the baby on her hip. “Little Archie and I were just thinking about lunch. Weren’t we, Archie?”
The little baby gave a loud squeal of excitement as Lady Felicia bounced the child in her arms. Again, the lovely smell of Mrs. McCarthy’s cooking wafted through the house, and there was a bit of giggling in the kitchen. Father Brown could be seen with Sid just down the hall, both engrossed in something. Sullivan hoped it was records for the Porter children’s next of kin.
“Care to join us, Inspector?” Felicia motioned into the house. “Father Brown managed to locate one set of grandparents, and two sets of aunts and uncles. They’re just trying to find phone numbers to let the family know.”
“Oh, do feel free, Inspector,” Mrs. McCarthy poked her head out into the foyer before Sullivan could protest. “I’m making a very special casserole right now, and please feel free to stay. The more the merrier!”
Well, how could Sullivan say no.
“Here, you go, Felicia,” Mrs. McCarthy handed her a bottle that had been warming on the stove. “Now, make sure he drinks every drop.”
“Of course,” Felicia nodded, situating herself in a chair to feed the baby.
Sullivan was surprised to see the other two children, Margot and Harry, playing with some rather old toys. They were a bit scratched up in some places, but otherwise rather nice. He wasn’t sure where they came from though.
“Those are the old toys I bought for Sid when I first employed him,” Felicia explained, having caught the Inspectors look. “The poor boy was barely twelve when I hired him, and I wasn’t going to make him work all day. I’ll admit, I made the mistake of letting him try a cup of alcohol, but I made sure Sid had a relatively normal childhood during my care, and I tried not to let him drink again after my mistake. I had someone bring the toys over from the old box Sid used to store them in.”
“Oh, so you made a few mistakes,” Mrs. McCarthy waved off. “Honestly, Felicia, you didn’t give yourself enough credit. You practically raised that poor boy, mind you. So what if you gave him a sip of alcohol. You certainly weren’t the first. Why, when Sid was first on the street, he was tricked into thinking a canteen of alcohol was water. Honestly, Sid might have ended up worse for ware if you hadn’t adopted him.”
Felicia just gave Mrs. McCarthy a pleasant smile as she cooed to the baby, encouraging he baby to drink.
“Ah, Inspector, are you staying for lunch?” Father Brown greeted as he entered the kitchen with Sid. “Why, I was just about to call the families. Hopefully one of them will take in the little tikes.”
Inspector Sullivan nodded, looking to the two children, he wasn’t worried. Whether the family took the children in or not, he knew they would be in good hands. He could tell that just by looking at Lady Felicia.
Inspector Sullivan had raced right out of the police station, into his car, broken every road law possible, and hadn’t even put the car in park by the time he was stumbling towards Sid’s trailer. He had beat Father Brown here, oddly enough, but he knew the priest only had a bicycle. However, he did not beat Lady Felicia, who was carefully cradling Sid’s head in her lap, whispering to him as he gripped one of her.
His trailer had been set on fire. The incident with the Porter’s was not looking natural anymore. Especially when Sid revealed he didn’t have a stove or any working heating system. He was covered in bandages, burns and boils on his body that would never quite heal from his desperate attempt to escape. Lady Felicia had gone to meet Sid herself and had used flour to put out enough of the fire for Sid to escape. But the fire had already licked at his skin.
“We’ll find him, Sid,” Sullivan promised. “Whoever did this. We’ll find him, even if Father Brown has to help.”
He’d grown to care for the younger man since that day at the trailer.
“The fire has been put out too,” Mrs. McCarthy informed Sid gently. “The Sisters made a trip down to your trailer and have been picking out what is salvageable. We promise not to throw anything away without your consent, Sidney. It will all be waiting for you at the presbytery when you are discharged.”
Sid gave them both wary smiles, but perked when Lady Felicia came back into the room with a box of chocolates. Sid used his good hand to eat some of the sweets as Lady Felicia fretted over Sid. Like a mother.
Sullivan just barely caught the kiss she pressed to his forehead as he left with Officer Goodfellow.
“She’s always taken care of him,” Officer Goodfellow mentioned as they prepared to re-examine what was left of the crime scene and check to see what the Sister’s had found. “I swear, that woman loves Sidney Carter like her own son. When Sid first came to us, she had gone off and married Lord Montague. But the moment she came back, she stood up to that dumb priest before Father Brown.”
“So I heard,” Sullivan gave a smile. “Mrs. McCarthy told me all about it.”
“Did she?” Goodfellow seemed pleased by this turn of events. “Excellent! You got the good story! Mrs. McCarthy was the only one to witness the entire exchange from start to finish!”
Sullivan couldn’t help but chuckle at Goodfellow as he rambled on about the entire exchange.
“I mean, it really is a shame, you know?” Goodfellow was still talking as they got closer to the trailer. “Lady Felicia would have been a great mother. And Lord Montague just isn’t around.”
Sullivan bit his lip, stopping the admission that Father Brown had given him in good faith. For all his misgivings and interfering, Sullivan did have a sort of respect for the priest. He’d hate to disappoint him.
With the aid of Father Brown, they caught the killer, and Sid was safely staying at the presbytery. The wounds would not scar as badly as they all fears, and Sid would soon be well enough to move about.
“Thank you, Inspector,” Felicia kissed his cheek. “For saving both Sid and those children.”
“In all honesty, my lady,” Sullivan eyed her carefully. “I do believe that was you. Those children would not have gotten a home without you, and Sid would not be here if not for you either.”
Felicia waved off the offer, but Sullivan wasn’t having it.
“Father Brown told me,” Sullivan whispered. “About your child predicament, and I’d like you to know that even if you have no biological children of your own, you have certainly proven yourself to be an excellent mother.”
Lady Felicia looked star-struck, and Sullivan was honestly afraid he had said something wrong. But then a smile spread on Lady Felicia’s face, and Sullivan found himself getting an peck on the mouth.
“That means the world to me, Inspector. Thank you.”
Sullivan tipped his hat. “Of course, my lady, but I speak the truth. And, while Mr. Carter is on bed rest, perhaps you could find a way for this to end up with his things.”
Lady Felicia gave a grin mischievous enough to run both Father Brown and Sid out of town. “Of course, Inspector.”