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Love, Loyalty and Friendship

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* * *

Kembleford looked kind of nice, she found, strolling through the streets from the train station to where the lady at the butcher’s she had asked for directions had said the church and the presbytery were. Quaint but not antiquated. She understood why one would like to live here and return here frequently. Though she had never visited before, she felt like she might do so more often now. Or maybe not.

It could be said that she liked to take her chances with a thing or another, and while it worked out for her just fine most of the time, today it didn’t. The skies opened up for a downpour just when she thought that St. Mary’s came into sight and by the time she had made it to the presbytery’s door, she was drenched. As she often did, she told herself to carry an umbrella with herself everywhere, it could be a fashion statement, some people did that, didn’t they?

She was positively dripping when she rang the bell and the man, the priest, that opened the door didn’t hesitate but pulled her inside immediately after opening the door.

“Mrs. McCarthy, we’re going to need a few towels over here,” he called into the house, giving the young woman in front of him a smile. “And I’m sure our visitor would appreciate a nice cup of tea as well.”

“Thank you,” she said, looking down herself and indeed seeing water drip from the seams of her dress. “Sorry to drip all over your floor, Father.”

“No worries, it’ll survive,” he assured her with a grin and she couldn’t help but grin back. “I’m Father Brown.”

“Róisín,” she said quickly as steps could be heard coming nearer.

“Oh my Lord, look at you, you poor thing!” Mrs. McCarthy gasped upon seeing the soaking young woman leaving puddles on the entrance floor. “The bathroom’s just upstairs, dear, this way.” She ushered her charge up the stairs immediately. “Father, we’ll need a strong cup of tea for this young lady,” she called over her shoulder.

“Yes, of course, Mrs. McCarthy,” the Father replied dutifully.

 

Fifteen minutes later the young woman was bundled up in a change of clothes that Mrs. McCarthy kept at the presbytery as well as a spare dressing gown that neither Mrs. McCarthy nor the Father knew where it had come from and ushered downstairs into the kitchen for the cup of tea. Said cup of tea was placed in front of her the moment she sat down and she fixed it for herself with a heaping spoonful of sugar and a splash of milk.

“Excellent tea, Father,” she told the priest with a small smile after she’d taken the first tip.

“Thank you very much, Róisín,” he replied warmly. “And what brings you here, if I may ask? Other than shelter from the rain.” He made his question sound genuinely interested and curious which was the only reason why it didn’t make her feel as scrutinized as she felt under Mrs. McCarthy’s gaze at the mention of her name.

“I’m looking for a friend,” she told him and took another sip, warming her hands on the cup. “Sidney Carter.”

“Ah, yes, Sid.” Father Brown nodded. “I don’t believe he was set to come by today unfortunately. But we might call at Lady Felicia’s and see if we can reach him.”

“That would be great, thank you.” Róisín gave a small, grateful smile behind her cup of tea.

“And what business do you have with our Sidney?” Mrs. McCarthy inquired in a resolute tone, crossing her arms over her chest.

Róisín deliberately set down the cup very slowly. “I’m his wife.”

 

After that bombshell, Mrs. McCarthy followed Father Brown into his study where the telephone was, spluttering about what they had just been told.

“Who even is this girl? Showing up here out of the blue, at the presbytery, not even his own home! I’m telling you, Father, this is another of his floozies, only now he’s gone and got himself married to one of them, probably on one of his benders!” She silenced only for as long as it took her to take a deep breath. “This is just unbelievable, not one word! Not a single word, to any of us. I’ll be having words with him, Father, just so you know. Because I know you won’t but someone needs to set that boy straight, he can’t just-“

“Operator? The Montague estate, please,” Father Brown said into the receiver of the telephone, having picked it up whilst Mrs. McCarthy was still in the middle of her rant. “Hello Mr. Hornby, this is Father Brown. Would it be possible to speak with Sidney by any chance? – Oh, I see. – Yes, if I may, thank you.” He covered the mouthpiece for a moment. “Sid is out on an errand for Lady Felicia but he’ll be back shortly.” Then he perked up. “Hello Lady Felicia, how are you? – I’m fine, thank you. If it’s not too much of a hassle, would you mind sending Sidney to the presbytery after he returns? We have someone here to see him. – Yes, I believe so. – Thank you very much, Lady Felicia. Goodbye!” He hung up. “She’ll send him here as soon as he’s back.”

Mrs. McCarthy harrumphed. “I don’t know what his business with an Irish girl would be,” she grumbled.

“Ah, so you heard it too.” Father Brown smiled tightly.

“Try as she may, the practiced ear can always pick up on those subtle Irish influences,” Mrs. McCarthy informed him. “As if the name didn’t give it away already. I must say she also seems vaguely familiar but I can’t put my finger on why.”

“Well, maybe she’s visited Sidney before.” Father Brown didn’t seem too bothered which just made her grumble again.

“One would think so, if she really is his wife.” She followed the Father back into the kitchen where the young woman was still sitting, now with an empty cup of tea in front of her.

 

“More tea?” Father Brown offered already picking up the pot. “I’m afraid Sidney might be a while, he is out on an errand for Lady Felicia.”

“Lady Felicia,” she repeated after him thoughtfully. “She’s his boss, right?”

“Shouldn’t you know your husband’s employment status?” Mrs. McCarthy inserted herself with a reproachful question.

“Probably,” Róisín agreed completely unbothered and went about fixing her second cup of tea.

“Mrs. McCarthy, I believe some biscuits would be marvelous with this tea.” Father Brown looked at the parish secretary.

“We’re out,” she replied curtly.

He frowned somewhat. “The tin was quite full this morning when I snuck one.”

“A-ha!” Mrs. McCarthy huffed triumphantly. “So you admit it, Father. That tin doesn’t empty itself, does it?”

Father Brown preferred not to answer, he took a sip of his refreshed tea and let out a sigh of contentment. “Now, Róisín, if you don’t mind, would you tell us a little more about yourself? I’m afraid our dear Sid has kept his cards rather close to his chest, so to speak.”

Any friendliness that had rung through his words was shattered when Mrs. McCarthy next spoke.

“For example, how long you have been married?” She eyed Róisín with unconcealed disapproval. “And how come we haven’t seen you here before? You must not take a great interest in your husband’s life. If he even is your husband.”

Róisín’s lips pursed for a moment but then she just lifted up her cup again and took another sip.

“And now she won’t even answer our questions. I see how it is,” Mrs. McCarthy raged on, eyebrows drawn high. “You just wait until Sidney gets here and then we’ll gladly turn you out on your behind.”

“Mrs. McCarthy,” Father Brown interrupted her firmly. “Anyone is welcome at the presbytery for as long as they need it.” He gave his secretary a look and then a placatory smile to Róisín.

“Thank you, Father,” Róisín said quietly.

“Anytime,” he assured her and his tone let her know that he didn’t just mean right now.

 

The time until there was the sound of a car stopping, doors opening and shutting and then the front door going was spent in silence, an uncomfortable, bordering on tense silence. Father Brown took that time to have a good look at their guest, Mrs. McCarthy did something of the same, just in a much less friendly way.

Róisín was a young woman, roughly Sid’s age, with black hair and fair skin. A small dusting of freckles went across her nose and in the moment that she looked up when he offered another tea or some of the biscuits, he saw that her eyes had a vivid shade of blue. She seemed petite but at the same time robust. Most of all, she took note of Mrs. McCarthy’s glares and ignored them which he really had to give her credit for as he knew it was not an easy thing to do. While she played with her cup, having finished her second tea, he noticed the ring around her left ring finger. It was made of gold and portrayed a pair of hands holding a crowned heart.

Róisín looked up when she heard the front door and it was only a moment later that Sidney came stalking into the kitchen in his usual way.

“What is it you’ve called me here for, Father?” he called out before he was even fully in the room and then he stopped dead in his tracks when his eyes fell onto the dark haired woman now standing at the kitchen table. He looked dumbfounded for a moment but the easy smile he had been wearing never left his face. “Róisín.” He seemed surprised but not put off.

“Hello Sid,” she said quietly, suddenly seeming nervous with all eyes on her despite having spent the better part of an hour withstanding Mrs. McCarthy’s without so much as the blink of an eye.

“Who’s this, Sidney?” the woman who had entered the kitchen behind him asked curiously. From her clothes Róisín could tell that she had money and deduced that this might be his employer, Lady Felicia, as Father Brown had said. That would have also explained the green uniform he was wearing that she had never seen him in before.

“Well, give us a hug then!” Sidney said loudly and crossed the kitchen in two big strides, sweeping Róisín into a hearty hug. “You okay?” he whispered to her, unheard by the others.

She nodded lightly. “Haven’t seen you in a while there, little rose, bit of a surprise but good to see ya,” he said at his normal volume again, releasing her. He kept an arm around her shoulders as he turned to face the others, drawing her into his side in an almost awkward way. “Father, Mrs. M, Lady Felicia, this is Róisín. My wife.”

 

Róisín was under no illusion that the other three, or at least the two women, were not standing behind the closed door of the Father’s study with their ears pressed to the wood, listening in. Lady Felicia had looked just as surprised as anyone else, just without the side of blatant disapproval, before Sidney had grabbed Róisín by the wrist and ushered her into the study. He ‘needed to have a chat with the wife’, he’d said. Now he was the one scrutinizing Róisín as she stood there, pretending to study the bookshelf.

“You really alright?” he asked quietly and moving into her field of view to catch her gaze.

She nodded but the little furrow between his brows didn’t ease.

“And now again like you mean it.”

She rolled her eyes at him, a smile tugging on the corners of her lips, and he grinned in triumph. “I’m fine.”

“Not that I’m not pleased to see you but why didn’t you write?”

“I did,” she replied flatly. “But when you hadn’t replied after a month, I figured I’d come to see you myself.”

“Huh.” He frowned at that but then shrugged. “Wanna tell me why you’re here?”

A smile came to her face, a real one, a happy one. “I’ve got something for you,” she told him and got out something she had tucked under her dress which made him smirk and her give him a dark look in response. She held out a somewhat crumpled envelope to him.

“What’s this?” He took it and then his eyes widened when he saw what was inside. “Róisín?”

“It’s been five years and two months,” she stated, turning to take in more of the room. “I got it about a month ago.”

“This is yours.” He grabbed her hand to press the envelope back into it. She pulled her hand away and the envelope fell to the floor, spilling its contents.

“I told you I was going to give you half of it,” she insisted and bent down to pick everything up. “Now we can get a divorce and-“

The door burst open. “A divorce?!” Mrs. McCarthy shrieked, Lady Felicia behind her and another step further back Father Brown who heaved a sigh. “And what is that money?!”

Róisín was holding a stack of banknotes in her hand.

“Sidney Carter, you have some explaining to do!” Lady Felicia declared adamantly with no space for protest or discussion.

* * *

Chapter Text

 

* * *

It felt much like sitting down for a parental scolding when Róisín sat down next to her husband on the kitchen chair she had occupied before. Father Brown still seemed like the friendliest out of the three, looking inquisitive and maybe a touch worried but otherwise open. She wouldn’t have been surprised if she had dropped dead on the spot under Mrs. McCarthy’s renewed and intensified glare, she now sat to the left of the Father with her arms crossed over her chest. Lady Felicia looked a mix of confusion, curiosity and concern, sitting in her chair very primly.

“Sid, Róisín, if you would please explain, I think we would very much appreciate it,” Father Brown spoke after a few tense moments.

“We ain’t done nothin’ wrong,” Sid threw in defensively at once to which Mrs. McCarthy scoffed and Lady Felicia frowned. “We haven’t!”

“It’s not Sid’s fault, he was just trying to help,” Róisín said in his defense and though she spoke quietly, she was heard by everyone.

“Trying to help by marrying you?” Mrs. McCarthy’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hairline. “What kind of help would that be? Is there now a child you have passed off as his?!”

“Mrs. M,” Sid said warningly, keeping his eyes on his wife who he could tell was most uncomfortable with this interrogation.

“I find starting at the beginning rather helpful.” Father Brown gave them both a patient look.

“We’ve been married for five years,” Sid relented after another few moments of silence.

“Five years?!” Mrs. McCarthy shrieked while Lady Felicia gasped the same, just much quieter. Father Brown continued to regard the two of them inquisitively.

“That’s a rather long time for not telling your friends you’re married,” he stated calmly. “And, if I may, a rather long time not to have seen your spouse.”

“Yes, and what about this money?” Mrs. McCarthy demanded to know, gesturing to the pile of pound notes in the middle of the table. “What are you doing, giving him 50 pounds?”

“Mrs. McCarthy,” Lady Felicia stepped in as well now. “We might be able to learn more if we actually let them speak and answer.”

Mrs. McCarthy grumbled at that but kept quiet then.

“Do you want to explain or should I?” Sid asked the woman beside him, quietly, softly, eyes still trained only on her. She gave a small shrug and he nodded. “This money is part of Róisín’s inheritance,” he began and Mrs. McCarthy only kept her mouth shut under the piercing look of Lady Felicia. “A little more than five years ago her parents died and left her some money. There’s a condition in the will that she had to be married for five years until she could get it. I offered to help and so we got married.”

“Just like that?” Lady Felicia was still frowning at them.

“Just like that,” he nodded. “We kept in touch loosely via letters but I must have missed her last one telling me about the inheritance going through.”

“That does sound rather like you.” Lady Felicia was the first one to say anything after that and while she still looked a little concerned, her face had softened. “Could have spared us the heart attack though, Sidney.”

“Sorry, it was never planned you were going to meet her.”

Mrs. McCarthy huffed at that. “So you were just going to divorce her when the money came through and never tell us anything?” She looked quite incensed by that but most of all hurt.

“Not like it was a real marriage.” Sid shrugged, unbothered by it all it seemed. “’s just a piece of paper.” He either wasn’t aware of, or was willfully ignoring, the fact that he was just digging himself a deeper grave with that.

“A piece of paper that formed a new family!” Mrs. McCarthy pointed out indignantly.

“Not like either of us wants one of those,” Sid continued digging his grave. “’sides, was never gonna take any of the money, was I.”

“I told you we were going to split it,” Róisín countered with surprising sharpness.

“And I told you I wasn’t gonna take it,” he replied just as determinedly. “It’s yours, your parents wanted you to have it and I ain’t taking it!”

Róisín glared at him, scowl deepening when he gave her a wide smile. Lady Felicia fought down a chortle, Father Brown was badly hiding his amusement and Mrs. McCarthy continued to look both offended and disapproving.

“We’ll see about that,” she grumbled eventually and smacked his shoulder when Sidney had the audacity to laugh.

 

There wasn’t much more to learn from the two of them as Sid was fully convinced they had done nothing wrong and Róisín wasn’t very talkative. Eventually the other three arrived at the conclusion that they always arrived at with Sidney: he was going to do what he thought was best and nobody could keep him from that.

When there really wasn’t anything else to say, Sid towed both Lady Felicia as well as Róisín into the car after a goodbye and a promise not to keep such large secrets in the future. Róisín gave him a knowing look about the fingers he had crossed behind his back but no one else was any the wiser.

Lady Felicia sat in the back of the car and Róisín up front next to Sidney. She kept quiet on her seat, Lady Felicia that was, much more keen to observe the two up front. Sid didn’t seem much bothered by the grilling he had just been put through and much to Felicia’s surprise it only took him cracking a few jokes to make Róisín laugh. The ice seemed broken then and they talked quietly amongst themselves, not loud enough for Felicia to make out what they were saying but it was clear that there was genuine friendship between them. Interesting.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then, Sidney,” Lady Felicia said when he had stopped the car in front of the house and opened her door for her.

He paused for a moment. “Weren’t you going to-“

“Oh that.” She waved him off. “Not urgent, really not. Enjoy the rest of your day catching up with your wife.” She gave him a smile that was only slightly off. “Lovely meeting you, Róisín.” She gave the same one to the younger woman.

“Likewise, Lady Felicia,” Róisín replied quickly and then the countess was already walking into the house.

“Huh.” Sidney watched after his boss for a moment before he shook it off. “Well, looks like my evening has just opened up, Mrs. Carter. What do you say to a drink at the pub?”

Róisín gave him a look at the name drop but then nodded. “Only if you’re paying, Mr. Carter.”

“I think I can invite my wife to a pint once in five years,” he laughed. “Let me park the car quick then we’ll go.”

 

* * *

Of course it didn’t stay at one pint and not at two either. They had a brilliant evening catching up at the pub and someone had even thrown them a round when Sid had drunkenly announced that Róisín was his wife because nobody in Kembleford would ever have believed he’d ever get married and settle down. They’d had another pint on their amusement about ‘Sid settling down’ and then had made their way to Sidney’s caravan because he needed to prove that he hadn’t received her last letter, and also they were in absolutely no state to go anywhere else.

Róisín was buried under the blanket and pillow in the bed with Sid sprawled out on the floor, arm thrown over his face to shield himself from the light falling through the window subconsciously, when there was a loud knock on the caravan door. It wasn’t just a loud knock, it was more like someone was pounding on the door with the intention of breaking it down.

“Sidney Carter!” a voice called from outside just as Róisín was peeking out from under the blanket blearily. Sid himself was barely moving a little toe just yet, dead to the world even with the noise. “Kembleford Police, come outside!”

That had Róisín sitting up straight and then lean down to smack Sid awake. “Sid! Wake up!” She kept smacking at him until he roused. “The police is outside.”

His eyes shot open although she could tell his brain hadn’t caught up yet. “Wha-?” He sat up, narrowly avoiding bumping foreheads with her.

The police officer outside was pounding on the door again. “Sidney Carter! If you don’t come out within two minutes, we’re breaking down this door!”

Sidney’s eyes went wide again. “Sullivan,” he whispered then groaned. “Blimey, it’s too early for this.”

“Wake up and get out there or he’s coming in!” Róisín reminded him urgently, already pulling her dress over her head and trying to smooth down her hair.

“You’re right.” Sid jumped up and got dressed hastily, shirt only half done up when the pounding started again so he ripped open the door like that. “Alright, alright, here I am. What’s the matter this early in the mornin’, Inspector?”

The grin dropped off his face immediately at Inspector Sullivan’s genuinely angry expression but even more so at Inspector Sullivan grabbing him, turning him around and clasping a pair of handcuffs around his wrists. “Sidney Carter, I’m arresting you under suspicion of breaking and entering. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say will be put into writing and may be used in court.”

Sid spluttered as Sullivan shoved more than led him towards the police car. “I didn’t do anythin’, Inspector, I swear it!”

“That’s what they all say,” Sullivan snapped at him impatiently and transferred him to Sergeant Goodfellow, coming back to the caravan where Róisín now stood in the door, speechless. “Mrs. Carter, I presume.”

He eyed her up and down and she became very aware of her bare feet, her rumpled dress, the mess that was her hair and the pillow creases on her cheek.

“I am,” she confirmed quietly. “He was with me the whole time since yesterday afternoon, Inspector, he didn’t do anything, I swear it.”

Inspector Sullivan gave her a pejorative look. “As the suspect’s wife, you’re not obliged to say anything, Mrs. Carter,” he informed her flatly.

Róisín narrowed her eyes. “But I can if I want to.”

The inspector disregarded her objection and turned to leave. “Sorry to break up the reunion, Mrs. Carter. Unfortunately it’s probably going to be a while until you see your husband again.”

Róisín bit on the tip of her tongue to keep from throwing a nasty retort at him and watched him get in, then the police car drive off with Sid still visibly protesting on the backseat. “We’ll see about that,” she muttered to herself and turned into the caravan to find the rest of her clothes.

 

It seemed somehow ironic that she ended up in front of the same door again right the next day after it had been made quite clear that she wasn’t here to stick around. She rang the bell and shifted from one foot to the other nervously. Partially because her shoes were not intended for long walks, like the one from the caravan back into town, but most of all because of what had happened.

“Oh. It’s you.” Mrs. McCarthy’s mouth turned down as she saw Róisín standing there. “Weren’t you leaving?”

“Sid’s been arrested,” Róisín said without further preamble and wormed her way around the older woman. “Father Brown!” she called into the house marching towards the kitchen. “Sid needs your help!”

Ten minutes later they were on the way to the police station.

 

“Ah, I should have known you’d call up the cavalry.” Inspector Sullivan was by the front counter when they came in, holding a file in his hands. He eyed them with clear annoyance, lingering a little longer on Róisín though maybe she just imagined it, she wasn’t sure.

“Yes, well,” Father Brown said. “Sid is a dear friend so naturally we would be most interested to find out what the case is.”

“Bit more than friends, hm,” Sullivan sneered with another glance towards Róisín. “There is no case, Father, and in Mr. Carter’s interest I’d advise you not to meddle. The facts are quite clear.”

“And what are the facts?” Father Brown asked anyway. “Róisín here has told us that you arrested him under suspicion of breaking and entering.”

“And we’re about to turn that into a charge as soon as we get the forensics report to confirm it,” the inspector informed them dismissively.

“And where exactly is this breaking and entering supposed to have happened? What exactly is he suspected of having stolen?” Mrs. McCarthy jumped in and Róisín was glad not to be the person that her glare was aimed at for once.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of an ongoing investigation with you, Mrs. McCarthy. Good day.” And with that he disappeared behind the door with his name on it, shutting it resolutely.

“That went well,” Mrs. McCarthy grumbled, her glare finding her new favorite target again.

“This isn’t my fault!” Róisín replied defensively. “He can’t have done anything last night, he was with me the whole time!”

“Yes, well, you probably had quite some catching up to do after five years.” Mrs. McCarthy eyed her with her eyebrows high.

“He slept on the floor,” Róisín hissed and turned to Father Brown with a pleading look. “Please, Father, we need to help him.”

“Of course we will,” the Father said without hesitation.

 

Outside the police station Father Brown stood staring unseeingly down the street with a thoughtful look on his face for several moments. Róisín went to say something twice, only to be glared into silence by Mrs. McCarthy as soon as she even opened her mouth a fraction. Finally Róisín conceded, crossing her arms over her chest as she waited for the Father to speak.

“We need to find out more,” he said finally, straightening up. “Mrs. McCarthy, would you go into town and try to find out where exactly this break-in happened? Any details would be most helpful.”

“Of course, Father,” Mrs. McCarthy agreed eagerly.

“Róisín, you go back to the presbytery and call Lady Felicia. The telephone is in the study.”

Róisín nodded and ignored Mrs. McCarthy’s sourly expression at Róisín being supposed to be at the presbytery alone.

“And what will you do, Father?” Mrs. McCarthy asked.

“I will try to talk to Sid.” Although he tried to sound optimistic, there was a distinct hint of doubt noticeable in his voice. “We will reconvene at the presbytery in an hour.”

The two women gave nods of confirmation and the trio disbanded.

* * *

 

Chapter Text

* * *

It was strange to enter the presbytery, knowing she was alone and no one else was there. Entering the study was different too, she now noticed many more things than the day before. Like the piles of books and notes half-scattered across the desk. And a picture of Sidney and the Father?

Róisín stepped closer for a better look. This had to be an older photograph, Sid looked like when she had first met him or even a little younger. The Father looked nearly the same as he did now. You could tell that they had a good relationship even from the small picture.

She reached Lady Felicia on the phone on first try and the countess promised to immediately rush to the presbytery in aid of Sidney. Róisín hung up wondering what it had to feel like to have everyone rallying around you like this? Lady Felicia had immediately agreed to send Sidney to the presbytery immediately upon Father Brown’s request yesterday and today she was rushing over as well when he was in trouble. She hoped Sidney appreciated the people he had around him, properly. She had the sinking feeling that her appearance had not helped that in any way.

 

“There you are!” Lady Felicia hurried into the kitchen where Róisín was just taking the kettle off the stove. It had taken her a bit to find everything in the unknown kitchen but tea was mandatory. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

Róisín put down the kettle after filling the pot, which she had warmed, and turned to face the older woman. “Sid and I went to the pub after you let him go,” she started to explain to which Lady Felicia firmly nodded.

“As a husband should, not having seen his wife for five years,” she remarked decidedly and sat on a chair as Róisín brought over the pot.

“It got late and he convinced me to stay the night at his caravan,” Róisín went on, sitting down herself and concentrating on pouring the tea as she spoke, keeping her eyes downcast. “He slept on the floor,” she added after a moment, glancing up at Lady Felicia who gave a sort of reassuring half-smile.

“He’s your husband.”

“Yes, but we’re not…” Róisín shook her head, then shrugged. “In the morning we woke up because Inspector Sullivan was pounding down the door and as soon as Sidney opened it, he was arrested on charges of breaking and entering. Which is impossible because he was with me the entire time and I would have noticed if he had left!”

“Naturally Inspector Sullivan did not care to hear this,” Lady Felicia added dryly and Róisín nodded.

“He told me as Sid’s wife I’m not obliged to say anything and that I wasn’t going to see him for quite a while.”

Lady Felicia made a disgruntled face.

“So I went to get Father Brown because Sid told me all about the murders he’d solved and all that. But Inspector Sullivan told us nothing.”

“Hardly a surprise.” Lady Felicia pursed her lips then took a sip of tea, her face brightening. “Excellent tea!”

“Thank you.” Róisín smiled shyly. “You have to warm-“

“The pot,” Lady Felicia finished and nodded in approval.

“Now Father Brown is trying to get Inspector Sullivan to let him talk to Sid and Mrs. McCarthy is supposed to try and find out something about everything from the town talk. We don’t even know where this breaking and entering happened!” She made a desperate face.

“And you were to come here and call me,” Lady Felicia concluded to which Róisín nodded. “We’ll get Sid out of this, Róisín, don’t worry.” She reached over the table to squeeze Róisín’s hand reassuringly, lingering for a moment before she pulled back. “He’s weathered worse.”

Róisín’s face darkened. “So I’ve heard. I always told him he has to watch out better, he’s so reckless and thoughtless sometimes.”

Lady Felicia smiled. “So you do know him.”

Róisín returned the other woman’s gaze evenly. “Just because I wasn’t here doesn’t mean I didn’t care.”

“That much is obvious,” Lady Felicia assured her with another smile. “Just like it is obvious he cares for you.”

“We’re more like brother and sister than…” Róisín rushed to explain but Lady Felicia stopped her with a small gesture.

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Róisín.” There was something in the way she said it and in the look she gave Róisín that made the explanation disappear from the tip of her tongue. She gave a small nod and fiddled with her cup of tea.

 

A little more than an hour after Father Brown had sent them all off, they gathered in the presbytery kitchen once again. It seemed like it was a regular occurrence, except for the newcomer, or intruder if you asked Mrs. McCarthy.

“This is excellent tea,” Father Brown remarked after taking a sip and making a noise of content.

“Did you make the tea?” Mrs. McCarthy asked Lady Felicia who smiled brightly.

“No, I didn’t, Róisín made this wonderful brew! Warmed the pot, that’s the key.”

“Snooping in other people’s kitchens, I see,” Mrs. McCarthy chided shaking her head.

“You weren’t here to ask,” Róisín replied simply and Lady Felicia badly hid her chuckle-snort behind her cup. “Did you talk to Sidney, Father?”

Father Brown shook his head. “I’m afraid the inspector stands by his order that no one is to visit Sidney.”

“Not even for spiritual council?!” Mrs. McCarthy looked aghast while Lady Felicia’s face pinched into a frown again.

“That is rather odd,” she said slowly.

Róisín looked from one to the other. “Does the inspector usually let you talk to people in the cells for spiritual council?”

“It’s rather more hassle to deny Father Brown this concession than to bend to social pressures and profuse persuasion,” Lady Felicia explained dryly and Róisín almost chuckled at that. She could see how Father Brown could be very convincing.

“So why would he not let Father Brown talk to Sid now? Does he have it out for him or something?” Róisín frowned, frustration starting to show on her face.

“Inspector Sullivan and Sidney have crossed paths many times since the Inspector came to Kembleford,” Lady Felicia answered diplomatically. “Rarely without butting heads.”

Róisín frowned some more.

“There was nothing much to be gathered from the town talk,” Mrs. McCarthy began to share her findings in a very important tone. “Other than Mr. and Mrs. Carter having a jolly time on the town.” Róisín very stubbornly returned the dirty look the old woman cast on her with a sweet smile.

“I think I’m allowed to have my husband take me out for a drink once in five years, don’t you?” she asked innocently which made Mrs. McCarthy splutter and look to Lady Felicia, who was smirking behind her cup, and the Father, who seemed to aim to remain neutral in this brewing conflict. “So what do we do now, Father?”

The Father pursed his lips in thought for a few more moments then straightened with a nod. “We need to find out more about the situation and I believe I know who can help us there.” He turned a look to Mrs. McCarthy who didn’t seem to notice, or give that look much meaning, but after several moments had dragged on understanding showed itself on her face in the form of indignation.

“Absolutely not, Father!” she objected very firmly, even leaning back in her chair, away from the Father. “You can talk to him just as well!”

Róisín gave Lady Felicia a confused but also inquisitive look. Lady Felicia showed a hint of amusement at it all that made Róisín all the more curious.

“Talk to who?”

“Mr. Slow,” answered Lady Felicia cheerfully while Mrs. McCarthy grumbled under her breath. “A staunch admirer of our very own Mrs. McCarthy, isn’t it so, Mrs. M?”

“I’ll have you know-!” Mrs. McCarthy started but the Father cut in.

“I’ll go over to the barn and see if I might talk to Blind ‘Arry to find out more,” he announced and stood up.

 

Róisín quickly found herself wishing to have asked to accompany the father to talk to this Mr. Slow because staying behind at the presbytery with Lady Felicia and Mrs. McCarthy was an acute trial of the Christian values her parents had brought her up with, namely the temptation to strangle Mrs. McCarthy. The bickering between the two women in addition to Mrs. McCarthy still tearing into her at any chance tested her nerves greatly.

Finally they heard the door go and steps coming towards the kitchen.

“Ah, there ye are. Always the highlight of my day to see ya, Mrs. McCarthy.”

A scraggly old man entered the kitchen behind Father Brown. He would have been dressed quite nicely, with a jacket and waist coat and a hat and a row of medals pinned to his lapel, if his clothes hadn’t seen many better days. The distinct odor of unkemptness emitted from him as well as that of alcohol.

“And there she is, the little lass. Sid’s missus, aren’t ya. Saw ye yesterday at the pub.” He gave a nod to Róisín as well who taken to pacing the kitchen restlessly while Father Brown was out. Better to keep her feet busy than to find her hands around Mrs. McCarthy’s throat.

“Something like that,” Róisín responded belatedly, folding her arms around herself. “Did you find out anything, Father?”

“Mr. Slow here has heard something about last night’s burglary,” Father Brown confirmed. “Mrs. McCarthy, if you would be so kind, a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits for our guest?”

Mrs. McCarthy grumbled under her breath but did get to work on that.

“Please, have a seat.” Father Brown offered Blind ’arry a seat and sat down himself. Róisín sat down as well although she looked like she was going to jump up again any moment.

“Thanks, Mrs. McCarthy, always the best tea an’ biscuits in the whole county,” Blind ’arry beamed as she set a cup and a plate of biscuits in front of him. Mrs. McCarthy nodded curtly and sat down herself.

“Now, if you would tell us what you just told me.” Father Brown gave Blind ’arry a prompting look.

“Was just goin’ ‘bout me mornin’, wasn’t I? ’eard about the break-in at the Johnson’s farm house, the one they never really use, you know?”

“Where is this farm?” Róisín wanted to know immediately.

Mrs. McCarthy huffed at her for cutting in.

Father Brown smiled indulgently. “A few miles out from the caravan.”

“Aye, don’t think he’d ’ave been up to the trek last night, would he.” Blind ’arry gave Róisín a knowing look which she stonily ignored. “Couple’a things were stolen, ’parently, mostly tools they said. One of the workers saw someone sneakin’ away from the area durin’ the night. Didn’ think much of it ‘til they discovered the break-in this mornin’.”

“Did the worker give a description?”

Blind ’arry nodded. “Tall, more than six feet, slim build.”

Róisín narrowed her eyes. “There’s got to be several other men in Kembleford who’re more than six feet tall and of slim build!”

“None with a record the size of Sid’s, little miss,” Blind ’arry said gravely. “Mrs. Johnson said she’d seen him skulkin’ about the premises lately.”

Róisín’s expression only became darker but she refrained from saying anything else.

“Oh Father, they’re gonna lock him up for good this time,” Mrs. McCarthy fretted.

“They will not,” the Father assured her patiently. “We will find out what happened and make the inspector see sense.”

Lady Felicia mumbled something rather sarcastic sounding about the inspector being the most sensible person on earth into her cup and Róisín swallowed thickly. This was really not looking good for Sidney, was it?

“What are we going to do now, Father?” she asked quietly and Father Brown gave her an encouraging but also somewhat tight smile.

“We are going to go to the Johnson’s farm to have a look for ourselves,” he told her and stood. “Mrs. McCarthy, we’ll be needing to borrow your bicycle, if you don’t mind.”

Mrs. McCarthy pressed her lips together but gave a curt nod. Father Brown beamed and ushered Róisín out of the house.

 

Although she could not claim sense of orientation as one of her stronger traits, as she cycled behind the Father Róisín did get a sense of where this farm was located. Broadly speaking. It really was quite a distance from the caravan, if her feeling was right. Walking there at night would have taken far too long, and then the state he had been in…

Father Brown slowed down when a farmhouse came into view and Róisín dismounted her bike as he did. A woman came from a stable and she did not look too happy to see the Father, casting only a fleeting glance at Róisín.

“Come to snoop, Father?” she asked dryly, hands on her hips.

“Mrs. Johnson,” the Father said in greeting, very warmly for the welcome he was receiving. “We’re not here to… snoop, as you say. But I hoped we might be able to have our own look around at the scene to gain an impression of it all?”

Mrs. Johnson eyed him with a skeptical look but then gave a shrug. “I’ll tell you right away, Father, I know what I saw. Had ‘im here doin’ odd jobs even, recently too. My husband’s eyesight might not be what it used to be, but mine is just fine.”

Father Brown hummed lightly. “Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.”

“Aye, ‘nuff trouble as is, isn’t it. Don’t need you to be houndin’ me down on top’a that.” Mrs. Johnson gave another shrug and disappeared into the stable again.

“The other farmhouse is at the other end of the farm in this direction,” Father Brown told Róisín as they went back to the bicycles. “It’s more like a shed, rarely used as I’ve gathered.”

“And still someone immediately noticed that it was broken into?” Róisín questioned and received a look from the Father that told her he had the same question.

They mounted the bikes again and followed a path that led them even further from the caravan. The further they went, the more Róisín was convinced that Sidney wouldn’t have been able to make this way, twice!, during the last night, neither time nor condition-wise. And not without her noticing his absence.

The door to the shed had been tampered with, that much became clear very quickly. A much too sloppy job to have been Sidney’s work, she found but didn’t say. The inside looked like you expected a place to look after someone was rifling through it for a quick gather of valuables. Again, too sloppy for Sid. There wasn’t much to find though, the police had clearly been through and had taken anything of interest.

“He would have come from this direction,” Father Brown supposed once they were outside again. Down the path where they had come from Róisín could see a man watching them now. The Father waved. “Hello, Mr. Johnson!” The man eyed them for another moment then turned around and walked away. “Where we came from would have been too close to the farmhouse. Too risky.”

Róisín walked beside the Father as they scoured the nearer area for any tracks or trails but they found none until they got to the fence marking off the perimeter of the farm.

“Would be easy to leave a bike or some other form of transport here and make a quick getaway,” she noted and the Father nodded.

“Ah, and what is that?” He bent down by the foot of the fence and held up a- “A button.” He held it out towards Róisín. “Not one of Sid’s I would say.”

She took the button and had a closer look, turning it over before she handed it back quickly. A green button with a white edge. She folded her arms over her middle and looked back towards the shed. “No, that’s not one of Sid’s.”

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

The button wasn’t much to go on, yet both Mrs. McCarthy as well as Lady Felicia inspected it like it was an exhibit piece of great detail and importance. It was a button.

“This isn’t one of Sid’s, is it?” Lady Felicia asked Róisín, handing the button back to Mrs. McCarthy.

“Like she would know anything about the clothes he wears!” Mrs. McCarthy shook her head. “Doesn’t seem like one he’d have.”

Father Brown looked at Róisín for a moment, thoughtful. “You sounded very certain that it doesn’t belong to Sid earlier.”

Róisín glanced at the button now on the table in front of Mrs. McCarthy and gave a quick shrug. “He doesn’t like green.”

“His uniform is green!” gasped Lady Felicia, looking both a little aghast and a little indignant. “He never said.” Now she sounded miffed.

“Uhm…” Róisín grimaced slightly and gave a flat smile. “I don’t think he minds his uniform, it’s just not a color he would choose for himself?” she offered slowly and Lady Felicia looked a little appeased.

“Either way, we all agree that this is not Sidney’s because he didn’t do it,” Lady Felicia said quite decidedly and looked at the Father. “The question is just how do we proceed from here?”

“We’ve got to find the person whom this button belongs to,” Mrs. McCarthy stated.

“Oh yes, because we can just go around town and ask people whether this is their button or not or if they know somebody who has buttons like this,” Lady Felicia countered impatiently.

“I agree with Mrs. McCarthy,” the Father said and Mrs. McCarthy gave Lady Felicia a triumphant look. “It would be best to find the person whom this button belongs to but finding them seems rather tricky as it is just a single button.” Lady Felicia smiled winningly back at Mrs. McCarthy who made a sour face.

Róisín sat with her eyebrows knitted in a frown and her lips pursed in fierce discontent. Then she stood up resolutely, looking like a woman on a mission. “I’m going to talk to Sid.”

“The inspector has already said no, missy.” Mrs. McCarthy folded her arms over her chest.

“Well, I ain’t takin’ no for an answer, am I.” Róisín raised her chin determinedly and marched out of the kitchen and house before anyone could say another word.

 

* * *

“You come to ask me the same questions over again for the fifth time, inspector?” Sid drawled lackadaisically when the door to his cell opened for what felt like the tenth time since he had been shoved into it.

“You have a rather persuasive wife, Carter,” droned the inspector and Sid looked up from where he had been inspecting the floor in front of his shoes. And truly, behind the inspector stood Róisín with her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes shooting that stubborn spark at the inspector’s back. The same spark that had told Sidney that he might stand to be married to this woman, even if it was only on paper.

“No funny business,” the inspector felt necessary to tack on before turning to let Róisín through.

“No, thank you,” she replied politely and waited until the door was closed behind her to really look at her husband. But before she could say anything, he spoke first.

“You’re messing everything up.”

Her mouth snapped shut. “What?”

“You’re messing everything up!” he repeated, more bite to his words now.

Róisín frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Why did you have to come here?” He got to his feet and started pacing the width of the cell. “For five years you’ve been just fine staying away and now you come here.”

“I told you I would share the inheritance with you when I got it.”

“And I told you I didn’t want any of it!” he snapped at her and she blinked a few times.

“I wrote to you that I was going to come and give you your-“

“Well, I didn’t get your letter, did I!”

Her mouth snapped shut finally.

“I told you to never come here and what do you do? You come here!” He leaned against the wall, facing it, and smacked his hands on the brick, making Róisín jump. “You’re ruining everything.”

“I’m… ruining everything?” She couldn’t follow. “I was just trying to return the favor because you-“

“And you do not listen, do ya! I don’t want your damn favor, or your bloody money, or you. You were the perfect wife – far away, never showing your face, no botherin’, no naggin’, nothin’! But then you have to show up!”

She backed into the door slightly when he turned and began to wave his arms around wildly.

“Now I’m in here, and everyone knows about you, and they weren’t supposed to know you even exist!” He turned to glare at her. “And it’s messing everything up!” He ran his hands through his hair roughly.

“I’m sorry, I was just-“ she tried to say, quietly, guiltily, bewildered by his outburst and the way he was speaking to her because he never had before, and-

“You were just what?” he bellowed, his voice booming in the small room. “You promised you wouldn’t interfere, Róisín, you promised you would stay way and be a good little wife and make no trouble. But look at where I am now!”

“It’s not my fault the inspector arrested you! We’re doing everything we can to prove your innocence!” she defended herself but he wasn’t having any of it.

“Do a little less, will ya? Having you around is plenty’a bad luck as is. Don’t wanna end up with a noose around my neck at the end of it.”

Róisín’s mouth fell open in shock. “You can’t mean that.”

“Rather be stuck in here and anywhere out there with you,” he replied scathingly. “Who knows what’ll happen to me next? Get caught in a house fire like your parents and grandparents, eh?”

The exact moment that the words left his mouth, Sidney’s senses finally broke through the red haze of anger, frustration and desperation. Just in time to see the color drain from his wife’s face and her eyes, her beautiful blue lively eyes, emptying.

She didn’t even have time to pound on the door more than once or twice, Sergeant Goodfellow opened it just a second later with concern written on his face.

“Everythin’ alright in here?” he asked and stood aside for the woman who had cornered Sullivan into letting her speak with her husband just minutes ago but was now hightailing it out of said husband’s cell with tears in her eyes.

“…Róisín!” Sid called after her, making as if he would run after her as well but was stopped by an apologetic looking Goodfellow. “Bollocks!” he cursed as the door shut on him again, kicking at the wall. “Bollocks,” he repeated much more quietly, dropping onto the bench.

 

* * *

Róisín had no idea how she had found her way back to the caravan, stumbling her way there, mostly blinded by tears she somehow made it. She still had the key to the padlock from the morning, when the inspector had taken Sidney away, and she figured she could leave it in the presbytery letter box for someone to return it to him after she had left.

Because that was what she was doing. Leaving. She now couldn’t recall what she had thought Sidney might do or how he might react to her coming here but it hadn’t been this. She didn’t know why the inspector was acting this way but it seemed to be out of the ordinary, not the way he usually treated Sid and the others. So why was he acting this way? The only thing out of the ordinary here was her. So she had to go.

There were only a few things she had left in the caravan, she hadn’t brought much to Kembleford because she hadn’t planned on staying the night or even longer than that. She didn’t know when the next train in her direction was going to go but it didn’t matter. She just needed to leave.

She was brought out of her contemplations rather quickly when the caravan came into view. It was still a way’s off but the car parked next to it was unmistakable. She sped up into a run and reached the caravan just as one of Inspector Sullivan’s policemen was cutting open the padlock on the caravan door.

“Oi, what do you think you’re doing? You can’t do that without a warrant!” she called out, still from some distance, and scowled when Sullivan turned towards her with a condescending smile, holding up a folded sheet of paper. She snatched it out of his hand and wormed her way around the policeman, blocking the door. “Excuse me.” She gave both men a dark look, unfolding the paper, and had a quick scan of what turned out to be the warrant that the inspector needed to search Sidney’s caravan. “That all seems to be in order,” she announced flatly but didn’t move from the door just yet. “You didn’t have to destroy the padlock though. Surely Sidney’s key is with his belongings at the station?”

Sullivan glowered at her. “He told us you had the key.”

“I do.” She found it in her pocket and held it up. “So you could’ve just shown me this and asked for the key?” She waved the warrant at him.

“Your whereabouts were unknown to us, Mrs. Carter,” the inspector informed her sourly.

“You owe Sidney a new padlock,” she stated and leisurely went down the steps to make way for the inspector.

The inspector grumbled something under his breath and went into the caravan. He had been in there for less then ten seconds before he came back out, holding up a cloth bag.

“So much for your husband not being involved,” he remarked snidely, dropping the bag into the top step and opening it without touching the contents. “Sergeant, what did Mr. Johnson tell us went missing from the farmhouse?”

The sergeant opened his notebook while the inspector got out a handkerchief. For each item the sergeant read off his list, the inspector extracted one and the same from the bag.

Róisín watched on with a sinking feeling, a weight of lead settling into her stomach with each tool that was revealed. She had never seen the bag before, nor its contents, and she didn’t know where it had come from because she would surely have seen it earlier as it hadn’t taken the inspector long at all to find it.

“I’ll be taking these to the Johnsons and check with them if these are the missing tools,” the inspector announced and gestured for the sergeant to bag the tools back up. “I’ll be honest, Mrs. Carter,” he said in an entirely insincere tone, “I don’t see much hope for a lenient sentence. Mr. Carter has a lengthy record and he’s gotten off lucky a few too many times.”

Róisín didn’t reply anything, just stood there with her arms crossed over her chest and glaring at the inspector and the police car until it went out of sight. Feeling like hitting something, or someone, she bent down to pick up the destroyed padlock and stopped short. Furrowing her eyebrows she got out the key she had gotten from Sidney this morning and tried it.

It didn’t fit.

 

* * *

When Father Brown was let into the cell some time after Róisín had been to visit and left in an uproar according to Inspector Sullivan, he found a very broody, almost grim Sid sitting on the cell bench, glaring at the space in front of him.

“I take it the Inspector did not let Róisín talk to you,” the Father concluded, taking a seat next to the younger man.

“No, he did,” Sid mumbled and the Father stopped short at the unexpected guilt he thought to hear in Sid’s voice.

“And that did not go so well?”

Sid heaved a large sigh. “Put my foot in my mouth, didn’t I,” he confessed surprisingly readily and the Father’s eyebrows pulled up in even more surprise.

“In what way?” His impression had been that while estranged, or just very distant, Sidney and Róisín were on quite friendly terms. Blind ’arry’s tales of the previous evening at the Red Lion certainly suggested so.

“Can’t say.”

That made Father Brown frown, but then he nodded. “Alright. Now tell me what happened.”

“Same thing Róisín probably told you what happened.” Sid on a disgruntled streak could be even more stubborn than usual.

“Well, I prefer to hear everyone’s own versions, if you don’t mind.”

Sid grumbled under his breath but obliged. “I drove Lady Felicia home and she gave me the rest of the day off, said I should enjoy some time with my wife. So I took her out for a pint, I can take my wife out for a pint once in five years, can’t I?” Sid snorted at himself, shaking his head. “Overdid it a bit, maybe, so I took her to the caravan. Slept on the floor, she had the bed. Woke up to Sullivan poundin’ on the door and arresting me on the spot as soon as I opened it.”

Father Brown gave a contemplative hum.

“Now the inspector’s got me on charges of breakin’ and enterin’ the Johnson’s cottage, stealin’ some tools and stuff. Like I need some farmin’ tools? Apparently someone thinks they saw me headin’ out from the scene durin’ the night and there’s a foot print that matches mine in size.”

Father Brown gave another hum. “Were you around the Johnson’s farm recently?”

“’course I was! Fixed this and that ’round the place. Didn’t get paid much, mind, always been quite niggardly, that bunch.”

The Father’s face went through several expressions as he mulled that over.

“Do me a favor, Father?” Sid asked sheepishly into the quiet.

“Of course.”

“Can you find Róisín and tell her that I’m sorry?” Sid finally looked up and Father Brown could see that he indeed felt quite sorry for whatever it was he had said to his wife.

“Think that’s best coming from your mouth but I’ll do my best,” he promised and Sid nodded in thanks. “Anything else from last night you remember? Anything out of the ordinary?”

Sid thought for a few moments. “Dunno if it’s really something off but someone sent us two pints once it got out we were married. Only when we went to say thanks, no one was at the table anymore.”

Father Brown tilted his head. “Do you remember who sat there before?”

“Didn’t take too much note of everyone else really,” Sid admitted. “Some blokes. Róisín was the only other woman except the barmaid.”

“I see. Well, I’ll try to find out more and we’ll get you out of here as soon as possible,” the Father promised.

Sid nodded. “Find Róisín, please. And keep her from leaving. I got a bad feelin’ about this.”

The Father didn’t voice it, but so did he.

 

* * *

 

Chapter Text

* * *

The second night in the caravan was much worse than the first. For one because she was not intoxicated and thus more aware of her unfamiliar surroundings, but even more so because she was there on her own, all alone.

After discovering the wrong padlock she had had a very close look at the caravan’s inside and surroundings. Unfortunately she couldn’t remember too many details but she couldn’t help herself but feel as though it just seemed off. It seemed just as untidy as before but somehow different. She had let her eyes wander the surfaces and the clutter but still couldn’t put her finger on why it felt off.

It was only when she went for the spot where she had shoved the 50 pounds Sidney had still refused to accept and she had put there for him to find whenever, that she knew that her gut feeling was right. The money was gone.

It didn’t make for an easy drift off into sleep, that much was sure. She couldn’t tell whether the noises outside were normal or deserved heightened attention, so her brain gave everything heightened attention. With only the destroyed padlock to keep and the original one missing she only had the bolt from the inside to lock the door and that did not give her much comfort. She sat in the corner of Sidney’s bed, wrapped into his blanket, and started up every time there was a discernible noise somewhere.

Just when she had convinced herself that all the little cracks and swooshes outside were just the natural sounds of her surroundings, and she had nodded off for however long, there was a noise that was definitely not normal and not part of the surroundings. It was the sound of glass breaking.

There were about two seconds between the glass breaking and the next thing happening which was barely enough for her to startle into sudden consciousness and realize that the window next to the bed on the small side of the caravan had been broken. In the light of the next thing happening she could see that it had been broken by a large rock, a glass bottle following through the opening and shattering on the floor, spilling its contents – flammable liquid and flames.

There was another sound, one Róisín realized several moments later was a scream from her own throat, as she stared at the flames in panicked horror. Fire. The caravan was on fire, and the flames were rapidly spreading.

Half the floor caught easily on fire and the flames were quickly climbing onwards and upwards. With another flash of horror she realized that she was stuck on the bed, on highly flammable material, and the way out through the door was cut off by the flames. Smoke was filling the caravan as well, it was becoming hard to breathe and see.

Desperate she made a decision, any decision having the potential to free her or leave her in the flames. Throwing the blanket down in front of her to cover at least some of the way she jumped towards the door, feet meeting the blanket, and heat, and then floor and heat, which she didn’t let herself think about or feel in any more detail as she yanked on the bolt. It had been tricky and stubborn before when she’d done it up and now it wouldn’t-

The bolt slid back, the door fell open, and Róisín through it. Down the stairs she went, gasping and coughing for air, crawling on hands and knees until she was in plenty of distance to the ablaze caravan. Thick wads of smoke were rising from it now, flowing from the sunroof and the now open window, barely contrasting against the still dark night sky. Only the flames, the red and yellow and orange and white, stood out against the darkness, devouring everything.

 

It was broad daylight when the fire brigade finished putting out the fire that had devoured nearly all there was devour. They had only kept it from spreading to the meadow the caravan was standing on. The caravan itself was unsalvageable.

The firemen hadn’t taken much notice of the woman standing by and staring at the blazing caravan remains with an empty expression on her face. One had tried to talk to her for a moment but hadn’t gotten anything discernible out of her, other than that she was Sid’s wife and that someone else set fire to the caravan. The former caused the fireman to eye her differently and the latter he didn’t believe. She didn’t realize that he didn’t not believe someone had set fire to the caravan, he didn’t believe it had been someone else , until the familiar police car pulled up just as the fire truck was leaving.

Inspector Sullivan shook hands with the chief of the fire brigade and spoke with him for a bit before he approached Róisín who was, by now, sitting off to the side on a still green patch of grass. The area around the caravan had browned and charred from the heat of the fire, a miracle it hadn’t spread.

Mrs. Carter,” the inspector said but had to move into her direct line of vision for her to take note of him. She looked up at him and although he never would have admitted it to anyone out loud, he could see in her eyes, clear and blue as the sky breaking above them, that the fire chief’s suspicion couldn’t be further from the truth. This woman had not set fire to her husband’s caravan. “What happened?” he asked finally and Róisín blinked.

Are you going to arrest me now?” she asked dispassionately, face entirely devoid of any emotion and expression. He saw that her hands were scratched and bloody in some parts and as he gave her a once-over he took note that her clothes were singed at some parts, she was covered by a layer of soot from top to- Her feet were bare and he could barely contain a wince at what he thought to be blisters on the soles of her feet.

Why would I arrest you, Mrs. Carter?” he asked back with a small frown.

I’ve done nothing wrong,” she replied simply and looked back towards the caravan.

If you’ve done nothing wrong, then I have no reason to arrest you.”

Then why did you arrest my husband?”

Sullivan’s brows pulled together. “Just tell me what happened, Mrs. Carter,” he demanded impatiently. He really didn’t feel like spending any more time with this woman than he absolutely had to.

For a few moments Róisín didn’t answer but then she closed her eyes for a moment only for them to snap back open almost immediately. “I was asleep,” she said, so quietly he strained to hear. “I heard the window break and then something came flying through it, it shattered on the floor and spread the flames. I threw the blanket on the floor to get to the door but it wouldn’t open. Then it did and I got out.” She spoke of the night’s events just as impassively as she had said everything else which struck Sullivan as rather odd seeing as she was describing almost dying in the fire.

So you think the fire came from outside?” He glanced over to the caravan, then took in the surrounding area. As if there was still anything to be gained from that.

Someone threw a rock through the window and then a bottle with fire,” she confirmed simply.

Are you sure? It couldn’t have been a lamp you left on that fell down? The contents of the caravan seem highly flammable, a little spark could do it.”

Róisín didn’t answer as she got to her feet. She grimaced slightly and took a moment to gain her balance.

Would you-” he started but fell silent as she began to speak.

Inspector, could you do me a favor?” she asked him and something in her tone made his indignation at her request die on the tip of his tongue. “I know you and Sidney don’t get on but could you tell him something from me?” He stared at her. “Tell him I’m sorry I ruined everything.” She gave a small nod after a moment, then turned and walked towards the road. The gravel road.

He watched her for a few moments before he reminded himself of his manners. “Mrs. Carter, if you’re looking to go into town, we can give you a ride,” he called after her, hurrying to catch up with the surprisingly fast little woman. “Actually, you should probably have someone take a look at your feet and your hands, Mrs. Carter.”

She stopped only when he stood directly in her way and his words seemed to take a moment to register because then she looked at her hands and down at her feet.

That’s alright, I’ll be fine,” she assured him in a faraway voice that did nothing to reassure him about her state whatsoever.

In fact, I think we should take you down to the hospital, Mrs. Carter,” he said loudly, catching Sergeant Goodfellow’s attention and nodding towards the woman in a much too obvious way that Róisín took no note of. He then reached for her elbow and gave a yelp more of surprise and pain a split second later. He had barely gotten hold of her arm when she had already twisted out of his grip, turning and bending his wrist painfully in the process.

Don’t touch me,” she said very clearly, letting go of his wrist as if throwing it from herself. When she walked on then, he didn’t stop her.

She doesn’t seem quite alright, sir,” Sergeant Goodfellow noted cautiously. There was something about this case of breaking and entering with Sid that was not as usual and the inspector was even more easily irritated recently.

No, she doesn’t,” the inspector agreed, surprisingly, and tore his eyes off the woman’s retreating form. “Which is why we’re going to make a stop at the church.”

Yes, sir.” Sergeant Goodfellow gave a smile, relieved that the inspector wasn’t going to leave this poor woman wandering the fields in the state she was in.

 

* * *

After making a short stop at the presbytery, Inspector Sullivan returned to the police station. First he went to his office to write up a little report about the caravan fire, contemplating for entirely too long if he should follow his gut and write it up as suspected arson or go with the easy option of calling it an accident and leaving it at that.

Are you going to arrest me now?” she had asked him, looking at him with her huge, empty blue eyes. He was all too familiar with that kind of emptiness in someone’s face and eyes, he had seen it too many times in the men that had fought side by side with him.

Then why did you arrest my husband?”

With a grunt, he threw down the new file next to the ongoing one of the breaking and entering at the Johnsons’ farm. It was an entirely too sloppy job to ever be Sidney’s, he knew that, but all evidence was against him. Letting out another breath of frustration he stood, leaving the decision about the caravan fire for later but at least resolving to act on his other gut instinct.

It brought him to the cell, Sidney’s cell, fighting down a scowl at the look of approval Goodfellow had given him when he had grabbed the cell keys. Sid’s long body was still sprawled out on the platform which couldn’t be comfortable at all but it wasn’t designed to be comfortable, was it? The suspected thief rolled over slowly, blinking up at the inspector blearily.

“...whot?” he brought out hoarsely, slowly sitting up and running a hand over his face.

“Tea,” was what Sullivan said and turned on his heels, exiting the cell again and only just remembering to shut the door behind himself. He prepared two cups of tea and returned to find a somewhat more awake Sidney who was now eyeing him suspiciously.

“What’re you butterin’ me up for with the tea?” he wanted to know, still accepting the tea though and shooting the inspector a momentary, tiny knowing grin at the biscuit on the saucer.

Sullivan waited until Sid had had the biscuit and two gulps of tea, awkwardly holding his own tea.

“So?” Sid put his tea to the side and gave the other man an expectant look.

“I got a call from the fire chief this morning, there was a fire at the caravan,” Sullivan said finally.

Sidney stared up at him stock-still. “What?”

“It burned down completely, I’m so-” He only got that far before Sid jumped up, diving for the door. “Carter, no!”

“Where is she? Was she in it?” Sidney bellowed at him, wrestling with Sullivan, Sullivan’s cup of tea shattering and spilling on the floor in the process. “Was. She. In. It?!”

For someone who hadn’t seen their wife in five years and claimed not to care about her, this man cared quite a lot about his wife. At least Sullivan thought so, taking in the fear and desperation written into Sidney’s face.

“Everything alright in there, sir?” came Sergeant Goodfellow’s trusty call of concern.

“Everything alright, Carter’s just a bit clumsy this morning,” Sullivan called back, grimacing because ‘Carter’s just a bit clumsy this morning’? He turned back to Carter who was muttering to himself now.

“She got out just in time,” he told him and relief took some of the desperation from the other man’s face.

If the fire chief called you, they suspect it’s arson then?” Sidney asked, eyes trained directly on the inspector.

“That’s what she said at least,” Sullivan gave away and watched Sidney’s reaction to that. “Fire brigade think it was probably a lamp that tipped over or something similar. There’s nothing much left to go from unfortunately. Possible traces of accelerant though.”

Sid’s expression went absolutely steely. “It was arson.”

“And how would you know that, Carter?” Sullivan asked skeptically.

Sid fixed him with a piercing look. “Because her parents and her grandparents both died in house fires. And now that she’s gotten her inheritance, suddenly she’s caught in a fire as well? One fire is a coincidence, two fires are suspicious, three fires…”

Sullivan stared at him. “What fires, what inheritance? What are you talking about?”

“Her grandparents died in a house fire back in Ireland, just after the war. Put it down as lamp tipping over in their sleep or something. Then a couple years later her parents died in another fire, cable fire they ruled it. Her grandparents weren’t rich but they were well enough off, apparently her parents got most of the money and her mother made sure to set some aside for Róisín which she only got access to a month ago or so, she said.”

That did sound quite suspicious, even Sullivan saw that but the was the opposite of ready to admit that, and Sid could tell.

“Where is she now?” he wanted to know, staring at the opposite wall in a way that made obvious that he was thinking hard about something.

“I told the Father to have an eye on her.”

Sidney nodded lightly. “Thanks.”

Sullivan stood there awkwardly and nodded as well eventually. Then he bent down to pick up the shards of the broken cup and saucer.

I’ll replace that,” Sid promised, watching him do it. “Be careful, don’t cut yourself.”

Plenty more where that came from.” Sullivan straightened up and took the other set that Sidney had just drained.

Inspector Sullivan?” Sergeant Goodfellow called from outside again then and the door opened. “It’s the Father, sir, he-”

What is it now, Father Brown? Didn’t I just see you an hour ago at the presbytery?” Sullivan charged ahead, unnerved by all this meddling and complications. Why couldn’t any case that had the slightest bit to do with them ever go nice and easy?

You did,” Father Brown confirmed, Mrs. McCarthy behind him with an odd expression on her face. It took Sullivan a moment to place it as somewhere on the spectrum of worried. “I’m afraid we were unable to find Róisín though.”

What do you mean? I told you, she was going down the road from Carter’s caravan and that she needed medical attention.” Sullivan frowned deeply.

“And the Father left at once, Inspector Sullivan. At once!” Mrs. McCarthy insisted, wringing her hands.

“It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes for you to make your way from the caravan to the presbytery and then another fifteen for me to make the same way back on my bike. However, I’m afraid that there was no sign nor trace of Róisín whatsoever.”

“The Father even found some blood stains on the path!” Mrs. McCarthy inserted herself again.

“Well, she was walking barefooted on a gravel road.” The last thing he needed now was a missing person on top of everything else.

“Something happened to that poor woman, inspector! You’ve got to do something!”

 

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

By nightfall they had not made any progress. Sullivan had sent out two police cars in addition to going back out to the road by the caravan with Goodfellow himself. There had been nothing there, except for the blood stains. They left a widespread trail of sorts up to a certain point then stopped. There were no signs of a struggle, of another vehicle, or anything. It was like she had been plucked from the street, vanished into thin air.

Naturally, finding nothing did not help to set anyone more at ease, just like it provided no further answers, only further questions. The Father and Mrs. McCarthy’s fretting was now aided by Lady Felicia who also demanded to see prompt and thorough action. And when Sullivan went in to inform Sidney of the non-progress just before he was going home, for a moment he thought that the other man very well might clock him.

Seem to care a good bit about the wife that doesn’t matter to you,” he couldn’t help himself but comment offhandedly after Sid had plopped down heavily onto the platform.

Sid looked up at him for a long moment then shook his head.

“You don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t,” Sullivan agreed with a surprisingly sharp edge to his voice. “But it’s none of my business,” he retracted a moment later.

Sidney stood and advanced on the inspector until he was forced to either stand his ground or move back. He did the latter and it made Sidney stand still, made something in the taller man’s face change.

What I want it to be your business, Tom?” he asked quietly, with a softness to his voice that not many knew him to be capable of. Boisterous, hot-tempered ladies’ man Sidney Carter. There wasn’t much of that in the searching, almost shy look he gave him.

The seconds dragged on, with Sid’s extended olive branch hanging in the air and Inspector Sullivan looking like a deer caught in the headlights on the verge of running away the next second. Finally he moved, not in the jerky manner his face had foretold but still he turned away, towards the door.

“I’ve got cases to solve,” he mumbled and exited the cell, leaving Sidney behind to exhale a deep sigh and plop himself back down onto the platform.

 

* * *

There were no developments over night and when they reconvened in the presbytery kitchen the next morning, Father Brown, Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia that were, it was written into all of their faces.

“I think,” the Father said after they had been silently sipping tea for a while, “that we should treat this as any other case.”

Mrs. McCarthy stood immediately. “I’ll get something to write.” She bustled off towards the study.

“Since when is Mrs. M so on board with this?” Lady Felicia questioned with somewhat raised eyebrows. “I thought she couldn’t stand Róisín?”

“I believe it has to do with the fire at the caravan,” Father Brown said quietly but before he could elaborate Mrs. McCarthy was back with his pen and a notebook.

“Here you go,” she said and sat back down. “How do we start?”

“At the beginning is always a good idea,” the Father replied kindly. “If you wouldn’t mind writing, Lady Felicia?” He pushed the pen and notebook over to the woman who seemed a little lost in thought.

“Yes, of course,” she answered and opened both pen and notebook.

Gathering all the facts and information as well as their speculations turned up quite a number of papers they pinned to the back of Father Brown’s trusty picture frame and connected with string. In the matter of three days, quite a lot had happened. But despite all their gathering and speculating, they just weren’t getting on with the case.

 

- Róisín, married to Sidney for five years, Irish (wedding ring), parents died 5 years ago, left her sizable inheritance accessible after 5 years of being married, wants to share the money with Sidney

- Sidney arrested for B&E at the Johnsons’ farm house, tools found in the caravan, green button near the farmhouse, button not Sid’s!

- caravan fire: suspected arson with Róisín inside – murder attempt?, traces of accelerant

- disappearance of Róisín the morning after the fire (ca. 30 minutes between Sullivan leaving and Father arriving), traces of blood on the road by the caravan (bloody feet?)

 

Somehow all of these must be connected.” Lady Felicia inspected the pin board with a frown. “This cannot all be a coincidence.”

I don’t believe it is,” Father Brown agreed thoughtfully. “At the very least it seems very far-fetched for the fire at the caravan and Róisín’s presence there not to be connected.”

And the inheritance?” Lady Felicia brought up, pointing at the cards with those facts. “Her parents die but she can’t get the inheritance until now and all of a sudden things are happening around her, like Sid getting arrested and the fire? Too bad we don’t know anything about her parents’ death. Seems a bit odd, most of the time they don’t both die at the same time, do they?”

I think I may know a little about that,” Mrs. McCarthy said quietly. Father Brown and Lady Felicia looked up at her and found the older woman frowning sorrowfully.

You do?” the Father asked softly, sensing that there was more to this.

I thought it was just a coincidence but as you say, these are a few too many coincidences, aren’t they?” she told them and sighed deeply. “The first time I saw Róisín I felt like I recognized her somehow and I think I know where from now.”

You know her?” Lady Felicia asked breathlessly. “Why haven’t you-” A look from Father Brown silenced her. “Carry on, please.”

Back in Ireland I had a friend, a lovely girl a few years younger than me, name of Saoirse Doran. She moved to England with her new husband for a better life a few years before I did. Last thing I heard she’d had a baby girl not much later. Her parents’ little farm burned down just after the war ended was the last thing I heard of the family.” Mrs. McCarthy wrung her hands in her lap anxiously. “Róisín does remind me a lot of Saoirse now that I think about it.”

Sidney would know something about this, wouldn’t he?” Lady Felicia pondered out loud. “They haven’t seen each other in five years but they did seem like good friends.”

Perhaps,” Father Brown agreed.

I’ll go and ask him,” Lady Felicia decided the next moment and stood. “Got anything you want to send along for Sid, Mrs. M? I’m sure the room and board at the station is excellent but-”

Yes, yes, I’ll fix something up.” Mrs. M waved at her to be quiet and got busy.

 

Wow, I’m having more visitors in here then I regularly do out there,” Sidney commented dryly when Lady Felicia was let into the cell by an irritated looking Sullivan. “To what do I owe the pleasure, milady? Come to interrogate me about my wife as well?”

Lady Felicia fought down the face she wanted to make at Sid’s obvious foul mood and instead held out Mrs. McCarthy’s care package towards him. He snatched it out of her hands immediately and moaned in delight as he opened the lid.

“Mrs. M can visit any time she likes,” he got out around a hearty bite of scone, spewing crumbs everywhere. Lady Felicia did crinkle her nose at that.

“I did come to ask about Róisín as well though,” she admitted apologetically.

He heaved a big sigh. “What d’ya want to know?” he asked sourly, holding the box of treats protectively to himself.

“Do you know how her parents died?”

Sid eyed her for a moment then nodded in approval. “Startin’ to ask the right questions. In a cable fire.”

“And her grandparents’ farm burned down in Ireland as well,” she added and he nodded. “Too many fries to be coincidence.”

“Exactly. I told this to the inspector too but he’s not getting anywhere with it.”

“Do you know Róisín’s full name?”

Sid snorted. “Of course I know my wife’s full name.” He gave his employer a dirty look. “Saoirse Róisín Carter, nee McDermott. Saoirse after-”

“Her mother,” Lady Felicia finished for him.

“How do you know that?” His eyebrows rose in surprise.

“It appears that Mrs. McCarthy knew Róisín’s mother, Saoirse Doran, probably her maiden name. Moved to England with her new husband and had a daughter soon after. Parents’, or in Róisín’s case her grandparents’, farm burned down shortly after the war.”

“Mrs. M knew Róisín’s mother?” Sidney almost spit out the last bite of pastry. “Well, shit.”

Lady Felicia nodded. “The inspector doesn’t have anything new and neither do we, Sidney, I’m sorry.”

“If only he’d let me out go look for her myself!” Sid grumbled darkly, pacing the length of the cell up to the door and back to the platform.

“He can’t very well release you now, your first hearing is tomorrow.”

“I know.” He muttered under his breath. He continued to pace for a few moments and then made Lady Felicia jump in fright as he hit his flat hands against the wall in frustration, looking much like he wanted to bash his head into the stone as well. “I promised her she’d be safe,” he said quietly, guiltily. “If she married me, she was supposed to be safe… And then I yell at her and she disappears.”

Felicia stared at his back, his shoulders drawn up and in as he leaned his forehead against the wall.

“You yelled at her?”

His silence was answer enough.

“What about?” she asked kindly, wondering what reason he could have to yell at someone who seemed to have his best interest at heart so passionately.

He didn’t answer for another few moments. “That she’s messing everything up.” He hadn’t been able to say this to the Father although he knew that the Father didn’t judge but it was different with Felicia.

Felicia frowned at him. “What is she messing up in your eyes? She came here to share her inheritance with you, I don’t see how that would mess up anything.”

Sidney exhaled a deep sigh and finally turned around, leaning against the wall. He still wouldn’t look at her though. “He wasn’t supposed to know she even exist.”

“Who is-” She cut herself off as she connected the dots. “Oh. Well, that certainly explains his more than usual irritation and his unusually relentless persecution.”

Sid just nodded lightly.

Well, that can all be fixed just as soon as we find that wife of yours.” Lady Felicia gave him a bright smile and stood from where she had sat down on the platform. Not without eyeing it suspiciously of course. “Oh, and by the way, since you can no longer live in the caravan I’ve asked Hornby to do a preliminary sweep of the little cottage by the pond. Hasn’t been used in God knows how long but it’s yours.”

Sidney stared at her for several moments, his mouth opening and closing a few times, before he swallowed heavily. “A cottage? For me?”

Lady Felicia gave him a look of fond exasperation. “I would have offered it to you earlier but you seemed very attached to your caravan. And now with your wife around a caravan just won’t do. Don’t want to be sleeping on the floor forever, do you?” she teased him softly.

No, I don’t,” he answered quietly. “Thank you.”

Oh, it’s quite alright.” She waved him off. “It is on the estate so much less hassle hailing you down when I need you but far enough from the main house for plenty of privacy.” She gave him a knowing look that he ignored.

One last thing,” she said after knocking on the cell door to be let out. “Maybe it’s not the worst that you’re stuck in here, whoever is after Róisín could possibly after you as well. At least in here nothing can happen to you.”

Sid looked disgruntled at that, definitely didn’t agree with her from the looks of it, but didn’t voice his opinion as Sergeant Goodfellow came to let Lady Felicia out again.

 

* * *

It was almost towards the end of the (official) work day that Sullivan was sitting over his files again. Requesting the files for the two other fires Sidney had mentioned had turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. He only had the dates and the victims’ names now and the official verdict which wasn’t helpful enough. And with everything else he had, there was nothing new or anything else to be gained either.

The breaking and entering was definitely on Sidney right now, what with finding the tools in the caravan and all. The arson was inconclusive so ruled an accident if you asked the fire brigade. And Róisín’s disappearance… She had appeared out of the blue one day, and had disappeared much the same way. Nothing tangibly suspicious about that.

Except there was something to it. For once he had to agree with everyone else that there was something suspicious going on with all of this. These things were connected, possibly even connected with the two previous fires.

Sullivan paused for a moment then picked up his phone. “Hello, put me through to the fire station please.” He waited for a few moments. “Yes, hello, this is Inspector Sullivan. I need all files on fires within the last…” He thought for a moment. “Within the last month. Especially ones that where the source of the fire was inconclusive.” His eyebrows drew together as he listened to the person on the other end. “I am aware that this might amount to quite a number of files. However, I would be just as happy to explain the nature of my request to the chief- Yes, thank you, tomorrow morning is fine.” He hung up and nodded to himself. By tomorrow morning he’d have a few more files to go through, maybe he’d find something in there.

As it was still light out so he grabbed his jacket and put it on, following his second notion. He was going to go back to the farmhouse at the Johnsons’. They had to have missed something there. A few days later he wasn’t very optimistic that he would still find something there but maybe he’d have a stroke of luck. They desperately needed one.

 

Even from further away he could tell that something was wrong with the farmhouse and when he got closer to it, he knew what.

It was on fire.

The flames hadn’t made it outside yet but the shack was definitely on fire. For once grateful for the car’s radio, he gave an emergency call and then, against better judgment, neared the farmhouse. The surrounding area was beginning to heat up but the fire seemed mostly contained inside the building. Then he saw why.

The door and the windows were completely nailed shut. That struck him as odd but maybe Mr. Johnson had gone a little overboard in securing the premises against further break-ins. If he hadn’t found the tools in Sidney’s caravan, he would have let him go a few hours later. The Johnsons’ were hardly the most credible of witnesses nor the most upstanding of members of the community.

Sullivan was about to turn away to go back to the car to wait in safe distance for the fire brigade when he heard a noise. He stopped, and listened for a few more moments but there was nothing else. Just as he was about to leave, he heard it again. It was a sort of…

Ice spread in his veins as a cold wave washed down his back. It sounded like someone was knocking, pounding on the farmhouse’s door.

Róisín,” he whispered to himself and ran back to the police car, ripping open the boot for the. “Where is it? Where is it? Where is the damn crowbar, Goodfellow?!” Finally he founded shoved into the very back, next to a piece of somewhat dirty cloth that he first grimaced at but then grabbed to tie around his head to cover his nose and mouth against the smoke. Ripping off his suit jacket he then ran back to the shack.

Róisín?” he called loudly but the fire was louder. “RÓISÍN!” It was no use. There were now flames licking their way even out of the small crevices the aging structures of the building and the wood covering the openings left.

Whoever had nailed the boards to the outside of the shack hadn’t done the greatest job which was the only reason why he was able to remove the first two boards with relative ease. The fire was giving off heaps of heat now and he was sweating heavily, struggling to breathe and see from the smoke and fumes.

RÓISÍN!” he yelled another time, leaning with all his might into loosening the next board. “RÓISÍN!”

Finally he had the most bottom boards off which gave him enough space to attempt kicking in the door but- There was resistance behind it. Something, or someone?, was behind that door.

Róisín, listen to me! You have to get away from the door! I can’t open it when you’re behind the door! Róisín, do you hear me? Get away from the door!” he yelled desperately, coughing between words and feeling like his clothing was starting to singe from the heat, pushing on the door anyway because if she had lost consciousness, he’d have to-

The door opened more on his next push and he was able to shove it far enough that.

“Róisín!”

Her small body was curled up on the floor, flames all around her and quickly reaching for the new surge of air through the opening. She was barely holding up her head anymore, one hand reaching towards the door.

“I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” he assured her and, deciding that all other visible and invisible injures be damned – there was a significant trail of blood on her forehead and her other hand looked… nauseatingly out of shape –, grabbed for what he could reach of her to pull her out. It felt like she weighed nothing as he scooped her up and stumbled his way away from the shack. In the distance he could finally hear the sirens of the fire brigade as he set her down on the grass near the police car and ripped away the cloth from his mouth and nose, gasping for the fresh air.

“Róisín, can you hear me? Hey, stay up. Come on. Róisín.” He knelt over her, eyes taking in many more things he had no time or space to fully consider (several burn marks, her bloody feet, her torn clothing, a couple of prominent bruises, …). “Come on, Róisín, breathe. Breathe.” He turned her onto her side, cradling her carefully, and patted her back. “Come on, breathe.”

There was only a weak cough a moment later but oh, was he happy to hear it.

“That’s it. Go on, deep breaths. Come on,” he encouraged her and from the corner of his eye saw the first red firetruck arrive. It was only when he looked back down on her that he noticed something had fallen out of her grasp when he’d turned her. It was… a green button with a piece of cloth still attached to it, like someone had ripped it right off a piece of clothing.

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

Unfortunately the ambulance crew had decided that Sullivan had to come with to the hospital to get his burns treated which he hadn’t really noticed he had until someone had pointed them out. So he had to send Goodfellow back to the station to get Sidney because while the ambulance crew hadn’t said much, their faces had spoken plenty. It wasn’t looking good.

Anyone in the hospital could tell the exact moment that Sidney arrived.

Where is she?!” he bellowed at an intimidated looking nurse. “Where is my wife!”

Just in those few words you could tell how emotional Sidney was, his voice was loud as ever but had a rawness to it that you never really got with him.

Then steps thundered down the hallway and he came into view, Goodfellow hurrying after him. Sidney’s eyes wandered over the inspector top to bottom and a new level of worry was added to his face.

You’re hurt too,” he choked out, steps slowing until he was a few feet from Sullivan.

Just a couple superficial burns,” Sullivan tried to play it off but Sidney visibly flinched at the word burns. “I told them to treat her first.”

Gratefulness shone in Sidney’s blue eyes then but the worry took over again quickly. “Did they tell you anything?”

Sullivan tried to exchange a discreet look with Goodfellow but Sidney caught it.

What is that look?” he demanded to know immediately, taking another step towards Sullivan, towering over him. “Tell me!”

She inhaled a lot of smoke and wasn’t breathing well when they brought her in,” Sullivan admitted slowly.

And?” Sidney’s eyes bore into him. “There’s more.”

Sullivan sighed. “She has several burns as well as well as abrasions and bruises. And her left hand seems to have been crushed, several fingers appear broken.”

Sidney’s gaze pinned him into place as the taller man took in that information but Sullivan knew that glare was not directed at him. Sidney’s fists clenched and unclenched a few times at his sides as he breathed heavily.

How long have they been in there?”

Sullivan looked at his watch. “We arrived about an hour ago. No one knows when there’s gonna be news.” He continued to keep a watchful eye on Sidney. “You might want to call the Father,” he instructed Goodfellow, not reflecting on his words until Sidney reared up in his periphery. “For your moral support! Not for last rites!” he added quickly but Sidney was almost hyperventilating. “Better be quick about it, sergeant.”

Goodfellow hurried off.

Only after his steps had faded for several moments, Sidney pushed off of the wall he had leaned against to calm down and crossed the hallway until he was very much right in front of the inspector again.

Are you alright?” he asked quietly, searching the other man’s face intently.

Sullivan nodded jerkily, would never mention that he still heard the crackle of the fire but most of all Róisín’s hammering against the boarded-up door.

How did you get this?” Sidney reached for Sullivan’s wrists gently, turning his hands very carefully to inspect the damage. His hands had been hastily treated with disinfectant but since he had insisted they look after Róisín first, that was all. He had a few burns that looked painful and also a few splinters in his palms. He reeked of smoke and had smudges of soot all over him. He frozenly held still as Sidney wiped one from his forehead.

I pulled her out,” he said quietly and Sidney stopped breathing for a moment.

What?” His eyes went wide.

I went back to the farmhouse to look for more evidence or just something to help along the case. It was already burning when I got there. I went to the car to call the fire brigade on the radio when I heard her hammering on the door.” He stopped abruptly.

What?” This was less like a question and more like a command. “What is it, Thomas?”

The door was boarded up from the outside, same as the windows…”

Sidney’s eyes bore into his for the second time. “You’re gonna get whoever did this and they’re gonna hang,” he ground out, getting into Sullivan’s space until their noses almost touched. “You’re gonna get them.”

Sullivan swallowed. “I will,” he vowed.

Sidney nodded curtly and took a step back again. “That was no ordinary fire at the caravan and that was no ordinary fire at the farmhouse, and you know it! That’s four fires. Four fires! Killing two generations of one family and nearly killing a third!”

Which is why I’ve requested anything on file to do with Róisín and her extended family,” Sullivan assured him quickly. “Do you know anything else about her family?”

Sidney shook his head. “Didn’t talk much about anyone. Just her parents and grandparents. There might be an aunt or uncle and a few cousins, she’s Irish, I mean…” He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know.”

I’ll have someone stationed at her door. It’s quite clear to me that she’s a target.”

Sidney gave another curt nod and took up pacing the hallway. “I married her to protect her,” he said into the silence suddenly, turning to look at Sullivan again.

You don’t have to expl-”

I married her to protect her,” Sidney repeated, meaningfully. “Her parents’ will said she had to be married for five years until she could get her inheritance.” He didn’t say anything else then, like that made everything make sense.

You’ve mentioned the inheritance before, is it much? Do you think that could be a motive?” Sullivan rattled off but Sidney shook his head.

You’re not listening, Tom,” he said quietly but with the same distinct intensity to his voice. “Her parents’ will said she had to be married, to a man, for five years until she could get her inheritance.”

Finally Sullivan did what Sidney had intended for him to do, he fishmouthed as he connected the dots. Before either of them could say anything else, there were steps heard again. Sidney went back to leaning against the opposite wall and Sullivan remained standing by the chairs. A merciful nurse had brought him here to wait because it was closer to the surgery where they had taken Róisín than the actual waiting room.

 

It were Sergeant Goodfellow with Father Brown and Mrs. McCarthy rushing down the hallway. All three of them looked very concerned and Sidney almost lost it when Father Brown said his name in that fatherly, warm tone of his.

Sidney.”

Sid turned away, shaking his head to gather himself, and Mrs. McCarthy gasped quietly behind him.

She isn’t dead,” Inspector Sullivan stated quickly and the two of them breathed sighs of relief. “She inhaled a lot of smoke and has some scratches.” He glossed over the actual truth even more than he had for Sidney, glancing at the other man and seeing him nod lightly in approval.

The sergeant said you were the one to pull her out?” Father Brown looked at the inspector attentively. Sullivan gave a short nod. “Thank you.”

I was simply there at the right time, luckily.” Sullivan shrugged it off.

And got yourself all scratched up as well,” Mrs. McCarthy tutted, eyeing his hands that he hid behind his back then. “I’m going to flag down a nurse and have someone take care of that,” she declared and bustled off.

I haven’t had a chance to ask Carter yet,” Sullivan said then, remembering the piece of evidence in his pocket. “But does this mean anything to either of you?” He pulled out the green button with the ripped fabric.

Sidney shook his head but Father Brown’s face did that thing when he did have something. He put his hand in his pocket, then pulled it out and opened it to reveal… another green button, exactly like the one Sullivan was holding.

Róisín and I found it by the fence where we deemed the arsonist to most likely have arrived and departed via the street behind the farmhouse,” Father Brown explained.

She had this one in her hand when I found her,” Sullivan added.

That means it’s the same person,” Sidney concluded and pulled at his hair in agitation. “It has to be. Someone is after her.”

And you, Sidney,” Father Brown pointed out. “The break-in was aimed at you.”

Sidney’s face went steely, staring at the two buttons.

Róisín was very quick to point out that this button does not belong to Sidney,” the Father shared cautiously. “I’m not sure if this is true but my impression was that she might have recognized it.”

She knows who this belongs to?” Sidney snatched up the button from the Father, inspecting it closely. “There’s nothing on it, not even a manufacturer’s mark!”

I know, I checked.” Father Brown gave him a tight smile. “Like I said, I’m not entirely certain, it’s just the impression I got,” he cautioned.

When have your impressions ever been wrong?” Sidney scoffed.

I’ve been known to err on the side of benevolence, Sidney, not always to my benefit.”

Sidney shook his head. “So she knows who this is.” He handed the second button to Sullivan. “She knows who is after her.” If only he hadn’t chased her off, she might have told him something. She might not have been in the caravan at all when it burned down. She might have been safe and sound at the presbytery or-

Mrs. McCarthy returned then with a nurse carrying some medical supplies and Sullivan was asked into another room so he could be treated.

Did she mention anything, Sid?” Father Brown asked quietly, mindful of Sergeant Goodfellow’s presence. Goodfellow, bless his golden heart, noticed and mumbled something about checking on the car before disappearing quickly.

Nothing,” Sidney said and ran a hand over his face. “Didn’t give her a chance to tell me anythin’.”

The Father pressed his lips together as he nodded.

What if the last thing I ever said to her was that she’s ruining everything?” Sidney fretted, pulling on his hair again. That he had asked her if he was going to be in a house fire next weighed on him far more heavily but he didn’t dare confess that to the Father.

Father Brown couldn’t say anything to that because there was nothing to say to that. He had encountered this fear, and reality, so many times he had lost count decades ago. He just hoped that Róisín was strong and stubborn enough, like he knew her to be, to pull through.

 

Finally a doctor came out to them, his serious face doing nothing to alleviate their worries. Sullivan was long back by then, his hands covered in gauze. Just as the doctor appeared, so did Lady Felicia, hurrying to Sidney’s side to take his hand.

I came as quickly as I could,” she said apologetically. “How is she?” She looked at the doctor promptingly.

I’m Sidney Carter, Róisín’s husband,” Sidney introduced himself. “Anything you have to say, you can say to all of us.”

Mrs. Carter inhaled a nearly fatal amount of smoke,” the doctor told them with brute honesty. “We are giving her supplemental oxygen but it might not be enough. We are monitoring her over night and may put her on hyperbaric oxygen next.”

Sidney squeezed Felicia’s hand until his knuckles were white. “And the other injuries? Sullivan said something about her hand?”

The doctor grimaced slightly. “We haven’t taken x-rays yet as the other issues were more pressing but I expect at least three of her fingers to be broken, possibly some bones in her hand as well.” He cast a look at the inspector and sergeant. “The nurse noticed a faint pattern of a boot print.”

Mrs. McCarthy gasped at that, as did Lady Felicia just more quietly. She gripped onto Sidney’s arm with her free hand as well.

She also has a fairly big bump on her head as well as a lesion, suggesting she might have been hit over the head. We can’t rule out a head trauma at this point. Everything else is fairly superficial but she does have a lot of bruises and scratches as well as burns.”

Will she make it?” Sidney brought out the question no one else dared to ask.

It’s touch and go at the moment, I’m sorry.”

Sidney nodded and ran a palm over his face. “Can I see her?”

We’re still getting her ready to go to a room but when she’s settled in a nurse will come and get you,” the doctor allowed. “Only Mr. Carter at this point. If the night goes well, the rest can see her one at a time tomorrow.”

Lady Felicia rubbed his arm encouragingly at that.

Doctor, if I may, I know that Mrs. Carter is in no state to give a statement right now but has she possibly said anything?” Inspector Sullivan asked as the doctor turned to leave. “It would be really helpful to know as it might help capture whoever did this.”

Now that you mention it, she did try to say your name, Mr. Carter, a few times. And something about a key, perhaps about the place where the fire was? You mentioned she’d been locked in.The doctor looked towards Sullivan who shook his head. Even if there had been a key that she had tried to get to, with the boards any key would have been useless. However, the information that Róisín had been locked into the farmhouse was new to everyone but Sidney and the policemen so all eyes went to Sullivan and then to Sid. Both men only wore grave expressions though. It was more than clear that nothing that had happened in the last few days had been a coincidence.

A nurse will come to get you when she’s settled in.” The doctor left.

 

It took another fifteen minutes until the nurse appeared and everyone could tell how tense Sid was as he followed her, his shoulders were almost at his ears and he had been fidgeting with whatever bits or corners of his clothing he could get his fingers on. To be honest, everyone else was feeling very tense as well as was obvious in the concerned look they all shared behind his back.

Somewhere else in the hospital Sidney didn’t really listen to the caution that the nurse tried to give him before she opened the door to Róisín’s room but maybe he should have.

Róisín.” He almost fell to his knees, narrowly dropping onto the chair next to her bed. “Little Rosie,” he whispered, horrified to see her in the state she was. Her face was half covered by an oxygen mask, a massive cylinder at the other side of her bed, most of her body tucked under the sheets but what was visible of her arms, shoulders and neck was covered largely by gauze and wrappings.

Can I touch her?” he asked the nurse who was standing at the end of the bed, checking Róisín’s chart.

Just that hand,” the nurse told him, pointing to her right hand. “The other we will x-ray in the morning.”

He nodded lightly and carefully took her hand, it looked so tiny in his and felt cold and weightless.

We’re gonna get them, Rosie, I promise,” he whispered to her and leaned over to kiss her forehead very carefully. Her dark hair contrasted starkly against the white pillowcase. “And then you’re gonna stay here where I can keep an eye on you, you hear? Lady Felicia’s giving us a cottage on the estate. You’ll like it, it’s right by the pond.” He rubbed his thumb over an uncovered spot of skin lightly. “So you have to get better to see it, okay? You have to get better.”

 

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

 

Good morning, Róisín.” Lady Felicia took a seat and quietly greeted the still and pale woman in the bed in front of her. “Sidney is at his hearing. The inspector went with to present some new evidence that hopefully should get Sid released for now. So I’m going to keep you company for a bit, I hope you don’t mind.”

Despite having heard the extent of her injuries from the doctor and how terribly pale and still Róisín looked from Sidney , it was shocking and disheartening to see her like this. Felicia had arrived bright and early, at least for her standards, but the nurses had kept her from the room for a while as Róisín was undergoing treatments. Now she was back from a round of hyperbaric oxygen treatment and also from having her hand x-rayed. It was now in a cast, several bones in her fingers and hand broken . The rest of her body was covered with bruises, scratches and burns, making what was visible of her look like a mummy. Seeing the lively woman in such stillness… A faint smell of smoke still exuded from her.

You’ve got them all on your side now,” Felicia went on, reaching for Róisín’s right hand and giving it a delicate squeeze. “Even Mrs. McCarthy and the inspector. We will find whoever did this.”

For a while she just sat there next to Róisín’s bed, watching the younger woman breathe. After everything that had happened that in itself was something to be glad about, now if only she would wake up too.

Well, I believe I have a reputation as a chatterbox so let me make good on that,” Felicia said eventually and shifted in her chair. “Five years, you said.” She pursed her lips in thought. “Let me tell you a little bit about what your husband got up to in that time, as far as I can remember that is. Maybe it’s better you’re potentially not actually hearing this, some of it will not quite make him husband of the year, I’m afraid.” She fiddled with a crease in the bedding for a moment. “Where shall I begin? Ah yes. As you probably know, Sidney is quite resourceful in turning up, let’s say opportunities. A good deal of them have gotten him in trouble with the inspectors, but I’m sure you’re aware of that. Well, this time he scrounged up a box of discarded crockery, selling them to anyone but mostly the Polish camp. Turns out they were radioactive and…”

And so Lady Felicia sat, sometimes in silence, sometimes telling stories, sometimes reading from the newspaper, keeping Róisín company while Father Brown and the inspector respectively were doing their utmost to find out more about the culprit.

 

* * *

 

Well, I guess this is it,” Sullivan said quietly, stopping the car in front of the hospital where Sid had asked to be dropped off after having spent the entire morning on tenterhooks as the inspector had negotiated with the justice of the peace to have Sid released on basis of new evidence and further investigation. Finally Sullivan had come to the cell and one look had been enough for Sid. He’d almost done something that really had no place in a police station cell (or at least with that cell’s door open). But Sullivan had looked like he had known anyway and that was almost enough.

Thank you,” Sidney said with emphasis and waited until Sullivan met his eyes before he moved to open the door. “Let me know if something turns up?”

Sullivan nodded. “Make sure someone is with her at all times, Carter.”

Sid gave a grave nod. “I will. Lady Felicia is with her right now.”

Good. See you around.”

That painted a quick smile onto Sid’s face. “See you around, inspector.” He got out of the car and watched it drive off for a moment before he hurried inside.

 

Róisín’s bed was still shielded off by the dividers which both infuriated and pacified Sidney. He didn’t want people staring at his unmoving wife like she was a freak show but he also didn’t appreciate her being shielded away like she needed to be hidden.

He heard Lady Felicia’s voice as he came nearer and as he started to listen, he realized that she was retelling the story of when Flambeau had poisoned him whilst on the chase for the rosary. There were quite some embellishments in comparison to what Sidney remembered actually having happened but he enjoyed the palpable fondness with which his boss told the story. And he liked the idea of someone telling Róisín about all the things they had gotten up to. Well, maybe not all of the things he had gotten up to.

Sidney!” Lady Felicia stood immediately when he rounded the divider and came into view. “Were you released or did the inspector sneak you out?” she asked in a whisper, offering him her chair with a gesture but he shook his head.

Officially released. Pending further investigation of course but the inspector made his point quite clear that the new evidence paints a different picture entirely. Justice wasn’t too happy, I gather, but…” He gave a shrug and turned his gaze onto his wife. “How is she?” His eyes wandered what he could see of her, taking particular note of her casted hand.

Quiet as a mouse,” she told him with sympathy, making place as he came to Róisín’s side after all to take her hand. “She’s had the hyperbaric oxygen this morning and also got her hand x-rayed.”

Will her hand recover?” he asked slowly staring at the cast.

There are several breaks in her fingers and hand, they wouldn’t say.”

He nodded lightly. “She’s quite handy, especially with the really tiny things that my hands are much too big for,” he explained quietly, still holding Róisín’s hand. “’s how we met. Brought an appliance to her that I couldn’t get just right. Let me watch as she did it, it was mesmerizing how she took it apart so delicately and still remembered every screw and every cog. Had her very own way of doing things, could never quite figure out how but somehow she did.”

That sounds nice,” Felicia said softly and he nodded. Then he stood abruptly and turned to his employer.

Will you stay with her? I gotta get out there and-”

Felicia nodded immediately. “Of course. I’ve instructed Hornby to prepare a room at the main house so we can transfer her whenever she is ready to.”

At the main house? But-”

She’ll need a lot of help for quite a while, Sid. Someone will be around within one shout.”

Sidney swallowed, then nodded. “Thank you.”

Just find whoever did this, Sidney. She isn’t safe until they’re under lock and key.”

His face darkened. “Dangling from a noose, more like. This is connected to her parents and grandparents, I just know it.”

Then go out and prove it.”

I will.”

 

* * *

 

Although the inspector, the Father and Sidney all tried to make further breakthroughs in the cases, nothing much came of it. A few days passed with no movement, except the growing tension of their nerves. Each day that didn’t turn up anything new, especially every day that Róisín didn’t wake up, was another day that prolonged the in-between they were caught in.

Sullivan employed the expertise of the local haberdasher about the buttons but nothing came of that either, they had not been purchased locally. The Irish authorities were also not very forthcoming with the file about the fire at Róisín’s grandparents’ farm. Tracking down the report on the so-called cable fire was even more bothersome.

The fire brigade ruled the farmhouse fire arson which was not a surprise at all but the fire had burned so hot and long that there was nothing left except a few pieces of charred wood and some indiscernible melted metal. The surrounding area didn’t turn up any new evidence and the Johnsons were helpful as ever with the investigation. At least Sullivan now had reasonable grounds to cast doubt on the Johnsons’ statements of having seen Sidney around before the break-in as Mr. Johnson tried to pin the fire on him as well – while Sidney had most definitely been locked in a cell. It was the smallest of victories in a jungle of dead ends leading him nowhere.

Similarly Father Brown and Sidney, aided by Mrs. McCarthy were she could and also where she couldn’t, didn’t find out anything new either. Town talked wagged in all directions, even including a particularly cruel tidbit that Sidney had in fact tried to burn his wife himself which had made Sidney nearly deck a man at the Red Lion if it hadn’t been for the Father and the innkeeper.

After that it was clear to the town folk that something was going on here and that didn’t help in discerning which rumors and gossips had a grain of truth in them or not. People were suspicious of two fires so closely together and even if they were right to be so, every shadow and seemingly suspicious person lurking about became the firebug.

And then, finally, there was movement.

 

Dia duit a Bhridget,” someone greeted her as Mrs. McCarthy was going around the shops.

Sidney had been eating at the presbytery ever since being released which meant that they were going through quite a bit more food than usual (but not greatly so which told her much about how much the Father had been feeding him behind her back) but she had also decided to make them something nice after running around town the last few days without getting anywhere. The younger of the two in particular was getting more and more agitated and she felt he deserved a nice meal to soothe his frayed nerves.

Dia is Muire duit,” she mumbled back absently. Maybe she’d even bake some scones, those were ought to bring everyone’s spirits up. Several steps later she stopped short, the exchange registering to her as it was very familiar to her but also very usual for this place. However, when she turned back she only saw locals, saying a quick greeting to Mrs. Smith before shrugging it off and bustling on.

When she got to the presbytery with her charge, she barely had the door half open before she heard the Father calling out for her again.

Mrs. McCarthy!” He came from the study rather quickly.

What is it, Father?” she asked fretfully and let herself be maneuvered into the kitchen to put down her basket. “What happened?”

Lady Felicia just called. It seems as though Róisín is waking up,” he told her excitedly.

Oh, thank you, Lord,” Mrs. McCarthy sighed in relief, making the sign of the cross. “That is wonderful news. Is Sidney already-”

He left the moment he heard. Sure hope he doesn’t crash the bike, he was a bit hasty, I fear.” The Father made a concerned face but his relief was also written into his face.

Well, we should go then,” she said, quickly putting away her purchases. “This can all wait until then.”

My, that does look like a treat,” Father Brown commented, eyeing up what she was putting away.

Yes, well, I think a nice meal does wonders to soothe the nerves, doesn’t it,” she replied tightly and ushered him out of the kitchen then. “We need to go!”

 

The Father’s concern about Sidney crashing as he raced across town to the hospital were not unfounded but less so because of recklessness but more because of the sheer speed he managed to coax from the bicycle. He barely remembered to lean the borrowed bike against something rather than just dropping it right in front of the entrance.

No running in the hospital!” an enraged nurse yelled after him as he jogged through the corridors towards the dormitory where Róisín was put up.

Another nurse scolded him as he slowed when coming around the corner and into the door and he took the rest of the way with fast, wide steps, not giving an ounce of a care to that background noise.

Sidney.” Felicia intercepted him before the dividers that were still around Róisín’s bed, he could see that a few people in white were bending over her bed though. “Take a deep breath,” she instructed him and he exhaled heavily. “She’s waking up but she’s very weak,” she told him quietly and he nodded, eyes fixed on the doctor’s back. “She’s breathing on her own though.”

She is?” He almost felt like crying just at that. She’d had to have the hyperbaric oxygen treatment a few more times and every time they had tried to take the extra oxygen away, she had struggled.

Felicia nodded and squeezed his arm softly.

Mr. Carter.” The doctor turned to him and Sidney came to the bed slowly, almost hesitantly. “Your wife is in the process of waking up, she responds to stimulus now and shows good sign of progress of becoming more conscious but it may still take a while until she is fully lucid.”

He nodded absently, watching Róisín’s eyelids flutter lightly as she blinked but couldn’t keep her eyes open yet.

The doctor said more, which he didn’t hear, and then the nurse said something too, which he also didn’t hear. He only heard when they left and he could finally sit with her.

Hey,” he whispered hoarsely, taking her hand as he had so many times the last few days, only this time… “There you are,” he croaked, having felt the light movement but most of all the slight squeeze of her fingers. “Everything will be alright, I promise, Rosie.” He held her hand as tightly as he dared so that he could still feel her movements and maybe he just imagined it but the corners of her mouth pulled apart just a little bit.

 

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

 

Good morning, Róisín,” Lady Felicia said at a low volume and took her usual seat. “Oh! Good morning!” she repeated in surprise when Róisín’s eyes opened slowly. “Welcome back.”

Róisín let out a deep breath and blinked, moving her head lightly in an indication of a nod. “...Sid,” she got out, her voice hoarse and weak.

He’ll be here shortly,” Lady Felicia told her. “I’m sure Mrs. McCarthy isn’t letting him leave without a proper breakfast.”

Key an,” she whispered, eyes fluttering as she was struggling to stay awake.

What key and?” Lady Felicia reached for Róisín’s hand and leaned in closer. “Which key do you mean, Róisín?” But Róisín’s eyes had already closed as the little strength she had faded out. Lady Felicia frowned, keeping the other woman’s hand in hers as she remembered that the doctor had also said that Róisín had been mumbling about a key when she had been brought in. But which key? Which key could be this important?

 

At the presbytery, Mrs. McCarthy was bustling around the kitchen making sure that the two men that had just taken a seat at the kitchen table were suitably provided with tea and breakfast before she sat down herself. Sidney seemed just as pensive as he had since his release and the Father seemed to be in thought as well, holding out his cup of tea towards her absently as she had the bowl of sugar currently. She added a few spoonfuls, more than she cared to acknowledge, and put the sugar bowl to the side, beginning her own breakfast.

Then she stopped with a gasp.

Sidney and the Father looked at her immediately, seeing several thoughts pass over her face before she spoke.

What is it, Mrs. M?” Sidney asked equal parts worried and eager.

When I put the sugar in the Father’s tea just now, without thinking like it was second nature,” she explained breathlessly. “I remembered something that happened yesterday while I was going ’round the shops yesterday.” She looked stricken just thinking of it and Father Brown exchanged a concerned glance with Sid. “Someone greeted me in Irish and I replied in Irish without thinking like it was second nature.”

Sidney frowned and the Father looked intrigued.

It did strike me as odd for a moment but there was no one but locals there when I turned back so I didn’t think much of it until now,” she explained, shaking her head. “I know all the Irish people in Kembleford and surrounding areas and none of them have ever greeted me in Irish nor I them!”

Was it a man or a woman, Mrs. McCarthy?” the Father asked calmly, the cogs in his head already whirling, you could tell.

A man,” she answered decidedly. “He knew my first name too.”

Sid’s frown deepened. “It’s got to be him. Whoever is after Róisín’s family. It has to be him.”

Possible,” Father Brown allowed with a slow nod. “What is of more pressing concern at the moment is that if this is the man we are looking for, he knows Mrs. McCarthy as well.”

Mrs. McCarthy pressed her lips together and nodded.

It does seem to confirm our assumption that this is family related,” the Father added thoughtfully. “Lady Felicia is with Róisín and neither you, Mrs. McCarthy, nor you, Sidney, should be going anywhere on your own.”

Sidney grumbled under his breath at that but didn’t outwardly protest which struck both the Father as well as Mrs. McCarthy as odd. They were interrupted by the telephone ringing though so no one asked.

St. Mary’s presbytery,” Father Brown answered the call. “Ah, good morning, inspector.”

Both Sid and Mrs. McCarthy sat up at that.

 

Another morning, another day on which he was not going to get the requested files from the Irish authorities, Sullivan was sure. The files he did have had taken up permanent residency on a spot on his desk he would never admit to having cleared specifically for them. He had other cases as well, of course, but these were…

He had just opened a new one that had just come in about a… suspected arson two towns over? When the telephone rang.

Kembleford police, Inspector Sullivan speaking,” he answered it, skimming the report at the same time. A fishing shed by the river this time. His eyes went to the board he had made up with the fires in the area that he had found suspicious, even if the fire chief may not have. This one fit perfectly into it.

Good morning, inspector, this is Liam Walters from the haberdashery,” came through the receiver. “I do hope I am not inconveniencing you but I remembered that you had asked about a particular pair of buttons a few days ago.”

I did, Mr. Walters, do you have any more information about them?”

Not so much about the buttons themselves, inspector, but a man came in this morning asking about them as well to replace two that were missing on his jacket.”

Sullivan sat up ramrod straight. “A man with a jacket with the same buttons but two missing came to your shop this morning?” he confirmed, waving to Goodfellow to come in quickly.

Yes, inspector. I couldn’t get his name as I had to tell him the same as I told you – that I do not carry the buttons and cannot order them without knowing their manufacturer, but I did get a good look at him so I can give you a description.”

Thank you, Mr. Walters, we will be there shortly.” Sullivan slammed the receiver down and stood quickly, reaching for his jacket. “A man came looking to replace his two missing buttons at the haberdashery this morning,” he informed Sergeant Goodfellow curtly and hurried out of his office.

 

I don’t remember in that much detail!” Mrs. McCarthy insisted, giving an annoyed look to Sidney and shaking her head. “Oh, Father, what did the inspector want?” she asked when Father Brown came back into the kitchen after his call with the inspector.

What do you not remember in that much detail, Mrs. McCarthy?” he asked instead.

What the man looked like. Sidney has been trying to hypnotize me into remembering but that obviously won’t work, such nonsense.” She shook her head disapprovingly.

The inspector called to let me know that a man came to the haberdashery this morning looking to replace two buttons on his jacket that had the same buttons as the inspector inquired about recently. Mr. Walters remembered and called the inspector. We now have a description of the man and a composite sketch. Inspector Sullivan requested for you to come to the station to have a look at it, Mrs. McCarthy.”

Of course.” Mrs. McCarthy stood immediately, Sidney following suit.

One thing we already know is that the man has an Irish accent,” the Father added and Sidney gave Mrs. McCarthy a meaningful look.

 

At the hospital Lady Felicia was reading the book she had brought when she noticed that Róisín was coming to again. She wondered why Sidney hadn’t been by yet but was determined to stick by Róisín’s side until someone else came to relieve her. There had to be a good reason for his absence and she made herself not think about it too deeply lest the coil in her stomach curl any tighter than it already was.

Hello,” Lady Felicia said softly, giving Róisín a smile. Róisín’s gaze was more focused this time and she tried to sit up. “Easy there.” Lady Felicia helped her sit up slightly, fluffing up the pillow behind her back.

Sidney,” Róisín whispered, coughing after the two syllables and scrunching up her face in pain.

Here, have a drink.” Lady Felicia reached for the glass of water on the small stand next to Róisín’s bed, helping her take a few sips before Róisín sank back into the pillow again

Where?” she asked, eyes trained onto the other woman.

He’ll be here shortly,” Lady Felicia tried to assure her but Róisín shook her head.

He… not safe…” she got out and had to take a few moments break while she gathered the strength to continue.

He’s careful, he promised,” Lady Felicia told her but again Róisín didn’t seem to agree.

Key an,” she repeated from before. “Key an fire.”

I’m sorry, I don’t understand, Róisín. What key do you mean? A key and fire?”

Róisín shook her head but had to close her eyes for another few moments, the frown between her brows telling that she had not fallen back to sleep though.

Sullivan,” she said next and Lady Felicia was even more surprised. “Get Sullivan.”

Uhm. You want me to get the inspector?”

Róisín nodded.

I’m not sure that’s the best idea yet, Róisín, you’re still-”

Get Sullivan,” Róisín repeated and the look she gave the other woman spoke for itself. Even if she rested back against the pillow in exhaustion afterwards.

I’ll phone the station,” Lady Felicia promised, standing and waving for a nurse to come. “I have to make an urgent phone call to Inspector Sullivan as Róisín wants to tell him something. Would you stay with her until I’m back? Thank you.” She hurried off.

 

Yes, Lady Felicia, I’ll come right away. I’m just waiting for Mrs. McCarthy and-”

The trio entered the station to find Inspector Sullivan on the phone at the counter with Sergeant Goodfellow hovering nearby. Sullivan gestured for them to come closer while he was still speaking.

I’ll bring the sketch, of course. – Yes, of course. Whatever she is able to tell me will be the most helpful even if it is just a few words. – Bye.” He hung up and shook his head. “No movement on anything in a week and today everything is happening at once. Lady Felicia just called and told me that Róisín asked to speak to me.”

This was met by surprise but also concern by everyone.

We’re going to the hospital now so I can speak with her and I’ll also show her the composite we have. I’ll show it to you there as well, Mrs. McCarthy.”

Of course, inspector,” Mrs. McCarthy nodded dutifully.

Sullivan gestured for them to exit the police station then and then the trio squeezed onto the backseat of the police car so they could all go together as quickly as possible.

 

Lady Felicia was awaiting them in the corridor when they got there and the expression on her face was one of concern.

Sidney,” she said first, giving him a small but warm smile. “Mrs. McCarthy. Father. Inspector Sullivan.” She greeted one after the other.

What did she say?” Sidney asked right after, searching his boss’ face closely.

Your name, she mentioned the key again and the fire. Then she asked me to get the inspector,” Lady Felicia explained and gave a small shrug. “She nodded off again but she made it very clear that she wanted to speak to you, inspector.”

Sullivan gave a curt nod. “I’ll show her the composite as well.”

A composite?” Lady Felicia looked at him questioningly.

This is the man that inquired at the haberdashery about replacing two missing buttons from his jacket. Mr. Walters recognized the remaining buttons as the ones that I had shown him,” Sullivan explained and opened the case folder he had brought. “Do you know this man, Mrs. McCarthy?” He showed it to her.

Mrs. McCarthy put on her reading glasses and examined the sketch very closely, a frown forming and deepening. “He does seem familiar but I can’t put my finger on why. I’m sorry, inspector,” she said finally.

Let me know if you remember anything,” Sullivan instructed her and she nodded. “It would probably best if a familiar person was there while I talked to Róisín.” He glanced at Sidney but also Lady Felicia.

I’ll go,” Sidney decided and so the two men went in.

She kept referring to some sort of key and something else but I couldn’t make any sense of it,” Lady Felicia told Father Brown and Mrs. McCarthy with a sigh.

You did what she asked for, you got the inspector for her,” Father Brown tried to reassure her but the furrow between her brows didn’t ease.

 

Róisín?” Sidney said quietly, coming around his wife’s bed and sitting down. He took her hand and she squeezed back immediately, a small smile forming on her lips even before she had opened her eyes.

Sid,” she whispered, opening her eyes slowly. The smile slipped and she pulled her hand away, slowly but noticeably, when she saw Sullivan standing at the end of her bed as well. “Thank you for coming,” she croaked, trying to sit up more.

Careful, careful,” Sidney cautioned her and tried to help her but she pushed his hand away. He frowned at that but her attention was still on Sullivan.

The fire,” she began but had to cough. Sidney helped her to a few sips of water. “Key an.”

Sullivan exchanged a look with Sidney. “I’m afraid we didn’t find a key anywhere, Mrs. Carter. I only found a button in your hand. I inquired at the local haberdashery about it and this man did as well this morning. Do you know him?” Sullivan held up the sketch for her to see and her reaction spoke more than any words she could have said.

Key an,” she got out as she started to wheeze. “It was ... him.” She started coughing and a nearby nurse came to her bed immediately. “Un-” she tried to get out but couldn’t finish.

Please go,” the nurse urged them, calling out for the doctor as well and fitting the oxygen mask over Róisín’s mouth and nose again. “You have to calm down, Mrs. Carter, just breathe.” She cast a pointed look at the two men. “Go!”

Sullivan and Sidney hurried out of the room as more nurses and the doctor ascended to Róisín’s bed to help her.

It’s definitely him!” Sidney said very firmly and very loudly. “She saw this and she panicked. It’s him.” He stabbed his finger at the sketch he had ripped from Sullivan’s hand.

Yes,” Sullivan agreed simply. “But the key doesn’t make any sense. No one found any key around either fire site nor on her. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean.”

What key?” Father Brown asked.

She kept referring to a key and something. Only she didn’t tell us the something,” Sidney explained, eyes never leaving where the medical staff as still bustling around his wife’s bed. “Key an- I don’t know!” He ran a hand through his hair roughly.

Suddenly Mrs. McCarthy’s eyes went very, very wide and she snatched the sketch from Sidney who had his mouth open to protest until he saw her expression.

What? What is it? What is it, Mrs. M?” he asked urgently.

She isn’t referring to a key and something,” Mrs. McCarthy told him impatiently. “It’s a name. Cian. That’s who this is. Cian Doran. Saoirse’s brother and Róisín’s uncle. The last time I saw him he was much younger, that’s why I didn’t recognize him right away.” She stared at the sketch intently. “Yes, this is Cian Doran, I’m sure of it.”

Sullivan and Sidney exchanged a look. “She told us it was him,” Sullivan revealed, taking the sketch back finally. “Cian. It was him.”

I think she tried to say uncle but couldn’t,” Sidney added, rubbing his face. “Doctor!” he said then as the doctor finally came from the room. “What happened? How is she?”

Calm down, Mr. Carter, your wife will be fine,” the doctor told him, not without a condescending undercurrent that visibly ruffled Sidney’s feathers. “She had an episode, probably set off by emotional stress. You should have consulted me first before questioning her, inspector.” He gave a disapproving look towards the inspector. “I gave her a mild sedative to calm her so she will sleep for a few hours. We will need to see if this has any lasting impact then.” He gave another look to Sidney before he left.

Sidney swallowed thickly, rubbing his face again. His deep concern for his wife was written all over his face.

You stay with her, Sid, we will do the rest,” Father Brown told him quietly, giving the younger man’s arm a comforting squeeze. “You go and sit with your wife.”

But I should be out there getting that-” Sidney broke off, for once not wanting to swear in front of Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia.

I’d rather you didn’t,” Sullivan inserted himself. The look Sidney cast at him was deadly. “I’d prefer my suspect alive after I find him,” he tacked on and though Sidney’s face darkened further, he also gave a curt nod. “We will now need to track down Mr. Doran as quickly as possible. I’ll take this to the Johnsons and ask them if they’ve seen him around the farm.”

...they had an Irish laborer,” Sidney remembered suddenly, face going into another kind of frown. “I didn’t see him when I was there but I heard Mrs. Johnson talking about an Irish laborer they were having on just recently.”

Sullivan looked at him for a moment but then nodded. “Alright. Thank you. I think we should leave now, we have already caused enough disturbance for today.” He gestured for everyone to leave with him.

Don’t go alone,” Sidney said suddenly, his voice much quieter and also a good deal softer than before. He didn’t repeat himself and Sullivan didn’t acknowledge it verbally but he did give a small nod.

 

* * *

Chapter Text

* * *

 

The inspector’s office was quite overcrowded with all the people in it but Sullivan preferred it to the presbytery kitchen, or any other place, because this was his turf. This was his case and he was going to solve it, even if he did need the other people present to assist him with it.

Lady Felicia had taken the chair which had made Mrs. McCarthy a little huffy. Then there was also Father Brown, of course, who looked as pensive as ever when in the middle of a tricky case. And Sergeant Goodfellow was just coming in with a tray of teas for everyone.

Doran, Cian Padraig,” Sullivan read from the family file he had just pulled out of his pile. It was starting to be quite the collection and maybe all of it would finally come together instead of just being a pile of useless papers. “Born 1905. Last known address near Manchester from five years ago. Some minor charges for theft and some bar fights.”

Oh, so it’s minor when someone else does it but major when Sidney does it,” Lady Felicia responded with a pointed look towards the inspector whose lips pinched as he closed the file.

The charges are in the process of being dropped,” he said finally but Lady Felicia’s face said she was not quite satisfied with that.

First and foremost we should focus on how to catch Cian so that he can do no further harm, especially not to Róisín and Sidney,” Father Brown inserted himself as the calming influence as usual.

Well, he has been around town, hasn’t he? Mrs. McCarthy saw him and he went to the haberdashery,” Lady Felicia pointed out.

We need to avoid raising suspicion,” Inspector Sullivan stressed importantly. “I will be going to the Johnsons’ farm to inquire about the Irish laborer.”

Do you think he’ll still be there?” Father Brown and Lady Felicia both looked doubtful.

It’s worth a try.” Sullivan doubted that Cian Doran would still be lingering about the Johnsons’ farm but he didn’t voice it. They had to start somewhere though, didn’t they?

Sidney is right,” the Father said then and everyone looked at him a little questioningly.

Regarding what?” Inspector Sullivan asked a little tightly.

You shouldn’t go alone. Cian is clearly targeting Róisín and by extension Sid but he might lash out if someone else stands in his way.”

I’ll take the sergeant,” Sullivan acquiesced with a short nod.

 

* * *

 

Sitting at Róisín’s bedside and watching her sleep was both the best and the worst thing at the same time. He was so relieved and grateful that she was awake now and there was a spark in her again but at the same time Sidney felt guilty and in part responsible for what had happened. If he hadn’t told her she was ruining everything she might not have gone back to the caravan and wouldn’t have been alone there during the fire, wouldn’t have been snatched right off the street the next morning. If Sullivan hadn’t gone back to the shed, if he hadn’t found her in time…

Now he was damned to sitting guard at her bedside while the others tried to suss out her uncle. Maybe that served him just right, he had promised to protect her and had failed, running off for this reason and that. Maybe he could do a better job actually being with her.

He could tell when she stopped sleeping and started pretending to. Her eyelids twitched every now and then, so did her nose and fingers. Sitting, or lying, still wasn’t something Róisín was good at, neither was he.

I know you’re not asleep,” he said quietly, taking her intact hand into his again.

Her lips pursed momentarily before she slowly opened her eyes.

There you are.” He tried to give her a smile but he felt it was probably quite crooked.

She only looked at him for a moment before she looked off somewhere into the distance beyond her bed.

I know you’re mad at me, can’t say I blame ya,” he admitted guiltily.

Her eyes flickered back to him but only for a short moment.

Will you let me apologize at least? I shouldn’t have said those things to you, they’re not true at all and I’m so sorry, little Rosie.” He saw something pass over her face when he used the nickname. Hardly a very original one, seeing as Róisín meant little rose in Irish, but one he had always called her because she was beautiful and delicate like a rose but just as prickly too. It had well taken time for him to get past that but he could tell that the thorns were back now. He had no one to blame for that but himself.

For a while neither of them said anything, Sid waiting for a response to his apology and Róisín… thinking about something else, evidently.

When,” she began in her croaky voice. She cleared her throat with a small cough. “When can I go?” she asked, looking at him finally.

He stared at her for a moment and had to fight the urge to jump up and hit something. It was not her who had ruined everything, it was him.

Not for a while, I reckon,” he answered slowly. “Sullivan and the others are working on catching your uncle. I won’t let you leave until you’re safe.” He couldn’t tell what was going through her mind at that but she nodded ever so lightly. “Róisín.” He squeezed her hand. “I really am, sorry.”

So am I,” she whispered and looked at him sadly before she closed her eyes again.

 

* * *

 

Mrs. McCarthy bustled through the grocery shop, looking well pleased as she collected things into her shopping basket. Anyone could see that she was almost bursting at the seams to spill her good news to someone and the patient salesclerk indulged her as she rang up the purchases.

You’re looking very cheerful today, Mrs. McCarthy,” the woman smiled kindly.

Oh, but it is a wonderful day, isn’t it?” Mrs. McCarthy replied with a smile.

Certainly. Are you baking a special treat again today?” The woman had taken note of the baking ingredients that Mrs. McCarthy had gathered.

Why yes, I am. Of course it’s all to celebrate our dear Sidney’s wife being released from the hospital today. They’ll be staying at the presbytery for now. As you remember, the caravan was burned down about a fortnight ago.”

Yes, of course, we heard. Ghastly business with the caravan and then Mrs. Carter in the other fire as well! I’m glad to hear she is being released, what wonderful news.”

Indeed. Of course the poor girl has a ways to go still, can’t walk just yet so we’ve made the Father’s study a makeshift bedroom. They’ll find their own place soon, I’m sure. Well, I must be off, lots of cooking and baking to do.” Mrs. McCarthy grabbed her basket. “Bye for now, Mrs. Smith.”

The spiel repeated itself a few times before Mrs. McCarthy made her way home. She gave the good news to Mrs. Wright at the corner, then also told Mr. Potter at the apothecary, then for good measure Mrs. Maxwell too. The town of Kembleford was sure to know about Róisín’s release by afternoon.

 

And here we are.” Sid didn’t know why he said it, it was obvious they were at the presbytery now as he had just parked the car in front of it, but maybe it was the quiet hope that Róisín was going to say something in reply.

Of course she didn’t, if she’d spoken a dozen words a day in the last few days since they’d started buckling down on setting the trap for Cian he would have been surprised. She was up more and more, letting herself be pushed about in a wheelchair for a bit even, but most communication had been non-verbal. And if she did speak, it was not with him.

The only thing she had said more than a few words about was when she had been told the plan. She’d insisted on being there, in the presbytery, only after much arguing agreeing finally to at least being hidden safely upstairs while they made the study look like their resting place. Sid wasn’t happy with either, he wanted her as far away from harm’s way as possible but Róisín was stubborn. Very stubborn.

The veritable feast Mrs. McCarthy brought out for dinner was genuine though, not part of the plan so to speak, rather testament to the fact that the older woman had given up on her disapproval and distance towards her younger countrywoman. She was making a right fuss about Róisín and if Sidney hadn’t known something was off with his wife before, the way Róisín not just endured but tolerated it was a major tip-off.

 

I’m off to the pub now,” Sid told her softly, leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead before she could turn away from him again. “I’ll be right behind him, I promise. The Father is next door and Goodfellow is downstairs with Mrs. M in the nook, Sullivan’s outside. You just need to make any noise and they’ll be right there.” He cast a look towards Lady Felicia who was sitting on a chair on the other side, hidden by the door should Cian make his way up here after all.

Róisín nodded. “Be careful,” she whispered and Sidney stared at her for a moment before he nodded.

You too, little daredevil,” he teased her but only got a weak response. “This’ll all be over really soon and we can move into our cottage, yeah? I’ve got a surprise for you when we do.”

She nodded lightly and he straightened up. There was a short knock on the door and then the inspector opened it slowly.

I’m leaving now,” Sid said before the inspector could ask.

I’ve just received word that he’s at the pub,” Sullivan told him and Sid nodded gravely.

I’ll go there, make sure he sees me and when he leaves, I’ll follow him.”

Without being seen,” Sullivan tacked on.

Sid gave him a look. “Obviously.”

Do you need anything?” Sullivan looked at the woman all tucked up in the guest bed. Mrs. McCarthy had done a good job at building another resting place downstairs in the study with Lady Felicia assisting. All these women were far too meddlesome, Sullivan had thought to himself not just once when Róisín and Lady Felicia as the front runners had taken over finalizing the plan for tonight. Mrs. McCarthy had certainly done her part in enabling them though.

Róisín shook her head, Lady Felicia declined as well and so both men left, Sullivan taking his post in the nook opposite the study and Sid making his way to the pub they had found out was Cian’s usual nightly haunt. Sid was supposed to get a drink and ramble about Róisín laid up at the presbytery and the emergency call the Father had received, leaving the presbytery vacated save for the injured young woman. Their careful surveillance of Cian Doran made them hopeful that he would take up on this prime opportunity to catch Róisín on her own.

 

And so it happened. Sid mimed the exasperated husband who had to get out of the house for a drink and it didn’t take ten minutes until he saw the man he had been following around quite some over the last few days, the man from the sketch, the man that Róisín had described to Sullivan, leave the pub. He drained his pint, loudly made his way to the toilets and snuck out.

Cian knew his way around Kembleford by now but he still had nothing on Sid. With safe distance but never in danger of losing him Sidney followed and watched the man who had tried to murder his wife at least twice and had murdered her parents and grandparents easily gain access to the presbytery via the back door. Sid had told the Father time and time again that it wasn’t safe but did he ever listen? Now maybe he would.

Sid found Sullivan at the hiding spot they had carefully chosen, eyes not once leaving the presbytery.

He won’t even get near her,” Sullivan whispered to him, trying to calm the visibly seething man.

I’ll make damn sure of that,” Sidney growled darkly. “What’s he doing inside? What’s taking so long? Why isn’t Goodfellow calling for us yet?” He straightened up, very much ready to march into the presbytery to… do something to Cian Doran.

Get down,” Sullivan hissed, pulling him back and not a moment too soon because Cian Doran exited the same way he had come, through the backdoor, very quietly.

Why is he leaving already?!” Sid’s heart sank into his boots. “He can’t be done already, can he?!”

Be quiet.” Sullivan clasped a hand over his unusual comrade-in-arms’ mouth. “If Goodfellow hasn’t signaled for us, this isn’t finished yet. We need to catch him in the act.”

As if we haven’t got enough evidence to hang him thrice!” Sid hissed back angrily, shoving Sullivan off.

There.” Sullivan brought their attention back to the presbytery where Cian had now made his way around to the study windows.

Both men straightened up at the sound of glass breaking, and started running when the yellow glow of a flame blared up.

Police, stay where you are and drop the bottle!” Sullivan yelled, reaching for his police revolver.

Sidney was faster with his longer legs, and stronger motivation, but not fast enough to prevent Cian from spiking the bottle of flammable liquid with its lit wick into the study before he tried to leg it. He didn’t get far before he was brought down with a brutal tackle from Sidney who wasted no time catching his breath nor footing before he started swinging punches.

Carter, stop!” Sullivan arrived a moment later and instantly knew that if he didn’t manage to pull Sidney off Cian, the Irishman was as good as dead.

Let me, he deserves it!” Sidney growled, easily overpowering the other man although they were similar in height and built. Cian may have had vengeance in his blood, or whatever his motivation for killing his entire family was, but it was nothing compared to what Sidney felt when finally within reach of the man who had tried-

Carter!” Finally Sullivan got a hold of him but struggled to disengage Sid until Goodfellow came to help. “Calm down,” he snapped at the heavily breaking man with the bloodied knuckles whose glares may as well have made Cian drop dead while he watched him be arrested by Goofellow.

Don’t tell me to calm down!” Sidney bellowed. “He tried to kill my wife! Twice! And he killed her family! Let me-”

Sullivan had to use his entire body to keep Sid from going for Cian again. “Carter,” he said, more quietly, gripping the man’s upper arms firmly. “Sidney.”

Finally Sid’s eyes snapped to his, chest still going heavily.

We’ve got him,” Sullivan told him. “We’ve got him.”

Took you long enough,” Sid spat out acidly but Sullivan knew it wasn’t truly aimed at him. “I’m gonna check on Róisín. Don’t let him get away again.” He gave the inspector a hard look and turned to head inside when Mrs. McCarthy as well as the Father came rushing out of the house. His face darkened when moments later Róisín followed, supported by Lady Felicia. “You’re not-!”

Piteog!” the formerly surprisingly quiet Cian yelled across the yard. “You should be dead, a striapach! Dead!” He spat in her direction, it took both Sullivan and Goodfellow to keep him somewhat in place. “Mallacht Dé anuas ortsa, a striapach!”

Sid immediately put himself between his wife and the murderer, ready to protect her and maybe give the man another piece of his mind, in the form of his fists, but it wasn’t necessary.

Of all people to step up in front of the perpetrator who was basically foaming at the mouth still spouting what could not be anything but insults towards his niece, was Mrs. McCarthy.

Ah dún do chlab, a Cian,” she told the man to shut up firmly, glaring at him. “If anyone’s cursed by God, it’s you, Cian Doran!”

Even more surprising than Mrs. McCarthy acting so bluntly was that Cian did fall silent, if due to her command or due to the shock of being spoken to like that by her you could not tell. What mattered was that he was quiet.

This way, if you please.” Mrs. McCarthy gestured to the open backdoor into the kitchen and without a word of argument Inspector Sullivan and Sergeant Goodfellow too followed her instruction, more dragging than leading their culprit into the presbytery.

 

* * *