The Case for Jamie (Charlotte Holmes #3)

The Case for Jamie (Charlotte Holmes #3)

Brittany Cavallaro


Dedication

For Annalise, Lena, Rachel,

and every other girl genius

I’ve had the privilege of working with





Family Trees



Epigraph


You are the one fixed point in a changing age.

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, “HIS LAST BOW”



One


Jamie


IT WAS JANUARY IN CONNECTICUT, AND THE SNOW HADN’T stopped falling in what felt like forever. It gathered in the window wells, in the hollows between the bricks of the rebuilt sciences building. It hung from the boughs of trees, tucked itself up in the root systems below. I shook it from my wool cap before every class, ruffled it out of my hair, pulled it from my socks. Underneath, my feet were rubbed red. I found it everywhere, snow that never seemed to fully melt, that lingered on my backpack and my blazer and, on the worst days, my eyebrows, melting down my face in the warmth of first period like it was sweat, like I was guilty of something.

When I got back to my room, I took to laying out my parka like a body on the spare bed, so that the snow could drip somewhere other than into the carpet. I was tired of having wet feet. A wet spare mattress seemed less important. But as the winter stretched on, it was hard not to see a metaphor in that pathetic almost-man, especially on those nights that I couldn’t sleep.

But I was done finding metaphors everywhere.

MAYBE I SHOULD START HERE: THERE AREN’T A LOT OF benefits to being framed for murder. Once I would’ve told you that meeting Charlotte Holmes was the only good thing that came out of that mess. But that was my former self speaking, the one who mythologized that girl until I couldn’t see the person beneath the story I’d made up.

If I couldn’t see her for what she was, what she’d been all along, then I’d had trouble seeing myself clearly as well. It’s not an uncommon delusion, the one I had. The Great Big Destiny delusion. That your life is a story that twists and turns its way up to a narrative precipice, a climax, the moment where you’ll make the hard decision, defeat the villain, finally prove yourself worthy. Leave some kind of mark on the world.

Maybe it started when I read my great-great-great-grandfather’s story about Sherlock Holmes going over the Reichenbach Falls, after finally vanquishing the evil Professor Moriarty. A great sacrifice made by a great man—to defeat great evil, Holmes had to give himself. I studied “The Final Problem” like I’d studied all the others, using those tales to cobble together an instruction manual for adventure and duty and friendship, the way any kid looks for models, and then I’d clung to those ideas for years longer than I should have.

Because there aren’t any textbook villains out there. There aren’t any heroes. There was Sherlock Holmes, who faked his own death and reappeared three years later like nothing had happened, expecting to be welcomed with open arms. There were selfish people, and there were those of us who yoked ourselves to them out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.

I knew now that it was stupid, the way I’d obsessed so much over the past—not just my own ancestry, but over the recent past, the months I’d spent with my own Holmes. I’d lost too much time over it. Over her. I was done. I was changing. Butterflies, chrysalises—whatever. I was building one. I was going to emerge from it a more realistic Jamie Watson.

AT FIRST, IT WAS HARD TO STICK TO THE PLAN. WHEN I’D gotten back to Sherringford from the Holmeses’ estate, I’d found myself more than once on the fourth floor of the sciences building without any real memory of taking myself there. In the end, it didn’t matter. I could have knocked on the door of 442 as long as I wanted. I wouldn’t have gotten an answer.

It didn’t take long for me to decide that moping wasn’t doing me any good. I had to take stock. On paper. Instead of making a story out of it, the way I’d done in the past, I’d be objective. What had happened to me since the day Lee Dobson turned up dead in his room? What were the facts?

The bad: dead friends; dead enemies; utter betrayal; widespread suspicion; heartbreak; concussions; kidnappings; my nose broken so many times that I was beginning to look like a two-bit boxer. (Or like a librarian who’d been violently mugged.)

The good?

My father and I were on speaking terms, now. I was beating him at cell phone Scrabble.

As for my mother—well, not a lot of good there, either. She’d called the other night to tell me she was dating someone new. It’s nothing serious, Jamie, she’d said, but the hesitancy in her voice suggested that, in fact, it was. That she was afraid I’d bite back with the same resentment I had for my father, way back when I was a child, when he’d met and married Abigail, my stepmother.

“Even if it is serious,” I’d said to my mom, “especially if it is. I’m happy for you.”

“Okay.” A pause, then: “He’s Welsh. Very kind. I told him you were a writer, and he said he’d like to read some of your stories. He doesn’t know how dark they are, but I imagine he’d like them anyway.”

Those stories that I wrote, the ones that were all about my own life. They weren’t stories at all, and my mother knew it. She just couldn’t bring herself to say it aloud.

Weirdly enough, that was the last straw—not the list of pros and cons, but the realization that the months I’d been friends with Charlotte Holmes were so depressing my mother was handing out content warnings.

Ten minutes in the headmistress’s office, pleading my case, and I was packing my things to move down a floor in Michener Hall. I’d used the whole wrongfully-accused-of-murder thing to wrangle myself a single room. That excuse was a year old, but it still held water. It got me what I wanted. No more roommate to stare at me while I cried. No more anyone at all. Just me, alone, so I could rebuild my life into one I actually wanted to be living.

So time passed, as time tends to do.

It was January again in Connecticut, and it wouldn’t stop snowing. I didn’t care. I had a literary magazine to edit, drills for the spring rugby season, hours of homework every night. I had friends, new ones, who didn’t demand all my time and patience and unearned trust.

It was my final semester at Sherringford. I hadn’t seen Charlotte Holmes in a year.

No one had.

“I SAVED YOUR SPOT,” ELIZABETH SAID, PULLING HER BAG off the chair beside her. “Did you bring—”

“Here,” I said, pulling a can of Diet Coke out of my backpack. The dining hall had done away with soft drinks last year (and the all-day cereal bar, a loss we were all publicly mourning), but my girlfriend neatly sidestepped the rules by keeping a six-pack of soda in my room’s mini-fridge at all times.

“Thanks.” She popped the top and poured it into a waiting glass of ice.

“Where is everyone?” I asked, because our lunch table was empty.

“Lena is still microwaving her tofu. She’s trying this soy sauce–honey thing this time, it smelled awful. Tom’s therapist had to reschedule his session, so he’s there, but he should be almost done. Mariella’s still in line with her friend Anna, she might sit with us today, and I don’t know where your rugby bros are.”

I grimaced. “I saw them over by the bread. I think they’re carbo-loading.”

“Gettin’ huge,” Elizabeth said, in a credible imitation of Randall.

This was an old joke; I knew my line. “Huge.”

“Huuuuge.”

“Yuuuuge.”

We snickered. It was part of the routine. She got back to her burger; I got back to my burger. Our friends showed up, one by one, and when Tom finally arrived, he patted me on the back and stole a fistful of my fries. I raised an eyebrow at him, the how was therapy eyebrow, and he shrugged back that it was fine.

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked. In my darker moments, I thought it was her favorite question.

“I’m fine.”

She nodded, looking back down at her book. Then looked back up. “Are you sure? Because you sound a little—”

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