Felicity Appleby's plan to have the building belonging to the London investment bank Ruff, Tumble and Bounderby declared a building worth preserving by the Historical Building Association means the re-entry into her life of Aiden Duchenny, an ex-boyfriend.
Will he help her, or will that entail a price that nobody should expect her to pay?
🎧 To get the best experience of this story, listen with headphones.
“That’s the first thing he says?” asked Julie that evening as they sat around the kitchen table with some wine. “You look ‘tired’? Charming! Just what you want to hear from an ex-boyfriend, I’m sure!”
“That’s why he’s Aiden the Douchebag, isn’t he?” said Paula
“Yes, but he meant it nicely,” said Felicity, helping herself to a third glass of wine. She was a little bit drunk. “He sounded genuinely worried about me. Anyway, we’re having a coffee tomorrow morning before work. I think he feels bad about what happened.”
Julie and Paula looked at each other. It had not been an easy job dealing with Felicity’s breakdown over Aiden the previous year. They did not want to have to go through that again.
“When I hear the word ‘genuinely’ before a verb,” said Julie. “I know the person using it doesn’t believe it themselves. He isn’t worried about you, he’s just putting you down again. How can you be so…”
“Why don’t you tell us about that bloke who brought you home the other night,” interrupted Paula, anxious to change the topic. “Here, have some more wine.”
“Cheers,” said Felicity, who was more than a little bit drunk by now. “You’ll never believe this…”
Next morning on the bus to work Felicity wore dark glasses to hide her eyes. The tablets had got her headache tied up and under control, but her stomach was still complaining bitterly about the remains of the wine.
Unexpectedly, Julie and Paula had believed her about Frederick Tumble and the rest of the Impressions.
“Why not? Makes sense to me. There are all sorts of things going on that we don’t understand,” said Paula. “I know this ‘coz my granny was a spirit medium. Our family get-togethers were always a bit special.”
“I’ll say,” said Julie, who had known Paula since primary school. “You had eight generations there singing carols around the Christmas tree. Very crowded. And the arguments!”
Felicity shook her head. Those two girls were full of surprises. But if they believed her, maybe others would.
Aiden was already waiting for her in the patisserie in Garlick Hill with a coffee in front of him. Felicity ordered herself a large cappuccino and told Aiden about her job at the bank while she sipped at it.
“… so I do hope that they don’t sell that lovely old building and move outside London to somewhere awful like Milton Keynes,” she said. “But what about you? How long have you been working for the Historical Buildings Association?” she asked.
“About six months. Very interesting inspecting all these buildings instead of just lecturing students about architecture like when we first met. And you wouldn’t believe what the owners will sometimes offer you in order to get a favourable report!”
“What do you mean?”
He tapped the side of his nose. “The last thing most people want is to have their building listed. It limits what they’re able to do with it. So, sometimes, they try and influence the person who writes the report.” He leant forward. “Between you and me Felicity, your bank directors were very upset when I told them why I was visiting yesterday. But as I explained to them: it’s a very nice piece of architecture.”
“Oh that’s wonderful! And you’ll recommend it should be listed?”
“Well, I don’t know yet. I really need to speak to this person Frederick Tumble who sent in the application.”
Felicity swallowed hard. “That might be a little difficult,” she began…
After she’d finished her explanation, Aiden sat back in his chair with a peculiar look on his face.
“Interesting,” he said finally. “Well, I can see this building is very important to you. So much so that you invent this extraordinary story to try to influence my report.”
“But honestly, I haven’t invented…” interrupted Felicity. Aiden held up a hand.
“No, don’t worry, Felicity. You were always very imaginative, that’s what I found – find – so attractive about you,” he leant forward and stroked the back of her hand with his finger. “You know, I’ve missed seeing you. But perhaps this report gives us an opportunity to come to a little arrangement … a fun arrangement.”
Felicity was a little bit sick in her mouth but swallowed it back down with some coffee.
“Are you suggesting…”
“You know what I’m suggesting.”
A waiter going past their table tripped and dropped his tray of coffee and cakes onto Aiden’s lap. Aiden howled and chaos broke out as he began shouting and swearing while the waiter tried to wipe the cakes off his jacket.
“Come on,” said a voice in Felicity’s ear. It was Smudge. “Let’s get out before the waiter realizes I tripped him.”
Once outside they ran down Watling Street until they got to the entrance of the bank. Despite everything, Felicity found herself laughing.
“I know what he wanted, Miss Appleby,” said Smudge. “Mr Tumble wouldn’t allow it.”
“Thanks Smudge! Oh, his face when…”
“Felicity, who are you talking to?” demanded Tricia who was standing next to the security guard and telling him off for something. “Coming in late for work, talking to yourself and laughing like a lunatic! You’d better get up to your desk, there’s a lot going on this morning.”
When Aiden appeared in front of her desk an hour later – his suit still covered in coffee and cake smears - Felicity was wearing her most poised expression.
“You just had to say ‘No’!” he hissed at her. “You didn’t have to trip up that waiter. But get this: there will be consequences!”
And with that, he turned around and marched into the boardroom.
1) Julie and Paula are very negative about Aiden towards Felicity. Why is that?
They are anxious about her seeing Aiden again because she sounds too forgiving.
2) What was Paula’s grandmother able to do?
Communicate with spirits.
3) What did Aiden offer Felicity?
He would get the building listed if she restarted their affair.
“This,” said Mrs Twizleton crossly. “Is a cheek! Listen: ‘…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ That is word for word advice I gave young Arthur Doyle in a letter. And he’s gone and given that line to some ridiculous detective called Sherlock Holmes.”
Mrs Twizleton and Frederick were accompanying Felicity home on the bus after she had been fired from the bank.
“Mr Duchenny from the Historical Buildings Association told us you applied to have the building listed to stop those Russians buying it,” Tricia said in a shocked voice. “But he said he wasn’t always in favour of standing in the way of progress, so Mr Ripov is taking him out to dinner to straighten things out…”
“Bribe him you mean!”
“How dare you …”
It had been a very unpleasant scene.
However, Mrs Twizleton was now having great difficulty in concentrating on Felicity, after finding a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories in her bag.
“Mrs Twizleton,” said Frederick a little impatiently. “I think we should be thinking of Felicity and what to do next rather than reading detective stories.”
“But I knew Arthur Doyle,” complained Mrs Twizleton. “I knew he was a writer, but I didn’t realize he was taking my stories and turning them into the adventures of a male detective. And with no credit to me! That’s so unfair.”
“Wait a minute,” interrupted Felicity. “You knew Arthur Conan Doyle? The writer of Sherlock Holmes?”
“We told you that before, weren’t you listening? He was my doctor briefly when he lived in London and afterwards he was always writing to ask me about my detective investigations. Now I know why.”
“And these investigations of yours, they’re the same as the ones in the book?”
“Well, I don’t know about all of them, but …” she leafed through the pages. “Here, this one ‘The Blue Carbuncle’. The one about the diamond hidden in the goose. 100% my case. Except it was a sapphire, not a diamond.”
“Hm,” said Felicity slowly. “So, we could say the building does have a connection to a famous historical figure.”
“But Sherlock Holmes is fiction, not history.”
“I’m not talking about Holmes. I’m talking about Mrs Twizleton. The real-life female model for English literature’s greatest detective!”
Afterwards it was difficult for Felicity to remember the exact sequence of events which followed. But what she never forgot was that it was Julie and Paula who managed to put her idea into action. As they were both working for a social media company at the time, their advice and help was gold.
“First of all, we create some controversy,” said Paula. “So, you’ve got to write an article for Facebook saying Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on a woman. You just need a few solid facts and figures to back it all up from your friend Mrs Twizleton.”
“Then we’ll do the rest,” added Julie. “This will be fun!”
It was just a short article, but once Julie and Paula started posting and cross-posting on social media the fireworks began. Within a day a local TV crew found their way to interview Felicity, this was picked up by the BBC and by the evening various Sherlock Holmes experts around the world had sprung into action, some to say it was nonsense, some to say they had always believed that Holmes was really a woman. A senior Conservative politician made a fool of himself on television by saying Mrs Twizleton had been invented by radical feminists, whereupon feminist historians started finding police reports from the 1870s proving the link to Mrs Twizleton’ s cases. Once Julie released the news that the building was being sold to mysterious Russian investors and would be torn down, the internet went ballistic. Very quickly somebody (it may have been Paula) sent a Tweet asking why the Historical Buildings Association weren’t doing something to protect this national treasure and Aiden found himself in need of a new job. As for Tricia, the two other executive assistants at the bank reported she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
But the biggest surprise happened two weeks after the story went viral. Felicity was looking out of the window of the flat when she saw two expensive cars with darkened windows pull up outside. Several large men escorted a very well-dressed woman to the door of her building. The bell rang.
“Ms Appleby? My name is Xenia Krysanova of Krysanova Krystals. May I come in?”
They sat at the kitchen table and drank tea.
“Ms Appleby, I have much to thank you for. Yesterday I bought the building from the bank.”
“Really? But will you still try and knock it down?”
“No but it’s not a problem. In fact I reduced the price the bank wanted me to pay by 25% because I’ll never get planning permission for a new building now. But that’s not why I’m thanking you. You see …”
She leant forward and looked Felicity in the eyes.
“In Russia I am a business woman, but also chairperson of the Sherlock Holmes Society. I am a big fan and now I own the real location of all the stories. I shall make the ground floor a Mrs Twizleton museum, the first floor a show-room for Krysanova Krystals and the second floor upwards – offices!”
“Oh, well that’s terrific. Good for you.” Felicity wasn’t sure how this affected her, but at least Frederick and the others would be safe now.
“Yes, but you know something strange happened last night. After we signed the papers, I told the directors to leave me for a time in the boardroom. They went, everything was quiet.”
“I looked down for a moment and when I looked up again, I found a young man in the room with me.”
“He told what you had done to save the building, Ms Appleby. And he suggested if I need a curator for the museum I plan, you might be the right person. What do you think?”
“Oh, yes! Definitely yes!”
“Good,” they stood up and shook hands. “And by the way, Mr Tumble was quite right about you. You make a good impression. A very good impression.”