Another from the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed Magazine. I’m glad this, by Rhonda Eikamp, is one they chose to make publicly accessible, and not just because I’ve been reading Holmes pastiche lately.
“Your televoice mentioned bees,” I began.
“Miss Segalen was highly sensitive apparently. She’d said nothing about it, and her death would have been written off as a terrible and tragic accident if there had been only a single errant bee involved, rather than what one must assume was a basketful introduced into the room deliberately. And if the door had not been locked from the outside.” The servos of his mouth ground through their tracks, clenching his jaw. A sigh of steam escaped his neck-joint. “The stings on the corpse were too many for Dr. Culpepper to count. I believe that with her last air before her throat closed up entirely, Katharina Segalen had hoped to smash a window with one of the pots and make her exit or at the least draw someone’s attention to her plight. A handsome woman, Watson, though you would not have known it had you seen her in death—the swelling had disfigured her so. And intelligent. She would have known she had but seconds to live after the first few stings.”
“And your housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, you say, has been detained. But that is surely absurd!”
“Mrs. Hudson found her. She touched nothing, assessed that Miss Segalen was dead, and came directly to me. Not one to seize up in the face of death, Mrs. Hudson. Years of service with me have conditioned her and—well, I’ve made a few changes to her programming over the years, removed the worst of the housekeeperly fluttering her line’s manufacturers insist on adding. I require reason and nerves of my servants above all else. Strictest confidence, eh?”
This last of course was in reference to the prohibition against any amalgamated meddling with the programming of another. I would never have betrayed him. The very fact that Gearlock Holmes, out of all the amalgamated with which we surround ourselves in our homes and stables and coaches, enjoyed special status by royal decree, was allowed to own property and employ amalgamated servants of his own, namely a housekeeper and a gardener, was due to his unique cogitating skills in service to Her Majesty. Holmes’s creator Joseph Bell had left no notes before his death as to how he had obtained this altogether greater level of cognizance in the one amalgamated designed by him. I only know it left Gearlock Holmes, in spite of his blank metal face and shiny limbs, closer to a fleshly man than any amalgamated I had ever met. And if he was a breaker of rules that had not been made to apply to the likes of him, I would certainly not out him.
“No,” Holmes continued, “I’m afraid I am at fault for suspicion falling on poor Mrs. Hudson. I was too fastidious in my investigations, Watson.”