AU ~ Conan-Doyle
By Sammy Girl



February 19th 2003

I have a bad feeling about this case, I don't know why, call it a detective's sixth sense. My investigations of yesterday led me to the cab driver. It took a little 'persuasion' on my part but eventually the man admitted the note was given to him to deliver. He was paid in advance, the note and the money handed over in a pub in Bow by a small boy.

"Who gave you the note?" I asked. He was reluctant to answer, but then I did have my hands around his throat at the time. "Who? Tell me or your horse is going to need a new master," I demanded.

"I didn't see him sir, he was sitting back, in the shadows all the time."

He did tell me which pub. I went there with little hope of discovering who had sent the note, but I was in luck. The landlord needed only a little monetary incentive to reveal that a tall man with black skin and the manners of a gentleman had been in the bar that day. Buck's letter, which arrived with the second post this afternoon, told me that Jackson is a Negroid, it must have been him - but why?

The missing boot and the presence of a dog can only lead to one conclusion. I must go there.

I purchased a new Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor and located a likely spot where I could observe the comings and goings on the moor, and having also purchased suitable equipment, I set out from Paddington for the wilds of Dartmoor.

I have struck it lucky and found a small hut, I expect the Scots would call it a bothy. The roof is sound and the chimney in working order. I settled myself in and set out to locate Standish Hall. More than once I was forced to hide from the police and prison guards searching the moor. If I can hide so easily from them, what chance do they have of locating someone who has been hiding out here for days?



February 20th 1896

I watched Buck and Sir Ezra ride out upon the moor. More than once I have heard calls on the moor, they sound unnatural, and one can easily imagine they are the calls of a hound or the work of the devil. They met with Stubbs who I watched this morning observing the Hall with a spyglass.

Buck is a good rider; he rode a lot in India. My father taught me to ride and though I liked it I shied away from it, just because he was so keen. It was only after Buck and I became close again, after Sarah and Adam, that I rediscovered the joy of riding. He takes me to Brighton and we ride on the downs, we even get the chance to ride around the racecourse at Goodwood. There is no feeling like it, a flat out gallop on a fit horse, the wind in your face, the feel of the power beneath you, power you have at your command. I have heard some say it is better than sex, well it's good, but it's not that good! I think we should go to Brighton after this business is over. His mother still lives there, she is an amazing woman, before I met him, I had very different ideas about fallen women. I knew what they were, I fully intended to make use of them when I was older, but I never expected to be socialising with one. Now she wasn't a common whore, by no means, she was a courtesan, in the true sense of the word. Still a stunningly beautiful woman, tall - like Buck - with slightly wavy dark, almost black, hair - like Buck - and the deepest blue eyes - just like Buck. I know who the gossips say his father was, well who is to say but her, and she never will - perhaps that answers the question. He so favours her in looks there is no way to tell.



February 21st 1896

This afternoon Buck found me, in the bothy he was somewhat perturbed, to say the least, and showed his disapproval in the usual way. Our reunion, was interrupted by the piteous cries of a man who sounded as if he were being ripped to shreds by a wild beast. By the time we reached him the creature was gone, but the prints it left were clear enough. Buck took him from the rock crevice he had retreated to - it probably saved his life, poor boy. There was blood everywhere, I have rarely seen so much blood. He moaned as Buck lifted him into his strong arms. Buck told me it was most likely Tanner the convict, since Sir Ezra had donated his old American clothing to him.

Buck set out to carry him to the Hall, while I ran ahead to get things ready and send help to carry him in. Naturally, as I burst into the kitchen there was some alarm, since none of them had ever met me. JD came running into the kitchen, a pitchfork in his hand, no doubt intending to defend the occupants from the mad man who had just run into the house.

"We, Doctor Wilmington and I, have just found a man on the moor, he's very badly hurt. Buck reckons it's Tanner, we need to get him here as fast as we can and get ready," I stated, while still panting, having running all the way.

"WHAT?" cried young JD.

I spun around to confront him.

The young man looked alarmed. "What do you mean hurt? How hurt? How bad? Where?"

I told him as fast as I could and before I had even finished he had dropped the pitchfork and was running toward the stables. Letting him go, I turned back to the Jacksons, who were looking at me in stunned silence.

"Mr Larabee?" Came a familiar voice from behind me.

I found Sir Ezra standing just inside the kitchen. He was jacket-less, his shirtsleeves rolled up.

"What has occurred?" he asked.

I didn't have time to go through it again so told him to do as Nathan told him, then headed out again. I met Buck and JD coming down from the moor, the boy had thrown a bridle on a moor pony and ridden out bareback to meet his brother. They had poor Tanner on the pony's back and as JD lead it, Buck walked beside it, holding the patient on. By the time we got him back to the Hall the others had followed the instructions Buck had given me. The billiard table had been covered with towels and a clean sheet, Buck's medical bag, two basins, one of hot water, one of just warm, an empty bucket, a bottle of whisky, a pile of clean tea cloths, another pile of clean towels and a stack of bandages (which I suspect were from Nathan Jackson's own medical bag) sat on the side of the table. I expected Buck to tell us to place him directly on the table but he didn't.

"Get his clothes off before we put him on the table, they're filthy," he instructed.

From apparently nowhere Nathan produced a knife, and with it made short work of what remained of Tanner's clothing. Once the boy was naked, we lifted him very gently onto the table and covered him with another sheet. Instantly the sheet was stained with blood, as it soaked into the cloth. Buck was barking orders as he and Nathan swiftly removed their jackets.

"We don't have time to scrub up Chris, pour some of the whisky on my hands and arms, Nathan's too."

That done, all of us, except for Nathan, were dismissed. Once the door closed behind us I turned to find Mrs Jackson with her arms around JD.

"He'll be alright child, just have faith, that Doctor Buck," It's amazing how they all call him that, women I mean. "…he seems like a right good doctor, and you know Nathan will take care of Vin, don't you?"

The boy nodded, then turned his face into her shoulder. The beautiful young woman, Buck was right she is stunning, turned tear-reddened eyes to me.

"Who are you sir? she asked.

"Christopher Larabee," Sir Ezra answered, he then extended his hand, "welcome to my home, sir."

We all moved into the next room, the chapel, and sat down to wait. Rain Jackson crossed herself, and knelt facing the altar, young JD also knelt, resting his hands on the pew in front of him, his forehead resting on his hands. I sat down and looked at the small simple chapel.

"You are not a religious man?" Sir Ezra asked me.

I'm not, not at all. I was married in church, Sarah believed, but I don't, never have - well not since I was a boy. Buck believes, in his own way, I don't know why. The church has very definite things to say about him and his mother, me too come to that, but he doesn't really believe in the church, just God.

"You?" I asked.

"I'm a pragmatist Mr Larabee, what if it is true and I have turned my back on it? But then again, I have hardly lived the life of a good Christian," he confessed.

We sat in quiet contemplation for sometime. I could hear Rain saying the Lord's Prayer repeatedly in a hushed whisper, JD kept his head down, every now and again I heard him sniff; he was crying, though he was doing his best to hide it. After a while I asked Ezra to fill me in on events since my last letter from Buck. Which, in hushed tones, he did.

I have no idea how long we sat and waited. But eventually Nathan came in, his shirt was stained with blood, and he was drying his hands on a small towel.

"He's alive," he announced. "You can come in."

We all stood and followed him, JD in the lead. Young Vin Tanner looked better then I could have believed possible. He lay on the billiard table under a fresh sheet and a blanket. His face looked almost undamaged, a few bruises and scratches. But he was pale, so pale his skin was almost translucent. Buck was placing bloodied tools in a basin. He turned to look at us, but when he spoke it was to JD he addressed his report.

"When we found him he was pushed back into a rock crevice, I don't know if it was good luck or if he managed to get there on purpose, but it saved his life. All the bad wounds are on his arms and lower legs, he must have drawn them up to protect his head and body - it's a natural defence. The main worry is the amount of blood he's lost and infection, wounds like his, it's impossible to prevent all the infection, but right now he needs rest, lots of it." I have rarely seen Buck, the eternal optimist, looks so worried or so haggard. "I don't want him moved just yet, but he is going to need a room, and he will be there a long time, so it had better be some place decent and out of sight."

I had almost forgotten that the boy was a convicted murder, on the run from Dartmoor Prison.
Nathan said the room directly above us was suitable. Everyone in the district knew the chapel wing was shut up, it's windows looked out onto the wood, the thick cedar trees at the front of the house meant even at night a light from it's window was not visible. Sir Ezra asked about the smoke, as the boy would need a fire. Nathan said if we opened up the billiard room, not unnatural with so many men in the house, since the rooms share a chimney breast no one would know the difference.

"When do the guests arrive?" Buck asked, turning back to his patient.

"Oh good Lord!" Ezra exclaimed. "I had forgotten." He fumbled in his pocket for his watch.
"In, dear God, three hours! We shall have to cancel."

"No." I cut in, "we can't, everything must go ahead as planned, otherwise people will get suspicious, that is the last thing we need. Nathan, Rain, continue your preparations." They looked at Sir Ezra, who, after looking at me and Tanner for what felt like an age, nodded. With the permission of their employer the couple left. "Ezra, you and I will air the room above and make up the bed, then change for dinner before we assist in moving young Tanner. JD?" The boy did not respond, he was standing on the far side of the table, gazing at his brother, ashen with fear and distress. "JD," I said again more firmly.

"Yes sir?" he finally responded.

"Take a horse and ride into the village, my things are all at the post office, waiting for collection, here." I handed the young groom my left luggage ticket.

"But I have to stay with Vin, please…" JD looked imploringly at me.

"And you will. When you get back is there some place you can hide the horse you rode?" I asked.

"Hide sir?" he questioned.

"Yes hide, someone will need to stay with your brother tonight, while we wine and dine the great and the good of the local area. We will say you were sent on another errand and have not returned. If you are absent so must the horse be."

"I will no doubt punish you severely for your tardiness," Sir Ezra added, with a half smile.

The boy's face finally had some colour as he smiled at the prospect of being able to watch over his stricken brother all night. I promised Ezra I would join him, and once JD had said a good bye to his brother I walked over to Buck.

"Well done doctor," I said. "You alright?" I asked, as we both gazed at the boy. He nodded, but I was not convinced.

"Think you could find me a brandy, just a small one?" he asked, I could hear the tremble in his voice.

"Sure, I'll only be a minute." I assured him.

I met Nathan in the Great Hall; he was lighting the lamps, so I enquired where I could get some brandy.

"Is it for the doctor?" he asked and I nodded.

"He was amazing sir, I have stitched a few wounds in my time, and watched Doctor Sanchez do it too, but Doctor Wilmington, he was just in a different class, I have never seen anyone work so fast and so sure. I asked him where he learnt to do that, and do you know what he said?" I shook my head. "He said 'Dogs, tigers, butchers, there isn't much difference'. Do you know what he meant sir - butchers?"

I did but I had to say no, I couldn't explain it to Nathan. When Buck sees what man has done to man, or more often woman, the barbaric, evil, pointless damage inflicted by one human on another, when he can't save them, or when he knows they will be forever damaged, sometimes it is all too much. He is not a man of violence, he never was. At school he was a defender of his fellow pupils, never a tormentor, he became a doctor because the military was the only viable career open to him, but he didn't want to kill or hurt anyone. Oh, he has a temper, a real one, and he can defend himself and anyone else he deems needs his protection, but he will not seek out a fight. When we met again, after Sarah and Adam died, he was my salvation.

Armed with the brandy I made my way back to Buck, above us I could here Ezra moving about.

"I should go," I said quietly.

"Yes, um you better turn that mattress and put on two sheets," he instructed.

"Yes doctor," I said softly, but he didn't even look up at me. "Buck you did your best, it is in the lap of the gods now."

"If that thing hadn't run off, if we hadn't been so close, it would have ripped him to shreds."

The tremble was back in his voice.

"Will he live?" I asked. Buck said he wasn't sure. "Even if he does he may be crippled for life, I tried to stitch it all back, but so many muscles and tendons were ripped, torn and punctured, I just don't know. Look at him Chris, he's been in that hell hole for three years and he's only 20, think what we were doing at his age."

I did, we were in Edinburgh together, Buck had just come up and I was in my last year. We had a fine time, Buck, I had learnt long before, was no stranger to women. After all he was expelled from Marlborough after he was caught with the Headmasters wife's chambermaid! But it wasn't just sex, we drank, we went to plays, we rode, we fished, we walked. At Tanner's age I was having the time of my life.

Just as I was remembering the good times we had together there was a loud thump from upstairs followed by muffled cries of pain and what we took to be cursing.

"Sounds like you have a new patient," I commented.

"Don't send him down unless he's bleeding to death," Buck commented wryly. "When I first saw him, on the moor, I thought it was Ezra." Buck remarked in hushed tones as we separated.

"It was meant to be, the poor boy was wearing Ezra's coat. This person, Stubbs, I'm sure it is him. He has trained that creature to kill Ezra and Ezra alone. That is who took the boots, and why," I explained.

"Scent, that was why the new boot, a boot he had never worn, was of no use, no scent," Buck said in realisation of what had happened. More thumps came from above us. "You'd better go."

"I'll be back when it's time to move him."



February 21st 1896

…I stubbed my toe on the post of the truly huge four poster bed in the room Tanner is to occupy until he recovers. Though the room has not been used in years, it, like the attics, has been kept clean and dusted. I doubt for all their airs and graces there is a better butler than Nathan anywhere in the country, not even in Buckingham Palace itself. I was just pulling back the drapes and opening the shutters when Mr Larabee appeared with a basket full of logs and kindling. In no time we had the room ready for our guest, and while the fire took, we hurriedly changed for dinner - I was so worried some nincompoop would come early.

It took three of us to lift him, not because he is heavy, though in truth he is heavier than he looks, no doubt a result of three years 'hard labour', no it took three so we could keep him as still as possible. I asked the good doctor if he had given him any morphine. He said not yet.

"I want him to come round, I need to speak to him, gauge his level of awareness, if I give him morphine he'll just drift off to sleep with out ever regaining his senses. For all I know he has other injuries I can't know about unless he tells me."

It seemed the doctor wouldn't have long to wait, for as we were laying him on the freshly made bed he groaned. It was only now, as Doctor Wilmington removed the sheet he had been wrapped in and prepared to pull up the covers, that either I or Mr Larabee saw the extent of the injuries. His forearms were covered in stitches, all over the place in lines of 5 or more, in little groups around jagged patterns and in 1's and 2's on their own. His legs, especially the shins, weren't that much better, one had a single wound running the length of the shin in a narrow 'V' shape. Oh dear Lord what has been unleashed onto this land? It was my presence here that resulted in this poor man's terrible fate. I was warned to stay away, but when I saw my life's dream just within my grasp, how could I not reach out and take it?

I prepared myself to play the host, to play another role, to pretend once more to be something I'm not, it's what I have been doing my whole life after all - so why now does it seem so difficult and so onerous?

At least the first to arrive was Doctor Sanchez and we were able to fill him in on the most recent events, though we did not mention Tanner. I do not believe he would betray him or us, but the fewer people in on a secret, the more chance it has of remaining one. After that, guests came at a steady rate, Stubbs was one of the first. I cannot say why but I do not trust him, he reminded me of me - the me that used to con people. He is not what he claims to be, there is some hidden agenda or my name is not Ezra P Standish. He seemed very interested in the Hall, looking at all the portraits on the wall - I still don't know who they all are though I have identified the scoundrel who started all this trouble. Rain -despite the three hour disruption to her preparations - produced a wonderful meal, Nathan answered the door, took coats and moved effortlessly among the guests serving drinks. I did not employ him or his wife, I did not train them, and yet I take pride in their accomplishments, in the way their professionalism reflects on me.

One incident I find hard to understand came when I observed the vicars wife - who from our brief meeting when they arrived I would describe as 'annoyingly dim' and 'sickeningly hearty' - curtsied when introduced to Doctor Wilmington. Now why would she curtsey to him, a simple doctor and not to me, a baronet? When I eventually managed to get the Reverent Whitt alone and asked him, he simply said that his wife's sister was 'in' with London society and both women loved gossip.

"Personally I doubt it is true, but - well you never know do you, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility, is it?" he said.

I wasn't about to demand he explain what it is everyone seems to know about the Doctor that I don't. I will ask Sanchez. What ever it is, poor Doctor Wilmington turned bright red and made a quick exit before the wretched woman could say anything else.

Stubbs managed to swap seats with the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, and sat next to me. He makes my skin crawl. We had said goodbye to the ladies who had moved to the parlour and we were having port and cigars when Nathan came in and whispered to Buck. As Larabee and I watched he swiftly followed Jackson out.

"Is there a problem?" Stubbs asked - how dare he question my butler!

"No problem sir, Mrs Jackson fainted, it's very hot in the kitchen." It sounded convincing, but while Stubbs seemed to accept it I could see that Sanchez did not, why should he, Rain is his patient, why would her husband summon a man he hardly knew, when he was in the same room?

The party wound down, it was hard but I do feel I pulled off a masterful performance and made a tolerably good impression. Eventually only Sanchez was left, Doctor Wilmington had not yet returned and the good doctor instantly asked what was going on.

"Nathan Jackson, don't tell me Rain fainted, she never has before even in the summer, and if she had, you would have called me!" he demanded. "I brought Larabee in on this, don't shut me out now." There was a desperate quality in his voice, along with the bitter anger. I will have to tell him I know about him and my uncle and that I understand.

"No one is shutting you out Doctor," Larabee said. "There was just no time to tell you," he lied.

I didn't know then that Larabee had also been keeping information from me as well. The man is insufferable. We took Sanchez up to the room Tanner occupies, I am told it is the Oak Room, and indeed it is panelled in oak. As the three of us slipped into the room we found Wilmington placing his stethoscope back in his bag. He held up his finger to signal us to be quiet. Not as it seems so we wouldn't wake up Tanner but young JD, who was asleep on the chaise lounge at the foot of the bad. He ushered us out into the corridor.

"He knows?" he asked Larabee, while looking at Sanchez. Larabee nodded. "He woke up, just briefly. Needless to say he was confused and frightened but JD calmed him down quick enough. I can't find anything that I missed earlier. I gave him morphine so he'll sleep now. Poor JD, he found it all a bit traumatic and as soon as I managed to get him to lie down, he fell asleep."

Wilmington and Sanchez then had a fairly incomprehensible discussion about the nature of the injuries and the relative merits of covering them or not covering them. Finally Larabee asked if Tanner could be left for a short time with just his slumbering brother because we needed to talk. Both doctors seem to think that he could, briefly, and we adjourned to the Great Hall, the fire there was still burning well and it was close to the Oak room.



February 21st and 22nd 1896

Larabee outlined the discovery of Tanner and went on to detail its significance.

"The fact that he was wearing your old jacket Sir Ezra." Ezra interrupted him and asked that he drop the 'sir'. "Very well, Ezra, your old jacket that I take," he glanced at Nathan, " had not been washed before it was given to young Tanner?"

"No sir, there was no time and I knew he wouldn't mind." The butler confirmed.

"As I thought. That was his downfall, the hound, which is very real and defiantly flesh and blood, has been trained to attack you, Ezra," He turned to look upon out host, "specifically. That is why your boots were stolen. Our man must have cursed himself when he realised he had snagged a brand new boot, smelling only of leather. So he left it where it could be found and took one of your old boots, rich in your personal scent."

"Are you saying my feet smell Mr Larabee," Ezra interjected, trying to sound amused.

"To dogs, we all smell." Chris announced. "Having observed him for a few days I believe our man is Stubbs, though what is his motive is I don't know."

"Money," Sir Ezra said, "there are only so many motives for murder; love - hardly, power - I don't have any, revenge - well possibly, but I've only just met him and since he appears to have contrived the death of my uncle, who I never met, personal revenge upon me seems far fetched. That leaves money, a million pounds is a very big motive," he turned to Sanchez, "are you sure I am the only heir?"

Sanchez frowned. "That I know of, your father was his only sibling, I never heard him mention any other family, but I can check the parish records tomorrow. "

"Good, I agree with you," Larabee announced. "Now what about these letters Mrs Jackson told Buck about?" he asked Nathan.

All eyes turned to the butler standing by the fireplace. A brief explanation followed. It was clearly news to Dr Sanchez. Sir Ezra pulled an envelope from his pocket and turned it over several times, he then asked Jackson to bring his wife to the hall. Upon arrival Mrs Jackson stood next to her husband, looking distinctly nervous. Sir Ezra stood and crossed to her, opening the letter.

"Dear lady, is this the kind of paper you found in the grate?" he asked, handing her the letter without unfolding it.

Cautiously she took it and turned it over in her nimble fingers, running her thumb along the thick cream paper. Finally she looked up.

"It seems to be sir, yes," she admitted.

Sir Ezra looked around to face the assembly. "Jack Stubbs gave me this letter tonight, it is…" he looked at it, unfolding it and scanning the contents. "…an invitation to supper in two days at his house."

"He is luring you out on to the moor alone," Larabee commented.

"So it would seem," Sir Ezra said bravely. " Do I go?"

Larabee strode away from the others; he stood at the large window, gazing out upon the inky black moor. "We shall see, but you will send word tomorrow that you accept the invitation. Now it is late and we all need rest." There was note of finality in his statement.

Dr Sanchez offered to stay and help watch over Tanner, there then followed some discussion as to where he would sleep later and it was decided that he would have the room he formerly used when he stayed at the Hall and Larabee would share with Wilmington.



February 22nd 1896

I had almost convinced myself it was all just fancy, and imagination. Now I see it is oh so very real, this man wishes me ill, dead. And he has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it look - if not accidental then certainly an act of God or the Devil. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it is revenge after all, perhaps the Standishs did him wrong once, why else exact retribution in a way that is so peculiar to the family?

I was happy when Dr Sanchez insisted on staying the night. I was equally pleased he is to have the use of his old room. It lies between my room and the one occupied by Wilmington. Larabee's things were in there but he had scarcely had time to unpack. Both men assured us they had 'bunked up together' as they put it, on numerous occasions. It seems strange to me that there are only three rooms available in such a large house. But the great hall takes up almost half of the main section of the house, and is the full height of the building. The rooms above the kitchen are small, the Jackson's occupy two of the larger ones, the others are meant for other staff - if I had any - but are not made up or aired. Past the chapel is the oak room where Tanner resides, and beyond that the nursery wing, shut up since my father was a boy. Sanchez took the first watch, indeed he needed to, poor Doctor Wilmington looked done in.

I looked in on Dr Sanchez and Tanner; young JD was fast asleep on the couch at the end of the bed. I asked how Tanner was doing, the answer was 'the same' it is apparently too early to tell.

"There is something else I have wanted to ask you."

Josiah looked up. "Ask away."

I described the incident with the vicar's wife and Dr Wilmington. "Ah," was all he said.

"Ah?" I asked. "What does 'ah?' mean?" I swear, even in the poor light, he winced.

"As I understand it, his mother was a poor girl living on a large estate. She got pregnant and just weeks after the child - Buck Wilmington - was born she 'inherited' a substantial fortune and move away from the estate. What does that tell you?" he asked.

To me it was obvious, the landowner or some close relative, probably a son, had got the poor girl in the family way and had paid her off. That is what I said to Sanchez.

"That's what everyone thinks," he agreed.

"So, who's estate was she living on?" I asked.

"She was living on the crown estates at Windsor."

"Ah," was all I said. I did some quick math and dismissing the late Prince Consort, decided the Prince of Wales was the most likely candidate, not unknown for his dalliances. Well, well, well, so the good doctor is the natural son of the future king. That would explain the curtsey all right. The poor man, even if it is not true the fact that people think it true must be a peculiar millstone around his neck, accepted in society and yet I doubt he can never be part of it, a sort of curiosity to be tolerated.

Just then our patient shifted in his drug-enduced sleep, he muttered something we could not make out and then seemed to settle.

"Vin?" came a muffled voice from the end of the bed as JD roused himself and pulled himself up to check on his brother.

We assured him Tanner was still resting quietly. The lad came to the other side of the bed and looked down at his stepbrother.

"His hair is getting longer again," he said softly, then he looked up at us, perhaps sensing we needed more explanation. "His mum always kept his hair longer, she liked to brush it, he said, my mum said she probably wanted a girl. He never let mum cut it short. Because I wanted to be like him I started letting mine grow a bit too. In the prison, they cut it off, almost all of it," he brushed a tear away from his cheek. "When I saw him it was all short and spiky, he kept touching it, like he expected to find it had grown back, it did a bit but they wouldn't let him grow it as long as he used to have it."

There the distressed boy fell silent. "He is out of that place now," I said.

"Yes sir, I know, thank you for everything you have done for us." The thanks I accepted but did not need, it was the right thing to do. There have been precious few times in my life when I have had the chance or the means to do the right thing, it felt good.



February 22nd 1896

"You did your best, Nathan told me, no one could have done more," I assured him. "You did what you are best at."

"Some specialisation," he said sadly. "Sewer up of torn and ripped flesh. He's just a boy. Say I have saved him, say he isn't crippled, for what? So they can hunt him down and lock him up in that hellhole again? Even if he stays here, he's still a prisoner, the prison may be velvet lined but it is still a prison.

"I…We will see what can be done to help him, but not yet, not until he is safe," I assured.

"Not until we see if I saved him or just prolonged his agony." I could feel him retreating further away from me. That damn woman and her curtsey didn't help either. He hates that. He won't have a word said against his mother of course, and he never speaks of his father. I truly believe he doesn't know the truth, and I think that hurts; though he will never admit it.

At school and that one year at university we were inseparable. Then I left and went to sea, he finished medical school and went to India, we hardly saw each other. I met Sarah, I was happy, Adam came along and I was deliriously happy, for six wonderful, blissful years. Then it all ended, everything just stopped. I resigned my commission, I started drinking. There is nothing on this earth worse than a rich drunk, he never has to worry where the next drink is coming from and no one will tell him to stop, because they are all out for what they can get from him. No one except a true friend.

It is strange that I remember that day, because I remember so little of that time. I was in a pub in Devonport, I was drunk and, as I recall, about to start a fight with some tar three times my size. Then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I swung around; ready to deck who ever it was and the next thing I know I'm waking up in a clean bed, in a clean hotel room. And he was there - my doctor - he cared for me, especially the bruise on my cheekbone that he put there. Buck may not use it often, but he has a wicked right cross. And he kept me off the whisky for long enough for me to finally be genuinely sober for the first time in months. I didn't like what I finally found in the mirror. The trouble was, having burned my bridges with the Marines I was unemployed and bored. One day we were in London, and Buck had just returned from his clinic in Whitechapel. Somehow we started talking about the Jack the Ripper murders, it was only a few years ago and very fresh in the mind. I was saying how badly the police had handled the whole thing and what I would have done differently. In the end Buck said,

"Well why don't you then?"

"Do what?" I asked.

"Be a detective."

"I am not going to join the police," I stated firmly.

"No on your own, you're good at thinking out puzzles, there are always cases the police can't seem to fathom."

He went on to show me one in that days Times. A woman found stabbed in a room locked from the inside. I was intrigued. That is how it all began.