AU ~ Conan-Doyle
By Sammy Girl
PERSONAL DIARY - BUCK WILMINGTON
February 22nd 1896
Chris shifted beside me and I knew he was awake - playing possum - the Americans call it.
"I'm awake," I announced
"Morning. Ready to face the world one more time?" he asked.
I was. The sun was up, a shaft of light streamed in through the heavy curtains; it illuminated the picture on the opposite wall. Suddenly Chris was out of bed and striding across the room. He threw back the curtains and without bothering to take in - from what I could see from the safety of a warm bed - the wonderful view, he crossed back to the far side of the room. As I watched, somewhat bemused, he drew a sturdy table across the floor and jumped up so he could reach the picture, which was of was of some Standish ancestor, judging from the man's dress, from the time of the civil war. He held his hands across the man's face so that only his eyes and nose was visible.
"Well, who is it?" he asked me.
Then I saw what Chris had seen from all the way across the room. It was Stubbs!
"He's a Standish?" I said it like a question, but it was meant to be a statement.
"Undoubtedly, so now we know what he's after, he wants the money."
There was nothing we could do at that moment, so I dressed and went to check on my patient. I realised it was now after eight and I was embarrassed that I had left poor Doctor Sanchez for so long, he hadn't had any sleep at all. I found him sitting beside the bed, drinking a mug of tea and eating toast and marmalade. He informed me that young Tanner had been somewhat restless in the night but had slept through.
"Is he awake?" I asked.
"No, not yet, I was thinking it might be best to get JD awake before we try to wake him." I agreed, he was going to be disorientated and scared, having his brother at hand would be essential.
We woke JD and with him on one side and me on the other, and Sanchez at the head of the bed, JD gently touched an undamaged shoulder.
"Vin," he called softly. There was no response. "Vin," he tried again. Tanner murmured, his head rolled toward his brother's voice. "That's right, come on open your eyes." Finally Tanner managed to open his eyes, he blinked at JD, then to the relief of all of us a tiny smile came upon his face. JD dropped to his knees, he held his brother's gaze. "You're alright, you're safe. Here." JD picked up the glass of water from the bedside table and helped Tanner to drink, finally he let him rest back onto the pillows.
I could see Tanner's eyes, which are cornflower blue, suddenly dart round the room, wild with fear. To the boys credit he kept calm.
"It's alright, no guards, no crushers, no hound, you're safe here, this is Standish Hall."
"The Hall?" the voice was halting and not much above a whisper, his accent was even richer than JD's.
"Yes the Hall, Sir Ezra says you can stay here as long as you need to." I can't honestly say I ever heard Ezra say that but I have little doubt it is true.
"There was a thing," Tanner breathed. "It it just came at me oh God!"
"It's alright son, we know about the hound," I said.
Tanners head turned and he took in me and Josiah, fear sparked again.
"Vin, this is Doctor Wilmington. Do you remember him - from before?" he pointed at me, but Tanner shook his head. "He saved your life," JD explained. "And that is Doctor Sanchez, he looked after you last night." Tanned looked down the bed at Josiah.
"Vin?" I asked, drawing his attention back to me. "I need to ask you some questions and examine you, alright?" He nodded. "I'm going to ask JD to wait to one side, is that alright?" His eyes flashed back to JD, who smiled and assured him he wouldn't leave the room, before stepping back to stand by the door.
I was frankly amazed at the sight of the wounds, they looked good, better than I could have hoped, there had been little or no bleeding and I was relieved to see my decision to leave then uncovered had been vindicated. Some of them were a little inflamed at the edges, but there was no pus and little heat radiating from them. The bruising that had now come out was quite horrendous. He was stoical, doing no more than hiss as I examined his many wounds. Once the covers were drawn back up I sat down and placed a thermometer under his arm.
"Do you remember what happened?" I asked. He nodded. "Can you tell me what you remember?"
"I " he started haltingly. "I was near the tor, and I saw you?" I nodded. "You were waiting for the man from the hut. I moved away to the other side, and then then," he faltered, pain was etched on his face. "It just came at me, and it was so big, I managed to get into the rocks, I don't remember anything after that, sorry."
"I'm going to give you something for the pain, do you think you could manage some broth?"
"I'd rather have tea," he managed another small smile.
I asked JD to go to the kitchen and fetch his brother some warm tea with plenty of sugar. Then I gave him a shot of morphine.
"Sir?" he asked.
"Will I be alright sir?" He had a look on his face, not fear, not apprehension more like resignation as if what ever the answer it was his lot in life. I see that look in the East End a lot and I shouldn't. People should not accept the unacceptable. I didn't know what to say to him. His temperature was only 99.3, hardly worth worrying about. That's a good sign, but it is too soon to tell, there was just no way of telling how well his injuries will heal or what complications lay in front of him.
"I'd say you are doing very well, all you need to do is follow your doctors orders, drink, eat when you can, lots of rest, and you'll be just fine," I lied.
It wasn't much of a lie; I have seen it in India. People - natives - ripped to shreds by a tiger or leopard, a few just heal, no fever no infection, they need rest, sometimes there are physical problems resulting to soft tissue or bone injury, but they don't get sick. I spoke to JD, who confirmed that Vin spent most of his childhood outside, like all boys he picked up his fair share of cuts and grazes, even broke his arm once, but he never got a fever, in fact he was almost never ill. Maybe there are people who are just better at fighting infection, like small pox vaccine; they have been exposed so often they are immune. I pray young Vin is one of them.
I persuaded Josiah to go to bed, and once JD was returned, left him to watch his brother. Chris and I ate in the dining room, Nathan promised to send some food up for JD and some broth for Tanner. Ezra it seems was still sleeping, and there was precious little we could do until he arose.
What I did ask him about was the notes. "What do you think they were about?" I asked.
"All I can think is blackmail, why else would he burn them?" Chris offered. "We will probably never know what was in then."
"It doesn't really matter now, does it," I stated.
Chris also confided that it was Jackson who sent the warning note. He did fear for Ezra's life, even his sanity, but his main motive was keeping Ezra away from the Hall until the business with Tanner was sorted out.
PERSONAL JOURNAL - JOSIAH SANCHEZ
February 22nd 1896
The wonderful Rain had brought me breakfast not long after eight, and once Dr Wilmington had relieved me I returned to my room and was quickly asleep. I rose at noon, and left for the village to check on my patients and the parish records. Mr Larabee showed Sir Ezra and myself what he had found, a striking resemblance between Stubbs and a portrait of one of Sir Ezra's ancestors.
Mrs Wells had that look in her eye when I returned home, that look that says she is not happy with me.
"Well? Out with it Nettie," I challenged. She feigned innocence. "I know you, I know you will make me suffer for whatever I have done, so let's get it out in the open."
Nettie Wells is a fine woman, independent, intelligent, as good a nurse as she is a housekeeper - but - she thinks she is in control of my life, I don't.
"Where were you last night? You didn't tell me you were going to stay out." I took a deep breath, the woman is the worst nag, but she means well.
"Nettie I have slept over at the Hall without warning, on numerous occasions, especially after a dinner party, why was it a problem last night?" I enquired trying to keep my voice calm.
"That was before, when Sir Henry was alive and besides I heard the Hound last night, plain as
day I heard it, I thought it had got you."
There was real fear in her voice and that is rare for Nettie. Before, I would have dismissed her claim to have heard the Hound. I would have told her it was a superstition, the wind whistling over the tors or through the cotton grass. Not now.
"Maybe you did, but it has no interest in a simple country doctor, I am quite safe, and no matter how good intentioned your concerns are, I cannot guarantee I will not stay at the Hall again on short notice. If I can I will send young JD with a message, but last night that wasn't possible."
"Is JD alright?" I spun around to find Casey in the doorway.
"Yes my dear," I assured, "JD is fine. Now that is an end to the matter. I have to make rounds and then I need to look up something in the parish records."
Nettie scowled at me for another minute or so then relented. "What do you want to look up, perhaps I can do it for you," she offered.
I went on to explain my quest.
"I can save you a trip to the church," she announced. Why I didn't just ask her I don't know, little gets past Nettie, even if it was sixty odd years ago!
I sent Casey with a note to the Hall.
NOTE SENT TO CHRISTOPHER LARABEE FROM DOCTOR SANCHEZ
February 22nd 1896
Dear Mr Larabee,
My search of the parish records have confirmed what you suspected and were in fact just to back up what my housekeeper, Mrs Wells, has told me. Mrs Wells has lived in the village all her life, and there is little village scandal, however old, that escapes her. Sir Ezra's grandfather, Sir Charles, had a younger brother, John. This I can confirm from the parish records. According to Nettie he ran away with a girl of ill repute and was lost at sea. However as far as she can remember no bodies were ever found, at least none she ever heard about. I have duties to attend to here, but I will return to the Hall tomorrow morning. Please tell Dr Wilmington I will bring more medical supplies.
Yours Josiah Sanchez
LETTER SENT TO
MR CHRISTOPHER LARABEE,
C/O STANDISH HALL,
February 21st 1896
Further to your enquiry regarding the discovery and classification of the lichen, Septum Stella Aureus. This sub species is peculiar to the uplands of south Devonshire and its discovery is credited to a Mr John Standish. I have no further information on him. I hope this is of some assistance in your work.
Horace T Brailsford,
Chief Archivist, Imperial College.
JOURNAL - EZRA P STANDISH
February 22nd 1896
I find it hard to believe that this is the same day, so much has happened. I arose so much later than I had planned. Nathan informed me that Mr Larabee and Dr Wilmington have gone out riding but return at one for lunch. Since it was gone twelve by the time I had bathed, shaved and dressed I went to the oak room to see young Tanner. He was asleep, his brother watching over him.
"Morning sir," he whispered, a smile lit up his face.
"Good morning JD, how is your brother?" I asked.
"Oh he's doing very well, so Dr Wilmington tells me, he hardly has any fever and he isn't in too much pain. Not that he would tell us if he was " There he seemed to run out of words.
I see the love in his eyes, hear it in his voice, I know what he did for his brother, what he risked. In my whole life I have never loved anyone I would risk that much for, and it wasn't just him. The Jacksons risked everything to help him, why? They had never met him; JD is no relative of theirs, yet they risked their very liberty to help him. My ever-loving mother would not have lifted one finger in the same situation, as she has shown me that on numerous occasions. Would I risk my liberty, maybe my life, for anyone, for mother? Look what happened when I tried to help, I gave my old clothes to Tanner and it almost got him killed. I would do anything to be able to take that back.
I joined Larabee and Wilmington for lunch. Over the meal Mr Larabee lay before me the evidence he had collected, it showed, quite unequivocally, that Stubbs is a Standish, my cousin. In the name of avarice he has engineered the death of, by all accounts, a good man, he has caused a young man who he had no quarrel with terrible injures, and now schemes to kill me too. And if the positions were reversed? What would I do for over a million pounds Sterling? How far would I go? Would I kill?
I have done much in the pursuit of money, most of it illegal, but I have never killed, I have never deliberately tried to physically injure someone who was not attempting to injure me or, on occasion, mother. And Stubbs has not just physically injured, he tormented my uncle, causing him mental anguish, over many months, from the evidence of the Jacksons and Dr Sanchez. I am a coward, a play actor, a con man, a gambler, but - I am not, nor have I ever been a killer. It is quite pleasant to find after all these years, that I am not the lowest of the low, I have some - well one - redeeming quality.
There stood before us the decision about tomorrow evening. I had to reply to the invitation Stubbs had left with me last night. Clearly it is a trap; a way to lure me on to the moor alone - for I alone am invited to dine at six, at High Tor House. The problem, as the great detective pointed out, is we have no evidence - none we can use, that is.
We know he claims to have discovered lichen, which was actually discovered by one John Standish, we don't know if he is John Standish or just taking credit for his work. We don't know if John Standish is related to Charles Standish, or even if my great uncle survived his fateful voyage - if indeed he ever took it. We don't know that he has a hound trained to kill me. We don't know if it was he who stole my boot. We know a huge dog attacked Tanner, but even if we could prove it did so because he was wearing my coat, we can't use this evidence with out giving Tanner up - which I will never do. It is all supposition and assumption, what Larabee calls 'circumstantial evidence'. There is nothing for it, I will have to go to dinner with this man and draw him out. For this has to end, I may be a coward but I am, I hope, also a gentleman, and no gentleman lets others suffer for him.
It took some persuasion, but young JD was eventually dispatched to deliver my acceptance note to Stubbs/Standish. Dr Wilmington seems more optimistic about his chances. JD told me he has been awake much of the morning, another good sign I am told. I am resolved to help him, to this end I will engage Mr Larabee on his behalf to clear his name. If all else fails I will find him employment on one of my Caribbean properties - JD too if it comes to that. He will be safe there. I could hide him here, but he should not be caged, he has to be free. And while he recuperates, I will teach him to read. If he will let me. It seems the least I can do.
PERSONAL DIARY - BUCK WILMINGTON
February 23rd 1896
Tanner is making excellent progress, when I examined him this morning he was able to move all his fingers and toes. I had feared that some of the tendons were permanently damaged. He can flex his right knee through almost the full extent of its normal movement, the left is more restricted, but I am hopeful. Both arms can be flexed to some degree and he has full use of his hands. His fever remains at between 99.2 and 99.5. I have reduced the morphine and he is tolerating the pain well. I am very glad it wasn't me, I don't think I could have stood it. Ezra has sent for fresh lemons and Rain is going to make lemonade for him. I had asked JD what his favourite foods are, and especially drinks are, as we need to keep him drinking and eating. It is common enough in the army for fit active young men who find themselves bed ridden and inactive to quickly decline and lose interest in food. This can be avoided with some imagination. Ezra seems very eager to help in any way he can, as well as the lemons, he has ordered fresh venison - I get the feeling a fair few Exmoor Red Deer have found their way on to the Dunne family table, and Cadburys chocolates. Where he acquired a taste for such a luxury item, heaven knows but JD insists that he loves them; which it is all to the good because it will encourage him to eat - the boy is far too thin as it is.
Last night I could tell Chris had things on his mind, I can always read his moods.
"What's on your mind?"
He said nothing for a long time, but I knew an answer was coming - eventually.
"This place, Dartmoor, if the Devil were to take a hand in our lives - the lives of man, here would be the place to do it." I didn't know what to say, in truth I didn't know what he was on about. "Do you ever think about her?" he finally asked.
When he says 'her' like that he means Sarah; he never says her name. I only met her once, but Chris wrote to me about her so often it was as if I knew her, and Adam. I still have those letters and the pictures he to sent me. The love I see there, the love in his eyes, that is true love.
"Yes," I finally said, "I think about her sometimes."
"Do I call to her in my sleep?" he asked.
That was a bit of a shock, he's never asked that before. The truth is he used to, I could hear him in the next room, but over the years his nightmares and dreams of Sarah have become less frequent, I can't even remember the last one - oh wait yes I can, last August 14th, it would have been Adam's birthday.
"You used to, to both of them," I replied honestly, "but not so much now - not when I'm around anyway. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know, evil I suppose I was thinking about evil, the evil that men do." I didn't know what to say so I just sat there and let him talk. "I worry sometimes that I'm forgetting them, that I'll never find the bastard who killed them."
He gets this way sometimes, but not usually during a case, we have to stop this man, if this case goes wrong he will take it badly. I don't normally encourage it, he has a nasty tendency to over do it, but I rose and poured him a large measure of whisky from the bottle Sir Ezra has thoughtfully provided.
Since Ezra was not yet up, after breakfast we again went for a ride. I like the grey, he may be a carriage horse but he had a good turn of speed and character, I fear the bay is too docile for Chris' tastes. As we did yesterday, while trying to look just like two gentlemen out for a ride we managed to traverse the path between the Hall and High Tor House twice, getting a feel for the lay of the land.
At lunch Chris outlined what we know, what we can prove and what we only suspect. And what we can prove is precious little. Ezra will dine tonight at High Tor House. Chris believes that Stubbs will want him on foot and will manufacture some way to prevent him riding back. I suggested he may 'wire' the horse. For once I had hit upon some nugget of information the great Christopher Larabee didn't know, though once I started to explain it Ezra said he knew of the technique but by a different name. You remove one shoe and secure a thin wire around the hoof - it is difficult to see especially in poor light - so that it presses onto the frog as the horse walks, naturally feeling this unaccustomed pressure the horse picks up its foot as if lame, thought in fact no damage has been done. Chris agreed this was likely but did not rule out the possibility that he may do something more drastic. Since Ezra has become attached to Chaucer, he refuses to risk him and will ride the bay. I have to admit I am glad he didn't choose the grey.
JOURNAL - EZRA P STANDISH
February 23rd 1896
I have one last thing to do before I go and change for this evening. I pray it is a precaution only. I have faith in Mr Larabee, and the others. Dear God how have I come to this? What possessed me to leave America? "Money Ezra, always follow the money" Well I followed it mother, more money than all your schemes and scams could ever have produced, more money than I ever imagined I could have. And I could lose everything as fast as I found it. Is it worth it? Would I rather be poor but alive and free? Yes - I suppose everyone would - but I no longer have the option, not matter where I run to, I suspect that man would follow me. Perhaps he is mad? Men have lost their reason over far less. Money, they say, is the root of all evil and it is surely living up to its reputation in this place.
LAST WILL AND TESTIMONY OF SIR EZRA PIERS STANDISH, BARONET.
I Ezra P Standish, being of sound mind do here by will and bequest all my worldly goods as detailed in this document.
To Thomas Nettles, also known as Old Tom, the sum of £2000.
To Mr Christopher Larabee, the sum of £2000.
To Doctor John 'Buck' Wilmington, the sum of £2000.
To Mr John 'JD' Dunne, his family and dependants the sum of £10,000
To Mr and Mrs Nathan Jackson, all my properties, holdings and business in the Caribbean.
To Doctor Josiah Sanchez, I leave Standish Hall and all its contents (with the exception of the jewellery, which is to be distributed as detailed), its grounds and all land, property and estates in the United Kingdom.
The residual of my disposable income I leave to my mother Mrs Maude Standish.
The family jewellery is to be distributed thus.
Mrs Rain Jackson to have first choice of the jewels - sets of matching jewels to be treated as one item. Mrs Jackson may choose three things. Mr Dunne may then choose six items of female jewellery for him and his family. My mother is to receive the remaining jewels. Of my own and my late uncles rings, watches and studs, these are to be distributed among my friends as Dr Sanchez deems fit.
Signed this day February the 23rd 1896
Ezra P Standish
Witnessed by Thomas Nettles
X his mark
PERSONAL JOURNAL - JOSIAH SANCHEZ
February 23rd 1896
I returned to the hall the next day. Dr Wilmington asked me to check Tanner for him; he wants a second opinion, since he is doing so well Buck is beginning to doubt his findings. For a really good doctor, Wilmington seems to doubt his abilities a lot, it's a shame, he is very, very good at what he does - well from what I have seen, which is admittedly very little.
As I suspected Wilmington has no reason to doubt his abilities, Tanner is very lucky, that is all. Lucky that he was found so soon, lucky that Buck and Nathan were on hand to save him. Lucky that Wilmington is so experienced with his kind of injuries. Lucky he appears to have the constitution of an ox or should that be a rat. It's not that I think he is a rat, but surely living and thriving in filth, rats must have a very high resistance to infection - like Tanner. God I'm rambling here. I just want this over. I'm writing this now to while away the time before we must all leave. Time has stood still I swear it, in Parliament Square right now the masses gaze up at Big Ben in amazement as the great clock stands frozen.