“Where do you suppose that Master learned those skills?” I asked Sherlock as a method of observation he usually appreciated.
“I have seen those talent before,” he said in response, “here she comes in person to answer our possible theories.”
I was slightly shocked at his mention of the Master’s sex, as women ranked in such high esteem and skills were still rare. Shortly after the slayer entered the building, there was a tap at the door Bitr, or the ‘Boy in Thick Rags,’ for that would be his name if we ever to call him by one, had exhausted skin entered to announce the woman’s name as Mistress Mary Sutherland. We readjusted the drapes and waited for the woman to slither into the room. She kept her back to the wall, eyeing the furniture and the general direction of our presence, as we had announced our whereabouts in the dimly lit room.
Her eyes were momentarily attracted to the weapons still uncleaned and lying on the floor. Like any decent Englishmen we had stopped everything but conversation for tea. As the weapons were near the fireplace she chose the bench close to the door. Nothing was present to interfere with the instincts should she wish to leave. Holmes sat immediately in front of her as she stood waiting for his acceptance of the spot. He welcomed her with the acute awareness to the etiquette of today. Keeping some of the courtesy he had possessed before the dismal misfortune that befell England. They then took on their customary roles of holding each other’s gaze.
After this short time of silence Sherlock gave a blunt observation, “Do you not find your fire blindness a hindrance to your training Mistress Sutherland?”
To which she gave a short nod as she said in a rather deep whisper of a woman that barely found a reason to speak. “I did at first, but I see in the dark better than the rest of my clan. I am as accustomed to the impediment as I can be.”
She then made a slight motion towards a case located on her belt, without touching the object, as it was not allowed yet. “These effectively allow me to see in daylight and…” she abruptly realized that Sherlock had only asked one question, and she had divulged information that she felt to be personal. No fear passed over her starved face, angular in its bone structure, but her eyes squinted in suspicion, “You have heard of me Master Holmes?”
Sherlock shook his head enough for her to notice the motion, “Never mind Mistress. It is my business to know things through observation alone. Perhaps I have trained myself in a more acute awareness than other, whom may overlook a few minor things for the sake of expedient survival.”
He never bent his neck, which would have broken the supposed eye contact, which would indicate his reassessing a weapons position or a distraction from his necessary attention to her case.
“This would be a reason for you to seek my consultation Mistress, and I believe you should now state your price.”
She took a breath and smelled the brewing tea, her gaze took a slight introverted hitch at a possible memory the scent triggered.
Mistress Sutherland then shrugged off the ghosts that haunted her face. “I came to you Master Sherlock because I heard you by way of Mother Etherege. You found her child cornered in a building surrounded by the plagued while the clan had given him up his memory for infected. I wish you to do the same for me Sir.”
She paused, waiting for his nod to retrieve from her pockets the bartering items, as Sherlock gave it, “I will give you my sword which is mine by death rights, and a few other objects I have acquired in my hunts,” she mumbled as she began emptying her pockets, and the result was surprising.
The contents had given her a bulk that I attributed to a decently fed warrior. As the pockets were emptied the woman shrunk to waif sized fragile thing, like a bird, my doubts of her speed and strength vanished as her body didn’t have an ounce of excess to it. She could easily perform the speeds necessary for slaughtering, though I did not understand my doubts being present, as I had seen the girl perform such feats.
She looked directly where she surmised Sherlock’s eyes to be and said, “I shall also name myself in your debt till you deem the payment fulfilled.”
At this she tilted her head lower than customary to signify her servitude. “How would you serve without your sword Mistress?” He tilted his head towards where her sword would be outside the room’s door, “I shall not confiscate your well-earned tool that helps dispatch the diseased. I will, however accept your debt of aide for ten outing per request.
“And—” he looked through the mess of things, picking up a full tin of unused tobacco, some variety of buttons, and an iron hook, used now for stitching fabrics rather than catching fish, an inadvisable past time these days, “I shall return the needle,” he said to the woman. “I will also provide you with thread when I am finished with some wardrobe repairs,” Sherlock added as a favor to the woman, whom raised her brow at his strange bartering method.
“I will agree to the outings Master Sherlock. I would stipulate that darkness holds more benefit to them, were you to have me as aide,” saying her addendum to the deal, as if practiced from many made before. Sherlock tilted his head in acceptance they touched finger tips to their own foreheads. A salute of combatants already trained in death.
“Now Mistress Sutherland,” Sherlock said as he placed his chin on the palm of his right hand, bravado to his lack of weapon, “coming to the case in hand, what you would have of me? And why did you deem this meeting so necessary to demand haste in the matter?” He was her devoted audience, and she knew her time to speak.
Her shoulders tensed a fraction, tallying Sherlock’s skill, “Yes, I did bang out of the haven,” huffing through her own curiosity, getting to the point of the substance, “it made me angry to see how Master Windibank—that is my clan leader—took it all.”
She then gave a hint of revulsion in expression, tone and a shudder that went through her tiny bird body. “He would not go to the Finder, and he would not go to you, and so at last, as he would do nothing, and kept saying that there was no harm done,” her face showing more frustration at the situation, which we had yet to be enlightened on, “I grabbed my scabbard and coat, and came right away to you.”
Sherlock knew, and I knew her desperation had to be acute, for no one willingly pleaded for a Finder. Their prices where high, and their results questionable, as more cases of lost clan members came to a conclusion after the member had turned or committed their bodies to the headless corpses of London’s North Street. A place dubbed Horseman Street in these dark days of hopeless hunger for brains or bread depending on your degree of stasis in life.
-To Be Continued-
Editors Note: Linda K. Strahl graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from Lewis University. She is currently a volunteer poetry editor for Jet Fuel Review, as it is the catalyst to her ongoing pursuit to join the publishing field. To keep her writing fresh she is currently working on integrating old classics with more present superstitions and fads, while also keeping her own word journal, and Evernote app on hand. To keep her finger dexterity, she knits, and practices piano.