“Your Master?” Sherlock interjected calmly, “Your second Master, surely, since the clan name is different from your own Mistress.”
Taking no offense to the observation, she agreed, “Yes, my second Master. I call him my Master, though it sounds bizarre too. He is only five years and two months older than myself, and not even trained properly,” she added with in a slightly softer tone the last, were anyone to hear an admission of clan secrets.
“Your Mother is alive and unstricken then?”
Mistress Sutherland again agreed to the conclusion, “Mother is indeed much alive. I wasn’t pleased when she cast us into another clan so soon after my Master’s death. To a Master only self-named and lacking much clan credence.”
What could be considered an emotional reaction the memory showed her love for the lost master as well as the frustration with the new one, “Master was guardian of Tottenham Court, and trained by Shaolin monks that had ventured here to aid London when the plague was first reported,” which was but a repeat in our country’s history. The monks themselves had visited our shores every time our country had been in need. Through the Dark Ages as well as the reign of Robin Hood, the monks came to our aide as though they owed us a debt yet to be repaid for a favor that had long been forgotten in our history.
She morosely continued explanation of her departed teacher, “Master Sutherland had been deemed worthy of their teachings. Because of this he was allowed to pass on those teachings to his offspring. I am the last of his kin to survive the plague thus far. The rest of the clan and I believed I would inherit the clan, and they would pledge their servitude. But Mother…” she paused, a blend of confusion knitted her brow as anger became apparent in her trembling hands.
“The Mother promised your clan to another’s I suspect,” interjected Sherlock, I understand the frustration of fates being denied. I have seen many clans form and break under the weight of promised servitude, when freedom was in their grasp.” He looked at Mistress Sutherland with a slight curiosity, “Do you think your mother is indebted to Master Windibank? Or does she believe you are unfit to lead?”
Mistress Sutherland gave a terse shake of her head that made Sherlock pause in his questioning, “The Mother was to be the first gone in the clan. We had never gotten along, and Master was the only thing between her and abandonment.” Both Sherlock and I had seen this happen before. When a female was to inherit, it was no secret that some of the other women would be sent off to fend for themselves. Most could agree on much when it came to survival. Like a lion’s pack, instead of the males having to leave the clan, the females were the first to be set out.
Mistress Sutherland was becoming more comfortable in the room, her eyes were adjusting and she could now see where Sherlock and I were situated in the room.
“What have your tasks been while you resided under Master Windibanks pledge?”
She sighed heavily, “While I am staying with them in the haven, I do not wish to be a burden. I give my services as the bartering tool for the clan. I am their debt payer. The arrangement has allowed me to keep the foundlings thus far.” From this statement we could tell that the woman wanted the children in her former clan to survive long enough to find their apprenticeships.
“You have made your qualifications very clear and I admit my lady that you are quite an impressive specimen. As you now see more clearly, Dr. Watson is here, whom you can trust, as I trust him with my life. He plays the role of Witness this evening. Now would you kindly inform the both of us, who I am to Find for you?”
He said all of this in a clipped courteous tone. Getting through the resume and history of an employer, though time consuming, is really the only way to gain a foothold on the situation these days. As I have seen so many conducted by Sherlock these past few months, I have deduced that he is not only helping them with their troubles, but also gaining information. About what I cannot be sure, as most of what interests my friend is still a mystery. She opened her hand, palm up, requesting by protocol to retrieve something. Sherlock was, unsurprisingly, curious and gave her the permission for retrieving what she had not already presented. She went to her boot and pulled out a pocket watch.
She was careful with the obvious antique. The filigree was etched with vines and had some indenting that once, was designed to hold stones. When she pressed the cover in an intricate pattern, a pressure lock made it a more complicated design than I was familiar with.
“His name is Hosmer Angel. I met him first at the Shaolin Gathering I attended after my Master past. They kept in touch by Runner for the past month. Many were aware of my inheritance, and they gave respected his memory and asked for my attendance. Master Windibank refused to allow my attendance as he had never been inducted to the teachings himself.” Her tone changed as she began to elaborate on the relationship between her and the Master that had taken her position.
“He seems to have every intention of making you deny previous training influences even though he relies on that knowledge,” Sherlock said, not only agreeing with her distaste for the fellow, but also his methods of leading.”
Mistress Sutherland became agitated with her next remark, “He does become violent, ripping at clothes and skin. I believe he would break my bones if I was not necessary for the bartering and survival of the clan.” Some tears began to form, making her far more vulnerable, even human. “He’s been going after the foundlings. The girl and boy are not quite old enough for apprenticeship.” She began to sniff, and Sherlock handed her a spare scrap of cloth.
Accepting it, she continued, “they are the last two that joined my Master’s clan, and they are my responsibility. They will be of age and fit to leave the haven in a few more months, but Master Windibank has threatened worse than beatings if I attended the Gathering.”
Sherlock let her gather composure, which took but a few moments. He then began his questioning, “And yet you went to the Gathering, and met Master Hosmer still?”
Mistress Sutherland nodded, “Master Windibank said those folks,” she said the last word with disdain, “that they were not fit for us to know. I disagreed and he gave me a beating.”
The matter of fact tone gave us know hope for a redeeming quality to this man. There was no other way to look at the situation, other than a serious breach of etiquette. Many men had indeed taken advantage of the power hierarchy since the plague made our world a fight for survival.
“How then did you make it to the Gathering?” Sherlock asked for he had yet to discern the actual meeting, which was not uncommon when a woman came with so much physical and emotional trauma.
“I was determined and after he would not get the answer he wanted, he dropped the whole argument and left for a two day patrol.” She shook her head with confusion as it was never a good sign when an argument ended in such an abrupt was, “Mother even insisted that we still go, even after the Master Windibank threatened the foundlings’ lives. I took them with us so that he would not come home to their dead bodies strewn at my bedroom door.”
Her next moment seemed more pleasant as she let Sherlock look into that pocket watch she had been holding for so long. As she handed him the pocket watch she said, “That was where I met Master Angel.”
The inside of the pocket watch held a charm, an angel to be exact. “He is kinder than most men, has a soft voice and gait that allows him quick kills. I’ve watched him kill and he is like an angel himself. To rid the damned of their sorrowful plagued life is his calling Sir. I disliked his whiskers and was insisting he shave for the ceremony. And he suffered with blindness in light too, for he wore shades like mine,” she said as she let us inspect the pocketwatch and its charm.
-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.