Obviously the concern of the whole outweighed any individuals but she said her worry aloud, “It was the time that Master Windibank happened to cross by our meeting place. He glanced in our direction as he passed. At that moment I was worried that he would see Fleet and most likely murder the swift lad, but he kept on his way. It was Fleet that surprised me. The boy could not speak for a few minutes, and he was as pale as a dying man. I told him to sit directly and handed him my personal flask.”
Sherlock and I were intrigued by such a reaction, from both Runner and Master, though we did our best to hide the strangeness of the encounter.
“He could not even remember the rest of the message Hosmer sent to me after that episode. I comforted him and gave him a can of beans and a slice of salted ham, and insisted that he eat a larger portion than usual before he handed it off to the other orphans.”
She had a small pleading look, almost muffled by her warrior instincts, at this Sherlock placed his hand in the air, “Mistress Sutherland, I shall look for the boy without another payment, he is a source I must question, I will inform him of your concern when I find him. Though I am sure he was just put on a different route.”
Mistress Sutherland nodded at his gracious undertaking of a side task. She seemed to find more relief than even she herself expected.
Sherlock allowed the woman another moment to gather herself for the last part of the story she had to tell. “Let us now hear about Master Angel’s disappearance?”
The Mistress nodded and began the next chapter in her narrative, “We had planned the wedding back in the first weeks of the relations. It was going to be small, Mother and the foundlings and Fleet were all going to be witnesses. Master Angel had planned everything, as he wanted it to be. I am not a woman that plans much these days, so he was more than happy to surprise me. It was to be at St. Saviour’s near King’s Cross and we were to have breakfast afterwards at St. Pancras haven lodging,” she briefly paused in her narration, as though she were trying to remember the particulars Master Angel may have told her that she had forgotten to mention.
“He had brought one of the wagons to the haven that morning. We were all set and as reign hand drove we sat by ourselves in the back. We were not even half way to the church when Master Angel became quite strange. Saying, whatever should happen I was to be true; and even if something quite unforeseen such as plague or death should come an separate us, that I should remain his. We being pledged would always find one another and hold each other to those words by our dying breaths.”
She began to sob slightly, I could determine that she herself disliked the emotion greatly. As she was very accustomed to having no emotion for this in such hard times, it would make sense that the pregnancy and abandonment were weighing on her.
“The horde found us,” she said through a wash of tears, “He was pulled from my grasp as they trekked towards us. I grabbed my katana and slew though the melee, hoping to at least be given the chance to dispatch him from a worse fate.”
She was, as we could observe, reliving the moments of blood and panic, “I decapitated half the lot in my hopes of finding his body. I remember the sword slicing through those necks, how they were warm fat on a slab. I can still feel the spines crackling along the blade as they moved out of its way,” she said with her head shaking.
“I remember he was wearing his favorite black duster, and the cleanest shirt he could find with his jeans. I bartered for those buttons you purchased Master Holmes, I got them so I could fix his shirts when we were married.” She could not take much else of the memories flowing through her body, nor would the baby.
“Mistress,” Sherlock said in a sympathetic tone, “I shall do my duty for you. I shall find him.”
She finished her tears and nodded her thanks, and she left with a bow to the room as any warrior does out of respect for the haven they found respite in. We returned to the curtains, watching her silhouette as it danced with the shadows.
“Bitr must go fetch Master Windibank at once my good fellow. I believe he is on patrol in south sector tonight, a jaunt away I suppose. Would you be so kind as to bring the boy to me man?”
I nodded as Sherlock made to finish the case during the rest of the evening hours. I showed Bitr in and stepped out myself, wanting a few moments of silence. For a man as old as I, there was still no fortitude for tears from a woman’s eye. When Bitr left I returned to the fire, neither felt like talking through the particulars, as I myself was too weary of observations for the evening.
Sherlock himself had trained me to train others in the art of Listening. Not only for the words, but also the meanings behind them, and not only for the clothes, but the bodies that wore them. Listener’s knew how to observe the world as Holmes does, and therefore, we knew exactly what steps were to be taken. I however was far more curious of the impending results. Bitr returned with word that the Master was on his way, as Holmes was not alone in the room, I again stepped out and took more time of solace in the lack of sounds filling Baker’s street tonight; thankful that Mistress Sutherland had dispatched the street of its horde, for now at least. As Bitr left I was return-ing and in so doing, I intercepted the man we were waiting for.
“Ah Master Windibank, you made good time Sir,” Sherlock said in a discourteous manner.
He seemed to refuse protocol once the man was inside the room. Sherlock sat in his own stool. Caring nothing for the other’s preferences, he stared at the man, blatantly inspecting him from head to bootlace. The Master, realizing his unwelcome presence began with an apology for the waste of Sherlock’s time.
“She is a very excitable girl,” he was saying, “impulsive and an emotional weakling. I had hoped to beat the wimp out of her Sir, but the Master before made her stubbornly set in her ways.”
Sherlock barely waited for the man to finish before he said, “On the contrary sir, I have every reason to believe that I will succeed in discovering the whereabouts of Master Angel.”
Master Windibanks eyes widened as Sherlock brought forth a branding iron. “It’s not actionable Sir. I assure you there was no harm done. The girl needed a…”
Sherlock got out of his chair and forcefully sat the man down on the stools, “Sir, you are despicable, it was a cruel, selfish and heartless trick. Let me truss up the details and you shall corroborate them or suffer more than just a branding, Sir.”
The Master sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his breast, like one who is utterly crushed. Sherlock stuck his feet up on the corner of the mantelpiece and leaning back with his hands in the pocket of his jeans, he began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed, than to us.
“A Master pledges to a Mother much older than himself for her clan,” he said to the ceiling, as I assuredly know that he did not want to look on the man of topic.
“He enjoyed the talent of the young Mistress who was contracted to him as she resided in the haven he kept up. She was an excellent slayer, and a good bartering chip in the table,” Sherlock said in a very truthful statement.
“The arrangement was worth an effort to preserve it. The Mistress was crass, but held the rough charm of a warrior, her lineage is impressive and if no man came to interfere she would start her own clan by this winter.”
At this moment, Sherlock began to shake his head, “Her breaking contract would leave your bartering system rather worthless were she to go independent, so what does her surviving Master do to prevent either such occurrence? He takes the obvious course of keeping her at home, and forbidding her to seek company of her Shaolin lineage.” Sherlock finally looked towards the scoundrel, “but soon he found that that would not answer forever. She became restive, insisted upon her rights as a Mistress and finally announced her sincerest intention of going to the next Shaolin gathering.”
Sherlock’s expression became more disgusted with the puddle of a man sitting upon another stool, “What does her clever Master to do? He conceives creditable to his head rather than to his heart.”
Sherlock took the time to search for some tobacco and paper from his most recent trade. I watched Master Windibank’s reaction to said tin, as Sherlock began to roll a cigarette.
“With the connivance and assistance of the Mother he disguised himself. He covered those keen eyes with a pair of tinted glasses, and whispered your false commonality to her receptive ear. He masked that face with mustache and a pair of bushy whiskers, sunk that clipped belligerent tone with an insinuating whisper. He and the Mother relied heavily on Mistress Sutherland’s light blindness,” as he licked the paper closed, I swiped a long match stick over the flames and lit the fag, “He appears as Master Hosmer Angel, and keeps off other courtiers by courting her himself.” The man uttered a sound of sheer regret, though I suspect that it was only because he was caught.
“It was only a joke at first,” groaned our visitor. “We never thought that she would have been so carried away.”
-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.