Dr John Watson sat at his desk in his consulting room in Harley Street staring out of the window. He was not happy. He was aware that half of the ‘patients’ sitting in the waiting room were not there to consult him for his medical knowledge but to interview him about the disappearance of Mr Sherlock Holmes, or consult him about some misdemeanor that they wanted solving. Since his great friend Sherlock Holmes had disappeared six months ago Watson had come to rue his publication of his exploits. He had been careful to describe how limited was his contribution to the solution of crimes, which were all down to the genius of the great detective. People just would not accept it and continued to treat him as an expert in Holmesian technology. On his behalf, Watson’s receptionist did her best to turn these people away but she was not always successful, and everyone who did pass through her gate always had a good reason that their problem was unique enough to warrant Watson’s involvement. Today would be no different and reluctantly he rang the bell for the first patient. It was a man. He approached Watson in a state of nervousness he moved forward and sat down in the chair indicated by Watson. It was clear from his clothes that he was poor and there was no way that he would be able to afford the fees Watson charged for a consultation. After a short period of silence he began “Dr Watson, my name is Jeremiah Ruddock, perhaps you remember me? I was apprehended by yourself and Mr Holmes for a violent robbery in which the victim died from a blow to the head given him by my accomplice.” Watson looked at him closely “Yes I remember. The Hatton Garden robbery”.
“If you remember, Holmes was able to prove beyond doubt that the blow had been struck by my accomplice even though he blamed me and persuaded the jury that I was very young and had agreed to take part in the robbery provided that violence was kept to a minimum. The result was that my accomplice was hanged and I was given hard labour. I have recently come out from prison. As a jail bird society consider me contaminated and no one will give me a job. Can you help me find a job?”
“I do remember the case and the trouble Holmes took to keep you from the noose, but sadly I cannot see any position for which I would find you suitable.” Ruddock looked devastated, and appeared about to burst into tears. Watson hurried on “Look, give me your address. I will ask around and if something does come up, I will send you a note. I can do no more”. Slightly reassured Ruddock gave his address and took his leave so that a relieved Watson was able to continue with seeing his real patients.
Amelia was ushered into Dr Pennington’s consulting room at the appointed time. She was dressed once more in her widow’s weeds, thinking it appropriate when discussing with the Doctor her deceased Guardian. He welcomed her and asked how he could help. Amelia explained that she was investigating whether her Guardian, Cynthia Hawthorne could have been murdered rather than died of natural causes. Dr Pennington expressed shock that she could even think of such a thing, but she persevered, citing her thought that the death of both her guardians so close together could not have been a simple coincidence. After some persuasion the Doctor got out his notes from his post mortem of the the body. After a couple of minutes reading the notes he looked up at Amelia “There is nothing in my notes to say she did not die from natural causes. I was unable to establish the exact cause of death. She was ill with a slight cold but that would certainly not have been enough to kill her and it is not unusual from time to time for a person to just die in their sleep. I did not find any marks on the body to suggest any form of violent death, for instance strangulation.”
“If she had been suffocated, for instance” asked Amelia, “Would there have been marks on the body”
“Yes the face would have been red and swollen, but” and he paused “I seem to remember that I did not inspect the body until the day after she died because I was out of town. After more than 24 hours the discolouring and swelling would have gone down. So in summary, it is highly unlikely that your Guardian did die from natural causes, but I cannot rule out suffocation completely. Is there any reason for you to imagine that she was murdered?” Amelia explained that her suspicions were very tenuous. She told the Doctor what she had learned at Scotland Yard. “I am determined to continue to explore the possibility that they were both murdered until I can assure myself one way or the other. She thanked him for his time and prepared to take her leave. He took her hand, looked her in the eye and said “Just be very, very careful that you do not reach an incorrect conclusion to your investigations just because you have already pre-judged the issue”. She smiled and left, but on thinking about his words, realised that his advice was very sound. It is vital, she thought to herself, that I apply ruthlessly the methods of Mr Sherlock Holmes to carry out my investigation, else I will fall into the trap of reaching the conclusion I want to reach, just as Dr Pennington has said.
Her next port of call were the consulting rooms of Dr John Watson. The receptionist was aware that he did not want to meet with people who, in the absence of Sherlock Holmes, wanted his help with a problem of some crime which had affected them, so she was very reluctant to allow Amelia a consultation with the Doctor as it was not with regard to a medical matter. But as on previous occasions when someone had tried to thwart her, Amelia was very determined, and it was clear to the receptionist that there would be an unseemly scene, if Amelia was not given a consultation and reluctantly she ushered Amelia into the consulting room. Dr Watson looked up from his desk and kindly asked how he could be of help. Amelia began her story, but she had hardly started to speak when Watson with a mixture of annoyance and resignation said “Dear lady, if you have come to ask for my help to solve a problem for you, I must refuse point blank and ask you to leave. I have patients needing my medical services.” Amelia was taken aback. Actually she had not thought how he would respond and as least she at least expected the courtesy of a far hearing. She bristled “I came to you to ask for a steer to get me started on my investigation. I am well informed of the methods employed by Mr Holmes. I have read all your memoirs of his exploits and many of the monographs produced by Mr Holmes himself. If you refuse to help then I will have to continue totally alone.”
“Whatever it is you think to investigate, can I warn you that being a detective is no job for a lady. You know I imagine the dangers that Holmes and I fell into in our investigations. Criminals are ruthless and will stop at nothing, especially if they think their crimes will be exposed. You must give up immediately any thoughts along these lines” Amelia was not cowed “If you will not help me, then perforce I must continue the investigation myself”
“Nonsense” he retorted “There are plenty of private consulting detectives in London, go to one of those. I will help you by producing a list for you to try, but I entreat you not to undertake this dangerous activity yourself”.
“None can hold a candle to Mr Holmes. I have studied his methods and I am confident that I can do better than anyone else except the great detective himself. As you seem totally unwilling to help in any way, I will take my leave and allow you to continue with your patients.” She rose and headed for the door. As she stood on the threshold he called “Wait” and she thought for one moment her petulance had had the desired result and he was about to relent and help her. Instead he said “May I ask, are you a woman if independent means?”. When she replied in the affirmative he went on “I had a man in my office last week. He was detected by Holmes and myself as having taken part in a jewel robbery and spent time in jail for his crime. He cam to me claiming he is a reformed character and asking for work. I had nothing for him, but I know how difficult it is for ex-jail birds to get back into society. No one every trusts them, but I am sure Ruddock is a reformed character and will become a good upright citizen if he were to be given a chance. Because of his past, he has experience of the criminal fraternity and he knows how to look after himself. What is more, if you were to engage him, he would be loyal and protect you from whatever danger you foolhardiness will lead you into. If you are prepared to consider him, it would give me some comfort that you would not be as vulnerable as you would be and he would provide you with some protection, if I cannot at this late stage dissuade you from continuing on your own.” She indicated that she would meet Ruddock and Watson went on “In that case, I will send a note to his house telling him to attend your house tomorrow morning if that is acceptable. Please give me your address so that I may inform him. His name is Jeremiah”. Amelia left, and Watson thought to himself that although he had not been able to dissuade her he had at least made an attempt to help Ruddock.
On her way home, Amelia stopped in the street market and bought some clothes for her to wear without a corset. They were plain and certainly not anything she would choose under normal circumstances, but once she got them home, it was a matter of an hour for Mary and her to make the adjustments so that they were comfortable to wear. So dressed, and covered by her opera cape as before, she went to Alice’s house to accompany her on her evening walk. This time the novelty had worn off somewhat and Amelia took the opportunity to tell Alice about her visits to Drs Pennington and Watson. Alice was alarmed “Amelia, are you sure you want to continue with this investigation? Until now I had thought that you were just amusing yourself and it was unlikely that you would find anything, but there does appear to be enough doubt about what actually happened to encourage you to take matters more seriously, I can see that.”
“Do you think I may be in danger if I carry on?”
“Well, if your suspicions are right then there is a sinister force at work. If someone has killed both your Guardians why would they want to spare you. I must admit that I agreed with Dr Watson, you should really put the case either in the hands of the police or a private detective”
“Honestly, Alice, the police were very sceptical when I went to see them and I have discovered no facts since then to warrant them changing their minds. To put your mind and that of Dr Watson at rest, I will interview this Ruddock tomorrow, if he comes, and see if he is suitable as a bodyguard. What you are also neglecting is that I do not have any motive for these crimes, if indeed they are crimes at all.” Amelia noticed that her friend was beginning to look rather tired and suggested that they retraced their footsteps, followed as always at a discrete distance by the butler, and his young lady. Alice confided in Amelia that because she was beginning to get large walking was becoming difficult and it was unlikely that she would be able to continue with their evening jaunts for much longer. Amelia had taken a lot of trouble to sort out suitable clothes and she was a little put out that they would have such a short lifespan. There was no way that she would go out in society without a corset, uncomfortable and impracticable as it was. Without mentioning her annoyance, she took her leave of Alice and left, promising to return the next night or the one after, to see if Alice was up to it.