6th November. From the comfort of my chair, I glance at Quincey. He is hunched over the breakfast table at 221B Baker Street. He takes his fill of the hot tea and toast prepared by Mrs. Hudson and turns to look in my direction. But, instead of contacting my eyes, he stares at my hands resting on the edge of my knees. For the first time since my stint in Afghanistan, I observe uncontrolled shaking, an uneven tremor that travels to my fingertips like a galvanic current. A subconscious recognition of the ordeal that we have gone through. I wring my hands and fold them upon each other to steady the twitch. The movements subside.
Without a word, Quincey’s attention returns to his breakfast, and he takes a crunching bite out of a well-buttered slice. In front of me, Sherlock, his expression blank and frozen in movement, says nothing. We are in our usual places, but our thoughts traverse to different times.
Sherlock is processing the events through his internal analysis. His pipe, clenched between his grinding teeth, bobbed up and down like a float at the end of a fishing line. His eyes locked shut beneath fluttering eyelids, and I wondered whether he was dreaming or thinking. I looked toward the familiar gap in the curtains and into the narrow shaft of sunlight as it emerged for the first time today. The light pushed a recollection, a flash memory passing before me, a time of certainty that had happened some seven years since. My tremors cease themselves, and I regain my senses.
Spread open upon my thighs lays this journal, its pages blank without a note about the case we are about to embark on, save the one I am forming as you read. Between my fingers lays the tool with which I shall imprint this account, my weighty Swan fountain pen. But even now, I am filled with reserve. Because this is the start from which I shall recall the events that have passed and as they continue. Events that will swirl and disturb, tumbling in the mists of memory and time.
My hand is now steady as I attach the gold point of the nib to the first entry. The ink flows and engages with the relief of the rough paper of the journal. The words, released from their captivity, prisoners within the reservoir of blue dye, take shape as if they had already been written and perhaps already read.
At this moment, the following entries comprise my journal of events, which I now know are connected to past events yet to be fully discovered, the most recently recorded occurring over three years.
18th November. Sherlock is true to his word. We welcomed Quincey into 221B with open arms. He occupies the attic directly above the study. Its low ceiling is of no hindrance to a boy of his height. The space, comfortably set by Mrs. Hudson, comprises a small bed with warm blankets, a wardrobe, a polished wooden writing desk, and a cushioned chair. Mrs. Hudson filled the wardrobe and attached drawers with the boy’s clothing, recovered from Harker’s wrecked hotel room.
We set the writing desk beneath a dormer window which, if one stretches on tiptoe to view out, oversees the town’s rooftops and, through their gaps, the activity of Baker Street below. A perfect light for the boy to create entries in his journal, which he fills daily. A room of excellent comfort. Its walls and window are barrier enough against the grip of winter, which hangs like a cloak upon the humor of the land. The season often completes these days with withering, cold, and deep striking frosts.
I sit opposite Sherlock, both of us in the reassuring hold of our armchairs. Quincey is yet to stir, which is unusual, as normally he rises as soon as Mrs. Hudson lays the breakfast fare. So I take the opportunity to converse about matters that are best discussed without the boy’s presence.
“What of Quincey’s situation, Holmes?”
“I mean the settlement of the affairs.”
“Oh yes, regarding a settlement, that is where we and the system are stuck, my good man. There is a delay in the inquest. We have no evidence of bodies or other identifiable remains to present which would allow a legal acceptance of the facts.”
“Will not the ashes suffice, Holmes?”
“Unfortunately, they are little use regarding identification, Watson. Even if they were acceptable, how do we separate one from the other? Their grains do not offer any differentiation to a sieve.”
“I suppose you are correct; we are stuck. So, there is no ceremony for the boy to close the matter?”
“It is probably for the better, Watson. I conversed with Lestrade on this subject only yesterday. The mixture of the ashes, including those of Dracula, was collected from the basement room of the bridge and placed in a single container. The container was taken and disposed of at a cemetery in the south of London.”
“Disposed of, Holmes, how so?”
“I hope for the sake of us all by the use of a crematorium, as I recommended. Unfortunately, however, Lestrade cannot confirm this.”
“I, too, am of the same hope. But what then of the inquest’s timeline?”
“We will have to wait, Watson. It will require a period of at minimum seven years for a legal declaration of death to be issued. Then, and only then, will the Harker’s estate be open to being settled. In the meantime, we shall remain together at 221B and continue our normal business.”
“The business which we may busy our minds, eh, Holmes?”
“Well, my mind at least, Watson.” For the last few weeks, Sherlock curled his lips, which had become unaccustomed to bearing the weight of a smile.
“Your humor has no bounds, Sherlock. Fortunately, I am a doctor, as I almost broke a rib in laughter.”
From downstairs, a rapping of knuckles barked at the street door. Mrs. Hudson soon answered, and the door opened, followed with brief hesitation by galloping footsteps, which stuttered but then gathered pace on the stairs.
“Visitors, and maybe some business.” I said.
“I see your sense of deduction has not dulled, Watson.” Replied Sherlock.
“Quite.” I returned as Quincey bounded from the attic and entered the room, sat at the table, and, at once, indulged himself in one of Mrs. Hudson’s specialty breakfasts: sausage, eggs, bacon, and toast. The boy had caught the end of our conversation and issued a grin without turning away from the delights of his food. Two smiles in the space of a few minutes. Things were looking up. Sherlock continued.
“This visit is of business but is unaccompanied by payment. The visitor is young and has a small frame at that. The weight and distance of steps on the tread are lighter than our wonderful housekeeper they follow. Note that the visitor wears new boots, which provide intermittent squeaks. That is if you have the care to listen.” He said, stretching backward into the comforting leather swell of his old friend. The usual frown dissipated from Sherlock’s forehead in confirmation of his deductive prowess; simultaneously, his sinewy fingers stretched, forming a tower as their tips pressed against one another.
Gasping, Mrs. Hudson entered the room first. “One of your… urchin’s Sherlock.” She announced with a shrill exhaustion. Wiggins, the leader of the street gang who had first brought the vampire’s lair to light, stepped from behind her. He removed his grey woolen cap and gripped it, clasping the wrinkled cloth between both hands in front of him as though he was about to issue a prayer.
Wiggin’s tattered grey clothes laid upon his sinewy frame and steamed as they released their dampness into the room’s warmth. But, notwithstanding that they bore the grime and soot of the day, they kept out most of the winter chill. On his feet were a pair of new leather boots, their sheen removed, dirtied by the squalor of the narrow London alleys and back streets he frequented.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. Come closer, Wiggins, and step before the fire.” Said, Sherlock. His fingers separated and then closed in rhythm.
“Thank you, sir.”
Around him, the rising steam gathered density as the boy moved closer to the roar of the fire and its heat, and he pushed out his hands. Wiggins rubbed his palms and wrapped them together to absorb as much warmth as possible.
“What news have you?” Said, Sherlock.
“Only a great relief that you are all well, Mr. Holmes.”
“Yes, thankfully, we are all returned safely. What about out there?”
Sherlock nodded toward Baker Street and the bustle of the city beyond.
“People talk about mysterious events and goings on at Tower Bridge. Other than that, there is no news.”
“No signs of strange nocturnal activity?”
“No, Sir, most things are quiet. I have encountered no remarkability in the goings-on recently like. It’s all still. Is there anything you might want the gang to investigate more, Mr. Sherlock?”
“We are waiting for the next step, Wiggins. With nothing to note until then. But I want you all to keep your eyes sharp for anything you might observe that is out of the ordinary. Here, take a coin for the gang.”
Sherlock removed a shilling from his jacket pocket and flicked the coin with his thumb toward Wiggins, who gripped the tumbling silver weight out of the air with one hand.
“And while you’re at it, escort Quincey to explore London. He is becoming too reclusive in this place. He needs to take in more of the air.”
I looked out the windows and raised my eyebrows at the thin lines of grey and brown smoke as it belched from the industrial chimneys set in the distance.
“Very well. We can visit Mrs. Kelly at the candle makers if you like Quincey. She has a new set of puppies we can take a butcher’s bone to.”
Quincey nodded, rose from the table, and pulled on his heavy winter coat and woolen gloves. He placed the kukri in its sheath under the flap of his jacket and attached it to his belt with a comforting click.
“Maybe you should leave the weapon?” I said.
Quincey threw a stern glance, which answered my question without needing words. He left with Wiggins, closing the door behind them.
“The air will be most beneficial if he stays away from the docks. But otherwise, an excellent suggestion, Holmes.”
“Yes, the boy requires better company than two morose old men.”
“Speak for yourself, Holmes. I think the boy has shown remarkable fortitude in all of this. Don’t you agree?”
“Quite right. Quite right indeed.”
Holmes returned to his slouch and closed his eyes. The lids twitched as the great mind turned its cogs. I returned to this journal. Quincey was gone for some time, the day turning from brightness to a dull grey wash before the boy’s return just before six that evening. Two high-pitched shrieks of Mrs. Hudson welcomed him.
“He is back,” I said.
“With a gift in hand.” Sherlock postulated.
The approach of stomping footsteps on the stairs was followed by gasps of “You can’t bring that in here.” And “I refuse to have anything to do with it!”
The words issued by Mrs. Hudson preceded them both into the lounge. Quincey, his face pink with the effort of running ahead of Mrs. Hudson, who by this point was breathing like she had scaled Mount Everest. The poor lady was bent double, attempting to catch her breath while gesticulating with whirling arms towards the small wooden crate clasped to the boy’s chest.
“What would you call it?” Said, Holmes.
“Call what?” I replied.
“The dog, of course.”
“My good man, think and then recall what you observed earlier. Wiggins came around, did he not?”
“Well, of course, he did. My mind is not yet so stagnant and… by jove, the candlemaker woman, eh?”
“Yes sir, Mrs. Kelly, it was. We met up with the gang. Mrs. Kelly’s dog had six puppies in her outhouse. She told us that if they were not out by tomorrow week, she would tie them in a sack and throw them into the Thames. She even held up the sack and its rope to show us all. I need to save at least one, Mr. Holmes. Just one.” Quincey said, his eyes filled and glassed like mirrors.
It was the first time we had witnessed any display of emotion from the boy since the event we all attempted to store in a locked safe to the rear of our thoughts. The boy placed the crate before the fire and opened its lid.
After a moment, a small liver-speckled white dog pushed a wet flesh-colored snout out of the cloth wrapping which covered its small frame, sniffed twice, and then leaped out of its makeshift bed, curling onto a small circle, and laying on the rug and the warmth it had captured.
“So then, what would you call it?” Sherlock said and passed a wink in my direction.
“Prince. Sir.” Said, Quincey. He bent, reached out a hand, and stroked the pup along its back. Without opening its eyes, the dog’s tapered tail thumped the carpet three times.
“Well. I say, Sherlock. There’s not any chance I shall care for that animal.” So said Mrs. Hudson, folding her arms and withdrawing from the room in a huff.
“Mrs. Hudson will mellow, I’m sure. The pup can stay, Quincey. But its care shall be your sole responsibility. The animal shall tether neither Watson nor me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir, thank you. I shall make sure he is of no hindrance to this household. He shall reside in my room.” Quincey lowered himself to the carpet and curled against the dog.
Prince was here to stay and made 221B his home without delay. The dog sleeps at the foot of Quincey’s bed, and the boy maintains care of the pup, greater than true to his word. He and the dog are inseparable; they are like brothers.
Now and then, Mrs. Hudson tosses a sausage in Prince’s direction, but only when she thinks no one is looking. The puppy is now some six months grown and is of remarkable intelligence, which in most circumstances is far greater than this town’s gormless, unwashed hordes.