(From Turnbull House, coming February 2014 from Bold Strokes Books)
(In which Andrew St. Andrews, Consulting Detective, meets his hero.)
When Dr. Doyle had handed me his card in Stoker’s theatre, instructing me to call on him if I needed anything, I doubted he meant I should bring him an injured murder suspect in the middle of the night after breaking into and inadvertently setting fire to a sugar refinery. Less still, I’m sure, did he mean I was to bring him a second man who, though a good soul, dressed like Doyle’s literary creation and styled himself ‘the Holmes of St. John’s Wood’. It took quite a bit of quick talking to make it past the doorman, but in the end, I found myself standing on an immaculate Chinese-patterned runner in the quiet, well-lit hallway outside Doyle’s room, while St. Andrews and Geary waited in the lobby, caked in sugar and ash, and trying not to bleed on the furniture.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you, Dr. Doyle,” I said as he, clad in striped pajamas and a heavy dressing gown, blinked at me from the doorway of his elegantly understated room. “I’m not sure if you remember me, but….”
“Of course I remember you, Mr. Adler,” he said, smiling to make up for the uncomfortable silence that had passed before he actually had. Then the smile turned rueful. “I also remember issuing generous, if ill-advised instructions to call on me at any time. Well, come in, I suppose. What can I do for you?”
“I need a doctor.”
He listened while I described my companions’ injuries, kindly refraining from asking too many questions about the circumstances under which those injuries had been sustained. All the while he bustled about, tucking instruments into a well-made leather bag. Finally, he excused himself to the back room and emerged a short time later, properly clothed. He’d even managed to comb that magnificent moustache of his.
“We’ll go to my office,” he said.
“I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Nonsense. I’m happy for the opportunity to put my training to work, quite frankly.”
“You can’t mean that.”
Taking his coat and hat from the rack, he ushered me out into the hall then followed, locking the door behind him. When we reached the stairs, he said, “Mr. Adler, it’s been nearly a year since I opened my ophthalmological practice. In that time, well, let’s just say I’ve had many, many hours to devote to my writing.”
“A fact for which legions of Sherlock Holmes devotees are no doubt grateful,” I replied.
His expression darkened. “Don’t speak to me of Holmes. Lately I’ve been considering pushing the man off a cliff. He keeps my mind from more important things.”
St. Andrews’s tweed-topped visage danced in my mind’s eye, and I suppressed a laugh. “I know someone who would beg to differ.”
“Hmph. I should very much like to meet someone other than my editor who believes that a handful of silly stories can be more important, or more needed, than a sound ophthalmological practice.”
We descended the stairs in the silence born of urgency. When we emerged in the lobby, St. Andrews looked up from his chair by the door. Seeing Dr. Doyle, he rubbed his eyes, as if Doyle might be a trick of the gaslight. Then he scrambled to his feet.
“Dr. Doyle,” I said, trying not to smile at St. Andrews’s happy-puppy expression. “May I present my associate, Mr. St. Andrews.”