(c) Jess Faraday, 2013
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 murderer 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 at the Langham, but in the end, I found myself standing on an immaculate Chinese-patterned runner in the quiet, softly 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.”
“I see. And the hospitals are closed?”
Sighing, he ushered me inside, closing the door behind me. He listened while I described my companions’ injuries, kindly refraining from asking too many questions about how we had come to find ourselves wrestling and rolling about inside a burning sugarhouse. All the while he bustled from one end of the room to the other, tucking instruments into a well-made leather bag. Finally, he excused himself to the back room. When he emerged a short time later, he was properly clothed, and a hint of optimism had replaced his resigned expression. 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.”
“You can’t mean that,” I said. But from the new glint in his eye, I suspected that at some level he might have.
Taking his bowler and a heavy wool coat from their pegs by the door, Doyle motioned me out into the hall then followed, locking the door behind him. When we reached the stairs, he handed me his hat and bag, and shrugged on his coat.
“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, handing back the hat and bag.
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.” He screwed the bowler down onto his massive head. “ 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. Shall we?”