26. May, 2016

Sherlock Holmes, His Wife and The Adventure of the Whitechapel Murderer

At least I think that's what it's going to be called! Nearly finished, just checking the Jack the Ripper facts yet again and the latest Historical Romantic Thriller from my keyboard will be on Kindle Scout probably next week!  Here's a short preview of the first few pages.....

 

Chapter 1

 

For want of something to do, I picked up the top newspaper from the pile, and scanned the Globe´s screaming headline listlessly. “Another Shocking Murder in Whitechapel!” These days, it seemed there was a murder nearly every day in London, but as I read on the article beneath the headline hit me hard. A poor woman had been attacked in the streets, not far from her own home in East London, robbed, and – as the Globe delicately put it - “interfered with” appallingly. The unfortunate Mrs. Smith had later died of her injuries, but had lived long enough to say that one of the men who had attacked her was actually little more than a boy. The Globe made it clear that Mrs. Smith was either a whore, or not far short of it, and clearly felt that murder was little more than an occupational hazard for her sort. I shook my head wearily; what sort of city was this to bring my daughter up in?

I threw the newspaper down and went to the window. How was it possible that it had only been yesterday that I had stood here? The glass had been cold against my face, my nose squashed almost flat as I squinted to see the pavement. The window is one of those old fashioned ones, with a bull´s-eye in the middle. It had distorted my view and I felt like bashing it with my fist until it gave way and I could poke my hand through and at least wave.  I had heard the front door open and close, and then I did hit the glass, my blows feeling as feeble as the efforts of a fly batting to get free.

Rosie paused behind both girls, her hand on her daughter´s shoulder.  Eleanor looked up at her mother trustingly and Nona immediately followed suit.  If it was good enough for Eleanor, it was good enough for her, as always.  I watched Rosie usher both girls into the waiting hansom cab.  She paused before climbing in herself and peered up at my window.

I doubted that she could see me; a dense, nasty drizzle was falling that could do little to wash away the normal London fog.  A proper pea-souper of a fog, yellow and so thick you felt you could grab handfuls of it and tear it apart to force a passage through. Whether she could see me or not, Rosie waved anyway, and blew me a kiss. She mouthed something – I couldn´t make out what, but I guessed it was instructions not to worry.  She would look after Nona for me.  Of course she would.  But it didn´t make me feel any better.

My darling daughter was being taken away from me, and that was all knew.  All I cared about.  I slid down from the window and sat on the rug and wept. Tucked my head into my breasts and snorted noisily.

“Nell, dear one. Stop it. Nona’s in good hands with Rose, you know she is. It would take a tiger to hurt either of those two when she´s around.”

Sasha folded himself down beside me.  He was so very tall and angular it was like watching a puppet folding itself up.  Normally, the thought would have made me laugh, but not today.

“She´s gone.” I howled. “I should have been going with her. It´s not fair. It´s not right.”

“I know. But it can´t be helped and there´s no good going to come of you weeping about it. You´ll make yourself worse. Nell, stop it.”

Sasha sounded … not angry, precisely, but brusque. As if he really couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Abruptly, the four years we had been married were wiped away.  He was once again the obnoxious paying lodger I had been forced to allow to share my lovely house at 221B Baker Street. I had had no choice in the matter; my first husband, Kit Hudson, had been murdered and had left me with not a penny to my name. Nothing but the house he had inherited from his Aunt Martha. At the time, I had thought Sasha arrogant and sneering. It was not until we became lovers that I realised that that was no more than the public face of the world´s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. Underneath, he was caring and passionate and gentle.

Or so I had thought. Now, I began to wonder. Had my husband, without me noticing, stopped being my Sasha, and gone back to the man the world saw; Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the clever, cold genius? There was a world of difference between the two, beginning with the name. My Sasha was named for a little Russian boy I had known in the orphanage when I was a child. He had been called Sasha, and had always claimed he was named after a Russian saint. Whether that was so or not, I loved the sound of the name and almost from the moment we really began to know each other, to me, Sherlock Holmes was Sasha. To me, and nobody else. But now?

I glared at him. He was staring into space, his expression stony. I wished he would blink; it seemed unnatural that he could maintain that stare without needing to blink now and then.  It was a trick he used when he was interrogating suspects. It made him seem less than human, somehow. But that was Sherlock Holmes, not my Sasha. Not my husband.

 “Sasha?”  My voice quavered.  He said nothing, but I suddenly realised why he was keeping his eyes wide. It was so he didn´t cry.  I glanced down:  Sasha had beautiful hands, with long, slim fingers. He used them almost as much as his voice; stabbing the air when he wanted to make a point, describing a shape to support something he was saying. Now, those long fingers were clenched tightly into his palms. 

I reached down and prised them open, and it took all my strength to do it.  His nails had dug so tightly into his palms that the indents they had made were crescents of blood.  I whimpered and put his palm to my mouth, kissing it better.  Just as I would have done for Nona.

He let me do it in silence, and then the pain became too much for both of us and we wept together, wound tightly in each other´s arms to give and take what comfort we could.

Until then, it had been a good four years.  The best years of my life.  Nona has arrived very soon after we married, and if I thought I had been happy before, then now I knew what paradise meant.  Sasha doted on her; even in the cradle she could wind him around her pudgy little fist.

Dear God! She had only been gone from our lives for five minutes, and here we both were, reduced to tormented wrecks by her absence.................