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I WOKE at seven-thirty in the morning, and, having realized the hour, was filled with chagrin. I should have been at Mycroft Holmes’ flat before now, ready to work. I dressed in haste, had nothing more than a muffin before I bolted out the door into a rainstorm that washed over the city with Biblical enthusiasm. Splashing through the street, I attempted to hail a cab, and finally succeeded. “Pall Mall,” I told the jarvy. “And quickly. I’m late.”

“Right you are,” said the jarvy, and set his horse in motion through the downpour.

Arriving at Mycroft Holmes’ flat some twenty minutes later—our progress having been slowed by an overturned drayage van—I rushed up the stairs, and presented myself with apologies.

“Do sit down and recover yourself, Guthrie, there’s a good lad,” said Mycroft Holmes, who wore a dressing gown of plush hunter-green velvet over his trousers and shirt as he sat finishing his breakfast. “I slept in a bit myself. I didn’t rise until nearly seven. Just as well that you took a little time to get here.”

I did my best to appear satisfied with his casual remark. “You’re very kind, sir: I should have been here sooner.”

“Not on my account. Besides, tonight will probably be a late evening, so it is all one to me. Not that there is nothing to occupy your morning.” He pointed to his stack of notes. “Sort those out and copy them, if you will,” he went on as he cut into the last part of a thick slice of ham slicked over with the soft yolks of three eggs; two slices of toast with butter and marmalade spread on them awaited his attention. “I must have these files back to Sir Marmion shortly; he required that as part of the loan of them. It was a busy night, reading through them all. I feel as if I have been inundated with paper.”

“No doubt,” I said, studying the file which must have contained more than a hundred closely written sheets. “Has this been worth your review?”

“In what sense do you ask?” Mycroft Holmes pushed back from his table and gave me a direct stare.

“In the sense that the science that Sir Marmion explores may be applicable to your own work. of course.” I was somewhat surprised by the questions.

“All science is applicable to what I do, Guthrie. You would do well to remember that. In the case of Sir Marmion’s studies, however, there is an immediate importance to his researches that touches all of us. I must tell you that it is my belief that we must improve our understanding of the human mind if we are ever to use it to its fullest potential, and use it we must, or we will be overwhelmed by those who do not hesitate to capitalize on the power of their minds.” He folded his hands on his chest and favored me with a thoughtful look. “Imagine what we might do if we could but comprehend the workings of the human mind, its strengths, its weaknesses, its unexplored capabilities. Once we had such knowledge, there would be no more madness, no more criminality, no more senility or apoplexy, and, once the mechanism was comprehended, no more poverty, for each man should know how to employ the strength of his thoughts, not be subverted by their weaknesses.”

“A laudable goal,” I said, making no apology for my skepticism.

“You think it is not attainable.” He waved his hand to stop my protestations before I could make any. “Well, for now you have the right of it. But for the future, I do not agree. A capable, disciplined mind: the mind is the secret, Guthrie. All our potential is locked within it; science shows us that if it shows nothing else. Sir Marmion seeks to give us some access to it, and I, for one, applaud his efforts, and the efforts of all who seek to comprehend the whole of it. We have discovered so much in the last decade, we must persevere to the limit. I will not be stopped by fashions in thinking, nor by public outcry, for there is too much at stake.” He rose from his chair.

“And what if the highest potential of a mind is for greater criminality, or more fecklessness?” I asked. “There may be such predilections even as there is talent for music and science.”

Mycroft Holmes nodded. “Indeed, there may be such, and if there are, the sooner we know them, the better. In those cases Sir Marmion may provide the key to identifying those inclinations early enough in life when they might be redirected into more useful applications.” He came over to me. “For example, if Sir Cameron had received appropriate instruction early in life, he might not be the drunken, cocksure wastrel he is now.”

“It is possible,” I allowed in a tone that said I did not think it likely.

“You do not think it could be so; you are not persuaded by what you have heard in this regard,” said Mycroft Holmes, wagging a finger at me as if he were a schoolmaster and I a wayward student. “Yet I tell you each man has it within him to be a tyrant or a saint, to be a beacon of achievement or a sink of depravity. It is all a matter of emphasis and application, and of education.” He began to pace the room. “I repeat: the mind is the secret. Do not deny the truth of it. You, of all men, should appreciate the power of the mind.”

“I do not question it,” I said. “I do question its diligence, and the ends to which it is employed.”

“That is precisely what Sir Marmion’s studies seek to address,” said Mycroft Holmes. “And speaking of Sir Cameron,” he went on in another voice, “I fear we must prepare to meet him at his London club. He has telegraphed early this morning that he does not wish to be met at the train.”

“That is not reassuring,” I said as I went to gather up the notes Mycroft Holmes wished me to transcribe.

“No. It suggests he had been drinking or has a doxy with him he does not wish anyone to see. It will not do, to have him arrive in this havey-cavey manner. Not that we would seem to have any choice in the matter.” Holmes pulled at his lower lip. “And there is the meeting with Baron von Schattenberg. It would not be to our advantage to have Sir Cameron attend our deliberations drunk.”

“No, it would not,” I said, thinking of all the times we had had to deal with just that eventuality.

“I think I am going to ask Sutton to put on one of his disguises and go watch Sir Cameron arrive. If he follows him to his club, there will be ample opportunity to discover what state he may be in.” He pointed to the notes. “Well, first things first. You may have two hours for that task, and then Tyers will return the file, as Sir Marmion requested.”

“That seems an excellent notion; I had best begin at once,” I said, and pulled my chair to the table before going to get the inkwell, pens, and nibs for the work ahead of me. “The cream-laid?” I asked, wanting to know what grade of paper he wished me to use.

“That is quite satisfactory,” said Mycroft Holmes as he picked up his plate and put his silverware on it. “I’ll leave you to it. Tyers will bring you your tea directly.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, preparing to set to work.

“Oh, and Guthrie,” Holmes said from the door. “Did you happen to notice if you were followed here this morning?”

I shook my head. “It was pelting down rain so much that I thought only of trying to stay dry.” This admission bothered me, as if it indicated a failure on my part.

“Well, no matter, I suppose,” said Mycroft Holmes, and closed the door.

For the next hour I worked at as rapid a pace as I dared, copying the notes that my employer had made and doing my best to sort them into like groups, but that proved hard-going: the language of phrenology was not always easily grasped, and I did my utmost to make sure I misinterpreted nothing of Mycroft Holmes’ observations; the quality of his handwriting—often somewhat erratic in his notes—was affected by the speed at which he had jotted down his responses to the material and gave me occasional starts as I attempted to decypher the hastily made reflections. In addition to the riddle of Mycroft Holmes’ fist, I struggled with the notions put forth on the pages, and thought it would be easier if I had the benefit of one of the charts to which the notes so often referred.

When Tyers finally brought my tea, I had completed roughly half the work, and I could hear Holmes singing in the bath.

“What is this passion he has for Bellini?” I wondered aloud, for Holmes was giving his own rendition of Druid’s Chorus from the first act of Norma, relishing the repeated vow that the city of the Caesars would fall.

“Better this than the German ones,” said Tyers with a shrug. “Or what he does to Rossini.”

I chuckled and nodded. “La Calunia,” I said knowingly, mentioning the famous aria from The Barber of Seville. A year ago, Holmes had struggled with it for almost four months before returning to the strains of Bellini.

“Will you want anything more than tea and toast just now, Mister Guthrie, or will this do?” Tyers smiled at me, his face so benign that I could not but thank him for his concern. When I had done that, he remarked, “I don’t know how it may seem to you, but I cannot help but think that Mister Holmes has too much on his plate. You might suppose it was a deliberate attempt at obfuscation.”

I nodded. “Yes. It does seem a bit that way to me, as well. But obfuscation of what? By whom? To what end?”

“Ah, if we could discern that,” said Tyers as he prepared to leave me alone, “then it would no longer be obfuscation, would it?”

“I suppose not,” I said, and poured my tea.

I had just finished copying the notes for Mycroft Holmes when the door opened again and Edmund Sutton strolled into the room. He looked like some minor functionary from a government office, or perhaps a senior clerk at a large counting house; I would have guessed his age at a decade older than I knew him to be. The most persuasive part of his ensemble was a pair of rimless spectacles perched on his nose, making his eyes seem much closer together than they were. He had slicked his hair to his skull with macassar-oil and affixed a moustache like a caterpillar to his upper lip. He affected a slightly stooped posture as well. I could hardly see MacBeth in the man at all. “Good morning, Guthrie,” he said, taking the chair nearest the hearth.

“Good morning, Sutton,” I replied. “I understand you are off to keep an eye on Sir Cameron.”

“So it would seem,” he agreed. “I should be invisible enough in this get-up, wouldn’t you say?”

“I should think so. I wouldn’t look at you twice, and I know you,” I said, making as neat a stack as I could of the pages.

“Is that the phrenology material?” he asked, as if the possibility had only just crossed his mind.

“Yes. The files must be returned shortly, and Holmes wanted his notes copied before then.” I picked up the teapot and realized it was nearly empty. “Shall I ask Tyers for more?”

“Not on my account,” said Sutton. “I have had three cups already this morning.” He fell silent, then said, “What do you make of it?”

“Of what?” I asked as I readied the files for their journey.

“Of phrenology,” said Sutton, touching the tips of his fingers together in an almost perfect mimic of Mycroft Holmes’ gesture.

“I know very little about it,” I said carefully.

“I may say the same,” Sutton reminded me. “But I am not sure the human character is so easily revealed as phrenology suggests.” Now that he had said it, he stared at me, his chin up, looking down his nose. “If all that was needed to grasp the whole of a man’s nature was to study his head, would that not have been learned long ago?”

“Possibly,” I said, wanting to draw him out. “But why should anyone have bothered?”

“Why bother now?” Sutton countered. “The trouble is, I’m an actor; science is not as engrossing to me as it is for many another. As an actor, I know that there is more to a character in a play than what is on the surface of him. In great drama, the most notable roles are so faceted that they can sustain many diverse interpretations without losing the coherence of the playwright’s work. There is much concealed, shaped by memory and circumstances. How could it be less complex for living men? How can all that befalls a man be writ on his skull and capture more than a sketch of the man who abides in it? Yet phrenology would make it so.” He stopped. “Or so it seems to me.”

I had the feeling I was being pulled into the end of a debate, one that had gone on between Sutton and Mycroft Holmes. “I understand your concerns,” I said. “If I had a better grasp of the science, I would have an answer for you.”

Sutton smiled a bit. “You aren’t wholly convinced, either, are you?”

“Not wholly, no. But there is no denying that Sir Marmion has done some excellent work with the mad. His success with those held in asylums is beyond cavil. That cannot be regarded as mere chance.” I put my hand on the package I had just finished preparing. “It is impressive to see the progress he has made with those who were thought beyond all reach. He may not have the entire puzzle solved, but he has solved a few of the knottier problems.”

“Um.” Sutton rose. “Well, I must be off. Sir Cameron’s train is due in shortly. I will return in time to deliver my report, and before you have to meet with Baron von Schattenberg.” He went toward the door, his walk changed from an easy stride to a stork-like tread, his head carried forward on his neck. “Shall I need my bumbershoot?”

“You may. It was raining heavily when I arrived,” I said, resisting the urge to applaud his departure.

Ten minutes later I handed the prepared package of files to Tyers and went back to the study where I found Mycroft Holmes, newly dressed, his hair still damp from the bath, standing in front of the hearth, hands spread to the heat. “You’ve done well, my dear boy,” he announced, cocking his head in the direction of the stacked sheets.

“It’s good of you to say so, sir,” I replied, and sat down in the chair I had occupied for most of the morning.

“Sir Marmion will have his files back in good time and you and I will have an opportunity to plan for our next go-round with Baron von Schattenberg.” He continued to look pleased, which suggested to me that he had arrived at a strategy to deal with the situation. “I am most grateful for all Inspector Strange told me—in strict confidence, of course.”

I was not quite following his thoughts here, but I sat still, waiting to hear what more he would say. “There may well be a few policemen who have become enmeshed in certain organizations that purport to address political wrongs that are actually occupied in fomenting violence and civil unrest. I am told that even when the alliance is not divided that police sympathies tend toward those organizations because of their public positions of maintaining order at all cost.” He came to his chair and sat down again, his face expressive of his ambivalent thoughts. “Although I cannot yet prove it, I am convinced some of those organizations have direct ties to the Brotherhood, which would explain how they have managed to work undetected for so long—few policemen are willing to act against their fellows, as such an investigation must inevitably require.”

“What does Inspector Strange have to say about the extent of this riot?” I was dubious about this possibility, for it struck me that anything so wide-spread could remain secret for long.

“He has only guesses, and is reluctant to try to seek out anything more material, for he has discovered that any proof that might have existed has been mislaid or destroyed. Those who could give relevant testimony are missing. He says that there were even policemen who tried to investigate the groups in the past, and they all—with one exception—came to a sticky end.” Mycroft Holmes studied his hands. “You may guess, if you like.”

“Your source of information?” I suggested.

Holmes nodded. “The one exception is Inspector Strange himself. He is not anxious to become caught up in the very intrigue he left behind four years ago.”

“But you believe him?” I could see there was apprehension in his somber grey eyes.

“I would rather I did not, but I do.” He rocked back on his heels. “Policemen serving as paid assassins. In England!” The idea clearly distressed him. “You might expect such a thing in Turkey, or in Sicily, or perhaps in Russia, but not here.”

“What do you plan to do?” I asked, wanting to know for my own benefit as well as his.

“I plan to watch my back, and so should you.” He folded his arms. “If the men who have been following us are policemen, then dealing with them becomes much more problematic than it was.”

“If we have, in fact, been followed.” I was becoming uncomfortable with the many notions now crowding my head.

“We have, in fact, been shot at,” Mycroft Holmes said firmly as he fingered the small scab on his face. “And it was a policeman who sent Sid Hastings away. He is not one to be fooled by an imposter; no jarvy is.”

“But why should anyone be taking such action now? Do you think it is the Brotherhood?” I knew the answer before I heard it from him.

“My dear Guthrie,” he said, all insouciance, “who else is likely to take so great a risk at this time?”

I could not help but agree, lowering my head as I did. “Where does that leave us?”

“In a bit of a pickle, I should think,” said Mycroft Holmes. “I hope you have your pistol with you. I do not want you going out without it.”

“If that is what you want, I shall do it,” I told him, trying to convince myself my anxiety was the product of my imagination and not the information Mycroft Holmes had conveyed to me. “My pistol is in my valise.”

“Good man,” said Mycroft Holmes.

“I will load it, if you think it best,” I went on.

“Of course I think it best. Why should I want you to carry an empty pistol?” He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Do not try my patience, if you please.”

“I did not mean to try your patience, sir,” I told him. “You do not generally want me to carry loaded weapons to diplomatic meetings, such as the one we have scheduled this afternoon?”

“Ah, yes,” said Mycroft Holmes. “Forgive me. Ordinarily you would be right, but it would be best, I think, to make an exception today. In case the Brotherhood has plans for us.”

“You do expect them to take action, don’t you?” I said, shocked in spite of myself.

“Regrettably, I do,” he said. “If Jacobbus Braaten is coming to England with Vickers, you may be sure they will want to remove any ... obstacles from their path.” He laid his hand on his chest. “I am accounted something of an obstacle by them. As are you,” he added keenly.

“Perhaps,” I said. “But why draw attention to their presence by so overt an act as killing us? Would not the police—” Before I could finish, Mycroft Holmes interrupted.

“If the police are truly being influenced as Inspector Strange indicated they are, we must not look to the police to aid us, or at least not in any way we would expect.” He began to twiddle his watch-fob, a sure sign of agitation on his part. “If the Brotherhood wishes to return to England, they know they must stop me, or render me ineffective against them. Had I not learned of the role the police might play in this, I might well have relied upon them in a most improvident manner.” His voice dropped. “You have fought the Brotherhood more than once, Guthrie. You know what they are capable of doing. Still you do not want to believe how ruthless they can be.”

I considered my answer. “I would prefer not to think anyone so lost to human sensibilities as these men are,” I told him at last.

“I cannot blame you for that,” Mycroft Holmes said with sympathy. “But I must ask you to remember what they have done before, and to realize their goals have not changed.”

“Yes,” I said, then sighed. “It is all such a muddle. Sir Cameron and his wife. Baron von Schattenberg and his aides. And on top of it, Mister Kerem’s tale, which is another matter altogether.”

Mycroft Holmes raised one heavy eyebrow. “Is it? I wonder.”

I recalled what Tyers had said about obfuscation, and was tempted to mention it to Holmes, but said instead, “How could they be connected?”

“I don’t know. Yet.” He dropped his watch-fob and began to walk about the room. “They may not be. But my thumbs are pricking again.”

“Not very scientific,” I quipped, trusting he would not be offended.

“Not that we have determined thus far,” he agreed, becoming affable once more. “But damnably reliable, for all of that.”

“Indeed, sir,” I said, aware that Mycroft Holmes’ general level of sensitivity in such matters had been honed by years of testing. I stopped myself asking him if there was a bump for such predispositions on the skull.

“Just at present, I am—” He broke off as the sound of a ringing bell and pounding fists came from the front door. “What on earth?” he asked of the air.

“Mister Holmes! Mister Holmes!” came the urgent cry from a man whose mother tongue was not English.

“Mister Kerem!” Holmes exclaimed, motioning to me to answer the urgent summons. “Take your pistol, Guthrie. This may not be what it seems.” He held the study door for me as I went to retrieve my pistol—unloaded as it was—from my valise, and rushed to do his bidding.

Halil Kerem stood on the top step of the stairs, his overcoat open, his suit in disarray, his hair wet. He sagged as I stood aside to admit him. “It is too much,” he said as he trudged into the flat, hardly moving as I put my pistol in my pocket and closed the door.

“What is too much, Mister Kerem?” Mycroft Holmes asked from the study door.

For an answer, the Turk began to weep in a ghastly, shuddering way no Englishman—or Scot—would ever do. Through his tears, he said, “The police. They have found my brother. Mister Holmes. He is dead. My brother is dead.”


Returned from the asylum betimes, having put Sir Marmion’s file into his hands myself, to find MH closeted with the Turkish gentleman, Mister Kerem, who has learned but an hour since that the police found the body of his missing brother in an alley in Shoreditch. He was not identified, but it seems there is a tattoo on his shoulder, for the corpse was quite naked and showed evidence of much abuse. Mister Kerem wishes to discover if the tattoo the police said the body has is the same tattoo as his brother’s, which will settle the matter beyond all question. I have brought tea and brandy—although Mister Kerem, being a follower of Islam, does not drink—for MH, G, and the Turk.

I have a note from Sir Marmion to MH which I will deliver when it is more convenient; just now the task of consoling Mister Kerem seems to occupy all MH’s attention ...

I must remember to tell MH that in my journey to and from the asylum I was followed ...

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