The Hound Of The Standishs

The Hound Of The Standishs
(Conan Doyle)

by Sammy Girl

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven aren't mine, nor is the plot, that belongs to Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.
Authors Note: This story was inspired by a recent film of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I have changed characters, and some of the plot, but not much. Dartmoor is, as it always is, wonderfully beautiful in its bleak wildness. A windswept, almost treeless, upland area (now a national park) Dartmoor is used by the military for survival training. The prison was built to house military prisoners from the Napoleonic War; it was turned over to civilian use in the 1850s and was deemed to have reached the end of it usable life in the 1960s. It is still there, it is still a working prison and it is still a very grim and brutal place, housing some of the most difficult and troublesome prisoners. My thanks to Firefox for all her help, support, encouragement, suggestions and proof reading.
Links: Pictures of Dartmoor including the prison
Dartmoor Prison circa 1900
A Map of Dartmoor can be found at this site, in 'Notes and References'
AU: Open



January 12th 1896

I am alone, totally alone, bereaved. Henry is dead.


January 13th 1896

Yesterday Jackson called me to the Hall. To see to my Henry. How I did my job I will never know. Jackson was a tower of strength as usual, and of no small help. It is surely a crime that that man will never be a doctor. The beautiful Mrs Jackson provided tea, laced with brandy. Jackson had found him on the terrace, dead. Oh how can he be gone, how? It's not Fate, it's not right. I should have stayed with him, I knew he was worried, I knew he had become convinced the legend was true and would come for him. That last day we were together, he was at first distracted and then clinging to me like a frightened child, following me as if afraid if he lost sight of me he would lose me. He begged me to stay the night - as I have so many times before. But I had surgery first thing in the morning and the hard frost of the night before had never melted. I knew from experience that even though it was clear then there would thick fog by dawn

I should have stayed. I would still have him if I had stayed. But people talk, I have - had - to be careful how often I stay and when. Jackson knows of course, and the wonderful Rain. His people are far more understanding. I don't know about the boy, but to my knowledge if he knows anything he has never spread this knowledge abroad.

It looked like a heart attack, I will know this evening after the post mortem - Oh God help me! How will I cut into him? How will I eviscerate one so adored, so pure of heart, I who loved him the best, I will be the one to mutilate him after death. I must be objective, I can't help him if I let my grief take over …damn! Now I have cried all over the page and smudged the ink.

I don't understand how it could be a heart attack, he was in perfect health, surely if he were to have a seizure it would be while engaged in a far more vigorous activity than a late evening stroll in the moonlight. And that's another thing - why was he out there at all? Yes, it was a beautiful night but freezing, he could have enjoyed that from the bedroom window or even the parlour terrace. Why go all the way to the moor gate - when he will not step so much as one foot on the moor after dark and if he ventures out in the daylight, keeps the house in sight at all times?


January 14th 1896

I am drunk. I finished the brandy Henry gave me for my birthday last night, almost half a bottle. I was drunk last night and I am still drunk this morning. I drank in his memory and to wipe the memory of what I had just done from my mind. But I cannot. He lay there before me. Cold, still, stiff and lifeless. A look on his face such as I have never seen on those so familiar features before, indeed on any face. He died in such fear and such terror. Why did I leave him? Why? Damn it, he needed me and I wasn't there for him. I will write the report later, when my head is clear. As usual I will do a summary for Sergeant Riley in plain language. The poor man tries, but he really has no imagination and precious little intellect. I am resolved to seek more skilled help to find the truth behind my dear friend's death.


Date:- January 14th 1896

Name:- Sir Henry George Cedric Ezra Standish. Baronet.

Aged:- 52.

Died:- January 12th 1896

Address:- Standish Hall, Four Corners, Devonshire.

Death was as the result of a sudden failure of the heart. There were no signs of prior heart disease or of any abnormality of the heart muscle. Other than some minor abrasions to the knees and hands there were no signs of violence on the body.

Doctor Josiah Sanchez M.R.C.P.



February 15th 1896

He lies there in my bed sleeping. He can sleep for England, hour upon hour, untroubled by dreams and nightmares. Mostly he is still, only occasionally does he move, and when he does it is slow and soft and loose, as if all his muscles, normally hard and strong, were suddenly no more than feather pillows. I do not sleep, not like him. I sleep after. After he has made love to me, after he has taken away my control, my resolve, the very intellect I live by, he takes from me piece by piece, and what delicious torture it is. How wonderful, how exquisite, how primordial in its wonderful baseness, he takes the blackness that dwells in me and envelopes it in his love and for a while it is contained. I sleep after that, for a while anyway. Last night I needed him. I know he sleeps with women, some fine, some not so fine, and I know he enjoys it, but it is me he loves, and only me, though God knows why? If I were not such an emotional cripple maybe he would be mine always? Maybe? But then again it does both of us no harm for him to have the reputation as a rogue and a scoundrel.

I needed him because I am bored. I have no case to keep my mind occupied and thus it wanders to dwell in dark places where only two things can bring me relief, whisky - a temporary but easy solution and him, his love, his care, his passion. Then I can sleep for a while at least. I worry sometimes about the harm I do, about how I use him, he always comes when I need him, he is always at my side. He endures my put-downs and tempers, my tendency not to tell him the whole truth. He covers up for me when I am rude and neglectful of the feelings of others. I don't deserve one such as him. Buck? What kind of a name is that? Not his anyway, his name is John, but he has been 'Buck' to everyone since school - where we first met. I have long since come to believe that being expelled from Eton was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't know if being expelled from Marlborough was as beneficial for him, but it was for me.


April 19th 1874

Oh God I can't believe that tomorrow I start at Lee Park School. Lee Park, no one has ever heard of it! A small provisional school, full of small provincial boys with small provincial minds and dull, stupid, provincial masters! Why couldn't I have a tutor at home? Freddie Bond was expelled and his parents got him a tutor, why not me? Oh no can't have Chris at home, getting underfoot, spoiling the family's reputation. Damn it I'm 16, I'm not a child, I don't need to be locked away in the nursery! My father is scared of me. I used to think he hated me, but now I think he just can't understand me. He is dull, my father, dull and unthinking and boring. He lives by rules, when to get up, what to wear, when to ride out, when to hunt, when to shoot, when to go to London and be seen, he lives for convention. Mother hates him, and me. All those girls, eight tiny graves in the church, one after another, all dead before they were even one year old, and me, strong and healthy. All she ever wanted was a girl. Father wanted a son, but not me. He wanted a different son, one to hunt and shoot and fish with. I like riding and shooting and even fishing, but hunting? I'm not sure, too many people, too many rules. But there is so much more to life than just hunting, shooting and fishing.


April 20th 1874

Well that went about as expected. Dull! Dull! Dull! My room is in the attic, because I am staring here in the middle of the school year there is no space for me with my peers. I have to have a room with the Remove. They are only 13 or 14, oh dear God in heaven save me from 14 year old boys! The headmaster took me into his study and informed me that any chemistry experiments have to be done in the science laboratory under supervision. Father should have been proud of me and my experiment, I was trying to make better gunpowder, and I succeeded too - it was a very small, old potting shed, I still don't see what all the fuss was about! I have to say that was the one bright spot in the whole miserable experience. Here they actually teach science, there is a laboratory and we will do experiments. I met the science master, he is Hungarian - that bodes well, more free thinking. The food was, well to call it food would be gracing it with a title it does not deserve. My room is small and pokey and draughty, no doubt in summer it will be stifling and freezing in winter. The ceiling slopes and I have to duck my head when rising from my desk. No doubt I will forget sometimes.

I have seen the boy who has the room next to mine, he also started today. He was called into see the headmaster just after me. Mr Bolton was quite reasonable with me, he told me this was a new start, that he had heard I had a quick mind and was inquisitive and he liked that. The other boy, my new neighbour, he just shouted at, though I couldn't hear what was said. When I saw him later he looked about ready to blub. His room is in the corner of the attic. I would surmise that, since he is nearly as tall as me, there is only one spot in the whole room where he can stand up straight, poor boy. His trunk has several Marlborough Station stickers on it and several from Brighton, so he lives in Brighton and was expelled from Marlborough, I wonder what he did to deserve that?

I can't sleep. This damn bed sags and the mattress is so lumpy I think it has rocks in it. As soon as possible I shall go in search of a better one, or even buy one. I can hear my new neighbour moving about. Perhaps it is time to make introductions.

His name is John Wilmington, but I get the feeling he doesn't like the name John much. He too could not sleep. I asked him straight out what he did to be expelled. He wouldn't say, but seemed amazed that I knew that he had been and from where. Really! It was easy enough to work out. He seems equally disenchanted with our new school. But while I merely want to get a decent education, he would appear to be desperately home sick. He is a fine looking boy, tall and slender, with thick dark hair, which is wavy with out being curly. His eyes are the deepest blue I have ever seen. His manner was guarded and defensive, but I get the feeling that he would like to be friends. For a 14 year old he isn't too bad, so I will endeavour to over come his reserve.



February 15th 1896

Dear Sir

I present to you this copy of a legend that is well known around the villages on Dartmoor. I will visit you again, since you were not in when I called today. Your housekeeper allowed me to write and leave this note. You will have read of the death of Sir Henry Standish of Standish Hall on Dartmoor. I have some reason to believe his death was not entirely natural.

Your Servant,

Dr J Sanchez. M.R.C.P.


In the late 15th Century the lord of the manor of Standish Hall, Sir William Standish became enamoured of a young serving wench. When she rejected his advances he locked her in the cellar until she gave into him. But the girl escaped, fleeing across the moor. Enraged Sir William called upon the devil to aid him. The devil sent a huge hound to him to track down the girl. When he found her and she saw what her fate would be, the girl ran to the top of Hound tor and threw herself to her death. When Sir William railed against the devil for not keeping his promise, the huge hell-hound turned on him and ripped him to pieces. To this day the hound can be heard on the moor, baying for blood, the blood of the Standish family, while Sir William wanders the Hall and the moor seeking a resting-place.



February 15th 1896

He was watching me again this morning, he thinks I don't know, he thinks I don't notice when he gets out of bed. I know. I know the moment that warmth leaves me, the moment the bed no longer rolls us together. I worry about him. When I come to his bed he does sleep, not as much as I would like but some. But when I am not here - does he sleep at all? When he has no case to occupy his mind, I doubt it. Inez tells me his bed is often not used, and he only sleeps when he has drunk far too much whisky, then he sleeps on the couch or in his chair by the fire. If he asked me I would move in with him. But he won't ask. He doesn't know what he wants, he doesn't think we can live together day in, day out and remain friends as well as lovers. And he needs my friendship as much as he needs my love - he has both and always will. He is different, special, he needs taking care of, and that's my job. I know I'm not much, a fair field surgeon, not too bad to look at, bit too tall, rather too rough around the edges for really polite society - though they tolerate me. Fame or infamy? What ever it is, it is a double edged sword.

The note left by the doctor intrigued my friend, and that is good. We were out for lunch when he called. I saw that look in Chris' eyes this morning and knew he needed a diversion. So I took him to the King's Head at Southwall. It is an old coaching inn, and still frequented by travellers. Of course it is not our usual sort of place - I say 'our' but I mean him, I'm quite used to such places. The places was crowded, loud and lively. The food, plentiful and warming. I had steak and kidney pudding, Chris had steak and ale pie, we both drank beer, common for me but a rare treat for Chris. While we ate, he watched the people - that is why I took him there - constructing their lives from the fragmentary clues he could observe in the crush. It was a pleasant and even productive meal and I felt confident I had kept him from the drink for one more day.

When we returned Inez informed Chris he had had a visitor and handed over the note and also a cane our visitor had left. Chris read the note and the enclosed document and then handed them to me while he examined the cane. With out looking up he asked.

"Well? What do you think?"

I shrugged. "An amusing little tale to scare women and children with, no doubt it encourages visitors to the area," I commented.

"Quite so," Chris confirmed. Then he handed me the cane. "What do you make of it?" he asked.

I hate it when he does that. I do my best but I always get it wrong, which he is always most patronisingly sympathetic about in a smug way. Never the less it amuses him to see me floundering about, so I humour him.

"Well," I began with something easy, "it's mahogany - which is unusual for a cane, so it must be custom made or of foreign origin?" I looked up at him for some conformation, but as usual he let nothing show on his face, other than a look that reminds me of a trainer watching his prized dog go through its' tricks. I persevered. "The top is silver." I was confident about that, and strained to look at the hallmark. "Exeter?" Chris did at least give me a nod of conformation at that. "So, since we know the doctor is from Devon, I surmise it was custom made for him locally." Without looking up I examined the engraving around the silver cane topper.


"It was clearly a gift from someone to the doctor." Much more than that I couldn't add. Chris of course just smiled indulgently.

"Nothing else?" he asked.

I frowned at him and took one more look. "It is new, " I stated. "The end is barely worn down, there are few scratches upon it."

"Your getting better Buck," Chris commented, and for once he didn't sound patronising.

"What do you make of that engraving? 'Particular friend' an odd statement for a walking stick and why M.A.? We know he is a medical doctor. If you are going to put a man's qualifications on the thing why not put all of them?"

"How should I know what it means, maybe it was given by someone whose initials are M.A. Is it important?" I asked.

"You never know what is important. Consider that this doctor has an unusual name, someone called 'Sanchez' might reasonably be expected to speak Spanish, or at least have some connection to a Spanish speaking country - yes?"

I conceded that this was probably true.

"Maybe M.A. is not a title or initials, but an abbreviation, some sentiment of affection from this 'particular friend'? After all, why abbreviate when there is plenty of room on the thing for several more names?"

This was pure speculation with no evidence and I told him so, he just dismissed my doubts.

"M.A?" he wandered around the room once and then stopped. "Buck I have it!" he suddenly said. "M.A. in Spanish, 'Mi Amor' or 'My Love'."

I had to admit it was possible, all kinds of things were possible, for all we knew the doctor was hard up for cash and had bought the thing second hand. But once he is started like this there is no stopping him.

"But why would someone who loves you call you a 'particular friend? Mmmm? Why not 'for my love' or 'for my dear one' or simply 'for my darling'?" He paced the room some more, wrapped up in this puzzle he had created for himself.

He was still pacing when the door bell went and we heard Inez letting someone in. There was a brief conversion in Spanish and then she showed him upstairs to the front parlour.

"Dr Sanchez," she announced.

Dr Sanchez is an imposing man, a good six feet, he is built like the proverbial ox, and though I would guess him to be in his fifties with greying, slightly curly hair, he looks fit and strong. I for one would not like to tangle with him. Hopefully he is on our side. Larabee ushered him in and offered him a seat opposite his own favourite fireside chair. As usual I took up my seat by the window with my trusty note book and pencil. His accent was neutral, if he is part Spanish it does not show itself in his voice or his face.



February 15th 1896

"Mr Larabee, your reputation has reached even Dartmoor, I felt I could come to no one else with this problem."

"Indeed, and what problem is that?" Larabee asked.

"You have read the legend?" Larabee nodded.

"My dear friend Sir Henry Standish was the direct descendant of the unfortunate wretch in that legend. For some time last year, and at the beginning of this year, he became convinced that it was true and this hound was coming for him. On the afternoon of the 12th of last month {January} we had spent a pleasant day together at the Hall. It was cold, snow lay on the ground and a hard frost had not lifted all day. I had surgery the next day and so left him that afternoon, not wishing to be trapped by more bad weather - I left before darkness came. He wanted me to stay, I should have stayed." The doctor stopped to compose himself. "His butler found him, out in the garden, he had apparently walked to the gate that leads onto the moor. This is my first concern. Why would he do that when he was terrified of the moor? He never went abroad after dark, never leaving the grounds of the Hall for any reason once the sun was down. He stood there for some time."

"How do you know this?" Larabee asked.

"I noticed the snow was trampled as if someone had stood and stamped his feet to keep warm and the ash from his cigar had dropped three times, freezing where it lay on the hard snow."

Larabee smiled. "You are a man after my own heart Doctor, please continue."

"From his footprints, he walked to the gate but ran from it, only the tips of his boots made an impression and they were further apart. He died of heart failure, yet his heart was healthy. His face was contorted in fear, such as I have never seen. There was something else, another set of prints, in the snow just beyond the gate."

"Well go on! Whose prints were they?" Larabee was getting impatient.

"Sir, they were the prints of a gigantic hound!"

Your writer let out a whistle of amazement at this moment. Larabee glared at me.

"Are you sure?"

"Mr Larabee I know what I saw."

"What is it you want from me?"

"I need advice, what am I to do with Sir Ezra, he arrives tomorrow, on the boat train."

Larabee leant back in his chair, those green eyes of his fixed on the good doctor. "He is the heir?"

"There were some settlements on friends and servants, but Sir Ezra, who is the son of Sir Henry's younger brother, the late Piers Standish, inherits the bulk of the estate, stocks, land, and properties overseas."

"Did you receive anything from the will?" Larabee asked.

"I did yes, Sir Henry was most…generous."

"How generous?"

"Twenty thousand pounds."

Your writer nearly chokes in amazement! Resulting in another Larabee glare.

"That is some settlement, what is the bulk of the estate worth?"

"Over one and a quarter million pounds Sterling."

Larabee looked genuinely surprised. "I had no idea the estate was so large. You were right to come to me Doctor. Where are you staying?"

"The Northumberland Hotel."

"Excellent, book your Sir Ezra in as well, preferably next to you, keep him close at hand and we will meet with you in a few days time, three at the most."



January 18th 1896

Dear Sir
            I have the honour to be your obedient servant Harold Peeves, solicitor at law. I am the bearer of sad tidings. Your Uncle, Sir Henry Standish has passed away very suddenly. Under the terms of his will, you are the principal beneficiary and now inherit the title of Baronet. In order to facilitate the transfer of funds it will be necessary for you to come to London, please bring suitable proof of identity. Contact us on your arrival and make an appointment. We look forward to welcoming you to London Sir Ezra.

            Your Obedient Servant,

                                                 H J F Peeves



February 2nd 1896

Dear Mother,
                    I have left the country.

           Your ever loving son,



February 16th 1896

Dear Sir Ezra,
                    My name is Josiah Sanchez, I was your uncle's doctor and friend, I enclose my report on his death and a newspaper account of the events. I have engaged the famous detective Mr Christopher Larabee to look into the circumstance of your late uncle's death. Since he is not well known in the Americas I have enclosed what I know of him and his close friends and associate Dr J Wilmington. I also have written a little about myself, please know that I was your uncle's closet friend and will do all I can to assist you in any way.
    I will meet you off the boat train in London. Until then, I remain your servant and I hope your friend.

                                     Josiah Sanchez


As you will no doubt have noticed my name is distinctly un-English, this is thanks to my Grandfather, he came to England from Spain to study, met a beautiful English rose called Hilary, and never left. I am thus only one quarter Spanish although I can speak the language fluently. I studied Medicine at Oxford and, wishing to see more of the world, travelled much after I qualified, often working in mission hospitals and clinics around the world. I settled back in England because of family commitments, purchasing a practice on Dartmoor, in the little village of Four Corners. It was here that I met your uncle. I am no surgeon and I don't claim to be anything other than a jobbing physician. I enjoy the quiet and slow pace of country life, surrounded by God's majesty. I will admit to preaching in the Methodist Chapel on occasions.


This is everything I know of the men, from newspaper articles, police gazette reports, and I admit it, social gossip.

Christopher Adam Larabee, born 1858 to James Larabee of Fordingbridge Hampshire. He was expelled from Eton, although I don't know why or where he went to school after that. He studied at Edinburgh University and has a degree in chemistry. While in Scotland he worked with a famous professor of medicine who was known to aid the police in some cases. He joined the navy as an officer in the marines and met and married Sarah Connelly, an Irish heiress. They had a son, but when the boy was six, mother and son both died, under what circumstances I do not know. I believe the deaths affected him deeply and he left the navy. Some time later he set up as a 'Consulting Detective'. Some persistent rumours say his family was murdered and he is still seeking the guilty party. He has a fine record for solving apparently impossible cases and the police consult him regularly. I met him yesterday. He is direct and although some what intimidating, he projects an air of confidence and trust. Mr Larabee is tall and slender, with fair hair and green eyes.

Buck Wilmington, born 1860, his real name is John - according to the medical register. But I have never heard or seen him referred to as anything but Buck. His mother was a famous courtesan. There are all kinds of rumours about who his father might be, none that can be proved, but what is common knowledge - I am told by society colleagues, since I do not move in such circles - is that his mother came into a generous 'inheritance' just after he was born. He too studied at Edinburgh, though he and Larabee would only have been there together for one year. After he qualified as a doctor he joined the army and served with some distinction in India. On returning to this country he became - assuming they did not already know each other - the close friend of Christopher Larabee. I am told he does still practice medicine, but he does not seem to have a practice anywhere or be on the staff of any hospital. Buck Wilmington seems to be a very affable, friendly and dependable fellow. He is a very tall, fine looking man with a mane of dark hair and has something of a reputation as a scoundrel with the ladies.



February 16th 1896

What a day! I arrived in London at twenty after ten, as per the timetable. A tall man in a simple tweed coat approached me on the platform, even before I had engaged a porter. He asked if I was Sir Ezra. That was the first time anyone had called me that out loud. I must admit it sounded most …dignified, no not dignified, it was most satisfying. Oh good Lord it was very nice, I liked it. Mother would be in hog heaven if she were here - which she is not and never will be if I can prevent it. The man who approached me was of course, Dr Sanchez, whose letter I had read on the train, along with the other documents he had thoughtfully included.

I was unsure whether to give the Doctor's fears any credence, but as he spoke to me, while we rode in a Hansom to the hotel, I began to wonder what I had let myself in for. Nevertheless I insisted that as soon as my baggage, one small trunk and a valise, were in the room the good Doctor had booked in my name - it really is interesting the deference a title can get you here - we made our way to the solicitors. Here too Doctor Sanchez had made an appointment.

Mr Peeves is a very small man - very small, after all I'm not exactly a giant, but he was minute! Small but efficient. I had managed to 'relieve' mother of my birth certificate and a picture of myself as an infant of three or four with my father. This he took to be proof of identity. I read the will, signed some papers and instantly I am a man of property and wealth. All my life I have been in pursuit of money. We had money, while father was still alive, then he died and we had no money. Now I know why. Mother has spent her whole life in pursuit of this and now it just falls into my lap, all I had to do was wait. Money, respectability and a title, what more is there - but love. Ah well, you can't have it all, and no amount of money can bring that, for anyone, but especially for me, not now, probably never - its just the way the world is I guess.

The efficient but piggy Mr Peeves - how can one man look so much like a pig - had already turned some of the estate disposable income into cash. Vulgar but necessary, he also provided a letter of recommendation for the bank. My late uncle's bank. His solicitors, his bank, his land, his house, his life, I still have nothing of my own. It is all borrowed, a pretence on my part, I pretend to be 'Sir Ezra' I pretend to be the lord of the manor, I pretend to be a gentleman, I pretend to be respectable, I pretend to be a honest and decent and normal. I can do that, I'm good at pretending to be something and someone I'm not. I've been doing it all my life after all, so now I will do it for the rest of my life, at least the surroundings will be comfortable. And the clothes exquisite!

After the bank and a fine meal we headed for Jermin Street, Bond Street, Saville Row, and Knightsbridge. I now posses a working wardrobe for my life as an English gentleman.

In the evening after we dined at the hotel, the good Doctor told me about my new home, he also spoke most warmly of my uncle. I get the feeling they were very good friends and he misses him more than he can say.



If you are reading this Nephew, I am dead, and that being the case I regret I cannot meet you and set right a wrong done to you and your mother.

Your Grandfather was a hard man, a man who expected obedience and unquestioning loyalty. Your father, my dearest younger brother, was a free spirit, a child of the wild moor where he grew up. Our father could never tame him, and when he ran away to America to find adventure Father threatened to cut him off from all family funds, but Mother persuaded him not to. She died the next year, in honour of her memory he continued to support Piers, but he was a vindictive old man by then, and ill himself. When he died I found he had made it a condition of his will that your father would only receive money from the family trust fund while he lived, no dependent could claim so much as a farthing after he died. I am so sorry if this caused you and your mother hardship, there was noting I could do. Forgive me nephew.

Look after my moor, my house, my servants, all are loyal, trustworthy and decent. Do not listen to gossip, listen to your heart.

                      Your uncle,

                                   Henry Standish.



February 17th 1896

    Being new in your fair county I was dependent on the advice of others in the choice of hotel. I was given to believe this was a first class establishment, clearly my advice was erroneous. Last night I placed two pairs of boots outside my suite, one old pair and one newly purchased. When I put out a new pair of boots to be weatherproofed I expect a new pair of boots to be returned to me. This morning I found one old pair of boots, duly polished and one new boot. Be so good as to find my missing boot with all expediency!

Sir Ezra Standish.
Room 15



February 17th 1896

The good doctor introduced us to Sir Ezra over a breakfast at their hotel. He is a smaller man, with agreeable features and green eyes, not the same forest green as my Chris but a startling jade green that is most distinctive (I must ask the doctor if his uncle's eyes were also green) and chestnut coloured hair. His accent is different to other Americans I have met, but we quickly learnt that he was from the southern states where their accent is most distinctive. Sir Ezra was mad as hell. It seems there is some difficulty with a boot.



February 17th 1896
9.30 am

"Sir Ezra, " Chris began. "You have been made aware of the circumstances of your uncle's death and Dr Sanchez's concerns?"

"Indeed sir I have, but I am determined to go to Dartmoor and carry out my duties in person."

"An admirable sentiment."

"Do you give credence to his fears? Surly you do not believe some supernatural canine was responsible for my late uncle's demise?"

Larabee gave small smile and shook his head. "No sir, but I believe the doctor saw what he says he saw. When a fit and healthy man, a man who seems to have been happy, dies suddenly and inexplicably there is cause for some curiosity, when such a large sum of money and property is involved then there is cause to be very curious and cautious. Do you not agree?"

"I bow to your superior knowledge in such matters."

"When do you travel to Devonshire?"

It was Dr Sanchez who answered. "Tomorrow, we take the seven o'clock train to Plymouth arriving just after ten."

Sir Ezra visibly shuddered at the mention of seven o'clock.

Just then a waiter came over to us and handed a note to Sir Ezra on a platter. He took it, opened it and frowning, handed it to Mr Larabee. Larabee shot out of his seat and ran after the waiter, the rest of us followed.

"Where did you get this?" he demanded waving the note in front of the man.

"A cabby handed it to the desk clerk sir." He gestured to the front desk. Larabee took off at a run.

He ran, with the three of us in pursuit, out into the street. "The cabby who just delivered a message, where is he?" he asked the doorman.

Instantly the uniformed man indicated a Hansom cab pulling away. The two of us ran after it, but it was too quickly lost in the throng of traffic.

"Buck?" he asked me, "you get the number?"

"4531," I replied, sure of my answer.

"Good man."

We returned to the hotel. Once we were resettled in the dining room, and our food had arrived, Chris showed us the note Sir Ezra had received.

do not Go to the moor you are In danger

The words were all cut from what looked to be a newspaper and pasted onto a sheet of writing paper. Larabee confirmed that the paper was cheap, the kind commonly sold at railway termini. The paste was likewise cheap. A quick examination of the Times proved what he already knew, that the words were cut from today's edition.

"What do you think Mr Larabee? It is a friendly warning or a threat?" Sir Ezra asked. There was perhaps just a hint of fear in his voice.

"I don't know, the note was made in a hurry, today's paper, the words have been hurriedly cut, and the paste unevenly applied. The word 'moor' has been made from two words. Who ever made this did not plan to do it, he or she saw an opportunity and took it. I have cases I need to attend to here in London, but Buck will accompany you to Dartmoor, tomorrow."



February 17th 1896

I did it again, I lied to Buck and made decisions about his life with out asking him. I knew as soon as I said it, that it was wrong. I should have waited, it didn't need to be decided then like that, I should have asked him. He would have said yes, he always says yes, but that is not the point. Why do I do that? Why do I treat him worse than a servant. Because he lets me? Possibly, and he does, he indulges me, as if I were some nabob. He smiles at me when I am being selfish or hurtful. Damn him! Why can't he just shout at me or tell me to stop? Why? He knows I will apologise to him, in my own way, I will lay back and spread my legs and give myself over to him. But I do that anyway. He will come here tonight, late, after he has dined and done his rounds. Me suddenly sending him out of town on short notice will have upset his routine. How many working girls would be dead now if it were not for the gentle ministrations of Dr Buck, how many poor wretches would have bled to death after some butcher had torn them up getting rid of another unwanted baby, if Dr Buck hadn't been there to save them. How many children would be lost? Too many. He will be in Whitechapel or Bermondsey now, he's safe there, he's their hero, no one will touch him, and he won't have to pay for a thing. But after, he'll come here. First he'll go to his club, bath, shave, put on clean clothes, and then he'll come to me.

It is always the same.

He will come and greet Inez. I do believe my fiery housekeeper has a soft spot for him, but she is well aware we only ever use one bed, it doesn't bother her it seems. She knows if he ever did return her affection it would mean nothing to him, nothing other than the friendship they share now. A friendship they use against me, for she spies on me and reports back to my 'doctor' - damn her. When he has greeted her he will give her a little sign and then, as she follows him into the room to clear any dishes or glasses, she will ask;

"Will you need me any more tonight sir?"

I - of course - will say 'no'. And then she will ask when I want breakfast, and I will assure her I will go out for breakfast and she can have the morning off. It is no wonder she likes it when Buck comes to stay.

Once she is gone he will complain about the way I treated him, and I will say sorry. As he complains he will take my jacket off and let it drop to the floor - he knows I hate that, but I won't try to retrieve it. Then, while still complaining about my boorish ways he will remove my tie, then undo my waistcoat and shirt, placing the cufflinks, watch and studs in some safe place, usually in the little jade bowl on the mantle. Then we will both stop to remove our shoes and socks. Before I can roll my socks and put the shoes away neatly he will be kneeling in front of me, undoing each fly button with deliberate slowness. I have narrow hips, he only needs to undo two before he can tug them down, and every single time he does that he is able to pull my underwear down at the same time. It's no easy task because by then I'm hard. Finally, with a gentle stroke, he will push the open shirt and waistcoat off my shoulders. And there I will stand, naked as the day I was born, hard as a rock. While he, apart from his feet, is fully clothed. Somehow being naked while he is dressed gives one the most tremendous excitement. Maybe that's just me.

He will take my hand and lead me to the bedroom. He doesn't need to ask me, he doesn't need to instruct or request, I will meekly and willingly lie back across the bed, open, vulnerable and waiting for him to have his way with me. He likes to do it slowly, removing his clothes, he does it so slowly, but manages to make it look as if he is doing it quite naturally. He often doesn't undress completely, leaving his shirt on, though I can usually get it undone.

He has his own preparation, it is wonderfully smooth and slippery and smells of sandalwood and cinnamon, I have on occasion thought to analyse it, but then what is the point, it works, he seems to have a never ending supply of it - presumably from one of his many contacts in the 'business'. There are many ways we reach the end, he leads I follow, and bit by bit he strips away my self control. He kisses me, on the lips, on the chest, on my neck, he runs his tongue over my collar bone. And I reciprocate, his ears are very receptive, he gasps, and I feel his manhood give little thrusts against my thigh when I kiss and suck on his ear lobes. Once we are making love he won't complain about my behaviour, his words are soft and gentle and loving. Then his kisses will move down, dipping his tongue into my navel as if he were loading a pen with ink. Before I can revel in this - for it does bring delicious sensations, he moves - I know what is coming, and when I am not being 'punished' I have been the one bestowing this particular ministration, and it makes me tremble in anticipation. In fact, if I'm not trembling by now he thinks he's failed, that or I'm ill. He kisses just the very tip of me, once, twice, maybe three times, before he takes all of me inside his mouth. Oh what he can do with that tongue, it's just torture, delicious torture. But I don't come then, he stops, just before I'm about to lose control. Now it's time, now comes the main event, the top billing. He coats his - one must say it damn impressive - manhood in the lotion, and with a hand slick with it inserts one finger into me. Just one. Oh God, it makes me hard just to think about it. I'm usually almost ready for him by then, so it doesn't take long before that digit is removed, and even thought I know what will replace it is better I still regret its loss. And then it comes, pressing, pushing, and breaching me, there is a moment, no more than a second of burning pain and then it is over and there is just the most amazing feeling in the world, a feeling of fullness, you want more, you can't understand how you live day to day without it, but there is more. Oh so much more. There is a spot, deep within me, when he hits it, my world explodes in my head, lights go off all over the place, it is like the fireworks at the Crystal Palace going off in my head, with the sparks falling on my naked skin making it tingle all over and a jolt of lightning hits me in the groin, and I come. Just like that. Sometimes we come together, sometimes he comes just after me - never once before.

When it is all over, when we have lain on top of one another, panting, gasping, incapable of coherent speech, the English language no longer our mother tongue, he will slip out of me and wander into the bathroom, I get to watch him go, his backside is just so perfect. He returns with a flannel, soaked in warm water and a little soap. Once we are clean and fresh we sleep, together, wrapped in each other's arms, bodies pressed up against each other.

I will sleep well tonight. Not as late as he -except I must set the alarm clock, for he needs to catch that train, knowing Buck he'll want to sleep as late as possible and eat on the train, he'll want a bath first so 5.30, today I might actually wake up with him not before him. I hear the door, Inez is laughing, he's here.




February 18th 1896

This is being written on the train travelling back to Devon, I am quite surprised at how steady the carriage is. We arrived at Paddington with barely enough time to board the train; Sir Ezra is not an early riser! Dr Wilmington was waiting for us, pacing back and forth outside the carriage where he had reserved a compartment for us. He said nothing, but he and I exchanged looks, he knew why we were late.

Once we were settled and the train was moving, we made our way to the dining car for breakfast. Sir Ezra seemed most impressed with the standards of our railway service. I did point out that he was now on the Great Western Railway, also know as 'God's Wonderful Railway', which he found amusing. Once the meal was over we made our way back to the compartment. I took the time to tell Sir Ezra a little of his new household.

Nathan Jackson holds the title Butler, but he is so much more. Valet, Estate Manager, friend, confidante. I have known Nathan for so long but I have never thought about him. Why is that? Because he is a servant, one of the faceless, silent ones who tend to our most personal needs but who we never really know. I know he comes from an island called Trinidad, in the Caribbean. The Standish's hold much land in the Caribbean, producing sugar cane and rum and I believe bananas - of all things. Henry was most excited about his banana plantations. He met Nathan while touring his estates. The two of them took to each other it seems, because he brought Nathan back to Dartmoor to be his valet. I was new to the district; Henry and I had only just become close friends. The old butler, Bedstow, died that winter, and Nathan took over as if he was born to the role, although I remember him doing it while wearing at least four layers of clothing, for he did feel the cold terribly that first winter. About four years ago, Henry once more toured his Caribbean estates and Nathan went with him, where he met Rain - wonderful name that. As I understand it Nathan and Rain corresponded for two years before Nathan 'popped' the question. My Henry, romantic as ever, paid for her to come to England, and gave her a full 'English' trousseau. He did love to see people happy did my Henry. Rain is wonderful. She cooks, she cleans, and she takes care of all of us. Nathan has a great secret talent; he is a healer, more than a nurse, not quite a doctor. He explained to me that on the sugar estates there are few doctors and most are some hours away, so his people have to doctor themselves, in a tropical climate, with sharp knives everywhere, they are often kept busy.

Rain and Nathan are the only inside staff. With only one person living there, and half the house shut up, they are all that is needed. Outside there are also just two staff. Old Tom tends the garden. The estate is vast and the garden small in comparison. Old Tom is totally deaf, and always has been, but he is a good gardener. In the stables is young JD, his name is properly John Dunne, but like Dr Wilmington he doesn't go by John but by his initials. The boy is only 17; he has been at the Hall since he was 14, taking over as head coachman 2 years ago, when the previous head coachman retired. He was very young for the job, but has proved himself more than capable. JD is a lively lad, eager to learn and almost always happy - yet I sense sometimes a great sadness within the boy. Rain of course mothers him relentlessly, and he is sweet on my housekeeper's niece Cassandra or Casey to her friends.

My two travelling companions listened attentively. Sir Ezra was surprised that there were negroes in England at all. I asked him if that was a problem for him, but he assured me it was not. Dr Wilmington took notes as ever. I had explained to Sir Ezra earlier why he does this. I wonder if the Strand magazine will carry a tale of the great detective's adventure in Devon - except he is not with us, I wonder why? Having listened and taken notes, Dr Wilmington lay back in his seat, rested his long legs on the seat opposite and fell asleep. Sir Ezra watched the countryside go past for a short time, but now he too is asleep. Young people today - no stamina!

They are both very fine looking men; Wilmington is handsome, no other way to put it, a fine looking, handsome man. Tall, lean, broad shouldered. Sir Ezra is beautiful, he is short, but I would guess under that tailored suite powerfully built, but he is beautiful, there is something of Henry in him, in his face, in those amazing jade eyes, but Henry was not beautiful, except to me. Oh God I miss him so much it hurts. Henry, I am doing as I promised, I will look after him for you.



February 18th 1896

We travelled to my new home today; though why we had to leave in the middle of the night was beyond me. The food on the train was excellent and Dr Sanchez told myself and Dr Wilmington about the staff at the Hall. Having a negro couple in the house will make it feel a little like home, Mother would be mortified, she has this theory that real class means white servants - Lord alone knows why. I must confess I missed much of the scenery, as I was asleep. I woke properly at a place called Exeter. From there we passed close to the ocean and got our first glimpse of the moor. At Plymouth we changed trains and headed north to Tavistock. Here we had lunch in a charming pub. Pub I learn, is short for Public House and is a saloon, though there is no gambling of any kind that I could see, most disappointing. But then I don't suppose the Lord of the Manor is expected to play cards in the local hostelry, is he? After lunch we hired a brake to take us to Four Corners, in the centre of the moor. It is a wild place. The countryside around it is lush and green and soft. Deep cut lanes, small, quaint, white washed cottages, fields enclosed by hedges atop banks. On the moor there is coarse scrub grass and heather - or so the good Doctors told me, for I do not recognise any of the plants. At the highest points on the moor the ancient granite rock has been exposed, these mesa like formations are called tors here. It was noticeably colder on the moor; a bitter wind stung our cheeks. We were nearing the turn off to the town of Princetown, where the prison is located, when we saw the first guards.

Some poor wretch has escaped from the prison it seems. Some of the guards were armed. This is the first time I have see arms carried openly since I arrived in England, and was surprised to discover it already looks wrong and out of place. There were hounds. There seem to be altogether too many hounds all in all - far too many.

Four Corners also called by some Two Bridges, sits in the centre of the moor, the four roads that cross the moor meet at this tiny isolated settlement. And indeed there are two bridges. A relatively modern one and ancient 'post bridge', built, just wide enough for a horse to cross, it is made up of single flat slabs of stone on stone supports. The village has an inn offering food, libations and accommodation, a church - no doubt I have some responsibilities there, a post office and general store, a butcher, a baker - but no candlestick maker - and a doctors surgery, where we stopped.

A wizened old crone, who it seems is the good Doctors housekeeper, came out to meet us, she seemed most agitated. The Doctor was needed somewhere. Young JD, my head coachman, was waiting with a superior carriage, so we disembarked, paid off our hired driver and set out in my carriage (that sounds good, 'my carriage') for the Hall. As I sit here writing, Dr Wilmington, who insists I call him Buck, but I do not believe that would be appropriate, sits on the other side of the fire also writing. The Hall is not as big as I imagined. It is built in a 'U' shape with the main entrance between the wings. The rooms are not very high and have decorative plasterwork on the ceilings; many of the walls are decorated with wood panelling. The floors are also of wood, huge long planks that look like they were made from a single tree. My room, directly above the library were I now sit, looks out over the moor.

It is dark out, dark and cold with a steady light rain. I heard a hound baying earlier; one of the prison guards dogs tracking the poor convict out there. The poor man, alone, cold, hunted. I have been him, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.



February 17th and 18th 1896

Yesterday was so hectic I am a day behind. Yesterday Chris did it again, sent me here to bloody Devon without so much as a by your leave! Damn the man! I had to leave him at the Hotel and make my way to Bermondsey. I had a surgery at the clinic in Whitechapel for that night anyway, but the house calls I meant to do today I had to do that morning. A good thing as it turned out. When I reached Molly's place to check on Lee Sue, who is due next month, she took me to the back parlour. There I found a boy of no more than 14. He had been cruelly used and assaulted, badly torn and bleeding. The poor lad had dragged himself to the stables behind Molly's, too ashamed and scared to look for help. It makes me so mad! That someone would use him so, it isn't necessary, there are places were you can go, no need can't be satisfied if you know where to look. Because he is poor, he is considered disposable. I gave her some money to look after him, there is not much I can do for him now, if he takes a fever he will most likely die, otherwise he just needs rest and sympathetic care, Molly knows what to do. I am more and more sure the pump in Jacob Street is responsible for the sickness and diarrhoea in the area, I have persuaded the head teacher of the George Row school to boil the water and tell all the kids to tell their mums to as well. Then I went to all the pubs telling them to do likewise, and finally to the water company. I'm not sure they believed me, but did promise to take off the pump head and clean it.

I had a very late lunch at the Lamb and Flag, before I headed back to Milk Street to pack and organise myself for the night - there was no way Chris was getting away with that! Then off to Whitechapel for surgery. By the time I made it back to the club it was already eight thirty and I needed a bath, so I didn't make it to Green Street until nearly ten. Damn the man! How dare he look so gorgeous, so bloody sexy, when he has just been so rude. I told him he was bully and he said 'yes Buck'.

I said, "You make decisions about other peoples lives, without asking them."

"Yes Buck." He said it all soft and quiet and husky - bloody man. I took off his jacket.

I said, "You're selfish."

"Yes Buck." We took off our shoes.

I said, "Other people do have lives, you know?" And removed some more of his clothes.

He said, "Yes Buck." So I undid his flies.

He was hard for me, he always is. Wanton, that is what he is, no restraint, no self-control. Once we were in the bedroom he just lay back across the bed, legs hanging over the edge, spread wider than a Devonport tart when the fleet's in! I mean Jesus what was I supposed to do, he was begging to be ravished! I took him very slowly to start with, I wanted him to suffer, but in the end these things have their own pace. He felt so good, so tight, so hot. Damn but he's wonderful, I love him more everyday I swear it. I know it isn't the same for him, but I also know he gives me all he can, it isn't his fault he can't give more.

Standish and the Doctor were late; we almost missed the train. All that took the shine off what had been a wonderful morning. For the first time that I can remember, when I woke, just a few minutes before the alarm, Chris was still beside me and, wonder of wonders, still asleep. I just lay there, watching him sleep. I can see why he does it, why he watches me, it's intoxicating. Eventually the alarm clock went off and he woke. His hand snaked out and searched blindly for the clock, eventually hitting the top of it so hard it flew to the floor. He stretched out the other hand, searching for me. I let him succeed.

"Buck," he muttered, so muffled you could hardly understand him.

"Yes," I replied clearly.

"Wake up, train." Chris is not a morning person, even when he has been awake for hours he is of little use until he is clean, shaved and fed.

"I know," I said.

Finally he turned his head so it was no longer buried in the pillow and stared at me, eyes blinking owlishly in the pale light of dawn, filtering though the curtains.

"Hello," he said.

"Morning sweetheart," I replied before starting to get up.

Then Chris did something I don't think he has ever done before. He told me to stay put and enjoy the bed, while he ran my bath. If I thought that was the act of a guilty lover, coming out of the bathroom to find no Chris, just a note 'gone to get a cab' was final proof. It was bitterly cold out there, he had pulled clothes on in a hurry and run to Park Lane to secure a Hansom, that is a real act of affection - for Chris, that is.

They claim they would have been on time had there not been another boot problem at the hotel. It seems the new boot was returned but one of Sir Ezra's old boots was lost. Once the doctor had given us some information about the staff at the Hall, I managed to doze off again. I just hope I didn't talk in my sleep, or my travelling companions will have had a shock!



February 18th 1896

Dearest Chris,
                     Upon arrival on Dartmoor we discovered prison guards and police combing the country for an escaped convict. All I know is that his name is Tanner, he is a murderer, and he escaped from a work gang who were ditch digging two days ago. Why they think he is still in the area is beyond me, if I was him I'd be in Plymouth by now - still that's their problem.

Miss me?

Standish Hall is not particularly big, considering the size of the estate. The central block contains the front hall and grand staircase, to the right of this the dining room, parlour and a library, where we are now. To the left of the stairs is the great hall, but since it was dark then we arrived I haven't seen it yet. The wing that comes off the hall is shut up, the one that comes off the other side is the kitchen wing. On the next floor there is a long gallery running the width of the house, off this opens my room, another room and the master bedroom at the end of the corridor. There is no indoor plumbing to speak of, no bathroom, no water closet, only a privy, commode and chamber pots. I want to come back to London! The way Sir Ezra goes on I was expecting him to complain, but he seems to be used to it. Maybe I'm getting soft?

Miss you.

Nathan Jackson is a fine looking negroid man, as tall as I am. He speaks perfect English, with just a slight accent. He knows his job and he's good at it. His wife is stunning, younger than him; her skin is like - oh I don't know - it's like chocolate velvet. She is beautiful, her eyes are like liquid pools of bottomless black, a man could drown in those eyes. And oh God can she cook, as good as Inez, I swear! If she weren't married…but she is.

Still love you.

Young JD (John Dunne), as the coachman come stable lad likes to be called, is only a boy, but he's doing a man's job and doing it well from what I saw. He's full of life, never stops moving, never stops talking, until he realises it's his new employer in the carriage behind him. I can't help liking him.

But not as much as you.

Tomorrow we will explore the house and grounds and in the afternoon, JD will furnish us with mounts and we will venture on to the moor. I'm going to bed now. I'll dream of you.

Your Buck




PRISONER: Tanner, Albert Vincent. 4532110
BORN: May 21st 1875
CONVICTED: May 19th 1893. Murder. Death penalty commuted to life with hard labour due to his age.
PRISON RECORD TO DATE: Good, model prisoner. Tanner is described as quiet, shy, co-operative, hard working.
DETAILS OF THE ESCAPE: A work gang of 20 men was sent out at 7 o'clock in the morning to the Tavistock road, there to dig out and clear the ditch beside the road. The prisoners were escorted by four guards on foot and one on horseback. All convicts were shackled while walking and unlocked while working. A head count was taken every ten minutes. At 10 minutes past nine there were 20 men present and accounted for. At 20 minutes past 9 there were only 19. The convicts were re-shackled and a search begun. No sign of Tanner was found. The alarm was raised and more guards as well as the local constabulary and hounds were involved in the search but to date no sign of Tanner has been found. He was raised on Exmoor and is thus well aquainted with this kind of countryside.



February 19th 1896

Dearest Chris,
                     I still miss you. Last night I did not sleep well. I know you say I sleep for England, but not last night, the bed was fine, very comfortable, the room neither too hot nor too cold but I didn't sleep well. Missing you I guess. Thus it was that at around 2 in the morning I was alerted to the sound of someone moving about above me. I was given to understand that the Jackson's had rooms above the kitchen so was somewhat surprised. My first thought was that Sir Ezra, likewise unable to sleep, had decided to explore his new home. Taking the small lamp I decided to check.

I knocked twice, and getting no reply, I eased the door open. Sir Ezra was sleeping soundly, but the footsteps above came again, so I placed my hand over his mouth and gave him a gentle shake. I was horrified to see the fear in his eyes as he woke to find me looming over him; he pulled away frantically for a second. I released him but desperately tried to signal him to keep quiet. Oh Chris you should have seen him, he was genuinely terrified for a second there, I still feel badly, I didn't intend to scare him. He quickly realised who I was and nodded at me when I pointed to the ceiling. I gave him my lamp and took my trusty revolver from the pocket of my robe.

Finding the way up to the attics was another matter. Next to Sir Ezra's room there was a plain oak door, which leads to the rooms over the kitchen wing. The first thing we found was a small staircase going down - but not up. We knew the grand staircase only went up one floor, but after a little time we found a panel door to the side of the stairs and behind it a narrow staircase leading up. The attics were very small and narrow, just one long narrow room with tiny dormer windows on each side with partitions where the chimney breasts came up, breaking it up into smaller rooms. There were boxes and trunks, some small pieces of furniture, the normal things you find in attics, they were all neatly placed however, clearly someone had taken the trouble to keep the area tidy. This tidiness made it easy to negotiate in the poor light of the lamp. There was no sound but our own breathing and my heartbeat which I swear was so loud you could have heard me in London. As we explored further along the corridor we found no one.

"Do you think my new home is haunted?" Sir Ezra asked.

"Undoubtedly," I responded, "but ghosts don't wear boots."

We found no one, the attic was so well kept there wasn't even any dust for an intruder to disturb. Thinking we had just imagined things - after all, like all old houses, it may well have its own noises, no doubt those who live here all the time hardly notice. But just as we were leaving I noticed something outside. I quickly turned down the wick and pulled Sir Ezra to the small window.

"What?" asked Standish.

"Look." I pointed out through the window to the moor. It was dark, inky black you might say; you couldn't even tell where the horizon was. But there was a light, some way off because it was very small. As we watched the light moved up and down twice. Then winked out.

"What do you believe that was?" Standish asked in hushed tones.

"Look." I pointed to where the light had appeared. Once more it was visible and once again it moved up and down twice, before it was gone again.

"A signal?" Standish ventured.

I agreed with him. We watched for sometime but the light did not return. The question is, who was signalling to who?

After a delicious breakfast we explored the house and the garden. The closed wing contains a second parlour, a wonderful billiard room and a small chapel, which was accessible from the outside as well as through the house. Jackson explained that although Sir Henry usually worshipped at the church in Four Corners, he left standing instructions that the chapel be kept clean, with flowers placed in there every Sunday. The garden behind the house is relatively small. A lawn leads down from the house to a ha-ha, beyond that is the moor. To the left is tall wall that hides the kitchen garden and to the right an avenue of yews leads down to the now infamous moor gate. On the other side of the yew is a densely wooded area. I have enclosed a picture of the Hall.

picture of Standish Hall

Our exploration of the stables revealed just four horses. A fine bay hunter called Chaucer, Sir Henry's principal mount. The sturdy grey, one of the horses who had pulled the carriage yesterday, but also used for hunting, and the dark brown mare who partnered him. Jackson told us he occasionally rides the mare. The fourth horse is one of the native moorland ponies, some of which we saw roaming wild on the moor yesterday. This sturdy fellow pulls a small trap, which Mrs Jackson uses to go to the village. Young JD showed us around the stables, enthusiastically telling us about the horses. He seems to really love his job and he's bright too.

"Dr Wilmington sir?" he asked.

"Call me Buck," I said.

"Buck, does Mr Larabee think Sir Ezra is in danger?" he asked.

"I don't know, he didn't tell me," I admitted.

I had to say it, because you didn't did you? Still haven't; don't think I'm not keeping score here Larabee, because I fully intend to get retribution from you. It's evening now and Ezra, he asked me not to call him 'sir' anymore, though he still called me 'Doctor', he and I are both writing in the library. During our ride on the moor we met our neighbour, a Mr Jack Stubbs. Ezra invited him to dinner tomorrow night.

Your Buck



February 19th 1896

Am I never to be free? Is that man to haunt me all my life? Will the memories he left me with never leave me? I awoke to find a hand over my mouth and in a second I was back there, I was ten and he was there. It only took a moment to register that it was the good Doctor and not him, but yet I still feel his hand over my mouth, I can still feel that dread, that feeling of falling and never hitting bottom. Nearly twenty years, you would think I would be over it wouldn't you? You would think I could put it behind me. I thought I had, it seems that assumption was erroneous. Oh Mother, if you had only known what kind of man you married, if you had just seen what you were looking at, if you had paid attention to your son, just once.

…After we came down from the attic I locked my door, but I could not get back to sleep. The fear that Wilmington had inadvertently awoken within me had my guts in a knot and my head swimming. So I lit all the lamps. It has long been my resolve that if sleep will not come, it is better to get up and use the time. If I were at home I would have gone in search of some all night game or get out my cards and practice with them. But though the deck was in my jacket pocket I had no desire to practice. Instead I started to explore my late uncle's room, for it is in his own room that I sleep.

And what discoveries I made. On the surface all looked normal, the bed chamber of an English country squire, plain but comfortable, unpretentious, old fashioned, and yet… In the top drawer of the dresser I found a hairbrush with not the dark brown hair Doctor Sanchez described my uncle as having, but coarse, slightly wavy grey hair. I found two kinds of soap in the little cabinet beside the wash stand. Men I have noticed, are creatures of habit, they find a soap they like and rarely change it. I had a notion, so I looked deeper. In the library there is a big bureau, but here in the bedroom, a man's inner sanctum, there is another small writing desk. At first I found nothing, then, by chance, I found a concealed compartment, and within it a bundle of letters, tied up with satin ribbon.

So now I know, I understand. My Uncle and Doctor Sanchez were lovers. It seems my own proclivities are not unique - possibly they are hereditary? The doctor is a good man, decent, caring and by all accounts, so was Sir Henry. Of course Doctor Sanchez's accounts must be seen in the context of a grieving lover, but others seem to have held him in high regard. Does that make me decent; does it mean I am not unnatural, not unclean, not damned? I know it is a crime, but they seem to have lived very happily, with just the Jacksons, genuinely good people I believe, to keep their secret. Is there hope that one day I will find someone to spend more than one snatched and furtive night with? Most times it was less than that, sometimes it was no more than minutes. Oh how I envy them, their love, their companionship.

After exploring the house, I was most impressed by the great hall. Doctor Wilmington and I took a ride on the moor. While Doctor Wilmington rode one of the carriage horses, a perfectly fine grey, I rode my late uncle's mount, a very fine creature, with elegant lines and a lively way about him; we hit it off instantly. It really is a wild place, once we crested the nearest ridge, blocking the view of the Hall and village, we were quite alone, there was nothing but moor, tors, sheep and small groups of the wild ponies. The first place we came to was a depression where the ground was clearly boggy. This had to be Hound Mire. We had been warned by JD about these Mires. They are very deep, not unlike quicksand, and to be avoided at all times. Hound Mire is surrounded by tors. These rock outcrops dominate the skyline, some seem benign, others are positively threatening. We made our way to the east, having consulted a map Jackson had shown us in the library. After taking a scenic and circuitous route we came to High Tor House. This is the only other house of any size or note in the area for miles. A sturdy looking place, it appears to be one long building. Unlike the Hall, which is surrounded on three sides by woodland, High Tor House sits on an exposed hillside, looking out over the moor. It is a remote, desolate, lonely place and I wouldn't care to live there. We were however about to meet the man who does.

We discovered him not far from his house. He was lying on his stomach on a flat rock, examining the surface of the rocks with a magnifying glass.

"How do you do." He spoke without getting up or looking at us, we greeted him in return. "Lichen, amazing stuff, lichen."

Dr Wilmington and I looked at each other and shrugged. "If you say so," Doctor Wilmington said.

He rolled over and sat up. "I do say so. Jack Stubbs at your service, Sir Ezra Standish is it?" He stood up. I confirmed my identity and introduced Doctor Wilmington. "I live at High Tor House, so we are neighbours. Welcome to Dartmoor, Sir Ezra."

Stubbs is older than me, perhaps younger than Wilmington. He was in no way remarkable or noteworthy. Average height, average build, a plain face, not handsome, but not repellent, just ordinary. He stepped up to Chaucer and we shook hands. He then went on to tell us most enthusiastically about lichen, boasting that he had discovered two new species himself. While he prattled on and on I decided would give a dinner party.

The only thing that worried me was the lone figure we both observed watching us from the top of the tor over looking High Tor House, one minute he was there and the next he was gone. Doctor Wilmington told me it was probably a shepherd, but I am not so sure.



February 20th 1896

I will write to Chris later today but I must get this down on paper. I was once more woken in the night by footsteps . Someone was in the attic again. I went to investigate, on the landing I met Ezra, we scared each other half to death! This time we saw someone in the attic.

"Hey you there. Stop!" I shouted.

And too my great surprise he did. When we reached the furthest room of the attic we found both Nathan and Rain Jackson. Nathan had a lamp in his hand.

"What's going on Nathan?" I asked.

At first he claimed nothing was 'going on' then he claimed he was having an affair with another woman, a white woman.

This did not wash with me or Ezra, who pointed out that it was a filthy night for a lovers tryst - it was raining cats and dogs out there, that a man does not signal his lover with his wife standing beside him, and that as far as he could see Nathan was too decent a man to cheat his wife, especially such a beautiful wife. Ezra threatened them with dismissal, but they would not speak. As we stood there in a tense silence someone came into the room. JD stood in the small doorway - no more than a hatch - which led from the attic space where we stood, to those of the kitchen wing. He was dressed for riding except he had no boots on, having presumably shed them at the door.

"Please sir, don't dismiss them, it was me," he said to Ezra.

"It was you? What was you?" my American friend asked.

"It was for me they were signalling."

That made sense, or some of it did.

"And what? Pray tell, were you going to do out there, at this time of night in the pouring rain?" Ezra asked.

JD did not respond, he just lowered his head and his hair, which he wears too long, fell forward obscuring his face. I took pity on the boy and walked over to him and placed an arm across his shoulders.

"Best out with it lad, honest," I encouraged, but he just shook his head.

"Sir," Nathan spoke up, "I have read a book, by Mr Dickens, in which he says that the 'law is an ass'."

Neither Ezra nor myself had any idea what he was going on about, but I for one, confirmed I had read the book.

"I was wondering if either of you fine gentlemen agree with him?"

I do, for don't I break the law every night I spend in Chris' bed? Ezra also confirmed he did not have much confidence in the law.

"But justice sir, that is different, is it not? The law and justice are often different things?" We both agreed on this. "Say someone was unjustly convicted, imprisoned, someone who was totally innocent, but the law said he was guilty. Would you help that person? Would you help them to escape a fate worse than death?

"I would sir, if I could," I confirmed.

Ezra took time to think on it, then nodded. Nathan looked at JD, standing beside me, his head still hung down.

"Tell them JD," he instructed firmly.

The boy trembled, I could feel it but he raised his head and squared his shoulders, yet even as he spoke I could feel him leaning into my arm.

"I have a brother sir," he spoke to Ezra, "a step brother really, see my father died when I was a baby, my mother remarried, her new husband was a widower himself and he had a son, three years older than me. We grew up together, when my step father died as well, mother raised us both. My brother's name is Tanner, I call him Vin, but his real name is Albert, Albert Vincent Tanner."

"The escaped convict?" Ezra confirmed.

"He didn't do it sir! He wouldn't do that! They put words in his mouth, they made him sign a confession, he can't read Sir, he didn't know what he was signing, he was younger then I am now, he was scared and alone and he didn't understand what was happening, and he…" Young JD was crying now, as Ezra stepped up to him and placed a hand on each shoulder.

"I believe you JD. Where is he now, your brother?"

JD shrugged. "I don't know, he won't tell me where he hides, he says its safer like that, but each night he comes to the tor and signals me, then I take him food and blankets and tell him about what the police are doing and about you Sir, and Doctor Wilmington. But he is alright, we were bought up on Exmoor, Vin knows how to look after himself up there, he used to go onto the moor for days when we were boys."

I am growing to like Ezra more and more. He took the lad to his room, pulled out his more garish American clothes, jackets, trousers, shirts, and gave them to JD to take to his beleaguered brother. What we were going to do about him was yet to be decided.


February 21st 1896

Ezra had resolved to invite the neighbours to dinner. After the excitements of the night, we slept late. I used to think I could sleep, but when I rose at ten Ezra was still sleeping, by twelve I was beginning to worry, though he did finally emerge, just before one. While I waited I tried to find out more about the late Sir Henry. We still don't know why he went to the gate that night. I engaged the delightful Rain in conversation while we made bread. Sometimes Mum makes bread, even though she has a cook, she likes to do it herself sometimes. She says it reminds her of her childhood, when she was poor, making bread for her father and her sisters. She taught me, she said I was to always remember, I was her son, no matter who my father was or wasn't, I was her son, the grandson of a poor farm labourer, who lost his wife and tried his best to raise six daughters alone. She sometimes laments that he failed with her, but I always get angry when she says that, she is not a failure, not then, not now, not ever.

I offered to knead the dough, while Rain got on with preparing food for tonight. While we worked I asked her about Sir Henry and especially if she had noticed any changes in him before he died. She spoke very warmly of him, I would say she cared very much for him. And yet I sensed there was something she wasn't telling me. Eventually we got to the months before his death, she admitted he had changed, he was nervous, he stopped going on to the moor. She confirmed that, yes, she and Nathan, not to mention JD had heard a sound that sounded very much like a hound, but as she says.

"The wind blows so here, it whistles through the tors and the cotton grass, makes all kinds of noses. You can almost think it is calling you, that's how people get stuck in the mires sometimes." Then she stopped, she wiped her cheek with the back of her hand, which smudged it with flour, she is just gorgeous. "I did find those papers in his bedroom grate," she offered quietly.

"Papers?" I tried not to sound too interested.

"They were just odd pages on odd days, always burnt - there was one that day, the day he died."

"Can you tell me anymore about them?" I asked.

She stood up and did the cheek wipe thing again - must remind myself, I love Chris and she is married, and her husband is very big!

"Well, I think they were always the same size, once or twice there was a little bit left and it was always the same colour, sort of cream, quite thick, like it was expensive."

"Did you ever find any writing left on the paper?"

She looked a little ashamed. "It's alright, I know you wouldn't ever betray him, but it could be important - please?"

"Once, there was one word left."

She didn't offer any more information so I prompted her, "And it was?"

"Um, it was …unnatural"

I'm not entirely sure what all that means, I have my suspicions but I have learnt from working with Larabee that my suspicions are usually wrong, so I will just put it all in my letter to him.


February 20th 1896

Damn the man!!! Damn him to hell! How dare he!

I was concerned and curious about the man I saw on the moor, watching us from the High Tor. I tried to tell myself it was nothing, but it nagged at me. So while there was still daylight and Ezra was directing the decoration of the dining room for the dinner party I set out to discover who it was. On the far side of the Tor, sheltered in natural curve of the granite, was a bothy. It was somewhat dilapidated but the roof looked sound. I drew my revolver and made my way over to it. There was no one there, but it was clear someone was living there. A camp bed, such as I have used many times in the army, was set up close to the small hearth, blankets were piled high on it. There was fresh ash in the grate, tins of food sat in a niche in the dry stone wall. A canteen hung from a nail in the wall close by. I suddenly heard the sound of a boot outside. I cocked my gun and stood back against the wall by the doorway.

"Buck are you going to shoot me if I come in?" came a familiar voice.

"Chris?" I asked.

"In the flesh old boy, none other." With that he stepped into the doorway.

I have never been so pleased to see someone or so angry with them in all my life! How dare he! He has lied to me, deceived me.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I demanded.

"I needed to keep an eye on things, I needed to keep myself out of the picture - for now. He is totally evil, our enemy."

"I don't give a fuck if we are up against the devil himself, you bastard! You lied to me -again." I grabbed him around the throat with one hand. "You made me write those letters, pages and pages - for nothing!" I kissed him, a hard, brutal, bruising kiss.

"Yes Buck."

"Don't start that again," I warned him, for it was neither the time or the place for that.

"If you say so Buck." God the man is infuriating. I kissed him again, this time he reciprocated as I loosened my hold on him, letting my fingers slip down to caress his shoulders. If I keep punishing him like that he's never going to reform, but it's so good.

When I let him go, he did at least explain that he did get my letters, he had made arrangements for them to be held at the post office at Four Corners for him to collect. He tried to say how good they were, how useful, but I wasn't listening. Though I did ask who our foe was?

"Stubbs, I don't know why, I don't know exactly how, but I believe it is him."

We were suddenly interrupted by a terrible cry, a cry of terror. Instantly we both set out toward the sound. When you have to run it, the slopes of the moor are steeper then you think. It seemed to take forever to locate the sound then we saw him. A man lying between two rocks, there was blood everywhere. As we got closer I recognised Ezra's dark green jacket. I truly believed it was him. There was no sign of a hound though you could see paw prints everywhere. I reached him in trepidation and took a closer look. I then turned to Chris.

"He's alive, but only just," I informed him. "But it's not Ezra."




February 19th 2003

It has only been a day, but I miss him already. I don't understand why, we have been apart for days, weeks, even years before. So why do I miss him so much now? I have a bad feeling about this case, I don't know why, call it a detective's sixth sense. He is so beautiful, so strong, so constant - I miss him. Our last night was wonderful; it was all I imagined it would be. Maybe I'm changing, maybe I am beginning to feel some of the love he showers on me, maybe I am learning to love again? Maybe? He says he loves me, and I believe him, though I don't know why. I have treated him so badly in the past, I still treat him badly. So why does he still come to me? I know what will diffuse his anger, it's so easy - and so gratifying - but I'm afraid that one day I'll go too far, one day I won't be able to flirt my way past his righteous anger. I never expected to find him awake, it was only five thirty, for God sake! Most of the time he sleeps half the day away.

My investigations of yesterday led me to the cab driver. It took a little 'persuasion' on my part but eventually the man admitted the note was given to him to deliver. He was paid in advance, the note and the money handed over in a pub in Bow by a small boy.

"Who gave you the note?" I asked. He was reluctant to answer, but then I did have my hands around his throat at the time. "Who? Tell me or your horse is going to need a new master," I demanded.

"I didn't see him sir, he was sitting back, in the shadows all the time."

He did tell me which pub. I went there with little hope of discovering who had sent the note, but I was in luck. The landlord needed only a little monetary incentive to reveal that a tall man with black skin and the manners of a gentleman had been in the bar that day. Buck's letter, which arrived with the second post this afternoon, told me that Jackson is a Negroid, it must have been him - but why?

The missing boot and the presence of a dog can only lead to one conclusion. I must go there.

I purchased a new Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor and located a likely spot where I could observe the comings and goings on the moor, and having also purchased suitable equipment, I set out from Paddington for the wilds of Dartmoor.

I have struck it lucky and found a small hut, I expect the Scots would call it a bothy. The roof is sound and the chimney in working order. I settled myself in and set out to locate Standish Hall. More than once I was forced to hide from the police and prison guards searching the moor. If I can hide so easily from them, what chance do they have of locating someone who has been hiding out here for days?



February 20th 1896

I watched Buck and Sir Ezra ride out upon the moor. More than once I have heard calls on the moor, they sound unnatural, and one can easily imagine they are the calls of a hound or the work of the devil. They met with Stubbs who I watched this morning observing the Hall with a spyglass.

Buck looks good on a horse, easy, relaxed; he rode a lot in India. My father taught me to ride and though I liked it I shied away from it, just because he was so keen. It was only after Buck and I became close again, after Sarah and Adam, that I rediscovered the joy of riding. He takes me to Brighton and we ride on the downs, we even get the chance to ride around the racecourse at Goodwood. There is no feeling like it, a flat out gallop on a fit horse, the wind in your face, the feel of the power beneath you, power you have at your command. I have head some say it is better than sex, well it's good, but it's not that good, clearly these poor souls have never been bedded by one Buck Wilmington - and they never will if I have anything to do with it! I think we should go to Brighton after this business is over. His mother still lives there, she is an amazing woman, before I met him, I had very different ideas about fallen women. I knew what they were, I fully intended to make use of them when I was older, but I never expected to be socialising with one. Now she wasn't a common whore, by no means, she was a courtesan, in the true sense of the word. Still a stunningly beautiful woman, tall - like Buck - with slightly wavy dark, almost black, hair - like Buck - and the deepest blue eyes - just like Buck. I know who the gossips say his father was, well who is to say but her, and she never will - perhaps that answers the question. He so favours her in looks there is no way to tell. It doesn't matter, because he is mine, who ever and what ever he is, he's mine. Or I am his?



February 21st 1896

This afternoon Buck found me, in the bothy he was somewhat perturbed, to say the least, and showed his disapproval in the usual way, wonderful. What could have been a wonderful reunion, miles from anywhere, high on the moor, was interrupted by the piteous cries of a man who sounded as if he were being ripped to shreds by a wild beast. By the time we reached him the creature was gone, but the prints it left were clear enough. Buck took him from the rock crevice he had retreated to - it probably saved his life, poor boy. There was blood everywhere, I have rarely seen so much blood. He moaned as my doctor lifted him into his strong arms. Buck told me it was most likely Tanner the convict, since Sir Ezra had donated his old American clothing to him.

Buck set out to carry him to the Hall, while I ran ahead to get things ready and send help to carry him in. Naturally, as I burst into the kitchen there was some alarm, since none of them had ever met me. JD came running into the kitchen, a pitchfork in his hand, no doubt intending to defend the occupants from the mad man who had just run into the house.

"We, Doctor Wilmington and I, have just found a man on the moor, he's very badly hurt. Buck reckons it's Tanner, we need to get him here as fast as we can and get ready," I stated, while still panting, having running all the way.

"WHAT?" cried young JD.

I spun around to confront him.

The young man looked alarmed. "What do you mean hurt? How hurt? How bad? Where?"

I told him as fast as I could and before I had even finished he had dropped the pitchfork and was running toward the stables. Letting him go, I turned back to the Jacksons, who were looking at me in stunned silence.

"Mr Larabee?" Came a familiar voice from behind me.

I found Sir Ezra standing just inside the kitchen. He was jacket-less, his shirtsleeves rolled up.

"What has occurred?" he asked.

I didn't have time to go through it again so told him to do as Nathan told him, then headed out again. I met Buck and JD coming down from the moor, the boy had thrown a bridle on a moor pony and ridden out bareback to meet his brother. They had poor Tanner on the pony's back and as JD lead it, Buck walked beside it, holding the patient on. By the time we got him back to the Hall the others had followed the instructions Buck had given me. The billiard table had been covered with towels and a clean sheet, Buck's medical bag, two basins, one of hot water, one of just warm, an empty bucket, a bottle of whisky, a pile of clean tea cloths, another pile of clean towels and a stack of bandages (which I suspect were from Nathan Jackson's own medical bag) sat on the side of the table. I expected Buck to tell us to place him directly on the table but he didn't.

"Get his clothes off before we put him on the table, they're filthy," he instructed.

From apparently nowhere Nathan produced a knife, and with it made short work of what remained of Tanner's clothing. Once the boy was naked, we lifted him very gently onto the table and covered him with another sheet. Instantly the sheet was stained with blood, as it soaked into the cloth. Buck was barking orders as he and Nathan swiftly removed their jackets.

"We don't have time to scrub up Chris, pour some of the whisky on my hands and arms, Nathan's too." God he's sexy when he's all commanding like that.

That done, all of us, except for Nathan, were dismissed. Once the door closed behind us I turned to find Mrs Jackson with her arms around JD.

"He'll be alright child, just have faith, that Doctor Buck," It's amazing how they all call him that, women I mean. "…he seems like a right good doctor, and you know Nathan will take care of Vin, don't you?"

The boy nodded, then turned his face into her shoulder. The beautiful young woman, Buck was right she is stunning, turned tear-reddened eyes to me.

"Who are you sir? she asked.

"Christopher Larabee," Sir Ezra answered, he then extended his hand, "welcome to my home, sir."

We all moved into the next room, the chapel, and sat down to wait. Rain Jackson crossed herself, and knelt facing the altar, young JD also knelt, resting his hands on the pew in front of him, his forehead resting on his hands. I sat down and looked at the small simple chapel.

"You are not a religious man?" Sir Ezra asked me.

I'm not, not at all. I was married in church, Sarah believed, but I don't, never have - well not since I was a boy. Buck believes, in his own way, I don't know why. The church has very definite things to say about him and his mother, me too come to that, but he doesn't really believe in the church, just God.

"You?" I asked.

"I'm a pragmatist Mr Larabee, what if it is true and I have turned my back on it? But then again, I have hardly lived the life of a good Christian," he confessed.

We sat in quiet contemplation for sometime. I could hear Rain saying the Lord's Prayer repeatedly in a hushed whisper, JD kept his head down, every now and again I heard him sniff; he was crying, though he was doing his best to hide it. After a while I asked Ezra to fill me in on events since my last letter from Buck. Which, in hushed tones, he did.

I have no idea how long we sat and waited. But eventually Nathan came in, his shirt was stained with blood, and he was drying his hands on a small towel.

"He's alive," he announced. "You can come in."

We all stood and followed him, JD in the lead. Young Vin Tanner looked better then I could have believed possible. He lay on the billiard table under a fresh sheet and a blanket. His face looked almost undamaged, a few bruises and scratches. But he was pale, so pale his skin was almost translucent. Buck was placing bloodied tools in a basin. He turned to look at us, but when he spoke it was to JD he addressed his report.

"When we found him he was pushed back into a rock crevice, I don't know if it was good luck or if he managed to get there on purpose, but it saved his life. All the bad wounds are on his arms and lower legs, he must have drawn them up to protect his head and body - it's a natural defence. The main worry is the amount of blood he's lost and infection, wounds like his, it's impossible to prevent all the infection, but right now he needs rest, lots of it." I have rarely seen my Buck, the eternal optimist, looks so worried or so haggard. "I don't want him moved just yet, but he is going to need a room, and he will be there a long time, so it had better be some place decent and out of sight."

I had almost forgotten that the boy was a convicted murder, on the run from Dartmoor Prison. Nathan said the room directly above us was suitable. Everyone in the district knew the chapel wing was shut up, it's windows looked out onto the wood, the thick cedar trees at the front of the house meant even at night a light from it's window was not visible. Sir Ezra asked about the smoke, as the boy would need a fire. Nathan said if we opened up the billiard room, not unnatural with so many men in the house, since the rooms share a chimney breast no one would know the difference.

"When do the guests arrive?" Buck asked, turning back to his patient.

"Oh good Lord!" Ezra exclaimed. "I had forgotten." He fumbled in his pocket for his watch. "In, dear God, three hours! We shall have to cancel."

"No." I cut in, "we can't, everything must go ahead as planned, otherwise people will get suspicious, that is the last thing we need. Nathan, Rain, continue your preparations." They looked at Sir Ezra, who, after looking at me and Tanner for what felt like an age, nodded. With the permission of their employer the couple left. "Ezra, you and I will air the room above and make up the bed, then change for dinner before we assist in moving young Tanner. JD?" The boy did not respond, he was standing on the far side of the table, gazing at his brother, ashen with fear and distress. "JD," I said again more firmly.

"Yes sir?" he finally responded.

"Take a horse and ride into the village, my things are all at the post office, waiting for collection, here." I handed the young groom my left luggage ticket.

"But I have to stay with Vin, please…" JD looked imploringly at me.

"And you will. When you get back is there some place you can hide the horse you rode?" I asked.

"Hide sir?" he questioned.

"Yes hide, someone will need to stay with your brother tonight, while we wine and dine the great and the good of the local area. We will say you were sent on another errand and have not returned. If you are absent so must the horse be."

"I will no doubt punish you severely for your tardiness," Sir Ezra added, with a half smile.

The boy's face finally had some colour as he smiled at the prospect of being able to watch over his stricken brother all night. I promised Ezra I would join him, and once JD had said a good bye to his brother I walked over to Buck.

"Well done doctor," I said and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "You alright?" I asked, resting my chin on his shoulder as we both gazed at the boy. He nodded, but I was not convinced.

"Think you could find me a brandy, just a small one?" he asked, I could hear the tremble in his voice.

"Sure, I'll only be a minute." I assured him.

I met Nathan in the Great Hall; he was lighting the lamps, so I enquired where I could get some brandy.

"Is it for the doctor?" he asked and I nodded.

"He was amazing sir, I have stitched a few wounds in my time, and watched Doctor Sanchez do it too, but Doctor Wilmington, he was just in a different class, I have never seen anyone work so fast and so sure. I asked him where he learnt to do that, and do you know what he said?" I shook my head. "He said 'Dogs, tigers, butchers, there isn't much difference'. Do you know what he meant sir - butchers?"

I did but I had to say no, I couldn't explain it to Nathan. There have been times when my doctor came to me not for mutual gratification, not to punish me in his own unique way, but for comfort. When he sees what man has done to man, or more often woman, the barbaric, evil, pointless damage inflicted by one human on another, when he can't save them, or when he knows they will be forever damaged, sometimes it is all too much. My doctor is not a man of violence, he never was. At school he was a defender of his fellow pupils, never a tormentor, he became a doctor because the military was the only viable career open to him, but he didn't want to kill or hurt anyone. Oh, he has a temper, a real one, and he can defend himself and anyone else he deems needs his protection, but he will not seek out a fight. When we met again, after Sarah and Adam died, he was my salvation, but I couldn't offer him the love he gave me, I couldn't hold him and love him when the world was too ugly for him to look at it any more. So he contented himself with my body, since he couldn't have my soul. I'm better now. I can hold him, and speak softly in his ear, I know the signs now, I can tell when what he has seen and done has been too much for his very gentle soul. I know on those nights, I have to take care of him. Tonight will be one of those nights, I just hope there is some way for us to be together.

Armed with the brandy I made my way back to Buck, above us I could here Ezra moving about.

"I should go," I said quietly.

"Yes, um you better turn that mattress and put on two sheets," he instructed.

"Yes doctor," I said softly, but he didn't even look up at me. "Buck you did your best, it is in the lap of the gods now."

"If that thing hadn't run off, if we hadn't been so close, it would have ripped him to shreds."

The tremble was back in his voice.

"Will he live?" I asked. Buck said he wasn't sure. "Even if he does he may be crippled for life, I tried to stitch it all back, but so many muscles and tendons were ripped, torn and punctured, I just don't know. Look at him Chris, he's been in that hell hole for three years and he's only 20, think what we were doing at his age."

I did, we were in Edinburgh together, Buck had just come up and I was in my last year. We had a fine time, we were in love and that first Michaelmas term, and we finally consummated the relationship. At school we had been inseparable, Buck had a crush on me, and I have to admit the feelings were mutual. But we did nothing about those feelings at school - for one thing it took a long a time for us to understand them. But once we were free of that place we spread our wings with each other and women. Buck, I had learnt long before, was no stranger to women. After all he was expelled from Marlborough after he was caught with the Headmasters wife's chambermaid! But it wasn't just sex, we drank, we went to plays, we rode, we fished, we walked. At Tanner's age I was having the time of my life.

Just as I was remembering the good times we had together there was a loud thump from upstairs followed by muffled cries of pain and what we took to be cursing.

"Sounds like you have a new patient," I commented.

"Don't send him down unless he's bleeding to death," Buck commented wryly. Then he kissed me, not the light peck I had given him but a deep, soft, claiming kiss. "When I first saw him, on the moor, I thought it was Ezra." Buck remarked in hushed tones as we separated.

"It was meant to be, the poor boy was wearing Ezra's coat. This person, Stubbs, I'm sure it is him. He has trained that creature to kill Ezra and Ezra alone. That is who took the boots, and why," I explained.

"Scent, that was why the new boot, a boot he had never worn, was of no use, no scent," Buck said in realisation of what had happened. More thumps came from above us. "You'd better go."

"I'll be back when it's time to move him."



February 21st 1896

…I stubbed my toe on the post of the truly huge four poster bed in the room Tanner is to occupy until he recovers. Though the room has not been used in years, it, like the attics, has been kept clean and dusted. I doubt for all their airs and graces there is a better butler than Nathan anywhere in the country, not even in Buckingham Palace itself. I was just pulling back the drapes and opening the shutters when Mr Larabee appeared with a basket full of logs and kindling. In no time we had the room ready for our guest, and while the fire took, we hurriedly changed for dinner - I was so worried some nincompoop would come early.

It took three of us to lift him, not because he is heavy, though in truth he is heavier than he looks, no doubt a result of three years 'hard labour', no it took three so we could keep him as still as possible. I asked the good doctor if he had given him any morphine. He said not yet.

"I want him to come round, I need to speak to him, gauge his level of awareness, if I give him morphine he'll just drift off to sleep with out ever regaining his senses. For all I know he has other injures I can't know about unless he tells me."

It seemed the doctor wouldn't have long to wait, for as we were laying him on the freshly made bed he groaned. It was only now, as Doctor Wilmington removed the sheet he had been wrapped in and prepared to pull up the covers, that either I or Mr Larabee saw the extent of the injures. His forearms were covered in stitches, all over the place in lines of 5 or more, in little groups around jagged patterns and in 1's and 2's on their own. His legs, especially the shins, weren't that much better, one had a single wound running the length of the shin in a narrow 'V' shape. Oh dear Lord what has been unleashed onto this land? It was my presence here that resulted in this poor man's terrible fate. I was warned to stay away, but when I saw my life's dream just within my grasp, how could I not reach out and take it? There was something else I saw for the first time - he is quite the most exquisitely beautiful man I have ever seen - I think I am in love.

There was no time to dwell on this fragile, damaged beauty. I prepared myself to play the host, to play another role, to pretend once more to be something I'm not, it's what I have been doing my whole life after all - so why now does it seem so difficult and so onerous?

At least the first to arrive was Doctor Sanchez and we were able to fill him in on the most recent events, though we did not mention Tanner. I do not believe he would betray him or us, but the fewer people in on a secret, the more chance it has of remaining one. After that, guests came at a steady rate, Stubbs was one of the first. I cannot say why but I do not trust him, he reminded me of me - the me that used to con people. He is not what he claims to be, there is some hidden agenda or my name is not Ezra P Standish. He seemed very interested in the Hall, looking at all the portraits on the wall - I still don't know who they all are though I have identified the scoundrel who started all this trouble. Rain -despite the three hour disruption to her preparations - produced a wonderful meal, Nathan answered the door, took coats and moved effortlessly among the guests serving drinks. I did not employ him or his wife, I did not train them, and yet I take pride in their accomplishments, in the way their professionalism reflects on me.

One incident I find hard to understand came when I observed the vicars wife - who from our brief meeting when they arrived I would describe as 'annoyingly dim' and 'sickeningly hearty' - curtsied when introduced to Doctor Wilmington. Now why would she curtsey to him, a simple doctor and not to me, a baronet? When I eventually managed to get the Reverent Whitt alone and asked him, he simply said that his wife's sister was 'in' with London society and both women loved gossip.

"Personally I doubt it is true, but - well you never know do you, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility, is it?" he said.

I wasn't about to demand he explain what it is everyone seems to know about the Doctor that I don't. I will ask Sanchez. What ever it is, poor Doctor Wilmington turned bright red and made a quick exit before the wretched woman could say anything else.

Stubbs managed to swap seats with the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, and sat next to me. He makes my skin crawl. We had said goodbye to the ladies who had moved to the parlour and we were having port and cigars when Nathan came in and whispered to Buck. As Larabee and I watched he swiftly followed Jackson out.

"Is there a problem?" Stubbs asked - how dare he question my butler!

"No problem sir, Mrs Jackson fainted, it's very hot in the kitchen." It sounded convincing, but while Stubbs seemed to accept it I could see that Sanchez did not, why should he, Rain is his patient, why would her husband summon a man he hardly knew, when he was in the same room?

The party wound down, it was hard but I do feel I pulled off a masterful performance and made a tolerably good impression. Eventually only Sanchez was left, Doctor Wilmington had not yet returned and the good doctor instantly asked what was going on.

"Nathan Jackson, don't tell me Rain fainted, she never has before even in the summer, and if she had, you would have called me!" he demanded. "I brought Larabee in on this, don't shut me out now." There was a desperate quality in his voice, along with the bitter anger. I will have to tell him I know about him and my uncle and that I understand.

"No one is shutting you out Doctor," Larabee said. "There was just no time to tell you," he lied.

I didn't know then that Larabee had also been keeping information from me as well. The man is insufferable. We took Sanchez up to the room Tanner occupies, I am told it is the Oak Room, and indeed it is panelled in oak. As the three of us slipped into the room we found Wilmington placing his stethoscope back in his bag. He held up his finger to signal us to be quiet. Not as it seems so we wouldn't wake up Tanner but young JD, who was asleep on the chaise lounge at the foot of the bad. He ushered us out into the corridor.

"He knows?" he asked Larabee, while looking at Sanchez. Larabee nodded. "He woke up, just briefly. Needless to say he was confused and frightened but JD calmed him down quick enough. I can't find anything that I missed earlier. I gave him morphine so he'll sleep now. Poor JD, he found it all a bit traumatic and as soon as I managed to get him to lay down, he fell asleep."

Wilmington and Sanchez then had a fairly incomprehensible discussion about the nature of the injuries and the relative merits of covering them or not covering them. Finally Larabee asked if Tanner could be left for a short time with just his slumbering brother because we needed to talk. Both doctors seem to think that he could, briefly, and we adjourned to the Great Hall, the fire there was still burning well and it was close to the Oak room.



February 21st and 22nd 1896

Larabee outlined the discovery of Tanner and went on to detail its significance.

"The fact that he was wearing your old jacket Sir Ezra." Ezra interrupted him and asked that he drop the 'sir'. "Very well, Ezra, your old jacket that I take," he glanced at Nathan, " had not been washed before it was given to young Tanner?"

"No sir, there was no time and I knew he wouldn't mind." The butler confirmed.

"As I thought. That was his downfall, the hound, which is very real and defiantly flesh and blood, has been trained to attack you, Ezra," He turned to look upon out host, "specifically. That is why your boots were stolen. Our man must have cursed himself when he realised he had snagged a brand new boot, smelling only of leather. So he left it where it could be found and took one of your own boots, rich in your personal scent."

"Are you saying my feet smell Mr Larabee," Ezra interjected, trying to sound amused.

"To dogs, we all smell." Chris announced. "Having observed him for a few days I believe our man is Stubbs, though what is his motive is I don't know."

"Money," Sir Ezra said, "there are only so many motives for murder; love - hardly, power - I don't have any, revenge - well possibly, but I've only just met him and since he appears to have contrived the death of my uncle, who I never met, personal revenge upon me seems far fetched. That leaves money, a million pounds is a very big motive," he turned to Sanchez, "are you sure I am the only heir?"

Sanchez frowned. "That I know of, your father was his only sibling, I never heard him mention any other family, but I can check the parish records tomorrow. "

"Good, I agree with you," Larabee announced. "Now what about these letters Mrs Jackson told Buck about?" he asked Nathan.

All eyes turned to the butler standing by the fireplace. A brief explanation followed. It was clearly news to Dr Sanchez. Sir Ezra pulled an envelope from his pocket and turned it over several times, he then asked Jackson to bring his wife to the hall. Upon arrival Mrs Jackson stood next to her husband, looking distinctly nervous. Sir Ezra stood and crossed to her, opening the letter.

"Dear lady, is this the kind of paper you found in the grate?" he asked, handing her the letter without unfolding it.

Cautiously she took it and turned it over in her nimble fingers, running her thumb along the thick cream paper. Finally she looked up.

"It seems to be sir, yes," she admitted.

Sir Ezra looked around to face the assembly. "Jack Stubbs gave me this letter tonight, it is…" he looked at it, unfolding it and scanning the contents. "…an invitation to supper in two days at his house."

"He is luring you out on to the moor alone," Larabee commented.

"So it would seem," Sir Ezra said bravely. " Do I go?"

Larabee strode away from the others; he stood at the large window, gazing out upon the inky black moor. "We shall see, but you will send word tomorrow that you accept the invitation. Now it is late and we all need rest." There was note of finality in his statement.

Dr Sanchez offered to stay and help watch over Tanner, there then followed some discussion as to where he would sleep later and it was decided that he would have the room he formerly used when he stayed at the Hall and Larabee would share with Wilmington.



February 22nd 1896

I had almost convinced myself it was all just fancy, and imagination. Now I see it is oh so very real, this man wishes me ill, dead. And he has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it look - if not accidental then certainly an act of God or the Devil. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it is revenge after all, perhaps the Standishs did him wrong once, why else exact retribution in a way that is so peculiar to the family?

I was happy when Dr Sanchez insisted on staying the night; I need to speak to him. I was equally pleased he is to have the use of his old room. It lies between my room and the one occupied by Wilmington. There is a connecting door to my room, and I believe to Wilmington's. Larabee's things were in there but he had scarcely had time to unpack. Both men assured us they had 'bunked up together' as they put it, on numerous occasions. It seems strange to me that there are only three rooms available in such a large house. But the great hall takes up almost half of the main section of the house, and is the full height of the building. The rooms above the kitchen are small, the Jackson's occupy two of the larger ones, the others are meant for other staff - if I had any - but are not made up or aired. Past the chapel is the oak room where Tanner resides, and beyond that the nursery wing, shut up since my father was a boy.

I must speak with him, tell him I understand his great loss, and that I do not think the worst of him for it, rather the opposite in fact. I envy him the love he found, what is it they say, "'tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all"? I wish I had had the chance to test that theory. Sanchez took the first watch, indeed he needed to, poor Doctor Wilmington looked done in.

I found him sitting beside Tanner, young JD was still asleep on the couch at the end of the bed, he was snoring softly. The lamp was turned down, giving Tanner's pale features a sallow look. I watched transfixed for a long time, reassured that the steady rise and fall of his chest meant that his exquisite beauty is to continue to light my world. The doctor was reading, some medical journal, by the look of it.

"Can I help you?" he asked looking up.

"How is he?" I asked, genuinely anxious to know.

"He is resting, there is still no appreciable fever, maybe he will be lucky." I stared at the still figure in the bed for a moment longer, not wishing to tear my eyes from him.

"I needed to speak to you, alone." I indicated the sleeping brothers.

"Have no fear, they will not wake," he assured me.

Still I kept my voice down as I pulled up a chair and sat beside him.

"I found some things in my uncle's possessions, I want to give them to you, but…but first I want to explain something to you. I am not an English gentleman, I never was and I never will be. I am playacting, that is all. It is something I have done all my life, my whole life is a lie. So I know what it is to live a lie, to spend your whole life keeping your guard up, watching your every remark, never able to let your true self out. I would never, ever, condemn a man for being himself."

I could see him frowning, whether he knew what I was about to say, or rather do, I don't know. But what I did was hand him the bundle of letters. He looked at me, no expression discernible on his face.

"I have read some of them, and…I am happy he found love, thank you for making him happy, I am so sorry for your loss."

He looked down at the letters, running his thumb along the top of the satin ribbon, then he held them to his nose and inhaled deeply. Tears collected at the corner of those pale blue eyes.

"They smell like him, " he admitted softly.

I risked reaching out and laying a hand over his arm. "I'm so sorry," I whispered.

I waited a while, giving him a chance to recover his composure. "There is something else I have wanted to ask you."

Josiah looked up. "Ask away."

I described the incident with the vicar's wife and Dr Wilmington. "Ah," was all he said.

"Ah?" I asked. "What does 'ah?' mean?" I swear, even in the poor light, he winced.

"As I understand it, his mother was a poor girl living on a large estate. She got pregnant and just weeks after the child - Buck Wilmington - was born she 'inherited' a substantial fortune and move away from the estate. What does that tell you?" he asked.

To me it was obvious, the landowner or some close relative, probably a son, had got the poor girl in the family way and had paid her off. That is what I said to Sanchez.

"That's what everyone thinks," he agreed.

"So, who's estate was she living on?" I asked.

"She was living on the crown estates at Windsor."

"Ah," was all I said. I did some quick math and dismissing the late Prince Consort, decided the Prince of Wales was the most likely candidate, not unknown for his dalliances. Well, well, well, so the good doctor is the natural son of the future king. That would explain the curtsey all right. The poor man, even if it is not true the fact that people think it true must be a peculiar millstone around his neck, accepted in society and yet I doubt he can never be part of it, a sort of curiosity to be tolerated.

Just then our patient shifted in his drug-enduced sleep, he muttered something we could not make out and then seemed to settle.

"Vin?" came a muffled voice from the end of the bed as JD roused himself and pulled himself up to check on his brother.

We assured him Tanner was still resting quietly. The lad came to the other side of the bed and looked down at his stepbrother.

"His hair is getting longer again," he said softly, then he looked up at us, perhaps sensing we needed more explanation. "His mum always kept his hair longer, she liked to brush it, he said, my mum said she probably wanted a girl. He never let mum cut it short. Because I wanted to be like him I started letting mine grow a bit too. In the prison, they cut it off, almost all of it," he brushed a tear away from his cheek. "When I saw him it was all short and spiky, he kept touching it, like he expected to find it had grown back, it did a bit but they wouldn't let him grow it as long as he used to have it."

There the distressed boy fell silent. "He is out of that place now," I said.

"Yes sir, I know, thank you for everything you have done for us." The thanks I accepted but did not need, it was the right thing to do. There have been precious few times in my life when I have had the chance or the means to do the right thing, it felt good.



February 22nd 1896

It was remarkably easy to arrange for Buck and I to share a room. No one seemed to raise an eyebrow. He looked done in when he arrived; having checked Tanner one more time. I crossed the room to intercept him, and took his bag from him as I led him into the centre of the room.

"Come to bed and let me take good care of you," I offered.

He raised his eyes - which had been rooted to the floor - and gave me a small smile. "You sure?" he asked.

How could he ask that, why would I not be sure? I just took his hand and lead him to the bed. By the time I was undressing he was already under the covers, his back to me. Despite the fire it was cold in the large room and I was glad to join him. I lay down beside him, wrapping my arms around him and pulling him close. I felt the warmth as his body pressed up against mine.

"You did your best, Nathan told me, no one could have done more," I whispered turning my head to lay it against his shoulders. "You did what you are best at."

"Some specialisation," he said sadly. "Sewer up of torn and ripped flesh. He's just a boy. Say I have saved him, say he isn't crippled, for what? So they can hunt him down and lock him up in that hellhole again? Even if he stays here, he's still a prisoner, the prison may be velvet lined but it is still a prison.

"I…We will see what can be done to help him, but not yet, not until he is safe," I assured.

"Not until we see if I saved him or just prolonged his agony." I could feel him retreating further away from me. That damn woman and her curtsey didn't help either. He hates that. He won't have a word said against his mother of course, and he never speaks of his father. I truly believe he doesn't know the truth, and I think that hurts; though he will never admit it.

"Come here," I commanded, but he didn't move, so I manoeuvred my body over his to come to rest on the other side, facing him. "Look at me," I said firmly. He raised tired eyes to me, it was too dark to see them properly, but I knew there was hurt in those midnight blue jewels. "People do terrible things, you know that, I know that. But it isn't all of them, and if you can help some of those good people who get hurt, that is something to be proud of - isn't it?"

"You help people too," he said quietly.

Then he lent forward and kissed me on the shoulder. I had thought tonight I would just hold him, nothing more, but it seemed I was wrong.

"Love me." I didn't, and still don't know if it was a request for physical pleasure or a request for confirmation of my feelings, one I can give, the other I cannot, and he knows that. I am not sure I was ever in love with him. When we were young, at school and at university, we were in lust, that is for sure. Our desires were all consuming. Then I left and went to sea, he finished medical school and went to India, we hardly saw each other. I met Sarah, I was happy, Adam came along and I was deliriously happy, for six wonderful, blissful years. Then it all ended, everything just stopped. I resigned my commission, I started drinking. There is nothing on this earth worse than a rich drunk, he never has to worry where the next drink is coming from and no one will tell him to stop, because they are all out for what they can get from him. No one except a true friend.

It is strange that I remember that day, because I remember so little of that time. I was in a pub in Devonport, I was drunk and, as I recall, about to start a fight with some tar three times my size. Then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I swung around; ready to deck who ever it was and the next thing I know I'm waking up in a clean bed, in a clean hotel room. And he was there - my doctor - he cared for me, especially the bruise on my cheekbone that he put there. Buck may not use it often, but he has a wicked right cross. And he kept me off the whisky for long enough for me to finally be genuinely sober for the first time in months. I didn't like what I finally found in the mirror. The trouble was, having burned my bridges with the Marines I was unemployed and bored. One day we were in London, and Buck had just returned from his clinic in Whitechapel. Somehow we started talking about the Jack the Ripper murders, it was only a few years ago and very fresh in the mind. I was saying how badly the police had handled the whole thing and what I would have done differently. In the end Buck said,

"Well why don't you then?"

"Do what?" I asked.

"Be a detective."

"I am not going to join the police," I stated firmly.

"No on your own, you're good at thinking out puzzles, there are always cases the police can't seem to fathom."

He went on to show me one in that days Times. A woman found stabbed in a room locked from the inside. I was intrigued. That is how it all began. I gazed now upon his form - albeit no more then a dark mass, illuminated only by the gentle glow of the fire that edged his body with honey. The man I owe everything I am now to. I captured his lips with mine and kissed him, still gently but harder than he had kissed me. I pushed my tongue in to his mouth, exploring every inch of that cavity. He began to relax just a little, yet I could feel, as my hands explored his body, knotted muscles everywhere. I pulled back and I swear I heard a moan of disappointment.

"Roll over," I commanded, "on your front."

With an overly dramatic sigh he complied, as I briefly left the bed to find - in his shaving kit - the jar I knew would be there. With a generous amount of the aromatic oil on my hands I straddled his hips and began to work on releasing the muscles. I was methodical, working first the right shoulder then the left, I worked my way across those wonderfully broad shoulders then down that long spine, making sure I released every muscle. Once I reached the base of the spine I drew one slick finger down that inviting valley before my hand slid under him to caress the jewels below. It was tempting, but I held steady and asked him to roll over. Satisfied that my ministrations were having the desired affect in loosening some muscles and hardening others, I continued. I added more oil and worked on his chest and arms, in truth the biceps were still very tense, but eventually my hands began their inexorable move south. To start with I just let my fingers play with the thick dark curls that surround his magnificent shaft. Then I skirted around it and massaged his inner thigh, finally I was getting more than just murmurs of pleasure, he started to squirm, his hips thrusting forward, his whole body aching for more attention.

I didn't give him any warning, I didn't say anything, I just ran my finger up the underside of his erection and across the slit at the top. He gasped, I felt his whole body - a body now lain out spread-eagled before me, totally at my mercy, my control - tremble. As I worked him a little more strongly, the trembling continued, in the golden glow of the fire I could see the beads of perspiration on his chest and forehead. The shaft in my hand was now fully engorged and hot, throbbing with its own power, against which my lovely doctor is powerless. I lowered my head and kissed it, just the head, letting my tongue run along the slit at the top, then I took him much deeper, running my teeth down the ridge at the back and back up to suck on the tip. My own needs were making themselves felt and I let one hand encircle my own member, which was equally hard and demanding attention in such a way as to be almost painful and quite irresistible. His manhood was weeping now and I lapped it up. Buck has his own unique taste. In those dark times immediately after I lost my family, I would sleep with anyone - man or woman - who would have me, most tasted very similar, but not Buck, no, he is different - or maybe I just perceive him as tasting better than the others. He was close now, his fists clutching up great handfuls of bedding, his back arching off the mattress, I quickened my own stokes because I wanted to get there before him. It is no mean thing to bring yourself off at one speed and keep your lover on the edge at another - simultaneously. It was worth it to feel and taste his orgasm, and to concentrate only on him. I came about a minute before him; I drank him down with relish, every last drop.

Finally we were both spent. I fell forwards, my knees no longer able to bear my weight, just remembering to roll, and came to rest on the bed beside him with my head just below his armpit. For a long time there was nothing just our heavy breathing, then finally he said,

"Thank you my love."

I summoned up enough energy to move up the bed a bit and lie beside him, my head resting on his out stretched arm. "Feel better now?" I asked, as I pulled up the bedcovers to envelop us both in their warm embrace.

"I always feel better with you, you know that." Then he kissed me gently on the lips.

After that we drifted of to sleep, safe and warm and together. I know in the morning he will be his old self, until the next time that is, until the next time life gets too ugly to look at.




February 22nd 1896

I woke this morning to find myself wrapped around Chris, I remember last night, I remember him loving me, giving my body the release it needed, he relaxed me and pleasured me, chasing away the dark thoughts and waking nightmares. He shifted beside me and I knew he was awake - playing possum - the Americans call it.

"I'm awake," I whispered in his ear, taking the time to nuzzle it.

"Morning." With that he rolled over to face me. "Ready to face the world one more time?" he asked.

I was, I don't know why I let it get to me sometimes, and I wonder how I coped in those years we were apart, when I didn't have Chris to hold me safely. There was always, and still is, Mum. I guess she understands, she and Chris are my family.

The sun was up, a shaft of light streamed in through the heavy curtains; it illuminated the picture on the opposite wall. Suddenly Chris was out of bed and striding across the room. He threw back the curtains and without bothering to take in - from what I could see from the safety of a warm bed - the wonderful view, he crossed back to the far side of the room. As I watched, somewhat bemused, he drew a sturdy table across the floor and jumped up so he could reach it the picture, which was of some Standish ancestor, judging from the man's dress, from the time of the civil war. He held his hands across the man's face so that only his eyes and nose was visible.

"Well, who is it?" he asked me.

I have to say it was hard to concentrate, Chris was still naked and that was very distracting, BUT I am a professional and I put the sight of that whip cord thin, hard as nails, muscle packed frame with the morning sun glinting on that corn blonde hair, making it shine like spun gold, to one side, and studied the picture. And when I did …I saw what Chris had seen from all the way across the room. It was Stubbs!

"He's a Standish?" I said it like a question, but it was meant to be a statement.

"Undoubtedly, so now we know what he's after, he wants the money."

There was nothing we could do at that moment, so I dressed and went to check on my patient. I realised it was now after eight and I was embarrassed that I had left poor Doctor Sanchez for so long, he hadn't had any sleep at all. I found him sitting beside the bed, drinking a mug of tea and eating toast and marmalade. He informed me that young Tanner had been somewhat restless in the night but had slept through.

"Is he awake?" I asked.

"No, not yet, I was thinking it might be best to get JD awake before we try to wake him." I agreed, he was going to be disorientated and scared, having his brother at hand would be essential.

We woke JD and with him on one side and me on the other, and Sanchez at the head of the bed, JD gently touched an undamaged shoulder.

"Vin," he called softly. There was no response. "Vin," he tried again. Tanner murmured, his head rolled toward his brother's voice. "That's right, come on open your eyes." Finally Tanner managed to open his eyes, he blinked at JD, then to the relief of all of us tiny smile came upon his face. JD dropped to his knees, he held his brother's gaze. "You're alright, you're safe. Here." JD picked up the glass of water from the bedside table and helped Tanner to drink, finally he let him rest back onto the pillows.

I could see Tanner's eyes, which are cornflower blue, suddenly dart round the room, wild with fear. To the boys credit he kept calm.

"It's alright, no guards, no crushers, no hound, you're safe here, this is Standish Hall."

"The Hall?" the voice was halting and not much above a whisper, his accent was even richer than JD's.

"Yes the Hall, Sir Ezra says you can stay here as long as you need to." I can't honestly say I ever heard Ezra say that but I have little doubt it is true.

"There was a thing," Tanner breathed. "It…it just came at me…oh God!"

"It's alright son, we know about the hound," I said.

Tanners head turned and he took in me and Josiah, fear sparked again.

"Vin, this is Doctor Wilmington. Do you remember him - from before?" he pointed at me, but Tanner shook his head. " He saved your life," JD explained. "And that is Doctor Sanchez, he looked after you last night." Tanned looked down the bed at Josiah.

"Vin?" I asked, drawing his attention back to me. "I need to ask you some questions and examine you, alright?" He nodded. "I'm gonna ask JD to wait to one side, is that alright?" His eyes flashed back to JD, who smiled and assured him he wouldn't leave the room, before stepping back to stand by the door.

I was frankly amazed at the sight of the wounds, they looked good, better than I could have hoped, there had been little or no bleeding and I was relived to see my decision to leave then uncovered had been vindicated. Some of them were a little inflamed at the edges, but there was no pus and little heat radiating from them. The bruising that had now come out was quite horrendous. He was stoical, doing no more than hiss as I examined his many wounds. Once the covers were drawn back up I sat down and placed a thermometer under his arm.

"Do you remember what happened?" I asked. He nodded. "Can you tell me what you remember?"

"I…" he started haltingly. "I was near the tor, and I saw… you?" I nodded. "You were waiting for the man from the hut. I moved away to the other side, and then…then," he faltered, pain was etched on his face. "It just came at me, and it was so big, I managed to get into the rocks, I don't remember anything after that, sorry."

"I'm going to give you something for the pain, do you think you could manage some broth?"

"I'd rather have tea," he managed another small smile.

I asked JD to go to the kitchen and fetch his brother some warm tea with plenty of sugar. Then I gave him a shot of morphine.

"Sir?" he asked.


"Will I be alright sir?" He had a look on his face, not fear, not apprehension more like resignation as if what ever the answer it was his lot in life. I see that look in the East End a lot and I shouldn't. People should not accept the unacceptable. I didn't know what to say to him. His temperature was only 99.3, hardly worth worrying about. That's a good sign, but it is too soon to tell, there was just no way of telling how well his injures will heal or what complications lie in front of him.

"I'd say you are doing very well, all you need to do is follow your doctors orders, drink, eat when you can, lots of rest, and you'll be just fine," I lied.

It wasn't much of a lie; I have seen it in India. People - natives - ripped to shreds by a tiger or leopard, a few just heal, no fever no infection, they need rest, sometimes there are physical problems resulting to soft tissue or bone injury, but they don't get sick. I spoke to JD, who confirmed that Vin spent most of his childhood outside, like all boys he picked up his fair share of cuts and grazes, even broke his arm once, but he never got a fever, in fact he was almost never ill. Maybe there are people who are just better at fighting infection, like small pox vaccine; they have been exposed so often they are immune. I pray young Vin is one of them.

I persuaded Josiah to go to bed, and once JD was returned, left him to watch his brother. Chris and I ate in the dining room, Nathan promised to send some food up for JD and some broth for Tanner. Ezra it seems was still sleeping, and there was precious little we could do until he arose. What I did ask Chris about, was that word on the letter Rain found 'unnatural'.

"What does it suggest to you?" he asked.

I know what I had first thought, there are plenty that would call what Chris and I did last night unnatural, yet I hesitated to say it.

"Old friend, I can see in your eyes what you think. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility is it? After all Sir Henry was a life long bachelor, even with over a million to leave to his heir, he never once married. These occasional burnt notes, one on the day he died, going out to the moor gate - something he would normally never do, surely this suggests blackmail, and so called 'unnatural' practises would be a powerful blackmail tool, would it not?"

I agreed.

"So we have a man, who is being blackmailed because of 'unnatural' practises. This man had a friend who visited him often, stayed often at the house - in a room with a connecting door to his. This friend sports a custom made, very expensive walking stick with an unusual inscription on it. What does that tell you?"

I hesitated to say it - I am usually wrong - but the way he put it could only mean one thing.

"Sanchez?" I asked.

"It has to be, the poor man, if he ever finds out it was over him that Sir Henry was lured to his death…well, he won't hear it from us."

Upon that we both silently agreed.

Chris also confided that it was Jackson who sent the warning note. He did fear for Ezra's life, even his sanity, but his main motive was keeping Ezra away from the Hall until the business with Tanner was sorted out.

"Do you think they know about…you know…Henry and the Doctor?" I asked.

Chris thought about that, finally he asked, "a man would have to work very, very hard to hide such a thing from his butler and the woman who washed his sheets - don't you think?"

Indeed he would.



February 22nd 1896

I don't know how to put down what has happened today - well tonight. Firstly I saw a look in Sir Ezra's eyes, while he gazed at that poor battered boy, Tanner, something that says he is attracted to the boy. I keep saying 'boy' when in truth he is a young man; he just looks boyish, even cut up like he is. I can see the attraction, he is very pretty, if I were ten years younger and he ten years older - well that is another matter. I had almost convinced myself I was imagining things; after all, I could almost hear Henry's voice in my ear. When we were at social events together he would comment on the young men, trying to decide who was the prettiest. He had this evil way of whispering in my ear and making me smile at the most inappropriate moments - damn man did it at a funeral once - Henry would have been drooling over Vin. God how I miss him.

Then he - Ezra - gave me my letters to Henry, the ones I wrote when I was up in London or he was, and when he went to Jamaica. I didn't know he kept them, I told him not to, it was risky, but he was such a romantic. I couldn't believe that Sir Ezra understood and it didn't bother him, but then I remembered that look, the way he gazed at Tanner, he was doing it again. He said he was happy for us, pleased his uncle had found love. I get the feeling love is the one thing our young baronet craves but has never found.

I wonder if Ezra's desire for Tanner is doomed to be unrequited, now? Well who knows, God moves in mysterious ways, and surely he would not have made us the way we are if he did not want us to be happy. The law forbids it, the church - all churches - say it is a sin, but I know my Henry was a gentle, God fearing, genuinely good man, he was no spawn of Satan, I don't believe I am evil - a sinner yes - but not evil. Sir Ezra? No, I have seen the good in him. Society is wrong, the church is wrong, the law is wrong.

The wonderful Rain had brought me breakfast not long after eight, and once Dr Wilmington had relieved me I returned to my room - I still think of it as my room - and was quickly asleep. I rose at noon, and left for the village to check on my patients and the parish records. Mr Larabee showed Sir Ezra and myself what he had found, a striking resemblance between Stubbs and a portrait of one of Sir Ezra's ancestors.

Mrs Wells had that look in her eye when I returned home, that look that says she is not happy with me.

"Well? Out with it Nettie," I challenged. She feigned innocence. "I know you, I know you will make me suffer for whatever I have done, so let's get it out in the open."

Nettie Wells is a fine woman, independent, intelligent, as good a nurse as she is a housekeeper - but - she thinks she is in control of my life, I don't.

"Where were you last night? You didn't tell me you were going to stay out." I took a deep breath, the woman is the worst nag, but she means well.

"Nettie I have slept over at the Hall without warning, on numerous occasions, especially after a dinner party, why was it a problem last night?" I enquired trying to keep my voice calm.

"That was before, when Sir Henry was alive and besides I heard the Hound last night, plain as day I heard it, I thought it had got you."

There was real fear in her voice and that is rare for Nettie. Before, I would have dismissed her claim to have heard the Hound. I would have told her it was a superstition, the wind whistling over the tors or through the cotton grass. Not now.

"Maybe you did, but it has no interest in a simple country doctor, I am quite safe, and no matter how good intentioned your concerns are, I cannot guarantee I will not stay at the Hall again on short notice. If I can I will send young JD with a message, but last night that wasn't possible."

"Is JD alright?" I spun around to find Casey in the doorway.

"Yes my dear," I assured, "JD is fine. Now that is an end to the matter. I have to make rounds and then I need to look up something in the parish records."

Nettie scowled at me for another minute or so then relented. "What do you want to look up, perhaps I can do it for you," she offered.

I went on to explain my quest.

"I can save you a trip to the church," she announced. Why I didn't just ask her I don't know, little gets past Nettie, even if it was sixty odd years ago!

I sent Casey with a note to the Hall.



February 22nd 1896

Dear Mr Larabee,

My search of the parish records have confirmed what you suspected and were in fact just to back up what my housekeeper, Mrs Wells, has told me. Mrs Wells has lived in the village all her life, and there is little village scandal, however old, that escapes her. Sir Ezra's grandfather, Sir Charles, had a younger brother, John. This I can confirm from the parish records. According to Nettie he ran away with a girl of ill repute and was lost at sea. However as far as she can remember no bodies were ever found, at least none she ever heard about. I have duties to attend to here, but I will return to the Hall tomorrow morning. Please tell Dr Wilmington I will bring more medical supplies.

Yours Josiah Sanchez



February 21st 1896

College Archives,
Imperial College,

Dear Sir,
             Further to your enquiry regarding the discovery and classification of the lichen, Septum Stella Aureus. This sub species is peculiar to the uplands of south Devonshire and its discovery is credited to a Mr John Standish. I have no further information on him. I hope this is of some assistance in your work.

Your servant,

                     Horace T Brailsford,

                                                      Chief Archivist, Imperial College.



February 22nd 1896

I find it hard to believe that this is the same day, so much has happened. I arose so much later than I had planned. Nathan informed me that Mr Larabee and Dr Wilmington have gone out riding but return at one for lunch. Since it was gone twelve by the time I had bathed, shaved and dressed I went to the oak room to see young Tanner. He was asleep, his brother watching over him.

"Morning sir," he whispered, a smile lit up his face.

"Good morning JD, how is your brother?" I asked.

"Oh he's doing very well, so Dr Wilmington tells me, he hardly has any fever and he isn't in too much pain. Not that he would tell us if he was…" There he seemed to run out of words.

I see the love in his eyes, hear it in his voice, I know what he did for his brother, what he risked. In my whole life I have never loved anyone I would risk that much for, and it wasn't just him. The Jacksons risked everything to help him, why? They had never met him; JD is no relative of theirs, yet they risked their very liberty to help him. My ever-loving mother would not have lifted one finger in the same situation, as she has shown me that on numerous occasions. Would I risk my liberty, maybe my life, for anyone, for mother? Look what happened when I tried to help, I gave my old clothes to Tanner and it almost got him killed. I would do anything to be able to take that back, he is so perfect, I can not bear it that I was responsible for his agony.

Tanner shifted in his sleep, it looked like he was about to wake and, coward that I am, I left him with JD. I am not ready to face him yet, to have him look at me. I don't want him to see in my face what I feel in my heart and be disgusted, I want to have my fantasy of love a little longer.

I joined Larabee and Wilmington for lunch. Over the meal Mr Larabee lay before me the evidence he had collected, it showed, quite unequivocally, that Stubbs is a Standish, my cousin. In the name of avarice he has engineered the death of, by all accounts, a good man, he has caused a young man who he had no quarrel with terrible injures, and now schemes to kill me too. And if the positions were reversed? What would I do for over a million pounds Sterling? How far would I go? Would I kill?


I have done much in the pursuit of money, most of it illegal, but I have never killed, I have never deliberately tried to physically injure someone who was not attempting to injure me or, on occasion, mother. And Stubbs has not just physically injured, he tormented my uncle, causing him mental anguish, over many months, from the evidence of the Jacksons and Dr Sanchez. I am a coward, a play actor, a con man, a gambler, and I freely admit to having 'unnatural' desires toward men - but - I am not, nor have I ever been a killer. It is quite pleasant to find after all these years, that I am not the lowest of the low, I have some - well one - redeeming quality.

There stood before us the decision about tomorrow evening. I had to reply to the invitation Stubbs had left with me last night. Clearly it is a trap; a way to lure me on to the moor alone - for I alone am invited to dine at six, at High Tor House. The problem, as the great detective pointed out, is we have no evidence - none we can use, that is.

We know he claims to have discovered lichen, which was actually discovered by one John Standish, we don't know if he is John Standish or just taking credit for his work. We don't know if John Standish is related to Charles Standish, or even if my great uncle survived his fateful voyage - if indeed he ever took it. We don't know that he has a hound trained to kill me. We don't know if it was he who stole my boot. We know a huge dog attacked Tanner, but even if we could prove it did so because he was wearing my coat, we can't use this evidence with out giving Tanner up - which I will never do. It is all supposition and assumption, what Larabee calls 'circumstantial evidence'. There is nothing for it, I will have to go to dinner with this man and draw him out. For this has to end, I may be a coward but I am, I hope, also a gentlemen, and no gentleman lets others suffer for him.

It took some persuasion, but young JD was eventually dispatched to deliver my acceptance note to Stubbs/Standish. I must confess it was a way to get some time alone with Vincent, even if it is just sitting and watching him sleep. Dr Wilmington seems more optimistic about his chances. JD told me he has been awake much of the morning, another good sign I am told. The bruises on his neck are horrid, and the cuts on his face ugly, but he is beautiful. My heart beats a little faster when I see him, my stomach tightens, I feel my skin flush. It is torture, but the pain is exquisite. I know my passion will always be unrequited, but while I can, I will relish it - pain is so close to pleasure. I am also resolved to help him, to this end I will engage Mr Larabee on his behalf to clear his name. If all else fails I will find him employment on one of my Caribbean properties - JD too if it comes to that. He will be safe there, and I can visit him on occasion. It would be tempting to keep him here, hide him, but he should not be caged, he has to be free. And while he recuperates, I will teach him to read. If he will let me and if I can be that close to him and still retain my faculties, the former seems more likely than the latter at this stage.



February 23rd 1896

Tanner is making excellent progress, when I examined him this morning he was able to move all his fingers and toes. I had feared that some of the tendons were permanently damaged. He can flex his right knee through almost the full extent of its normal movement, the left is more restricted, but I am hopeful. Both arms can be flexed to some degree and he has full use of his hands. His fever remains at between 99.2 and 99.5. I have reduced the morphine and he is tolerating the pain well. I am very glad it wasn't me, I don't think I could have stood it. Ezra has sent for fresh lemons and Rain is going to make lemonade for him. I had asked JD what his favourite foods are, and especially drinks are, as we need to keep him drinking and eating. It is common enough in the army for fit active young men who find themselves bed ridden and inactive to quickly decline and lose interest in food. This can be avoided with some imagination. Ezra seems very eager to help in any way he can, as well as the lemons, he has ordered fresh venison - I get the feeling a fair few Exmoor Red Deer have found there way on to the Dunne family table, and Cadburys chocolates. Where he acquired a taste for such a luxury item, heaven knows but JD insists that he loves them; which it is all to the good because it will encourage him to eat - the boy is far too thin as it is.

Last night was wonderful; we just lay together for a long time, Chris' back to my chest, our naked bodies pressed against each other under a mound of blankets and quilts - for the temperatures have plummeted. We didn't draw the curtains; instead we were able to see the star lit night sky from the bed. Living in London, you forget what a real night sky is like. The Milky Way was clear as a bell, snaking its way over our heads, even with a near full moon, which was behind the house, casting eerie shadows across the lawn disappearing in to the ha-ha and streaking out across the moor beyond.

I could tell Chris had things on his mind, I can feel his mood through his body. I ran my hand over his chest, it wasn't a sexual thing, I just reminded him I was there. Then I nuzzled his neck once or twice before I asked.

"What's on your mind love?"

He said nothing for a long time, but I knew an answer was coming - eventually.

"This place, Dartmoor, if the Devil were to take a hand in our lives - the lives of man, here would be the place to do it." I didn't know what to say, in truth I didn't know what he was on about. "Do you ever think about her?" he finally asked.

When he says 'her' like that he means Sarah; he never says her name. I only met her once, but Chris wrote to me about her so often it was as if I knew her, and Adam. I still have those letters and the pictures he to sent me. The love I see there, the love in his eyes, that is why he can never really love me, why he will never say it, the 'L' word. I can't help loving him. I have been in love with him since I was fourteen years old, he knows that. I know I can't ever have real love, but I am content with what I can get.

"Yes," I finally said, "I think about her sometimes."

"Do I call to her in my sleep?" he asked.

That was a bit of a shock, he's never asked that before. The truth is he used to, but over the years his nightmares and dreams of Sarah have become less frequent, I can't even remember the last one - oh wait yes I can, last August 14th, it would have been Adam's birthday.

"You used to, to both of them," I replied honestly, "but not so much now - not when I'm around anyway. Why do you ask?"

He shifted his weight back, pressing more closely against me.

"Have I ever called her name when we were in bed?" There was a note of real concern in his voice.

"No," I lied, for in truth, in those dark days after I found him in Devonport, he would demand I take him with my mouth or my hand, it was - to him - soulless, and meaningless, and he called out her name when he came. But that, like all things, passed and he hasn't done it in years and years. He has never topped me. I wouldn't mind, I quite enjoy it now and again, but he has never asked or tried. I suspect he is worried he will compare it to making love to Sarah. It makes no never mind to me, I still love him, and still want to make love to him.

"Good," he said, and I felt him relax a little. "Buck, I…that is, what I mean is…. us, I need us." He didn't say any more, but that didn't matter, that is by far the most commitment that I have had from him.

I let my other hand drift down, very slowly, just letting it ghost over him, barely touching him. Finally when I reached his groin, I closed my hand around his shaft. To my surprise, he was already more than half hard - I always said he was wanton. I took my time, no heavy pressure, no squeezing, no slight wringing motion - he loves that, he comes almost instantly if I do it. No, I took it very steadily, slowly, gently, just stroking him up and down. We were generating quite a lot of heat under those blankets and his shaft was soon slick with perspiration. I felt the heat rise in my hand and spread out through his body, still pressed close to mine. I have no notion how long it took, time was immaterial then, but eventually, as I lay gently kissing his back, keeping the rhythm of my hand steady, I felt him tense. His breathing came in short gasps, and he suddenly had a death grip on my other arm where it lay over his chest. Then in the same silence that had proceeded it, he came, shooting all over my hand and his belly.

For a long time he just lay there, panting, his hands still gripping my arm, thought he was no longer endangering the circulation. He must have finally regained enough of his senses to feel my erection pressing into the small of his back. I wasn't looking for relief, this was about his needs, but - the damn thing has a mind of its own!

"You?" he suddenly said. I assured him I was fine, and didn't need anything. "No, no that's not right, I need to take care of you." Need - he said need! He needs to do something for me, not want, when he wants to do it, it is for his needs, no he 'needed' to do this for me. This is not like when I get into one of my black melancholy moods, this is different - though in truth I can't put down on paper why, because I don't fully understand it - but I feel it.

He reached behind himself and took my hand; gently he pulled it over to his own buttocks. "Get me ready," he instructed breathily.

My hand was still slick and sticky with his seed, so I did as he wanted, slipping my index finger in to that oh so tight, hot passage. There was no resistance, I worked it gently before I added a second finger, he stiffened just for a second and then relaxed. Sometimes I scissor my fingers, but last night I just moved them together. Keeping the tips almost still I moved the top of my hand in an ever increasing circle, slowly stretching him. He decided when it was enough, slipping off my hand and rolling over to face me. He pushed gently on my shoulder and I obediently rolled over onto my back. Once he had straddled me, keeping the blankets over his shoulder - for in truth it was very cold now, and there was no way either of us was about to get up and put more wood on the fire, he bent his head to my shaft. This was not sexual as such, he wasn't trying to bring me to climax with his mouth, not this time, he was just getting me slick and wet with his mouth. Once he judged I was ready he sat up and moved his lean hips, thigh muscles bulging to position himself over my shaft, which was now standing fully to attention. Using his own hand to help guide him, he lowered himself down on to me, taking the whole length in one smooth move. He hissed as his tight spot was breached.

"Hurt?" I asked.

"Only good hurt," he assured. Then he began to move, slowly, gently, he too was in no hurry. It felt so good; I lay there gazing at him, the limited illumination from the window picked out his body in pale light and deep shadows, which showed up his fine muscles. As he became more engrossed in what he was doing he arched his back and rose up and than slid down me. The blankets fell away to pool around him as he was taken by the rhythm of the moment. I was so close I was having trouble concentrating, I could feel the heat rising, my body hummed with its own power, rising ever closer to the point where I no longer had control over any part of it or its functions. His hands were massaging my chest, but I hardly noticed. I reached out vaguely aware I needed something to hold on to, as I groped aimlessly for his thigh or the sheets, his hands captured mine and held on to me as I climaxed, shooting straight up into him, my hips jerking off the bed repeatedly. Finally I was aware of his face close to mine, warm breath on my face, fingertips stroking the side of my face.

"Hello," he said softly. I think I said 'hello' back, I can't be sure. I'm fairly sure I thanked him but to be honest I only have fairly fuzzy memories of that moment. I think we slept as we were, him lying across me, me still inside him.

When I woke he had already left the bed. He was dressed in a nightshirt and my robe, sitting by the fire which now blazed in the grate.

"Morning sleepy head," he called cheerily. "Nathan is bringing coffee, so you may want to cover up a bit." He stood and tossed me my nightshirt. "And he's filling a bath - in the scullery, he offered to bring the water and the bath up here, but I said we were used to roughing it." I was still only half awake at this point and thus only understood half of what he was saying but I got the gist of it.

Since Ezra was not yet up, after breakfast we again went for a ride. I like the grey, he may be a carriage horse but he had a good turn of speed and character, I fear the bay is too docile for Chris' tastes. As we did yesterday, while trying to look just like two gentlemen out for a ride we managed to traverse the path between the Hall and High Tor House twice, getting a feel for the lay of the land.

At lunch Chris outlined what we know, what we can prove and what we only suspect. And what we can prove is precious little. Ezra will dine tonight at High Tor House. Chris believes that Stubbs will want him on foot and will manufacture some way to prevent him riding back. I suggested he may 'wire' the horse. For once I had hit upon some nugget of information the great Christopher Larabee didn't know, though once I started to explain it Ezra said he knew of the technique but by a different name. You remove one shoe and secure a thin wire around the hoof - it is difficult to see especially in poor light - so that it presses onto the frog as the horse walks, naturally feeling this unaccustomed pressure the horse picks up its foot as if lame, thought in fact no damage has been done. Chris agreed this was likely but did not rule out the possibility that he may do something more drastic. Since Ezra has become attached to Chaucer, he refuses to risk him and will ride the bay. I have to admit I am glad he didn't choose the grey.



February 23rd 1896

I sent JD out again this afternoon, to exercise Chaucer. This was a good way to get rid of him and spend some more time with Tanner. Vincent was asleep again; he sleeps beautifully, no snoring, no dribbling, just peaceful slumber. What would it be like to lie beside someone who sleeps so exquisitely?

"Albert Vincent Tanner," I said out loud. "I know you can't hear me, but I have to say this to you anyway - for tonight I go to beard the lion in his den. I go to confront the villain who is responsible for your current suffering. And if I do not return I need to know I have told you how I feel. I love you Vin; I have since I first saw you. You are the most perfectly beautiful man I have ever seen; your hair is like the finest silk, your eyes are bluer than a summer sky. If I could have you I would be happy forever, for you I would give up everything. I know this is fantasy. If you were awake you would be disgusted, if you were fit you would probably hit me, and if you were a free man you would have me arrested. But I am what I am, as God made me, I have tried to be other than what I am, but I can't. Know than that I will do what ever it takes to protect you, now and forever. For you are the light of my life, my one and only, my true one, my love."

Just as I stopped speaking Dr Sanchez entered the room with his bag; I, somewhat flustered, made my excuses and left the room. I have one last thing to do before I go and change for this evening. I pray it is a precaution only. I have faith in Mr Larabee, and the others. Dear God how have I come to this? What possessed me to leave America? "Money Ezra, always follow the money" Well I followed it mother, more money than all your schemes and scams could ever have produced, more money than I ever imagined I could have. And I could lose everything as fast as I found it. Is it worth it? Would I rather be poor but alive and free? Yes - I suppose everyone would - but I no longer have the option, not matter where I run to, I suspect that man would follow me. Perhaps he is mad? Men have lost their reason over far less. Money, they say, is the root of all evil and it is surely living up to its reputation in this place.



I Ezra P Standish, being of sound mind do here by will and bequest all my worldly goods as detailed in this document.
To Thomas Nettles, also known as Old Tom, the sum of £2000.
To Mr Christopher Larabee, the sum of £2000.
To Doctor John 'Buck' Wilmington, the sum of £2000.
To Mr John 'JD' Dunne, his family and dependants the sum of £10,000
To Mr and Mrs Nathan Jackson, all my properties, holdings and business in the Caribbean.
To Doctor Josiah Sanchez, I leave Standish Hall and all its contents (with the exception of the jewellery, which is to be distributed as detailed), its grounds and all land, property and estates in the United Kingdom.
The residual of my disposable income I leave to my mother Mrs Maude Standish.
The family jewellery is to be distributed thus.
Mrs Rain Jackson to have first choice of the jewels - sets of matching jewels to be treated as one item. Mrs Jackson may choose three things. Mr Dunne may then choose six items of female jewellery for him and his family. My mother is to receive the remaining jewels. Of my own and my late uncles rings, watches and studs, these are to be distributed among my friends as Dr Sanchez deems fit.

Signed this day February the 23rd 1896

Ezra P Standish

Witnessed by Thomas Nettles
X his mark



February 23rd 1896

I returned to the hall the next day. Dr Wilmington asked me to check Tanner for him; he wants a second opinion, since he is doing so well Buck is beginning to doubt his findings. For a really good doctor, Wilmington seems to doubt his abilities a lot, it's a shame, he is very, very good at what he does - well from what I have seen, which is admittedly very little.

As I approached the room I could hear Sir Ezra speaking, his voice - that accent - is quite distinctive, though I couldn't tell what he was saying. As I entered he stopped and, after greeting me, left hurriedly. I was a little surprised to find the patient asleep, but then considering how I believe Ezra feels about Tanner maybe he feels he can only speak to him while he sleeps. However as I sat down Vin opened his eyes.

"How long have you been awake?" I asked, wondering what poor Ezra had said thinking him asleep.

A smile came upon that battered face, a smile that lit up his whole face in a way I have never seen before - not even when he first saw JD did he smile like that - and he said.

"Long enough."

I wonder, maybe there is hope for Ezra's dreams yet. As I suspected Wilmington has no reason to doubt his abilities, Tanner is very lucky, that is all. Lucky that he was found so soon, lucky that Buck and Nathan were on hand to save him. Lucky that Wilmington is so experienced with his kind of injures. Lucky he appears to have the constitution of an ox or should that be a rat. It's not that I think he is a rat, but surely living and thriving in filth, rats must have a very high resistance to infection - like Tanner. God I'm rambling here. I just want this over. I'm writing this now to while away the time before we must all leave. Time has stood still I swear it, in Parliament Square right now the masses gaze up at Big Ben in amazement as the great clock stands frozen.




February 24th - 25th 1896

If I don't write this down I will never get it all straight in my head, as I sit here, for the very first time in my life I found my hand shaking as I picked up my pen. Even now I can't fully come to terms with what has happened. I must set it down, plot it out logically - for if I do not have my logic, I have nothing. It has been logic that has preserved my sanity. By embracing logic over emotion, I have survived the unsurvivable. Yet even now it deserts me.

Ezra set out just after six, he rode the bay. We - myself, Buck and Sanchez, followed on foot at a safe distance, since it was more than possible Stubbs was watching out for his victim. I was confident while he was on horseback he was safe. Josiah insisted on coming with us, I was opposed. Buck and I know our job; we were both in the military once. But Sanchez insisted.

"Henry," that was the first time he had said 'Henry' without the 'sir', "was my particular friend, and I will have a hand in the downfall of his murderer and keep my promise to him to watch out for his heir." His use of the word 'particular' bore out our theory that he and Sir Henry were lovers. He is a big man, a country doctor who does a good deal of walking and riding, and thus is fairly fit. Moreover he is not a man who it is easy to say no to. When he wants to be, the good doctor can be most imposing. He has in effect been widowed. I of all people know what it is like to lose your family, your lover, your best friend, not to fate or the hand of whatever God you believe in, but to the evil that men do. I know the rage, the hopelessness, the feeling that you are powerless. If it were Sarah and Adam's killer out there no power on this world or the next would keep me from him!

Buck and I were armed with our service revolvers, the doctor with his shotgun. I was about to ask if there was a revolver in the house Ezra could carry, when from nowhere he had a tiny twin barrel pistol in his hand.

"A Derringer sir," he explained, " not very accurate but powerful enough." The tiny gun was attached to a spring-loaded device that strapped to the underside of his right arm under his jacket. By flexing his arm muscles he can deliver the weapon into his hand, very useful!

If the night had been as it was last night everything would have gone to plan, but Dartmoor is the devil's playground alright, for he sent a fog to confound us. When Ezra left it was clear and bright, the near full moon illuminating the moor. If it had not been, I would not have let him start out. By the time the three of us left, fog was already forming in the hollows. We walked in near silence, each of us glancing around at the ever thickening fog and straining to hear the slightest noise. At one point we thought the hound was following us, but it turned out to be a lone pony. Buck scared him away with a few well aimed pebbles - it was for his own good. The fog thickened, and it got colder, the damp seeping into our clothing and numbing the senses. Once we neared the house we circled away from the path to try to see into the windows of the principal rooms. One was well illuminated but although the curtains were drawn back the glass was misted up and we could see only shadowy figures moving in the room. Time passed slowly, we huddled in the cold outside, miserable and damp, but we would not have exchanged places with Ezra, his lot was far more uncomfortable. Seven o'clock came and went, then eight.

"Courage Sir Ezra," I heard Sanchez whisper, willing the young baronet to venture forth upon his perilous journey home.

As if in answer to his plea, the door opened, light spilled out onto the cobbles in front of the house. As we watched Stubbs fetched the horse, which was clearly lame. There was conversation and the horse was led back into the stables. Ezra shook hands with his host and then stepped through the gate and onto the moor. I clearly saw him take a calming breath before stepping out. That was our cue. Buck turned and left. He was to walk ahead of Ezra, close enough to hear trouble but far enough ahead that if Stubbs was watching he wouldn't be seen. In this, the fog was our ally for it meant Buck could be much closer than we had anticipated. Dr Sanchez and I followed, but we had to fan out and keep back from the path where Stubbs could not see us. In the fog, over the rough ground with no lamp we were hard pressed to keep up with Ezra, who was walking quickly - and who could blame him. Nevertheless we had our guns ready and could hear his footfall and tuneless whistling.

The creature came out of nowhere. It cut across in front of me so fast I almost didn't register what it was. I had an impression only of a huge dark mass streaking in front of me. There was the sound of its breathing and a strong 'hound' odour, its huge paws making dull thumps on damp turf as is sped past. And then before I could shout a warning, I heard Ezra cry out, there was the report of what must have been his Derringer, because it didn't sound like Buck's revolver. There was a canine yelp but the snarling and cries of pain did not stop. I was running now, shouting to everyone. I could hear the others approaching but Ezra was suddenly silent. When I arrived on the scene Buck was already there, his revolver trained on the dog.

"Shoot it!" I bellowed.

"I can't get a shot, I'll hit Ezra," he shouted back.

"Oh hell," I said - well I think I said it, I certainly thought it. Then I ran forward and grabbed the beast's tail and pulled. I shouted at it, I even kicked it to get its attention. The hound swung its huge head around and snapped at me as I let go of its tail and jumped back. In that second I heard Buck's gun, the dog yelped, and turned to Buck, but it didn't go down. It was preparing to charge Buck when Josiah's shot gun exploded. The creature was literally lifted up off the ground by the force of the blast, landing in a tangled blooded mass across Ezra's legs. It twitched, and I shot it myself, after that it lay still. As I recall it now, it was a large dog, the size of a Great Dane, its coat - what there was left and not covered in blood, was mostly black with some tan, it's ears were cropped into points and strangely its hackles seemed to grow backwards.

Buck was pulling the body off Ezra as Josiah just stared at it, the shotgun still in his hands.

"Help," Buck called, "I need help here."

We were both galvanised into action. I took over pulling the carcass away, while the two doctors tended to Ezra. It was only after I had briefly examined the dog's body, that I realised Ezra wasn't moving.

"Is he…?" I asked.

"He's alive, " Buck confirmed. "Looks like he hit his head on a boulder in the struggle, he's got some bites on his shoulder, but this heavy coat took a lot of damage - probably saved his life."

I told the two doctors to get him back to the Hall, while I went in search of Stubbs. Buck protested that it was too dangerous to go alone, Josiah that he wanted to be there when Stubbs was brought down. But Ezra needed to be got back to the Hall as fast as possible and while they are both strong men, over rough ground, at night in the fog, it was going to take the both of them - and they knew it. The Hippocratic oath won out and they concentrated on getting Standish ready to be moved, while I headed back to High Tor House. Stubbs had undoubtedly heard the shots, so I knew he would be ready for me.

The house was in darkness as I approached; even the lamp that had hung in the stable was out. With my gun at the ready I crept into the stable. The bay mare watched me from a stall, another horse, a blaze faced black, tried to bite me as I passed. There was no one and no sign of a kennel. It was then that I realised what a fool I had been. The hound didn't come from the house. It cut across my path, so he must have been keeping it some place on the tor. No doubt there are caves up there, and when there is time I shall seek out the place he used to house the poor creature. It was very thin, the dog, thin and no doubt much abused to make it so vicious. Stubbs I realised must have left the house almost as soon as Ezra to release the hound. On hearing the shots he must have headed in that direction to see what had happened. What a fool I was.

I ran back toward the bloody scene I had just left. Slowing as I approached I saw a figure prodding the corps with his boot, he had a gun.

"It's over Stubbs or is it Standish? John Standish?" I called, "You can't win, you'll never get the money, even if he dies, you won't get a penny."

He ducked down, gun at the ready.

"Maybe so, but I will have the title and I shall have my revenge on the family that drove my grandfather into poverty and exile just because they didn't like his choice of bride." His voice sounded unnatural, too fast, -madness?

"Sir Ezra didn't do that, nor did Sir Henry, they are innocent." As I spoke I edged around the small cluster of boulders I was hiding behind to get a better view of him without exposing myself.

"They're all guilty, all of them, with their money and there so called high morals. Hah! morals - do you know what 'Lord bountiful' darling of the Devon county social scene was up to with that damn Dago medic? Do you?"

"Yes." I answered, taking the wind out of his sails.

"And doesn't it disgust you?" When I didn't answer he continued. "It's vile, repugnant, a sin against God and nature, it's…it's…he deserved to die, all of them, that kind, the doctor, he'll be next, after Standish." If I needed more proof he was mad I had it now - not that I could use it, and as to his views on love between men, well 'methinks he doth protest too much'. I almost had the drop on him, when a sudden patch of particularly thick fog rolled in; I couldn't see so much as the hand in front of my face. All I could do was wait and listen and hope it would clear. When it did he was gone; I could hear his footfalls moving away from me. As I set out to follow I became aware that it was increasingly wet under foot. Mrs Jackson's warnings about the mires came back to me, and just as they did Stubbs voice drifted to me through the fog.

"This is Hound mire, I've seen ponies drown in here, oh they struggle, sometimes for hours, but it sucks them down eventually. I know the safe path, I can do it blind folded, but you? Oh no you are doomed to fail, farewell Mr Larabee." His parting gift was a shot, he was shooting blind but I heard it pass me.

Slower now I pressed on, feeling my way with my toes, looking for heather, rather than cotton grass. It was slow going in the pale, fog-filtered moonlight, ahead of me I occasionally heard a wet footfall. Then there was an anguished cry of total horror.


It took time to find him; I was in no hurry to drown in a Devon bog! I could hear him ahead of me, calling for help, and the squelching sucking sound. For all his boasting it was he who had fallen into the mire. It is one thing to claim you can do something blindfold, and another to actually do it. When I finally reached him he was up to his chest in the clawing black soup, every time he tried to reach the relative stability of a mound of heather he sank a fraction of an inch further down.

"Get me out!" he shrieked hysterically. My first instinct was to reach for him; I was half way there, holding out my hand to him when I stopped. "I can't reach, you have to get closer," he urged, but I stood up. "What are you doing?" he asked, making a feeble attempt to get to me and only sinking himself deeper.

"Why should I save you?" I asked.

"You have to - please, you have to, in the name of God, please." he pleaded.

"In the name of God?" I stormed. "How dare you call upon the name of God? After the evil you have perpetrated, you expect me to save you in God's name - God will not have you, he will turn you away," I taunted.

And all the time I asked myself why should I save him? So he can hang? But would he? The evidence was thin, mostly circumstantial, nothing rock solid; the dog wasn't even living at his property. Is death by dog counted as murder, after all Sir Henry died of heart failure? And if it did go to open court, what would he say about Sir Henry and the doctor? No, Josiah couldn't go through all that. I could not let this man go on hurting people. When Buck suggested I become a detective I had thought he meant join the police, I should have known he knew me better than that. I could never be a policeman, that means enforcing the law - and that is not what I want. I want justice - justice and the law are not the same thing at all. If I ever find out who murdered my family, I do not want the vagaries of the law to deal with them - I will deal with them, and no one else!

My thoughts were broken into by another plea from Stubbs as he sank lower. "Please, I beg you man, please, not like this."

"No," I said, "I will not save you. You turned nature against your fellow man, now it will have you. You think just because your grandfather was disinherited you have the right to exact revenge on his heirs?" I thought of Buck, of the taunts he endured at school, of the giggles and whispers behind his back, the real curtsies that he finds embarrassing and the mock curtsies he endures in silence. And Ezra, for all his airs and graces he is not a man used to high living, I get the feeling life has been fairly tough on young Ezra, his father was also disinherited after all. That damn family has no luck at all! Maybe it is cursed, but the devil's hound is in the heart of his men folk, not out here on the moor. For all their hardships, their social unacceptance, Buck and Ezra are good men; they do not seek revenge on innocent people for long past wrongs. The law may not call Sir Henry's death murder or the attacks on Sir Ezra and young Tanner attempted murder, but I do, and the penalty for murder is death.

"Well to hell with you!" He yelled and suddenly I was facing the gun I had forgotten he had. I had no time to bring my own weapon to bear as he fired. I ducked down, expecting to feel the bullet tear into me, but nothing happened, as I looked on in horror I realised his gun's barrel had become clogged with the bog peat and had backfired into his face. He screeched and reeled back clutching his face, now a bloody mess, the sudden movement caused him to be sucked down faster and he began to sink. Too injured to do anything but clutch his face he did nothing to stop his descent, his last sound before he disappeared below the muck was half-strangled moan.

I had no time to ponder how prophetic this was, the moor he had made his ally in his private creation of hell, had claimed him in the most hellish way. But as I say I could not ponder that at the time as the ground I stood on pitched forward suddenly. I believe now that it was an overhanging turf, undermined by the mire, my weight and sudden movements had weakened it and it gave way, pitching me into the deep clawing bog. For a few seconds I struggled, until I remembered the warnings I had been given, that movement only hastens death. All I could do was stay still and pray someone came to search for me. I called for help, my voice carrying over the still moor.

"Keep calling, I'm coming," the voice was Buck's and from the sound of him he must have been close - too close as it turns out.

I called, Buck answered and eventually he found me.

"What took you so long?" I asked.

Buck just smiled. "Had to make sure we could get out of here, just like Hansel and Gretel don't you know."

He can be annoyingly cryptic at times, but then I am no one to talk on that matter. He removed his belt and kneeling on safe ground threw it to me. Eventually he managed to pull me to safety, no mean feat with the bog trying to suck me back in all the time. We both lay on the close cropped turf and heather, panting and coughing.

"Hell," I panted, "that was too close."

"Stubbs?" he asked.

"Dead," I confirmed.

"Good," was his only response.

Eventually we pulled each other up - I should have known then, how did I not know? Buck, I found, had used his clasp knife to cut his handkerchief into strips, which he had tied to the heather as he passed so we could negotiate our way out of the bog. So centred on that were we, that I didn't notice him limping until we were well on our way back. At first it was just a limp, he dismissed it, but it quickly got worse and he was dragging his left leg. If it had not been for the fog, we could have seen the house when he stumbled and fell. He just lay there, making no attempt to move, breathing in short gasps through clenched teeth. I dropped to my knees beside him. I was about to ask what was wrong, when I realised he was clutching his thigh. My own hand went instantly to the same point, and as soon as it did I felt the unmistakable, warm stickiness of fresh blood.

"What the hell?" I breathed. I was going to ask him what had happened when I realised he was now unconscious, the hands clutching the bloody leg went slack.

I am not a man who panics; I have never panicked, not even when confronting the charred ruins of my home. But I am not ashamed of the wall of sheer fear and total uncontrollable panic that came over me, I can carry Buck, but not far and not very fast, and I had no real idea what was wrong. After begging him not to leave me, I pulled my gun and fired three evenly spaced shots into the air and prayed someone at the Hall heard and understood. Than I set about trying to see where all the blood was coming from.

By the time JD rode up on the pony, I had found a hole in Buck's thigh large enough to get my finger into and fashioned a bandage from my shirtsleeves. At the time I shouted at the poor boy for bringing the pony not a horse. Now I know why, at night, in the fog, a horse could easily put a foot in a rabbit hole, the native ponies are naturally sure footed, with an instinctive feel for the moor, he was right and I was wrong, I will apologise to him.

JD explained that Doctor Sanchez had used the billiard table, with its powerful overhead lamps, as an operating table, just as Buck had. So that is where we carried him, shouting as we came. There was no need, Nathan and Josiah were there waiting. I was carrying Buck's shoulders, JD his legs. Nathan stepped up.

"Let me have him sir," he said. I refused.

I could not bear to be separated from Buck. I wanted to touch him, to maintain contact. Until I saw him, lying unmoving on the turf I had not ever considered that Buck would be taken from me, that I could lose him like I lost Sarah. I have never been so scared in all my life, I was afraid I was about to lose something I didn't even realise I had, I could still lose it, I'm still terrified.

"Sir, you're filthy, you can't come in like that," Nathan explained. I didn't register what he was saying, I had forgotten I was covered in the mud and filth from my dunking in the mire. I remember protesting that I had to stay with him, and refusing to let go. Than huge hands were on me, strength in the grip I have never experienced before, they physically pulled me from my Buck.

"Let go," Sanchez commanded, "go to the scullery, wash, put some clean clothes on, come back in your shirt sleeves."

There was something about his tone, something that demanded attention. Finally I tore my eyes away from the seemingly lifeless but oh so precious one in my arms, and looked at him, I don't know for how long I stared at him before I nodded at him and let Jackson take him.

I have never washed or change so fast in all my life. But I was thorough, I do not want to hurt him further by giving him some kind of infection, I scrubbed my fingernails with a small coarse brush I found until the tips of my fingers bled - I hardly noticed. I never in all that time so much as gave a thought as too how Ezra was. I didn't even tell Sanchez that Stubbs was dead. I had but one thought. Buck, my Buck. When I returned he had been stripped of his clothing, and lay on his back on the billiard table - it will need new baize that is for sure. He was covered with a sheet, but for his left leg. A folded towel had replaced my crude dressing and the strong arm of Nathan Jackson - now wearing a starched white apron and rolled sleeves. Sanchez was laying out instruments on the edge of the table. As I watched the thick towel Nathan held was already half saturated in blood.

"Can I help?" I asked, my voice so low and horse I hardly recognised it.

"Can you do as I tell you?" the doctor asked. I said I could. "Can you do it without question, no matter what?" I said yes and prayed it was no lie. "Then be ready to take over from Nathan."

I looked at him and nodded. Then I walked around Jackson to be ready. Buck lay there, deathly pale, his lips almost blue.

"Chris." The voice was but a breath, not even a whisper, but I heard him, how could I not recognise that voice? Instantly I dropped down to be able to hear him.

"No morphine, you promised…" he took a shuddering breath, then continued, "love you…" with that his eyes fluttered and closed.

I looked up in desperation at the doctor, he placed his fingers on Buck's pale neck, and I saw reassurance in those kind, pale blue eyes.

"What did he say?" Nathan asked.

"He reminded me not to give him morphine." Nothing else was relevant.

Sanchez asked why and I quickly explained how he had broken an arm in India, and took a small measure of the drug - it almost killed him. He told me he couldn't breathe and his heart began to beat erratically, as he explained it, he was out in the countryside, doctoring to the villagers when it happened. He was treated by a local 'doctor' come medicine man. He doesn't know what the man gave him, but it saved his life. Since then he has avoided morphine as all costs. And he has been very lucky; I can't ever remember him being seriously injured or ill since he came back from India.

"I daren't use ether, his breathing is too shallow already, so, weak as he is, be ready to hold him down," the good doctor warned.

I have seen field surgery performed. I saw a man once, trapped by a boiler explosion, have both legs amputated - he was conscious the whole time, but it is not the same. I held the towel down, so Nathan could get ready, then we went to work. He did feel it. His head rolled, he groaned, pain etched in his face, though his eyes never opened. I wanted to say stop, don't hurt him, but I didn't. I only realised when Buck tried to roll away from the pain that it was Jackson and not Josiah who was actually working on the wound and probing for the bullet. Josiah had admitted he was no surgeon, any protest I was about to make however was silenced by the sound of metal hitting china as Nathan dropped the blood covered misshapen hunk of lead into a bowl beside him.

"Got it," he breathed, with grim satisfaction.

That one shot Stub's fired at me through the fog, the shot I heard pass me, must have hit Buck. It would have been at almost terminal velocity, for it didn't pass through and it made a large wound so it had little spin left. Oh God how cruel is fate. One shot. Just one, and it had to hit Buck - who, being the man he is - said nothing as he pulled my sorry carcass to safety. Damn him! How dare he? He isn't a god, he knows better than most the danger he was in, why didn't he say something, why didn't he stop and put on bandage or a tourniquet sooner? Blood, there was so much blood.

I heard Nathan mutter something about a 'nicked artery' and 'bone chip' then both men were working on the wound. Buck was spent. He no longer moved or made a sound so I let go of his shoulders and held his hand, whispered in his ear, words of courage, words of need and finally I said it, it was but a whisper, I didn't plan it, it just happened, but I said it.

"I love you Buck Wilmington, don't you leave me."

I have no idea of how long I stood there with his pale hand in mine; stroking his hair and whispering in his ear, but suddenly Josiah's hand was on my shoulder.

"Son, we're done for now." I nodded. "Did you mean it?" he asked me, "Because now is not the time to lie to him."

"Mean what?" I asked.

"That you love him, did you mean it?" I was stunned, first that he had heard me - but then I wasn't in my right mind and won't be until I know he is out of danger, so I may have shouted it for all I know - and secondly that he was so calm. My first thought was to deny I even said it, but my protest died on my lips at the look in those kind and gentle pale blue eyes, eyes that understand the fear that grips my heart, eyes that have had that fear realised in the worst possible way.

"Yes I meant it," I admitted, thought even now I don't know where the words came from.

"Good, I'm happy for you." I could hear the crack in his voice, and I finally remembered the others.

"I'm sorry Josiah, I should have said - Stubbs…"

"Yes?" he asked quickly.

"…he's dead."

There was a moment of silence, than he asked. "Did he die easy?"

I remembered the panicked and desperate calls for help the cries of agony as he clutched his face and sank below the surface. I shook my head. "No." I confirmed.

He didn't say anything, but I saw in his eyes he was satisfied, he would have liked to have been there, he wanted to kill him personally, but this was good enough. He went on to say that Ezra had a bad concussion and he still hadn't woken, but his bites were not too deep. I had yet to ask about Buck - I admit I was scared to know the truth. Eventually Jackson stepped back from the table, wiping his hands on the already bloody apron.

"Mr Larabee," he began, I looked up, forcing myself to look away from Buck, "that bullet, it clipped a main artery in his leg, that's why he lost so much blood, it also took off a chip from the bone before it stopped."

"The trouble is," Sanchez continued, "wound's like his, bits of cloth, clothing, is forced into the wound as well. We have done what we can to clean it out, but there is a high risk of infection…" He left the statement hanging and I could feel this was not the end of the news and the worst was to come.

"Go on," I encouraged.

"He has lost too much blood, right now his heart is going so fast I can't count it, it's trying to keep what blood he has left going around his body, and it can't keep doing that for very long, he's already weak."

"So?" I asked Sanchez, a feeling a dread seeping into me.

"As things stand he will die, but…" I saw him glance at Nathan, "there is something we can try. I've sent JD to my house for some equipment. We can try to replace some of the blood he's lost with saline, that's salt water," I was about to snap that I knew what 'saline' meant but stopped, he was trying to give me hope, any hope, something to hold onto. "It will dilute his blood some, but that is better than not enough. If it works it will give his heart a rest and give his body time to replace the lost blood."

It seemed to take forever for JD to return, I know he took Chaucer, I know he rode as fast as he dare in the fog, but it still took forever. Nathan had gone to the kitchen to get the saline ready, Josiah went upstairs to check on Ezra. I just stood there and stared at him, pale, that was an understatement, he was white, all the more clear against his near black hair and moustache. God how I deceived myself, how I hurt him, for nothing! I tried to say I couldn't love him, because I couldn't love anyone again, I couldn't invest that much of myself again, because if I did and I lost them, there wouldn't be enough left for me to continue to function. And all the time I was in love with Buck, because if he dies - I die. I was right about that, there isn't enough of me, of the me that isn't part of us, isn't part of him, to live. And that has been true for years, I just denied it to myself - which was stupid - and to him - which was unforgiveable - but I will deny it no longer. I was leaning on the table, resting my head on my arms, talking to him when Josiah came in. Moving around to stand at the head of the table, my hands resting on my beloved's shoulders I watched the doctor. His hands trembled as he strapped Buck's left forearm to a splint.

"Are you alright?" I asked.

"I've only done this once, normally it would only be done in a hospital, but we are so isolated here I went to the Royal in Exeter to learn how to do it, I saw it done once, I did it once, and I've never done it since." He was almost talking to himself, it wasn't ideal, but he had made it clear he it was Buck's only chance.

"You will do fine," I assured, "I have faith in you."

Once Nathan was there, they inserted a huge needle into Buck's arm and connected it via a length of rubber tubing to a bottle with a bung in the neck and glass tube protruding from it. This bottle had an opening - secured with a second bung at the other end, as well as a handle enabling it to be hung up. Nathan set the library steps beside the table and hung the bottle from it. Now I understood, gravity would drain the fluid from the bottle into his vein.

It's dawn now; he's on the third bottle. We moved him to our room, and propped him up some; Josiah is worried about his lungs. He's still pale, he hasn't moved or opened his eyes yet, but Sanchez says his heart rate has slowed. I pray - me praying, now there is a first, but like Ezra says, you never know - I pray he will wake soon, that this will work, and that he doesn't take a fever. He's so weak it's as if he isn't here. That is not my Buck, my Buck is strong, he is loud, he loves life - all life, he is brave and a tower of strength, both physical and moral. This is but a shadow of my Buck, a pale reflection of the man I love. Where are the eyes that sparkle like sapphires? Where is the ready smile? Where is the laugh that makes you smile no matter what you're feeling? I need my Buck back; I need him more than I can say.

Much as I want and need to be with him, for all our sakes I must rest and then prepare to face the local constabulary - at all costs I must keep the investigation small and brief.



February 25th 1896

He's dead, Stubbs, dead and in a mire - where he belongs. No nice Christian burial for him, no nice sanitised end, no marker, no mourners, nothing but a bog on a windswept moor, where no one will find him and no one will care. Larabee told me he died hard, I hope he suffered as my Henry suffered, I hope he was terrified, I hope he knew he was going to die, I hope he was in agony.

I have never seen anything like that dog, it was huge. I fancy he bred it especially, I noticed it had the distinctive, back growing hackles of the African Hunting Dogs I encountered in Rhodesia, but it was bigger than any one of them, much bigger. It came out of nowhere, charging past me and into the fog. By the time I found it, it had hold of Ezra, Buck couldn't get a shot at it and so Larabee …Christ I can't believe he did that! Larabee grabbed it by the tail! The man is certifiable! It did the job though, Buck got a shot off, which didn't kill it, actually I think it just made it mad! The damn thing turned on him then and I got a clear line of sight and let it have both barrels. The feeling of satisfaction as I not just despatched it but obliterated it was overwhelming at the time, now I just feel sorry for the poor creature, it was but a pawn in a much larger game. But, there is no more Hound of the Standishs.

Ezra's bites are not that bad, but the head wound worried me. He was unresponsive for hours, though his vital signs remain steady. I had to leave him however, when we heard the shots from the moor. At first we thought we heard a single shot but it was hard to tell, then some time later a second shot, equally far off, then finally a long time later, three shots, clearly a signal. JD set off instantly and returned with Larabee and Wilmington. Buck had been shot and was clearly bleeding out. I have done a lot of doctoring, but I'm a physician not a surgeon, though I have performed surgery in the past, but Nathan is remarkably skilled at this kind of injury, so I told him to lead.

There was no hope for him, unless we could replace some of the lost blood in some way, I tried saline infusion. I learn how to do it for just such an occasion but was so scared as I performed the procedure. It does seem to be working, he's still tachycardic but at least the rhythm has evened out some. His temperature is up a little but the wound is only slightly inflamed, we shall see. He has a lot to live for now, I pray it will be enough. Larabee is at his side constantly, I had my suspicions about them and I have been proved right. I am glad, glad they have each other and glad that at least here they can show that love openly in this time of trials, Wilmington is going to need every last scrap of love and care to pull through this.

I left him with Larabee and returned to Sir Ezra. He still had not woken, and was restless, that lovely brow furrows with lines of fear or pain or both, muttering occasionally, but he wouldn't open his eyes and that worried me. I was sitting beside him, trying to talk to him, to reach him, where ever it is his brain had taken him to hide, when I realised I was not the only one in the room. There in the doorway was Tanner. His bare legs sticking out from under JD's too short nightshirt, bruises and stitches evident for all to see. He was leaning on the doorframe; his less injured right arm cradling the far worse left, which he kept close to his chest. He looked white as a sheet and was trembling slightly.

"Wha's up with 'im?" he asked, and I told him. He listened but said nothing until I had finished. "''S he gonna die?" he enquired. I said if he woke up he would most likely be all right, but he didn't seem to want to come back to us.

Tanner began to move, his steps small, no more than a shuffle really, I thought to stop him, but the look of grim determination on his face told me, 'you can stand beside that young man, you can stand behind him, but don't ever stand in front of him.' Eventually he made it to the bed and I helped him to sit down. For a long time he just sat and stared at the young baronet, then with infinite care he lowered his battered body down to capture the lips below him, pressing a long gentle kiss to them. The he sat back and watched. Nothing happened, so tilting his head to match Ezra's; he repeated the kiss, a little longer this time.

I heard Ezra moan, I saw Tanner pull back again and wait. Eventually those long eyelashes fluttered up and revealed tired, red rimed, jade green eyes. He frowned even more, as he tried to make sense of where he was, who was there and what Tanner had just been doing. Finally he breathed.

"Did you just…?" Ezra asked our convict.

"Ay, I did," Tanner confirmed as he just sat there watching him.

"Why?" Ezra asked, sounding genuinely confused. Why? Why would he not want to kiss someone so beautiful, I was thinking.

Tanner just smiled shyly. "Didn't ya like it?" he finally asked.

"Um, well yes," Ezra admitted.

Tanners smile grew again. "Want me t' do it again?" he asked hopefully.

"I will not deny that while unsolicited, the attention is not unwelcome." At this young Tanner turned to me looking distinctly lost.

"Yes," I translated, "he'd like you to do it again."

And he did, a long slow passionate kiss, it was wonderful to behold. Finally they broke apart, and I noticed young Tanner shivering.

"Come on, back to bed with you," I encouraged.

To his credit he went to stand, when Ezra reached out a shaky hand and placed it on his arm.

"Hur?" Tanner looked at the bed and me and back to the bed, trying to make sense of it all.

"I think, he is saying you will be warmer if you share a bed," I explained tentatively, I couldn't help it, I wanted then to be happy, however briefly, perhaps some of Henry's romanticism has stayed here with me?

Ezra nodded wearily, his eyes already closing. Tanner looked at him with such tenderness, then he shuffled his way around the huge bed to crawl under the covers on the far side. He just lay there, gazing at Standish with undisguised happiness for sometime before his eyes also closed and they were both asleep. Like two fallen angels, battered, broken but unbowed, and still beautiful.

"There you go Henry," I said out loud, "he is safe and maybe, just maybe he can be happy. Though Lord you don't make it easy do you?" I added.



February 25th 1896

Leaving him this morning was the worst thing I have ever done - I swear it. But for all of us it has to be done. I returned to the High Tor House, where I quickly removed any evidence that there had been more than one person there last night. I let the horse, which this time tried to kick me, into the enclosed area around the house. I threw Stub's shotgun into Hound Mire.

Most police officers in my experience are just dull and lacking even a modicum of imagination, some are plain stupid and some reasonably intelligent. If the right evidence is left - not too much mind, just enough, they will come to the conclusion you want them to come to, especially if it is neat and leaves no loose ends. The police like neatness, they like things to have a definite end, preferably one that involves little paper work.

A quick examination of the creatures corpse confirmed what I suspected, any evidence of the wounds inflicted by pistol shot were obliterated by Josiah's shotgun blast. I checked the bay mare; she was missing a shoe but was otherwise uninjured and so I rode her back to the Hall. Once there I handed the reins over to JD and raced up to see Buck - there was no change.

Rain bought me some coffee and sandwiches, some time after that I must have dozed off because I awoke to an argument outside the bedroom door.

"Where is he?" I heard JD demanding.

"He's fine JD, just take my word for it." That was Nathan's voice.

"No, I want to see my brother." By now I was annoyed with them, so I strode to the door and opened it, demanding that they take the argument someplace else.

"But Mr Larabee sir, Vin's missing and no one will tell me where to find him," JD pleaded.

I turned to Jackson. "Is that true, I mean he can't have got far can he?"

Jackson flustered, not something I associated with him, I believe he even blushed, thought it's hard to tell. "Well…the thing is, Mr Tanner has gone visiting you might say," he finally admitted.

There was only one person he could be visiting. "JD stay here," I commanded.

Sure enough I found Tanner asleep in Sir Ezra's bed. I was just standing there when I realised JD had ignored me and pushed past to stand beside me. For a second or two he looked at his brother asleep so peacefully with another man, then he sighed dramatically.

"Is that all," he announced, and with that he returned down stairs to his horses.

"You know Mr Jackson," I said, "there is more to that young man than I gave him credit for."

"So it would seem sir," Nathan added.



February 26th 1896

His fever has gone up, he is restless and in pain and there is nothing I can do to help him, I talk to him, I hold his hand, but there is nothing I can do to make it easier.



February 26th 1896

Wilmington has an infection in his leg, his lungs remain clear, and the infusions are helping him tremendously. Nathan has made up poultices and I hope, even believe, they will keep the infection from spreading. All that can be done is being done; it is up to him and God now.

Ezra and Vin continue to make progress.



February 27th 1896

The mutilated corpse of a huge dog was
discovered on Dartmoor yesterday. Mr Lyons,
of Leigh-on-the-Moor, was out riding when
he made the discovery. The creature is said
to be as large as a small pony. Police stated that
it had been shot with a shotgun, but they did not
know by whom.
There is a legend on Dartmoor of a giant
Hound linked to the Standish family. Recently
there have been a large number of sightings of
the 'hound'. It seems likely that this dog was
mistaken for this so called demonic creature. A
local veterinary surgeon who examined the dog,
stated that it had died between two to three
days ago. Where the dog came from and
why it was loose on the moor remains a mystery.



February 28th 1896

His fever has dropped; I have hope life will go on, for without him there is nothing.



February 28th 1896

Wilmington has turned a corner, the fever has reduced, yesterday it was steady at 103' today it was 101'. Nathan managed to get him to swallow some beef broth, and he is more responsive. The good Lord has smiled on us and on one Buck Wilmington in particular. I do believe it is two lives we are battling to save here, for Larabee will surely die if he loses his doctor.

Today the police had called at the Hall to ask if Sir Ezra would stable Stub's horse. Nathan told them he was indisposed but he would ask. Apparently Ezra was hesitant, but as Vin pointed out the poor animal is innocent, so he said yes. Now that we know even JD has no objections to them getting better acquainted Vin and Ezra are sharing a room; it makes looking after them much simpler. As it turns out, JD has known all along not only about his brother's preferences, but also about my relationship with Henry, he just chose to say nothing. I have always said the boy was smart.



February 28th 1896

I cannot write much, for my arm aches and my head pounds. Vincent has come to me, of his own free will he came to me and restored my senses, he is my saviour. We share the bed, not that we are able to do anything more than sleep, eat and talk. We talk a lot - which is to say I talk and he listens, and just occasionally adds the odd comment and on rare occasions a little snippet of information about himself. I have yet to ask him about his experiences in the prison. I'm not sure I want to know, but I can imagine the fate of a young man, not more than a boy really, in such a place. I have been incarcerated more then once, and I know what can happen to 'pretty boys' all too well. But he is never going back there; I will do anything to prevent that.

He may not say much but when he does speak his innate intelligence is all too obvious. I wonder how it is that an intelligent and no doubt diligent boy like Vin failed to learn how to read, for he tells me he did attend school until he was nearly eleven. I can only imagine the hardships he, his stepmother and young JD had to go through. Poor Mrs Dunne, widowed twice before she was 30! I have learned that they had a large garden behind their small cottage and grew a lot of food, as well as keeping chickens and a pig. Vin admitted poaching on Exmoor, mostly rabbits and pheasants, but also the odd deer. A large red deer would feed them for days, the excess meat being bartered with a local butcher. I have yet to discover who he was accused of killing, he does not volunteer information, but I am determined to discover the truth, there must be some kind of public record of the trial - surely?


Evening Addition

February 29th 1896

Two days ago we reported that the corpse of an unusually
large dog had been found on Dartmoor. Yesterday the
disappearance of Mr John Stubbs, a well known local
naturalist, was announced. Police said that a local shepherd
had gone to investigate when he saw Mr Stubbs' horse
wandering around his isolated house on the moor.
Mr Stubbs was considered somewhat of a recluse, he lived
alone with no staff whatsoever.
Inspector Bradock of the Tavistock police stated that "Mr
Stub's house was found to be abandoned, the remains
of his evening meal still on the table, the state of the food
indicated it had been on the table for some days. However
a shotgun he was known to have was missing, and we
found a case for a pistol and some ammunition, but no gun."
It is speculated that as a man of science, Mr Stubbs,
on hearing the baying of the hound, set out, well armed to
find it and prove it was no spectral beast but flesh and
Mr Lyons who found the hound and who dined with Stubbs
at Standish Hall recently, testified that at dinner Stubbs had
stated that he believed the numerous recent sightings
and reports of the so called 'Hound of the Standish's were
just superstition.
Sir Ezra Standish, newly arrived from America was
indisposed and unavailable to comment.
Mr Stubbs is believed to have no family.



March 1st 1896

I loathed every moment I was away from Buck, however brief, I believe he needs me if he is to beat this. But to help him I must stay clear headed, so after a quick call of nature I took a turn around the garden to clear my head and my lungs, I can't afford to get sick now. I was turning for the house when I heard Nathan calling me from the bedroom window. I set out at a run and when I arrived Nathan was sitting on the edge of the bed; he smiled at me and beckoned me to come quickly.

"He's been calling for you sir," he said, the relief and excitement all too evident in his voice - and reflected in my heart.

Nathan ceded his place to me. "Buck?" I called softly. "Come on old friend open your eyes for me, show me those lovely deep blue eyes, you know how I feel about them." I could tell he could hear me. As I watched, my hand gently caressing his stubble covered cheek, his head moved to the sound of my voice. "That's it, I'm here," I encouraged.

His eyelids fluttered once, twice and then opened. I could tell he wasn't able to focus on anything so I continued to speak softly, those deep blue, eyes, bleary and unfocused as they were, never left my face. Nathan handed me a cup and I held it to his parched lips. Instantly - no doubt on reflex - he swallowed greedily.

"Gently, just a little," I chided. When he had finished drinking he seemed to relax a little. "Welcome back," I said softly, but he frowned and I could tell he didn't know where he was, or remember what had happened. "You were shot and lost a lot of blood," I explained, "the hound is dead, it and Stubbs."

"Dead?" he whispered.

"Yes, it's dead, but you're not, you're here with me." I don't know if I was speaking to him or me at that moment.

"Ez?" he asked.

"Recovering, he'll be just fine, don't go fretting about him, you just relax and concentrate on getting well."

It looked like he was going to drifted back to sleep, but his eyes suddenly seemed to focus.

"Chris?" he asked, I assured him I was right there beside him. "Don't leave." I promised I wouldn't go anywhere. "Had a dream," he whispered, his strength failing him now.

"Tell me in the morning, " I said.

"No, now," he insisted - damn but he's stubborn, even half dead he's stubborn, but then if he wasn't he would be dead so I can't complain, can I?

"Go on then," I finally relented. At some point Nathan must have left the room because I don't remember him being there.

"Dreamt you said it," he said, his raspy voice, stripped of its honeyed softness, was getting weaker and weaker.

"Said what?" I asked, running my fingers through his matted hair.

"Said 'I love you'." He didn't ask if it was true but that was what he meant, 'did you mean it or were you just trying to keep me alive' was what he wanted to know.

"I did and I do." I said, just as his strength left him and his eyes closed.

I don't remember taking off my jacket and tie, undoing my top button, kicking off my boots and lying down beside him, but I must have, for that is how I found myself the next day. As I woke I became aware that Buck looked different, he was shaved, his moustache freshly clipped, his hair slightly damp and neatly combed - well as neat as it ever gets that is - he was even wearing a night shirt. He looked to be asleep but as I shifted to sit up his eyes opened.

"Hello," he said, his voice stronger than before, "welcome back."

I asked how long I was asleep for and he said about 15 hours. I haven't slept for 15 straight hours since - well I don' t think I ever have. I hadn't realised how tired I was, or how long I had gone without sleep or then again maybe I just needed to admit I loved him to be able to sleep?

"You look better," I commented.

"Nathan took good care of me while you slept, he wanted to wake you up to put clean sheets on the bed, but I said no…" He stopped suddenly, pain creased his face, I took his hand, squeezing it gently.

"Alright now?" I asked, as he seemed to relax.

He nodded. "Damn, but a bit of morphine would be nice right now," he admitted. It hadn't occurred to me, that of course he hadn't had anything for the pain in his leg.

"I'll bet," I sympathised. As I watched his head went back against the pillow and his eyes closed. "I still love you," I said softly, he didn't reply but I felt him squeeze my hand.



March 4th 1896

He loves me.


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