A full half-hour after William had been taken away to police headquarters, Moira and Captain Anthony Hunter traveled by cab, south-southwest from the Grassmarket along Candlemaker’s Row. They were bound for a modest – and newly refurbished – building known as the Blake Hospital for the Infirm. More commonly, and simply, called ‘Blake Hospital’.
Blake Hospital was relatively new for hospitals in Edinburgh. Compared with the gray, soot-stained walls of the surrounding buildings, the newer structure practically gleamed in the yellowish, smog-filtered afternoon light with its sand-brown brick walls and rough, charcoal tinted roof tiles. Like many such places in Edinburgh, the building had begun life as the manor home of an affluent mercantile family until its recent purchase by a pair of ambitious doctors. Since then, it had earned its excellent reputation for medical care, with a specialty for dealing with life threatening wounds.
Outside the hospital, the driver pulled back on the reins. With a clatter of horses’ hooves, the cab shuddered once, then bounced gently to a stop. The broad-shouldered cab driver in the black waist coat adjusted his slate-gray knit cap and stepped down from the driver seat to unlatch the small door on the side of the cab.
Anthony Hunter eased out through the open door and onto the sidewalk in front of the hospital steps. Automatically, he moved to one side, clear of the cab’s door. Moira was out of the cab a moment later.
“Do ya think Will’s ok?” Moira asked with an air of concern. “I wouldna have thought askin’ about flowers would keep him so long. I thought for sure he’d be at the White Hart waitin’ on us when we got there from the docks.”
Captain Hunter looked up at the outside of the hospital, as if he were measuring it. “I’m sure he’s safe enough. He’s quite capable of taking care of himself. Besides, at this time of the day, if he runs afoul of anything he’ll seek out a constable for assistance.” The captain turned to give Moira a reassuring smile. “Let’s go check on Thorias and Krumer to see if they are ready to be discharged. If we’re fortunate, they will be.”
The blacksmith sighed while she glanced at the hospital. She tried to put a nagging feeling out of her mind that William actually had run into something he could not handle. Tried, and did not quite succeed. “Aye, Cap’n.”
Hunter and Moira climbed the short set of brick stairs to the front door. The captain pulled open one of the overly tall, wooden double doors to enter. Inside, the view was more utilitarian, with off-white walls and light blue and white tile floors. The entrance was rather spartan, bearing only a few chairs in a small alcove to the right of the front door. A few feet down and slightly to the left, a small rosewood desk had been set up with a pair of tall drawer-filled cabinets against the wall behind it. At the desk sat a young woman, her hair drawn up in a sensible, proper bun atop her sandy-brown hair. She wore a long-sleeved, high-collared white shirt and long, navy blue dress. She smiled politely at both Anthony and Moira when they approached.
“Afternoon to ye both.” The young woman asked with a quick cursory glance at both Moira and Hunter, “Welcome ta Blake Hospital. Me name is Sarah Milligan, be there somethin’ ah can do for ye both?”
Captain Hunter nodded with a polite smile in a return greeting. “Good afternoon to you as well, Miss Milligan. My name is Anthony Hunter, and this is Moira Wycliffe. Some many weeks back, we left two of our companions here – two of my crew actually – for some rest, recovery and medical attention. Word reached us that they should be well enough to be released, so we’ve come to check on them.”
Sarah pushed back from her desk then stood. “Oh, ye’re a captain? Well, it be good to meet ye both. What be the name of ye crew members that ye left here?” She asked politely, walking over to cabinets stuffed with papers.
“Thorias Llwellyn and Krumer Whitehorse. The first was admitted with a fractured rib and the other with a gunshot wound.” Hunter explained. “They’ll be listed as crew of the Brass Griffin. The payment for their care should have already arrived day before yesterday by courier.”
At the mention of their names, Sarah noticeably hesitated. “Oh.” She flashed a nervous smile towards the captain and Moira. “Why, yes. I remember them now.” Quickly she returned to her desk and picked up a stack of papers off the corner there. Sifting through them, she set aside two, in particular.
“Here it is, they are both in room 105.” She said with the hint of an excited smile. “I have a note here also from Dr. Tanner stating that they should be well enough to travel this week. He gave them the good news the other day. So, unless you are wishing to speak to the doctor, you could take them with you … today, even. One might say.”
Hunter and Moira exchanged a curious glance. It was Hunter who spoke first. “Well … thank you Miss Milligan. Which way is room 105?”
Miss Milligan quickly placed the paperwork in a neat stack on her desk. “Oh please, allow me. Right this way.” The young woman stepped out from behind the desk to lead Hunter and Moira down the hall. Sarah set a brisk, but not rushed pace through the hospital hallway until it dead-ended into another hallway that ran both left and right away from the intersection. Miss Milligan stopped, then turned smartly to face Moira and Anthony.
“Room 105 is down the hallway to your right.” Sarah said politely, offering another of her pleasant smiles while she gestured down the hallway. “There, just at the end of the hall.”
Just then, from the direction she had indicated, a shout was heard.
“Confound it!” Thorias’ frustrated exclamation echoed in the air, despite the closed door.
“Confound it yourself, Sirrah!” Was the immediate reply in Krumer’s deeper, rumbling voice.
Hunter glanced over to Sarah and noticed the young woman’s forced smile and desperate, yet hopeful look in her eyes. The ghost of a smirk danced across the captain’s face. He had known Krumer and Thorias too long not to understand what the young woman was really hoping would happen.
“I have heard it said before that a doctor does make quite the terrible patient.” Hunter said lightly.
Sarah blushed despite her valiant attempt to remain professional and cordial. Moira grinned at the embarrassed young woman. “Don’ fret over it. We know what yer aimin’ at. They can make a porcupine look downright friendly.”
“Uhm, yes, indeed, Miss.” Sarah replied when she recovered her voice. “If either of you need anything, anything at all, in the way of help please come and ask. I know our resident footman would be overjoyed to help as well.”
Hunter’s smirk returned. “Quite.”
While Miss Milligan quickly retreated back to the safety of her desk, Hunter glanced at Moira with a small grin. “It seems the two of them have been making quite the impression.”
Moira’s expression was bright with humor. “Ya, the usual one. Somewhere between being greeted by a plague ship and a typhoon.”
Hunter laughed aloud. “Quite!” Once he had recovered himself, he continued. “Well, if the doctor says they should be well enough to travel, they likely are close enough. Let’s rescue this hospital from its two more outspoken patients.”
They quietly walked to the end of the hall. Ahead, the argument’s tone reached a crescendo, echoing louder through the door. Even though the discussion was energetic and heated at times, it remained just what it was: a war of words, nothing more. Hunter paused with a hand resting on the brass handle of the chestnut colored wooden door while he listened.
“No, is not at all right.” Thorias said with an exasperated tone.
“I say it is.” Krumer answered tartly. “It is ‘Tis all men’s work to speak temperance to those that run under the load of sorrow.'”
“Confound your greenish hide, it is not. The proper line is ‘Tis all men’s duty to show sufferance of those that run under the load of sorrow.'” Thorias snapped in return.
Outside the door, Moira gave Hunter a confused look. “Now what’re they on about?”
“A line from one of Shakespeare’s works. The play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, if I recall.” Hunter answered.
“Well, that fits the both of ’em.” Moira said wryly.
“Oh, indeed.” Hunter said, then pushed open the door. “Actually, you’re both wrong. The line is: ‘Tis all men’s office to speak patience to those that ring under the load of sorrow.'” The captain grinned at Krumer and Thorias upon entering, then continued. “‘But … no man’s virtue nor sufficiency to be so moral when he shall endure the like himself.'” Hunter paused, then gave a slight bow to both the room’s occupants. “Much Ado About Nothing, act five, scene one.”
Krumer chuckled while Thorias groaned with a hand over his eyes. The play came back to the doctor in a tidal wave of memories. “Oh, that’s right.”
The room was a modest sized room, more narrow than wide. In the past, it likely had been a guest bedroom for visitors staying the night. On the walls, the original gas lamps held aloft by their decorative wall sconces remained, though the wall around them had obviously been whitewashed, then painted with a decorative pattern of dark green leaves. To the right of the only door into the room, a large window near Krumer’s bed dominated the wall.
This window, tall and thin, framed by thick, velvet emerald colored curtains faced the east. Another window, no less tall or thin and also draped in emerald curtains, was set against the far wall across from the door. The window, that was near Thorias’ bed faced north across the city, giving an almost picturesque view of Edinburgh castle set among the grime-covered buildings of Old Town.
“It’s good to see you Cap’n, and you Moira.” Krumer said with a large smile. “We were just packing to meet the Griffin at her berth, since we saw you sail by early yesterday. We didn’t expect you to come escort us back.” The olive-green, orcish first mate was seated on the edge of a bed, dressed in a pair of his dark trousers and white shirt. Just beneath the edge of his collar, the hint of a bandage could be seen. His duffel was open and on the bed, not quite fully packed with the remainder of his clothes. Next to that lay a trio of small books, worn and threadbare from age.
Moira grinned and walked over to the first mate, “We been told. The lady out front told us about the doctor’s note sayin’ ya were fit and ready ta go.”
Krumer slowly rotated his arm that was on the side he had been shot. With a free hand he touched at the few bandages still tied in place. “Ready to go, I agree with. Fit, I’m not so certain. I feel like I’ve been kept in cold storage.”
“Once yer back aboard, a little work will get ya back in shape. Here, let me help ya pack.” Moira scooped up a shirt and proceeded to stuff it into his duffle.
The first mate chuckled, then removed his belongings from Moira’s reach. With a warning glance at Moira, he resumed packing his own duffel. “Spirits willing, I can use it.”
Thorias, dressed in his usual conservative style of white shirt, gray trousers and an unbuttoned waist coat, had likewise begun to pack. Neat, orderly stacks of books, two journals and clothes were being arranged for the journey. He thrust out a hand in greeting to Anthony. The captain gave it a firm shake. The doctor winced very slightly.
“Ribs still bothering you?” Hunter asked when he noticed Thorias favor where his wound had been.
“Only some. Nothing more than an ache now.” The doctor said in an off-handed tone. “The fracture has healed, of course, but the memory still lingers. I expect I’ll ache for some time, not that I didn’t expect it, mind you. Wounds such as that take time to heal. No one recovers overnight.”
“Arcady will be overjoyed to see you. He’s been moping about ever since he was repaired.” Hunter said, folding his arms over his chest.
Thorias chuckled at the mental picture. “I’ll be quite pleased to see him, also. Hospitals can be quite the ordeal, I’ll gladly take my leave of it.” The doctor glanced at his friend, then returned to folding a shirt to place in his duffel. “Looking rather pensive, Anthony. Not sleeping?”
“Sharp eyes, as always.” Hunter said with a small sigh. “No, just quite a bit on my mind.”
“The ship?” The doctor suggested.
“No, she’s fine.” The captain sighed heavily, as if a large weight hung from his shoulders. “You see, we’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a situation.”
Thorias paused in his packing. “Oh? How so?”
Hunter’s brows furrowed while he recalled the events of the past day. “Just the other night in the White Hart Tavern, a young woman was causing a dust-up with the proprietor. You see, the proprietor assumed she was peddling, however, she was actually searching for a friend of hers that has gone missing some four days prior. Not only that, it seems several people have gone missing of late, and she’s worried her friend is the latest victim.”
The doctor nodded in understanding. “So you stepped in to help.”
“A bit rash on my part, I suppose,” Hunter admitted with a wry smile. “She touched a nerve. Reminded me so much of … well, she just reminded me of someone from a while ago.”
“Ah, your sister,” Thorias said sadly.
“Well, reasons notwithstanding, I volunteered to help. Moira and William jumped along, as well. No harm in it, I thought. However, while we did not find her friend, we located what may have been some of her belongings stashed away in a small shed.” Hunter’s eyes were hard with the memory. “No body, but there was a bloody hand print among what we actually did find. Quite possibly a woman’s hand print, but it’s impossible to be certain right yet.”
“What else did you find? I trust the police are on this?” Thorias asked, his voice edged with concern.
“Yes, the constables were fetched straight away. We found some brass gears, a few cut flowers, still fairly fresh, and her peddler’s cart. The young lady sold mechanical parts, oil and other such items. Why flowers as well is beyond me.” Captain Hunter admitted.
“Quite likely it was because they sold well, would be my guess.” The doctor looked thoughtful a moment. “Fresh cut, you say?” Thorias asked, his own brow drawn together while he wrestled with a thought.
“Rather odd, that. If she’s been missing for four days, and those flowers had been with her along with the rest of her possessions, I’d dare say they’d not be ‘fresh’.” The doctor hypothesized. “Also, it’s quite interesting you mention a young woman having gone missing. Just earlier, I overheard two of the staff speaking quietly about the body of a young woman having been brought in for examination. They were quite upset over the whole affair, as this would make the fourth body that had died in a similar fashion over the past week or so. Skinned like some freshly hunted deer, and parts of the body removed, as if by a surgeon. Different parts from each body so far, they were saying.”
Across the room Krumer dropped a shirt into his duffel. “Skinned. I could not believe it when you first told me, Thorias. I still cannot turn my mind around that now. Ghoulish.”
Hunter’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Indeed? Do the police know any of this?”
“They must, as it was four uniformed constables that brought the latest victim in.” Thorias continued. “They cautioned the staff to be quiet over the whole affair. Which, to their credit, they tried. They had no idea their voices carried quite so well.”
“When I spoke with them last evening at the cattle market, they left me with the impression they had little idea.” Hunter’s frown deepened.
“Likely to protect their lines of inquiry.” Thorias suggested with a shrug.
“It could be that.” Hunter paused while his mind wrestled with his own nugget of thought. “Thorias, are the constables still here?”
“Or they’re up ta somethin’.” Moira piped up.
“I doubt that,” Krumer said in a scornful tone. “Not all constables are brutes, Moira.”
Thorias, ignoring Moira and Krumer’s comments, had resumed his packing. “I honestly can’t say. It was some time earlier today that they stopped by. I can’t see why they would be. If I had to place any guess, the body would be in the basement by now, waiting to be examined. At least when I was an intern, that was the practice when an unfortunate soul happened to be brought in by the constabulary.”
“What of the others, though?” Hunter asked quickly. “The earlier victims that had already been brought here.”
“They would be with the mortician by now. Most hospitals have a mortician nearby, I believe the one here is next door.” The doctor stopped packing to give Hunter a narrow-eyed look. “Why? What are you plotting?”
Anthony shook his head. “Me? Why, nothing. Just random thoughts, is all.”
“Anthony, I’ve known you too long to believe that.” Suddenly, Hunter’s questions connected in Thorias’ mind. His eyes opened wide. “My word! Surely you can’t be thinking … ”
“This current victim or even one of the earlier victims might be Miss Newt, the missing young woman.” Hunter interrupted quickly. “It would be the only way to know, since the police are not forthcoming. It isn’t as if I could walk up, knock on the door and just ask … though I had considered that approach, as well.”
However, Thorias was not appeased. “At least that technique would not have you arrested.”
“Thorias, if the police are chasing a murderous monster – some fiend that is preying repeatedly on the inhabitants of Edinburgh like a wild dog stalking its prey – and they have no more headway now than it seems they do, something must be done to help.” Hunter paused for a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. “Also … it would grant peace of mind to Miss Olivander. She’s been wandering the dead of night looking for her friend, in between slaving her existence away in that hellish textile factory.”
“So you would know the missing girl if you saw her?” Thorias asked curiously.
Hunter thought quietly a moment. “I know only a brief description, so it might be problematic, even before taking into account the risk of trespassing. However, given what you’ve said about the flowers, she only could have been missing for a day to two. So we merely need to see which of the victims had been brought in within that amount of time, and match the brief description of her that I have.” The captain gave Thorias a sly smile. “Given there are so few victims, it should be a small number to check.”
The doctor leaned on the bed for a long moment, his head hung low. With a sigh, he straightened up and rubbed his eyes. “I cannot believe I am letting you draw me into this. Very well, there is someone I know. An old friend from medical school. He is a doctor here in Edinburgh, and I already owe him a visit. I’ll see what I can arrange about the mortuary, and perhaps even the basement. He may know someone, or have access himself as a visiting physician.”
“You’ve my deepest gratitude, Thorias,” Hunter said with a smile.
“Don’t thank me yet, Anthony,” Thorias said with a sour look, “He may not agree to any of this. However, I’ll see what I can do, perhaps even as soon as tonight. Just do me one favor?”
“Of course, old friend.” Hunter replied.
“Be cautious on this, the police might take a dim view of you mucking about with their dead victims.” Thorias replied with a wry look.
“According to Moira, they are suspicious of me as it is, since I found the cart, flowers and all someplace they had already searched.” Hunter explained.
“What? Oh bloody hell!” The doctor exclaimed, throwing his arms up in exasperation.
“True enough.” Moira chimed in from across the room, “I heard it myself. They’re thinking the Cap’n has somethin’ ta do with people goin’ missing.”
Krumer frowned deeply. “Cap’n, if they cannot catch this murderer, you would be their likely candidate to blame. Guilty until proven innocent.”
“True enough, save for one thing. These people went missing well before the Griffin reached port. Last I knew, I could not be in two places at once.” Hunter smiled reassuringly. “Besides, I’ll be as quiet as a church mouse. They’ll never know we were there.