Six Salisbury Road
Holmes remained slumped in his wheelchair until we were in the hansom speeding across London. In an instant he was transformed from a barely responsive invalid into the sharp-minded man I knew so well.
“A dashing performance, Watson. The man barely looked me in the eye.”
“Yes, Holmes, but to what purpose?” I remonstrated. “Surely all that ordeal wasn’t worth merely a glance at him?”
“On the contrary, Watson, I have gathered several important pieces of information.”
“The Doctor himself is ill, that much was obvious.”
“Did you also observe the needle marks on his left arm where I tore the sleeve?” My stunned expression indicated that I had not. “He covered them rapidly,” he added.
“That could be a number of things – antibiotics, drug abuse, blood donation…”
“Possibly. It’s important in any respect. Note, too, his keenness to see me as soon as you mentioned Ms. Kingsley.”
“A natural reaction, surely?”
“Quite likely, but do not overlook all the facts in harmony, Watson. It is only through connecting all the facts that we arrive at the correct theory.” Holmes’ gaze averted to outside as another train of thought evidently began to pursue itself in his mind.
“And you have a theory already?” I ventured to disturb his reverie.
“A possible notion,” he replied vaguely.
That afternoon we found ourselves at the gate of six Salisbury Road being welcomed by our friend Herbert Lancaster.
“Do come in,” he beamed. “Jane is out in the garden if you’d like to join us.” He led us around the side of the house to a lovely secluded area including roses and a garden table. Seated in one of the chairs was a pale, but handsome woman. “Jane, this is Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his associate, Doctor Watson.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Kingsley,” I said. Holmes smiled politely and looked at her keenly.
“And you, sir,” replied the young lady shyly. Herbert indicated for us to sit and passed around some biscuits and tea.
“Jane isn’t entirely certain of my consulting you, although she is as baffled as I am about Doctor Berger’s behaviour.”
“Exactly how long have you consulted this Doctor?” asked Holmes. Ms. Kingsley hesitated, obviously nervous. Holmes smiled kindly. “I’m just trying to get detailed facts to determine the truth, you needn’t worry about discretion. We’re here to help you, Ms. Kingsley.”
“Nine and a half years,” she said softly.
“And he’s never shown any interest in you other than strictly professional?”
“May I ask how severe your current condition is?” She looked away from his penetrating gaze.
“It’s often uncomfortable to walk, though I try to exercise my legs as much as possible. Some days are worse than others. It’s very gradually getting slightly less painful with medication, but it will never go away completely, according to Doctor Berger. And if I contract a severe illness things could get much worse. Herbert is always so supportive, so caring of me. I wouldn’t be able to cope with this without him.” She smiled warmly at Herbert, a smile that lit her whole face. Herbert took her hand then turned back to us.
“Thank you so much for helping us, fellows. We simply can’t understand it,” said Herbert.
“It’s nothing,” answered Holmes. “But, please, allow me one more question. Has Doctor Berger asked you anything peculiar recently, anything that seemed unusual at the time?” She seemed to consider, but the apprehension in her eyes foretold her answer.
“Well, about two weeks ago he pressed me to donate blood in the interest of other patients, but I consistently declined.”
“She has a fear of needles,” added Herbert. Holmes nodded.
“I can relate to that.” He smiled at me mischievously.
“A few days after that he suddenly started asking unusual personal questions,” she continued.
“Have you disclosed any personal information other than medically relevant?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“And then yesterday the letter arrived,” added Herbert.
“Has it been answered?”
“No, not yet. She doesn’t intend to go, but if you want her to…”
“No, that won’t be necessary. I advise you to avoid contact with the Doctor outside of the surgery.”
“Of course,” agreed Herbert eagerly. “We’ll do what you advise.” He hesitated slightly. “I must ask; do you have any possible explanations as to the Doctor’s behaviour?”
“Several, but I’d rather not reveal anything before it can be proved. And one other thing, I would prefer that the Doctor remain unaware as to our interest in him, if you please.”
“Naturally,” agreed Herbert.