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Inaction… and apparently a bit of grossness. sorry about that.

The last months, the last year really, I’ve been missing from writing.  There is always something going on in my head, I suppose, and even the occasional jot in the notebook, but I haven’t had much more than the occasional bit of emotional energy for it.  It had been something like four months since I last made a post on Lazarus Machine and a year now since anything on John’s Gamble.  I finally did add a chapter to the former during my vacation the other week, and have, in recent weeks, had a bit more heart and inspiration about it, but the energy isn’t quite there.  And then this week, I’ve been feeling physically ill on top of struggling with the emotional bits.

 

However, even when I’m not particularly writing, I do find myself still researching.  My literary interests have still been involved with Georgian/Regency/Victorian crime, and I am in the midst of Judith Flanders’ The Victorian City, which talks about Victorian London during Dickens’ life.  It covers a broad time period from the end of the Regency to the midst of Victoria’s reign, with all the daily street life detailed.  Of course, mostly what this leaves me with is “How did anyone survive at all?” because between how disgusting water was even when it wasn’t infected with cholera (I just saw that Matt Damon used toilet water for his ice bucket challenge to raise awareness about clean water around the world, which is kind of ridiculous because US toilet water is exactly as potable as tap water and unless you get it from the bowl and haven’t flushed for days, it doesn’t even compare to many places around the world), and the general attitude of the wealthy towards the poor (workhouses were meant to be miserable so people would work harder to stay out of them) and no concept of cleanliness — blood simply ran in the streets outside slaughterhouses, along with human and animal and vegetable waste… ugh, I just shudder.  No wonder miasma was thought to be the source of some diseases, because the stench had to be incredible.  And I haven’t even gotten to the chapter about prostitution yet. 

 

Anyway, I did have some exciting research distraction the other night.  I think I was reading a blog post about the Jane Austen era… it was an article about grave robbing, as I was suddenly needing to know how much an anatomist might pay for a stolen body to dissect (they can be quite expensive, I was surprised to find) and came across a name I’d glimpsed in something before, a Mr. (Joshua) Brookes.  He was mentioned regarding an incident at his anatomy school in Mayfair, but it wasn’t regarding the same incident that I’d seen before (love Google books).  So, of course, I was suddenly sunk deep in finding out about these things, including locating online copies of The Lancet from the era which mentioned him several times.

 

One of these incidents was that he bought a body from someone other than his usual body snatchers and since they were pissed about it, they left a very ripe body outside his home in Soho and another outside his work in Mayfair to be discovered by whosoever happened to walk by.  The discovery outside his home so upset the neighbors that they had to be dissuaded from giving Brookes a beating by the local constables.  The second incident involved a coachman knocking on his door, which was answered by a servant.  The coachman asked if the doctor would be interested in a fresh body and was told that he was.  So the coachman hauled a naked body in a sack around and as the doctor and servant started to kick the body down the stairs, it flailed and hollered, “I’m alive!”  Apparently, they were more afraid of the thought of the house being robbed than by a dead body waking up, and they dragged the man to the magistrate’s, where the man confessed only to being drunk on his trip into London, and then being made drunker still by someone else until he apparently passed out and woke up being shoved down the stairs.

 

Now, writing a Sherlock piece or two, I was quite interested in this man called Brookes, as it would so nicely coincide with Richard Brook from the show, and I found that his place of business was ridiculously close to where I’d previously chosen an address to house my final showdown.  I mean, there is a Brook St in Mayfair, so I could hardly not use that, and the location I picked later housed the royal Dr. Gull who, in certain theories, might have been Jack the Ripper (ie, From Hell follows that theory though it’s not as likely as most of the other theories).  My main problem with picking the location had been that at some point, the houses along Brook St. had been renumbered and I wasn’t certain when, so I wasn’t certain which house number to use.  Then I told myself, this is just a fan fiction and you’re being crazy.  🙂

 

At any rate, I was now in this state of mind, so I watched two movies that had been on my Netflix queue for a while, I Sell the Dead and Burke and Hare.  The first was interesting, but definitely took a supernatural turn I wasn’t quite expecting/interested in.  Burke and Hare was fairly good, considering that I’m sure it took liberties with making any of the involved parties sympathetic.  It starred Simon Pegg as Burke, so it couldn’t help but be a little light and silly, and I doubt that they were caught out due to early photographs, but the bit at the end showing Burke’s skeleton displayed in the university in Edinburgh is accurate.

 

And finally, today, due to being ill and not really having the energy to do anything outside of lay in bed and watch videos online, I watched several episodes of City of Vice, a 5 episode British series detailing the beginnings of the Bow Street Runners.  It follows Henry and John Fielding and their surprisingly nefarious attempts to start up a police force within London.  I say surprisingly nefarious not because the series shows them setting up a Lord to be robbed in order to gain them financial favor and a sponsor in the House of Lords, but because in the earliest incarnation of the Runners, they were operating illegally. 

 

This isn’t the first depiction I’ve run across describing the rather rocky beginnings of the British police forces.  In The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, it describes the beginnings of things like undercover police work and how unfair and nefarious it was viewed by the general public.  In 1860, when the events in the book take place, it was seen as an invasion of privacy for a detective to come into one’s home, even if it is the scene of a kidnapping/murder and poke his nose into the family’s life.  Similarly, in City of Vice, the people seemed to view police as less law and order and more infringing upon the rights of free people.  Because apparently it is a right for people to do as they please regardless of the law?  There seemed to be a lot of laws but no real way to enforce them, especially if wealthy people enjoyed the illegal activity.  (I suppose that’s not terribly different in any time period.)  Even to start off the Bow Street Runners, the Fieldings were asking for a mere six men.  For all of London.

 

The series itself has some sound issues, being that they realistically portrayed the absolute din of the streets of London at the time, but because of that, you can’t always hear the dialogue, and on hulu, where I watched it, there were no subtitles available.  Still, the absolute filth, violence and debauchery of the era seemed to be accurately portrayed and the map overviews were awesome.  While it is much earlier than the era I’ve been researching, I find it incredibly interesting.

 

Still on my TBR list are Judith Flanders’ The Invention of Murder, which I’ve been stalking a while but haven’t made the purchase yet, and The Poisoner by Stephen Bates, and Shocking Bodies by Iwan Rhys Morus, which I found while looking for the one I was really thinking of, Shocked by David Casarett.  Not sure how many I will get around to reading, because I will eventually get squicked out by all this (much like the Cesarian in the first episode of The Knick, I am freaking horrified by C-sections) and I will eventually (hopefully soon!) finish Lazarus Machine and have less excuse for all this morbid research.  🙂

 

On one last, amusing note, City of Vice reminded me of something with their episodes on molly houses, places were gay and/or transvestite men would hang out.  I mention one in John’s Gamble and when I came across the term originally, I wondered if in putting in all the are-they-gay wink-wink-nudge-nudge bits, they picked Molly Hooper’s first name as a rather obscure reference to this term.  I swear, this would be the question I would forget to ask if I ever met any of them.  I mean, it could just be a common British name for a female, a variation of Mary which has always been an incredibly common name in English-speaking and many other languages, or the fact that I looked up the meaning and the first website said “uncertain, maybe bitter” and while I think they meant that the meaning was uncertain, it made me laugh at its aptness.  If they were going strictly Doyle, he seemed to prefer the name Violet.

 

Anyway, now that I’m not feeling like either 101 degrees or about 10 degrees, I suppose I ought to be off writing more than this blog post! 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Writings

 

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44,000 words, Chapter 39

I’ve decided to post Chapter 39 on its own mainly because it’s a longer chapter than I’ve been writing for this story and because my friends are bugging me to get on with it 🙂  If I post this chapter now, and write the next couple on Monday on my day off, then I won’t feel like I’m torturing them (so much).

Also, I’ve begun to worry that I’m researching too much!  I keep finding bits that I want to add in and they’re just not important, so if I post the chapter, I won’t add more crap in, no matter how interesting.  Worse, I started reading a book that is EXACTLY what this chapter is talking about, the anatomy research and practices of the day, as well as electrical research in regards to the body.  I mean, geez, I’m losing my mind! 🙂  It’s so perfect.  So some of the stuff in the following chapter is vaguely based on fact (or wikipedia, which is almost the same thing, though the time period isn’t exact and I am just not going to go crazy with dripping research all over this.  Be thankful.  🙂

At the end, I’ll post a picture of the machine I’m talking about.  Oh, and also, I changed the last line of the last chapter to put John and Sherlock on their way to Lambeth, as I needed them to cross the Thames on their way home.

 

Chapter 39

 

The address in Lambeth was about three times the size of their home on Baker Street, but less well-maintained.  The exterior was chipping and the first of the stone steps wobbled when John prodded it with his cane.  It wasn’t entirely dilapidated, for the windows shone and the walk was swept, just somewhat neglected.

“I feel I must warn you, John.  The Professor is one of the few men in existence whose genius nearly matches my own.  His genius borders on madness.”  Sherlock mounted the front steps two at a time and used the knocker.

“So, if you are the more intelligent, does that make you mad?”  John says this with a teasing grin, surprising Sherlock into a grin.

“Some seem to think so.”  Sherlock winked and John felt a little guilty for thinking him mad on the morning of their wedding.  Was that only yesterday?  Granted, he had just cause, but Sherlock was a vivid, brilliant man and shouldn’t need to explain his reasons for the things he did.

The door opened on an ancient man, skeletal and hunched over with a sunken chest.

“Is he at home, Marley?” Sherlock asked.

“Yes, sir, tinkering away with his latest contraption.”

“Excellent.  We’ll find him in a good mood, then.”

“Very, sir.”

The elderly butler took their overcoats and left them to find their own way.  Sherlock seemed to be a frequent enough visitor that he familiar with the butler and had the run of the household.

“What is that humming, Sherlock?”  John asked as soon as they were alone in the foyer.  Sherlock turned as he opened a door to their left, eyes alight.

“That is bound to be his latest machine.  This should be exciting!  Come along, John.”

John entered the next room after his husband, but he was stopped by the utterly stunning clutter of the room.  Large globes hung from the ceiling in what John surmised was a model of the solar system.  Books and loose papers were stacked in piles three feet deep in corners despite an abundance of bookshelves.  The shelving held other things, notably taxidermied animals John had never seen in his life and pickled punks, two-headed pigs, four-legged cats and the like.  Glass eyes stared out from the shelving as well, often on their own and not encased in any skull.

Bones littered the place, too, but in a way that suggested something crawled up to the hearth and was allowed to die there.  There was no smell beyond the typical coal smoke and dust and paper smell of a library, so John supposed that could not be true.

Sherlock walked confidently through the mess as if he’d seen it all before and opened a door on the far side of the room.

“He’s what one might call a theoretical anatomist.  Taught me everything I know about the subject.  He was the only lecturer at university worth listening to, but of course they quietly tossed him out a few years ago.”

John didn’t ask what for; he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know.

Sherlock disappeared through the door, leaving John to follow or not.  John bravely threw himself into the next room, breath held in a mixture of dread and anticipation.

“Good afternoon, Professor!” Sherlock called above the oppressive humming.  It made the fine hairs along John’s skin stand up and a strange pressure throbbed through the rest of him.

“Holmes, lad, good to see you, good to see you!  Give me a few minutes and I’ll be right with you.”

John still couldn’t see the man for he was hidden by a huge machine that took up the center of the room.  It consisted of huge glass disks, spinning with a crank, brass globes, glass cylinders, and metal tubing.  There was a definite chemical smell in this room, as well as the acrid scent of burnt hair.  That smell was coming from the body of a dog on a nearby rolling table.

John glanced at Sherlock, whose bright eyes were taking in every inch of the fabulous machine before them.  He moved entirely around it, eyes calculating how it worked, how every part moved and would be taken apart.  There was only one way to describe how Sherlock gazed at that mysterious apparatus: he was enraptured.  And John was entranced by the keen look in his husband’s eyes, until he reminded himself not to be.  He cleared his throat.  Back to the machine, then.

“What is it?”

“It’s Martinus von Marum’s electrostatic generator.  Well, a replica, anyway,” came the hidden voice again.  This time the gentleman came around the tables that held the generator, wiping his hands on a stained cloth.  He was thin, older, perhaps in his mid-fifties with thinning hair fading from brown to gray.  There was nothing spectacular about his appearance other than his eyes.  They were dark and quick and flicked about much like Sherlock’s.   “Who have we here, eh, Holmes?”

“Husband,” Sherlock replied, distracted, his head awfully close to the glass wheels at the center of the device.

“Don’t touch, Sherlock,” the man reminded him.   “Wait, did you say husband?  Whatever happened with that Victor lad you used to come around with?”

Sherlock’s head popped up.  He strode over to the two of them and placed one hand on John’s shoulder.

“Doctor Watson is a finer man than Victor Trevor could ever hope to be.”

This was the first time Sherlock had ever referred to John as anything other than John; it was also the first time since he’d joined the army that someone had referred to him as other than his rank.  Captain outranked doctor, and like the gentry, the highest title preceded any others.  John found he liked hearing Sherlock call him Doctor Watson.  It almost distracted him from wondering about Victor Trevor.

“John, this is James Moriarty.”  John extended his hand.

“Please call me Professor.  Everyone does.”  The Professor shook his hand, smiling widely.

“Good to meet you, Professor.  So tell me about this generator of yours?  What is it for?”

The Professor didn’t take much prompting.  He began a lengthy explanation of the machine, the gist of which was that it rubbed two pieces of wool or other materials together to create a spark of static electricity.  The charge could be stored in a battery, the bank of Leyden jars.  John tried to follow along through terms like dielectric and corona discharge, whose meanings he could guess at but his education on the theories of electrical charges was limited.

“By any chance, are you relation to Sir William Watson, formerly of the Royal Society?”  The Professor stopped in mid-ramble to ask, his speech patterns much like Sherlock’s.

“No, sir, I don’t believe so.”  John was fascinated by the generator, but he felt overwhelmed.  It was a relief to answer a simple question.

“Shame.  I would have loved to get my hands on anything he might have left cluttering up his attic when he passed.  He improved the Leyden jar, you know.”  The Professor gestured to the several racks of metal-lined glass jars on a small table pushed up close to his generator.

“But what does it have to do with the dog?” Sherlock finally interrupted, impatient in his curiosity.

“Ah, yes, the dog, poor thing.  His heart gave out this morning.  I’ve been trying to test my theory that electrical stimulation to the heart might invigorate the muscle.”

“And did it?”  The Professor had both John and Sherlock’s attention at this.  This might have potential to resuscitate the dead.

“Oh, a few twitches, about as effective as salt on a frog leg.  Pup was nearly stiff when I could manage the experiment.  Have to try with a fresher body next time.”

Sherlock was immediately knuckle-deep in the dog’s body, smoothing the fur away from the wires and the edge of the entry into the dog’s chest.

“I have hope for the theory that electrical pulses from the brain to the extremities control our movements.”  Galvani’s nerve theory, that was something John was at least fleetingly familiar with.

“Extraordinary.  I can see why Sherlock thinks so highly of you, Professor.”

“What about reattached limbs?” Sherlock interrupted again.  “Do you think that it would be possible to regain function in a limb completely severed?”

“Were surgical techniques improved, I do believe so.  However, the reattachment and regrowth of the proper nerves and veins would be quite delicate, far more so than we are capable of at this time.”

John and Sherlock exchanged a look.

“Has there been any talk of such an experiment lately, Professor?”  For if someone were to embark on such a thing, surely their first stop would be to the home of the theoretical anatomist James Moriarty.

The man seemed to think about this for a second.

“No one has discussed anything like that with me in quite a while.  I suppose you could ask around at the Royal Society…”

“Banished,” Sherlock said, waving away the idea with a flung-out hand.  John squashed a smile.

The Professor was a fascinating conversationalist, if you could follow him.  One could almost see the anatomy in front of them as he spoke, see the cuts and delicate surgeries he described, imagine it all being possible.  Sherlock and John stayed well past tea and sunset listening and observing demonstrations of several contraptions around the vast laboratory.  Sherlock continued to insert questions that might be relevant to his case without mentioning the case directly and John abetted his subtlety.

“Sherlock, I believe we have distracted the good Professor from his work for too long,” John finally said.  The evening had progressed to nearly night.  Lamps had been lit long ago and John was hungry.  This did not seem like the sort of house where an invitation to dinner seemed forthcoming, especially if the Professor was anything like Sherlock in his refusal to adhere to proper mealtimes.

Sherlock nodded sagely, as if realizing he’d spent too much time distracted from his case by the Professor.

“Yes, I really must be getting John home.  Professor, it’s been enlightening, as always.”

“Do bring your young man back, Sherlock, anytime.  We must encourage his scientific curiosity, eh?”

“I’ve no doubt we’ll be frequent visitors, Professor,” John said with a smile.

“Oh, Professor!  I meant to tell you that Edger’s will have delivered my terrarium today.”

“Excellent, dear boy.  I’ll start separating out a colony of dermestids for you in the morning.”

They had said their good-byes and left before John asked.  The night was crisp for once, instead of damp and foggy.  They began to walk towards the Westminster Bridge, thinking it more likely to find a hack near Lambeth Road or hovering  near the House of Parliament on the other side.

“Dermestids?”

“Use your Latin, John.”  But Sherlock hummed happily to himself.

“Skin,” John said thoughtfully.  “Oh, Sherlock, skin eating insects?  Tell me I’m wrong.”

“No, you’re absolutely correct!  I’ll be able to clean my own specimens right at home.  Mycroft would never let me bring them into the house.”

“What makes you think that I will?”

Sherlock stopped dead and gave John such a pained, pathetic look that John almost laughed.  Still, he kept a straight face.

“Give me one good reason I would allow such a creature, much less a colony of them, in our fine house?”

“They won’t get out, I swear to you, John,” Sherlock rushed to beg.  “I must have them for my work!  I can examine bone fractures in more detail without the flesh getting in the way.  I’ll keep them in my laboratory.  You’ll never even see them.”

“They’ll eat the hairs on your violin bow if they get out.  You know that right?”

Sherlock’s lips twisted in a grimace.

“It is unlikely that the Professor will give me mere bow bugs when I need them for cleaning flesh from bone.”

“Very well, I agree to your condition – they will stay in your lab and I will not see them.”

“Technically, that’s two conditions.  Wait, yes?!”

“Yes, fine, Sherlock, if they’ll make you happy.  You can consider it a wedding gift from me.”

“Oh, excellent, John.”  Sherlock began rubbing his hands together as if plotting something truly heinous and thrilling.

“I have another condition, as well.”

“The deal has already been struck.  You cannot add conditions after the fact.”

“Alright, then, answer me a question in the spirit of conversation, or as a wedding gift from you.”

“Hardly a traditional gift, the answer to a question, John.  Go on, then.”

“Who is Victor Trevor?”

 

784px-Electrostatic_generator_Teylers_Museum

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Electrostatic_generator_Teylers_Museum.jpg

Too much research.  (I could have put in a MUCH more disturbing experiment that I read about today, but I won’t, you’re welcome.)  And a teaser ending.  🙂  Sorry.  🙂

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Writings

 

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