Captain Robertson awoke sometime later – how much time? He wasn’t sure – to find himself in a place he did not recognise. His body: stiffness that straddled the line between lassitude and torpor. His mind: a murky haze that comprehension’s lantern couldn’t penetrate. His sight: blinded by light with an intensity that rivalled the sun.
With time, Captain Robertson’s eyes adjusted to the blinding light, allowing him to take in the details of his surroundings. He found himself in what he believed constituted a civilian medical ward. Having spent much of his adult life on the frontlines of battle, Captain Robertson was used to the urgently raised tents of haphazard chaos the military optimistically referred to as field hospitals. The place he found himself in now replaced that chaos with a quiet serenity that left him with a feeling of unease as he tried to piece together the fragments of his shattered memory.
Before long, Captain Robertson was able to discern some past events from his mind’s murky haze. He had collaborated with the Eighth Duke of Argyll to ambush Spring-Heeled Jack at the Temperate House. As per the Duke’s orders, Captain Robertson didn’t inform Mr Daim about the plot due to concerns over whether the jinni’s allegiance lay with the jinn or the crown. That more or less marked the boundaries of his recollection. The contents of the meeting itself were still a blur, much like the details of a far distant memory, and the last thing he remembered was lying on the ground with Mr Daim as policemen stormed the premises. It seems Spring-Heeled Jack must have got the better of them.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
Captain Robertson turned to face the newcomer, a raging pain burning through his stiff shoulder. She wore a simple black dress covered in white overalls akin to that worn by the dwellers of a nunnery.
“Um… hello,” Captain Robertson wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed, so he opted to ask the obvious, “where… where am I?”
“St Thomas’ Hospital,” answered the nurse.
“How long have I been here?”
The nurse nodded in agreement, and so did Captain Robertson in what soon became an excruciatingly awkward pause.
“Well, I guess I’ll be off then,” declared the Captain, slowly making his way out of bed to get dressed.
“I’m afraid I cannot allow that, Mr Robertson. You need more rest,” insisted the nurse.
“Unfortunately, I have urgent business to attend to with the Indian Secretary,” Captain Robertson quietly winced as he buttoned his shirt over his bandaged clavicle, “You wouldn’t happen to know the whereabouts of the gentleman they brought in with me, would you?”
“As far as I’m aware, you arrived alone.”
This made sense. After all, Mr Daim was a jinni and probably didn’t need human medicine to recover from his injuries. He was most likely back at the hotel reading poetry or whatever else it is he did in his spare time. Captain Robertson would go see him after stopping by the all-important India Office.
“Sir, I really must advise you to take a leave of absence before returning to work,” continued the nurse.
“Then, by all means, advise away, but regardless I will be leaving,” countered Captain Robertson, ceasing the nurse’s insistence as he donned his overcoat. Realising that he may have come across a little too harsh, the Captain added a smile to soften the blow, “I promise to return and take advantage of your prescribed rest as soon as I am no longer preoccupied.”
It wasn’t until he crossed Westminster Bridge that the thought occurred to Captain Robertson that perhaps promising to return to a hospital wasn’t exactly the most optimistic of assurances.
After his brief walk across the Thames, Captain Robertson arrived at the India Office. Once again, he traversed the marble Durbar Court overlooked by interlocking crescents and crosses, ascended the Muses’ Staircase flanked by the fossils of millennia-old sea lilies frozen in stone, and entered the Indian Secretary’s office, to find the Eighth Duke of Argyll immersed in discussion with Commissioner Henderson.
“Ah, Captain Robertson. Glad you could join us,” greeted the Duke, “we weren’t expecting you to be discharged for at least another week.”
“I’m a fast healer,” responded Captain Robertson, glossing over the fact he outright disobeyed the nurse’s orders.
In the wake of their salutations, the three men got down to business discussing the events of two nights prior.
“So, Captain, tell us what you remember of your meeting with Spring-Heeled Jack,” entreated the Duke.
“To be perfectly honest, I do not remember much other than being shot in the shoulder—”
“For which the Met deeply apologises,” interjected Commissioner Henderson, “the officer responsible has been discharged, and we will cover the cost of your medical bills.”
The Duke gave the Commissioner a slight nod of acknowledgement as if to say: Okay, you can shut up now. Of the many things Captain Robertson and the Eighth Duke of Argyll agreed on, their impatience for Commissioner Henderson’s nuisances ranked amongst the highest.
“Please, Captain, continue with your account of the meeting,” adjured the Duke.
“Of course, Mr Secretary,” Captain Robertson took a moment to gather his thoughts, “Mr Daim and I arrived at Kew Gardens about ten minutes to midnight. As requested, I did not inform him of our plan to ambush the meeting. As soon as the clock struck twelve, we entered the Temperate House, where we encountered Spring-Heeled Jack. However, as mentioned before, the next thing I remember was lying on the floor as Commissioner Henderson stormed the building.”
“Do you remember anything that was said between Mr Daim and Spring-Heeled Jack?”
“Unfortunately, I do not,” frowned Captain Robertson, “Quite frankly, I have no idea if the ambush was even a success. Did you manage to capture the target?”
A look was shared between the Duke and Commissioner.
“Captain, are you sure you don’t remember anything that was discussed between the target and Mr Daim?” asked the Duke, concern etched into the wrinkles of his forehead.
“That is correct.”
Again, a look was shared between the two men of authority. It was as if they’d found some magical way to communicate in the absence of speech. Captain Robertson patiently waited for one of the two men to speak. Preferably the Duke. Commissioner Henderson was annoying.
“I can confirm that we succeeded in dispatching Spring-Heeled Jack,” affirmed Commissioner Henderson, in that annoyingly smug way of his, “he will no longer pose a threat to the good people of London. Thank you for your service, Captain. The Met will forever be in your debt.”
That last bit of gratitude caught Captain Robertson by surprise. He didn’t expect such humility, but he accepted it with grace nonetheless.
“Indeed, not only have you protected the citizens of London, you have protected subjects of the British Empire the world over,” seconded the Eighth Duke of Argyll, “I’ve already sent a letter of commendation to your superior officer. You’ve also been cleared for a month-long leave of absence. I trust you’ll be on the next train back to Scotland? It’s been a while since you’ve visited home, hasn’t it?”
“Most certainly,” beamed Captain Robertson.
“Good man,” the Duke patted Captain Robertson on his good shoulder, leading him to the door, “I look forward to working with you again, Captain. But for now, go and get some well-deserved rest.”
Before he was ushered out the door, Captain Robertson had one last question:
“May I inquire as to the whereabouts of Mr Daim? I wish to bid him farewell before he leaves for India.”
The Duke frowned, “Unfortunately, Mr Dame had an important matter to attend to and left for India last night. However, he did wish me to pass on his thanks for your help in his investigation.”
“That is most unfortunate. Oh well, perhaps we may cross paths again in the future,” hopefulness gleaming in the Captain’s voice, “It’s been an honour working with you, Mr Secretary.”
The two men bid farewell with the shake of a hand. Just as the door was closing, Captain Robertson was able to sneak a peek at the latest addition to the Duke’s display cabinet. A beautifully golden ornamental lamp studded with glistening emerald inscriptions, written in a forgotten oriental tongue. The sight of the lamp was enough to brighten comprehension’s lantern, clearing the murky haze of Captain Robertson’s mind. He remembered. He remembered everything.
To be continued…
This is part of a larger series called Midnights In London