Author's Note: In attempting to make the characters in this story come to life with their particular manners of speech I have researched their various backgrounds and described in some detail what they would sound like. I describe this in my book and write the character's speech in their own particular accent or dialect. I also do this because, unlike politically correct now, Victorian authors would write out what the character's sounded like precisely. I do this a bit in this story, since after all it is Watson's view point. I certainly do not mean this to be offensive; I merely strive for realism. Let me know if it comes across as coarse. With appreciation, E
The Problem of Siamese Amnesia
I confess that it would be so easy to give in to the comfort of the silent, blind darkness, but I think of Holmes and remember my promise, so I concentrate hard and attempt to conjure up everything that has recently transpired so that I shall stay awake and by extension, hopefully, stay alive…
At the start of it all—at least the start that I could immediately remember—my first conscious thought had been that Holmes was practicing his jabs on his punching ball. Although not a supporter of strenuous, physical exercise for its own sake, Holmes would often use the ball if he thought the case at hand could present the opportunity for fisticuffs. Thus more than once, I have awoken in the morning to hear the recurring barrage of his attacks on it and so for the first second my world did not seem out of kilter. In fact, I confess that I momentarily was filled with excitement that a case he deemed worthy of such preparations had come into our hands. I would shortly have a reason to rue my anticipation of possible excitement.
Thump, whack, thump—the repetitive sounds continued when suddenly pain dominated my existence so intensely that I could scarcely tell where or why I was hurting.
I opened my eyes and found that I was not, in fact, in my bedroom on Baker Street, and that I myself was being used as punching ball. "Whaa…?" a half intelligible mumble came out of my mouth.
My vision was blurred and my head felt stuffed to the brim with surgical gauze. Even more bewildering was the fact that I had no knowledge of where I was or what I had done to deserve such treatment.
"Ah, there," a considerably deep voice grated. "Looks like 'e's awake."
At that inconsiderate pronouncement, I was dropped hard onto the floor below me, which I noticed was covered in fish guts. Had I not already been faint from my injuries, I trust that I would have become ill merely at the rank odor of decay in the place and the slippery, rotten guts that I landed in. Incapacitated as I was with blurry vision and an aching body, I attempted to get a good look around.
The man who had accosted me was extremely stout and at least my double in width if not more. He had shaggy brown hair and his back was turned on me as he faced the corner of the room. If I had thought I could get up, I would have attacked him, but considering the fact that I scarcely knew my own name and was experiencing several symptoms of being concussed, I reconsidered.
As for the place itself, I was in a small, wooden shack. Judging from the fish I inferred that I was by a wharf, a very small fit of deduction on my part since I imagined that Holmes, in my place, would have inevitably been able to tell the exact location of the dock by the type of fish guts or the particular kind of sand that lay in large piles between the wooden floorboards. I gave a moan as I rolled over, all that I have so far related having occurred in a matter of moments. Thus I was greatly surprised when I heard an angry, feminine gasp of indignation.
"Not a sound," the man roared at the woman, who was apparently in the corner and out of my view.
There was the sound of a slap and I could not contain my anger. "Are you so," my injured brain struggled for an insult, "…deplorable that you must prey on people weaker than yourself?"
In retrospect, I seemed quite wretched myself considering my words slurred together causing me to sound like, 'Are you sho…deplorrrable thath you mush prey on pee-pul wea-ker than yourshelf?' Obviously I had not been conscious long enough to gain control of my injured mental faculties.
The man whirled in my direction and I saw his face for the first time. Considering that my vision was still rather foggy it took me a moment to process his features. He reminded me strongly of a bull dog, so heavy were his jowls, and his face was lined and wrinkled although he did not appear to be greatly aged. His eyes had sagging bags below them and such was his resemblance to that breed of canine that I half expected to see teeth protruding from his lips. "You shut your mouth, too!"
He moved toward me menacingly but a voice outside called out, "Amos," and the man, apparently named 'Amos,' stopped his advance.
"Both of you stay put an' don't try anything. I'll be right outside."
"Sabai dee rue?" a soft female voice asked in a foreign language that sounded Oriental in nature. I didn't know what she said, but her voice was concerned, and I admit that her gentle tone gave me some comfort.
"Stop that gibb'rish," ordered our captor—for I naturally assumed she was also in my predicament—as he stomped outside, closing the door.
I turned toward the direction she had spoken in and saw the woman whom I thought confusedly at the time resembled a porcelain china doll that had taken a tumble off of a shelf. I suppose I thought this because the young lady standing in the corner of the shed was delicate looking, had skin that was fairly pale, most likely paler than her natural skin tone, and she had almond shaped eyes, but her bottom lip was swollen and bloody and she had the fresh red mark of the slap across her cheek. I attempted to sit up and a wave of nausea that I knew was a symptom of my head injury struck me and I had to close my eyes. I laid still and took a few deep breaths, willing myself to recover.
When I opened my eyes again, I was no longer seeing double and the fog had mostly lifted, so I commenced to study my fellow captive. The young lady was very beautiful, but sorrowful; her eyes, though looking at me with kindness, had some unfathomable sadness and seriousness about them. At once she seemed so very young and innocent, and yet the look she gave in the direction of the man who had retreated outside was one of knowing scorn. She wore what had been a modest, hand stitched blue dress designed in the latest style, but the well crafted garment had a tear that made her left sleeve hang from her shoulder. Her black hair was coiled up into a neat bun that was as dark and shiny as obsidian. As to her age, I couldn't really deduce it exactly since her skin was smooth of wrinkles but she had a distinctively womanly, and not childish, air about her. If I had to guess, though of course Holmes would have reproached me for even considering doing so, I would have said she was probably around twenty.
Walking forward and holding her skirt up practically so it didn't drag in the intestines on the floor, she moved through the fish guts with all the grace of a duchess or a dancer and knelt down next to me. Somehow I recognized the woman—I had seen her before, I knew that much—but I could recollect nothing else about her and merely attempting to remember made my head ache all the more. Instead, I inferred she was caught up in the same plight that had brought us to the horrid shack. Some small part of my brain whispered to me that our acquaintance had to do with my medical profession, but the girl—though seeming pale and slightly weak—didn't seem seriously ill. What had happened?
I couldn't make my injured mind work but I did think of Holmes then, and I wondered if he was caught up in whatever this was. If so, I hoped he was faring much better than I. Thinking about my roommate made me realized it had to be Tuesday—my last clear memory was of Holmes' intense, lean face bent over his test tubes as I bade him good evening on Monday and as it was the afternoon, it had to be Tuesday, unless I had lost more time than I realized.
The young woman had been scrutinizing me whilst I was thinking and she pulled out a white cotton handkerchief that had been tucked in the sash of her dress and carefully pressed it to my forehead. I noticed, as I was wont to do because of my profession, that her hand trembled slightly as she did so, although she did not seem particularly in terror. Exhaustion or hunger, I mused.
"Maw? Sabai dee rue?" she asked again.
"I beg your pardon, miss…" I paused to temper my pounding head and to consider my words. "But I am afraid I do not understand."
She looked at me strangely and then her face suddenly was alight with understanding. "I forget to say English at times." Her voice was a very soft, hesitant one, and it confirmed that she was from the Orient, though I did not recognize the accent enough to be able to tell exactly where. "I asked, 'Doctor? How are you?'"
I attempted to rise from my prone position to better answer her and to converse more politely—lying in fish guts while bleeding is not a proper position in which to hold a conversation—when she interrupted me and placed her slim hands on my chest.
"No, please, do no get hurt further." When she spoke she inevitably separated her words and laid the stress on the last syllable—doc-tor, fur-ther—and often left the end letter of a word off completely.
"Thank you…for your concern," I said. "But I am not so badly injured." I noted that I still maintained a slight slur and I believe she noticed it as well. Yes, I thought, assuredly concussed. "And yourself?" I indicated her mouth and cheek, also instinctively noticing that her left wrist had to be injured, as she moved it stiffly, used it rarely, and kept it close to her body. Obtuse as I am about, as Holmes would say, seeing without observing, I still have an acceptable eye for detecting people's injuries.
"It is nothing." Her speech, although accented and of course somewhat affected by her split lip, was definite—the words of a young woman who had fared much worse.
"If you would be gracious enough to help me to a seated position," I began. "I could examine you—" I halted as she shook her head in a distinct no.
"I am named Samira Sakda." She looked at me questioningly, confirming my suspicion that although she had called me 'doctor,' we were not really acquainted.
"I'm Dr. John Watson." She put her slim hand over mind and patted it lightly, as though to offer comfort. "It's unfortunate we have to meet in these…circumstances. Speaking of which, Miss Sakda, do you know what—"
"I said quiet!" Amos yelled through the door.
"Ask later," Samira whispered. "I shall…" She paused and looked as though she was attempting to recall the correct word, "Tend," she said with a slight smile at having found the right expression, "to your hurts."
Miss Sakda lightly dabbed her white cotton handkerchief all around my forehead and hairline, biting her lip as she did so. She appeared to be worried that she was hurting me, and so I said, "It is not such a bad injury," though of course I could not know that for certain.
"There is much blood," she replied.
That I couldn't argue with because I felt the warmth sliding down my nose and onto my cheeks. "Head injuries often bleed quite a bit, even the minor ones."
"This is no small hurt. Di-chan sia jai," she murmured, touching my forehead gently with her hand. "I am sorry to have caused your pain."
Her face was contrite as she bent over me to examine the wound. What could she be sorry about? Had she anything to do with the annoying circumstances I found myself in? I didn't really think so—she seemed genuinely concerned for me, but evidentially she had played some role in the drama that had unfolded and that I did not remember.
"I am sure you have nothing to apologize for, Miss Sakda. You have been nothing but—"
My speech was interrupted by the door to the shack being thrown open. In the next second, Samira Sakda let out a small gasp as she was dragged upwards by her bun. I loudly protested at the rogue's treatment of her and rose to help, but Amos kicked me in my sore side and I fell back down, striking the floor with my head. Bright lights exploded behind my eyes and I took in a breath in agony.
Such as it was, I noticed the next events in a kind of fog.
"Come on," the brute grabbed hold of her left wrist and her face whitened, her lips pressed tight together, but she didn't make a sound although I could tell she was suffering. "The master wants you brough' first."
"Please to leave doctor alone. He is no part of this." Her voice was still soft, and a bit apprehensive, but she spoke firmly. I was, despite being half conscious, touched by the resolute way in which she argued with the man for my sake.
"He is now."
"No. I am what he," the girl's delicate, silvery voice had a strong underlying sneer in it when she said 'he' that I do not think was a fancy of my delirious state, "wants. Leave Doctor Wat-son here."
"If he," she showed the same derision for whoever she spoke about, "wants him left out of it and you take him, you will be in trouble."
"…I migh' ask an' I migh' not." Amos leered at me, showing brownish-yellow teeth. "I'm goin' to fin' out if you should come. If you try to escape, I'll kill 'er." My expression was suitably angered at this statement, but Miss Sakda didn't show any outward sign of alarm. "And you," he looked at her, "You stroll 'long with me an' act like nuffin is wrong."
She nodded, glancing down at me with amber-brown eyes that held a puzzling expression—she seemed anxious for me, but there wasn't any fear in her eyes, not for herself; nor did she appear to have given in to resignation. In truth, her gaze reminded me a little of Holmes, for she seemed to be able to pierce through a man and delve into his secrets just as he could. Also, Miss Samira Sakda appeared to have Holmes' disregard for one's own person. Her lips moved silently and I concentrated with all my might to be able to tell what she was saying. 'Run," she mouthed. 'Run now.'
And then Amos jerked her out the door.
In all practicality, Amos needn't have worried about me running off despite Miss Sakda's advice. I could scarcely sit up, let alone run with my head in the state it was. Moreover, even if I had managed to escape, the blackguard had threatened the lady and I certainly did not wish to put her in any danger. Although this was the case and the beating had left me breathless and my vision and stamina were sorely shaken due to my head injury, I staggered upright.
I almost slipped in the slimy fish remains, but I managed to totter forward and hang on to the frame of the door, which our captor had either left open carelessly or as a dare. I pushed the door open slightly and looked around, hoping to see a sympathetic face, but the shutters of all the nearby buildings were closed and I saw no one.
"Leave him alone," a voice implored. "I tell you he has no part in it." I looked straight ahead toward the sound and saw Amos dragging Miss Sakda toward a cab. I had a notion to try and go over there to rescue her, but a lurch of dizziness overtook me and I ended up sliding down the door, coming to rest just outside of the shack. Deciding I should assess my wounds before I made any attempted heroics, I felt my ribs where I had been punched—they were extremely tender, but I wasn't having difficulty breathing so I concluded they were not broken. My head I wasn't so certain about. I gingerly put my hand to my forehead and pulled my hand away from it stained crimson.
All the blood, for there was certainly enough of it, probably appeared quite gruesome, especially to the lady, but as I had mentioned before, I knew that any injury to the head or scalp often bled profusely. I ran my hands over my head and I sucked in a breath when I hit the injury because it felt like someone had driven an iron railway spike through my eye.
Evidently I had a moderately serious head injury. A deep gauge several inches long was at my hairline, narrowly missing my temple. Beneath the gash was a rather firm lump of swelling. Obviously, I had been hit rather hard, so it was not too difficult to understand the confusion of my brain, although my understanding did nothing to lessen the annoyance of the gap in my memory. I felt somewhat queasy after my exploration of the wound so I closed my eyes and did not notice anything odd until I heard the footsteps.
"Psst." I turned my head to see a young shoeshine boy—he had black polish all over his hands and a brush sticking out of his pocket so that even I was able to construe his profession—sneaking up from behind the building. "Yer Dr. Watson? Truly?"
"Yes." My brain still slow, I tried to think what else I should say.
The boy, who was in need of a good scrubbing, scratched his disheveled dark hair. "Yeah? Well, whose yer frien', then?"
It took me a second to realize the boy had doubts about my identity. "I am a friend of Sherlock Holmes, if that's what you mean."
"Blimey! Mr. Holmes gives me a couple'a pence ever' now an' again fer news I 'ear when shinin'."
At the time I thought it a great coincidence that the lad was there, though it turned out of course that he had been there purposefully. My damaged memory didn't reveal anything of the events that had led me to this place but I had a sudden feeling that Holmes did not know exactly where I was. I needed to get a message to him. Glancing around, I saw that Amos and Miss Sakda had to be inside the wagon and that the driver was getting down off his rig to assist him as the young lady was seemingly being troublesome. Thank you Miss Sakda, I thought, for the distraction.
"You say that Holmes has employed you in the past?" I asked, closing my eyes wearily.
"Do you know his residence?"
"Yessir, 221B Baker Street, tha' is, sir."
"Good, good. Please, lad, do you think that you can take this to him?" I reached inside my coat and, somewhat reluctantly, handed him the dented gold pocket watch that had belonged to my father and older brother before me. I knew the boy could possibly take it to some blackguard to sell and not go to speak to Holmes at all, but it was always my habit to think the best of people, and he was rather young, and the watch was the only thing that I could think of that would prove to my friend that the message was indeed from me. He would, after all, want proof of what the lad said and moreover, my brain was so muddled I couldn't think of a better plan. I hated to think that I could put Holmes in danger by informing him of my current situation, but I saw little choice in the matter and could only trust that he would be well. "Tell him…" I gasped as my headache intensified; no doubt from moving around.
"I'd tell 'im whatever yer like, sir, on'y don' yer wan' me to 'elp you git out of 'ere?"
"I can't leave the lady," I replied.
"I though' maybe you'd say tha', bein' a gen'leman."
My head was pounding louder and louder and it was all I could do to listen to the boy. "Please, tell Holmes that the lady and I…" I gasped with the sudden pain at my temple.
"I'll le' 'im know yer in trouble, sir, an' where yer git off to. An' I'll tell 'im all I over'eard, an' about the lady, too."
"You'll follow us, then? So that you can tell Holmes? I'm quite sure he'll compensate you for—"
"I'm not 'elpin' for the money, sir. I t'aint a gent, but me mum taught me right from wrong."
His serious little face was offended and I patted his shoulder to let him know I meant no harm. "You're a stout soldier, lad."
"I'd best be off, then, afore they get back," the boy whispered, tucking my watch away in his shirt and disappearing around the side of the building. I watched the place he had retreated, imagining the boy handing Holmes the watch.
Deuced if I didn't hate to have to ask for Holmes help in this way! It was not merely as a matter of pride that it bothered me, of course, but because it might be painful to my friend. True, Holmes was not what you would call the most feeling of fellows, or at least he didn't seem that way, but I have had a few occasions to see beneath his cold, methodical exterior and I knew he wouldn't take the news of my current situation well. More worriedly, as I mentioned before, my asking for his help when I was in a bad spot like this could end up with him getting harmed.
That was, of course, assuming he wasn't already in trouble—surely not! I could stand being in danger, though the lady's plight bothered me considerably, but I would be entirely bereft if anything had happened to Holmes, particularly if I had something to do with it. As I had no idea of the events that had led up to my predicament, I told myself that it wasn't helpful to imagine all the worst possibilities since I had no idea what the crux of the matter truly was. Truly, I was even more in the dark than was usual.
At a small cry of pain from Miss Sakda from inside the cab, I shoved myself to my feet and took a few determined steps toward her before the bright flashes in my brain exploded. I have no recollection of whether I made it to her or of anything else further because it was at that point the wound in my head and all my other injuries caught up with me and I succumbed to unconsciousness.