Chapter 4

A week later

Dr. Clarkson's bedroom

The middle of the afternoon

Richard had never felt more fulfilled in his life. He hadn't realized something was missing, but now he knew. He knew so much. He had been with many women, but it was never like this, never so satisfying. With women, he always felt an emptiness afterwards, a loss of essence. He stretched. Muscles he hadn't used in some time were aching, but it was a good ache.

Thomas was awake now, propped up against the pillows, smoking a cigarette. The room stank of sweat and semen and the sheets were a mess. Richard couldn't believe they had given in during the daylight. It was just so hard to stop when the moment arose. Thomas's body was perfect. Richard had seen plenty of naked men. Thomas was flawless. Taught, tall, strong. Richard reached over and ran a hand through his chest hair. Thomas blew a perfect ring of smoke. He just couldn't believe a man like Thomas could possibly be interested in someone as old and grey as him.

Thomas smiled. The way his lip curled and eye glinted, like a wink made Richard's heart jump. He ran his hand down Thomas's firm body. He twitched in his hand. Richard had never had cause to regret his age, but the ever-readiness of a young man was something to regret. So long as Thomas didn't mind that he didn't always recover as quickly. Richard did love the way the muscles in his neck moved, ever so slightly, as he smoked. But would it last? A man like Thomas, with the world, with life ahead of him, wouldn't want to be stuck with an old man like him in a remote English village for long.

Thomas smiled and rolled onto his side. "Richard," he ran his hand through Richard's hair, "maybe we should consider the future."

Matthew's Office

Same time

"I'm not sure I quite understand. Are you saying they hired a medium? And she contacted Vera Bates?" Matthew blinked repeatedly.

"Yes." Mary sighed patiently. "In fact, they hired the medium Sir Arthur Conan Doyle uses." She still thought the whole thing was insane, but upon reflection, she agreed with Mrs. Hughes. It was all they had, and they owed Anna.

"So…what do they want us to do?" Mary loved him, but he really could be slow sometimes.

"Well, apparently Vera told them who killed her, and they were wondering if there was a way to use it to get Mr. Bates's conviction overturned."

Matthew blinked again, and leaned back in his chair. "I have no idea, but criminal law isn't really my specialty."

Mary smiled. "I'm so glad to hear you say that, unlike Mr. Murray, who obviously knows nothing about it."

"Indeed. I need to speak to your father about that. My friend Robert Ford will be here by the end of the week."

"Don't tell Papa about the medium. Not yet at least." Mary saw what looked like Mr. Molesley slinking around the side of the garden with a large blanket and a bottle of wine.

"No." Matthew ruffled his hand through his hair. "Did they tell you who the killer was?"

Mary laughed and hoped she didn't sound too nervous. She didn't want to believe it. She had hoped she had been as impassive as ever when Mr. Carson told her. She had not mentioned it to Anna. She believed it. It was frighteningly like what she knew. "It was Thomas and Sir Richard."

Matthew fell out of his chair.

Downton Abbey


About the same time

Robert reached down to rub Isis's ears. She was a good girl. She loved him. There had been no responses to his advertisement for a new valet. A man in his position should not have to carry his own suitcase in town or fasten his own cufflinks at home. Cora had let him return to her bed, but that was it. It was very cold.

The door opened. "Robert, I was thinking." Cora picked up a book. Something by Frances Hogdson Burnet from the look of the cover.

"What's that, dear?" He smiled. If she would only forgive him.

"Well, I'm no expert on inheritance law. It has never made a bit of sense to me why girls can't inherit here, and the whole thing with the eldest male direct descendent of the body…." She smiled and blinked in that way she had. She understood perfectly. She was one of the smartest people Robert knew. "I do know how you like to do things properly."

He shifted in his chair. Isis thumped her tail.

"Wouldn't it be true if Sybil's baby is a boy that he would then be the next earl? Isn't the phrase in the entail something like direct males heir of the body?" She flipped through the book. "If you're going to insist on following the language of the entail to the letter, surely that would be the case."

Robert's heart skipped a beat. He could feel his breath starting to be heavier than he liked. Branson's child as the future Earl of Grantham? He turned to look at Cora, who was now engrossed in her book. She was right. That was a strict interpretation of the language of the entail. He closed his eyes. He could feel the blood rushing to his face as the color drained out. He couldn't believe he hadn't realized it before. There was nothing he could do. Damn his father.

Cora looked up. "Are you sure you're quite alright dear? You're looking rather dyspeptic. Perhaps you should seen Dr. Clarkson." She stood, smiled, and left the room.


Later in the afternoon

"But what's it for, Mrs. Patmore?" Daisy was confused.

"It's a medical device." Mrs. Patmore snapped the case shut before Miss O'Brien had the chance to say something. She should have known better than to open it in the kitchen, but she wasn't thinking. She had thought it was the new set of knives she'd ordered.

Daisy blinked a few times, her brow furrowed. "A medical device? What for? I didn't know you were sick."

"There's plenty you don't know, my girl!" She would die if one of the men came in. Mr. Carson was expected back at any minute.

"Flamin' hell! I swear that women believes she'll strain her precious little wrist if she so much as buttons a blouse herself!" Miss O'Brien might be worse than Mr. Carson. "I could use some tea." Mrs. Patmore tried to hide the case under the butcher's block before Miss O'Brien could see it. "What are you hiding there?"

"Mrs. Patmore got a new medical device." Confound the girl.

"Oh? What's that?" Miss O'Brien smirked as Mrs. Patmore laid the case on the table. "The White Cross Electric Vibrator by Lindstrom-Smith." She looked up her knowingly. "Is this the newer model, or the 1910?"

"The 1910." She flushed. Daisy looked more confused than ever. "Mrs. Crawley said this was just thing for my hysteria."

"Hysteria? What's this thing have to do with hysteria?" Daisy looked from Mrs. Patmore to Miss O'Brien.

"It induces hysterical paroxysm. Don't you have something to peel?"

Miss O'Brien's lips twitched. "And makes her forget to regret there never was a Mr. Patmore."

"What?" Daisy blinked.

Mrs. Patmore chuckled. "Mrs. Crawley did say she didn't miss Dr. Crawley half as much after she got hers." Miss O'Brien laughed. They forgot Daisy for a minute.

"But Mrs. Patmore, I don't understand. How can that machine take the place of a husband?" She looked from one to the other. "Should we get one for Anna so she wouldn't miss Mr. Bates as much?"

Mrs. Patmore looked away as Miss O'Brien bit her lip. "I don't think she'd appreciate that. There are…different ways to miss a husband."


Miss O'Brien's shoulders were shaking. "She's a married woman now, she'll have to know sometime."

Mrs. Patmore took a deep breath. "Well, you see, Daisy, when two people love each other very much….."

The Village

Same afternoon, slightly later

Anna sighed as she walked away from the hospital. Dr. Clarkson had told her exactly what she thought he would. John might never walk again. She wanted to know what to expect before she saw him, before he tried to protect her from the truth. Anna hadn't been sure of Dr. Clarkson's expertise since his misdiagnosis of Mr. Crawley's injury, but he had to be better than the doctor at the prison. At least he didn't leer at her or insult her.

Dr. Clarkson had seemed oddly relaxed today; distracted as well. Anna wondered what it was. His hair wasn't as neat as usual, and he seemed to be rushing in from his living quarters. She thought she recognized Thomas's coat and hat in the hall. That wasn't important. Dr. Clarkson had said with proper care, and exercise, John would be able to regain some use of his leg. Without, and with what he knew of John's previous injury, it was highly unlikely. He needed warmth, and care, and exercise. The damp and neglect would settle into the bone and prevent healing. In addition to walking, other activities would be challenging. He had cleared his throat and looked at his hands as he said that. Anna knew exactly what he meant. Luckily they were both very creative in that area.

Depressing as the news had been, Anna was glad to know. She wanted to be prepared for when she saw John. Not knowing what to expect bothered her. Knowing didn't, no matter how awful the news might be.

She had some shopping to do before returning home, and time for tea in the village. Anna took a deep breath before opening the door. The last time she had been in the clerk had been barely cordial. She knew it was because of John. He was a murderer. It didn't matter that he had lived near them for year, in the eyes of the village, he was a murderer. Anna smiled as she went inside. It didn't matter what they thought. They didn't know him.

Anna saw the shopgirls whispering as she entered. She smiled at them. They were very young. If John could wrap his leg in flannel, and walk on level ground, it would help him regain strength. One of the girls disappeared into the back of the shop. This had happened before. Anna had entered a shop, and the staff vanished, as if she had something contagious. It didn't matter. They didn't know her. She found the powder she was seeking for Lady Mary, whose supply from London was out but due within the week. Anna also found a jar of the lavender hand cream John liked. She added that to her selection, and made her way to the counter.

The girl was staring at her. This had happened before, often in church. Anna could handle starring. She was almost used to it. She knew she should get used to it, but she didn't want to. That would mean she accepted it, that she accepted John wasn't coming back. Finally the girl started to wrap Anna's purchases.

"Lovely day, isn't it?" Anna wanted her to be at ease.

"Yes." She wouldn't make eye contact. "Warm, too."

"Indeed. Could you wrap those separately please?"

Silence. "You're the murderer's wife." It was a statement, not a question.

"My husband was wrongfully convicted, and we're working on gathering evidence for an appeal." Evidence that would apparently only come from his alleged victim's ghost, which was to say, no evidence at all. The girl dropped a jar. Anna had rehearsed the answer a number of times, but it never got any easier to say. It would be easier to say "Yes, I'm the murderer's wife," but that would be a lie. John had been a good customer in this shop, for himself and on behalf of Lord Grantham. That seemed to be forgotten now that John was a murderer. Other than over their exchange of money Anna and the shopgirl exchanged no further words.

Back in the street, Anna decided to have tea at the little shop. She and John had been there a number of times, but she hadn't been since his arrest. They had always had such a nice time there, it would be good to go back and have new memories with the old ones. She couldn't take him flannel for his leg. She had been reminded before it wasn't a boys school. It was hopeless. John said his window leaked, and their only exercise was walking in a circle in the yard.

Anna noticed the looks and whispers as she entered the shop. She selected a table near the fireplace. The old ladies at the next table got up as soon as she sat down. Anna didn't like the way they looked at her, but they didn't know her, they didn't know John. She wasn't sure she wanted them to if they believed everything they heard. She studied the menu. Waitresses walked around her. The shop was not busy. John might never walk again. She must not dwell on that. He was alive. He was healthy. She saw him as often as she could. A tear ran down her cheek. It could be so much worse. Nothing would come of this new business with Vera's ghost. She wouldn't tell him.

Twenty minutes has passed. Anna debated summonsing a waitress, but thought better of it. She didn't want to cause a scene. She couldn't quite believe that Mrs. Hughes had actually called a medium. It was all too much. Why should they trust Vera's ghost any more than they had trusted Vera? She made her way to the door. The owner, Mrs. Cockburn, was chatting with another woman as Anna made her way outside.

"Miss Smith, I'm sorry, was something wrong?" Mrs. Cockburn had always been kind, but Anna saw her companion draw back as she passed. Anna wondered if they thought being married to a convicted murderer was contagious.

"Actually yes, and it's Mrs. Bates." She smiled, as if they didn't know. "I've been waiting for twenty minutes at least, and I do have other things to do this afternoon." Anna tried to keep her tone cordial, even. She gripped her bag tightly with both hands so they wouldn't see how she was shaking.

Mrs. Cockburn had the decency to look embarrassed. "I'm so sorry, Mrs. Bates. If you'll come back in, I'll be happy to see to you myself."

Anna couldn't go back inside, touched as she was. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Cockburn, but I am expected back at the house, and I know I'm disturbing your other customers." She smiled, she hoped bravely. "I wouldn't want to harm your business any more than I have." She was the wife of a murderer. She almost said it out loud.

She left quickly so they couldn't see her tears falling. They were so kind, but so cruel. Why did they all trust Vera? She didn't, and she wouldn't tell John. There was nothing so cruel as false hope. She would keep plugging away at the small leads she had. She was almost running. She should be careful. John needed her to be able to walk if he couldn't. She took a deep breath. When would the world be finished with them? It didn't matter that John couldn't walk. She did love his body, but not walking wasn't the end of the world. If only John could take the blow to his pride.

If he was ever released. Anna stopped to catch her breath. She used to think when. Now it was if. If he was ever released they would have to leave Downton, leave Yorkshire, leave England most likely.

That evening

Hall outside Downton Library

"Fire Murray! What can you mean Matthew? He's been with the family for years!"

"Yes, Robert, I understand that, and I respect it, but he isn't the man for this job."

Mary shifted to get her ear closer to the keyhole.

"Criminal defense is something completely different than estate and property law, and requires a specialist. I would never attempt it."

"Why didn't you say this before Bates's trial? Isn't it a little late to change lawyers?"

"I didn't say anything at the time because I didn't know how bad the case was against him. I was too wrapped up in Lavinia's death to think clearly."

Mary missed a few words from her father. Her grandmother was right; listening at keyholes was inaccurate but most illuminating.

"But then when I saw the trial…Robert, I would have convicted him and I know he didn't do it. Surely you must see that Murray isn't the man for the job. He'll see this as a relief, trust me. Lawyers are a proud lot, and he won't want to admit he's in over his head."

Mary heard more whisky being poured.

"You have said many times now that you owe your life to John Bates. If that's true, don't you owe him a lawyer who can give him a chance of having a life?"

Mary heard her father sigh.

"You're right. You'll handle the whole thing?"

"Of course, first thing tomorrow."

Mary jumped between some potted palms as her father passed. He didn't need to know she was listening. As Matthew followed she pulled his hand, tugging him to her.

"That was nicely done." She liked having him so near.

"Practicing your eavesdropping, I see?" His eyes lit up. "He was resistant. I hated having to play on his guilt."

"You did what had to be done. Let's hope Mr. Ford does a better job. I can barely face Anna some days."

Matthew caressed her hand. "He will. Trust me."

Mary wanted him to kiss her.

"Well, I should be going." He looked like he might. "I can see myself out."

He leaned to her, and pressed his mouth against hers. When Mary wanted him to kiss her, this wasn't what she meant. This was so awkward, so sterile, so unpleasant. She wondered if he had ever properly kissed Lavinia. It was liked having her lips mashed. It had been so different with Kemal, and she wanted that from Matthew. She thought she should expect it from Matthew. He pulled away and smiled. She smiled back. Perhaps once they were married it would improve.

York Prison

Same time

The tea was over-brewed. John tried his best to swallow it, with a bite of bread, but he hadn't kept anything down since his fall. The pain was still excruciating. He wasn't hungry, but he couldn't take the repeated indignity of being sick each time he tried to eat. He fell back onto his cot and groaned.

Anna would be visiting soon. John hated that she would have to see him like this. He wondered if he could tell her not to come. It would be her last visit before leaving for Italy. She would finally see that he was an old man. He winced. Wallace had been looking at her picture. John had had to hide it, best he could without actually being able to move. He didn't want men like Wallace looking at Anna. John didn't even know what he was in for, but to be housed with a murderer it was nothing good.

Darkness started to creep in. He was so cold. He was walking in the wood near Downton and Anna's hand was in his. It was small and solid and warm. He could almost smell her. He smiled. Wallace was looking at him again. Anna was in his arms, in her nightgown with her long braid. She was tucked alongside him in their wedding bed. That bed had been so large and so soft. She glowed in the candlelight, though he would always prefer the moonlight.

Someone down the corridor was fighting. The screams didn't resonate in John's head. They went straight to his leg. Anna was walking ahead of him just out of reach. He couldn't keep up. He asked her to slow down a little, so they could walk together. She turned and smiled and kept going. Anna always waited for him. He turned on his cot. His leg. He gasped. This was tiresome and humiliating. This was his life. He could still take the morphine.

He couldn't take the morphine. He'd come this far. Anna was walking alone in the darkness. It was light. She was in a forest. He caught his breath. She was beautiful, all in blue. Birds were singing. It was spring, and the ground was damp. John was a lucky man. Sometimes when he saw her like this, he forgot he was her husband.

John shifted. He felt suddenly very cold. A darkness fell on the forest path. The birds and other creatures vanished. A cloud passed over the sun. Vera was standing before Anna. John tried to scream, to tell Anna to run, but he was frozen. His damn leg. Anna was so tiny next to Vera.

Anna stood her ground as Vera sneered. Vera was saying something, but if John knew Anna she would give as good as she got. Vera was angry. She picked up a rock and tossed it, hitting Anna's hat. John tried to lunge. The bitch. Anna picked up a larger rock, and hit Vera's shoulder. Vera lurched at Anna, pushing her into the mud. John was horrified. He heard screaming. Vera would win. Anna was so small and so clean. Vera would hurt her. They rolled into a deep puddle. Anna emerged, covered head to toe in mud but seemingly victorious. Vera grabbed her ankle and pulled her back in, smearing Anna's face in mud and manure. John heard screaming. Vera was hurting Anna. He was hot. His sheets were twisted. Vera would win. Damn the whore. She got was she deserved. Now Anna was on top, throwing mud and manure in great clumps at Vera's face. Her hair had fallen, and her dress was ruined. Vera was flagging. Years of dissipation had caught up with her. Dresses were ripped, and Vera's breast was exposed. As John had suspected the years had not been kind. She was slapping Anna. How dare she. Vera was sneaky. She might still win. John heard screaming. He gasped as Anna shoved Vera to the ground with all her might and put great handfuls of mud in her mouth. Anna would win. Anna was strong. She stood, kicked her opponent, and walked away, leaving Vera in the puddle. Anna had won.