The Peculiar Adventures of Oscar Heath
Author: Kirol

Chapter 3
Chapter 3

I led the man inside my home, into the well-kept front room where I would allow clients to be seated. Truth be told, it was the only orderly room in the place. I never really had time to clean the rest of the house, and it would be only my eyes to glance upon it all regardless.

I had a studded burgundy leather armchair, accompanied by a detailed mahogany stand beside it where I kept my favourite pipe and tobacco. Just behind the chair was a glass fronted cabinet of fine rums from the Americas and British isles, as well as a large bottle of Tanqueray. I had actually inherited the two pieces of furniture from my late uncle Jasper.

“Take a seat.” I requested, openhandedly pointing towards the other chair in the room, a long leather-lined settee adorned with silken cushions and the like.

Confused with my apparent entry into the home of another, the man sat down. I joined him, choosing to sit in my preferred seat. I sat cross legged and faced the man, crossing my fingers between each other and raising them to my mouth.

His face that moment reminded me of a hound about to be scorned by its master. The situation was similar, I speculate.

“So, Mister Kendall.” I instigated, all the while fixing my gaze inexorably set on his. Every twitch, every flicker of the eyes, no matter how trivial, gave something new away about the man’s disposition.

“I understand you have come from the Pinkerton agency, am I correct?”

Andrew nodded timidly, he was out of his comfort zone to be sure.

“And might I understand you are requesting tutorage from one Oscar Heath?”

He nodded again, and I caught a twinkle of understanding in his eye.

“Then tell me sir, how do you intend to manage in London when you spend your first day misappropriating a watch and consorting with the local women? You have a lot to learn about this country, and a lot to learn about being a detective.”

I remained unmoving from my stance, infallible with my glare, and unrelenting with my discipline. If things were to work out here, this unfamiliar fellow must realise whom is in charge.

His lips began to move, willing to speak.

“I, uh.” Just a few syllables and his distasteful accent was grating on me once more.

“I’m sorry, sir. Had I realised, I wouldn’t have taken your watch. Though it was nice of you to take my luggage.”

“As naught more than contingency, lad. Should you have decided to scarper with my watch, I would have kept everything you own.”

“I see, well, it was still a nice gesture.”

He was remaining timid for now, but I predicted havoc as soon as he came out of his shell with me. Judging from his prior behaviour with my watch and those girls, he would be challenging my authority within a matter of days. Americans cause nothing but trouble.

That said, the street chavies and the patrons of the flash houses around the vicinity were no better.

London was a scary place to be at night, and not much better in the day. Always something happening, you see.

From the darkened twitchels and their ladybirds adorned with dobbins, to the blue bottles under the gas lamps with moths about their heads, everyone was out to get some other poor bugger.

“The first thing I must teach you, Andrew, is to behave. Not to behave well, I might add, but to behave accordingly.

He didn’t quite seem to get my point, so I took the liberty of elaborating.

“You must become part of the crowd you are with; at, say, an opera, you must keep with a set upper back and a stiff upper lip. Remain proper at all times. If, however, our business requires us into a kidsman’s abode or public house, expect to be treated with grand hostilities and treat whomever it should be similarly. Keep your wits about you, and watch your pockets.”

He seemed to understand a little better, but lacking field experience I feared his brightened expression was little more than a ruse.

“I think I understand, it’s like puttin’ on a disguise, right?”

In my mind’s eye, I could see myself standing and screaming at the man for his abbreviations. Putting, setting, situating. There is a letter G at the end of the word, and it should be pronounced to be harkened!

I paused a moment to quiet myself before continuing.

“Yes, however it is more of a sociocultural disguise if anything.”

Behind his rugged physique and well-groomed mid-length hair there was a peanut for a brain. How this man attained such an opportunity evaded me.

Unless, of course, he was playing coy and fooling me at the time. He could be a notorious trickster, after all.

“Pray tell, what have you learned thus far on your scholarship?” I pried.

“Well sir, I’ve learned enough t’know of the physical defects of criminals. I imagine they would be no different here than back at home. I claim to be apt with botany and geology, and am captivated with pugilism.”

A pugilist and a botanist, I wondered. What type of man would be interested in such conflicting hobbies eluded me, and yet was before me.

“For example, I know that the bitter poison Strychnine can be found in the seeds of a deciduous tree found in Asia. Rather hard to come by, I would imagine.”

The man was correct. For such a brutish oaf, I was surprised.

“The taste usually means inhalation or intravenous application is required. Rather nasty ailments ensue, and the victim has no more than a few hours to live if undiscovered.”

“What more do you know of poisons?”I asked, hoping he may be of some use after all. Women favoured the use of poison in the foul case of murder I the present day, so I wondered if he may be able to compliment my own talents. Before, I had only dabbled with poisons and remained concentrating my own efforts into other traits.

“That many household items can be synthesised into poisons, or poison can be bought simply from a shop. Distilling a liquid sample can increase potency, and a great deal of murders are currently happening using these methods.”

I was impressed. He knew more about the climate in Britain than I had given him credit for.

I stood, removing my hands from my face. I walked around the man, who now stood with me as a matter of manners, and examined him further. I could see his slacks retained dust from his walk, a pale brown no doubt from the roads of London. A darker colour would have meant a richer soil, more from the countryside.

Further up, his shirt remained rather clean minus around the sleeves. He had a few patches of brown stains, no doubt from a spilled glass of coffee. Perhaps he was clumsy of sorts. That said, his travels would have fatigued him.

His hands were smooth and nails were well-trimmed, so he had not got a past of manual labour, minus his pugilistic knuckles which lingered tattered and dry, scarred and abrupt.

Finally, I looked up to his neck. Around it, he wore a simple silver cross.

“A superstitious man are you, Mr Kendall?”I asked, my gaze fixed now upon the cross.

“Can’t say that I am, sir, but I am a religious one.”

“Very good, very good. You would do well to attend church regularly here, it helps to know who is who around here.”

“Which church do you attend, sir?”

“Which? Why, as many as I see fit.” I replied. He didn’t understand once more so with a sigh and a glare, I elaborated on his behalf.

“What better way to get to know your clients and their potential whereabouts than to attend a place where they all frequent at once?”

I reached into my pocket and removed a small leather-bound book.

“Here, read this.” I requested, passing him my journal.

Steadily and respectfully, he turned the first page open very gently, reading inside. I awaited his response for a short while.

“Why, you have a profile on every church goer?” He exclaimed in surprise.

During my Sundays, I would draw each person new to the church and get to know them a little better. No doubt they thought it was little more than friendly banter, but it was more of a profiling than anything. I would scrawl down notes on gossip and goings-on in a separate book, with each book marked out with a different code for me to refer to. Besides the front room, that was the only other organised system in my home.

“Correct. Knowing your enemy is half the battle.”

What he didn’t know is that he would be my next profile.

 

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