Monday, 25 January 1926
M is as good as her word, and the survivors are ferried back to Singapore on a ship with a rather large number of psychiatrists on board. Even the toughest of the team is shaken—Dr. Jones, Jr., managed to look at one of the Hunting Horrors just as the sun’s beams caught it after totality. The resulting explosion drove him into delirium.
“Snakes,” is all anyone can get from him. “Why snakes?”
Seward only stays in Singapore long enough to resign from St. Howard’s and St. Phillip’s. “Time I was going back to England,” he says. Dr. Watson has also finally retired and will make the trip with them to New York via the west coast of America.
Jimmy finds Vanessa in her room, her belongings already packed. “You’re Mr. Wright, yes? Dr. Seward says that you’re to take me home?”
“That’s right, ma’am.”
Jimmy shakes his head slightly.
Vanessa nods, and dabs her eyes with a handkerchief. “I…had a feeling he wasn’t coming back. But thank you. Thank you for helping him finally end all this.”
The trip across the Pacific is restful for all of them. Francis is soon up and about, walking on the deck of the liner with Isabelle. Dr. Seward has brought his best graduate students with him, and they unobtrusively make sure to listen to all the survivors, providing what therapy they can.
They lay over in Los Angeles for a few days before continuing on to New York. Jimmy takes Vanessa and Mirabelle down to the beach at Santa Monica. He watches the sun set into the Pacific Ocean, feeling the cool breezes blow around him. At night he drives into Hollywood and looks at the bright lights from the marquees.
A man could get used to this, he thinks.
Freddie is brought in front of King George. As he and M enter the audience room, an elderly man stands up from one of the chairs in the corner. Although old, his back is straight and his eyes glare with a fierce intelligence.
“Ah, you’re all here,” says the King. “I was just thanking our visitor for making the long journey up from Kent. And, if I might once again offer you, sir, the title you have so richly earned—”
The old man dismisses the King with an elegant wave of his hand. “My work has always been its own reward, your Majesty. I lack no means of support, and the knighthood you saw fit to bestow upon my dear old friend was reward enough. Shall we begin on the matter at hand?”
The King sighs and leans back in his chair. “If we must, although I can’t see how even you, my friend, can get young…Roland out of this.”
“It is an axiom of mine,” says the old man, “that once you have eliminated the impossible, what remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Freddie boggles. “My God,” he says. “Are you real?”
The man dismisses him with the same elegant gesture. “Clearly, based on the testimony and records presented by Sir John Seward, MD, there can be no doubt that this man is indeed the son of the late Arthur, Earl Godalming. And clearly, Roland Blakely was a terrorist. But you, sir, do not resemble this Blakely in the slightest.”
Freddie looks in the mirror. He is fitter than he has ever been; he couldn’t fit into his old dinner jacket. His hair has been graying ever since the encounter with Shakhti under the Sphinx, and his skin is taut and malarial. His eyes, too, have a haunted look about him. Damned if I don’t recognize me, he thinks.
“I therefore think that the easiest thing is to quietly confirm Mr. Lockwood as Fifth Earl and let him live—”
“Anywhere but England,” interjects the King. “I’m afraid I’m going to stipulate that. Just stay out of England!”
“But Uncle George!”
“I’m sorry. Maybe when my worthless son becomes King—”
“But Teddy’s wonderful!”
“David. And he doesn’t like you.”
“Hrm, must be about that car…”
Tuesday, 9 February 1926
Jimmy, Francis, and Vanessa make the long drive out to Long Island to the Carlisle Mansion. The butler takes them into a sitting room where they wait a long time for Erica Carlisle.
When she finally does appear, she points harshly at Vanessa. “Who is that?”
Jimmy sighs. “It’s a long story. I would like you to meet—”
“Vanessa?” Erica takes a step forward. Vanessa stands up. For a moment they stare at each other, tensely.
Then Erica wraps her arms around her sister. They both begin to cry.
Jimmy and Francis quietly leave the sitting room and close the doors behind them. Bradley Grey comes down the hallway towards them, making his way on crutches.
“I heard about the shooting.”
“You know, it’s weird, but a couple of weeks ago my legs suddenly started to get better.”
“You don’t say?”
“Hey, Jimmy, you want a job in the DA’s office?”
“Thanks, but no. I’ve got my own little thing, and I have a partner now.”
“I’m semi-retired,” says Francis. “As long as I keep out of the British Empire, I should be fine. And I think my wife would like America. Probably settle in New Orleans.”
“I think I’m going to go to Los Angeles,” says Jimmy.
“Well, think about it,” says Bradley. “And if you ever need help, I know a guy in the DA’s department out there who probably will need a job. Good guy, but a little insubordinate. Name’s Marlowe, Pete or Phil or something like that.”
Freddie drops by the hospital right before he leaves London to check on Eloise and Sheila. Neither are in a particularly good mood—they have lost the will to live, since the failure of the Gate.
“Listen, I think you two might want to work for my Aunt. She has just the sort of organization that could use people like you.”
“I suppose I owe a debt of honor to you and Francis,” muses Eloise.
“What about you, Sheila?”
“I think…I’m going to go work for your Aunt?”
“She definitely needs some one as talented as you. Sorry about the hand.”
“It’s all right…I understand you’re not coming back to England. That’s probably a good idea. If I see you, I’m just going to start shooting and figure it’s self-defense.”
“Well, that’s the most original rejection of a proposal I’ve ever had,” huffs Freddie.