It was too late for the post. Much too late. Yet there had been a knock at the door, and here, standing all of three and a half feet tall, was a young lad, wearing the typical navy blue outfit of a delivery boy on the front porch of John’s small two story flat. In his small hand, he held an envelope. Curious, the muscular, well-built man at the door thought. What could this possibly mean?
“Letter for you, sir.” The boy spoke.
“At this hour? Who sent you?” John asked.
“I don’t know, sir. I was simply told to deliver this letter straight to you, sir.” The lad answered, his yellow shaggy hair falling into his eyes.
“Well who paid you?” The man leaned on the door frame, his leg beginning to ache.
“No one, sir. I was told I would be paid upon delivery.” The boy held out the egg colored envelope. His grimy hand dwarfed by the paper.
The man took the envelope from the boy and paid him a penny for his troubles. The lad frowned, hoping for more coin, but nodded none the less and skipped away down the street, away from the man at the door.
Twirling his thick handlebar mustache with one hand, John stared down at the envelope in his other. The script was finely penned, addressed to him by name: Dr. John H. Watson. Curious, the man thought, How very curious. He turned the envelope over. It was sealed, the emblem pressed into the red wax, a simple shape of five sides; a pentagon.
John closed the front door to his flat, locked the deadbolt, and walked slowly back to his study, where he had been before having been called to the door, limping on one leg as he did.
The room here, in the back of his flat, was cozy and warm. The wallpaper was of a deep forest green. The shelves, which lined all sides of the room were dark mahogany, and the two newly upholstered armchairs were a soft red velvet. A fire was lit in the hearth leaving the room with a soft warm glow. Long dark shadows danced about the walls, and books that covered them, with the flames in the fireplace.
Watson carefully made his way to his chair next to the fire and sat down heavily, falling rather than lowering himself, the last four inches into the seat cushion. Using a long silver letter opener on a nearby end table, he sliced through the wax seal and opened the envelope. Inside was a letter, penned by the same feminine hand that had written his name on the envelope. It was neatly scrawled in black ink and smelled faintly of sweet perfume.
Dear, Dr. Watson, the letter read. You have been summoned to appear before the Order of the Five. On the 31st day of December 1879 arrive at Langham Hotel in London. Upon arrival speak with the front desk clerk, announcing your name. You will be expected and accommodations will be provided to you. You are to convene in the Grand Club Suite no later than 8:00 PM. A representative will be present to escort you, do not be late.
Do not under any circumstances discuss these matters with anyone. It is of the utmost importance that these dealings are kept secret, even from those closest to you. The consequences of such an act would be regrettable.
To show you our sincerity in this matter, might we remind you that your pension, of eleven shillings and ninepence monthly, would be revoked should the authorities learn of certain acts, which you were involved with while serving in Her majesty’s army. We trust that you will be as discrete in our dealings as you may trust we are in yours.
John stared at the letter as if waiting for more. Who was this Lucy Hyde? Who was the Order of the Five? And more importantly, the doctor thought, how did they know of his dealings in India?
He turned over the letter. The paper, an expensive parchment, was blank. He was not the kind of man to be told what to do, not since his service in the army anyway. He didn’t like this, not one bit. Yet, he thought, What choice do I have?
December thirty-first, New Year’s Eve, was only two days away. This didn’t give John much time to prepare, but thankfully for him, the doctor lived in London, and the trip to the Langham Hotel itself would take only a matter of minutes.
Dr. Watson placed the letter and it’s envelope on the end table next to the letter opener and leaned back into his tall, antique chair. His leg ached. The war hadn’t been kind to him, and the pain he felt now, a sharp agonizing pain that constantly ran up and down his femur, reminded him of that.
Watson reached across the end table and grabbed a glass of brandy which he had poured earlier. With a single motion, he threw the liquid back, letting it slide down his throat. It burned as it went down, but instantly had an effect on his mind. The pain in his leg subsiding if only momentarily.
The Order of the Five, he thought. Who were they, how did they know about his service in the army? Of his actions there, or of the dealings, which no one was supposed to have known about? He had never told anyone about his time overseas, claiming that it had been too brutal to speak of. He had never spoken a word of his actions, not even to a priest.
Of those he had been within the army, they were all dead. No one could have known his secret, not a soul. Yet here was this letter, with words as mysterious as it’s arrival, claiming to have knowledge of things no one should.
With trouble, the doctor climbed out of his chair and grabbed his cane. He made his way to the bar and poured himself another brandy. The pain was too much tonight, aggravated by this letter, he thought. He threw back another shot of the burning liquid and poured himself a third glass. The hot liquid slid down a little more easily this time. It was going to be a long night, Watson told himself as he poured the fourth glass. But if he was lucky, he wouldn’t have to remember it.