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The Adventure of the Missing Princess
About the Author: Michael Mallory is the author of the "Amelia Watson" and "Dave Beauchamp" mysteries series, as well as eight nonfiction books on pop culture subjects. His short stories have appeared everywhere from "Fox Kids Magazine" to "Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine." By day he is an L.A.-based entertainment journalist.

Most would argue against the probability that the dearth of patients passing through the door of my surgery could be blamed on the appalling weather that had thrown a sodden blanket of gloom over the city of London for the past fortnight. Simple logic should dictate that people will continued to suffer from illnesses and injuries in inclement weather as well as fair, yet I had seen fewer people since the skies above had turned hostile than at any time since I had purchased this small practice in the Paddington district, more than a year ago. However, as my friend and colleague, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, has said so often in the past when ruminating over the solution to a case, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. Because of that, I vowed to throw probability to the wind and maintain my belief the London weather was indeed the causative factor for my dwindling practice, at least until a better explanation could be derived.

I had no sooner finished ruminating about my situation when I heard the door open and the sounds of someone entering. I rose up from my desk and went out to greet my first patient in more than a fortnight. He proved to be a well-built sturdy chap of roughly my age (I am approaching my thirty-eighth birthday), with slightly thinning hair, made up for by a luxuriant moustache. Upon second look, I thought I recognized him. ‘Good heavens,’ I uttered, upon the third examination of his face, ‘is that you, Treves?’

‘Hello, Watson,’ Frederick Treves replied, sticking his hand out for me to shake. ‘It has been a long time.’

‘Indeed it has!’ I pumped his hand, but did so with a sense of delicacy and care, not wishing to bruise or harm in any way one of the finest surgical hands to be found anywhere in the Empire. Treves and I had first encountered one another as medical students, many years ago, though only in passing, since I had earned my degree at St. George’s, while he was establishing himself at the London Hospital Medical College. We had not seen each other since, though it was certainly not a requirement to be actually acquainted with him to know of him and his work. ‘You are well, I trust.’

‘Quite.’ He glanced around my surgery as though looking for something. ‘You have set yourself up quite nicely here, Watson. Everything you require appears to be within reach.’

‘Everything except patients.’

Treves smiled. ‘And it is never sporting to hope for an epidemic to break out in order to improve business, is it?’

A non-medical man might have found such a jest lacking in taste, but I understood only too well, and responded with a laugh. ‘So, my good fellow, what can I do for you? Surely you haven’t called upon me to seek consultation in a case.’

‘Actually, that is fairly close to why I am here. Is there a place I can sit down?’

‘Yes, certainly, forgive me. Come back to my office.’ I led him in and he took the chair used by my patients—when they materialize—while I seated myself behind my desk. ‘How may I be of assistance?’

‘You have no doubt heard of the man who is perhaps my most famous charge, Mr. Merrick.’

‘Yes, of course, “the Elephant Man.” Poor fellow. I cannot imagine going through life with an affliction such as that.’

‘And yet he bears up under it, amazingly so. Having been dealt such a cruel hand by the fates, Joseph Merrick is nevertheless one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever met. When I first encountered him, years ago, I believed he was mentally deficient. I came to learn he was anything but that. He is even capable of humour at times. At the hospital, where he now resides, he frequently bathes as a way of combating the foul odour that emanates from his afflicted skin, and because he spends so much time immersed in water, he has dubbed himself “John the Baptist.” I have taken to calling him “John” as a way of returning the joke. I even think of him as John now.’

Treves went on talking about his famous, if unfortunate, patient for the next several minutes, and while much of what he said was fascinating, I still had no idea why he had come to me. The puzzlement must have shown on my face (or else the man had developed the talents of a mind-reader in addition to his medical skills), for he interrupted himself by saying: ‘But you are no doubt wondering what all of this has to do with my visit here.’ He rose from his chair and began to pace back and forth, slowly, thoughtfully. ‘You may or may not know, Watson, that many celebrated personages have come to visit John. No less than Her Majesty herself paid a call to him.’

This story appears in our OCT 2016 Issue
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