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Hazy light trickled through the curtains and onto the bed. Byron’s eye twitched as the first rays of sun hit his face. His sheets clung to him, sticky with sweat. The murmuring sounds of the city worked their way up from the pavement. He sighed and pushed himself up to a seated position, muscles aching.
He ran a hand through his hair, let out a breath, and stood to stretch as a pain stung his chest. Why on earth did his muscles ache so? Wincing, he moved over to the window and opened it, hoping to let the fresh air chase out the stale. A paper fluttered to the floor behind him. He glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the sound and shook his head. He couldn’t squander his time. Not today. Not with everything at stake. Today he would hopefully find the center of Circe once and for all. After cracking the code they used to communicate through the newspaper, all evidence pointed to the Cobden Club being some kind of hub for the masterminds of the criminal organization. He had been planning for months, and all of his work would finally pay off if everything went according to that plan. He moved to the wardrobe to dress for the day. Shuffling through the folded stacks, he frowned when the shirts he’d placed in the wardrobe the day before were nowhere to be found.
He rubbed the back of his neck as he turned back towards the bed. Perhaps he remembered incorrectly? His eyes traveled around the room for any other oddities. His gaze caught in the mirror and he moved over to it, staring at the skin around his eyes. A black eye had appeared overnight, the mottled skin was healing. How could that be possible? A dark pit formed in his stomach as he tried to remember where he had received it. He leaned closer and tilted his head to better catch the light. The pattern of the bruise looked to be about a week and a half old. He prodded at it, wincing at the sore flesh. He narrowed his gaze as if staring at it long enough would make it disappear. Then, finding the black eye hadn’t moved an inch, he added it to his new mental list of “things that don’t make sense.”
Turning back to the wardrobe, he began to undress, wincing at the effort. Glancing down at his chest he gaped at the large bandage covering a good portion of it. His mind stood still a moment before whirring back to life. He closed his eyes thinking back to the night before. There was no possible explanation, none at all! The only logical solution would be that he was hungover, but that would be impossible. He hadn’t touched alcohol since the first time he’d tried it. Its affects were too detrimental to his thought process. Or had he tried some the night before and simply forgotten?
No, that still didn’t work. After all, where was the headache? The smell of the vile stuff? And it still wouldn’t explain the black eye or whatever injury was catching beneath the bandage. He abandoned all thoughts of dressing and sat on the bed, being careful as he unwrapped his chest. A nasty incision, about five inches in length cut in a diagonal line down from his sternum. The wound seemed to be healing well enough, but when did he get it? And how? He stood to examine it in the mirror.
“Hm.” He traced a finger along one side of it. Likely came from a penknife. Had he been in a fight? Why couldn’t he remember? He squeezed his eyes shut and ran a hand over his temple. His mind felt fuzzy. Perhaps he had been drinking. Letting out a breath, he picked up the bandage again. As it wasn’t too sullied, he rewrapped his chest and dressed in a daze. He added “Injury on chest” to his mental list.
After the issue of getting dressed, he determined to go out for breakfast and clear his head. He finished tying his tie as he walked down the stairs and turned towards the entry hall. Soon his footfalls tapped against the pavement, his thoughts swirling.
What else could this phenomenon be? Had someone found out about his investigations of Arthur O’Connor and drugged him? No. That wasn’t likely at all. Unless O’Connor had informed someone of his visit. But why would he do that? After all, he was in hiding. He wouldn’t likely draw attention to himself by outing the detective that found him. Byron chuckled. That had been a fascinating encounter. The man had jumped clear out of his skin when he realized it was a detective he had invited in for tea. Byron made a mental note to make sure that a new teapot was sent to the poor fellow.
Byron closed his eyes for a moment and refocused on the matter at hand. His unexplained injuries and apparent loss of memory. The meeting with O’Connor had been weeks ago. If O’Connor had somehow contacted Circe, wouldn’t they have done something sooner? The sense of foreboding settled in his stomach again. He shook his head. Things had a habit of working themselves out if he left it long enough. Perhaps he just needed some breakfast to fuel his cognition. The fresh air did wonders for him as he strode towards the nearest cafe.
As he turned a corner, a paperboy ran up to him.
“Would you like another paper today, sir?” the lad stared up at him, eyes full of hope.
“Another?” Byron said with a tilt of his head.
“An interesting tactic to sell newspapers,” he thought, “but it wouldn’t hurt to check over the Central News for any additional codes.” And surely, he ought to recheck the latest location of the club in case he was having a memory issue after all. Wouldn’t want to end up at the wrong end of London! He gave his assent with a nod and a chuckle, producing the coinage needed and handing it to the boy. Paper in hand, Byron continued towards a bright little café in Notting Hill. A vague memory surfaced of the place. Perhaps he had passed it once or twice?
He flicked open the newspaper after he was seated under a cheerful umbrella, waiting to be served. He skimmed the articles briefly before a tall, gangly sort of chap with shoddily trimmed sideburns approached him. Either he did the sideburns himself, or he needed a new barber. Based on the small nicks on his soft, peach fuzzed jaw he likely didn’t have the money for a barber. A semi-soiled apron hung about his hips. Either he only had one, or something had spilled on him earlier in the day. Based on the state of the shoes, Byron would guess the latter. Byron continued his mental appraisal of the man.
“Here without the young lady today, sir?” the waiter asked, his accent making it clear that he was from the North.
Byron furrowed his brow. “I beg your pardon?”
“I didn’t mean to be intrusive sir, but you’re rarely alone when you dine here. Would you like your usual order?” The man, or perhaps boy was a better definition, shuffled from one foot to another and focused in on Byron’s eye. Ah. He’d noticed the bruise.
“You must have me confused for someone else.” Byron drummed his fingers on his leg. Unless that was something else he had forgotten. But how could he determine that?
“Ah, my apologies. What would you like then?” The waiter gripped his pen harder, tapping it on the page of a worn and tattered notebook.
Byron paused a moment to read the waiter’s face. Nothing to suggest the boy was lying. Had he really been to this café before and forgotten? How on earth could he have forgotten the place if he frequented it enough to be recognized as a regular? He leaned forward and cocked an eyebrow. “Out of curiosity, what would the usual have been?”
“A pot of tea, some toast, sausage, and an egg.” The waiter’s gaze flicked up as he listed off the items.
Byron blinked at the man before forcing a chuckle and surrendering the menu over. “How extraordinary. That was what I intended to order.”
“Very good sir.”
Byron relaxed his expression as the waiter re-entered the cafe. Did he have a doppelgänger now? Or was this something to add to the list? No. This was definitely something to add to the list. The coincidence was too much to ignore. He took in a view of the people surrounding him. The sun crested over the buildings, but only a scant few braved the early morning chill. Whatever circumstances he was in, it seemed everyone else was immune to them. But without more facts there wasn’t much he could deduce about his situation. The pit of foreboding gnawed at his stomach again. Could he pretend it was hunger and forget about his strange circumstances for a moment? He pondered this before deciding that yes, he could. He flipped the newspaper to the advertisements in an attempt to forget about his “hunger” pains. After underlining a few items of interest, and double checking the current location of the Cobden Club (he had got it wrong after all), he folded the newspaper again and tucked it to the side.
A nearby church clock sounded and a rather portly gentleman at a table adjacent to him startled. The gentleman’s head shot up before he checked his pocket watch, downed his tea in ten seconds, threw a bit of change on the table, and dashed away with surprising speed. Byron noted that a newspaper had been left in the man’s wake. Byron chuckled at the hasty retreat before the waiter returned with his order. The waiter set the tray on the table and rocked on his feet.
Byron chipped off a piece of butter with his knife and glanced up at the boy before buttering his toast. “Was there something else?”
The boy’s ears reddened to match the strawberry jam Byron was spreading on his toast. “No sir! It’s just,” the waiter rubbed the back of his neck, “you’re certain you’re not the detective?”
Byron flinched and stared up at the boy, jaw slack. “I am, actually.”
“I knew it!” The waiter bit back a grin and leaned in close. “Are you undercover?” he whispered.
“Undercover?” Byron shook his head. “Er…not at the moment. Why?”
“Well, seeing as you don’t remember me or the young lady, sir. You’re both here often enough. I mean what would be the odds of there being two detectives who look so similar in the same part of town?” the waiter laughed. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
Byron’s mind whirred as the waiter moved away again. “Quite terrible odds indeed.” He sucked at his teeth, before taking a bite of toast.
He had woken with a plan this morning, but that seemed to be going out the proverbial window. Things couldn’t just be simple. Not at all. Things were complicated enough without waking up to something more suited to a Jules Verne novel!
As he finished up the sausages, he flipped open the paper again and his eyes caught the date. His fork clattered to the ground.
"Impossible.” He glanced around at the other occupants of the cafe before moving over to the newspaper abandoned by the portly fellow with a poor sense of time. He retrieved it and retreated to his own table before looking it over. The Morning Post. An entirely different journal with the same date. In a similar fashion to the earlier gentleman, Byron drank his remaining tea, gathered up both newspapers, and left payment on the table. He needed to pace, and since that wasn’t the best thing to do in public, walking briskly would have to do. Stumbling into Kensington Gardens, he tried to puzzle out this new piece of information.
Four years. That’s what he had lost. Four blasted years. He ran a hand through his hair and kicked at the ground. That wasn’t possible, was it? To go to bed and wake up without any sort of recollection of…well…anything? He stopped and stared at the ground a moment, trying to grasp onto something. Anything! Some kind of clarity. He shook his head and turned around. A few couples strolled through the park. The ladies’ dresses did seem a bit different from what he remembered. And how had he not noticed the leaves changing colors? It was Autumn now. His last memories were at the end of winter. What kind of detective was he, if he couldn’t even recognize the change in seasons?
Of course, the more important question was, what kind of detective was he, if he couldn’t remember four years of his own life?
From what he could piece together, he had recently been in a fight. So maybe, this was a more recent development. Sure! There were plenty of stories of people becoming more forgetful, even losing portions of their memory, after a head injury. He felt the back of his head for any evidence of another injury, to no avail. He subtly poked and prodded at his eye, feeling the aching bruise seeping under his skin. A minor injury wouldn’t be enough to do it, would it? If only he knew how he received the injuries in the first place. You can’t exactly retrace your steps if you don’t remember them.
He let out a breath, stopped at the edge of the gardens and took in the strange new world that he found himself in. Not that the world changed much. Or had it? He made his way to the main road and called for a hansom cab. If anyone knew what was happening, it would be Inspector Thatcher. After all, he met with him nearly every week. Or at least, he did in 1884. What did he do now? He drummed his hand on his leg as the cab rustled down the cobblestone street. He kept his eyes trained on the surrounding buildings. There was the alley where he caught the Richmond twins. But was that a new building next to it? They couldn’t build an entire building in a few weeks, could they? And another building was under construction only a few blocks from Scotland Yard. The dark abyss swelled up in his stomach again and Byron regretted eating anything.
Once the cab stumbled to a stop in front of the Yard, Byron stepped out, paid the driver, and hurried up the steps. The interior was much the same, thank goodness. At least something was familiar! Marble columns, wood paneling, crystal chandeliers. Byron catalogued each item and relaxed seeing that nothing had changed. That is, until he noticed who was manning the front desk.
The last time Byron had seen Frederick Wensley was in 1882, when Byron was visiting his mother and sister back in Taunton. Fred was barely a man back then and Byron still had a few inches on him. Now he stood taller than the detective, but still housed the same energy and optimism as before, if the grin on his face had anything to say.
Byron moved up to the front desk relieved, at least, to see a friendly face. “Fred! Am I glad to see you!” He faltered a moment and glanced around. “But what are you doing here?”
“Lost your memory again, have you?” Fred looked up at him with a sad fondness.
Byron’s eyes widened and he gripped the desk. “Again? What do you mean again? This has happened before?”
“I don’t think I’m the best person to explain it to you.” Fred scratched his cheek and looked up the stairs that led to the inspector’s offices.
“Then who is? I’ve been worrying about my sanity all morning. I can’t seem to remember the last four years!” Byron released the desk and ran a hand through his hair.
Fred let out a nervous chuckle. “My dear chap, you are just as insane as you ever have been, I can assure you of that.”
A small smile tugged at Byron’s lips in spite of everything. Same old Fred.
“Ah, but the memory loss is new to me. Do you have any idea what caused it?”
“I first heard about it from your mother. Castel wrote her about an accident you had been in. But there wasn’t much information about what happened.”
Byron winced. It must have been pretty severe if his brother had been involved. Byron hadn’t spoken to Castel in years. Fred sucked in a breath at Byron’s silence and kept rambling.
“Honestly, no one knows for sure, although there are a lot of rumors circulating among the constables.”
Byron took in Fred’s uniform, from the state of the sleeves to the way he buttoned it all the way to the top. “You haven’t been on the force long, have you?”
“Only a few months, but I’m working my way up.” Fred straightened and gave him a smug grin.
“You could have come and worked with me. We’ve always made a good deductive team.”
“You say that almost every time we meet, you know.” Fred’s soft voice brought Byron back to the issue at hand.
Byron straightened his jacket. “What else do you know about my memory loss?”
“Not much. Every day you wake up and can’t remember the day before. Or anything or anyone that you interacted with. You don’t generally like to talk about it, and try as I might, I can’t get anything out of Chief inspector Thatcher.” Fred rolled his eyes.
“Chief Inspector?” Byron spluttered.
“A lot can change in four years, old friend.” Fred’s gaze softened, and he shuffled the papers on his desk.
“Right you are.” Byron stepped away from the desk and took a breath.
“Shall I show you to his office?” Fred set the papers on the desk.
“No, I think I can manage.” Byron nodded to his friend and moved to the main staircase, ambling up the steps, taking in the people he didn’t recognize.
“Constantine! You’re here early.”
Byron turned towards the familiar voice and smiled, moving towards his mentor. “Thatcher! Good to see you.” Byron’s smile fell a bit as he realized just how much salt was in the inspector’s peppery hair and mustache.
Thatcher’s hazel eyes caught his gaze again. “You as well. Are you working a case?”
“In a manner of speaking yes.” Byron furrowed his brow as a volley of laughter came from down the hall.
Thatcher’s eyes twinkled at the brash display of merriment. “Don’t mind them. Police Commissioner Warren had an incident with some bloodhounds yesterday morning, and everyone in the department is getting a laugh out of it except him,” he chuckled and looped an arm around Byron’s shoulders, “Let’s go to my office. It will be quieter there.”
Byron peered curiously at the doors and nameplates they passed along the way as he allowed Thatcher to guide him towards his office. He cocked his head at the blonde secretary seated outside. She looked him over and offered him a sly smile. He nodded to her.
“Hello, Mr. Constantine,” she crooned. He furrowed his brow. Was he supposed to know her too? So much had changed.
“Good morning Miss…” He glanced at her nameplate. “Chickering.” He nodded to her again and escaped into the office. Once inside, Thatcher gestured to a chair and closed the door. Byron straightened his jacket and took a seat while the inspector moved behind his desk.
“What can I help you with?” Thatcher settled into his seat.
Byron fiddled with the cuffs on his sleeves. “I’m not quite certain how to ask this…”
“As long as it isn’t illegal, I’m sure I can help you with a favor. It’s the least I can do after you helped me work out the Pennington issue.” The inspector leaned back in his chair and his eyes crinkled as he smiled.
“P…Pennington?” Byron stuttered.
“You’ll find the beginning of the case about a quarter into your current journal.” The inspector knitted his brow. “Where’s your satchel? Didn’t you bring it with you?”
“I’m afraid I didn’t. What journal are you referring to?” Byron rubbed his palms together.
Thatcher drew a hand over his face. “You didn’t read it this morning?”
“No. I didn’t.” Byron stood up to pace. “To be honest, Thatcher, I came here to see if you could offer some explanation for why I’m having such a hard time remembering. It seems I’ve lost four years of my memory. What kind of accident was I in to do this kind of damage?”
Thatcher pressed his lips together and took a breath, “You might want to sit down, Byron.”
Byron looked up at him. Thatcher rarely used his first name. He swallowed and moved back to his seat, then nodded to the inspector to continue.
“I’m not entirely sure. When I found you, you were beaten to the edge of your life! I feared you wouldn’t pull through.” The inspector put his head in his hands.
“That explains the sore muscles and black eye,” Byron gave a half-hearted chuckle.
Thatcher raised his head to look at Byron again, eyes deep with sorrow. “Those injuries aren’t from the accident.”
Byron furrowed his brow. “This has been going on for a while then?”
Thatcher sighed and took off his spectacles to rub at his eyes. “Do you really want to know?”
Byron’s jaw tightened and he leaned forward. “If I didn’t, would I be here?”
Thatcher took a breath and lowered his voice. “Since February of 1884.”
Cotton filled Byron’s mouth, suffocating him. No. The accident wasn’t recent. It really had happened four years ago. He’d forgotten every day since then. And if four years had passed without finding a cure, was there any chance of recovering his memories? Or was it all gone? Lost to the void? He stared at the ceiling, breath ragged, fingertips buzzing. A moment later, (or an hour, who was he to know about time?) he realized he was on the floor, leaning against Thatcher’s desk with no recollection of how or when he moved there. Thatcher stood at the door calling to a secretary to bring some water, but his words only echoed through the roar of static pounding in Byron’s ears. His vision swirled as he attempted to catch his breath, his lungs shuddering with every intake of air.
Byron jumped to his feet, stomach lurching as he tore out of the office. Thatcher called after him, but Byron paid him no mind. He needed to move, to get out of there. His legs faltered as he stumbled down the steps and out into the open air, the breeze blowing the blasted heat away from his neck and face.
“This is alright. You’ll figure it out. Don’t panic,” he thought. It was too late for that; he knew that of course. His thoughts couldn’t be tamed. Here he was, four years in the future from when he remembered, without a single clue as to how it happened. He tried calming himself by counting each paving stone he walked over, but even that didn’t work. He needed facts. Facts that he didn’t have.
Or did he? Thatcher had mentioned a journal, hadn’t he? Was the solution back at Palace Court all along?
He raced home dodging streetlamps, people, and carriages, the chilled air whipping at his hair.
He took off his coat and hat, then froze as he came into the sitting room, a heavy weight settling under his ribcage. More differences. Oh joy. He couldn’t even count on himself to be predictable!
First of all, when did he get a sofa? He walked around it, trailing a finger over the top edge. It seemed to be of good quality with a pleasant sort of color and pattern. He must have decided to allow clients to visit him at home after all. As he came around it, he noticed a stray pencil on the seat. Odd, seeing as he usually preferred fountain pens. He retrieved it and set it on the table next to the dying roses.
Ah, yes. Those. Based on the water level and the state of them, they were a few weeks old at least. Were they a gift, perhaps? He tutted at the color. If it were a client, they really shouldn’t have gone for red. It could be misinterpreted.
Of course, his research on the Cobden Club and the newspaper code was gone from the table, but that was to be expected. It was probably filed away in the cabinet.
He ventured over there next, surprised at the apparent calm that had overtaken him. While he may have lost his memory, at least his deductive skills were still intact.
His eyes widened as the system creaked open, finding significantly more files than he remembered. His fingers shuffled through the folders until he found the well-worn file on the Newspaper Code. He let out a breath, chest lightening for a moment as he flicked it open. A few clippings slipped past the paper confines and settled on the floor. He scooped them up and tucked them back into the folder before bringing it over to the table and spreading the documents over the surface. Were there more of them as well? He frowned and started to organize them by date.
His hand faltered over a piece dated “March 30, 1884.” This was about a month after the memory loss started, right? He must have continued his investigation after the accident. But was there any sign of how it happened? His eyes flicked over each piece, trying to fit it all together with no luck. Based on how worn the file was, Byron guessed he had done this several times before.
A shining new thought occurred to him, one that could save him from this apparent purgatory. What if all of this was a nightmare conjured up from his anxiety about confronting Circe the next morning? That would solve everything. After all, he couldn’t have forgotten everything from February 26, 1884 to October 10, 1888. That…that couldn’t be possible, could it? The papers dropped from his shaking hands.
If this was a nightmare, it certainly felt real. He shook his head and stood, turning in a circle. Where would his past-self place a journal meant to be read on the daily? His gaze fell to the top of the filing system. An inconspicuous brown book sat there, having escaped his notice before.
It didn’t have a title on the spine and was well worn. He picked it up, appreciating the weight and opened it to the first page to find his handwriting on a piece of loose leaf.
Your name is Byron Constantine and you have befallen an accident. Don’t bother investigating. I don’t remember and so you won’t either. You see, this accident has caused you to have anterograde amnesia. I know that you think that yesterday you came across a new clue to lead you to the end of the Circe case. You had plans to follow up on it today. Unfortunately, that day was years ago. You’ll find yesterday in the last entry in this journal. If you want to function like a normal human being, I suggest reading through the entirety of this book. Don’t worry, you’ve written in short sentences. For now, it shouldn’t take too long. Eventually, you’ll have to choose what to forget so that you don’t spend the entire day, every day reading through this blasted thing. You’ll find earlier journals in a chest in your bedroom. Choose your memories wisely and if you can, don’t forget.
His breath raced again, in and out. Somehow it felt more real when he read it in his own handwriting. How was it true? Feeling the panic set in again, he looked around the room for some kind of respite from the anxious thoughts. His gaze faltered on the piano. Perhaps playing for a while would soothe his nerves? He dropped the journal to the floor and slid onto the seat. Lifting the piano’s lid, Byron stared at the ivory keys. Would he still be able to play? His fingers settled over the keys and he held his breath hesitating once again. What if he couldn’t? He swallowed and played the first melody that came to his head, relief flooding over him at the joyful sounds of the piano.
Finally, some semblance of normality! When he finished one piece, he started another, although this time his fingers seemed to know more than he did. The melody was foreign to his ears, and yet the notes continued to flow. How could he play something he didn’t remember? Were his memories trapped somewhere inside? He closed his eyes and let his fingers lead the way, hoping that maybe the music could bring something to his recollection again. As he finished another piece, his gaze drifted back to the journal.
It lay splayed out on the floor next to the filing system, a victim of his anxious fit. He eased himself down to the floor to ground himself. Fingers brushed against leather, and he took the journal up again, stroking the edges and smoothing the crumpled pages. Wasn’t this just a mystery to be solved? “The Case of the Forgotten Memories.” The title had a nice ring to it. Like a Wilkie Collins serial. He flinched as a drop of water splashed onto the current page, muddling the ink. When did he start crying? He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his eyes.
Once his vision cleared, he did the only thing he could. He read. After all, the world he fell asleep to was not there when he woke up. Who was he now after he’d spent four years forgetting? Was he still a detective? Based on Thatcher and Fred’s responses, it was likely. But what if he wasn’t? The first entry detailed some case facts and was from early 1888. Good. He was a detective for certain.
He gave up three pages in. His note was right. They were short sentences, alright. So short he couldn’t tell what he thought at the time let alone what he felt. He snapped the journal shut. If this happened every day, why didn’t he leave himself a note to remember? He stalked back into the bedroom and poked about until he came up with a scrap of paper.
Today’s date is October 10, 1888. You have short term memory loss. Journal is on the filing system. Find it.
So—there was a note. “Good job Byron, you’re not a complete imbecile,” he thought. Moving to his dresser, he popped out the secret compartment in the third drawer and pulled out a key. The newest journal could wait. For now, he needed to know how he felt directly following the accident. Unlocking the chest[R1] [NA2] in the corner of his bedroom, he plucked out the first of a half-dozen journals from the top and flipped to the first date. Wrong year. He picked up the next one. Wrong again. At the bottom of the stack, he found one with the date March 22, 1884. Still a few weeks missing, but the earliest journal he had. He moved back to the bed and read the first shaky lines.
I’m not entirely certain why I am doing this. It seems rather pointless. But, Doctor Laherty says it’s necessary if I’m to regain my memory. That must count for something. It’s been less than two days since I woke up without a memory. Thatcher says he received an anonymous telegram directing him towards the docks. He found me bleeding out and beaten close to death shortly after following the lead. Any later, and Doctor Laherty says I would be dead. My injuries may still become infected, so perhaps I’ll die before I remember what happened to me. Weeks of my life are missing. Last I remember, I had cracked the newspaper code and infiltrated Circe. I had convinced them that I was on their side and I was going to be present at a meeting of one of the main groups. Thatcher says I was missing for weeks after my last memory, and I don’t remember any of it. As soon as I’m off bed-rest, I’m going to retrace my steps. Doctor Laherty says with enough repetition, I should be able to start forming new memories again. Thatcher says he’s been in every day since he found me. I don’t remember. What if I start losing my previous memories as well? Will a day come when I won’t recognize the inspector? Won’t recognize my own family? I won’t bother with writing the rest of what happened today. It’s painful, and if this keeps up, I’d rather I don’t remember it.
There was the emotion that the shorthand lacked. Found in every splotch of ink and jagged line. It didn’t take much observation to see how much effort it took for him to write this, physical, emotional, and mental. He slammed the journal closed and threw it atop the others, drawing another ragged breath.
“Doctor Laherty was wrong about me creating new memories, then,” he thought as he pulled out another journal, not caring for chronology. “What use is it if every day is isolated from the rest?” He opened a few more journals, skimming the entries for anything to spark a memory. Nothing. In his mind it was still February 1884. What happened? Four years after the event and it seemed as if no one knew. What if this couldn’t be solved? Couldn’t be fixed?
He turned back to the bed, where the newest tome sat and picked it up again. “Might as well figure out yesterday,” he mumbled, flipping through the written pages to find the newest one.
The motion disturbed some loose leaf paper near the middle, which dislodged and fluttered to the ground. The weightier papers curled at the edges. His own face stared up at him from the floor and he picked it up. It was a pencil and watercolor sketch. Stylized, certainly, but definitely him. His breath hitched as he turned it over.
“Byron Constantine, the day I met him. September 12, 1888” shone from the page in beautiful penmanship. Likely a woman’s hand. His gaze swept to the other scattered pages, most of them facing down. The roses in the sitting room resurfaced in his mind. He couldn’t possibly be courting anyone, could he? But then, why else would he have this in his journal? His heartrate picked up as he fumbled with the next page, reading the inscription first.
“Raymond Thatcher. Chief Inspector as of July 1886. Found you after your accident. One of the kindest gentlemen I’ve ever met, and one of your greatest friends.” The handwriting matched the script from the previous image. But who was the artist? He turned the page over to see a perfect charcoal rendition of the Insp—Chief Inspector. His shoulders slumped, seeing Thatcher’s salt and pepper hair again.
A watercolor painting of a woman drew his eyes next. A mischievous sort of smile complemented her blonde hair and blue eyes. She seemed familiar. Oh yes. Wasn’t she at the Yard? He turned it over.
“Juliet Chickering is Chief Inspector Raymond Thatcher’s secretary. She has a high interest in you and is quite the flirt, but she is efficient according to Inspector Thatcher.”
“Ah. That explains it,” he muttered, thinking of the strange glance the woman offered him earlier. His eyes twinkled as he read over the inscription again. Was the artist jealous of Miss Chickering? He couldn’t help the warmth spreading through his chest at the thought of the mysterious lady who left him these depictions.
He picked up the next one, not recognizing the man in it. He had sharper features and couldn’t be much older than himself. He shuddered thinking of his own age. Last he remembered he was barely twenty-three. But four years made quite a difference Heavens, he was almost thirty! He turned his attention to the inscription.
“Name unknown. I’ve seen him twice in Kensington Gardens and he seems to work with Circe. He’s our current lead.”
He grimaced. Circe still existed then. Evidently, his accident had stopped him from finding the evidence he needed to take them down, once and for all. He let out a long breath. Could he still fight them, even with this malady? Thatcher had mentioned that he had solved a case recently, so he was still capable. He studied the picture again. Another lead meant another chance, and he was going to take it.
But first he needed to know who the mysterious artist was. He picked up the last paper and read the now-familiar script, in hopes of another clue towards her identity.
“Samira Blayse. Goes by Mira. Your secretary as of September 1888.” Nothing else? No character traits? He turned the page over, meeting piercing green eyes and chestnut curls. Secretary? She looked so young. And she was certainly beautiful. His eyes danced across the page, trying to spark recognition. Her eyes kept drawing his attention, a feeling of recollection settling in his chest. If she had been his secretary since September, they would have been working together for a month, at least. Did she actually seem familiar, or was that him just wanting her to be? He set the drawings on the bed and flicked the newest journal open again, shuffling through the pages to find September or the name Samira Blayse.
The front door opened. “Byron?” A feminine voice called from the hall. He snapped the journal shut, sucking in a breath through his teeth. This intruder knew him. And also had a key. Or did he leave the door unlocked again when he returned from the Yard? Her boot clicks echoed in the entryway, then softened as she hit carpet. If he was right, she went into the sitting room. He straightened his waistcoat and tucked the journal under his arm. How should he act? He took a breath to calm his nerves and left his bedroom to meet her.
The mysterious woman bent over the abandoned newspaper and clippings, her back towards him. Her chestnut hair hung in curls down her back. How strange. Based on the styles he had seen on his walks earlier in the day, fashion hadn’t changed that drastically. Her lavender dress complemented her figure, from what he could tell from his angle. The fabric was covered with an intricate floral pattern in a lighter shade. The pattern lined up exactly at each of the seams on the bodice. Lace trim lined the bottom edge of the skirt. He glanced into the entry hall and saw a coat with fur along the collar and a hat that matched the dress. Upper Middle Class. The woman picked up one of the clippings and straightened, turning slightly so he could see her profile. A smile slowly took over his expression as he caught sight of a smudge of graphite on one of her hands. Could she be the artist as well? He came fully down the steps, careful not to make too much noise.
She glanced up, gracing him with those dazzling green eyes, and smiled. “Good afternoon, Byron. I’m sorry I’m so late.”
His lips parted, as he took her in. Breath catching in his throat, he took a chance. “Oh, it’s perfectly alright, Mira.” He kept his voice level, watching her expression carefully.
Relief washed over her features and she smiled more genuinely. “You’ve read your journal, I take it?” Her gaze flicked to the journal under his arm, then returned to the clippings on the table.
“You could say that.” He moved closer to her, taking in every movement. She looked up at him again with a sharper look in her eye.
“How much did you read?” She set the clippings down and took a step closer to him.
“Enough.” He folded his arms.
“Alright then, who am I?” She leaned against the doorframe.
“Samira Blayse.” He walked past her into the sitting room, but kept his gaze level with hers.
“Who am I to you?” She caught his arm, and a tingling sensation ran through him.
“You’re my secretary?” His voice cracked. He caught a whiff of perfume as she leaned closer to him and a myriad of emotions flowed through him. Apprehension, euphoria, worry, trust, and longing coursed through him in an instant. His eyes widened and he looked at her again. She seemed more familiar now. Did he dare to name this feeling?
She moved away from him, and he felt a pull, like a magnet towards her.
“What case are we working on?” she asked, softer this time, eyes saddened for a reason Byron couldn’t fathom.
“We’re trying to find the man you met in Kensington Gardens.” He drew out each word as he searched for the right answer.
“And what did we do yesterday?” She leaned on the back of the sofa.
“We looked for him?” He knew he was straying into unknown territory, but he couldn’t bear to tell her that he didn’t remember.
“You only looked at the pictures, didn’t you?” She huffed. “I knew I shouldn’t have given them to you.”
“So, it was you who painted them?” His hopes from earlier came back in full force and he grinned.
“You would know that if you read your journal properly. Now get to it, we don’t have all day.” She smirked at him before moving over to the couch and picking up a sketchbook he hadn’t noticed before.
Astounded, he sat in his armchair and did as she said. As he read, it became apparent that his memory loss wasn’t as much of a hindrance as he had previously thought. While his plan to infiltrate Circe had been thwarted for now, he found that he didn’t mind that, for the moment. The muscle memory when he played the piano and those feelings with Mira—he glanced up to make sure she was still there—proved that there was hope that he could remember on his own someday. And even if he couldn’t, at least he had someone to help him remember in the meantime. He smiled to himself as he watched Mira sketch. She glowed in the light from the window, biting her lip as she erased a stray line. Byron shook his head and returned to his journal. After all, he wanted to know everything he could about his new life.