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I know I am taking things more slowly this time – giving myself two years instead of one to write “Plank 5” – but I did promise myself that I would write the first scenes before the end of 2016.  Unusually they are, at least for the moment, the actual first scenes of the book, but of course that might all change when it comes to my “jigsaw” phase of writing (assembling all the disparate bits into the finished sequence).  But for now, here you go:

Friday 4th January 1828

By the time I reached the doctor’s premises in Savile Street, there were crystals of ice clinging to my whiskers.  Around me people looked down at the ground as they trudged through the settling snow; so far this new year had brought us nothing but steady snow and the yellow hue of the sky suggested more to come.  I walked heavily and slowly up the three scrubbed stone steps and knocked on the door.  It swung open, and the relief showed on Wilson’s face as he saw that it was me.  I tucked my gloves into my hat and left them on the hall table alongside Wilson’s, and glanced to me left into the parlour that served – that had served – as the doctor’s waiting room.  Perched on the edge of one of the seats was the maid.  She held a cup in two shaking hands, her cloak still around her shoulders and her unpacked bag of shopping at her feet.

“She found him,” said Wilson quietly, “when she came back from the market.  It was her screaming that sent the message lad to us.  I was in early this morning and Mr Neale sent me on ahead.  The message lad said she,” he indicated the maid, “was in a state, but he didn’t know why – she couldn’t tell him.”

“Has anyone else been here?” I asked.

Wilson shook his head.  “The cook from next door came in to tend to the maid, and she’s in the kitchen now, but neither of them will go back into the consulting room.  Can’t say that I blame them.”  He stood aside as we reached the closed door of the doctor’s consulting room.  “It’s rather bloody.”  I looked at him and he swallowed hard; Wilson was a big lad, and brave when needed, but his stomach was easily turned.  “Very bloody,” he amended.

I hope that’s whetted your appetite.

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