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PART OF THE Halloween ISSUE

The strange case continues…

‘Seven years…’ said Enfield, staring fixedly at the place. ‘Then it is also seven years,’ he went on, ‘since Jekyll disappeared?’

Anthony O’Neill extends Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale in this imaginative new novel. Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman, claiming to be Dr Henry Jekyll, shows up in foggy London. But is this man who he says he is?

Extract from Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek
By Anthony O’Neill
Published by Black and White Publishing

A sulphurous yellow fog, so thick it muffled the chimes of the Sunday church bells, had fastened overnight to London and refused to be dislodged by even the stiffest of breezes. It smothered domes and spires, blurred chimneys and gables, smudged walls and windows, and altogether turned the city into an immense spectral museum, through which even the most audacious traveller proceeded warily, never certain of what strange sights might lurk in the next chamber.

Mr Gabriel Utterson, the bald and bird-like lawyer, and his distant kinsman Mr Richard Enfield, the dashing man about town, were more than familiar with London fogs, having conducted their Sunday walks together for nearly eighteen years. Yet it is by no means certain that, were it not for the density of this particular fog on this particular day, they would have found themselves in a by-street of peculiar infamy.

‘Well,’ said Enfield, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘I should not need to tell you where the hand of fate has guided us.’

‘I know the street well enough,’ replied Utterson.

‘A certain building – yes, I see it now. A place as disagreeable as the man who emerged from it.’

‘He has not emerged from it for some time now. Nor from any other building, I wager.’

‘And yet, I can still see his face,’ mused Enfield, ‘as if it were yesterday.’

Both men were staring across the street, where not far from the corner was a windowless building with a frowning gable and a dark, blistered door. And both men remembered, with remarkable immediacy, the hideous little man called Hyde who had scuttled out of that door, and slithered into the night, and enacted crimes so evil that they still had the power to chill the blood, even when viewed through the misted window of memory.

‘How long has it been now?’ asked Enfield.

‘Nearly seven years,’ his companion replied.

‘Seven years? Since he trampled over that poor girl? And murdered Sir Danvers Carew?’

‘And took his own life, in those very dissecting rooms.’

‘Seven years…’ said Enfield, staring fixedly at the place. ‘Then it is also seven years,’ he went on, ‘since Jekyll disappeared?’

‘Quite so.’

‘Meaning that you, being Jekyll’s lawyer and sole beneficiary, will shortly be taking possession of his estate?’

‘Within two weeks, in fact.’

‘Including all his property?’

‘As Jekyll himself directed.’

Enfield nodded slowly, still looking across the street. ‘Then how, may I ask, are you inclined to deal with it?’

‘With the dissecting rooms?’ Utterson asked. ‘I intend to sell them as soon as possible, for they hold no value to me – and little to anyone else, I fancy.’

The younger man nodded. ‘There is nothing good to be said for them,’ he said. ‘So let us hope they are soon demolished, and quickly forgotten.’

‘Quite right,’ said Utterson.

But both men knew that this was only half the story, for the dissecting rooms were connected at their rear to another, more presentable, building, which in turn faced onto another, more presentable street. And it was to inspect the front of this other residence that the two men now progressed, as if by some tacit agreement, down to the corner and across the square.

‘We enjoyed some splendid dinners with Jekyll there,’ said Enfield, looking back.

‘We did indeed.’

‘Henry was an exceptional host.’

‘He was.’

‘He had exquisite taste in most things.’

‘That, too, cannot be denied.’

Enfield nodded. ‘Are you intending to sell his home as

well?’

‘No, I cannot bear to do so,’ said Utterson. ‘Of all the houses in London, it has always been my favourite. I would hate to relinquish it now.’

‘I doubt Henry would want you to,’ Enfield said.

‘I doubt it, too.’

The two men regarded the handsome façade, with its gleaming windows, polished bricks and mullioned door, forclose to a minute.

‘So what, indeed, are your plans for the place?’

‘Well,’ said Utterson, shifting, ‘I might yet make some use of it, you know.’

‘Indeed?’

‘It would be a pity to let it go empty.’

‘I suppose so.’

Enfield’s curiosity sounded innocent enough, but Utterson had a sense he was skirting around something – some disquieting revelation, perhaps. So the two men stood stiffly for a while, and finally the younger one sighed.

‘You know, I must tell you something, dear friend. And not with any relish, I’m bound.’

‘Oh?’

‘Something I overheard at my club. A conversation about the fate of Jekyll, and your part in the whole business.’

‘My part, you say?’

‘It was some months ago now, and to this day I’ve not cared to mention it. But as I’m to leave town tomorrow, and as you’re about to take over the estate, it might be best that you became aware of some of the mutterings that are abroad.’

‘Mutterings?’ Utterson said, frowning. ‘And what indeed are these mutterings?’

‘No’ – Enfield appeared to change his mind – ‘I shan’t repeat it. Claptrap, the lot of it. But you should brace yourself, dear friend, lest any of the slander reaches your ears.’

Utterson did not say it, but some of the slander – to the effect that he had played some sinister role in Jekyll’s disappearance, even rewritten the doctor’s will in his own favour – had already reached his ears. And while he never enjoyed hearing such calumnies, he could scarcely help being curious about them.

‘Do tell, at least, what gave rise to such talk.’

‘There was a new member at my club,’ Enfield said, ‘who proved especially curious about Jekyll. I cannot remember his name, and I’ve not encountered him since.’

‘He gave no reason for asking such questions?’

‘Well, he had good reason after the sordid death of that other Jekyll – Thomas Jekyll, Henry’s brother.’

‘A half-brother,’ said Utterson. ‘Henry mentioned him once, without any affection.’

‘Still, the particulars of his demise appeared in The Times, together with a reference to Henry’s previous disappearance – you must remember?’

‘I remember. And this prompted the stranger to enquire about me?’

‘Chiefly about Henry, but your name surfaced now and then. Nonsense, I say. Nonsense, the lot of it.’

Enfield did not elaborate, and Utterson decided he did not really care to pry – not on this day, in any event. Somewhere a hurdy-gurdy player was cranking out carnival tunes; a dog was yapping furiously; someone was laughing like a demon. The two men, unsettled, were about to move on when Enfield leaned forward.

‘I say,’ he said, squinting into the mist, ‘is that smoke, rising from Jekyll’s chimney?’

Utterson, adjusting his spectacles, saw a stain of dark smoke curling into the fog.

‘Seems so,’ he said, shrugging. ‘The housekeeper, no doubt. I’ve engaged one to maintain the home, in the absence of any other staff.’

‘Lives in the place, does she?’

‘No, but she is in possession of a key, and works when she pleases.’

‘On a Sunday?’

‘It makes sense, as she has duties elsewhere.’

In truth Utterson was further unsettled by the sight, but the accumulation of sour memories and sensations, so unsuited to the humour of their weekly stroll, left him ill-equipped for more unpleasantness. So he changed the subject.

‘In any case,’ he said, ‘this is not getting us any closer to our destination.’

‘I suppose not,’ said Enfield – though in truth the two men, in all their years of ambling, had never really had a precise destination.

For all that, when they parted, after enjoying a lark pie and coffee at Pagani’s, it was with a great deal of warmth and not a little sadness. Enfield passed across the key to his apartment, so that his kinsman might inspect the place in his absence, then the two men shook hands vigorously before going their separate ways, Utterson heading solemnly for south London and Enfield moving at a clip towards Piccadilly – neither man suspecting that one of them would shortly be dead.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill is out now published by Black and White Publishing priced £8.99.

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