Monday, December 20, 2010

The House in Birdgate Alley excerpt by Anel Viz

The novella The House in Birdgate Alley by Anel Viz is set in London, 1889. Dr. John Williams suspects somebody has been blackmailing one of his patients, Sir Hugh Cockburn. The same day, the body of a young man is found floating in the Thames. Mere coincidence, or is there a connection? Williams’ eccentric cousin, Cyril Fosterby, turns his mind to unraveling the mystery.

The House in Birdgate Alley
Silver Publishing (December 4, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-920468-51-4

Excerpt from chapter 6
[The Situation: The victim having been identified as a male prostitute, Fosterby enlists Johnny Rice, who works out of the same brothel as the murdered man, to help find the killer. In this scene, Dr. Williams questions Johnny about his homosexuality.]

“Ever since I can remember I always been attracted to gents.”

“Don’t you think girls are pretty?”

“Very pretty, some of ’em are. They just don’t do nothin’ fer me.”

“You’ve never…?”

“Never. An’ I ’ope I never do. Now, the gents, I can’t get enough o’ them. Whatta yer ’ave t’ say to that? I mean, as a medical man.”

“That something must have gone wrong with your upbringing, because it simply isn’t natural to feel the way you do. But as a friend, I’d say that you’re well suited to your line of work.”

Johnny laughed. “That I am!”

“Now, shall we leave it at that? This is not something that interests me.”

“Not even as a man o’ science?”

“Not even as a man of science. Scientific opinion is unanimous on the subject, so the matter is settled. I see no reason to delve into it further.”

“Mr. Fosterby, now, ’e delves into ev’rythin’.”

“Did he question you on the matter, Johnny?”

“’E did… a little. To ’elp ’im form an opinion about Sir Hugh an’ Nelly.”

“And what did he have to say?”

“’E didn’t. ’E listened. Would yer care t’ ’ear what I told ’im?”

“I. Would. Not.”

His spirits appeared to have sunk back to the level they were at when he’d arrived. “What is it, Johnny?” I asked kindly.

“Nothin’. It’s just… Yer know, it ain’t easy bein’ the way I am.”

“I don’t imagine it is.”

“I used to ’ate meself fer it. Still do sometimes. D’ yer think I’m wicked, Dr. Williams?”

“We all have our imperfections, Johnny. I’m not about to condemn a man for where he places his affections. A thief or a murderer, now, that’s different. Dishonesty of any sort, in fact. So, no, I wouldn’t call you wicked, not on account of that. On the other hand, prostituting yourself is disgraceful. A boy of your intelligence and abilities!”

“I’d give it up in an second if I found a man I could love an’ ’oo’d love me in return.”

“Buckham found one, or so you tell me. Yet he remained a renter.”

“First of all, I ain’t Nelly. An’ second, ’e an’ ’is baronet couldn’t live together. Not ever.”

“Is your situation all that different? Would you be able to, if you found a man to love?”

“It weren’t Nelly’s choice they couldn’t be together. Maybe if my gen’leman was a proper gen’leman and unmarried, he’d take me on as ’is manservant an’ nobody wouldn’t suspect what we was fer each other. Whattaya think o’ that idea?”

“You’d have to learn to speak proper English first.”

“’Ow ’ard ’d that be?”

I shook my head sadly. “Such dreams are futile. Society would never tolerate it. Think of that, Johnny.”

“No, it wouldn’t and it don’t, so we ’as t’ ’ide what we are, chaps like me. Ain’t that dishonesty of a sort? Would yer call that kind o’ dishonesty wicked, too?”

I remembered what the Cockburn boy had said in his rooms at Cambridge, that polite society doesn’t like to hear truths it chooses to ignore. That, too, I reflected, was dishonest. I fell silent. After a few minutes, he asked, “Yer look pensive, Willie.”

“I’m reflecting on what I said before about not condemning a man for whom he chooses to love. I would not have thought that a month ago, before I met you.”

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