Tompkins thumped his open palm with his fist in frustration. He looked around the room at the elegant chenille with embroidered damask pattern curtains and the paintings on the walls and realised his friend would never see these possessions again. They’d be passed on within the family, just as they had been passed to Dapper Dan over 20 years ago.
“When did Dr. Black arrive?” asked Tompkins after looking in the ledger.
“He just missed Mr. Steeple and Rev Green,” replied Selkirk.
“Was he looking for them?” asked Tompkins.
“No, Mr. Tompkins, Dr. Black came to see Mr. Dan about going to Deauville and was asking about his plans for the next few days.”
“Was he now? Well that’s jolly interesting and no mistake.” Tompkins looked down at his brogues and wondered why Dr. Black would be so interested in Dapper Dan’s plans.
“Do you know what Dan said to Dr. Black about the next few days?”
“I don’t sir, but I know Mr. Dan’s diary and he didn’t have any plans to leave the country and he had no intention of going to Scotland.”
“Yet, there he is in Scotland, so what happened, Selkirk, how did he end up on Lewis? Who would have lured him there, do you reckon?”
“I am sure he was killed here, Mr. Tompkins, and then taken to Scotland. By ‘here’ I don’t mean in this house, but in London, or close to London. There’s no way Mr. Dan would have allowed himself to be taken prisoner and shuttled off to another part of the country. He’d have put up a fight, I am sure.”
“And I am sure you are correct, Selkirk, so the question is how did they get ahold of him and spirit him away?”
“I have told my side of the story many times, Mr. Tompkins,” replied Selkirk, who for the first time in the whole of the visit seemed to just sag a little at the shoulders, as though the full realisation of what had happened was dawning on him.
“Now, Selkirk, don’t go blaming yourself,” said Tompkins, who’d seen the wave of realisation pass through Selkirk like a small seismic shock, “I want you to promise me you won’t blame yourself. Mr. Dan was a grown man and you can’t be there for him like a nanny in case he fell over and grazed his knee. You need to sleep and if he comes home when you’re asleep, that’s his affair. I know Dan holds nothing against you, Selkirk, nothing whatsoever. Do you hear?”
“I do, sir, thank you, sir, I am still not sure what will happen to me, but it’s wrong of me to think about myself when Mr. Dan is on a cold slab somewhere.”
“I don’t blame you, Selkirk, for thinking about your future – if needs be you could come over to Aunt Jemima’s and take over things there – heaven knows we need someone to organise the place.”
“That’s kind of you, Mr. Tompkins, but it’s possible the family might want to retain me for anyone who comes to live here.”
“Yes, that withstanding, my offer still holds, Selkirk, anyhow I should go and see Spinky’s place before the police get there and spoil things.”
Selkirk bowed deeply to Mr. Tompkins – “Can I say, Mr. Tompkins, it has been an absolute pleasure to know you and I hope to see you again soon.”
Tompkins shook Selkirk by the hand, causing the man to overbalance, before seeing himself out of the house. The wind had picked up and the clouds promised rain as Tompkins bounded down the steps and turned left towards Spinky Mills’ place on the edge of Fitzrovia. Tompkins liked walking around in this part of London as the buildings were redolent of a time when Britain, or more accurately in Tompkins’s option England, ruled the world and didn’t need to have lots of interlopers clogging up the streets and filling all the low-paying positions in society.