Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway - Chapter 3

Mr Horse had remained silent up until this point, but he now entered the conversation: “Begging your pardon, doctor, but the notion was mine. I saw a lot of death on the battlefield, sir. A lot of people killed in action...”

Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane

“And what, precisely, did you expect to find from a child who simply fell from a wagon, sir? Black powder from a musket? Bayonet wounds, perhaps?”

Horse was silent, chastened now. The doctor, realising that his retort had emerged as overly-mocking, softened:

“You served your country, sir?”

“Waterloo, doctor.”

“Then we owe you a debt that is not easily repaid, Mr Horse. And what was your intention in examining the body?”

“I seen a lot of bodies, sir. Every one of them, sir, lying on that field, had a different story written on the body. Sometimes death was long-range, sometimes hand-to-hand.”

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The doctor nodded. Horse continued: “I just thought, doctor, that what with the boy’s mother being so, being so...”. Horse struggle to find the word.

Kane interjected: “Adamant?”

Horse smiled: “That’s the word, sir – ‘adamant’. What with the mother being so adamant that this was a little lad who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and all, I just thought...”

Doctor Stanton nodded: “You are perfectly correct, sir, that every body in death tells a story of what transpired in life. I have examined a great number of bodies where the tale of a dissolute existence can be measured in the number of pock marks on the face – or the sheer size of the liver. But here we have an eleven year-old boy, sir. Not so much a whole Book of Life. More, an exceedingly short chapter. Unfinished...”

Horse nodded. The doctor continued: “And in any event, any examination of the body is now quite impossible.”

Edward Kane, surprised by this sudden obstructive attitude in the otherwise accommodating physician, before he could contain his surprise, uttered: “And why not?”

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Stanton shook his head.

“The body is no longer here, Mr Kane. Today is the day when the child is to be buried. I thought you would have known that”

Kane sighed and looked at the ceiling. Nothing was said for a moment, then Dr Stanton opened the drawer of his desk. “I regret that you have made a fruitless journey this morning, gentlemen. However, I can offer you the closest thing to your request...”. He produced a sheaf of papers from the drawer and examined them. He removed half a dozen papers from the pile and studied them. “Here we are...”

Dr Stanton laid the papers on the desk before them.

“These are the notes from the post-mortem examination. I would suggest, gentlemen, that anything that you might have hoped to divine from an examination of the child’s body may be gleaned from these.”

The doctor then took his pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket, examined it and raised his eyebrows: “Apologies, gentlemen. You will understand that I have other business that requires my attention, here and at the Police Office, but I am happy that you consider the papers as long as you please. Please treat this study as your own. I assume that you have brought pen and paper. Now – would you like some tea?”

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*****

As Dr Stanton had predicted, his notes were very full indeed and – for all that Kane and Horse could tell – he hadn’t missed a thing. The handwriting was less than clear at points, but between them, Kane and Horse managed to interpret the medical heiroglyphics.

“Child...male...v small frame... post-mortem liv...rig mort......bruising/impression on lower l. chin...shape Fig 1...trauma to head...struck rock?...splayed bruising on the left arm...unlikely to be fingerprint bruising - too far apart...sustained by rolling action post-fall?...”

Mr Horse frowned: “‘Fig 1’?”

Kane went through the sheaf of papers: “I think that the doctor has made various drawings the better to describe the bruising et cetera...”. He held up one of the piece of paper: “Ah – and here we have ‘Figure 1’”.

Figure 1 comprised a rough drawing of a face with a gash on the head and an arrow pointing to an area on the chin, with a circular bruise with ridges inside.

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Mr Horse studied the drawing and frowned. Kane left him to it for a while, then enquired: “So – what story does this body tell you, Mr Horse?”

Horse shook his head: “I can feel it in me water, Mr K, the story is here somewhere. But we don’t know how to read it yet.”

*****

It struck Kane later that morning that when there is a scarcity of paid work, then there appears to be an infinite abundance of free time. Thus, did Edward Kane, Advocate, spend the remainder of his day drinking coffee, leafing through newspapers, and strolling across the great Parliament Hall, fully dressed in wig and gown - lest some needy litigant stop him in his tracks and instruct him as a matter of urgency. But all to no avail. Home, then. It was raining now in the Old Town as Kane walked through those narrow, dark streets. And when he reached his tenement, he looked up beyond the darkness and saw a candle burning in his window. Ah, good – Horse is at home. I wonder what’s for supper...

*****

“Let me take those wet things off you, sir. I’ve laid out some dry clothes and your overcoat and such on your bed.”

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“Overcoat?”

“We’re going out, sir.”

Kane was deflated: “Mr Horse. I have just returned home after a quite exhausting day of...of...well, doing very little, but you seem to be turning me out of my own front door as soon as I step through it....”

“It’s business, sir, not pleasure.”

“And where, Mr Horse, are you suggesting that we find this ‘business’ at five of the clock on a dark, wet, rainy evening?”

“At the cemetery, sir. I’ll get your boots...”