Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek: The Strange Case Continues

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek: The Strange Case Continues

by Anthony O'Neill

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Overview

In this dark, atmospheric sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic, the strange case continues with the return of Dr. Jekyll . . .
Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor—because Jekyll was Hyde.
But as the man goes about charming Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming the estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life . . . and questioning his own sanity.
This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements, as well as subverts, Stevenson’s gothic classic. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, the sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Constantly threading on the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, madness and reason, self-serving delusions and brutal truths, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek honors the original Stevenson with a thrilling new conclusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510737815
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anthony O’Neill was born in Melbourne. He is the author of Scheherazade, The Lamplighter, The Empire of Eternity, The Unscratchables, and The Dark Side. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

A Misted Window

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 birdlike 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, for close 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.

CHAPTER 2

A Divided Self

THE NEXT DAY Utterson was at his desk, poring over some financial documents, when his head clerk, Mr. Guest, appeared at the door.

'A flighty woman in the entrance hall. In housemaid flannels. She insists she is in your employ, sir.'

'Did she give a name?'

'Calls herself Miss Finnegan.' Guest sniffed. 'Irish, I believe.'

'Please, Mr. Guest, send her in.'

In normal circumstances Utterson might have been grateful for the distraction. After twenty-five years of conveyancing, estate management, wills and probate, he sighed with every heave of the pen. His eyesight was weakening, his tolerance of triviality was strained, and there were times when he could not prevent his mind from wandering helplessly. So any unexpected visit, any opportunity to engage in conversation, would on most days have been a welcome diversion. But the memory of Jekyll's smoking chimney had pumped a pall over his imagination all night, and he was loath to consider any fresh complications.

'Don't mean to disturb you, sir,' said the housemaid, shuffling through the door, 'but I reckoned it best that I come here in person.'

'Please, Miss Finnegan, take a seat.'

'Oh, that's orright, sir, don't you worry about me, I ain't got much to say, only what's happened at the Jekyll place just now.'

'At the Jekyll ...?' Utterson frowned. 'And what indeed has happened?'

'I went there this mornin', sir, and I tried to open the front door with that key you gave me, sir, and as soon as I tried ... as soon as I tried'— she spluttered; a persistent cough —'a gentleman opened the door ... a gentleman, no, I could not call him that ... a brute he was, a mean-faced brute with a pug-dog's face, and he told me to be on my way, for I had no business there.'

'And who was this man, to order you about that way?'

'He did not name 'isself, sir, but I think he was a butler.'

'A butler? You say the man was a butler?'

'I believe so, sir, by the way he was decked out.'

Utterson's pulse was quickening. 'Did he happen to give you the name of his employer?'

'No, sir — just told me to clear off, and snarled at me like a dog.'

'Then tell me, Miss Finnegan, were you at the Jekyll home yesterday?'

'Why no, sir, I was at Mr. Cremorne's.'

'So you did not light a fire?'

'No, sir, not on a Sunday.'

'Then the house might have been occupied for days, do you think?'

'I s'pose so, sir — why? What are you to do?'

As a lawyer Utterson was disposed to seek redress through writs and applications, through the power of pen and oratory. He was a man of the most rigid formality, not one given to rash actions. But now, presented with this very personal infraction — a threat to his very hopes and dreams — he found himself getting indignantly to his feet.

'I shall sort this out,' he said, 'that's what I shall do.' He reached for his hat and cane. 'And not a minute too soon, by the sounds of it.'

Outside, the lurid veins of a winter sunset suffused the air with sanguinary tints. The lamplighters in their fustian jackets were just commencing their rounds. The streets were alive with shouts and shrieks, grinding wheels and huffing horses. But Utterson, launching himself into a cab, saw and heard none of it. He did not even feel the sting of the sub-arctic wind. He was warmed by his own pounding pulse, and his head was swirling with speculations.

Utterson's great secret — so private that he had not fully admitted it to anyone, not even to Enfield — was that he planned to move into the Jekyll home once it came legally into his possession, and give over his old one, the Gaunt Street address where he had resided for nearly twenty years, to a widow by the name of Nora Spratling.

Bryant was her name when she trampled over young men's hearts. Utterson, a carefree law student at the time, was one of those crushed; his close friend Hastie Lanyon was another; while Henry Jekyll, for a long time seemingly Nora's principal love, had somehow escaped devastation. But in the end she had settled on a much senior businessman — a speculator by the name of Albert Spratling — whose chief attraction, it seemed to his rivals, was a fortune of mysterious provenance.

Still, it had been, for much longer than it deserved to be, the happiest of unions. The couple settled into Spratling's Cornwall estate where they were renowned for their hunts, banquets and masquerades (some of them said to be attended by figures of great renown, such as the Duke of Marlborough). But eventually the past caught up with the old speculator (clubbed to death during a spell in debtors' prison), leaving Nora with scant sympathy from a battalion of creditors.

In desperation she turned for legal counsel to Gabriel Utterson, the man who most adored her; and she had relocated to London both to settle her titanic debts and to be closer to the doctors treating her dumbstruck son. She was living now in a beetle-infested terrace house in the back streets of Shepherd's Bush ... and to Utterson, at least, she seemed more fetching than ever. So of course he found the idea irresistible: Nora Bryant installed in his old abode, like a parrot in a cage, while he occupied the home of her one true love, Dr. Henry Jekyll. The full permutations were too dizzying to contemplate.

Presently he arrived at the familiar square, where a high wind was shrieking through the trees. Setting his jaw, he mounted Jekyll's steps, seized the sizable doorknocker and rapped out a military drumroll. Then, there being no immediate response, he thumped on the wood with his lion-headed cane.

Finally there was a shifting of bolts and a twisting of knobs as the door, as thick as a bank vault's, swung back to reveal a bull-like man in a black surcoat. The man surveyed Utterson over a twisted nose but said nothing.

'And who,' demanded the lawyer, 'are you?' The man did not reply.

'I asked your name, sir — kindly tell me your name.'

'My name,' drawled the man, 'is Baxter.'

'And what are you doing here?'

'I am a butler.'

Utterson had half a mind to push his way past, but the man was the size of the Minotaur. 'A butler for whom? You must know these are not your premises, and you have no —' But the butler, to Utterson's astonishment, merely closed the door.

Utterson stood on the doorstep for half a minute, appalled by the insolence. Then he remembered that he had a key — of course he did — and every right to use it. So he extracted it from his pocket and inserted it in the lock. But as hard as he tried the key would not connect. The lock had been replaced.

Utterson backed onto the pavement and looked up. A man's shadow caressed the curtains and the light dimmed.

Someone had taken possession of the Jekyll home. Someone had changed the locks. It was an outrage; a brazen crime. And Utterson could not just walk away from it. He mounted the steps and pounded and hammered afresh. He called for attention. Windows across the square flew up, shutters flew open. Finally a glow appeared at the fanlight and the door creaked open again.

'This will not do, sir,' declared Utterson. 'This will not do.'

'I must ask you to leave, sir,' snarled the bent-nosed butler. 'Or I shall be forced to summon the police.'

'You threaten me with the police?'

'My master is unwell — he requires his rest.'

'Your master! Your master, you say? And who in God's name is your master?'

The butler sniffed, as if the question were too asinine to warrant an answer. 'My master, in God's name, is Dr. Henry Jekyll.'

Upon which he slammed the door with such force that the breath was knocked from Utterson's lungs.

CHAPTER 3

The Custodian of Secrets

UTTERSON'S FIRST IMPULSE was to march directly to the nearest police station. But he thought the better of it before even reaching the corner — the local constabulary would surely have changed a good deal in the intervening seven years, and the new PCs could hardly be expected to be familiar with the full complexities of the Jekyll affair.

So he hailed a hansom and headed instead for Scotland Yard, where Francis Newcomen, the policeman originally assigned to the case, now held the post of Detective Inspector. Yet even by this course Utterson was by no means certain of success, owing to a pivotal decision he had made one unforgettable night in March of 18 —.

It was on that evening that Mr. Poole, the devoted butler of Dr. Jekyll, had arrived breathless at Utterson's door in Gaunt Street claiming that Mr. Hyde had seized control of the dissecting rooms and was growling orders from behind the laboratory door. And this to Utterson was a most disturbing development, since Jekyll had vowed never more to have dealings with Mr. Hyde, who was wanted for murder among innumerable other atrocities.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Anthony O'Neill.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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