As the newest Sherlock Holmes novel continues to work its way though the publishing process toward its debut in November 16, I am posting previews from the book — introducing you to some of the irregulars featured in the Irregular Lives: The Untold Story of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars.
Irregular Lives tells the true story of Holmes’s relationship with the band of street-urchins who became is allies over two decades. This week, I’ll preview Kate & Archie, two of the irregulars Doyle never mentioned by name. So, let me introduce you.
Kate was an orphan who came to the irregulars when she was an adolescent girl — dressing as a boy to protect herself. Archie, one of the gang, eventually fell in love with her. Here’s a scene from the story:
As Kate ceremoniously dressed, Archie watched her from the bed. To Archie, she embodied the best of femininity without any hint of frailty or vulnerability. Her strength was apparent in her sure movements and piercing green eyes.
Uncomfortable and flattered at the same time, Kate chided Archie: “What you lookin’ at, boy?”
“The most beautiful gel in Clerkenwell.”
Archie laughed, which made Kate happy. She had been happy since the day they met. Prior to that, her family had consisted of a rag-tag gang of boys who had befriended her a dozen years ago.
She had been attracted to Wiggins, the leader of the gang, not with a grand passion, but with affection. She screwed up enough courage one day to kiss him. He looked hurt. “Aw-w, Kate! Don’t seem right, do it. You and me bein’ pals, an’ all.”
He was right, of course. Wiggins usually was. Her motivation, she realized then, was not to charm the man himself, but rather to ensure his continued care and protection. Spitalfields was a dangerous place for a girl coming of age. She was aware that, unless she snagged a fellow, she would likely find herself strolling the streets and alleys at the upper end of Haymarket. She had seen herself in the faces of the prostitutes who waited, bare-shouldered in daring décolletage, for a graceless young gentleman to buy them a drink and more. Kate knew that she teetered on the edge of that life, and was determined to maintain her balance. She even dreamed of finding herself in Mayfair, or some other posh neighborhood in London.
The last touch was a comb she placed in her auburn hair that pulled her curls to the side of her left ear. She did not have delicate features, but her eyes were large and fierce. Her body was thin and tanned, which gave her a sultry appearance.
She swung around to face Archie. “There, wot do you think?”
“You beauty! I pity the poor men of the city. ’Elpless they will be before the charms of lovely Kate, the Siren of Swinton Street.”
She laughed and walked to the bed, bent low, and kissed Archie. He reached up and pulled her closer.
“Stop it,” she scolded. “You’ll wrinkle mi dress.”
Archie swung around to place himself on the edge of the bed. He put his arms around Kate’s waist and pulled her between his legs. “I’ll wrinkle more than that, mi lovely.”
A knock came to the door at that moment.
I hope that you will follow this blog in the coming weeks as I introduce Benjie, and others. You can catch a glimpse of Wiggins, Ugly and Snape in previous posts.
While these sneak previews are fun, they are not a substitute for reading (or listening to) the entire adventure. I’ll let you know the moment it hits the bookstores in November 16 — but you can PRE-ORDER NOW on Amazon.