The Ink Chase – Episode 6


The Ink Chase

A Serial in eight parts

Nidhi Singh

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“Find me a Dr Harry Harlow’s papers—he is up for parole,” I said to my head clerk, first thing as I barged into office. “And get the jail warden in here—now!”

Diane was instantly better with just a drop of the potion I’d given her last night. The mother’s glow had returned to her. I’d carefully stored the vial in the safe. It would last a month on tops, I figured. I had to now keep my word, and make the witch keep hers, and get the whole damned thing over with. I could deal with her later. Or perhaps not. The writ of our law did not run large over creatures of the dark and the underworld.

Johnson Kombian, the jailer, was in my office by the time I’d finished combing the chemist’s file. Harlow seemed to have been put away for nothing more serious than scalding society women with his ointments, potions and divers sun lotions! Of course, there were so many complaints, and some of the ladies had never truly recovered, either from the effects of his quackery, or from the natural blemishes of the ageing process—his bloomer lay in the fact that a judge’s daughter, betrothed recently, an ugly, acned girl to begin with, as he’d claimed, had also been among his clientele. ‘My Experiments with the Truth,’ is how the fool, quite removed from reality, had defended himself at the trials!

“Why did they reject his parole,” I asked Kombian.

He shrugged. “Bad behavior.”


“He annoyed the committee by insisting that he’d not been provided for—with a white apron and glasses while in jail, as behove his status. They thought he was loony.”

“And?” I was beginning to get a little annoyed now. Was the man jesting?

“And for bursting firecrackers on Halloween and giving the islands one helluva grand show.”

“Where on earth did he lay his hands on explosives?”

“He didn’t. He made them—from stuff in the kitchen and the infirmary.”

“All right. Now, I’m not asking for a recommendation here, but what do you make of this man?”

“A little wacky, but harmless—he gives no trouble to the turnkeys. The other prisoners think highly of him, due to the aforesaid fireworks show. The guard’s wives at the isles swear by him though.” He loosened his collar and cleared his throat. “He makes wonderful homemade beauty potions for them that really work.” He shifted a little in the cane chair. “In fact they’d rather he stayed there.”

“Are we going to run this prison on ladies’ whims now, Jailor?”

“No sir, it’s your call…he should be let go.”

“Have I asked you?”

“No Guv’…”

“Well, that will be all.” I pounded a ‘GRANTED’ stamp on his parole application. “When can you bring him here?”

“To your office sir?”

“Yes. I would like to motivate him to make something of his life. Can’t let talent waste now, can we?”

“No sir. I shall personally bring him in the noon ferry.”

“Be quick then.”

The doctor was brought before me at dusk. He was a mild, quivering man with fair hair, wearing a mussed striped suit and cracked glasses. In his hands he clutched a canvas bundle, out of which peeked a sheaf of notes, tin boxes, jars and more rags. He’d probably perfected his recipes on the jailors’ wives on the islands – he’d spent his captivity in good custom.

“Sit,” I ordered. “Someone wants to meet you desperately—they’ve in fact strongly recommended your freedom. You’ll be dropped at a place where you’ll wait for me. I can’t be seen escorting you out of here. Then I shall take you to your benefactor—got it?”

The relieved man, who couldn’t believe his luck at being released, nodded. I couldn’t have revealed any more to him in the fear he might well bolt right back to prison.

I thumbed the bell. Radhe rose at my elbow. “Put him on your bicycle and leave him near 38/6 KM Stone on the banks of North Brother Swamp—you know the place?”

“Yes sahib.” The orderly salaamed, a little puzzled. He’d never seen a convict getting dropped anywhere before.

To be continued