I have to admit, other than the pain from the gashes, I found that this was much needed down time. Though we are accustomed to frequent lulls in our travels, this is the first time in a very long while that I’ve been able to relax. A truly restful sleep each night and what seemed like an almost endless chain of carefree days. I almost forgot what it was to feel normal. If I’m to be honest though, there is but a single reason for this but let me start at the beginning.
With our time to be spent at the Van Helsing manor in research and recuperation, Johan saw it fit to have our wounds properly tended. In this decision, he chose not only to see our physical wounds cared for but our emotional state as well. I believe there might have been a bit of pity shown to us but I won’t charge him with this as I’ve wisened a large measure from my more youthful days. He saw that even though we had a physical victory, it was a very obvious moral defeat with the loss of a profound Ripper. While the impact of our failure wasn’t brought to bear immediately, it was very clear as we pondered the horrors of that day. The death of the Witch Hunters leader would leave a large hole to be filled and yet another Ripper death is on our hands. Good people don’t become Rippers by droves. I sometimes question if good people ever become Rippers at all. Surely my failures in life pay testament to such a thought. Nevertheless, it was these burdens that weighed on us and forced Johan to take action.
His first course of remedy was our introduction to a nurse. I was in the library researching with DK and Adrianna when they stepped into the room. My jaw was agape when I lazily looked up from my midday nap. As we turned in his direction Johan nodded toward the woman and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Nurse Porter. I’ve secured her services for you during your stay in London.’ He then looked back at the nurse and asked that she ensure we be returned to perfect health.
Now Ms. Lily Porter was tasked with caring for our wounds. I don’t think it was part of Johan’s plan, you see, but the first sight of Ms. Porter’s smile at her introduction reinvigorated my senses. Ms. Porter, at most in her early twenties, holds an exceptional beauty that had to vex every man of her acquaintance. How strange that she wouldn’t be married by this age and is employed in nursing. This sudden thought both gave me a shock as well as hope. One thing was certain though, I had to concentrate on calming my heart because it felt like it would jump from my chest.
Ms. Porter took each of the ladies into another room to speak with them and assess her duties. While she was away with the other, both Adrianna and DK gave me quite an amusing glare in the other’s absence. It appears my self control was bit lacking. I believed their rebuke was due to simple body language until DK gave me a ribbing for not saying a word during our introduction. She seems to believe I didn’t respond at all as we were introducing ourselves to her. I don’t happen to remember personal introductions at all. I have no doubt that DK’s simply poking fun.
On my inspection, she asked that both DK and Adrianna stay present as it was only proper that there be a chaperone. I immediately found it a odd when she stepped directly to me, pulled on my chin to open my mouth and peered while asking, “Mr. Johnson is it? That’s odd, I don’t see anything wrong.” I stepped back confounded and told her that I had no injury in the mouth. My stomach lurched in pure shock when she retorted that she “wasn’t as certain since I was unable to speak until this examination. I was sure that you must be a mute.” I dart my eyes to DK and see both her and Adrianna giggling at the spectacle. At this I stumble for the words to pull myself out of pure embarrassment stuttering, “I uh, well, uh.” My eyes had to be the size of my Stetson when she said, “Oh I see. Not mute. Dumb.” Now without looking I hear the other ladies burst out laughing in hysteria.
The sudden rush of anger flushed rapidly through and brought be back to ground. I asked, albeit a little slow, if she would like to see the actual injuries. I couldn’t help but laugh and wince a little when she replied just as slowly with, “Yes, lets do that.” The other ladies made a spitting sound and started giggling again. I’m obviously quite happy that I could be an amusement show.
I removed my shirt and started to unwrap the bandage across my chest. Ms Porter stopped me and finished the job herself, somehow removing it without pulling the scabs open. Her expression changed when she saw the full extent of my wounds. Her eyes jumped to look at mine then back down to the gashes in my skin. I hear her mutter a question about how could I be mobile in this condition. Adrianna and DK have stopped laughing and have a look of shock on their face. I’m not certain why everyone’s so concerned. We’ve been through this before, though they haven’t seen my wounds when in this condition. I look down and only then do I notice Ms Porter tracing the outline of the gashes and scars on my chest. I realize at that moment why there’s a sudden mood change from the women. Each line is a testament to the luck that I seem to carry by still being alive. Ms. Porter clears her throat, starts pulling bandages from her satchel, and tells me that I haven’t been changing my bandage often enough. 3 times daily, no exceptions. I repeat her last statement, no exceptions while staring at her while she worked. She glanced up at that with the slightest smirk and I knew we would get along very well.
The next couple days seem to pass by exceptionally quick. I, in good spirits, seem to be pressing DK and Adrianna to move quicker and start each day. DK seems the most frustrated at this but she and George have been working long hours at some sketches, apparently to no avail. This is when Johan’s next course of remedy kicked in. He kicked us out. Well sort of. He told us to get fresh air and spend the day out of his library as the books were feeling worn and required a much needed break. This seemed to make DK and George quite happy since they needed to go shopping for some mechanical bits of some type or other. Adrianna had her own excursion planned with Peter which left me to myself. That’s when I decided to put my guts in check.
Ms. Porter seemed shocked that I would dare ask her to accompany me on a trip to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens on the Thames. After our initial encounter, we had gotten along well for the few days we’ve been acquainted. For this request though she rebuffed me quickly with no concern to my feelings. She stated as a matter of fact that it wasn’t proper for a nurse to accompany her charge through gardens. She defiantly added that it isn’t proper to do so unsupervised either. It’s as if she was trying to come up with excuses. She shot me an angry glare when I smiled and pointed out it was an order by Johan that I leave the premises for the day. I then pointed out her medical orders of “3 bandage swaps a day, no exceptions. Now how would I manage my care alone while out in London under the orders of Johan?” She inhaled sharply as her anger started to build but I cut her off to give in a little on the matter by offering her choice of chaperone during our excursion. I should have guessed when her face turned from pure anger to a sly grin. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t notice because I could only think of how beautiful she was, even when angry. She cut in sharply with, “Fine. I’ll send word for my brothers.” She turned on her heals and stormed out of the room.
Since we’ve been spending so much time at the Van Helsing lodge, I’d taken up the habit of dressing the part of a gentleman. This was of course the sole reason for a change in my daily attire, no matter what Adrianna and DK said to the contrary. The wait wasn’t very long considering the impromptu summoning. Maybe an hour and a half had passed before her brothers arrived. I, with nothing else to do during this time, felt like it was an eternity. Luckily I was of sound mind to think ahead and send a messenger to make a reservation for 4 at a local restaurant in the garden’s district. No sense having hunger set in and ruin an outing. It may be a bit over the top and damned more expensive than I’ve learned to be accustomed but this is my first shot at letting Ms. Porter know that I’m interested.
I received word that the Porter family had arrived so I made haste to the side entry that we normally use. I was hoping this bit of protocol wouldn’t darken their first impression. In truth, I possibly introduced myself a bit too eagerly to them in an attempt to make up for it. Well that and my look of surprise when I counted 5 brothers standing in the foyer. For some reason, I assumed two. 5 brothers to placate while entertaining their sister will prove to be quite a task. Maybe even more difficult than swaying her affections.
The introductions could have gone substantially better. I was of course able to speak this time round but it seems that was a problem all on it’s own. As I introduced myself and reached my hand out to shake theirs, Ms. Porter introduced her brothers by name. I was met with a Searing gaze from one. Another scoffed with a huff and a third shook his head while glancing at Ms. Porter. The fourth brother chimed in about me being a bloody Yank colonist and something about American’s being unsatisfactory for any rank of a British bloodline. I could barely understand him as his accent was somehow much thicker than the others. The fifth brother simply said nothing at all. So this is how I met the Porter Brothers. William, Charles, Robert, Arthur, and Lawrence. I look to Ms. Porter with a bit of dismay when she tilted her head slightly with a shrug and a smile. She begged a few moments to prepare and walked out of the foyer with her head held high leaving me to her brothers disposal.
I watch her stroll to the next room then turn back at the brothers who are staring me down like Daniel Boone. Lawrence, who was the silent one, asked directly why I have any interest in Lily. Before I could answer, he asked whom had set me up to this. Taken aback, I told them that I found her whit quite refreshing as she’s kept me on my toes the last several days. I also explained that no one had set me up to this. The outing was purely my device to enjoy her company while taking advantage of a wonderful day.
Charles, the scoffer, scoffed again at my answer while William chuckled. William then chimed in with, “This Yank obviously doesn’t have ‘is ’ed on straight. ’E’s just glutton for punishment. Either from her or by us. Let’s just be done with ’em ’ere Lawrence.”
Lawrence spoke, seemingly to understand what he’s hearing. “You’re standing here in front of the five of us. Trying to tell us that you enjoy her stinging, unrelenting ‘whit’ as you call it? You’re her charge and she didn’t somehow pain you in any way while dealing with your ailments to keep you from trying something like this? You realize she’s only allowed to care for women at the ward now because of the way she handles men. She’s already made up her mind that no man will conquer her as she puts it. She’ll call us in to deal with would be suitors at which point, you gents have backed down from the idea of seeing her again. Just do yourself a favor, call it off now and we won’t have to rough you up to save yourself from her.” At this, the brothers begin to circle me. I stand my ground and start take off my jacket.
At this point the brothers have only taken a few slow steps when Lawrence tells them to wait. He looks me dead in the eye with what would be a devilish poker face. He’s trying to read me. Looking for a tell. When I notice this, I start rolling up my sleeves. He asks, ‘So you’re going to get roughed up by us. Then end up not taking her out?’ Lawrence begins to size me up again trying to read my intentions. This may be the few seconds that make or break my chance at seeing Ms. Porter in anything other than her professional domain. I decide to go for it. I tell him that I haven’t met the woman they’ve described. Ms. Porter has taken exceptional care of me and …’ I’m interrupted by laughter from every brother. I go on louder this time over their laughter, ‘And if this is the price to pay for an innocent stroll through the park with such a remarkable woman then I’m ready when you are.’
By this point, they have me completely surrounded but I take my bare-knuckle stance and ready for the first blow. They all stop laughing, almost in unison. Lawrence starts to call them off and points out that I’m serious. I then hear hear William from behind. " ’E’s a bloody yank ‘E is so that’s good enough for a roughin.’ Lawrence starts to talk him down when from the doorway Ms. Porter speaks up. “If you boys are finished, we must be on our way. There will be time for you to play your games some other time.”
The men in the room don’t move but stare at each other blankly surprised at her reversal when she speaks up again, “Must I repeat myself? Surely you’re not all daft are you? The gardens won’t see themselves now will they?” Lawrence and I quizzically shrug to each other then grab our things. Charles and William start chattering about how that’s not the way this works.