Mary Russell’s War (fifteen): the jack of spades arrives

10 November 1914

I have been neglecting this Journal in recent weeks. Nonetheless, it appears that my life will continue, and Dr. Ginsberg feels that some weekly notation might be of use in the restoration of normal thought. So I shall resume.

My family is dead. I, however, am alive. And following the increasing number of visitors and letters who insist that I have a future, I admit that plans for it must be made.

I am no longer in the hospital, but lodged now in a building that from the outside might look like a private residence, along with four other unfortunates who have 1) survived their injuries and 2) lack the resources for returning to a family’s care. The staff gently prods us until we move our bodies about the grounds, gently pesters us until we have eaten food from our plates, and gently persists in finding things that might restore an interest in our surroundings. All this meek compassion and softhearted torment makes me want to curse aloud and crash some pans around.

However, they are right, my life will be in limbo until I begin to cope with the mounting demands. Hence, I have agreed to see one or two visitors a day, and to work my way through the intimidating pile of condolence letters.

The visitors have proven trying, although fortunately my attending nurses here remain in hearing, and intervene to send the more emotional guests on their way, with many sympathetic pats. But the letters are if anything more difficult, since most were written soon after the news reached the writer, when the shock was raw and no thought of lessening the impact on the survivor had yet occurred to them.

There is an old woman assigned to help with things such as correspondence, and it would appear that she has seen it all before. After a few days, despite making little impact on the depth of the pile, I began to feel as if the entire world mourned the loss of my parents. My elderly helper has taken to reading the letters first, setting a few of them aside for later consideration.

I felt ashamed at this cowardice, but until recently, my strength has only permitted so many trials.

Then today, after she left me for my period of afternoon rest (when normally I fall asleep like a small child) I found my eyes resting on the small pile she had set aside. They rebuked me, this collection of letters from those who had loved my mother and my father. So after a time, I got up and brought them back to bed to read.

And there it was, the one I had been wondering about, the one I had been hoping for since the day I first woke up in my hospital bed, the only one that really mattered. The words were few, but the bold strokes of his pen might have been dipped in blood, for the agony they imparted:

Mary, Mary, my favoritest Mary. Oh, child, my heart has been ripped from its chest. If I’d thought it would not merely compound your grief, you would wake to see me standing at your bedside, instead of reading this.

It is your choice: if you want me there, however briefly, I will come. You know how to reach me.

The note was not signed, but there was no need. Although in case I had lost my mind—or my vision, necessitating other eyes but mine  on these letters—the paper was folded around two playing cards: an eight of hearts, and a jack of spades.

No: I did not need him to come and stand beside my bed, especially since I suspected—knew, even—that the additional “grief” to which he referred would be his immediate arrest for some crime or another.

It was enough to know that Uncle Jake was thinking of me.

*  *  *

Mary Russell has an Uncle? Well, so it would appear.  In fact, there’s now a story about him, on Kindle or on other platforms here.  You can read a sample of it, to tease your palate.  And yes, we’ll even try for a printed version with this one…perhaps by Christmas?cover8

And the earlier episodes of Russell’s War are collected here.


  1. Merrily Taylor on November 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Well, Laurie surprises and delights us again! An Uncle? And a new story? Fingers flying to obtain…

    • Sabrina Flynn on November 10, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Not just any Uncle, Merrily, but sounds like the entertaining kind! Looking forward to reading this.

      • Merrily Taylor on November 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

        Sabrina, I have a feeling that all Mary’s relatives are entertaining, in one way or another!

        • Jan on November 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Except for “that aunt”…

          • Merrily Taylor on November 10, 2014 at 5:03 pm

            Even the aunt is interesting, to the degree pathology is interesting!

  2. Margaret on November 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

    How have I missed this series of posts, following a journey taken 100 years ago to the day? Such a great idea, and such tantalizing new views of Mary’s life! Thank you to LRK!

  3. Michelle Martin on November 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

    And what does Holmes know/think about him?

    • Laurie King on November 10, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Well, apparently nothing, until Russell tells him. Apparently…

  4. Sandra Brewster on November 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Aargh! I’m in the middle of national novel writing month and reading nothing unless it constitutes research…Get thee behind me, temptation!

  5. Teresa on November 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Well, you can definitely put me down for two copies of the print version.



  6. Celia C Kavanaugh on November 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Print version! Hooray! Count me in!

    Is there any possibility of the Mary Russell Companion becoming available in ink-on-paper??? Please?

    • Laurie King on November 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Not for a few years, I’m afraid–the printing costs would be very high, with all the color pictures.

    • Merrily Taylor on November 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      That’s on my wish list, too, Celia! It looks great on my Ipad but I’d still love a “coffee table” version!

  7. Libby Dodd on November 11, 2014 at 11:54 am

    The Russel/Holmes books are marvelous. I eagerly await each new one.
    But these contributions are a wonderful addition to the cannon.
    I have purchased the new story about Uncle Jack. Print would be lovely, but I’m too impatient to wait!

    • Merrily Taylor on November 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      I know it’s not as nice as a “real” printed book, but if you buy the PDF you can print it out, if you prefer reading on paper. I’ve actually done both, bought one for the Kindle and then printed out the PDF. Just a thought!

  8. Chris on November 12, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Mary’s Christmas on my (UK) Kindle already, too!

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