The story begins with
In his crazed jealousy, Jim Browner cut and mailed his victims' ears under the power of his own suggestion - the threat he had made to Sarah Cushing. (Though his original threat had only mentioned Fairbairn's ear, in fact.) Why the ears? I seem to recall an ear-cropping incident in the Brigadier Gerard stories, too. Was this a common extra-legal punishment at one time? Did ear-slicing enjoy a "European vogue?!"
The story begins with a reference to Watson's "depleted bank account," and with a newspaper article located "under the financial column." Are these money references an oblique hint to the reader concerning another possible money matter? That is, was Sarah Cushing a sometime prostitute? When she "let lodgings to sailors," was this a euphemism for running a house of ill repute? Was it her intention to recruit her pretty sister Mary into the profession? Was there a plan in the works for Fairbairn to compromise Mary in an effort to make her more willing to go along with Sarah's business plans?
And speaking of mind over matter: Do you think that Mary Browner and Alec Fairbairn ever actually consummated their relationship? Mary was obviously not overly perceptive, or she would have seen her sister's attraction to Jim, and been more aware of Sarah's subsequent efforts to cause trouble between husband and wife. Is it possible that Mary was such an innocent that she truly saw no harm in a friendship with a man other than her husband, especially if that friendship was endorsed by her big sister?
Copyright © Chris Redmond 2000