As one hand busily lays ink to this document, the other can scarcely let alone the smoothly scuplted flesh across my neck that lay jagged and bleeding a mere two hours before.
Today I had the great pleasure to take part in a duel to the death. My opponent was an honorable Frenchman fighting to avenge none other than my Achina. His mere knowledge of her connection to me is evidence that I have found her accomplice or an intermediary thereof.
I must admit, I find it particularly curious that, if it were not for that damned picture of Basil's, I should lay dead in some alley, perhaps just now being discovered by a constable or shrieking civilian. He was a remarkable fencer, and a mechanical genius to boot; to think, he made a doll look so convincingly life-like that I followed it outside in the belief that it was him!
Surely, he must have been the accomplice, for only a man like that would have the research and tactical knowledge to even attempt a theft of my most prized possession. There are only a handful of men like that, and I am certain I have seen him somewhere before...
As of this morning, there can be no doubt that an official investigation into the wherabouts of my Achina has begun. Shortly after the sound of gunfire had cleared my head of any concern regarding the law, who should come knocking at my door but a constable?
He was a broad, bald fellow with dark spectacles that contributed to an inexplicable aire of mystery about him. It is only now that I stop to reflect upon the aesthetics of the man, for at the time I was thoroughly terrified I had been discovered. A vagrant charlatan, after all, is far less likely to be missed than a distinguished Bobby.
He found nothing, of course, and to my great reflief knew nothing. The misguided paladin had simply followed a gunshot on his routine. Nevertheless, the incident has confirmed the glaring neccessity that I acquaint myself with Milady and her accomplice, who are apparently well acquainted with me.
That which follows is not meant to be read. Yet I will write it. I must write it. If only to confess my crime to a source that, if I remain vigilant, will never incriminate me.
Having learned that Counsilor Okita has fallen mysteriously ill, I felt it in his best interest to take a rain check on this evening's dinner. As such, I found myself drinking alone at Cafe LeBlanc, or so I had intended.
It was not to be. I was approached, or perhaps subtly soliticed, by a young woman who gave only the name Achina. What began as the gesture of a gentleman bachelor quickly lead to conversation, which in turn lead to our exiting the coffee house together. I suspect that she caught on to the pseudonym I gave, just as I in turn distrusted the information she gave about herself.
I will never know. Upon our arrival in my study, she found herself quite intoxicated. I must admit to being amused by such a strong reaction to chianti, which I myself am somewhat tolerant of and have never found to be a particularly potent wine.
In what can only be described as the melodrama so common to a woman who has every idea what she wants with the desperate desire to conceal said fact, she flung herself across the divan and confessed that I had shown her more affection that her husband had ever dreamed of.
I have, of course, been flattered by more creative minds, but was intent on making the best of an otherwise dismal evening. Sitting beside her, I asked her if she ever loved her husband in turn. She was naturally insulted by the question, but I had only to press for a distant and decided no. In this spirit, I took a leap of faith and continued with the logical approach; that her husband had, in fact, done her a great favor by leaving her to make her own way in the world. Free from him, she could do as she pleased.
Guided by this influence, she arrived at precisely the conslusion I expected, and in a matter of moments we found ourselves entangled in an erotic weave that I recall more in sweet scents and soft sounds than particular details.
The moment was all at once ruined by the unforgivably quiet creak of the old rusty hinges of the Door Which Shall Not Be Named. As I bolted up to investigate, my lover held me down, and all became crystal clear. Thinking only of the cursed thing that lie beyond that door, I grabbed a poker from the fireplace and ran her through, careful to take her into a brief but inescapable embrace to stifle what might have been a scream. I then made haste to the room to discover that, while the door was ajar, it was intact, the drape still framing it just as it always had. Had her accomplice seen?
There was, of course, no time to ponder the enigma. The body of my beloved Achina lay sprawled across the rug, staring straight into heaven as a witness to God against me. It had to be disposed of.
Washing the body of all fingerprints, I burned the dress and replaced it with one that had once belonged to Jeanne. Then, straying carefully out into the dark alleys beyond my home, I made my way into the lower class residential district. Therein, I accosted a vagabond, gave him liquor to place his mind in a stupor, and quickly mesmerized him to follow me home. There he would fill the remaining piece of the puzzle by taking the corpse himself and dragging it to a random street corner, revolver in hand. His aim could not have been more perfect, for I had trained him well, and as I lay in the safety of my bed, the disincriminating gunfire rang out.
Not since the death of Basil Hallward have I felt so alive.
It was a magnificently miserable occasion. I was embarrassed. The Japanese Ambassador and his entourage were embarrassed. Anyone who had ever been to Japan would have been embarrassed.
And yet, the Ambassador's ball ironically accomplished the very thing that it had set about to do. At its conclusion, the English and Japanese were very much aware of each other in Queen's Reign. On whether or not this was an improvement in foreign relations with our Asian neighbors, my judgment remains pending.
Not to be labeled a pessimist, I must stress the silver lining in this bleak cloud of an evening; a rather enlightening discussion with Counsilor Okita Souji has resparked my interest in Japanese culture, insomuch as I was inspired to invited him and dear Inspector Lusk to dinner tomorrow evening. I shall look forward to it.