Jean Beazley tries to keep Dr. Thomas Blake’s spirits up, but they both know it is becoming more difficult for him to breathe and his coughing has become more labored. She keeps him propped up with pillows in his bed and reads to him, holds his hand and talks with him about his son Lucien and the decisions that need to be made. Thomas asked her to let Lucien know that he wants to see him. It had been over 20 years since they had had the dreadful conversation, a hate filled shouting match. Thomas told him not to come back. Lucien stormed out of the house and then the letters Thomas sent to him started being ‘Returned to Sender.’ He kept all of the letters, in case Lucien came home and they could talk. But clearly, time was running out. Being a Doctor had its disadvantages – Thomas knew he was dying.
That evening, Jean thought about how to contact Lucien Blake, M.D. She had all of the letters that Thomas had sent him with all of the addresses he tried to use to contact his son. Jean called her good friend, Matthew Lawson, Chief Superintendent of the Ballarat Police, and asked him to come to the Blake residence and talk with Thomas and her. Thomas had served as the Police Surgeon for years, working with Doug Ashby as well as Matthew.
The next day, Matthew knocked at the Blake residence and Jean answered the door. She told him that Thomas was asleep but she knew what they needed to do. She pulled out the container of letters, told him that Thomas was getting weaker, and that Lucien needed to be contacted. How could they accomplish this seemingly impossible task?
Jean put the kettle on and they began plotting their strategy. Jean thought if they sent a letter from Thomas, Lucien would probably return it the minute he received it. Matthew knew that a return address from Jean would not be a recognizable name, and Lucien would probably trash it. Then he thought if the return address was from him, Matthew, perhaps Lucien would open it. The kettle was boiling, and Jean made the tea. When she sat down at the table, they both looked at each other at the same time, pointed their index fingers at each other, and said – “Telegram!” If several ‘Official’ telegrams were sent from Matthew Lawson as the Chief Superintendent of the Ballarat Police and to all of the addresses that Thomas had, maybe one of them would reach Lucien and he would read it. They did not know if this would work, but the approach would take less time than a letter would – at least that’s what they thought.
Matthew and Lucien went to grade school together until Lucien’s mother Genevieve died. Lucien was just 10 years old and within a week, Thomas sent him to boarding school in Melbourne. They saw each other occasionally after that; Matthew was in Ballarat when Lucien returned about 20 years ago and had the terrible fight with Thomas. Their paths had diverged since that time; however, each had served in WWII. Matthew had joined the Ballarat Police and worked with both Doug Ashby and Thomas Blake and had risen steadily through the ranks.
Jean and Matthew started writing the telegram:
To: Lucien R. Blake, M. D.
From: Matthew Lawson, Chief Superintendent of Ballarat Police,
Message: Your father is dying. Need to return home now. Jean
Beazley, his housekeeper, is taking good care of him. Contact
me about your return plans. Matthew
Matthew sent a dozen telegrams and the waiting began. As soon as Matthew heard from Lucien, he would let Jean and Thomas know. If they did not hear from him in a week, Matthew said he would talk, in an ‘official’ capacity, to the Army in Canberra.
Lucien did receive one of the telegrams – in Hong Kong. At first, he read it and wadded it up into a ball and threw it against the wall of his medical office. He grabbed his bottle of top shelf single malt Scotch whisky and poured a glass full and downed it quickly. That was not the way he liked to drink good scotch – he wanted to savor it, sip it slowly – but not today. Then he got up and picked up the telegram from the floor, opened it and flattened it out so he could read it again. How dare Matthew “Bloody” Lawson write him and ask him to return to Ballarat? Get into another argument with his father? Bury his father? Sell the house, the practice, the car? And who in the world was Jean Beazley and what was she doing living in his boyhood home? He would have to tell her she no longer had a job! She was probably old enough, a mature matron he guessed, to quit working anyway. Just thinking about all of this triggered another reach for the whisky bottle.
After a night of drinking and thinking about what he wanted to do – stay in Hong Kong and forget about his father – and should do – return to Ballarat and deal with all of it – he decided he would return to Ballarat – but just long enough to get his father’s affairs settled. Just a few weeks he thought and he would be back in Hong Kong and have his life back.
He would find someone to cover his medical practice. He would pack his medical license so he could practice in Ballarat until his father’s affairs were settled. Perhaps he could sublet his house in Hong Kong for the short term or maybe just close it up – I will be back. He needed money, his passport and to set up a forwarding address. He should contact Mr. Kim who was looking for his wife and daughter. He had laundry to pick up and his tailor had three new suits ready for him.
And he had to book passage on a ship bound for Australia; from Sydney, he could take the train or a bus to Ballarat. He decided flying to Australia would get him back to Ballarat too quickly. He had to mentally prepared himself for this return to his boyhood home and his father. The ship’s longer voyage would be better, he thought. He put his clothes into a couple of large suitcases and supplied his medical bag. In his mind, he had committed to a few weeks at most in Ballarat and he would come back to Hong Kong. Just in case, and he did not know why he thought this - maybe because it was 3 AM and he was very drunk - who knows, he packed up all that he owned in a couple of large steamer trunks. If he found Ballarat to his liking, he could have the trunks sent on later. He sent Matthew a telegram telling him of his arrival in Australia.
Once the ship left Hong Kong, Lucien had entirely too much time to think and drink. He ate at the Captain’s table, where the liquor flowed freely, almost every evening at first. He had terrible reservations about going back to Ballarat, but it will only be for a few months, he kept telling himself, as he tried to convince himself that the decision he made to return home was the right one.
He decided that when he returned to Ballarat, as soon as he arrived, he would fire the housekeeper – Jean somebody – and then what? The more he thought about that strategy, the more it seemed rather stupid. If she is gone, who takes care of this father? Well, Lucien thought I will not. I could just put him in the hospital and let them take care of him. After all, my father has money.
As the ship traveled towards Sydney, he obsessed about all of the unresolved issues he had with his Mother’s death, and then being sent to Melbourne for school by his father. He was just 10 years old when all of this happened. He thought – All children want is to be with their parents – something that he was denied when his mother died and his father sent him away. He remembered with bitterness, that his father did not even hug him when he left Ballarat for Melbourne. Thomas just told him ‘Do your best’ and that did not help one bit.
As the time drug on, he knew he was not good company, so he stayed in his cabin more often than not. His thoughts wandered to the war, losing track of his wife and daughter, volunteering for all of the dangerous assignments he could, drinking outrageous amounts of whisky, being captured and ending up in a god-awful torture-filled POW camp for over three years. His horrible nightmares all revolved around this time in his life and the only way to control them, according to Lucien Blake, M. D., was more drinking.
After the war, he and Derek Alderton volunteered for more dangerous assignments, this time with Army intelligence. He killed two people – Bao Cheng and Victor Gennardy – I am a physician and surgeon who pledged to do no harm, to help people – not to kill them – what was I thinking? Well, he told himself, I was not thinking straight.
Then in a slightly sober moment, Lucien told himself, I have a chance to change course. I could stay in Ballarat and maybe start a new life or I can blast in there, fire the housekeeper, bury my father and return to Hong Kong and then what? He fell over in the bed, tears flowing, head pounding, stomach aching. Will this damn ship ever get to Australia? Maybe I should have flown to Sydney – I don’t know –
Jean asked Matthew to come out to the Blake residence and talk to her about Lucien. After all she would not recognize him if he came to the front door. The pictures that Thomas had were 20 years old. What was Lucien like now? Matthew really could not answer that question nor could Thomas. During WWII, Thomas was informed that Lucien was in a POW camp for 3.5 years. Matthew said the war probably messed Lucien up pretty good, but he stated emphatically, Lucien is a survivor. Beyond that information, Jean knew very little. She thought the meeting was pretty disappointing. She thought Matthew could give her more information about Lucien, but she was wrong.
One thing Jean did know – she needed to think about a different job. Her time with Thomas was a god send. With her Christopher buried in the Solomon Islands, she was left to raise two boys, and make ends meet. The farm they owned was simply too much for her, and she sold it and finally got the position with Dr. Blake. She had a place to live, he liked her cooking, she learned how to manage his Surgery, he taught her basic medical skills, she read his medical books, and she learned about the life of a Police Surgeon. Hopefully, there would be another position like this in Ballarat or nearby.
Matthew dropped by the house and told Thomas and Jean that Lucien would be arriving soon. He was afraid that Lucien might change his mind after he arrived and not come to the house, so he kept the arrival date to himself. Thomas was happy to hear the news, but Jean knew he was quite ill. He updated his will and left the house, car, and practice to Lucien. Jean did not know if all of this meant she had been ‘left’ to Lucien or not. All of these legal matters could take months to settle, but just in case, she continued looking for other service positions. If he came home and promptly fired her, she would need somewhere to go, in a hurry. She was thinking about the position at the Royal Cross Hotel in Ballarat.
A couple of days before Lucien was supposed to arrive in Ballarat, Matthew and Cec came with more news about Lucien Blake. “Jean, I have been contacted by the Melbourne police and by a Major Derek Alderton of the Army in Canberra. Lucien is an ex-Army intelligence operative who is quite volatile and angry after completing an assignment. Lucien also drinks heavily. He was ordered to kill two foreign agents and completed the assignments successfully. I think Lucien was well trained as an operative and could be quite dangerous.” But what Matthew did not tell Jean was of his increasing uneasiness about Lucien’s return. How did the police and army know Lucien was returning to Ballarat? Why were they ‘tracking’ his movements? Was it just because he was from the Far East or was there more going on than they told him?
Matthew was concerned about Jean – he figured she was probably half Lucien’s size, Lucien would be staying in the same house with her and Mattie, and Matthew wanted her to think about an exit/escape strategy. Cec told her there was a room at the Colonist’s Club that he had prepared for her to stay in, if necessary. Jean was given phone numbers for all of the police including Doug Ashby, as well as Cec’s number. The police would swing by several times a day and would be posted the evenings that Danny would not be home. Matthew asked Jean if she would be comfortable with this plan. Jean said if she and Mattie felt uneasy once Lucien returned, they would leave and stay at the Club. She gave Matthew a key to the Blake front door, just in case.
Jean, looking at Matthew and Cec, asked them, “How many of the returning soldiers that Thomas had treated would fit a part of that description? We all need to give him a chance to show what he is made of, now, not then. And you know, people can change. I for one, will give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.” Jean continued, “How do we know that this Major Alderton is telling us the truth?”