I will continue this tale in narrative style, but will add dialogue where I think necessary. Because of the nature of my thoughts when I arrived home from my visit to Toby I will start off with dialogue in the form of a ‘soliloquy’---yes I was at some points actually talking to myself.
‘Come on now and calm down let's get some sense into this, just what have we got? Well without a doubt Toby had a major problem and equally without doubt it is now gone, let’s start with that. We are all aware that there are occasions when medical problems seem to regress very speedily without any apparent reason---it isn’t actually as rare as one might think. Maybe it was just one such case and Toby was one of the lucky ones destined to make a recovery. Quite often in these cases there is no explainable reason for this recovery. I mean, what the hell can a cane possibly have to do with it? --- no matter where it may have come from. I have to look at this sensibly. What about my back problem and toothache though? Psycho-bloody-somatic, that’s what, but maybe in reverse---I actually wanted to believe that garbage about the cane and brought the relief on myself--- mind over matter, that’s what. Funny though, my problems haven’t returned, not a sign--- wonder how long it will take. I must get in touch with Toby and have a more clear-headed discussion with him. Better leave it a day or two though.’
The above is not of course verbatim, it was written a few days after my visit to Toby. But it is not far from what went through my mind both silently and the spoken word.
When I got in touch with Toby after a respectable time and asked if I could come over to have a chat he told me he was just leaving to see an old friend in the Dales, He told me also that he had something very interesting to tell me. We would have our chat on his return.
I had met Toby’s friend on a couple of occasions, Ruth and Toby had been at university together and remained good friends over the years. Ruth and her husband live in Swaledale and run a small farm. The farm is on the route of the coast to coast walk. For those who do not know of this walk, it is across England, and can be done east to west, or west to east. Stops have to be taken, and Ruth’s place is a convenient stopping off place. They have a small cottage that they let out for this purpose. Toby always enjoys visiting Ruth; he loves animals, and also loves country walks and meeting people. Folks from all over the world come to England to do this walk and to sample the amazing scenery.
I remembered that Ruth had a long-standing medical problem, and that she had had to retire from her professional life as a lecturer because of her condition. I was of course wondering if Toby’s visit was anything to do with her medical problem and the cane. One thing I knew though was that if it was---Toby would be very careful and very discrete.
This then after Toby had returned from Swaledale.
‘How are things Toby? How was your trip? How is your health? And how are Ruth and her hubby?’
‘Well, let’s go through those one at a time, over coffee I think’
A few minutes later we had made ourselves comfortable and had a large pot of coffee to go at.
‘Well, first then---things are fine, the trip was no problem at all, only about ninety minutes since they did the dual carriageway on the A66. My health is fine--I have never felt better. Ruth’s husband is fine; I need to talk to you about Ruth though.’
At this point I told Toby about my experience and what I had thought about it, I asked him what his views were now, knowing he had had plenty of time to think about things.
‘I thought exactly as you have described. It all seemed very silly, but your experience is very interesting, has your discomfort or pain returned? How is your toothache? Did you still go for your dental appointment?
I remembered I had told Toby that I had a dental appointment.
‘Yes, I went Toby--it was too late to cancel and I was more than curious about how the pain had suddenly stopped. I had taken a course of antibiotics to try to kill off some infection of a root. I had been back to the dentist but the infection was still there. It was quite clear to see as dark patches on the x-ray film. When I attended for my appointment for the treatment and told the dentist all my discomfort had gone she took another x-ray---not a sign of any infection---the film perfectly clear. She couldn’t believe it, not a thing that happens apparently. I was just relieved that I didn’t have to have the treatment, but I cannot bring myself to believe that your cane had anything to do with it.’
‘What about your back problem? You have had that a long time’
‘I know Toby, but I have been taking things for a long time, maybe I had got to the stage where the drugs had really kicked in. Maybe just a coincidence.’
‘Well, I have two things to tell you my friend, and I think you are going to be quite surprised to hear them.’
I refilled our coffee cups and sat back in anticipation…
‘Forensic is from the Latin for forum---its modern meaning is reporting or doing work for the court. Forensic science then is doing investigation for the courts, usually of a scientific nature. The word forensic has nothing to do with crime of itself. I expect you know that though.’
I did know that, but I also realised why Toby had to make it clear.
Toby continued. ‘I contacted Jim Stafford, you may remember him, I worked with him a lot when in the force. He was a forensic scientist and quite brilliant too; I know he worked closely with the path labs on a number of cases. I asked him if he could tell what active component may be present on an artefact and could it be determined what it was. He told me that on many occasions that it was indeed possible, but it depended on the active component and quality and quantity. I asked him about what kind of things were absorbed through the skin, and their origin. He told me most were of vegetable matter---but some were synthetic. He told me that plant roots, stems, leafs and flowers all produced active material that could be absorbed through the skin, he then told me that tree bark had many active properties and some tree wood was also an active source. I cocked my ears up at this as you will imagine. He went on to tell me about many applications and mentioned the ones we probably all know about: nicotine patches and different kinds of pain relief patches and balms.’
‘Blimey Toby, that’s interesting, and yes I do remember Jim, a nice bloke. What did you tell him then?’
‘Well, I explained that I couldn’t tell him any details yet, but that if things turned out positive I may take him into our confidence. He agreed to help. He came back a couple of days later and gave me a small cloth which had a lint interior. He told me this had to be handled with extreme care and the lint must only touch the artefact. When Jim had gone I got the cane and wrapped the cloth around about six inches of it on the shaft being careful not to touch the lint. I left it on the cane overnight as directed. Next morning Jim collected it and took it away.’
‘Presumably you know the result by now Toby, what had Jim to say.’
Toby looked as if he didn’t know where to start---then he told me something I just didn’t want to believe…