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Viscount Zachary Wood
Woodburne Hall
Near Tunbridge Wells

15 January 1885

My dear brother,

You can't imagine how overjoyed I was to receive your response to my letter! I had left off writing to you for so long because I feared that, our father having disinherited me, you might disown me as well. Forgive me, brother, I should have known you better.

Yes, I am aware that my name has been stricken from the family Bible; that act of vengeance was performed before my eyes. I am not surprised that our father did not tell you why I am no longer a part of the family. Where to start? Best start with the worst, brother, and if this damns me in your eyes then you need read no further. Your younger brother is an invert, Zachary; a deviant. A queer, a faggot. For that I was expelled from Eton, and for that I was expunged from Woodburne Hall, stripped of my title and estranged from all I love.

I was not by any means the only invert at Eton College; you know that as well as I, brother! But unnatural acts can be forgiven if they can be ignored. If one is exposed in one's deviance, however, then the blind eye becomes wrathful.

My exposure was not accidental. It was arranged deliberately, coldly, and maliciously by one Orlando Bloom, and one day I will be revenged on him.

Orlando and I met early in my first term at Eton. Even now I must admit he is an unusually attractive man. His own scurrilous adventures were legion, but he is a master of deceit. His secrecy was only finally breached by his own malice… but I will come to that.

I fell in love, Zachary. Many young men fall in love. I have the misfortune to be a man who falls in love with other men. McCauley Culkin and I were in the same form, and when first I set eyes on him I knew, I knew! It was like a miracle when he told me that he felt the same way about me.

Unfortunately, Orlando's eye had also fallen on McCauley. They had been lovers briefly at the beginning of term, but McCauley came to prefer me. That enraged Orlando, who was not accustomed to defeat. Orlando could have had any boy he wanted – honesty forces me to admit he could have had me, had circumstances been different. And now he does have me. He has me as his sworn enemy.

Orlando informed the headmaster that I was a satyr, a rake who enticed and ruined young men. One evening when McCauley had come to my rooms, Orlando led the Headmaster there. Not content to have my lusts exposed to the world, Orlando also had arranged for a quantity of opium to be secreted in my rooms.

If you are still reading, brother; if you have not cast this missive into the fire after the first paragraphs, surely you are tempted to do so now. This is the tale of a coward, of a cad; exposed in my sins I cry "unfair! I have been wronged!" Please believe that I am not trying to excuse my actions. I have been stripped of the title of Honourable, but not yet totally of the sentiment. I acted against the laws of man and of God and yet… my only crime is that I loved. I fear I shall never commit that crime again.

To continue: I left Kent and returned to London, but far from our family's townhome in Belgravia. Don't look for me on the streets, brother. If you are walking the streets where I now live, you have more important things to look to – like your life. Much has passed in the months since I came to live on the streets of London. The Peelers call us ‘gangs'. I call them my family, since my own family no longer acknowledges me. They care for me, and I for them.

And, best of all, I have found my enemy. Orlando is the leader of a gang whose territory borders ours. I am no longer a naïve, helpless first-former. I am a man now, and I will have a man's vengeance.

Brother, if you have not lost all respect and love for me by reading this letter, I would gladly tell you more of my life here. Truth to be told, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with someone about all that has happened to me. But I shall again await your reply before presuming to give you knowledge you may prefer not to have.

Could you find it in your heart to give me news of our mother and of Hannah? And, if your charity is large enough… pray for me, brother.


Letter to Zachary

Viscount Zachary Wood
Woodburne Hall
Near Tunbridge Wells

My dearest brother,

The promptness of your reply made me smile, and the first sentences of your reply made me laugh.

Yes, Brad is fully as disreputable as he appears. He is a wonderful courier; the perfect choice for any task that involves passage of information, in truth, and that is why I chose him to carry my letters. He is also a panderer, a merchant of flesh. He knows every procurer in London, and has sampled most of their wares. He shepherds the rentboys who work alone, warns them off the more dangerous of the regular customers, connects them with high-paying customers… and then takes his toll, either in coin or in kind.

And how do I know all this, Brother? Perhaps you do not wish to hear this part of my story.

I left Woodburne with our father's words burning me like acid. Animal, he called me. Licentious, debauched, and vile, a hell-born, lascivious, misbegotten trollop.... ah, what's the use? You have as much reason as I to know the lash of his tongue and the eloquence of his invective.

Do you know, he never mentioned the opium. It is acceptable for a Wood of Woodburne to be a drug addict. And had my transgression been with a woman I might still have been expelled – you know the rules at Eton – but our father would have clapped me on the shoulder in appreciation. A son who acts the rake would have been a credit to him in his mind. But a son who fucks boys… luckily I'm only the second son. Expendable.

I returned to London in despair. I had nowhere to go. We have many friends in London, but they are friends of the Earl of Woodburne and his Lady. They were friends of The Honourable Elijah Wood, not of the disinherited, disreputable Elijah I am now.

It did not take me long to become much more disreputable. I went first to our … to his townhome on Belgrave Square. It was automatic; that had always been my London home, and I hoped to collect some of my belongings. I should have known better – our father had sent word ahead. You know Walters never liked me… he derives his own pride from the status of those he serves. He grovelled before you, the Viscount, but had no energy to expend for a second son. Also, he had always seen something in me … as it happens, he saw the truth.

Maisie was my salvation. She's petted me since I was a baby, and in her love for me she found the courage to defy Walters. She slipped out of the house and found me huddled in the park around Wellington Arch. She brought me a bag of food, clothes, and money. I hope her theft wasn't discovered. Can you find some way to thank her for me?

That first night I wandered up Piccadilly and, by fate or by pure foolish luck, found my way to the Café Royale. You may have heard of this establishment, Brother. When I entered there was a table of gentlemen wearing carnations on their lapels… carnations of the most astonishing shade of green! I tried not to stare like a lout, but they noticed me straight away and invited me to their table. I found out quickly that it was not my staring that caught their attention, but my face. I have always rued the smoothness of my complexion and the slightness of my figure, which give me so boyish an appearance. I now have cause to be grateful for that, as boyish prettiness is greatly valued by Mr. Oscar Wilde and his compatriots.

Yes, Brother, I walked directly into the lair of that famous roué, Mr. Wilde. "There is a destiny that shapes our ends…" and indeed, it was the shape of my end that steered my destiny.

My only fear, during the weeks that I was passed from one man to another in the Café Royale, was that I would be recognised. That fear was not for my own shame, and certainly not for our father's (I would love to have him know that his son was fucking strangers in a gentleman's club), but for the pain it would give our mother to know that her younger son was making his living as a courtesan.

Having been beaten into good grammatical habits at Eton, you will have noticed that I speak of these adventures in the past tense. My career as an elegant toy for the polished habitués of the Café Royale was brief. It was only a few weeks before I chanced to be chosen by a man whose tastes were more brutal than some. His use of me left me half-conscious, which frightened him, and he abandoned me to wander, dazed and wounded, along the docks near the Tower Bridge.

There, of course, I became game for a rougher class of customers. Many of the rowdies who work on the docks prefer to end their day with a pint of bitter and a tender-arsed boy. But again my tenure in that trade was brief; and again it was abbreviated by violence.

Am I shocking you, Brother? I am no longer affected by these memories. They happened a long time ago to a different Elijah. Even more distant is the Elijah that you knew. I have come a long distance from shooting parties in the Pennines and riding out in Hyde Park of a Sunday afternoon. The fresh-faced lad in the Eton jacket might have existed in another century.

Dockworkers are, for the most part, a kindly sort beneath their coarse manners. However, always there are men who take their pleasure from the pain of others, and it was only a matter of time before I inadvertently sold myself to one. This time I was beaten far more severely, and again I was hauled to a distant location and dumped, unconscious and near death, on the doorstep of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. They are good people there; they take in wastrels and waifs without judgment. For two days they nursed me… and then Viggo found me.


Viggo was the leader of one of the most feared street gangs of WC2 and Soho. He had learned that he could find recruits among the outcasts on the pallets at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and there he found me.

He took me to their headquarters … I will not tell you just where that headquarters is, but it is near to Charing Cross… and there he and his men nursed me, fed me, cared for me.

He is a good man, Brother. Viggo is staunch and honourable; he is kind and fair. He is also a career criminal who makes his living at odds with the law, and the leader of a gang of men who can be as ruthless and cruel as Attila the Hun. He is now the only father I have. I love him.

And, like a father, he has made me his heir.

But… more on that later. I fear I have already given you more information than you will able to tolerate, dearest Zachary. Please, for mercy's sake, write back to me soon and reassure me that what I have told you has not killed your regard for

your loving brother,