The Apothecary

For Franny

A note to the reader:

My memories of what happened to me in 1952, when I moved to London from Los Angeles with my parents and met Benjamin Burrows for the first time, aren’t perfect, for reasons I’ll explain in this book. I didn’t “forget” those months the way I sometimes forget where I left my glasses, or what was happening in the novel I put down last week, or the name of the woman who sells oranges at the farmers’ market. I lost what happened to me in the spring of 1952 in a much deeper, more profound way than that.

But I kept a diary that year, when I was fourteen and my life changed in such unforeseeable ways. The diary was taken from me, but later it was returned. When I read the entries, they were in my own handwriting, but they were as strange to me as if I had written them while asleep, about a dream that had vanished.

People describe their childhoods as magical, but mine—it really was. While I was complaining to my parents about having to leave Los Angeles, a chemist in China was narrowly escaping arrest, and a Hungarian physicist was perfecting the ability to freeze time. I was drawn, through Benjamin and his father, into the web of what they had created.

But if I tell you all this now, you won’t believe me. I’ll tell it in order, as I reconstructed the events after meeting Benjamin again. For a long time the memories seemed—however fantastic—to be important only to me personally. But lately it has seemed more and more urgent to tell this story now.

Jane Scott



A note to the reader

CHAPTER 1: Followed

CHAPTER 2: The Apothecary

CHAPTER 3: St Beden’s School

CHAPTER 4: Spies

CHAPTER 5: Sherwood Forest

CHAPTER 6: His Excellency

CHAPTER 7: The Message

CHAPTER 8: The Pharmacopoeia

CHAPTER 9: The Physic Garden

CHAPTER 10: The Smell of Truth

CHAPTER 11: The Samovar

CHAPTER 12: The Return to the Garden

CHAPTER 13: The Gardener’s Letter

CHAPTER 14: Scotland Yard

CHAPTER 15: Turnbull Hall

CHAPTER 16: The Pickpocket

CHAPTER 17: Flight

CHAPTER 18: The Opera Game

CHAPTER 19: Invisible

CHAPTER 20: The Bunker

CHAPTER 21: The Oil of Mnemosyne

CHAPTER 22: The Pillar of Salt

CHAPTER 23: The Apothecary’s Plan

CHAPTER 24: The Dark Force

CHAPTER 25: Science Team

CHAPTER 26: At Lady Sarah’s

CHAPTER 27: The Port of London

CHAPTER 28: Breaking and Entering

CHAPTER 29: The Kong Olav

CHAPTER 30: The Anniken

CHAPTER 31: The Execution

CHAPTER 32: Genii

CHAPTER 33: Nova Zembla

CHAPTER 34: The Bomb

CHAPTER 35: The Frozen Sea

CHAPTER 36: Escape

CHAPTER 37: The Wine of Lethe

CHAPTER 38: The Guardians of Peace




I was seven and living in Los Angeles when Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, and my first vivid memories are of how happy and excited everyone was. My parents took me to a parade on Fairfax Avenue, where my father hoisted me onto his shoulders and sailors kissed girls in the streets. In school we made little paper flags to wave and learned that an evil force—two evil forces—had been defeated. We weren’t going to have wars anymore.

Some of my parents’ friends said it wasn’t true that we had ended war for all time.

“People said that about the last war,” they said, sitting on our back patio, surrounded by tall green hedges, drinking wine or lemonade, which is how I remember all of my parents’ friends from that time: the women with their hair up in French twists, the men with their ties undone, on the back patio with a drink in hand. “And look where we are.”

Others said that such terrible things had happened that the world would never be the same again. But my parents gave those friends hard looks when they knew I was listening.

My father said gasoline wasn’t going to be rationed anymore, and we could drive to Kings Canyon, which I imagined was populated with kings, to see the giant trees. My second-grade teacher said we would get real butter again, not white oleomargarine with the yellow colour capsule you could add to it. I didn’t remember real butter, and I liked the white oleo on toast with sprinkled sugar (my mother never added the yellow colouring because she hated fakery of all kinds), but I did believe that life was going to be better. We would have real butter, whatever that was like, and I might get a baby sister out of the deal. I would name her Lulu. The war was over and the bad guys had lost. A golden era had begun.

For a while, it actually seemed true. I never got a baby sister, but I Copyright 2016 - 2021