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Doctor in the House


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Reaching the first landing, I looked out of the window and watched the others. Holmes and Mary were deep in conversation but had not yet made their move. Taking out the field glasses I’d borrowed from Holmes, I gazed at each of the other guests in turn – the General, Mr Lombardi, Billy Blah, Vera Claymore and Rogers. Apart from the latter, they were all sitting there, eyes closed and apparently completely oblivious to their surroundings. Of course, I knew that this could not be the case, since at least one of them must be the brains behind this ghastly affair and each of the others had killed, or intended to kill, someone else.

Just then, Holmes stood up and stretched lazily. He spoke to Mary and she too stood and made some indication of interest in the bird house that stood on the edge of the lawn, a few yards from the trees.

The two of them wandered over there, apparently chatting amiably with each other, though I could see the Great Detective’s nose twitching as he cast his beady eyes around the garden.

Turning my attention back to the remaining five, I trained the binoculars on them and studied each one for a few moments. First there was Rogers, and in his case, a straightforward judgement could not be made – the man had lost his wife, or at least the person he thought was his wife, and if not that, the woman he was in league with. None of which could gloss over the fact of her being dead. (Of course, it was also entirely possible Frau Klopp had been working alone with her own motives, but she must still have had some involvement in the overall set-up inasmuch as she had been invited to the island along with her so-called husband as cook and butler in the employ of the so-called Mr Owen.)

General MacArthur was a concern to me purely because of his age. I could not imagine him bounding around stringing people up from trees and the like, though as a former soldier in the Crimea, he would be familiar with guns and most likely had experienced the taking of lives. Mr Lombardi too had served in the army, though I was unclear in what capacity, so he could not be ruled out as a professional killer. Vera Claymore in fact, was the only one of the five I could not contemplate in the role of murderer. She was thin and feeble-looking with a gait that suggested varicose veins or some other leg-related malady that caused her to limp as she walked. Even so, she had worked as a teacher and may well have been responsible for some fatal incident resulting in the termination of her employment (as was the explanation in Mrs Christie’s novel).

Considering this detail, I also remembered that cardboard masks of Agatha Christie’s face had been attached to the heads of each of the victims (expect for Klopp, whose watery demise had not allowed for this macabre ritual, though the mask was still present at the scene). But no mask was found on Tony Marston’s body, which might suggest his killer had either ignored his or her instructions or had not included the item due to some other reason.

My musings on the matter were given a jolt as Tommy Rogers leaped out of his seat and began striding towards the icehouse. Lowering the glasses, I watched his progress and noted that Holmes and Mary were now loitering near the birdhouse but had also seen the butler’s sudden departure.

None of the others had moved, but Miss Claymore was looking towards the house, openly watching me. I waved limply and moved out of her line of sight, but quickly ran up to the floor above to look out of the corresponding window and saw that she too had left her deck chair and was now making her way towards the house.

Between Rogers and Claymore, I’d expected the former to be the most likely to come after me, but now I was in a quandary. If Miss Claymore intended to do me harm, I should have to rethink my strategy, as I could not imagine putting a bullet in her dull, but youthful features.

Leaning over the banister, I heard the young woman’s shoes clopping inelegantly across the hall floor below. Several seconds later her head appeared as she swung herself round onto the staircase and began to climb up towards me. It occurred to me she’d taken longer than expected to reach the stairs and as I stared down at her bobbing head, I saw that she must have made a detour – in her right hand she was carrying a large kitchen knife.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Making Plans for Watson


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Oughtn’t we to discuss this with the others?” I said to Holmes in a low voice.

“Absolutely not,” muttered the Great Detective. “Such a move would alert them to the extent of our suspicions, including, of course, the mastermind who’s behind this whole thing. No, I have something quite different in mind.” He gave me a sharp look, his piggy little eyes boring into me. “But you have a question, Watson?”

“How on earth..?” I spluttered, struggling to maintain a calm exterior for the benefit of the others.

He smiled smugly. “For the past several minutes you have been picking at the edge of your waistcoat with your thumb and forefinger – an activity you engage in only when pondering a problem or unanswered question.”

I sniffed and shrugged as if his apparent mind-reading act had not in the least unsettled me. In fact, Sherlock’s ability to seemingly identify exactly what I’m thinking at any given moment never fails to amaze me. “Well,” I said, avoiding his gaze. “As it happens, I was pondering on the fact that as Doctor Armstrong’s place on the island was taken by me, whoever Armstrong was supposed to murder has not, and presumably, will not, be murdered.”

“Oh,” said Holmes, his mouth dropping open. “Bugger.”

“Hadn’t you thought of that, then, Sherl?” said Mary, giving me a wink.

“For once, Mrs Watson, your husband has the better of me.” He steepled his fingers and leaned his chin against them, eyes narrowed in thought.

“But the mastermind murderer will know that, anyway,” added Mary. “So…”

Holmes looked up abruptly. “Of course, and has no doubt made alternative plans.” His eyes slid across the faces of our companions – five now, not including ourselves. “I think we had better put my plan into action.” He gave me an odd look, the sort of mournful look a person might expect from a long-time acquaintance when lying on his deathbed. “I should be obliged if you would do the honours, John.”

“What are you talking about?” I said, striving to keep the anxiety out of my voice.

“As you so cleverly pointed out, old friend, apart from Mary and myself, who are somewhat superflous to the original guestlist, you – being a replacement for Armstrong – are the odd one out. If our killer’s real intention is to do away with the three of us, I suspect he or she will have bumped you up the list. To take Armstrong’s place in the order of…er…dead people.”

“D’you mean to say that the killer himself, or herself, is going to attempt to murder me?” I said, with a distinct absence of enthusiasm.

“Well, I would,” said Holmes.

“You surely don’t expect poor Johnny to wander off by himself and await his own execution?” said Mary.

“That is precisely what I expect, my dear, though of course you and I shall be on hand to nab the culprit before he or she strikes the fatal blow.” He took a moment to relight his Meerschaum and puffed away with an air of arrogant nonchalance.

I sighed. “Fine. Whatever.”

Mary touched my hand. “Don’t worry darling, I’m sure Holmes won’t throw you to the wolves.”

We spent the next few minutes going over Sherlock’s proposal. The whole thing sounded a little too opportunistic to me and I couldn’t imagine the killer would take the chance of getting away with another round of slaughter without first assessing the various permutations and possibilities from every angle. After all, each of the previous killings must have been carefully thought out first. Nevertheless, armed with my trusty revolver, I doubted anyone would get the better of me without at the very least incurring a substantial gunshot wound.

Holmes gave me a nod. I stood up and stretched, gazed around the garden and announced in a casual manner that I had a bit of a headache and was going for a lie down upstairs.

“Lie down?” said General MacArthur. “Bit of a chance, what? Likely get yourself killed.” He hmphed, sniffed and shook his head. “Please yourself.”

“I really don’t think that’s wise, Doctor,” said Vera Claymore. She glanced at her neighbour nervously. “Don’t you think, Mister Rogers?”

The butler had been gazing at the ground in front of his deck chair for the past few minutes. Now he looked up. “She’s dead.”

Vera leaned over and patted his hand. “She’s in a better place, though.”

Rogers sneered. “Fuckin jokin, aren’t yer? Better place? Tch.” He nudged her hand away and went back to staring at the lawn.

Miss Claymore gazed at me, her lower lip quivering, but she said nothing more.

“Well, I’ll see you all later,” I said. Then added, “I hope.”

As I walked across the lawn towards the house, I had the odd feeling I was being watched. Obviously, the seven people behind me would be watching, but this was different, and the awful thought that we may have seriously underestimated the killer’s strategy washed over me like a wave of sloppy shit. We had assumed all along that the mastermind behind all this was one of the people on the lawn, but what if it wasn’t? What if this was all down to someone who we had yet to meet, and who up until this point, had remained very much out of sight? In that case, I mused, we were in a rather perilous situation and I might very well be walking to my death.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Circle of Deceit


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

While Holmes and my dear Johnny organised breakfast for everyone, I worked my way around the house and unlocked the bedrooms, collected the others and ensured no-one had popped off during the night. Thankfully no-one had, and they quietly fell in behind and followed me back down to the kitchen without complaint.

“Here we are,” said Holmes, ladling porridge into eight bowls. “A traditional Scottish breakfast for all, och the noo, etcetera.”

“Hmph,” said General MacArthur, inspecting his oaty provision. “Out of a tin, eh?”

Holmes shook his head. “Sealed cardboard box, actually.” He passed the container across the table for inspection.

“What’s this? Awfy Guid Porridge fer Wee Scots Folk,” said the general, reading the label. “And sealed, you say?”

“We both gave the box a thorough going over before opening it,” said Johnny helpfully. “I can assure you, it’s poison free.”

Vera Claymore was the first to start eating and had already shovelled several spoonfuls into her not-so-dainty mouth when she held up her spoon. “Any more, Mr Holmes?”

“Plenty in the pan,” said the Great Detective, tucking into his own bowl with gusto.

The General hmphed some more but set about filling his own stomach, nevertheless.

“What shall we do today, Sherl?” I asked Holmes, when the others had cleared their plates and begun organising the washing up.

“I should very much like to have a day free of murder, Mary.”

“I’ll second that,” said Johnny. “Perhaps we could all sit outside – it’s warm enough and we could keep an eye on everyone.”

“Good plan,” said Holmes. “Think I spied a few deck chairs behind the shed.”

And so, fifteen minutes later, we had arranged a rough circle of chairs and loungers on the lawn behind the house, with two small tables bearing jugs of tap water (the pouring of which we had all witnessed).

I arranged our chairs so Johnny and Holmes were on either side of me but none of the others were within hearing distance. As we sat there gazing around our depleted circle of acquaintances, I couldn’t help wondering who would be next on the killer’s list.

Holmes produced his meerschaum pipe and after stuffing it with a lump of Hard Shag, proceeded to puff away as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I glanced at Johnny, who rolled his eyes, though not in a scornful way.

“What are you thinking, Sherlock?” I said, when the silence had dragged on for several minutes.

“I’m thinking, Mary Watson, that if we could work out who killed Marston, we should be a great deal closer to solving this mystery.” He puffed away for a while, then added, “but I’m bound to say that I can’t see how even two murderers could pull off this thing easily.”

“What?” said Johnny. “You surely don’t think there can be more than two?”

Holmes looked at me with a sardonic smile. “Go on, Mary, you’ve worked it out, I’ll be bound.”

As it happens, I’d spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I could only come up with one possible solution. “As it happens,” I said, “I’ve spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I can only come up with one possible solution.”

My husband stared at me. “Really?”

“Yes,” I said. “Really.”

Holmes shuffled round in his chair and gave me a wide smile. “Go on, then, spill it.”

I took a sip of water and a deep breath. “The way I see it, no single person has been unaccounted for in each case. If they had, we’d have spotted it before now. However, if one person was unaccounted for in each case, but only on one occasion, we’d have little reason to suspect them…”

“Since they were accounted for on the other occasions,” finished Holmes, nodding.

“And as you say,” I went on, “if we knew who Marston’s killer was, we’d be well on the way to working out the rest of it.”

Holmes sniffed. “You’re so close, Mary, so very damn close, but not quite there.” He looked at Johnny. “Watson? You must have your own ideas about Marston?”

“Oh, well, you know. Nothing specific.”

“Come on, John,” urged Holmes. “Even if you’re completely wrong, I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

“Thanks for the encouragement, Holmes,” said Johnny with more than a trace of bitterness.

“Go ahead, darling, I know you have a theory,” I said, patting his leg.

My husband reddened a little and coughed several times before continuing. “Well, I was thinking about the other guests. As I recall, we first of all followed the footprints to Emily Bent’s bedroom. Then General MacArthur arrived, followed by Billy Blah, Lombardi, Vera Claymore and finally Warmonger.”

“And Warmonger came down the stairs from the upper floor?” said Holmes, a frown creasing his brow.

“Yes,” said Johnny, “but…”

“Go on,” said Holmes leaning forward.

“It’s just that I didn’t actually see him coming down the stairs. Rather, I heard him come down – clump, clump, clump – his footsteps somewhat exaggerated, if you see what I mean.”

Holmes waggled his meerschaum. “So he could have simply given the impression that he was coming downstairs, when in fact he had just come back upstairs from the store cupboard underneath Marston’s bedroom?”

I nodded eagerly. “Where he’d created the thumping noise with a broom attached to a breadknife poking through the floorboards and banging against the chamber pot in order to attract our attention and give him time to come back upstairs and appear to have nothing to do with the murder.”

We all looked at each other for a moment, digesting the consequences of this information.

“I don’t understand,” said Johnny. “Warmonger’s dead, so even if he did kill Marston, he can’t be the main killer.”

“But that’s the whole point, darling,” I said, grasping his hand. “He’s only one of the killers.” I looked at Holmes.

“Let me take you back, Watson,” said the big-nosed detective. “What do you recall about the invitation Armstrong, or whoever he was, received?”

Johnny shrugged.

“You remember,” went on Holmes, “Armstrong’s invitation mentioned some ‘wonderful opportunity’ which he would receive if and when he arrived at the island?”

“I suppose,” said Johnny, his expression now one of complete confusion.

“In your examination of the invitation itself, do you recall the left-hand edge of the card?”

Johnny sighed, shaking his head. “No, Holmes I do not recall the left-hand edge.”

Our companion smirked and waved a hand dismissively. “Apologies Watson, I’m showing off again. No, there was a slight difference in the border of the card which at the time I thought little of, but of late I have begun to consider of utmost importance.” He glanced around to ensure the others were still seated in their respective chairs. Then, “I suspect the card was originally of the folding variety and that the second half had been cut off in order that I should not see it.”

“And why would Armstrong not wish you to see it?” said Johnny.

“Because, friend Watson, it was on that piece of card that Armstrong’s instructions were written.” He sat back, apparently satisfied.

“For God’s sake, Holmes,” spluttered Johnny. “What instructions?”

With another sardonic smile, Holmes murmured, “the instructions that he was to murder one of the other guests.” He turned to me and gave a small nod.

“It’s simple darling,” I said. “Each of the guests was told to murder one of the others, or they themselves would be murdered.”

Johnny threw up his hands. “That’s ridiculous – why wouldn’t they just go to the police?”

“Because all of them had committed crimes and would’ve landed themselves in even more trouble.”

I watched my husband’s face as this information worked its way through to his brain. Then his eyes lit up. “But that’s preposterous!”

“It is,” said Holmes. “And brilliant.”

“The only problem,” I said, with a glance at Holmes, “is Armstrong.”

“Yes,” he said, letting out a long breath. “If he wasn’t who he said he was, then…”

“Then the real Armstrong could be the brains behind it all,” said Johnny.

“He could,” said Holmes. “Or he could be our one saving grace. The one person who could bugger things up for whoever planned this bizarre charade.”

We turned to look at the other guests, all still sitting in a circle and all staring straight back at us.

“Yes,” said Holmes, in a low voice. “Each one of them intends to murder one of the others. Except for that one individual who does not need to, because he or she intends to be the only person left alive.”

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Plot Thickens


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Following the discovery of Frau Klopp’s body yesterday, Holmes demanded that we all meet in the kitchen. Here, he announced his intention to prepare a meal for the guests who still remained alive – eight now, including Holmes. My initial surprise in hearing my Baker Street pal suggest that he embark on an activity as mundane as cooking, was soon dispelled as he proceeded to open several tins of bully beef, to which he added several tins of baked beans, dropped the lot in an eight-pint saucepan and popped it on the stove.

“Reminds me of when I was at Rorke’s Drift,” he said, as he and I stood watching the pot.

“Wasn’t aware you’d been a soldier, Holmes,” said I.

“The sum total of those things of which you are not aware, Watson, would fill a large box.”

I felt a little hurt at this, but laughed it off and changed the subject. “I suppose you have a plan, eh?”

The big-nosed detective lowered his voice. “For once, old friend, I find myself at a loss. Discovering the body of Ethel Rogers and the revelation that she was none other than Professor Helga Klopp, has thrown all my current theories out the window.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The whole thing makes no sense.”

Mary brought over a pile of soup bowls. “What’s the plan, Sherlock?”

Holmes glanced around at the others. Apart from the butler, they were all seated around the kitchen table. Other than an occasional comment about the weather, no-one spoke. Every so often, one of them would glance pityingly at Rogers, who stood by the window staring blankly out across the lawn. The poor man hadn’t uttered a word since learning his wife was not only dead, but not who he thought she was, and I judged he must be feeling pretty rotten about it. Unless he turns out to be the killer, of course, though Holmes thinks this unlikely, due to the man’s general ineptness. Then again, his ineptness may be part of his plan, in which case I have to admire his acting ability. Unless he tries to murder me, in which case I shall not hold back in my choice of expletives.

“I don’t know, Mary,” said Holmes. “I really don’t know. But we must come up with something soon, because the killer will strike again. Of that, I am certain.”

“Why don’t we lock them all in their rooms until we’ve decided what to do?”

Holmes grimaced, but he had to admit, short of tying them all up, it was the only solution which might prevent further murders.

By the time the meal was over, it was early evening and there seemed to be no reason not to proceed with Mary’s suggestion. Lining everyone up, Holmes led the way around the house, dropping each person off at their rooms and locking them in, until there was only the three of us left.

In our own room, Holmes produced a bottle of brandy and three glasses (which apparently, he’d half-inched from the kitchen). “Now, Watsons,” he said, pouring out generous helpings, “do either of you have any ideas?”

“It seems to me,” I said, pulling up an armchair, “that none of the others could have been in a position to kill Marston and Miss Bent and the judge and Mrs Rogers – there are simply too many variables. And now the revelation that she wasn’t who we thought she was, just makes it even more complicated.”

Holmes nodded. “So what might make it less complicated?”

I pondered on this for a moment. “If there were two killers, perhaps, as you suggested earlier?”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “As you say, it had occurred to me that the most likely solution was that Mr and Mrs Rogers were in collusion and that they are in fact Mr and Mrs Owen. Since they were masquerading as servants, not guests, it would not seem unusual for either or both of them to be out of sight of the others for any length of time.”

“Apart from Mr Marston,” put in Mary. “They’d have had to be on the mainland for his murder.”

“Yes,” said Holmes, “there’s always one fly in the liniment and that particular theory is further buggered by the fact that the butler’s wife was not his wife.”

“Perhaps he discovered that not only was she not his wife, but was also the killer, and so he killed her,” I said. “Except that if she wasn’t his wife, you’d think he would have noticed sooner.”

“Unless they were in collusion from the start and had a falling out,” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “If the fellow would only deign to speak to us, we might discover exactly what was their arrangement. As it is, we can only guess.”

“Has Lestrade heard back about the post-mortem on Marston yet?” I asked.

Holmes shook his head. “I expect to hear very shortly, though I doubt it will shed light on how the killer effected the murder.”

We discussed the case for a while longer, but as the brandy began to take effect, our abilities to converse sensibly soon curtailed our discussion and the three of us nodded off where we sat.

On awaking this morning, my first thought was that my mouth had somehow been the recipient of a large spoonful of horse manure. Jumping up, I hurried to the bathroom and drank greedily from the tap, til my thirst was quenched. On re-entering the bedroom, I was pleased to see Mary and Holmes had both opened their eyes and both quickly advanced to the bathroom to follow my lead vis a vis slaking their individual thirsts.

We each took a few minutes to make ourselves presentable and after taking a couple of Sarson’s Vinegar Pills for my headache, I walked over to the window and stuck my head out, breathing deeply and striving to keep down the bile that threatened to announce its presence at any moment.

It was then I noticed the pigeon sitting on the far side of the window ledge, looking up at me. Gathering him in my hands, I took him inside and Mary unfastened the note from his leg.

Holmes took it out of her hand and unfurled it.

We both watched him keenly and saw his initial eagerness sink into an expression of gloom. Still holding the note, he dropped into his chair and for several minutes, glared at the carpet. I knew from experience that this was not a time to interrupt his thoughts and that he would share the contents of the note only when he was ready to do so.

“This is bad,” he said, eventually. “It appears the post-mortem on Marston cannot help us. But there is something else of far greater concern to us – Doctor Armstrong has died of consumption. Unfortunately, it turns out he was not Doctor Armstrong.”

“Not Doctor Armstrong?” I said. “Then who the bloody hell was he?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Holmes, “but I’ve an awful feeling that the whole point of this charade was not to persuade me to investigate this case, or to prevent the murders of anyone else, but to lure the three of us here to the island, in order to kill us.”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Londen Calling


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up
Dolphin Cove

I am happy to report that Mrs Miniver has finally heeded my request to desist from sexual shenanigans, and last evening, for the first time since arriving here, I spent a peaceful and wonderfully unmolested night. Arising feeling refreshed and ready for anything, I washed, dressed and brushed my sideburns, before bounding downstairs for breakfast. However, it turned out that I was not, after all, ready for anything. This morning’s news has put me out of sorts a good deal and I am a little concerned that my Baker Street pals may be in grave danger.

Following my most recent message to Mister Holmes yesterday, I received by first pigeon-post this morning his return communication, indicating that the current toll of corpses has now risen to four. I have to admit to feeling more than a little uneasy to learn that Holmes is no longer concealing himself as a rectangle of lawn grass (which did at least afford him the luxury of remaining unknown to the other guests). In showing himself, Holmes has made himself a target for the deranged killer (in my humble opinion), along with Doctor and Mrs Watson. My sense of agitation has further been heightened with the knowledge that Holmes has still not requested assistance from either myself or his brother Mycroft. This fact alone would seem to leave him open to the very real threat of death. Nevertheless, I realise that a horde of coppers pouring over the island won’t necessarily help the situation and may well cause the killer to go to ground.

After ruminating on the problem over a breakfast of muffins and quince jelly, I walked up to the post office in the hope of collecting Mister Stallworthy’s post-mortem report on Anthony Marston. (I thought it best to have all mail forwarded to a central collection point that would ensure some degree of confidentially, since the murderer may well have spies on the mainland, and Mrs Miniver, while of sound mind and willing body, has a complete absence of insight regarding discretion and police matters in general. (She told me over supper last evening that she once dropped a police officer in the shit when she related the full details of her affair with him to the man’s wife – a matter not helped by her description of how she had employed the officer’s own truncheon for a purpose which most definitely was not part of official procedures.)

The little woman in the post office gave me a toothy grin as she handed over two large brown envelopes and a smaller white one bearing the Scotland Yard crest. “Ar ye go, Inspec’or Lesbian,” said she, “Oi expect you’ll be a-solving of that murder the other night, eh?”

“For your information, missus, my name is Lestrade, not Lesbian, and this is confidential police business that I’ll thank you to keep your gob shut about.”

At this, the other people waiting in line turned to look at me as if I’d uttered a blood-curdling threat at the old dear, so I coughed and lowering my voice, added, “that is to say, it isn’t information what you want to be putting about, if you see what I mean.”

The woman grinned, but it was obvious that I had offended her. As way of recompense, I purchased four second class stamps and a packet of envelopes.

Hurrying back to my lodgings, I perused the contents of the envelopes in the privacy of my room. The first was from the lady novelist Mrs Agatha Christie and listed several possible methodologies that a killer might utilise if he or she were to concoct a murder that takes place on a remote island. I deemed none of these worthy of further study, as one relied on the application of mass hypnotism, another required the cooperation of the psycho-killer Kay Kersey (who is currently serving a life-sentence in Durham jail for slaughtering a family of Geordie miners and their pet whippet), and the others are all too far-fetched to even consider.

Putting the papers aside, I opened the other envelope and read through the autopsy report for Mr Marston. This appeared to be very much as Watson and myself had expected, including details of the damage to the hands and the strangulation, which is of course what killed him. In any case, there was nothing that would give us a clue to who the murderer might be or how they had engineered the whole thing.

I tossed the document aside and it was only then that my eye caught the third envelope. I had assumed it to be some tedious reminder of the workload awaiting me on my return to Londen, but I was mistaken. The letter was from Sergeant Radish, who is best known among my colleagues as a fairy fancier and lover of Lancashire beer. However, one of his roles is to update the files on unidentified bodies. His letter ran thus:

Dear Inspector Lestrade

Just a short note to say how we is all missing you down at the Yard and hoping you are enjoying your holiday.

Oh, by the by, you might be interested to know something what I discovered relating to a chap known to your friend Mister Holmes. Doctor Edward Armstrong, who apparently visited Holmes a few weeks ago, has died of consumption. This is not news in itself of course (I hear you say!) but the reason it came to my attention was due to the Doctor not having no living relatives to identify him other than a cousin who lives in Cambridge. Anyways, this cousin eventually arrived to do his duty and lo and behold, it turns out that the dead man is not Doctor Armstrong after all, but an anonymous imposter.

Well, that’s all – I just thought it might be of interest to you, though I do not suppose it will be relevant to whatever it is you are up to down there in Devon (nudge nudge, wink wink!)

Well, that is all for now, Inspector.

Your faithful friend,
Sergeant Radish.

A cold chill ran up my spine as if someone had walked over my grave. However, it turned out to be a draught from the window. I put the letter in my pocket, but then I said to myself, could this Armstrong business have something to do with these murders? Nah, I told to myself. But then, I said to myself again, as I was not in fact present when Holmes met with Doctor Armstrong, I probably ought to pass the information on to him.

Just in case.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Twelve Little Indian Braves


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Crashing through the French windows, we hurried towards the stairs, then having a sudden brainwave, I swerved right and ran to the dining room.

Holmes, Mary and Rogers skidded to a halt then followed me into the room. There, on the table (as I’d expected) we beheld the murderer’s latest message.

The row of miniature Indian braves still stood in a line as before, but now three of them had been tampered with. One had a small nail thrust through his chest, a second had a piece of string knotted around its neck and a third appeared to have lost his head.

Holmes crouched down and peered at the statuettes. “Ah. Ten little Indians.”

“Eleven, actually,” said Mary.

Holmes ran his gaze along the line. “Are you sure about that, my dear?” he said, a furrow sliding across his brow.

I watched my wife turn back to the statuettes and silently count along the row of miniatures. Then, looking back at Holmes, she whispered, “Twelve.”

I glanced at Sherlock. There was no need to ask who the new Indian brave represented.

Changing the subject, I stepped forward. “This one must be Warmonger.” I picked up the headless one. “Which means…”

“Which means,” said Holmes, “that my prediction was right and the good judge has met his end. But that is not what interests me here.” Reaching out, he picked up the fourth Indian brave, which had been lying on its back.

“Must’ve fallen over,” I said.

“Unlikely,” murmured Holmes, examining the small platform that held the tiny fellow. “Look here, the base is wide and heavy. It would take a jolly good thump on the table for this to have fallen over by itself.” He peered at me. “Don’t you think, Watson?”

“I suppose so,” I said. Then as my companion’s meaning filtered through to my brain, I saw what he meant. “Oh. It has deliberately been placed like that.”

“Quite so,” said he. “But why?”

At this, Rogers pushed in between us. “You sayin someone else ‘as snuffed it? As well as the judge, I mean?”

“I’m saying exactly that,” said Holmes. Here, he looked up and made a come-hither movement with his hand. General MacArthur, Miss Claymore, Mister Lombardi and Billy Blah had come to see what was going on.

“What’s gong on?” demanded the general. “And who might you be, sir?” This last was addressed to Holmes.

“I might be a nymph or a shepherd,” quipped Holmes, “but I’m not. Sherlock Holmes at your service, ladies and gentlemen.”

Miss Claymore let out a gasp of excitement. “The real Sherlock Holmes? Oh, my!”

“Don’t have an orgasm, dear,” said Holmes, placing the little Indian back on the table in the position we’d found him. “Everyone please stay here while Watson and I check on the judge. Mary, you’re in charge.”

“I’ll come wiv yer,” said Rogers, moving towards the door.

“No,” said Holmes sharply. “You, in particular must stay exactly where you are.”

I followed the Great Detective up the stairs but as soon as we were out of earshot of the others, I grabbed his sleeve and pulled him to a halt on the landing. “You think something’s happened to Mrs Rogers, don’t you?”

“I’ve been a fool, Watson, an utter fool. We’ve been investigating this mystery under the impression we were hunting a single killer.”

“You mean there’s more than one?”

He gave me a curious look then whirling round, ran up the next flight of stairs and down the passage that led to Warmonger’s bedroom. Bursting through the door, he stopped, one hand on the doorknob, the other holding his revolver. But we had no need to defend ourselves – the judge was dead. This time there was no mistake, as the absence of his head guaranteed that any involvement he might have had in this affair had come to an abrupt end.

“Bloody hell,” I muttered. “I wonder where his head is…”

“I expect it’ll turn up, Watson,” said Holmes with a smile that seemed to suggest he knew exactly where that particular object might be found. “Now, we must locate Mrs Rogers.”

As we flew up the staircase to the servant’s quarters, it occurred to me that the mask I’d found with the judge’s body had gone. I made a mental note to ask Holmes about it later, but reaching our destination, we hurriedly checked first the living room and then the bedroom. Nothing had changed since my earlier visit, except that a door I hadn’t noticed before stood open on the far wall.

“Of course,” I muttered. “I forgot to check the bathroom.”

Holmes strode across the room and opened the door wide. “Well, I doubt it would have made any difference, old friend.” He shook his head and stood aside.

Brushing past him, I gazed down at Mrs Rogers. She lay on her back, fully clothed, in a bath filled to the brim with water, her clear blue eyes staring straight up as if she might simply be holding her breath in some sort of macabre breath-holding competition. However, it was the bucket of ice next to the bath that drew my attention – Judge Warmonger’s pasty face stared up at me, its unblinking eyes wide open in surprise.

Moving the bucket to one side, I noticed the two Agatha Christie masks perched against the sink. Clearly the killer was intelligent enough to know that, on this occasion, placing them in water with the corpses wouldn’t work. I rolled up my sleeve and reached down into the icy water to pull out the plug. As I did so, the top of the dead woman’s head seemed to slide off.

“Fuck me,” I gasped, jumping backwards.

“No need to panic, Watson,” said Holmes, crouching down. As the offending item floated to the surface, he deftly picked it up and held it out so I could see it clearly.

“A hairpiece?”

He nodded. “One of her better ones, I might add.” Here, he looked up at me, a glint in his eye. “You recognise her now, Johnny?”

I stared at the woman’s face. The short curly hair that had nestled beneath her wig, the prominent front teeth and the thin unfriendly mouth, triggered something in my memory. “My God, it’s Professor Helga Klopp. Responsible for the murders of two British agents, three industrialists and several innocent bystanders, not to mention –”

“Yes, yes, Watson,” said Holmes with some degree of impatience. “No need to relate Frau Klopp’s role in our adventures for my benefit. The fact is it took me some little time to recall where I’d seen her face before, and when I did, I had no doubt that she, and she alone, was responsible for these ghastly killings.” He sighed heavily. “But apparently not. At least, not all of them.”

“Then the murderer is still at large?”

He nodded. “He is. And unfortunately, I think he’s winning.”

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Sherlock Sheds a Light

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we arrived back downstairs and exited the house via the French windows, Rogers had reached the shed. Sprinting across the lawn, I arrived a few seconds later and yanking the door open, found myself faced with an odd scene. Sherlock Holmes was sitting in a deck chair in the rear part of the shed, holding his Meerschaum pipe in one hand and a wine glass in the other.

“Ah, Watson,” said he, taking a sip from his drink. “Won’t you join me in a gin and tonic?” He nodded at a selection of spirit bottles atop an upturned crate at his side along with two large buckets of ice.

“It was you who took the ice?” I muttered, staring at his glass.

“Of course, old bean. Can’t have gin without the necessaries.”

It was only then that I remembered Rogers, and turning round, found the butler hovering in the corner behind me, still brandishing the knife. The man gave me a sharp look, his mouth a snarling grimace, then his features abruptly sagged into an expression of hopeless resignation and he let his arm, and the weapon, drop down to his side.

Noticing that Rogers still held an old sack in his other hand, I gestured towards it. “What’s that for?”

He shrugged. “I were going ter put it over his head before I did the deed.” He shrugged again. “Bit squeamish, yer see.”

“Hardly the attitude of a murderer,” murmured Holmes.

“I’m not sure I understand…” I said.

“Of course not, Watson,” said Holmes with a sardonic smile. “Rogers here thought I was up to something with his dear wife and no doubt having followed the trail of ice cubes I left across the lawn, he expected to confront the two of us.” He raised an eyebrow at the butler.

“Well, I dunno…” said Rogers, his anger having petered out completely.

“Let me see if I can help,” said Holmes, getting to his feet. “Mrs Rogers likes a drop of gin, does she not?”

The butler nodded meekly.

“And on hearing that all the ice had disappeared from the icehouse you naturally leapt to the conclusion that she had secreted it away somewhere in order to avail herself of a quiet drink, eh?”

“I did fink that, yes.”

“And when you noticed a few apparently stray ice cubes on the grass, you followed the trail here. Except,” here he wagged a finger at the butler. “You did not immediately come into the shed to confront what you imagined was occurring.”

Rogers shook his head solemnly.

“Because,” continued Holmes, “you heard my voice and assumed that your wife was in conversation and therefore collusion with me. You therefore decided to arm yourself and put an end to her shenanigans and the murders in one fell swoop.”

“I heard you saying there were going to be another murder. So I thought you was the killer…”

Holmes sighed and reaching down, pulled up a long metallic tube attached to a rectangular wooden box. “An invention of Mycroft’s, based on Moriarty’s Conical-Rite-a-Phone machine.” He smiled and poured himself another drink.

Turning to Rogers, I explained. “It’s a mechanical device that interprets his words and scribbles them down by means of a copper nib onto a wax cylinder. No doubt what you heard was Holmes recording the case for future reference, rather than him having a conversation with your wife. Or anyone else, for that matter.”

Holmes nodded. “Thank you, Watson. And as Mr Rogers was quite obviously employed for some considerable time tracking down his wife, returning to the kitchen to fetch a knife, then coming back here to wreak vengeance, I imagine he could not have been involved in the murder upstairs which you and your dear wife have just discovered.”

“How the hell did you know about that?”

I turned to see Mary in the doorway, her face a mixture of annoyance and confusion.

“Because, dear lady,” said Holmes in that irritating manner he adopts when in possession of more information than anyone else, “while you and the other guests were taken up with the demise of the unfortunate Miss Bent, I took the liberty of popping up to your bedroom to take delivery of the message that had recently arrived on your windowsill via Lestrade’s pigeon post. I won’t bore you with the details, but having visited Mrs Christie, Lestrade is of the opinion that the murderer is not following the sequence of deaths as they occur in the book, in which case the aforementioned lady novelist is unlikely herself to be connected with the killings. However, while I am of the opinion that our adversary intends to kill everyone on the island, I believe he or she has utilised the plot of the book as a means of drawing us off his or her real purpose.”

Mary looked at me, then back at Holmes. “And what would that be?”

“Before I tell you, please fill me in on the details of the most recent killing.”

Between us, Mary and myself related how we’d found Warmonger’s body but that I believed he was not actually dead and had merely injected himself with some form of sedative to slow down his heartrate and therefore give the impression he had shuffled off his proverbial coil.

“Ah,” said Holmes. “And he could then go about the business of killing the rest of us without casting suspicion in his direction, since a dead man could hardly be responsible for killing anyone.”

“Precisely,” said I.

“The problem,” said Holmes, with a frown, “is that Justice Warmonger is actually dead.”

“I’m fairly sure he isn’t, Holmes,” I said, a little put out to have my medical judgment questioned.

“Tish tish, Johnny,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I do not doubt your expertise, but I think I’m right when I say that while we have been engaged in this little catch-up session, our murderer has once more been at work.”

“But I thought you said Warmonger was the killer?”

He shook his head. “Never said any such thing, Watson. In fact, Warmonger was most likely persuaded by the real murderer to pretend to be dead.”

“Just like in the book,” said Mary.

“Except,” said Holmes, “that in the book Warmonger is the killer.”

“Well there’s one way to make sure,” I said.

“Exactly Watson,” said Holmes. “To the bedroom!” And with that, he pushed past us and began to run across the lawn towards the house.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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