from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Here is the first instalment of my notes from the other night, which I trust you will find useful:
Arriving at our host’s rooms in Mayfair, I must admit that I experienced more than a jolt of fright at the idea of meeting such a renowned author. When I’d suggested to Holmes that we take on this case, I had no idea the man was considered to be such an authority in the world of the occult. When I happened to mention it to my good lady wife, however, she soon put me right on the matter – apparently she has been swallowing every ounce of the fellow’s devilish output for the last ten years, and declares him to be a master storyteller with hordes of followers (or ‘BeWitches’) across the globe.
Given such high regard by a woman who (in my humble opinion) has no taste in literature bar the occasional foray into trashy bodice-rippers, I might normally have disregarded her comments. However, I bumped into our old acquaintance Mr Crowley on my rounds that morning and he was at pains to learn how Holmes and I managed to wangle an invitation to Wheatley’s place for dinner. I naturally put the fellow off, knowing he’d be ‘in like Flynn’ given the chance to inveigle himself into our affairs, so I sent him away with a flea in his ear. His clear adoration did give me pause for thought, though, so I picked up a couple of Wheatley’s books at the British Library in preparation for our dinner engagement.
And so, as we stood in the vast hall of that rather daunting foyer shortly after 7.30pm, I couldn’t help feel that we’d stumbled into something that might have rather more to offer in terms of danger and personal safety, than our usual run of the mill investigations.
The man himself, when he appeared at the top of the stairs, was well turned out, rather younger than I’d expected and sporting an impressive row of medals across his dinner jacket. He hurried down the stairs and shook our hands heartily, bidding us to follow him into the dining room.
Rather disappointingly, we had sherry before dinner (perhaps I was expecting goblets of blood!) Then a manservant emerged with an unusual starter: chicken wings and potato wedges. Wheatley said he’d come across them in the colonies and had been filling his face with them ever since. The main course followed (roast beef) and a simple dessert (lemon tart with cream) and throughout this, our host chattered away about everything under the sun. Everything that is, except for the reason that had summoned us to his house.
It was after we had retired to the library that Wheatley began his story…