from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
From the diary of Doctor Watson
Once again, I find myself writing this in another railway compartment with my companion sitting opposite me. It has been some time since I was able to bring my journal up to date, so I shall spend the journey back to London detailing the events of the last ten days – the memory of which, even now, sends a shiver down my spine:
We were conveyed from the station by pony and trap in pouring rain and biting wind, a situation I would gladly have exchanged for a warm bed and a large whisky. Holmes, however, kept his eyes on the loch as we trundled along in the semi-darkness, the cart hitting every possible pothole along the way. Arriving at the hotel very late, we were greeted at the door by a rather surly constable, whose demeanour was not remotely brightened by the weather. Welcoming us with a surly “Ye’ll hae had yer tea?” he hurried us through the hotel lobby and into a darkened lounge where another, equally dour policeman, awaited us.
Inspector Angus McCoatup was a giant of a man with a large moustache. He poured three tumblers of Scotch and bade us to sit by the fire. “Be a wee change from your posh lodgings in the city, eh, Mr Holmes?”
“I am at home in the humblest cottage, the most proletarian of dwellings, Inspector.” Holmes gave him a surprisingly unpatronising smile and took the glass from the the other man’s outstretched hand, swallowing the drink in one gulp.
As I reached out to take my own drink, Holmes laid a hand on my arm. “No, Watson, I need you sober tonight.” Seating himself in the chair nearest the fire, he left me to make myself comfortable on the pouffe.
“Now Inspector,” my companion continued, “tell us what has been happening.”
The Inspector twiddled his facial fungus and took a moment to gather his thoughts. When he spoke again, his voice was low. “Whatever you have read in the newspapers should be treated as what it is: a pile o’ sheep shite. I’ll tell ye this, Mr Holmes, I dinnae ken what it is that’s oot there, but it is no monster.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Whatever it is cannot be real. It just cannot.”
I leaned forward to get his attention and asked “And the woman? What of her?”
Holmes gave me a sharp glance, but said nothing. The Inspector nodded. “We do have the newspaper folk to thank for one thing…” and reached into his coat pocket. Pulling out a sheet of paper, he passed it across. “One of the reporters does a clever wee trick – sketching folk, quick like, caricatures, sort of. Anyway, he was oot in a rowboat the other night when the monster, or whatever it is, appeared oot o’ nowhere and came floating past him. Must have scared the shit oot o’ him, but he kept his head. Quick as a flash, he whips oot his notebook and does a sketch of the beast as it sails past and into the darkness.”
Holmes and I stared at the rough drawing. It depicted the head and body of a great beast, fire gushing from its gigantic mouth and smoke swirling all around. But our attention was on the small figure apparently ‘riding’ on the beast’s back. Her face was turned towards the artist and could only have been in sight for a few seconds, but the likeness was uncanny.
The Inspector leaned forward and tapped a finger on the piece of paper. “Ye’s can probably disregard the flames shooting oot o’ it’s mouth – I reckon that was what ye might call artistic licence.”
Holmes’ face was rigid, his eyes bright. “It is her. Irene Adler.” He turned to look at me. “Come Watson, we have much to do…”
To be continued