from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
From the Diary of Dr John Watson.
Holmes was unusually quiet on the trip down to Cornwall and spent most of the journey with his nose in a book (a collection of stories entitled The Apple Tree), which he assured me was ‘necessary research, my dear Watson’ and would say no more on the matter.
Arriving at the village station, we were met by my old pal Tubby Tippy Hedren who allowed me a peck on the cheek, but immediately insisted that I drop the ‘Tubby’ epithet or she would ‘slap ten shades of shit’ out of me. (I assumed she was joking, but though it best to heed her words in case not). Holmes said nothing as we walked to the waiting hackney, though I noticed how he watched Tippy closely, noting her features in that secretive way of his, no doubt filing them away in that rabbit warren of a brain of his for future reference.
We stopped off on the way to the hotel as Tippy was keen to pick up a pair of love birds for a young man she’d taken a shine to, so Holmes and I sat in the cab waiting. After a moment, Holmes leaned forward and muttered,
“You’re a fan of those gaudy fourpenny flicks, aren’t you Watson?” I nodded, wondering where such an offhand comment might be leading. After a moment, he continued: “The rather round gentlemen emerging just now from the shop doorway…isn’t he connected with the film business?” He turned his beady gaze on me and raised an eyebrow.
I glanced at the man in question who was by now scuttling along the street with a couple of toy poodles in tow. “Ah yes,” I nodded, “I believe it’s that chap Alfie Hitchcock. Noted for appearing unobtrusively in his own films.”
Holmes snorted. “Unobtrusively, my arse. These artistic types are al the same – drowning in their own self-importance.”
“Oh, I don’t know…” I began, defensivley.
“Tell me what you see, Watson,” said Holmes suddenly, in that rather deliberate, slightly accusing voice of his, as if I’d clearly missed some obvious clue.
I looked across at the shop where Tippy was still talking to an assistant. “Well, er..”
Holmes laughed harshly. “Not in there, dolt!” He thrust an arm upwards. The sky, Watson, the sky”.
Leaning out of the window, I did as I was asked and at once took in a very peculiar scene: above us along the gutters and gable ends of the shops and houses were hundreds of birds, sitting in long rows as if attending some sort of mass gathering. I moved across and peered out of the other side of the cab – it was the same, everywhere, hundreds of birds, starlings, seagulls, cormorants, even the occasional kestrel.
“How very queer,” I said.
“Queer indeed, Watson,” said Holmes. “Quickly!” And with that he jumped from the cab and ran into the shop. I watched helplessly as he dragged Tippy and her purchase out into the street and pushed her into the cab. As soon as they were seated, Holmes rapped on the window and the cab lurched away.
“What the f…” Tippy started, but Holmes held up a hand, silencing her instantly.
“Look here,” he whispered, lifting the cage onto his knees. “See how they watch us, peering, scrutinising our every move.”
“They’re just love birds Mr Holmes,” said Tippy, reapplying her makeup. “Harmless love birds.”
Holmes laughed his harsh laugh again. “Love birds they may be, Miss Hedren, but harmless…never!”
To be continued…