“I still don’t understand why you let that man go, Holmes,” I muttered, spreading a dollop of butter on one of Mrs Hudson’s hot muffins. “After all, he could have led us directly to Fu Manchu.”
Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair and puffed on his favourite Meerschaum pipe (the one whose carved bowl depicted a mountain goat and an eager youth engaged in a variety of deviant pursuits). “Really, Watson? How ironic.” And he smiled that sardonic smile of his.
I turned to Lestrade, who was also buttering Mrs Hudson’s muffins. “Have you any idea, Inspector?”
Holmes made a tutting noise that I interpreted as meaning our police companion’s opinion was not worth listening to. I realised later that the particular tutting sound Holmes had uttered was the one signifying a failure on my part to have reached the same conclusions as he had himself.
Lestrade shook his head. “I believe I may have a small inclination, Doctor.”
“Naturally,” said Holmes. (I noticed for the first time that my friend’s attention had not been absent from Lestrade’s features since we had arrived back at Baker Street). I shuffled round in my chair and turned myself towards the policeman.
Lestrade sniffed and held the well-buttered muffin to his lips. “Is this margarine?” He looked at Holmes, then at me. Then at the muffin. Which is when a rather strange thing happened – his arm began to descend back towards the occasional table beside his chair. He replaced the muffin on the tea plate and taking out his handkerchief, wiped his fingers.
I glanced at Holmes, who glanced at me, then we both glanced at Lestrade.
There was a long pause during which I began to feel the need to break wind. Thankfully, I was able to maintain my dignity by clenching my buttocks, since the expression of such an intimate bodily function in front of our guest would not have endeared me to my companion.
Lestrade frowned. “Just tell me this – what gave me away?”
Staring hard at Lestrade, Holmes steepled his fingers and smiled. “Everyone knows that a certain Asian villain is lactose intolerant.” He chuckled. “Well?”
Lestrade pursed his lips and raising both hands towards his brow, began to peel away the rubber mask that concealed his true identity.
“My God! Holmes!” I cried. “It’s Fu Manchu!”
Holmes rolled his eyes. “Really Watson, you must desist from that infernal habit of using exclamation marks after your exclamations.”
“Sorry, Holmes,” said I, feeling slightly miffed. “But it’s him…”
“Yes, I know it’s him,” said Holmes, with another sardonic smile. Then, leaping to his feet, he grasped the edges of his dressing gown and flung out his arms, displaying his massive weapon.
“Bloody Hell, Holmes,” said I.
“Indeed.” And in an instant he had whipped the Samurai sword out of its sheath and brought it down on Fu Manchu’s head. Or rather, within an inch of the little bald patch on the top of his head.
Manchu rose slowly to his feet, keeping his beady little eyes on the blade, lest it should slip and lop off one of his ears. “Mr Holmes. It seems you win again.”
“Oh, for God’s sake!” I cried.
Holmes smiled, lowered his weapon and returned it to its sheath. Then holding out one hand towards Fu Manchu, made a little ‘come hither’ motion with his slender, but firm fingers.
“Very well,” said the arch villain. “You win this time,” and reaching into his jacket, pulled out a leather purse. Withdrawing a small coin, he handed it to my companion. “As usual?”
Holmes took the sixpenny piece and slipped it into his own pocket. “Thank you, Fu.”
And with that, Fu Manchu turned on his heel and left the room.
“What the fu…” I began.
But Holmes held up a hand. “Don’t you understand, Watson?”
I shook my head, feeling that something important had passed me by. Again.
Holmes shrugged. “It’s a game, Watson. Just a bloody game.”
The annoyance must have shown in my face for Holmes stepped forward and took my hairy little face in his hands. “You know how I often say ‘Game On,’ Watson?”
He gave me (for once) a wry smile. “Sometimes, my dear friend, it pays to take things literally. “
The look of pure condescension on my companion’s face threw me into an absolute rage and before I could stop myself, I was swinging my arm back and would have given him a jolly good right hook, but as with many things, the action of raising my arm prompted a reaction, and I let out a rather sudden, and loud (and smelly), fart.
We did laugh.