As the three of us were still bound tightly to our chairs, I cannot describe the relief that flooded over me when Holmes confirmed he did in fact have a plan. I think I may even have closed my eyes for a moment and uttered a quiet prayer (highly untypical of me, I might add). But my relief was short-lived, for Holmes began to chant. And not just any old chant, but a droning, bagpipey screeching that seemed to emanate from his very bowels.
Now, while I have nothing against chanting per se, having witnessed my colleague’s distinct mantra several times, I could well imagine the utter nonsense behind yet another of his ridiculous theories. “I see, Holmes,” I muttered with more than a degree of irritation. “So you’re aiming to utilise your entire body in some ritualistic quivering, which I expect will rise up from your anal region, into your throat, cascade back down your manly torso and out through the souls of your feet, and then I shouldn’t be at all surprised if the vibration did not crack open the very floor on which we stand, allowing us to make our escape.”
Holmes ceased his monotonous droning and cast me a sidelong glance. “That’s right, Watson.”
“Oh, for f – ”
“Watson!” Holmes gave me a hard stare. “A little understanding, please?” He nodded to Hannay, whose face was drenched in tears.
“I say, old man,” I said in as kindly a voice as I could muster. “Don’t worry yourself – Holmes will have us out of this fix in a trice.”
Hannay turned to me, sniffling quietly. “It’s all my fault.”
“No, no, no…” I began. But he shook his head.
“If it hadn’t been for that damned book…”
I looked at Holmes. He looked at me. We both looked at Hannay.
“You mean,” said Holmes, “that if you had not included in your narrative the details of those secret plans you happened to find in a small paper bag down the side of a park bench a few weeks ago when you were strolling in the park one Wednesday evening, none of this would have happened?”
Hannay gasped. “You know?”
Holmes smiled that sardonic smile of his. “Of course. My brother Mycroft asked me to keep an eye on things vis-a-vis stolen Government documents detailing plans for a top secret steam-powered undersea torpedo-ship designed by the famous submarine boffin Bruce Partridger. That’s why I allowed my trusty companion here to inveigle himself into your affairs.”
I twisted round in my chair. “You’re fucking joking?”
“I’m fucking not,” quipped Holmes.
“You mean…” My gander was up and raring to go. “You knew all along? And you didn’t think to tell me? Oh, I can’t believe it – no wonder you weren’t interested in helping out! You absolute boundah!”
I shook my head in rage. “Not only do you keep me in the damn dark about EVERYTHING, but you sit there like the Mad Bloody Monk chanting that stupid tune. It really is the – ”
And at that moment my anger had piqued to such a height that I stamped my feet, lifting my chair clean off the ground. A second later it crashed back down with a resounding, well, crash.
“You see, Watson?”
“See what, damn you?”
Holmes looked at me, then swivelled his piggy little eyes downwards. I followed his gaze and saw (to my astonishment) that the wooden floorboards on which we sat had split right across from one side of the cellar to the other.
“Oh.” Said I.
Holmes smirked. “I know how much you despise my singing, Watson, so I knew if I wound you up tightly enough, sooner or later you would do what you always do in these circumstances.”
I frowned. “I haven’t wet myself.”
“No, I meant the other thing…”
I looked down at the floor again. “Ah, you mean have a temper tantrum?”
He nodded. “So now, if all three of us jump up and down a little more, I’m sure we can…ready? One, two…”
And as the three chairs and combined size-tens of our boots hit the floor again, the ground gave way and we tumbled into the cellar below.
“Ah ha,” said Holmes gazing up through the hole in the ceiling. “Now all we need to do is something to cut these bonds with…” And he cast his eyes around the dark room. “There we are.” He nodded towards a bench at the other side of the room where an array of bloodstained carving knives, hatchets and other stabbing instruments lay next to a pile of cardboard boxes of varying sizes, along with an abundance of brown paper, string and a few labels bearing the following meaty message:
Best Scottish Beef
However, it was not these chilling items that caught our attention, but the object that lay at the end of the bench. It was a head. A severed head. The severed head, in fact, of Inspector Lestrade…