From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
As we hurried away from house, I could hear the cackling laughter of our dubious hostess echoing down the street behind us.
“Take no notice Watson,” muttered Holmes. “Remember – you’re a married man.”
“Of course,” I panted, quickening my pace to keep up with him. But it wasn’t the crone’s ulterior motives that were on my mind. “Holmes?”
“Where are we going?”
My companion slithered to a halt and gave me one of his for-fuck’s-sake-Watson looks. “Think, Watson. What was Moriarty’s intention?”
I blinked rapidly. “Er, to meet Lestrade?”
“But, but, but…” I stammered.
“But me no buts, Doctor.” He stared at me, his blue/green/grey eyes boring into my skull as if they might have the power to unearth some long-forgotten fact. “Sometimes I despair of you, my thick-headed friend.” He began to run down the darkening street.
Hurrying to keep up, I grasped his sleeve. “But where are we – ”
“For God’s sake, Watson, it’s elementary. Look, we know Moriarty has arranged to meet Lestrade, right?”
“Right.” Said I, a little out of breath.
“And we also know wherever that meeting place is can only be a few minutes away, right?”
“Right again, Holmes.”
“So, consider this – our arch enemy is a man of letters, of learning.”
“An evil genius, in fact.” I added.
“Quite. Therefore it is a simple matter of elimination to discover the name of that meeting place. If you had made a study of Moriarty’s habits and lifestyle, as I have done myself, you would know he is a lover of hunting. You would also know he has an enviable collection of Eastern European hunting knives on the wall of his Evil Genius Headquarters in Geneva. And it is that very love of all things sharp and knifey that tells us the name of the public house he is headed for.”
I shook my head. “Sorry Holmes, I’m lost.”
“Of course you are, Watson. Nevertheless, if you had taken a few minutes to peruse my latest monograph on the Public Houses of Edinburgh, you would know that there are only two with names linked to sharp objects: one is The Pink Pricke on Leith Walk, a place frequented by homosexuals, and the other is The Stabb Inn near Fleshmarket Close.”
“Ah-ha!” I exclaimed. “Then we’re going to Leith Walk?”
“No, Watson.” He slowed to a trot, then dragged me into the shadows of a dark alley. “There. Fleshmarket Close. And just round the corner is the back door to The Stabb Inn.”
“You don’t think he’ll still be there?”
My companion’s eyes twinkled. “You are forgetting two things, Watson. One – Moriarty is a stickler for recording his dark deeds. I’ll wager he has some bizarre, steam-powered device about his person that somehow records his own voice. And as you know, I am one of the few people in Britain who has the lung capacity to communicate fluently and make haste towards my destination at the same time. Therefore Moriarty will have been forced to stop for breath, which naturally will cause him to be late in arriving. It’s my guess he has only in these last few minutes taken up his place in the Snug Bar and is at this very moment scanning the dull faces of that hostelry for signs of Lestrade.”
“Very good, Holmes, but Lestrade will already be there, won’t he?”
“Yet again, Watson, your ineptitude for numeracy is astounding.”
The second thing you have forgotten, Watson, is that Lestrade also has a failing.” He raised his eyebrows.
“You mean his penchant for Liverpudlian prostitutes?”
“No, no, no, Watson. I mean his habitual lateness. I should be most surprised if he is already at The Stabb Inn. In fact, I imagine he is only at this moment approaching Fleshmarket Close, no doubt having got lost on his way here.” Holmes reached into his coat pocket and pulled out what at first sight appeared to be a very large flesh-coloured prophylactic sheath. He opened it out so I could see.
“Ah.” It was the facemask he’d used on the train to escape detection by Lestrade’s officers. “Your Lestrade mask?” I stared at him. “You’re going to put it on?”
He shook his head and smiled. “No, Watson. You’re going to put it on. Moriarty is no fool and he will detect in an instant that I am too tall to pass for Lestrade, so it must be you.”
I took the rubbery object from him and slipped it over my face and head.
“How are the eye holes?”
“A bit small, but I can see.”
“Excellent.” Holmes took my arm and led me down the lane to a dark doorway. “Here we are. If my estimations are correct, Moriarty will be sitting to the right hand side of the cash register underneath a portrait of the Queen. He will be drinking Vermouth and his eyes will be everywhere, so take care.” He pushed open the door. “As soon as he makes contact, you must leave by this very same door. I will be on my guard.”
I nodded and swallowed hard. “Very well, Holmes. I’ll do my best.” I turned and walked along the passageway. On my left was a small wooden sign bearing the legend ‘Bogs’ and on the right was another small sign saying ‘Snug’. I took a deep breath and turned right…