From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
As I squeezed through the sweaty throng of the Snug Bar, it occurred to me that if Lestrade was already present, I might endanger not only my own life, but his too. The rubber mask was beginning to itch and as it was considerably smaller than my face (Holmes has a narrower, more angular skull), sweat was already pouring down the inside of the wretched thing, filling my eyes and making it difficult to see anything clearly. However, neither of these issues, or indeed the small matter of the unsettling silence that fell over the bar on my entrance, was uppermost in my mind. I ignored the fact that all eyes had turned towards me and instead approached the bar and declared in a rather higher voice than usual, “A large Babycham please, potman.”
An uproarious shriek of laughter broke out among the regulars, with taunts of “Och, the fairies are in,” and “Haud me back!” which I was easily able to ignore, for my attention was now taken with the dark figure at the end of the bar. I saw a sly smile steal across Professor Moriarty’s features as he began to creep towards me, his eyes wide and staring.
“Inspector Lestrade,” he announced in a loud voice (prompting the background laughter of the crowd to cease abruptly). “How lovely to see you again.” He reached out a hand, presumably with the intention of greeting me formally, but I knew a theatrical cue when I heard one, and I turned on my heel and headed for the door.
Or at least I would have done if a hairy hand had not grasped me by the collar. “Not sae fast, ma wee man.”
I whirled round to find the barman staring into my sweaty eyes. “Oh, do excuse me,” I began, fumbling for my wallet, but Moriarty was quicker. He held out a fifty pound note, fluttering it in front of the publican. The man’s gaze and grip loosened immediately and I saw my chance – whirling round (again) I legged-it for the door and this time no-one stood in my way.
Back in the alley I glanced to my right and spied Holmes lurking in the shadows at the end of the lane. Hurrying along, I couldn’t help noticing several other individuals lurking in other shadows, as if waiting for their own thespian-type cues. As I quickened my pace, I became aware of footsteps behind me – no doubt the Evil Genius giving chase. But then I also became aware of more footsteps, as if two or more additional people had joined in the chase.
Holmes beckoned me from the corner and I slipped into the narrow alley beside him.
“Well done Watson, the bear has been baited.”
“Bear? What bear?”
He rolled his eyes. “I was simply observing that Moriarty is on your tail.” He paused and looked over my shoulder. “In fact, it would seem you have attracted something of a following…” Grasping my wrist, he stuffed something into my hand, then pushed me down the passageway towards a dim glow at the end. “Run towards the light, Watson and don’t look back.”
As I hurried along, I noticed Holmes had dropped back, but being a trusted companion, I determined to do as I was bid. As the passage narrowed, the light became stronger. Reaching the end, I was somewhat startled when a small figure jumped out in front of me.
“What the devil!” I muttered, but the young boy simply held up a chalked board, slapped a piece of wood across the top of it creating a sharp ‘crack’, and shouted something along the lines of ‘Scene 31, take 1’ whereupon he vanished into the shadows.
At that point, the alley split into two and I stood for a moment contemplating my choices. Then I noticed a sign on the wall in front of me – a piece of paper bearing the words Left, Watson!
Recognising my companion’s handwriting, I turned sharp left as instructed and ran down the narrow steps that led into what appeared to be Moriarty’s maze of subterranean passages.
Standing at the bottom of the steps with a wall in front of me and several passages running off to right and left, I suddenly remembered the piece of paper Holmes had thrust into my sweaty palm. Fumbling for a box of Swan Vestas, I struck a match and held it up next to the crumpled note. I read:
Watson – If you should come upon a series of subterranean passages, do not be fooled.
I gazed around me, but once again all I could see was what looked like a series of subterranean passages. What on earth could Holmes mean?
Before I could ponder the question further, the still-burning match flickered and went out. Plunged into darkness, I took a step, tripped on the cobbles and stumbled forward. Reaching out a hand to save myself, my fingers appeared to completely miss the stone wall and continued in a forward motion unrestricted. I tumbled headfirst through the ‘wall’ and collapsed in a heap on the other side.
A moment later a light came on above me. Shading my eyes against the sudden glare, I stared up at the portly figure standing over me.
“Ah, Doctor Watson. Glad you could drop in…”