From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Our journey to the first interchange was a short one, but from there onwards, each cable car covered three or four miles, allowing us to make good time. We continued our passage unabated until noon the next day when we stopped for lunch at a quaint little eatery on the outskirts of Prague, before crossing the Vltava River. The rate of our chosen mode of transport speeded up considerably at the Großer Staufenberg interchange, when the brakes failed and we made the downhill trip over Baden Baden in a mere seventeen seconds!
As we neared Paris, I totted up our travelling time and reckoned we must be close on the heels of the Count, though as we had no idea how he was travelling, he might still have the upper hand. Mary slept for a while and I took the opportunity of updating my journal, as well as penning a few rude rhymes of the Doctor Foster variety.
Night was falling on the second day as we boarded our final connection destined for Calais. I felt heartened as the cable car carried us over a wooded area approaching the town, though there was little to see with the naked eye. It was then that Holmes, who had spent the last several hours with one eye to his Pocket Steam-driven Night-time Observational Scope, began to take greater interest in the landscape below. Mary and I had kept our conversation to a low murmur so as not to disturb him, and we both visibly started when our companion cried out:
“I have him!”
I opened the small window next to the one Holmes was occupying and peered into the darkness. “Can’t see a damn thing.”
“Here,” said he, grabbing my arm. “Take a look for yourself.”
Pressing my eye to the Scope, I saw a long, narrow carriage below us, its eight-horse team charging along at an incredible rate. Two hooded men were perched in the driving seat. Stacked up on the back of the vehicle as clear as day, were a pile of wooden boxes – coffins.
As I watched, one of the hooded figures looked directly up at me and I jumped back in surprise. “Bloody hell,” I said, passing the Scope back to Holmes. “Can we stay ahead of him, d’you think?”
“I doubt it, Watson – we shall have to hire a cab when we get to Calais to take us to the docks. That could slow us down considerably. Damn the man!” He slapped his thigh in irritation and I almost shouted out ‘Hurrah!’ but managed to hold myself in check.
“I’ll wager he has a boat waiting for him.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Our only chance is to find a fast ship with a cheap crew.”
Just then, Mary came up behind us. “Why don’t we use the Underground?”
Holmes laughed harshly. “This isn’t Londen, Mary, there’s no such thing as an Underground.”
“He’s right you know, m’dear.” I added. “No such thing.”
Mary shook her head and smiled kindly, as if she were addressing two particularly stupid chaps who were having a spectacularly dull day. “No, silly, I mean the Secret Underground – you know, the one that goes from Calais to the Houses of Parliament?”
Holmes blinked. “You know, Watson, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that a certain person had been conversing with my brother Mycroft. It’s exactly the sort of ridiculous notion he’d come up with.”
Mary patted Sherlock’s arm. “You two should talk to each other sometime – you might learn something. According to Mycroft, the Secret Underground will get us to Londen in about nine minutes.” She feigned a yawn. “But if you’re not interested…”
A low grumbling noise came from somewhere deep in the belly of the great detective. He took a moment to take on board Mary’s suggestion and spent another moment adjusting his complexion accordingly. “Oh course, Mary – a splendid idea. Now, do you happen to know where this Secret Underground thingy might be found?”
As Mary gave Holmes directions, I had to admit to being rather surprised at my wife’s sudden acquisition of knowledge. While I still wasn’t convinced her relationship with Mycroft was entirely above board with no buggering about in between, I couldn’t help but feel the throb of pride in my nether regions.
Packing away his Scope, Holmes stopped abruptly and stared at the floor. His hand flew up smartly warning us to stay quiet. “Quickly Watson, I think we may have a visitor.” Dropping to his knees, he bade me do the same, and we removed the proggy mat that covered the escape hatch. Pulling the lever upwards, the sudden inrush of air made me gasp and I grabbed hold of Mary’s leg for support.
“Oh, Johnny, this is hardly the time…”
“Hang onto to something, Mary,” I said. “This could be dangerous.” With my free hand, I took hold of my companion’s coat as he slid his manly torso through the hatch. Watching him dangle there in the cold night air, I wondered if this might be the end, but my wondering was short-lived.
“He’s crawling up towards you, Watson.” Holmes stuck his hand back through the hatch and pointed to one of the windows. “There, Watson, there!”
Jumping up, I stared through the window and to my utter horror, a gigantic vampire bat was clinging to the frame of the cable car. For several seconds I could do nothing but stand and stare at the evil creature. Then Holmes shouted at me, stirring me into action:
“For God’s sake, Watson, show him your cross!”
“Bugger off, batface!” I screamed in a rather more girlish voice than I’d have liked.
“No, no, Watson,” shouted Holmes. “Show him your crucifix.”
“Oh, of course.” Taking out the small cross I’d fashioned from used Swan Vestas, I held it up in front of me and leaned over the sill. “Sod off, bat.”
What happened next shook me to my very soul. The demonic creature reached out a batty claw and sank its hooks into me, hauling me off my feet and out through the window.
“Arrggh,” I uttered, with some consternation.
Grabbing at anything I could, I managed to get a foothold on the rim of the cable car and held onto the windowsill with one hand, allowing me to at least not fall to my death. The creature pulled at me, trying to dislodge my hold, but I clung on with all my might, all too aware that the cool night air would quickly make my poor fingers numb. It could only be a matter of seconds before I was forced to let go and plummet to a painful demise on the road below.
Count Dracula (for it was he), clawed and scratched at my chest, his massive leathery wings beating in my face. I struck out with my free hand and caught him a good smack in what I supposed was his armpit, but my right hand was losing its grip and I knew there was not much time.
In those frantic, discombobulated panic-filled moments, I became aware of movement beside me. Glancing up, I saw Mary climb through the window and slide down to where I perched on the all-too slender ledge. With one hand on the windowsill, she reached under her skirts and pulled out a kitchen knife.
“Take that you Count!” And she plunged the blade into the creature’s chest. Immediately the fiend dropped out of the sky, screeching like a beast that had been stabbed in the chest by a doctor’s wife.
“Come along, Johnny,” she said, helping me back into the carriage. “That’s enough excitement for one day.”
Struggling through the window, I collapsed onto my seat. Opposite, Holmes puffed at his Meerschaum.
“Ah, there you are, Watson.”
I stared at him, but could not summon up an ounce of sarcasm to hurtle back in his direction. Instead, I simply said, “Have you met my wife – Mary the Vampire Hunter?”
Mrs Watson sat down beside me and pulled up her skirt, revealing a rather fetching leather holster fastened to her leg. “Good thing I’ve a set of those knives in my luggage, eh?” She grinned and rubbed my thigh. “Now, how long til we reach Calais..?”