From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
It was still only mid-morning when we landed in Purfleet. The pilot put us down in a field a mile or so west of Carfax, so as ‘Not to alert Mister Dracula to your presence.’ He took off again immediately, leaving us to hump our luggage to a nearby cheese shop where I gave the proprietor a few pennies to look after it until we returned. While Holmes was perusing the range of produce, I purchased a selection of cheesy comestibles including slices of Stilton, Wensleydale and Red Leicester.
Out on the street, Holmes and I put on our special false-beard sets as a precaution, but took them off again when Mary pointed out that Dracula would be in his coffin during the day. We headed towards the river, keeping an eye out for any odd-looking individuals, large coffin-shaped boxes and Romanian-style vehicles.
Within a few minutes, we had traversed the length of the village. Holmes stopped at a corner where the road veered round before looping back up to the main highway. He nodded towards a small wood across the road where a faux late-medieval-period-like structure could be seen through the trees. “That looks like the place, Watson.”
Taking care to stay out of sight, we crept through the wood and circled behind the grounds, making our way through a dense shrubbery between the house and the river. Finally in sight of the house itself, we crouched down, allowing ourselves a good five minutes to ‘case the joint’, as Holmes likes to put it. The building was of early Victorian design with several turrets and towers, much like those found in popular gothic novels. It occurred to me that Dracula may have desired a dwelling that at least partly resembled his own, though without the familiar surroundings of peasants and black forests.
There was no movement either outside the house or at any of the windows. In fact, many of the windows had been boarded up and the place appeared to be in a generally poor state of repair.
“We must get inside,” muttered Holmes.
“Why don’t I distract them?” suggested Mary.
“Distract who?” said I.
“Whoever’s in the house.”
“We don’t know there’s anyone in the house,” muttered Holmes disdainfully.
“Exactly. But if there is, you don’t want them coming out and catching you trying to break in, do you? I’ll nip round the front and knock on the door while you two find a way in at the back.”
Holmes pouted a little but he had to admit it was a sensible idea. “Very well, but don’t get caught. If anyone answers tell them you’re looking for…I don’t know…Dr Seward.”
“Isn’t he a character in Mister Stoker’s book?” said Mary.
Holmes sighed. “It doesn’t matter, Mary, it’s just something to say.”
So off she trotted round the side of the building while Holmes and I headed for what we assumed to be the coal chute. A large padlock secured the shutters, prompting my companion to vocalise a variety of swear words. Taking the initiative, I produced my set of Acme Skeleton Keys and got to work.
“You’re a dark horse, Watson,” whispered Holmes. “Where’d you learn to do that?”
“Mary’s been teaching me,” I said. Putting a little pressure on the tension wrench, I turned the short hook and the lock flew open. “Voila!”
Holmes gave me a sardonic smile. “Smart work, Doctor Cleverclogs, but don’t let it go to your head.” Heaving the doors open, he stepped inside and started down the steps. Closing the shutters behind me, I followed him to the door at the bottom. Lighting a match, Holmes tried the handle. It opened. Stepping through, we found ourselves in the cellar itself, a dark and foreboding place that reeked of bad things, much like its counterpart in Castle Dracula. However, it was the three coffins on the floor that drew our attention.
“Just as I suspected,” said Holmes. “I suppose we’d better open them.” Stepping aside, he nodded at the first one. “Go ahead Watson, do your stuff.”
“Me? You’re bloody joking Holmes – you’re the expert. You do it.”
“Expert? Expert in what? Catching villains, yes, solving mysteries, yes, but this? No Doctor, this is more your field. After all, you deal with death all the time.”
“I’m not a bloody undertaker, Holmes, I know as much about vampires as you do, which isn’t a bloody lot, as it happens.”
We stood for a moment, both of us sighing indignantly. But our various resentments were brought up sharply by a muffled sound from one of the coffins.
“What was that?” I whispered, stepping back a few paces.
Holmes pointed to the nearest coffin. Just as he did so, the lid began to rise and at the very same instant, his match went out.