From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
In that few seconds of darkness I fancied I could see some monstrous beast crawling from the coffin, clawing its way to where we stood and opening its vast vampire mouth ready to sink its…
‘Alright my loves?’ A light came on so suddenly, it blinded me, and it was another few seconds before I could focus on the man who was sitting up in the coffin.
‘Ow d’you know my name, son?’ The man who resembled Inspector Lestrade climbed out of the coffin and dusted himself down. Holding up a gas-powered torch, he waved it around. ‘Oo the ‘ell are you fellers, then?’
I looked at Holmes. ‘He looks like Lestrade,’ I said.
‘Of course he does, Watson, because he is Lestrade – Brinsley Lestrade, identical twin brother to our old friend Gordon.’
‘Grayson,’ I said.
‘Indeed,’ said Holmes. He turned back to the newcomer. ‘To answer your question sir, I am Sherlock Holmes and this is my associate Doctor Watson. You may speak freely.’
‘Never mind me speakin’ freely, ‘ow about you speak freely and tell me what the ‘ell’s going on?’
The conversation went on in this manner for some minutes until I suggested we all go upstairs. Lestrade acquiesced and climbed out of the coffin. Holmes and I turned towards the wooden staircase, but as I took a step forward, Holmes grabbed my arm. Giving me a sharp look, he pushed me backwards while at the same time, jumping sideways himself. The axe crashed to the floor, missing my big toe by inches, but the beast was already lifting it for another go.
‘Quickly Watson, the stakes, the stakes!’
‘I haven’t got the stakes! I thought you had them?’
The vampire prepared to strike again, his fangs glinting in the lamplight. But quick as a flash, Holmes pulled out his prized Meerschaum along with his second-best Large Half-bent Billiard pipe and formed the two smoking devices into a makeshift crucifix.
‘Aeeeooorgh!’ screamed the creature, covering his eyes and dropping the axe. ‘Not the Meerschaum pipe crucifix trick!’
He fell back against the empty coffin and I leaped forward, grabbed his legs and upended him, dropping him neatly back inside his box. Slamming the lid down, I sat on top of it.
‘Well done, Watson, quick thinking, old chum.’
‘Not as quick as you, Holmes. I’d never have thought your tobacco habit would save our lives.’
‘What’s all the noise about?’
Looking up, I saw the door at the top of the steps was open and my dear wife was standing there, a look of pure amusement on her face.
‘Oh, just sorting out a vampire, dear.’
‘You found Dracula then?’ She gave me an odd look.
I glanced at Holmes and he nodded slowly. Evidently, he too had seen the two red marks on Mary’s neck, but this time it wasn’t lipstick. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, I moved away under the pretext of picking up the axe. Mary started towards me. I waited until Holmes had quietly opened the lid of one of the other coffins, then jumping forward, I pushed her backwards. She fell smartly into the box as if it had been made for her, and Holmes slammed the lid shut and jumped on top of it.
I resumed my position on top of the other coffin and we sat for a moment in silence.
‘You know what this means, old friend?’
I nodded. ‘I do, Holmes – we’re going to have to kill my wife.’
‘What? No, don’t be bloody ridiculous. She’ll be fine as soon as we kill Dracula. No, I meant…’ He pointed to the ceiling.
I looked up. ‘Upstairs..?’
Holmes kept his voice low. ‘We don’t need to check the other coffin. Dracula is in the house. Probably knocking up a pan of blood soup.’
‘But…but it’s daylight,’ I stammered. ‘He should be in his coffin during the day. You said so yourself, Holmes.’
‘Indeed I did, Watson – a tactic to buy us some time.’
‘Sorry, old man, you’ve lost me.’
He smiled sardonically. ‘When we were in the cheese shop earlier, did you happen to notice a brand of Romanian origin? No, of course not – as usual Watson your powers of observation are somewhat ineffectual.’
‘That’s a bit mean, Holmes.’
‘Nevertheless, it’s true. I, as it happens, did notice a specific variety and it triggered some long-forgotten fact in my massive memory. You see Watson, Dracula is much like you and I – like us he enjoys a selection of fine cheeses. Admittedly, we would prefer a bottle of Chardonnay to go with it, rather than a glass of virgin’s blood, but there lies his undoing. While you were dealing with the cheese shop proprietor, I was perusing the fellow’s produce and I noticed rather large teeth marks in the Romanian Năsal Cheese. Had those teeth marks been in a lump of Wensleydale or Dutch Gouda, I might have dismissed them as meaningless, but as any cheese shop proprietor will tell you, customers may not take bites out of their wares. Therefore, the only way such a travesty could have occurred would be if the act of taking a bite out of that particular cheese was performed at great speed. And who do we know who has the ability to slow down time in the human world?’
I cast my mind back to the rotten food we saw at Castle Dracula. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I see.’
‘No, I don’t think you do, Watson. Let me explain – if the Count really had taken a bite of that cheese, he must surely have done so during the hours of daylight, which told me that not only is he immune to the rays of the sun, but he had already arrived in the village and had enough time to do a bit of shopping. Then, having completed his business with the agent, and knowing we would be hot on his tail, he simply waited for us to do something typically human, such as sending Mary to the front door. Leaving Lestrade to finish us off, he would then take Mary to be his vampire bride. He set a trap for us, Watson, and quite plainly, we have fallen into it.’
‘Bloody hell, Holmes.’
‘So what do we do now?’
But before my companion could answer, another voice interrupted our discussion. ‘Ah, ze great detective and his rather stupid friend. Velcome to my humble abode.’
Count Dracula began to descend the stairs, his arms moving outwards as he did so, causing his black cape to billow out like gigantic bat wings. ‘It appears I underestimated your enthusiasm, Holmes. I’d thought to outvit you with my clever lipstick-on-the-neck ruse, but you saw through it.’
‘Of course I saw through it, you fiend. That is because I am the world’s greatest detective and have the ability to outmanoeuvre even the most cunning of villains.’
I detected a tremor in my companion’s voice, but had to admire his nerve. Even as Dracula moved ever closer, Holmes stood his ground.
‘And it is precisely because of zat reason you vill make a superb vampire. Come to me and let us be one…mwah, hah, hah…’
As the evil creature moved to within a few feet of him, Holmes stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out a lump of what looked like green mould.
‘It seems you have the upper hand, Count,’ said Holmes. ‘But before you turn us into the undead, let me offer you a small token as a way of cementing our relationship.’ He held out the piece of mould. ‘Dutch Beaver cheese – one of my favourites.’
Dracula’s red eyes lit up and he licked his foul lips greedily. ‘Ah, how lovely! Zat is kind of you Holmes.’ And reaching out he took the cheese and prepared to bite into it.
The Count’s fangs closed around the comestible and he chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then, his eyes grew wide and he snarled, spitting out the remains of the cheese. ‘Vot is zis? You vile little man! You haf poisoned me…’ And he sank to the floor, his face turning a rather nice shade of yellow as blue bile erupted from his mouth. ‘Vot haf you done, you inconsiderate but nevertheless stunningly handsome detective?’
Holmes smiled and glanced at me. ‘My apologies Watson, I’m afraid I took a gamble with our lives, but I’m please to say it has paid off.’
‘What on earth was that stuff, Holmes? Some sort of toxin?’ I watched transfixed as Dracula’s body turned to mush, bubbling and frothing away like a bubbly, frothy mess. Within a few minutes, all that remained was a greenish, bluish, yellowish sort of gloop on the cellar floor.
‘Yes, in a way, Watson,’ said Holmes. ‘Though not in the least vexing to you or I, a small sample of Cornish Wild Garlic Yarg – a vegetarian, semi-hard cheese enfolded with pungent Ramson leaves – contained just enough of that extraordinary little bulb to put our toothy friend to sleep forever.’
‘Garlic? Amazing. Well done, Holmes.’
‘Yes.’ He gazed down at the mess before us. ‘Now, we’d better deal with those coffins…’
As Holmes had predicted, Mary and Lestrade were sleeping peacefully in their coffins and on waking them up, both expressed a sense of confusion as to the exact circumstances surrounding their boxy incarceration.
Brinsley was a little disappointed Dracula wouldn’t be going through with his rental on the property (and the associated agent fees), though he appreciated it was probably better to be a living human than an undead vampire.
While Holmes supervised the clean-up operation with the local constabulary, I walked with Mary back to the cheese shop to collect our belongings. As we stood waiting for the proprietor, I wondered aloud if our adventure had put her off accompanying me in future escapades.
She gave me a playful punch on the arm. ‘It rather depends on how you portray me in your journals, Johnny.’
I nodded, happy that at least someone would be interested in reading my accounts of our adventures…
Not the 39 Steps – out now!