Holmes and I stood on the platform gazing down at the tracks.
“Wonder how long we’ll have to wait,” said I rubbing my hands together.
“If your account of events so far is accurate old friend, I suspect we shall hear the patter of ghostly train wheels any moment now.”
“Really? How so?”
“Elementary, Watson. As you yourself observed the return of the locomotive shortly after it first passed through the station at 11:15, whatever evil scheme they’re hatching doesn’t require much time.”
A low rumble began to make itself felt. “Sorry Holmes,” I said, patting my tummy.”Haven’t eaten for a while.”
The great detective raised a finger. “Hold, Watson, on this occasion that familiar abdominal growl is not your innards but is in fact – look!”
I followed his pointing digit and saw a whirl of smoke in the distance. “Oh, my…”
“Quickly, Watson.” Holmes jumped down onto the track and I hurried after him, hoping we weren’t about to do something dangerous.
Leaping over the rails, we headed for a large bush. “Here,” Holmes crouched down behind the shrubbery and proceeded to pull a length of rope from his pocket.
“Odd item to be carrying around with you, Sherl,” I muttered as his clever fingers deftly fashioned the twine into a loop.
“Confiscated from Mrs Hudson this morning. She was using it to tie up the new lodger.”
“What new lodger?”
“Shh! I’ll tell you later. I shall endeavour to throw this lasso at an appropriate moment and with any luck it will give me enough purchase to scramble aboard the vehicle as it passes. I suggest you hang onto my coat tails.”
I did as he asked and grasped the ends of his greatcoat. We half-stood as the locomotive approached, smoke billowing and whistle screaming. I caught a glimpse of my Mary standing on the platform, her face pale in the moonlight. I imagined she must be thinking we were launching ourselves into yet another nest of metaphorical vipers. But my gaze was interrupted as the train thundered past.
Holmes straightened up and we hurried towards it, my companion hurling the rope with a quick flick of the wrist. Amazingly, the loop fell over some rail or bar on the vehicle and we were yanked forward. Holmes jumped and grabbed hold of the top of what appeared to be a trailer of some sort. He scrambled on board while I ran alongside, one hand still holding onto his coat, the other scrabbling to catch hold of anything that might allow me to heave myself up.
The smoke was thick and I could barely see a yard in front of me. My poor legs pounded like pistons in a pudding factory and had almost given way when Holmes leaned down and hoisted me up onto the platform, pulling me aboard in a rather ungainly fashion. I fell on top of him and for a moment our eyes met.
“Now, now, Watson,” he muttered. “Let’s keep our attention on the ball, eh?”
I scrambled to my feet, my arms spread wide to keep my balance as the truck bed juddered beneath us. The smoke was less of a hindrance from up here and I could see that we were standing on a low wagon with a rail around the edge. Ahead of us was another wagon with a familiar wooden crate strapped to its centre. Beyond that, the smoke obscured the exact means by which we were being conveyed forward.
Holmes took my arm. “Did you see the wheels, Watson?”
I shook my head. “Can’t say I did, old bean. Too busy trying not to get run over.”
“They bore an uncanny resemblance to those horseless carriage machineries we experienced in Edinburgh a little while back.”
“What are you saying Holmes – that this isn’t a train after all?”
“Of course it isn’t a train, you dimwit – if it weren’t for this damned smoke, we’d be able to see the slideshow from the projection device on the next carriage. It provides the lights that give the impression of a locomotive passing by. No doubt a similar device supplies the necessary sound effects.”
“But why on earth would anyone run a road vehicle on rails?”
Holmes steadied himself enough to give me one of his sardonic smiles. “If, like me, you had walked the last few hundred yards to the station, you’d have observed that the rail track ends half a mile before the platform. Clearly our Nazi friends have adapted their vehicle to travel on both road and rail.”
“But why, Holmes, why?”
Holmes grimaced. “I’m not certain yet, but I suspect we shall find out very soon. See…” He pointed ahead of us and through the smoke I discerned the outline of the swing bridge.
As we thundered towards it, I couldn’t help wonder what fate awaited us…