There wasn’t a minute to lose – if the bridge remained open, Holmes (along with several hundred villains) would be hurled from the train and plummet to a painful death in the ravine below. Even though I was dying for a wee, I was certain I could still save the day and get to the toilet on time. Grasping Mary’s hand, I sprinted down the platform towards the bridge control wheel. As I reached up to pull the leaver back, something hard and fist-shaped hit me in the jaw and a moment later I was flat out on the ground.
“What the fuck was that for?” I croaked at Harry.
“I’ll tell you what it was for,” said the famous actor. “It’s for all those innocent people who’ll die if that train is allowed to reach its destination.”
“But…but…” I started.
“But me no buts, as your Baker Street buddy would say if he were here now. It’s a matter of principal, Doctor, and in this case the principal is to sacrifice a few lives for the greater good.”
Mary knelt down beside me. “He’s right, Johnny – Holmes would say the same if he were here now…”
“He fucking wouldn’t, you know.”
All three of us looked up at the newcomer and before I could stop myself, my bladder gave up the ghost and I wet my pants. “Holmes! You’re alive!”
“Course I’m alive,” he said taking out his trusty Meerschaum. “D’you think I learned nothing from that fateful day at Reichenbach?” Striking a Swan Vesta, he lit his pipe and placed it between his thin, bloodless lips. Then looking up, he nodded towards the bridge. “Hark – the sound of screaming villains, methinks…”
I scrambled to my feet and followed his gaze. A sudden screeching of brakes shattered the night and a terrible thundering roar echoed all around. All we could see was a thick cloud of fiery smoke curling upwards from where the bridge had been, then an almighty crash as the locomotive smashed into the ravine.
For a long while, all we could do was stand there, stunned. Finally Mary broke the silence:
“Darling, did you have a little accident?” She pointed to my trousers.
“Oh, just a touch of over-enthusiasm on my part, I think,” I murmured. I glanced at Holmes and noticed he was wearing some sort of harness around his waist. “I suppose that Grimshaw woman in her Steam-powered hydro-lifty-plane thingy came to your rescue, eh, Holmes?”
He gave me a sardonic smile. “Naturally, my Plan B included an additional, and rather important, objective.”
“To stop the train?” I said.
“That’s right Watson. After all,” he went on, turning his piggy little eyes on Harry, “We can’t let the bloody Americans have all the fun, can we?”
Harry coughed. “Yeah, well, we had a Plan B too.”
“Really?” said Holmes. “You’ll have to tell me about it someday. In the meantime, a fleet of zeppylyns are hovering above the tunnel entrance, parachuting British troops in to clear up the mess. You can join them if you like.” Then turning his back on the actor, he took Mary’s arm. “However, the Watsons and I have a prior engagement.”
“We do?” said I.
“We do, Watson. The Thankyew Twins are at this very moment being conveyed by hydro-lifty-plane to their original destination. If we’re lucky we can still get tickets for tonight’s performance at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods.”
“By Jove, Holmes,” I said. “I do believe your cultural education has taken a turn for the worse – a week ago you’d have crook’d your nose at the thought of a music hall extravaganza.”
He raised a querying eyebrow. “My apologies, Watson. I did not mean to imply that I would be joining you for the entertainment. I have no desire to watch a pair of slack-chinned tossers perform a series of hackneyed and no doubt ludicrous routines to an audience of equally slack-chinned commoners. You and your good lady can do as you please, but I shall be joining the Prime Minister in Westminster Hall for a meeting with the Chinese Emperor.”
I nodded happily and allowed myself a metaphorical pat on the back. I was glad my companion’s brush with death hadn’t altered his personality, though I’d’ve been happy to see the back of his sardonic smile. It occurred to me too, that I still owed him a good hard smack in the face, but I reasoned the great detective had endured enough excitement for one day.