As I stared into the mad eyes of Doctor Lecter, my thoughts were only of my dear wife – that I would never again be able to rest my gaze on her beautiful, if misaligned features. I was filled with bitter resentment. If only I had treated her a little better, praised her exertions, looked upon her kindly, appreciated her meagre efforts in the kitchen, then perhaps –
A dull thwack came to my ears and I blinked. Lecter had disappeared. I turned my head and saw his crumpled form on the ground, a large dent in his forehead.
“That’s better, said Mary, leaning over me.
“Oh. My. God,” I gasped.” My sweet and lovely darling – how on earth…?”
“Don’t thank me, Johnny,” she said, putting down the broom shank. “Thank your own snorting slumbers.”
“Sorry, what?” I said, as she undid my bonds.
“Forgive me darling, but your performance in the marital bed has simply grown too raucous lately.”
“Well, I must say, dearest, that’s a bit below the conjugal belt.”
“No, not that!” She giggled mischievously. “I mean your snoring. I wasn’t going to tell you as I didn’t wish to hurt your poor feelings, but the last few weeks I’ve been using Doctor Feinstein’s marital aids.” She opened the palm of her hand and I stared at two small rubber grommets.
I must have looked puzzled, for she continued. “Ear plugs – they’re the only way I can get any sleep.”
I frowned. “Still don’t see how that explains your miraculous escape.”
“It’s obvious, darling. When I realised we were to view the dead bodies, I wished to appear staunch and supportive at your side, and knew I couldn’t do that if I detected the merest whiff of a decaying corpse, so I stuffed the ear plugs up my nose. When Lecter tried to chloroform me, I simply pretended to be overcome. Then it was an easy matter to utilise Mr Houdini’s open-hand technique so I had enough wiggle-room to undo the straps around my hands.”
“Yes, there was an interesting article about him in Female Emancipation Monthly.” She gave me a reproachful look. “You should read more, darling.”
I had to admit to being a little overawed at my wife’s ingenuity. Jumping up, I hugged her closely, my hands ranging over her soft warm body. “You clever little thing,” I gushed.
Mary slapped my hands away. “Don’t fucking patronise me, Johnny, I simply utilised my feminine intellect. Now, help me with Sherlock.”
We spent the next few minutes untying my companion and reviving him and Lord Lambton with another of Mary’s emergency items – smelling salts. Holmes sat up on the table, rubbing his eyes.
“Watson – what on earth?”
“No time to explain, Holmesy, we have to tie up Lecter before -”
As we all turned to look at the unconscious doctor, the colour drained from our collective faces.
“He’s gone!” cried Mary.
Holmes jumped up and grabbed Lambton by the lapels. “Quick – where are the other bodies?”
The old man trembled and shrugged helplessly. “They were down here – but Lecter sent me a telegram yesterday telling me to move them up to the bell tower.”
“What the hell for?” said I.
Lambton shook his head, his lower lip quivering. “He made me do it. Said if I didn’t he’d eat my son – Veronica.”
“Quickly Watson, and Mrs Watson,” said Holmes. “The game’s afoot.” And with that he hurried towards the cellar steps.
The three of us watched as he reached the steps, paused and looked down at himself. He turned around. “Perhaps we ought to get dressed first?”
Mary raised a hand to her mouth and I saw the glint in her eyes as she averted her gaze from Sherlock’s limp appendage.
As Holmes and I pulled on our clothes, a sickening cry echoed from somewhere above us, followed by the slow clang, clang, clang of a bell.
“Oh my God,” muttered Holmes. “He’s in the tower – it’s Bexhill-on-Sea all over again…”