For one, long, deathly moment, the entire train fell silent, and in that moment, a hundred horrific thoughts flashed through my brain – what would Lecter do? What could he do? And more to the point, what did he want to do?
As our fellow passengers in the compartments on either side of us began chattering, I heard an odd clunk and felt a cold draught brush my face as if the carriage door had opened. I turned my head only to hear a horribly familiar sound: Th-th-th-th….
There was a piercing scream and I jumped up, ready to defend myself. Then the lights came on again.
I blinked. The carriage door was shut. Holmes and Mary hadn’t moved. In fact, Holmes had pulled out his Meerschaum as if this was the perfect time for a quiet smoke.
“Didn’t you hear that?” I yelped. “We have to do something.”
Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, sit down, Johnny. And please try to control yourself in future – the other passengers’ll think there’s a bunch of pre-pubescent school girls in here.”
“Sorry,” I said. “But I thought I heard that awful Th-th-th noise Lecter makes.”
“You did,” said Holmes, lighting his pipe. “That was me. Rather good impression, eh?”
Mary laid a hand on my arm. “Doctor Lecter won’t come after us, John. He’d consider that rude.” Leaning forward, she slapped Holmes across the leg. “And you really should know better.”
Holmes winked at her. “Apologies, my dear.” He puffed away for a moment, then went on, “Mary’s right, though. Lecter’s only plan will be to escape. Let’s face it, if he’d really wanted to eat us, he’d be here now.”
A jolt followed by a low rumbling signalled that our train was moving again.
“There you are,” said Holmes peering out of the window into the darkness. “We’ll be back in front of our respective fireplaces before you know it.”
Letting out a long sigh, I sat down and tried to relax. Holmes was right – I was too tense. The events of the last few days had really got under my skin. I needed to let it go. Taking a deep breath, I held it for a few seconds, then let it out. Then another breath, then…
I had focused my gaze on the empty seat opposite, studying a particular spot to aid my brief meditation. And that’s when it happened. My impression was that the Paisley-patterned material had somehow been caused to ripple, as if some small creature were burrowing around in the very structure of the seat itself. Then, incredibly, the whole thing stood up.
“Jesus H. Christ!”
I was glad that, for once, it wasn’t me making the exclamations. Holmes threw himself against the window, while Mary dived into the corner. For my own part, I simply sat there staring at Hannibal the Cannibal.
“The beauty of being a psychotic genius,” murmured Lecter, “is that one never underestimates oneself.” He unzipped his Paisley-patterned train-seat-suit disguise and stepped out of it, revealing himself to be naked apart from a well-bloodied butcher’s apron. “You’ll forgive me for my tardiness, but I had to slice up a couple of railwaymen before resuming operations with my favourite detectives.” And with that, he produced a large kitchen knife and turned to Mary. “Th-th-th-th…”
If I’d had time to think about it, the sensible thing to do would have been to pull out my trusty weapon and blow the mad bastard’s brains out, but with only seconds in which to react, all I could do was use the one tactic I knew I could rely on from my days at prep school – my right foot. Summoning up all my energy, I kicked out and upwards, making instant contact with the dangly bits between Doctor Lecter’s legs.
“Urrgh…” he muttered, doubling up in pain. The knife dropped from his hand allowing Holmes to kick it under the seat out of harm’s way. Mary followed up quickly with the old handbag-over-the-head routine, effectively gagging and blindfolding Lecter in one fell swoop.
Wasting no time, I tore what was left of the Paisley-patterned train-seat-suit into strips and used it to tie our prisoner up.
A few minutes later, with Lecter trussed like an unbasted turkey and still moaning on the floor, and Holmes sitting on top of him just to make sure, I sat down again.
“Quick thinking, Watson,” said Holmes appreciatively. “Even I was taken by surprise.”
“But,” said Mary, “how did you manage to kick him in the testicles when he told us himself that he doesn’t have any?”
“Ah,” said I. “Something I remembered from my time in Afghanistan. There was a chap I knew from the 4th Foot and Mouth who had his leg mangled in a frightful explosion. Poor bugger was in a terrible state, but even after we lopped off the damaged limb, he’d get the feeling the leg was still there, swore he could still feel the pain of the wound.”
Mary nodded slowly. “So you thought Lecter could still feel his…” she coughed. “His bits, even though he doesn’t have any?”
“Although,” said Holmes, giving me a sardonic smile, “you couldn’t have known it would work.”
I raised his sardonic smile and gave him a sly wink. “Between the two of us, Holmes, I think we know which one has the balls.” And with that I sat down and opened my copy of The Times.