Taking the lamp from Mary, I spent a few moments studying our metallic prison in the hope that we’d missed some possible escape route. But there was nothing. As sticky situations go, I had to admit to feeling the three of us had landed ourselves in a hole from which we could not possibly hope to escape. Even so, Holmes puffed contentedly on his pipe as if the problem was a minor irritation in an otherwise cheerful venture.
I sighed and patted Mary’s arm. “Never mind, darling, at least we’re together.”
She gave me a look that told me this was not what she wanted to hear. “Really Johnny, you do have a knack of stating the fucking obvious.”
“Oh, I’m bloody sorry,” I huffed. “But as I can’t very well say Don’t worry, Holmesy’ll get us out of this soon, I think we’d be better off facing facts – we’re going to die and it’s not going to be nice.”
“Come, come, Watson,” muttered Holmes. “All is not lost.” He turned his piggy little eyes on Mary. “I’ll wager your wife has something else up her sleeve that might entertain a little optimism.”
“Like what?” I said, staring at Mary.
Mary blinked. “For once Holmes, I think you’d have to agree my husband is right – there is no hope.” She gave herself a shake as if to demonstrate that her sleeves (or any other part of her attire), contained no surprises.
Holmes was not to be put off. “Really, Mary? And what about that…” he glanced at me, then back at her. “That other piece of apparatus my brother gave you?”
Mary frowned and shook her head. “What apparatus?”
Holmes gave her a sardonic smile. “Mary, we’re all adults here. Why don’t you…” He coughed. “Why don’t you extract the other device from your person?” His eyes slid down her body and focused on my wife’s private area.
“I say, Holmes,” I started. “What the hell are you insinuating?”
“Calm yourself, Johnny.” He turned back to Mary. “I’m aware your husband’s hearing is not what it was, but my own audio facilities are perfectly intact. When you were first ushered into this chamber, I distinctly heard a soft buzzing noise above the pounding of the ship’s engines. I expect you switched it off when you were fussing with your evening gown earlier.”
I have never witnessed such a change in my wife’s countenance. Her face flushed a shade of scarlet that could have ignited a small fire, if such a thing were necessary. Taking a long breath in, she focused on Holmes – even her wonky eye appeared to stare straight at him. When she spoke, her voice was a mere whisper but there was no mistaking the tone – she was very angry. “He told you?”
Holmes raised an eyebrow. “Mycroft and I don’t always agree, but he can never resist boasting about his latest inventions.” He glanced at me. “I suggest you and I give the lady a moment, John.” He turned his face to the wall and after giving my wife a sharp look, I did likewise.
Mary let out an irritated sigh, then I heard the rustle of her gown being lifted and sensed she must be bending down. There was a soft slurping noise and a grunt, before she sniffed and coughed.
We turned to face her, though both of us had the good grace to keep our attention toward the floor. I glanced at Holmes as he took the device from her and wiped it down with his handkerchief. The thing resembled a small torpedo and had a switch at one end. I raised my gaze to meet that of my wife’s but her face was turned away.
“Hold up the lamp, Watson,” muttered Holmes, running his fingers over the contraception. “As I thought. With one or two adjustments…” Taking a small screwdriver from his inside pocket, he undid one end of the phallic object and pulled free one of the wires from inside. Then, moving to the door, he fitted the loose end of the wire into the lock.
“What’re you trying to do, Holmes,” I said, trying to sound interested.
“There are certain locks, Johnny, that are susceptible to vibration. If I’m right…” He flicked the switch on the base of the device and I could just make out a low whine coming from the door.
Holmes nodded slowly. “Just a little more…”
As I watched, I discerned that the metal door had begun to amplify the buzzing and a moment later there was a sharp click.
“Hah!” exclaimed my companion. Tossing the device aside, he grasped the door handle and twisted it. Incredibly, the door opened.
“My God, Holmes,” I gushed. “You did it.”
“With Mary’s help,” he murmured, giving her a sly smile.
Stepping out into the corridor, all three of us blinked in the harsh light. I turned off the lamp and gave it back to Mary, who shrugged and mouthed a ‘sorry’ to me. I was about to say something magnanimous, but a sudden lurching sensation threw all three of us against the wall. An unearthly metallic screeching noise came from the starboard bow, as if a gigantic knife had gouged a hole in the side of the ship.
“Bugger,” said Holmes. “I think we’re too late.”
Before the words were out of his mouth, the vast liner tilted to one side, throwing us to the floor.
The ship was sinking.