Standing on the deck of the SS Doncaster, Holmes and I watched silently as the burly chaps from the rescue boats hooked up the wreck of the Mangochutney and began to haul their listing cargo towards the French coast.
“Well,” said I. “Suppose that puts paid to Phogg’s round-the-world trip, eh?” After our recent escapade, Phogg and his Parisian companion had retired to their cabin with my wife for a few hands of poker before bed.
Holmes sniffed and stifled a yawn. “Apparently not. By his calculations he’s only lost twenty-four hours, and as he had already allowed two days for minor catastrophes, his rendezvous in Calais and subsequent connections are still valid. The only issue, as I see it, is that The Hooded Claw is still tracking him.”
“But surely,” I said, “the Claw has drowned?”
Holmes sniggered in that irritating way of his. “Don’t be a fool, Watson.” He turned his beady little eyes on me. “You don’t believe Moriarty is dead, do you?”
I considered this and let out a sigh. “No, I suppose not.”
“Precisely – the Evil Genius has evaded death on numerous occasions, therefore it follows that anyone associated with him will likewise avoid expiration.”
“Then our mission is not over.” I chewed my lower lip. “So, we follow him to Calais, by rail to Brindisi, Italy and steamer, then…”
Holmes shook his head. “I think not. Moriarty may be an malevolent mastermind, but he has one fatal flaw – he hates French food.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course – we simply serve him up a plate of L’Escargot and he’ll run a mile.”
“You really ought to avoid sarcasm, Watson, it is not your forte. No, in fact what I am talking about is that the Claw and or Moriarty will make another attempt to halt Phogg’s progress – before we reach Calais.”
“Indeed.” Holmes checked his pocket watch, nodded to himself, then pulled out a small apparatus from his waistcoat, extended it several inches and held it to his eye.
I had to admire his preparation – it had never occurred to me to include a spyglass in my luggage, let alone my waistcoat pocket.
“Yes,” muttered my companion. “I estimate we have approximately three hours before another attack.”
“My God,” I said, “and we have no weapons. Better have a word with the Captain – he’s bound to have a set of flare guns at the very least.”
“No, Watson. We have already fallen into one trap. I suggest we retire to our cabins as if nothing at all were amiss.”
“What? Are you mad?”
Holmes smiled sardonically. “Quite possibly, old friend, but that is not the issue. We must endeavour to present an air of calm composure and make no move that might alert them.”
I glanced around quickly. Apart from a few couples taking the evening air, the deck was deserted. “You don’t think –”
“That they are already aboard? Of course, don’t you?” Holmes leaned closer. “I hardly need remind you to stay awake, Watson. I imagine our enemies will make their move shortly after midnight, so have a care.”
As I made my way to my cabin, an unhappy sinking feeling began to make itself known in my lower decks. Whatever was about to happen, I knew Moriarty and co would not take any chances this time – when the attack came, we would all be fighting for our lives.