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Monthly Archives: June 2018

Myths and Delusions…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

To say I was a little put out at meeting Doctor Hirsch is perhaps to under-egg the custard. To be blunt, I was positively fuming! But I’m getting ahead of myself:

Having tried on several hats (none of which suited me), I admonished the milliner’s assistant for being a complete twit and stormed out of the changing rooms to find my husband was nowhere to be seen. However, all it took was a glance towards the stairs to see the be-tweeded buffoon hurrying away. Ah-ha, Mister Watson, I thought, what are you up to?

It was not a difficult task pursuing Johnny from Debenhams to the hotel, even though he adopted an annoyingly circuitous route involving two trams, a hackney carriage and three visits to the gents’ toilets (a tactic that temporarily convinced me he’d turned queer and had sneaked off to meet some fancy-man).

Happily, I was wrong on the latter point, but even so felt a flush of jealousy to discover he was actually meeting a woman – and a startlingly beautiful one to boot. Judith Hirsch’s unfeasibly golden hair and bright smiling face triggered within me a feeling of salacious juiciness. However, I sensibly cast such thoughts out of my head and told myself to concentrate on the details of the case, which that same person was about to impart. Once I’d given my husband the requisite vexatious stare (ie my well-known jealous-wifey-on-the-war-path look), he knew to behave himself. But just to make sure, I sat next to him and slipped one hand down the back of his trousers, leaving him in no doubt I knew where to poke him if he tried anything saucy with the gilded-haired temptress.

True, I was still a little miffed to find Big-Nose Holmesy had arrived on the scene at the same time, but when I saw that neither he nor Johnny had realised Hirsch was a woman, I calmed down and determined to contribute something useful to the conversation. Judith had shown us the three horrid gashes down her arm and Sherlock was postulating on the apparent fact of her being a werewolf.

“Sorry, Sherl,” I said, helping myself to a digestive biscuit, “but why would a little scratch make her into a werewolf?”

To his credit, Holmes did not adopt his infamous sardonic smile, and surprised me when he actually answered the question without the merest hint of sarcasm.

“It wouldn’t, Mary. Unlike Count Dracula, werewolves do not exist. As your dear husband has already pointed out, there is a condition known as clinical lycanthropy, which I believe this young woman to be suffering from. It is mere myth that perpetuates a belief in a human’s ability to transform into a werewolf.” He smiled warmly at Doctor Hirsch, then taking out his Meerschaum, began to stuff it with tobacco.

I looked at Judith and noted her bright complexion had not altered. “Your scepticism is admirable, Mister Holmes,” she said, “but on this occasion I fear it is misplaced. I am not pretending to be a vampire.”

Holmes didn’t look up, but finished filling his pipe, lit up a Swan Vesta and took a few puffs before continuing. “That particular creature, as Watson recorded in a case of ours entitled, ‘The Vampire Lestrade’, was very real and very dangerous.” He paused and raised an eyebrow in my direction. “You recall that adventure, Mary?”

I nodded.

“Then you will also recall that the Count comes from a long line of vampires which can be traced back to Vlad the Impaler in the fifteenth century. Werewolves, on the other hand, are based on nothing more sinister than European folklore, and we all know what a load of bollocks that is.” He glanced at Judith. “Like God, werewolves are a myth, a delusion, a means of scaring small children into going to bed early.”

Judith smiled, but this time there was no trace of humour in her features. “Two days from now there will be a full moon. If you truly believe there is nothing to fear, perhaps all three of you would accompany me to Yorkshire?”

My companions were silent, so I leaned forward and asked the obvious question. “And what do you expect to find in Yorkshire?”

She sniffed. “The man who did this to me.” She touched her arm and gave me a sideways glance. The look was so fleeting it may have been my imagination, but I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of a somewhat enlarged and pointy canine tooth. But then she grinned, and the image was gone.

Nevertheless, for the rest of the day I had the distinct impression that something deeply disturbing nestled within the bosom of that gorgeous and beautifully thrilling woman.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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An American Werewolf in Londen


From Doctor J. Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq
Hand delivered by urchin

Holmes

On returning home last evening, I received the following communication from an as yet unknown individual:

    Doctor Watson

    Request yourself and Sherlock Holmes investigate bizarre incident of possible lycanthropic origin. Please call on me at the Horse and Trollop at your earliest convenience.

    JSH

I should not have considered the communication significant were it not for the one word – lycanthropic, and I admit a chill ran up and down my spine as I recalled that business in Staffordshire when the chomped-up and bloodied remains of a local boy were found scattered around a graveyard. Our old pal Inspector Buckingham Caddy had some involvement in the case, though the killer – human or otherwise – has never been found.

No doubt you will scoff at the idea of werewolves, Holmes, but medical curiosity and a little knowledge of the disorder known as clinical lycanthropy has occasionally prompted me to wonder about the authenticity of such conditions. In any case, I should be interested in at least meeting this chap and hearing what he has to say.

I shall send the boy round with this note and look forward to meeting you at the aforementioned hostelry at noon.

Yours, Watson.

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

I arrived at the Horse and Trollop shortly before twelve o’clock, having spent the previous half hour trying to shake off my dear wife. (I had no objection to her accompanying me, but the way she positively drooled at the mention of the W word, persuaded me to slip away from her while she tried on a new hat in Debenhams. With any luck, she won’t realise I’ve gone until she reaches the sales counter.)

Having made my presence known to a ruddy-cheeked subordinate in the lobby, I seated myself near the hotel’s bay window where I could peruse The Times as well as the main staircase. I’d only been there a few minutes when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Doctor Watson?”

I looked up into a face so completely beautiful that for a moment I forgot my manners – my mouth dropped open and I let the newspaper slide to the floor.

The newcomer crouched down, picked it up and laid it on the table. “You are Doctor Watson, aren’t you?” she said, her blonde locks tumbling magnificently around her shoulders.

“Oh, er yes, yes of course.” Then getting to my feet, I pulled out another chair and urged her to sit. “My apologies, I hadn’t expected you to be so…er…”

“Judith Hirsch, MD. You were expecting a man, weren’t you?” She gave me a coy grin, leaving me in no doubt I’d made myself look foolish.

“An American, actually,” I said.

“Ah.” She smiled. “A disguise I sometimes utilise in an effort to throw off my pursuer.”

“Your pursuer?” I said, glancing around the lobby.

“A detective who has been harassing me since the incident occurred.”

At that point I suggested we order tea and scones before proceeding further. As the maid scuttled off to the kitchen, my guest leaned forward and patted my knee.

“You’re much more handsome than I was led to believe, Doctor,” she said, rubbing my leg seductively. “I was told Mister Holmes was the good-looking one.”

I was about to laugh in a nonchalant manner when a shadow fell across the table.

“They do say,” said Sherlock Holmes, “that a Watson without his wife is a positive liability.” He grinned sardonically and slid into a chair next to Doctor Hirsch.

A familiar fragrance caught my nostrils and I looked up at the rather vexed visage of my dear Mary. “You know, Johnny,” she purred, “sometimes I wonder if I married the wrong man.” She glanced pointedly at Holmes, who gave a noticeable twitch of disbelief, though the expected sharp retort at such a ridiculous proposal did not materialise.

The girl arrived with a tray and while Holmes ordered two additional teas, we all made ourselves comfortable.

“I must admit,” said Mary, tucking into a jam scone, “for a man, you’re extraordinarily pretty.” She patted Judith’s knee and squeezed her leg with enough force to cause the other woman to wince.

“So,” said I, giving my wife what I hoped was a stern look. “You were going to tell us about this werewolf…”

Judith Hirsch waved a hand at me. “Keep your voice down, Doctor. We don’t want everyone to know there’s an American werewolf on the loose.”

“An American werewolf?” said Mary.

“In Londen,” added Holmes.

Judith nodded. “Yes, an American werewolf in Londen.”

Holmes frowned, then shook his head dismissively. “Tish tosh. No such animal.”

“Really?” said Judith. “then how d’you account for this?” With that, she undid the cuff of her sleeve and pulled it up, revealing three massive gashes down the length of her arm.

Holmes stared at the wound for a moment then raising his beady little eyes to her face, said, “You were bitten?”

Judith nodded.

“By a werewolf?”

Again she nodded.

Holmes sucked on his lip, considering the implications. “Then, according to the myth,” he said, “you must be a werewolf too?”

Judith Hirsch said nothing, but shrugged and sipped her tea.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

Icebergs Away…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Our journey back to England was uneventful, save for the half-hour or so we spent pulling our fellow passengers out of the sea to the relative safety of the iceberg. Watching the SS Doncaster sink into the murky waters was a little disheartening, but at least no-one died. (This last observation came from Holmes when I happened to mention we’d be free of Moriarty and Co who, as they had not appeared among the survivors, must surely have drowned. He pointed a bony finger past the sinking wreck to a small rowing boat manned by four individuals. The vessel appeared to be heading towards France).

“I fear Moriarty is not so easy to get rid of,” said Holmes, stuffing a lump of hard shag into his pipe. “One of these days his murderous plots will run according to plan, and you and I shall be properly buggered.”

“And what about the Claw?” I said. “D’you think he’s teamed up with the Prof on a full-time basis?”

Holmes shook his head. “I doubt it – the man has his own axe to grind. I suspect we’ve annoyed him sufficiently to want to seek some degree of revenge.”

I nodded thoughtfully. The idea of having yet another villain to worry about didn’t sit easily with me. If it were merely my own silly neck on the line, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I fear I should never recover if anything happened to my poor defenceless Mary. As this thought swam around my brain, I glanced over at her and noticed Passepartout’s hand caressing my wife’s hindquarters. Whirling round, she jammed two fingers up his nostrils and wrestled him to the ground.

“Try that again, you little twerp and I’ll shove my hand where the sun never shines.”

The Frenchman grinned up at her and croaked, “Yes please.”

Mary shook her head in disgust and giving him a kick in the ribs, went off to join Holmes at the helm.

A few hours later we tied up a little downriver of East India Docks in an effort to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. The other passengers happily disembarked and paraded over to the Happy Fiddler public house, the proprietor of which, thanks to Holmes (who had helped him out with a delicate family matter), was happy to re-open his doors, despite the late hour. The Captain and his crew were less keen to leave us, but Holmes was able to persuade them to go by threatening charges of dereliction of duty and failure to apprehend a gang of villains.

The darkness aided our clandestine operations and we were able load a few provisions onto the iceberg and wave a hearty goodbye to Phogg and Passepartout shortly before dawn.

As the three of us stood on the dock, it occurred to me that we faced a long walk home. I mentioned this to the Great Detective, but he simply clicked his fingers and a whirring sound above our heads told me a steam-powered gyrocopter was about to land.

“How on earth…” I began. My companion smiled.

As the machine thumped gently to the ground, a familiar figure emerged from the cockpit. Mycroft Holmes waddled over to us, shook my hand and gave his brother a dig in the ribs before wrapping his arms around my wife.

“How bloody lovely to see you again, my dear,” he said, jiggling her up and down.

Mary blushed considerably and pushed him away, though I sensed she was happy to see him.

“I was just saying,” I said, taking Mycroft’s arm. “How on earth–”

“Did we know you were here?” he finished, giving me a cheeky wink. “Elementary my dear Motson. I took the liberty of installing a tracking device in your wife’s vagina.” He grinned.

My mouth hit the ground with a dull thud. “Wha…wha…wha..” I stammered.

Mycroft laughed heartily and punched my shoulder. “Relax, Kitson, I’m joshing with you. In fact, Mary’s clockwork lamp sends out a rather clever electronic signal when it is activated. It was picked up by one of our gyrocopters. We’ve been following your progress ever since the SS Mangochutney encountered the iceberg.”

“I see,” I said, feeling somewhat small and insignificant.

“So you’re going to take us all home, then?” said Mary, a wide smile lighting up her face.

“Not I,” said Mycroft. “But my chaps here will drop you off shortly.” And with that, he set off towards the Happy Fiddler, shouting, “Mine’s a G and T.”

Clambering into the machine, the three of us huddled together and settled down for the short flight to our respective homes. A few minutes later, Mary and I alighted at the corner of our street in Marlborough Hill, then watched as the craft lifted into the air again and disappeared into the dawn.

Walking across to the corner and down to our garden gate, I slipped an arm around Mary’s waist. “Happy to be home?”

She nodded. “Well, it’s been fun, but yes, I am happy to be home.” Then looking up at me, a frown furrowed her brow. “You know what, darling – we don’t have any keys.”

Automatically, I slipped my hand into my outside pocket. “Bugger. Lost with everything else, I suppose. Have to rely on the old key-under-the-plant-pot routine.” I moved towards the front door and for the first time realised that someone was sitting on our doorstep.

“Who the heck are you?”

The lad grinned up at me. “Telegraphical message for yer, Doctor.” He jumped up and handed me a slip of paper.

“Bit early for that sort of thing, isn’t it?” said I, opening the communication.

“Yes sir, but the feller insisted that you get it soon as possible, like.”

“And what man was that,” said Mary, stroking the lad’s arm.

“Oh, some Yankee feller. Said he’s staying at the Horse and Trollop down the road.”

And with that, he got up and ran off into the street.

“What’s it say, Johnny?” said Mary, peering down at the message.

I sighed. It was another case. One that would put our lives in danger yet again. But this time, the consequences of locating the perpetrator might be far worse than anything Moriarty or the Hooded Claw could dream up.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Between a Ship and Hard Place…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

I had been feeling rather pleased with myself after that last hand of poker with Mister Phogg and his funny little manservant – it’s not often I’m left holding several winning hands without the aid of the old Ace-down-the-knickers trick. The only disadvantage was that Phogg and his companion had already seen me naked, so it was small recompense to watch the pair of them dropping their trousers at the sight of my royal flush. As it turned out, seasoned travellers like Phogg always keep their cash in their underpants, (which is just as well, since the sight of two flaccid members only served to make me giggle).

My delight at pocketing a wodge of cash, however, was short-lived. On returning to the cabin Johnny told me of the threat that still hung over us. My dear darling positively trembled as he spoke and I realised the excitement of recent hours had taken its toll. Realising he needed to be kept busy, I urged him to assess the cabin for weapons while I pottered about making two mugs of Camp Coffee, a beverage that always helps calm his nerves.

Then it was simply a case of wait and see. But we didn’t have to wait long – when the chainsaw slashed through the roof of the cabin, I almost wet myself, but Johnny grabbed me and dragged me into the passage where a brace of villains and henchmen blocked our exit. Luckily, Big-Nose Holmes blew a hole in the wall and under cover of the smoke from a flare gun, hauled us through another cabin and into the corridor beyond. With Moriarty and his men close behind, we hurried up the next stairway to the upper deck and a moment later found ourselves outside.

In the distance, I could see the SS Mangochutney silhouetted against the dark sky, as it ploughed its way towards France. It was listing a little to one side, and I couldn’t help feel a pang of regret that we hadn’t been able to continue our journey as planned.

As we reached the stern of the ship (or the Big End, as I called it), we huddled together beside the railings, waiting for the inevitable attack. When Moriarty and his crew hove into view, Mister Phogg summed up our situation with a grim announcement: “Eeh Christ, we’re fucked now.”

“On the contrary,” said Holmes, with that irritatingly sardonic smile of his. “We’re exactly where we need to be.”

I was about to sigh heavily and point out the absolute shitiness of our circumstances, when the detective raised an arm. He pointed one slender finger at something looming into view on the starboard side (or it may have been the port, I’m not sure). We turned as one and saw a strange sight – a massive white object had risen up alongside the liner and a second later, a tremendous screeching noise prompted all four of us to cover our ears.

As the metallic grating sound eased off, I realised what had happened. “Oh, no, not again.”

Johnny nodded sagely. “That bloody iceberg’s come back. Now we’re sunk.”

Holmes made a tutting noise. “For God’s sake, Watson, yet again you see but you do not observe.”

My husband pouted. “Really, Holmes? So what am I missing this time? It’s a bloody great steam-powered iceberg torpedo-ship. Probably manned by hundreds of henchmen all ready to cut our throats. And once again we’re bloody sinking. Am I right, Holmes?”

Sensing Johnny’s ire was up, I slipped my hand into his. “Calm yourself, dear, you know what Sherl’s like when he’s worked something out.” I turned to Holmes. “Well?”

Holmes cast an eye towards Moriarty and co, who had already halved the distance between us and them, but were still a good hundred yards away. In that same instant, the villains saw the iceberg, understood the Great Detective’s intention and sped along the deck towards us.

In a sudden movement, Johnny pulled something out of his pocket and hurled it at the group of baddies. The miniature harpoon gun ornament struck Moriarty right on the nose, causing a torrent of blood to spurt out. His chums halted their pursuit, clamouring around their leader while The Claw waved his hook at us menacingly.

With a degree of urgency, Holmes muttered, “Well done, Watson, now follow me and don’t spare the horses.” He set off at a pace, the five of us scampering after him in the direction of the iceberg.

In an instant, I saw his idea and realised I should have known it all along – I’d witnessed the crew of the iceberg myself and seen that there were in fact only four crew members: Moriarty, The Claw and the two henchmen. There was no crew – the iceberg was adrift.

It took less than five seconds to jump over the railing and drop down onto the flat top of the vessel, where Holmes and Phogg found the main hatch, heaving it open so we could all climb inside.

Shouts of ‘Bugger’ and ‘Damnation’ echoed behind us but a moment later the hatch clanged shut and we stood on a platform containing a large ship’s wheel, a big chunky gear lever and a big green button.

Holmes banged his fist on the button and a low rumbling shook the iceberg as the machinery thrummed into life. Throwing the gear-lever into first, Holmes grabbed the wheel as the iceberg lurched forward and the rest of us grabbed whatever we could to steady ourselves as we pulled away from the ship.

Phogg and Passepartout found the periscope and sliding the small screen into place were able to give us a limited but adequate view of the outside of the vessel. By twisting the thing around, we could see the SS Doncaster disappearing into the distance, while out front, the sea stretched away before us.

“Set a course for England, Watson,” said Holmes as he took command of the helm.

“Aye, aye, sir,” said Johnny, grinning.

“Hold on a minute,” said Phogg. “What abaht our round t’world trip? Ow are we supposed ter make our connections from Blighty?”

Holmes gave him a sidelong look. “Don’t be an arse, Phogg. We both know this was never about going around the world – you did it for a bet and you lost.”

“But sir,” butted in Passepartout, “The Hooded Claw is still after Mister Phogg.”

Holmes nodded slowly. “More than likely. Though as you have now commandeered this vessel, I should imagine finding you again would be quite a task.”

“What?” said Phogg. “You mean…we should keep the iceberg?” He looked at Passepartout and the little Frenchman’s eyes lit up.

“I don’t see why not,” said Holmes. We certainly don’t want it.”

We all settled into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, then I slipped a hand around my husband’s waist and snuggling up to him, whispered, “Go on, then – you know you want to.”

“Want to what, darling?” he said with feigned innocence.

“You know what. The line.”

Johnny sighed. “Oh, alright.” He turned to Holmes. “But Holmes, what I still don’t understand is how–”

“How the iceberg came back up to the surface?” The big-nosed detective smirked. “Elementary Watson. It’s a simple matter of ballast and buoyancy. Like all secret underwater torpedo ships, a safety mechanism was built into the system to enable the vessel to re-float itself should a minor disaster – such as sinking – occur. I’m sure you’d have noticed it yourself if you’d bothered to study the Bruce Partridger blueprints during our Edinburgh adventure.” He smirked again.

Johnny nodded. “Of course. I remember now.” He glanced at me and his cheeks had the good grace to flush with embarrassment.

It occurred to me that Holmes had dismissed, with his usual nonchalance, the suggestion of Phogg still being in danger. Perhaps I was just being a silly woman again, but I couldn’t free myself of a feeling of trepidation. It haunted me all the way back to England, creeping through my bones like a disease. Somehow, somewhere, I knew the Hooded Claw would darken our particular doorsteps again very soon.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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