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Monthly Archives: July 2018

An Inspector Calls…


The Journal of Buckingham Caddy
(Inspector 2nd Class)
Notebook No 3

After sending a telegraphical communication to my superior at Scotland Yard detailing my progress so far, I put my mind to another project. Once again, my theories have been cast asunder and I must reconsider the entire premise. Having proposed a series of articles entitled ‘An American Werewolf in Londen’ (being a true-crime expose of that charlatan and so-called detective Sherlock Holmes), I shall be forced to renegotiate with those nice people at The Strand Magazine and come up with a more suitable title. Or at least, one that is geographically accurate.

While sitting in a corner booth in the Snug bar last evening, close enough to the party in question to overhear the chief arguments inherent in their discussion, I was mortified to realise that the blonde goddess Judith Hirsch is in fact not American at all. The bloody woman is Yorkshire born and bred! I can only surmise that my previous encounter with that same personage suffered from an acute case of having the wool yanked over my features in an act of deliberate deception. I might well expect such deviancy from the likes of Holmes himself, but not from a medical professional with actual letters after her name. (Of course, I may yet discover her qualifications too were rendered from the same supremely beautiful and cunningly inventive mind).

However, the issue at hand is now not one of nationality but of location. It was pure chance I happened to be in the process of relieving myself against a wall in the back yard of The Golden Fleece, after sampling a pint of Pennine Pisswater in the company of a few of the locals, when I heard a familiar voice. The owner of said voice appeared to be haranguing his companion about the benefits of not going out ‘into the bloody wilderness with barely a sensible thought in our heads’, while his chum cast several aspersions along the lines of ‘Shut the fuck up, Watson’.

I fastened myself up and hurried out into the lane to see in which direction they were headed. The pair scampered across the street, into an alley and around the back of the public house opposite, where a pony and trap lay in wait. As the vehicle pulled away, I cursed my own stupidity at not having considered such a move – leaving the womenfolk behind is of course a classic Holmesian ruse (the man is a consummate woman-hater), and I should have explored the possibilities of alternative transport.

As it happens, on my way back to the main thoroughfare, I spied a delivery boy heading towards me on a bicycle. Making myself scarce, I watched as the lad leaned the machine against the wall of a shop and dashed off to deliver his groceries, then I ran over, jumped onto the contraption and began pedalling furiously after the pony and trap.

Given the conversation my quarries had engaged in the previous evening, I suspected they were headed for an inn called The Slaughtered Lamb, a dilapidated watering hole near the site of my first encounter with Ms Hirsch. It occurred to me (as I pedalled feverishly across the moors in not-very-hot pursuit), that the good lady may not have furnished Holmes and Watson with the actual truth, in which case, they could well be treading on very dangerous ground.

After losing sight of the trap for a few minutes when it crested the brow of the hill, I began to wonder if I’d made a tragic error of judgement in not contacting Holmes directly, but then I spied the pony and trap in a stationary position. The driver had dismounted and had propped himself up on a nearby rock where he was happily puffing away at a clay pipe. Holmes and Watson were nowhere to be seen.

“I say, you there,” I called, approaching the bewhiskered fellow. “Where did those detecti – I mean, where did those two fellows go?”

The man turned and cast a bloodshot eye in my direction. “Pub,” he muttered and pointed a fat finger at the inn a few hundred yards down the fell.

“Damn and bugger.” I gave the man a stern look and said, “Now look here, you’re a local chap?”

He sniffed and gave a nod. “That Oi be.”

“Then you know all about this place?”

“That Oi do.” Clearly, he was a man of few words.

Stepping up close, I poked him in the chest. “Then what d’you mean by allowing them to go in there?” I waved a hand in the direction of the inn.

The old man shrugged. “B’aint no business o’ mine.”

“And what’ll you do if they…if they…you know, succumb to some injury or other?”

“You mean if the werewolf gets ‘em?” He shrugged again. “Oi’ve already been paid.”

“Hah,” I exploded. “And what happens if the werewolf eats you, eh?”

The man sniffed. “Won’t eat me. Oi’m a vegetarian.”

Looking up at the sky, I calculated we had a least four hours until the moon was up. If we were caught out her after that, we’d all be buggered. “Right,” I muttered, fumbling in my jacket for my revolver. “I’ll just deal with it myself, then.” And with that, I hurried off down the track towards the inn, hoping the pair of dunderheads had been sensible enough not to mention the nature of their mission to any of the locals…

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Change in the Wind…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Though barely mid-day, a change in the wind brought a sudden chill to the atmosphere. Gazing upwards, I noted the sky had darkened considerably, imposing a curious sense of impending doom on the three of us as we trundled along. Not for the first time, I began to wonder if we’d made an error of judgement.

Ahead, the road divided into two, and as if warning that to go any further would be to our disadvantage, a wooden crucifix reared up like a stick-man silhouetted against the sky. As we drew closer, I realised it was signpost. Bearing the legend ‘East Protor’, the crosspiece hung limply, the whole thing leaning at a precarious angle amid a tangle of purple heather.

“This be as far as Oi go, sor,” muttered our driver, pulling the horse to a standstill.

We had reached the brow of a hill. Looking down across the fells I perceived what appeared to be a village. On closer inspection I surmised it to be nothing more than a handful of weather-worn buildings huddled together like a group of surly shepherds, pitting their wits against the oncoming rain.

“What the devil d’you mean?” barked Holmes, giving the old man a thump on the shoulder.

“Just what Oi say, sor – Oi ain’t goin no further.” The churlish fellow turned to peer at us and added, “so Oi can wait ‘ere, or Oi can bugger off an’ leave the pair of you.” He turned back to face the front. “Makes no neither nor to me.”

Gazing up at the greying sky, a few drops of rain splashed against my cheek. Recalling something Doctor Hirsch had told us, I peered at an object sticking out from the closest of the stone buildings. The faint squeak of a hanging sign, creaking against its hinges told me all I needed to know. “Well, I don’t know about you, Holmes,” I said, “but I’m all for popping down to the pub for a pint of Old Peculiar, or whatever passes for a decent drink out here. I’m sure the locals will be only too happy to regale us with tales of werewolves and the like.” I began to clamber down from the trap and after a moment, Holmes followed suit.

“As you wish,” he said. Tugging the driver’s sleeve, he waved a bony finger in the man’s face. “And don’t forget that half-crown I gave you. I shall expect change on our return.”

The old man grunted but said nothing more.

The road we were on now split in two – one running off to the left towards the woodland, and the other, a rough farm track, sloping down over the fells in a wide arc that took it past the nearest of the buildings. The pub.

“Your round,” I chirped, striding off down the track.

A few minutes later we had reached the inn. Sliding out of my Mackintosh, I gave it a shake and was all for barging straight through the door, but Holmes held me back.

“Have a care, Watson,” he said, his chin angled upwards.

Following his gaze, I peered at the inn sign. “The Slaughtered Lamb?” My mouth dropped open and I gave Holmes a sharp look. “It can’t be…”

“I know what you’re thinking, Watson, but this is simply a public house that just happens to have the same moniker as that den of iniquity we encountered in the adventure of the…the er…” He clicked his fingers irritably.

“The Wicker Mannie,” I said, helpfully.

“The very same. But this does not mean that whatever lies within these walls promises anything more sinister than a badly-pulled pint of Sheepshagger’s beer.”

“But Holmes,” I said.

“But me no buts, Watson, it’s just a name.” He sniffed and lowered his voice. “All the same, have a care.”

And with that he grasped the iron knob, gave it a firm twist and walked inside.

I looked up at the inn sign again and winced at the gory image. It depicted a severed sheep’s head with blood dripping from the jagged wound. I swallowed hard and went into the pub.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Beware the Moon…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The following afternoon, along with my dear wife and Doctor Hirsch, Holmes and myself travelled by train to Yorkshire – the town of Thirsk, to be precise – and took rooms at The Golden Fleece, an old coaching inn. Most of our journey had been taken up with planning our ‘expedition’ to what my large-nosed companion referred to as the crime scene. Judith filled us in on the gory details of her own encounter on the moors and was keen to caution us to the dangers of wandering about on that place of rolling hills and upland fells after dark.

“I warn you, Mister Holmes, she said, “though it may be an area of supreme beauty and tranquillity during the hours of daylight, the night brings trepidation and terror.”

“Yes, yes,” muttered Holmes. “I expect it does. Luckily Watson and I are au fait with trepidation and terror.” He gave me a sly wink and I groaned inwardly, knowing what was coming next. “In the morning, my companion and I will make a provisional reconnaissance of the immediate area around East Proctor and report back by late afternoon.” He took out his meerschaum and began tapping out the dottle on the edge of the seat. “Or, early evening at the latest. Before dark, at any rate.” He gave me a questioning look. “Wouldn’t have an ounce of hard shag on you, by any chance, Watson?”

“I don’t smoke, Holmes. Haven’t for years.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? That explains it, then.”

“Explains what?” said I, with not a little irritation.

“Why you never carry any Swan Vestas.” He shook his head and peered out of the window.

Mary had been listening intensely to this exchange and I could tell from the way her wonky eye glared at Holmes, that she was about to erupt. I leaned forward with a view to patting her knee in a calming manner, but it was too late.

“Just who the bloody hell do you think you are?”

“What’s that, m’dear?” said Holmes distractedly.

“Haven’t you heard a word Judith has said? D’you imagine that everything she’s told us is utter drivel?”

“Well, I…” he began, but Mary was far from finished.

“Whether you believe in werewolves or not, there is clearly something very wrong here and you are not, I repeat not, going to drag my husband out on a fool’s errand when there’s a full moon. If anything happens to my Johnny, I will bite you myself!”

Holmes appeared taken aback (an unusual experience for him), and for a moment words escaped him.

Now it was Judith’s turn to take up the protest, but not before laying a hand on Mary’s thigh and rubbing it with a gently calming motion. The effect was quite extraordinary. I am accustomed to my wife’s anger subsiding gradually over several hours, but now it petered away as if she’d been injected with a some fast-acting tranquilising solution. Letting out a low sigh, she turned her head towards Judith and smiled shyly.

“Sherlock,” said Judith, turning her attention back to Holmes, “it would be altogether more sensible for all four of us to travel to East Protor, and that way, if anything does happen, I shall be on hand to advise you.”

Holmes coughed and looked at the floor. “As you wish.”

The following morning, Holmes and myself climbed aboard a pony and trap and began a journey that would become nothing less than a nightmare, though we little did know it. I had, of course objected to his plan to ‘outwit the ladies’ under the pretext of having a game of darts with the chaps in the bar, but Holmes can be very forceful, and he ably manoeuvred me through the Lounge Bar, into the Snug and out into the back lane via the kitchen, leaving Mary and Judith to discover our deception when we failed to return to our rooms for morning coffee.

“You really expect we can get back here before dark?” I asked him.

“Don’t see why not,” said he. Tapping the driver on the shoulder, he urged the
dour-faced man to hurry-it-along and within a few minutes we had reached the edge of the moors.

The way ahead was indeed one of beauty and tranquillity as Judith had described, but already the mist was descending over distant woodland and the familiar loosening sensation that often accompanies our many journeys into the unknown, began to make its presence felt in my lower quarters. I only hoped I’d be able to hold onto my dignity if we should encounter the individual – man or beast – who assaulted Judith.

As it happened, messing my pants was the least of my worries.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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