It was dark when, some twenty minutes later and accompanied by a bevy of villains, we arrived via two rowing boats at the shore. Looking back at the vessel we had recently been extricated from, I wondered how the Claw expected to keep the thing hidden from public view – after all, being in the shape of a gigantic metal fish, it did seem unlikely it would not attract attention. However, as I watched, the metallic beast closed her hatches and slowly disappeared beneath the waves.
‘You are wondering where I keep it, eh?’ said a surprisingly softly-spoken Claw from his seat beside me.
‘Yes, actually,’ I said. ‘An underground cave, perhaps?’
He nodded. ‘As an arch villain, I have to think of everything. It can be tedious being the boss sometimes.’
‘You could always surrender?’
He giggled girlishly, gave me a playful punch on the arm, then resumed his usual gruffness and barked a series of orders at the crew.
From the look of the buildings ahead of us, we were making for a large warehouse a few yards up from the wharf. I noticed several other buildings behind the main one, though these were not lit up and the only signs of life came from the crowd of henchmen who were engaged in getting us out of the boats and into the warehouse.
As we trudged up the shingled beach, I tried to make out the details of the various pieces of apparatus that had been arranged just inside the huge double doors of the warehouse. A feeling of déjà vu wafted over me as I stared at the long workbench, the conveyor belt on top and the scarily-familiar circular saw that slotted into it at one end. Beneath the bench and the saw, sat a small steam engine, and as if that wasn’t enough to cause me to fill my trousers several times over, the horrific picture was completed by a series of leather straps fastened on either side of the table.
Hustling us inside, the henchmen lined us up against the wall and tied our wrists together. Holmes was tethered to me, me to Mary, and Mary to Penny, so the only chance of absconding would demand that all four of us cooperate. Though, at that moment, the possibility of escape seemed like a remote and highly unlikely scenario.
Holmes leaned over and whispered in my ear. ‘It may be my imagination Johnny, but this scenario looks awfully familiar.’
I nodded. ‘Edinburgh.’
He sighed. ‘Ah. I’d hoped I was mistaken.’
‘Now then,’ said the Hooded Claw, tying a bloodstained apron around his waist. ‘See if you can guess what’s going to happen here?’
We all looked at each other, none of us wishing to state the obvious. Finally, Holmes spoke.
‘At a wild guess, I’d say we were slicing tonight.’
The Claw laughed heartily. ‘Very good, Holmes, very good. But no, that is not my intention.’ He paused, as if waiting for Holmes to make another suggestion, but the big-nosed detective said nothing more.
‘Very well, then,’ the villain continued. ‘As you have surmised, these items of equipment came from an auction house in Scotland. I learned of your involvement with them via a friend of mine. In fact, that same friend is here with me tonight.’ Holding up his good hand, he clicked his fingers. The various henchmen gathered around the edges of the warehouse burst into a round of applause, which only ceased when a man emerged out of the shadows and made his way to stand by the side of the Claw.
‘Oh, bugger,’ I said.
‘Seconded,’ murmured Holmes.