As we watched, a familiar figure emerged out of the shadows.
‘Here he is – your own, your very own, Professor James Moriarty!’ The Hooded Claw waved his hook enthusiastically and the two villains embraced.
‘Good evening,’ said the Professor, smiling benignly. ‘Lovely to see you Mister Holmes, and so nice that you’re here with your faithful assistant, Mister Peabrain Watson, his whore of a wife and her lesbian lover.’
I was about to let rip with a torrent of vitriol, when Holmes held up a warning finger. ‘Don’t do it, John,’ he murmured. Then, raising his voice, ‘Sticks and stones, Professor, sticks and stones.’
‘Yes indeed,’ said the Claw, patting Moriarty on the shoulder. ‘But to business. As I intimated earlier to Doctor Watson, I do intend to kill you all, but that is not to happen for some considerable time yet.’ He paused and glanced at Moriarty, whose smile wavered a little. ‘No, what I’d like to do is to cause all four of you, but especially you, Shirley, to be brought before your English courts and tried for murder, then thrown into jail for a period of months where you will all be buggered soundly every day by the biggest and ugliest inmates, and then finally, I shall infiltrate the prison and execute each of you myself in a truly horrifying and wonderfully painful manner.’
Moriarty’s smile had disappeared, and an expression of absolute rage took its place. He stared at his companion and said in a low and threatening voice, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’
The Claw grinned and clicked his fingers. In an instant his men had grabbed Moriarty and tied his arms and legs using some of the leather straps from either side of the circular saw.
‘Claw! Claw,’ What’s going on?’ yelled the villain, struggling helplessly against his bonds.
‘Now, Mister Holmes,’ said the Claw, ignoring Moriarty’s protestations. ‘I should like you to tell me which of us…’ he waggled his hook between himself and the Professor. ‘Which of us is the greater villain?’
‘Ah,’ said Holmes. ‘I see.’
‘Come on, come on,’ urged the Claw, waving his arms.
‘Let me see, now,’ said Holmes rubbing his chin with his free hand. ‘Which of you is the greater?’ He made a show of considering this, then shrugged. ‘Clearly the Hooded Claw is the greater villain.’
‘Hah!’ yelled the Claw triumphantly.
‘Although…’ continued Holmes, thoughtfully.
The Claw ceased his revelry and stared. ‘Although what?’
‘Well,’ said Holmes. ‘In an ideal world there would be three villains to choose from.’
Both the Claw and Moriarty fell silent, then in perfect unison said, ‘Three?’
‘Three,’ said Holmes. He held up a finger. ‘The Professor, of course.’ Another finger. ‘Yourself.’ A third finger. ‘And the Woman.’
‘Sorry, what?’ said the Claw, his lower lip trembling slightly.
‘Sorry, I meant to say, The Woman,’ repeated Holmes. ‘Irene Adler.’
‘Fine,’ said the Claw, ‘but she’s not here, so who do you choose?’
Holmes shrugged again. ‘Moriarty.’
‘What?’ exploded the Claw, jumping up and down.
‘After all, he is the Napoleon of crime, so…’ He smiled. ‘Don’t you agree, Mister Claw?’
At this, the Claw spun round, screaming at Moriarty. ‘The Napoleon of crime, the Napoleon of fucking crime? Well, I’ll tell you, Moriarty, you’re just like Napoleon – small, ineffectual and dead from the neck down. Come and work with me, you said. I’ll teach you how to be a proper arch-villain, you said. Oh yes, had me running around like a headless goat doing this, doing that, doing every bloody thing you told me just so I could benefit from your massive intellectual abilities. Well, it’s time someone showed you who’s boss and I can tell you – it’s me!’ He waved a hand at the four of us and continued, ‘This bunch of incompetent defectives foiled my plans once before, but this time I’ve got the upper hand. I’m going to carve you up and blame it on Sherlock Bloody Holmes and his pals, then we’ll see who’s laughing.’
He barked out a series of orders and watched as his men tied the Professor onto the conveyor belt, legs wide, in a position that would enable his body to be sliced perfectly up the middle.
‘Start the machine,’ yelled the Claw.
One of the henchmen pressed a button and the circular saw screamed into life, its shimmering silvery disc demanding everyone’s attention. Another button was pressed, and the conveyor belt began to trundle along, propelling Moriarty towards what would be a quick, but painful death.