Our travelling documents stated that we must reach Dolphin Cove – a small village a few miles up the coast from Land’s End – by the following Friday lunchtime. Some chap with a boat would meet us at the harbour and take us across to Huge Island (which apparently does not live up to its name). Whether we were to encounter our fellow travellers at that point was unclear, and it was for this reason, and several others, that I decided to spend our train journey reading a copy of Mrs Christie’s novel, in the hope it might shed light on our forthcoming adventure.
“You do realise,” said Mary, flicking through a copy of Detective Monthly, “that we shall probably all be horribly murdered?”
“I should have thought that horribly was the only way to be murdered,” I said, giving her a playful wink.
“Don’t be obtuse, Johnny,” she snapped. “The only reason I agreed to this mad outing is my belief that between the two of us and Mr Big Nose, we can solve this thing.” She cast the magazine aside. “I do hope I’m right – If we all get killed, I’ll be really annoyed.”
Flipping to the end om my book, I said, “D’you recall who the culprit is in Mrs Christie’s version?”
“Ah. So all we need do is look out for a wizened old magistrate or some such.”
Mary sighed and shook her head. “Really, husband, sometimes I despair of you.”
“What on earth d’you mean, darling?”
“Well, for a start, I’m not in the book and you’re not who you say you are. Don’t you think it’s probable none of the others will be who they say they are either?”
I considered this for a moment. “Of course. Even so, they’ll all have the same names as the characters in the novel? I mean, I am posing as Doctor Armstrong, the Harley Street Doctor.”
“Yes, but your Doctor Armstrong – the one with consumption – doesn’t work in Harley Street, does he?”
“No – he’s a junior doctor at St Bart’s.”
“There you are, then.” She sat back, satisfied.
I gazed out of the window at the long gardens and allotments whizzing past in the fading afternoon light. “I hope the hotel’s nice.”
“In any case,” said Mary, deftly avoiding my attempt to change the course of the conversation, “we’re not taking part in a book, are we? This is real, with real people and a real murderer.”
“We don’t know for sure it isn’t some ghastly joke.”
“Yes, darling, we do – no-one in their right mind would go to all this trouble to play a trick on a bunch of strangers.”
“No, I suppose you’re right.” I returned to my book with a view to finding out how my particular character meets his end and was a little disturbed to discover, a short while later, that Armstrong’s body is found washed up on the beach, having previously been suspected as the killer.
I persuaded myself there was nothing to worry about. Sherlock Holmes would utilise his skills in observation, logical reasoning and all-round clever-dickiness to save the day. After all, he’d pulled us back from the edge of death many times before.
“Besides, “ said Mary, butting into my musings, “Holmes won’t let us die – he’d have no-one to write up his adventures.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” said I, but my resolve had begun to slide away and I had the awful feeling that this time, Holmes had made a terrible error of judgement.