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Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Window Watcher


From the Journal of Sherlock Holmes
Huge Island
Under a small shed

Utilising a pair of Mycroft’s patented super-strong spy glasses, I watched the proceedings from my burrow beneath the garden shed on the south side of the house. Unfortunately, my dear brother’s latest invention – a long-range listening device that depended on a clockwork mechanism for power – had developed a fault. The upshot of this meant I could only hear occasional phrases, interrupted by intermittent squeaks and whirring sounds from the headphones. Even so, I’d heard enough to know that Watson had made it clear to all and sundry (apart from the butler and his wife), that they were in danger, though how seriously they took this was hard to judge.

The guests were about to eat together for the first time, and I watched carefully as the butler served what I expected would be a cold soup of some description, followed by a ham salad. Curiously, none of the guests seemed keen to actually eat anything and after the butler’s departure, they all sat around looking at each other.

At this point, my hearing device gave up altogether, so I determined to get closer to the action. Packing my gadgets in my shoulder bag, I slid along the base of the hedge and round to the other side of the house where I knew the kitchen was located. Dressed in my patented Green-as-Grass-Lawn-Suit, I knew it would be almost impossible for anyone to spot me from the house, but nevertheless, I took the utmost care as I slid across the lawn to the kitchen window.

Rising slowly, I attached my headphones again and laid the patented Window-Trumpet attachment against the lowest pane of glass. Immediately, the butler’s voice echoed in my ears:

“I’m telling you, Ethel, they aren’t bloody eating a damn thing. Watched ‘em through the keyhole, I did, and they’re all just sitting there, like bleedin statues.”

The woman responded in a squeaky, high-pitched tone that put me in mind of Mrs Lestrade.

“Well, I’m doin’ me bleedin best, ain’t I, Tommy? Don’t know what they expect, anyway, what with the master not being here an’all to tell us what we’re supposed to be doin and that.”

At this, she burst into tears and her husband straightaway flew into a rage.

“Aw, for fuck’s sake, Ethel. Don’t you bleedin start wiv yer bleedin blubbering again – it’s more than a bloke can stand. An’ it’s not my bleedin fault the master and the missus ain’t here, is it? So just cut that out now, afore I give you summat to cry abaht.”

The woman ceased her snivelling, but a new sound came to my ears, informing me that someone else had come into the room. On hearing the newcomer’s dulcet tones, I couldn’t help but smile – it was my own dear Watson, no doubt hot on the trail of the killer.

“Ah, Rogers, and Mrs Rogers,” said he. “Hope you’ll forgive the intrusion into your particular domain, but we were wondering, that is, the other guests and myself were wondering, who prepares the meals.”

From the ensuing silence, I deduced that Rogers and his good lady were looking at each other, trying to work out what to say. Eventually, the butler coughed and said, “Well, sir, it is Mrs Rogers who prepares all the meals here, as we have been instructed so to do by the master.”

“The master. You mean Mister Owen?” said Watson.

“That’s right, sir.”

“You said earlier that he’s expected home this evening.”

“Yes sir,” said Rogers, “in time for dinner, we’re told.”

Another silence and I could almost hear the cogs in my old friend’s brain clunking round as he considered his next question. Footsteps on the stone flags told me the good doctor had crossed to the window and was no doubt rubbing his chin thoughtfully. If he’d taken the trouble to slide the sash up and lean forward, he’d very likely have spotted me. But Watson is not a man of action, so he simply stood there, thinking.

“Then you know your master well?” he said, after a long pause.

There was a hesitation in the other man’s voice that suggested what he would say next might well be a lie.

“Of course, sir, Mister Owen and his wife took us on several months ago and have treated us very well.”

“Several months ago?” said Watson, in a tone that I recognised. He too had seen through the lie. “So you’d be able to describe them to me?”

The butler coughed. “No sir.”

“No?”

“No. The master issued specific instructions regarding the guests and yourself and what we were to tell you and also…” he coughed. “And also what we are not to tell you.”

“You just said ‘the guests and yourself’, didn’t you?”

The butler coughed again. “Er, yes, sir.”

“So your master mentioned me by name – Doctor Watson?”

“Yes sir.”

Even though my listening device was not of the utmost clarity, I quite clearly heard Watson’s sharp intake of breath. It was almost as loud as my own.

Watson made his excuses and left, and after a moment, I heard an object thrown across the room.

“They know,” the man muttered. “They bloody know!”

The butler’s wife must have endeavoured to comfort him, as their next words were muffled, perhaps by kisses and a close embrace.

“Jesus wept,” moaned Mrs Rogers. “We’ll be buggered if this comes out.”

“Buggered’s the word,” said her husband. Then his voice became stern and I discerned an angry edge to his tone as he said, “But you listen ‘ere, Ethel. Don’t you dare say a bleedin word about this, no matter what any of ‘em say. If they find out we’ve never met Owen, they’ll only ask more questions and then everything’ll come out.”

This last was of great interest and I determined to let Watson know. Slithering back to my burrow beneath the shed, I scribbled a short message on a scrap of paper, then sliding a hand into my poacher’s pocket, pulled out George, Inspector Lestrade’s prize carrier pigeon. Fastening the message to the bird’s leg, I communicated with him in soft tones, explaining in pigeon-speak that he was to fly to the room of Doctor and Mrs Watson. The creature nodded, though whether this was to show his understanding, or simply a pigeonic tic, I couldn’t possibly know.

As George flew off to his destination, I hoped Watson had remembered to leave birdseed on his window ledge.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Doing it By the Book


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Naturally, it occurred to me that Mr Owen and his wife (if they existed) were not included in the eleven Indian braves depicted on the dining table, and that the butler and his wife made up the numbers, just as they did in the book. Of course, as Mary keeps reminding me, this is not a book.

“Ah,” said a gruff voice behind me. “Red Indians, eh?”

I turned to General MacArthur. “Native Americans, actually,” I said.

“Some sort of parlour game, is it?” He waved a finger at the figurines.

Though I opened my mouth to reply, an explanation was not forthcoming. Luckily, my dear wife took up the challenge.

“No, no,” she said, approaching the old soldier and patting his arm. “I should think it’s something to do with the old nursery rhyme.” She pointed to a framed poem on the wall above one of the cabinets, and began reading. “One little, two little, three little Indians. Four little, five little, six little Indians. Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians. Ten little Indian boys.”

“Ah,” muttered the General, immediately losing interest.

“Except, that’s not quite right, is it?”

Mister Lombardi had slid silently into the room. He stood pointing at the table. “There’s eleven. Not ten.”

He gave me a hard stare and I coughed in a bid to distract him from the fact that I did not have an answer.

Billy Blah and Vera Claymore had also arrived, and they too looked at me as if I might be the fount of all knowledge.

“He’s right, you know, Doctor Watson.”

We all turned to look towards the window where Justice Warmonger stood staring back at us. How he’d managed to get into the room and reach that spot without my noticing, unnerved me rather and I made a mental note to keep a sharp eye on his movements.

The judge continued. “There’s something you’re not telling us, isn’t there Doctor? Something about this whole adventure.” His supercilious smile convinced no-one, but his voice held a menacing tone that threw me off balance and I saw no option but to tell the truth. Or most of it, at least.

Striding to the door, I peeked out and saw Emily Bent hurrying down the stairs. I waited for her to join us then closed the door.

“Has anyone read a novel called ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie?” I said.

Miss Claymore stuck her hand up. “I had a copy of it,” she said, nodding to Mary, “but someone swiped it.”

“That’s odd,” said Billy Blah. “I was given a copy for my birthday recently.” He paused and glanced around as if expecting a chorus of congratulations to ring out. “Anyway, I’d left it on my bedside table one night and when I came back from having a sh– I mean, a wash, it was gone. Just vanished.”

“So no-one’s actually read it?” I said.

They all shook their heads.

Warmonger piped up again. “Not about a murder, this book, is it?” Again, that supercilious smile.

“It’s about a group of people who are invited to an island…”

“Ooh,” yelped Vera Claymore, clapping her hands excitedly. “Just like us, then?”

“Invited to an island,” I went on, “and murdered.”

The silence was deafening.

Eventually, Emily Bent (or, Bob, as I’d begun to think of her) stated the one thing I hadn’t wanted to mention.

“It’s about secrets, isn’t it? Secrets about stuff we’ve done. Stuff we oughtn’t to ‘ave done.”

“Humph,” snorted Warmonger. “I for one have no sordid secrets in my past.”

“Didn’t say they was sordid, did I?” moaned Emily.

I flapped my hands in a calming motion. “Let’s not get carried away. What we have to remember is that we’re talking about a book. And this quite clearly is not a book – it’s real.”

“Marston was the first, then?” said a voice behind me.

I looked at Dilip Lombardi. He shrugged and said, “Well, he was, wasn’t he?”

“The main thing,” said Mary, stepping forward and taking control, “is to stick together and not go off by ourselves.”

“But we are by ourselves,” whined Emily/Bob. “Up in our rooms. Alone.”

Mary bit her lip. “I meant, stay together when we’re together and when we’re not, keep the doors locked.”

They all fell silent again, until Billy Blah noticed the damaged Native American.

“Bloody Nora. That one’s got a flaming great spike through him.”

“Yes,” said Warmonger, striding over to the table and picking up the offending item. “Representing Mister Marston, I believe.”

“Bugger,” said Blah. “So if he was the first, one of us will be next.” He gazed around at the others. “What d’yer think – stabbed, hung, drowned, poisoned?”

At that, the door swung open and the butler appeared carrying a tray. “Luncheon is served.”

We all looked at him, no doubt wondering the same thing – would the meal be safe to eat?

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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