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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Sherlock Sheds a Light

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we arrived back downstairs and exited the house via the French windows, Rogers had reached the shed. Sprinting across the lawn, I arrived a few seconds later and yanking the door open, found myself faced with an odd scene. Sherlock Holmes was sitting in a deck chair in the rear part of the shed, holding his Meerschaum pipe in one hand and a wine glass in the other.

“Ah, Watson,” said he, taking a sip from his drink. “Won’t you join me in a gin and tonic?” He nodded at a selection of spirit bottles atop an upturned crate at his side along with two large buckets of ice.

“It was you who took the ice?” I muttered, staring at his glass.

“Of course, old bean. Can’t have gin without the necessaries.”

It was only then that I remembered Rogers, and turning round, found the butler hovering in the corner behind me, still brandishing the knife. The man gave me a sharp look, his mouth a snarling grimace, then his features abruptly sagged into an expression of hopeless resignation and he let his arm, and the weapon, drop down to his side.

Noticing that Rogers still held an old sack in his other hand, I gestured towards it. “What’s that for?”

He shrugged. “I were going ter put it over his head before I did the deed.” He shrugged again. “Bit squeamish, yer see.”

“Hardly the attitude of a murderer,” murmured Holmes.

“I’m not sure I understand…” I said.

“Of course not, Watson,” said Holmes with a sardonic smile. “Rogers here thought I was up to something with his dear wife and no doubt having followed the trail of ice cubes I left across the lawn, he expected to confront the two of us.” He raised an eyebrow at the butler.

“Well, I dunno…” said Rogers, his anger having petered out completely.

“Let me see if I can help,” said Holmes, getting to his feet. “Mrs Rogers likes a drop of gin, does she not?”

The butler nodded meekly.

“And on hearing that all the ice had disappeared from the icehouse you naturally leapt to the conclusion that she had secreted it away somewhere in order to avail herself of a quiet drink, eh?”

“I did fink that, yes.”

“And when you noticed a few apparently stray ice cubes on the grass, you followed the trail here. Except,” here he wagged a finger at the butler. “You did not immediately come into the shed to confront what you imagined was occurring.”

Rogers shook his head solemnly.

“Because,” continued Holmes, “you heard my voice and assumed that your wife was in conversation and therefore collusion with me. You therefore decided to arm yourself and put an end to her shenanigans and the murders in one fell swoop.”

“I heard you saying there were going to be another murder. So I thought you was the killer…”

Holmes sighed and reaching down, pulled up a long metallic tube attached to a rectangular wooden box. “An invention of Mycroft’s, based on Moriarty’s Conical-Rite-a-Phone machine.” He smiled and poured himself another drink.

Turning to Rogers, I explained. “It’s a mechanical device that interprets his words and scribbles them down by means of a copper nib onto a wax cylinder. No doubt what you heard was Holmes recording the case for future reference, rather than him having a conversation with your wife. Or anyone else, for that matter.”

Holmes nodded. “Thank you, Watson. And as Mr Rogers was quite obviously employed for some considerable time tracking down his wife, returning to the kitchen to fetch a knife, then coming back here to wreak vengeance, I imagine he could not have been involved in the murder upstairs which you and your dear wife have just discovered.”

“How the hell did you know about that?”

I turned to see Mary in the doorway, her face a mixture of annoyance and confusion.

“Because, dear lady,” said Holmes in that irritating manner he adopts when in possession of more information than anyone else, “while you and the other guests were taken up with the demise of the unfortunate Miss Bent, I took the liberty of popping up to your bedroom to take delivery of the message that had recently arrived on your windowsill via Lestrade’s pigeon post. I won’t bore you with the details, but having visited Mrs Christie, Lestrade is of the opinion that the murderer is not following the sequence of deaths as they occur in the book, in which case the aforementioned lady novelist is unlikely herself to be connected with the killings. However, while I am of the opinion that our adversary intends to kill everyone on the island, I believe he or she has utilised the plot of the book as a means of drawing us off his or her real purpose.”

Mary looked at me, then back at Holmes. “And what would that be?”

“Before I tell you, please fill me in on the details of the most recent killing.”

Between us, Mary and myself related how we’d found Warmonger’s body but that I believed he was not actually dead and had merely injected himself with some form of sedative to slow down his heartrate and therefore give the impression he had shuffled off his proverbial coil.

“Ah,” said Holmes. “And he could then go about the business of killing the rest of us without casting suspicion in his direction, since a dead man could hardly be responsible for killing anyone.”

“Precisely,” said I.

“The problem,” said Holmes, with a frown, “is that Justice Warmonger is actually dead.”

“I’m fairly sure he isn’t, Holmes,” I said, a little put out to have my medical judgment questioned.

“Tish tish, Johnny,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I do not doubt your expertise, but I think I’m right when I say that while we have been engaged in this little catch-up session, our murderer has once more been at work.”

“But I thought you said Warmonger was the killer?”

He shook his head. “Never said any such thing, Watson. In fact, Warmonger was most likely persuaded by the real murderer to pretend to be dead.”

“Just like in the book,” said Mary.

“Except,” said Holmes, “that in the book Warmonger is the killer.”

“Well there’s one way to make sure,” I said.

“Exactly Watson,” said Holmes. “To the bedroom!” And with that, he pushed past us and began to run across the lawn towards the house.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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To the Icehouse


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As we could hardly leave the body of Miss Bent hanging from the tree like a giant flesh-coloured banana, I engaged Billy Blah and Dilip Lombardi to assist me in cutting her down and conveying the body to the icehouse. This brick-built structure was located on the north side of the island on the edge of a small wood that peppered the area behind the main house. Utilizing a wooden wheelbarrow dutifully provided by Rogers, we were able to complete the quarter-mile journey in a few minutes, then, girding our collective loins for the task, hoisted the corpse onto our shoulders as if it were a roll of carpet and began to hump her down the steps.

“Flippin cold in ‘ere,” muttered Blah, backing through the door.

“Better to be cold than hot and smelly,” I countered, spying a low bench along the back wall of the icehouse.

Sliding Miss Bent’s body across the rough surface, I found a piece of tarpaulin underneath the bench and covered her over to preserve what little was left of her dignity.

“Bit of a contradiction in terms, don’t you think?” said Mister Lombardi.

Turning to look at him, I saw he was leaning against the door post, panting a little, his face furrowed in thought. “How’s that?” I said.

He waved a hand in a general sort of way at our surroundings. “Just that there isn’t any ice.”

Taking care to keep my head down due to the low roof, I stepped back and rotated myself through three hundred and sixty degrees. The structure had been sunk into the earth a good four feet and I could already feel the cold seeping through the bare earth into my patent-leather Oxfords. With a floorspace of no more than ten feet square there was barely room to swing a muffin. Apart from shelving on two sides and the rough bench against the rear wall which now held the dead woman, the icehouse did not appear to contain anything.

“Well,” I said, “perhaps the kitchen has some kind of new-fangled cooling mechanism. Mister Owen clearly has plenty of cash.”

Billy Blah sniffed. “No. I arsked Rogers for a whisky on the rocks after lunch and he told me the house don’t have no means of storing ice.”

Lombardi laughed. “And yet we’re standing in an icehouse.”

“I don’t suppose they get many visitors,” said I, tapping my fingers on the walls the way Holmes does when searching for hidden compartments. “But you’re right – it does look very much like what it is: an icehouse without ice.”

“Doctor Watson,” said Blah, “I ‘ope you don’t mind me saying, but were you aware that Miss Bent wasn’t…you know…?”

“That she was a man?” I nodded. “Mary and I found out a little while ago. I don’t believe it’s significant. In relation to the murders, I mean.”

“Huh,” muttered Blah. “Speaking as a former police inspector, I’d say every bloody thing means something in relation to the murders.” He gave me a gentle punch on the arm. “I’ll bet your Mister Holmes would say the same.”

He was right. Holmes never allowed even the smallest detail to go unexamined. But for the life of me, I couldn’t see any clues in our present surroundings.

Back outside in the sunlight, I gazed across at the house. Mary was standing talking to General MacArthur and Vera Claymore. There was no sign of the servants or Justice Warmonger. If this ridiculous affair were running true to form, Warmonger would prove to be the killer, which might also mean that he was Mister Owen.

“There’s something I need to check,” I said and warned my two companions to stay with the others. Then, hurrying across to where Mary waited, I signalled her to come with me.

“No ice in the icehouse?” she whispered as we hastened around to the front of the house.

“No,” I said. “And I think I know why.”

Taking the stairs two at a time, we headed for the judge’s bedroom at the end of a long corridor. Leaving niceties at the door, I burst into the room.

“Oh, Christing hell,” said Mary, clinging to my arm. “Is he…?”

Justice Warmonger lay on his bed, hands crossed over his chest in the style so revered by undertakers. A cardboard Agatha Christie mask had been positioned over the man’s face. Removing the disguise, I examined him closely. His eyes were shut, his mouth a thin pale line turned up at one side as if in a deathly sneer. Holding two fingers to his carotid artery, I discerned there was no obvious pulse. Finally, lifting one eyelid, I saw exactly what I’d expected to see.

“He’s dead.” Leading my wife back out into the passage, I gave her a rapid explanation of my theory and we hurried down to the kitchen to find Rogers and his wife.

The kitchen itself was markedly free of servants. A quick check of the larder and scullery also proved fruitless.

“Where can they be?” said Mary, peering out of the window.

“Think,” I said. “Where would you least expect a servant to be during the time they would normally be on duty?”

Mary shrugged. “In bed?”

Hurrying back upstairs and up to the top floor, we located the two rooms given over to Rogers and his wife. The first door stood open and led into a living room, sparsely decorated with tatty furniture including two armchairs and a table. The second was closed. I knocked and went in. The bed, and indeed the room, were empty.

“Johnny…” Mary had moved across to a window that overlooked the rear lawn. “Look.”

Standing behind her, I followed her gaze. A lone figure strode across the lawn towards a wooden shed on the south side of the house. It was Rogers. In one hand he carried what looked like a brown sack. In the other, a large kitchen knife that glinted in the sunlight. The expression on his face was not pretty. It was the look of a man who intended to do harm.

“What’s in that shed?” said Mary.

“I don’t know for sure,” I said, “but I’ve a nasty feeling that’s where Holmes is hiding.”

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Tea and a Quickie with Aggie


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up
Dolphin Cove

Having spent most of the last twelve hours in the company of a most interesting woman, I am now back in my room, taking the opportunity to update my journal on recent events.

Since the Watsons departed for the island, I had begun to regret my decision to remain in Dolphin Cove. Though I’d agreed to report back to Holmes on the post-mortem of Mister Marston and related matters, I failed to appreciate the foolhardiness of staying at Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up in the village. Having been advised by that same lady’s niece that the aforementioned lodging-house is held in the highest regard in this locality, I soon learned this fact has less to do with Mrs Miniver’s ability to deliver the requisite services usually provided at such establishments, and more to do with her penchant for climbing into her guests beds of a night-time. So far, I have been the victim of roaming fingers, an extraordinarily long and inquisitive tongue and an inclination to indulge in the local nightly pastime of ‘fisting’.

I should point out that although this latter practice has been mentioned several times by my hostess, with the explanation that it is the ‘ultimate delight’ for many of her male lodgers, I have not as yet been on the receiving end, so to speak. Following her rather detailed description of the activity, I made it quite clear I would not be a party to such deviant practices and if she attempted to realise such an act, she would find herself in very hot water indeed.

However, I digress.

Yesterday morning I determined to follow up on one of the suggestions put to me by Holmes before he departed for the island, and it was with this objective in mind that I made the journey to Greenway House in Devon in a little under an hour, thanks to the generosity of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the provision of one of his flying contraptions. (I don’t mind admitting that the experience of being whisked into the air at great speed, surrounded by pounding pistons and hissing steam, scared me half to death and I was only too glad to reach my destination and clamber down from the infernal machine.)

A chap in a butler’s outfit greeted me on the lawn and led the way up to the house. One of Mycroft’s minions had alerted the lady in question to my imminent arrival and I was gratified to learn she had proffered no objections to my visit.

The house is quite magnificent, and I confess to feeling somewhat overawed by its daunting immensity and the sheer bloody opulence of the furnishings.

The butler chappie spoke kindly to me as we crossed the great hall, advising that The Mistress would be delighted to meet me, so long as I made no attempt to persuade her to divulge the plot of her latest book – currently titled An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced.

“Ah,” said Miss Christie, rising from her chair, “Inspector Lestrade. How the buggering hell are you?”

I blinked at this unexpected use of colloquialisms, but took her hand and shook it firmly.

“I ‘ope you ain’t gonner find my questions objectionable, Miss Christie, but a copper ‘as ter do what he ‘as to do, eh?”

“Bloody good show, Inspector,” she said, waving me into a seat by the window. Dragging her own chair across the carpet in order to sit opposite me, she plonked herself down heavily and spread her legs wide, in a rather mannish manner.

“Hope you don’t mind the plus fours,” she said, brushing a hand down her tweeds. “Stops the servants looking at my snatch.”

When I’d finished coughing, I pulled out my notebook and stared at it until the blood had once again drained from my face. “Right, then, Miss er…”

“Call me Aggie. Everyone does,” she said, with a snort.

“Right,” I said again. “Now I ‘ave ter tell yer that the private investigators Messrs Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are involved in a case what I am also examining, so…”

“Oh, jolly good,” she erupted, rubbing her hands together gleefully. “Love a nice bloody murder.” Her face went serious and she leaned forward, eagerly. “There has been a murder, has there?”

“There has, Miss, er, Aggie. The victim is one Mister Marston.”

At this, the famous novelist sat back, rubbing her chin. “Marston, you say? That’s interesting.”

“Yes, and that’s what I was wantin ter talk to yer about.” I hesitated, unsure how to continue.

“Don’t tell me, “she said with a sly smile. “It’s a copy-cat killer.” She leaned forward again and squeezed my knee. “I’m bloody right, aren’t I?”

“Actually, yes. Mister Holmes was of the opinion that someone may be replicating the murders in your novel, And Then There Were None, though if yer ask me, I fink it’s all a bit far-fetched.”

Agatha gazed out of the window, her mouth slightly open. “I wonder…”

“Although, to be fair,” I continued, “so far there ‘as been only one murder.”

“Mister Marston. Hmmm.” She nodded. “Yes, but Holmes expects there to be more, in fact I wouldn’t mind betting twenty bloody quid that another one has already occurred.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, Miss…”

“Sequential Killers rarely hang about, you know. Best nip this one in the bud, before he or she does it again, eh?”

“Exactly.” Glancing at my notebook, I steeled myself for the next question. “Now, I was wonderin…that is, Mister Holmes was wonderin, if you yourself had, by any strange coincidence, in recent days, visited a place called Huge Island. Or perhaps Dolphin Cove?” Licking my lips, I watched her face for any tell-tale sign of guilt.

“Well now, Inspector,” said she, a crafty smile sliding across her thin face. “If I was the murderer, pretending to follow the plot of a highly successful and very well received crime novel, I’d most likely also pretend to be the author herself.” She winked at me. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, I might, I suppose,” I stuttered. “Though…”

“Yes, Inspector?”

“Well, Mister Holmes and me, we was wonderin, if that is indeed the murderer’s intention – pretending to be you, I mean – how might an individual do that in practice?”

She shrugged. “If it were me, then obviously I would just be me. But if the murderer were someone else, then he or she would simply wear a mask.”

With a sudden spurt of energy, she leaped out of her chair and slapped her thigh. “Now, d’you fancy tea and scones before we go for a quickie?”

“Erm…a quickie?”

“A round of golf, dear. What’d you think I meant – a fuck?” And with that, she collapsed into gales of laughter before ringing the bell for tea.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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