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.