Monthly Archives: June 2019

Circle of Deceit

The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

While Holmes and my dear Johnny organised breakfast for everyone, I worked my way around the house and unlocked the bedrooms, collected the others and ensured no-one had popped off during the night. Thankfully no-one had, and they quietly fell in behind and followed me back down to the kitchen without complaint.

“Here we are,” said Holmes, ladling porridge into eight bowls. “A traditional Scottish breakfast for all, och the noo, etcetera.”

“Hmph,” said General MacArthur, inspecting his oaty provision. “Out of a tin, eh?”

Holmes shook his head. “Sealed cardboard box, actually.” He passed the container across the table for inspection.

“What’s this? Awfy Guid Porridge fer Wee Scots Folk,” said the general, reading the label. “And sealed, you say?”

“We both gave the box a thorough going over before opening it,” said Johnny helpfully. “I can assure you, it’s poison free.”

Vera Claymore was the first to start eating and had already shovelled several spoonfuls into her not-so-dainty mouth when she held up her spoon. “Any more, Mr Holmes?”

“Plenty in the pan,” said the Great Detective, tucking into his own bowl with gusto.

The General hmphed some more but set about filling his own stomach, nevertheless.

“What shall we do today, Sherl?” I asked Holmes, when the others had cleared their plates and begun organising the washing up.

“I should very much like to have a day free of murder, Mary.”

“I’ll second that,” said Johnny. “Perhaps we could all sit outside – it’s warm enough and we could keep an eye on everyone.”

“Good plan,” said Holmes. “Think I spied a few deck chairs behind the shed.”

And so, fifteen minutes later, we had arranged a rough circle of chairs and loungers on the lawn behind the house, with two small tables bearing jugs of tap water (the pouring of which we had all witnessed).

I arranged our chairs so Johnny and Holmes were on either side of me but none of the others were within hearing distance. As we sat there gazing around our depleted circle of acquaintances, I couldn’t help wondering who would be next on the killer’s list.

Holmes produced his meerschaum pipe and after stuffing it with a lump of Hard Shag, proceeded to puff away as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I glanced at Johnny, who rolled his eyes, though not in a scornful way.

“What are you thinking, Sherlock?” I said, when the silence had dragged on for several minutes.

“I’m thinking, Mary Watson, that if we could work out who killed Marston, we should be a great deal closer to solving this mystery.” He puffed away for a while, then added, “but I’m bound to say that I can’t see how even two murderers could pull off this thing easily.”

“What?” said Johnny. “You surely don’t think there can be more than two?”

Holmes looked at me with a sardonic smile. “Go on, Mary, you’ve worked it out, I’ll be bound.”

As it happens, I’d spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I could only come up with one possible solution. “As it happens,” I said, “I’ve spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I can only come up with one possible solution.”

My husband stared at me. “Really?”

“Yes,” I said. “Really.”

Holmes shuffled round in his chair and gave me a wide smile. “Go on, then, spill it.”

I took a sip of water and a deep breath. “The way I see it, no single person has been unaccounted for in each case. If they had, we’d have spotted it before now. However, if one person was unaccounted for in each case, but only on one occasion, we’d have little reason to suspect them…”

“Since they were accounted for on the other occasions,” finished Holmes, nodding.

“And as you say,” I went on, “if we knew who Marston’s killer was, we’d be well on the way to working out the rest of it.”

Holmes sniffed. “You’re so close, Mary, so very damn close, but not quite there.” He looked at Johnny. “Watson? You must have your own ideas about Marston?”

“Oh, well, you know. Nothing specific.”

“Come on, John,” urged Holmes. “Even if you’re completely wrong, I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

“Thanks for the encouragement, Holmes,” said Johnny with more than a trace of bitterness.

“Go ahead, darling, I know you have a theory,” I said, patting his leg.

My husband reddened a little and coughed several times before continuing. “Well, I was thinking about the other guests. As I recall, we first of all followed the footprints to Emily Bent’s bedroom. Then General MacArthur arrived, followed by Billy Blah, Lombardi, Vera Claymore and finally Warmonger.”

“And Warmonger came down the stairs from the upper floor?” said Holmes, a frown creasing his brow.

“Yes,” said Johnny, “but…”

“Go on,” said Holmes leaning forward.

“It’s just that I didn’t actually see him coming down the stairs. Rather, I heard him come down – clump, clump, clump – his footsteps somewhat exaggerated, if you see what I mean.”

Holmes waggled his meerschaum. “So he could have simply given the impression that he was coming downstairs, when in fact he had just come back upstairs from the store cupboard underneath Marston’s bedroom?”

I nodded eagerly. “Where he’d created the thumping noise with a broom attached to a breadknife poking through the floorboards and banging against the chamber pot in order to attract our attention and give him time to come back upstairs and appear to have nothing to do with the murder.”

We all looked at each other for a moment, digesting the consequences of this information.

“I don’t understand,” said Johnny. “Warmonger’s dead, so even if he did kill Marston, he can’t be the main killer.”

“But that’s the whole point, darling,” I said, grasping his hand. “He’s only one of the killers.” I looked at Holmes.

“Let me take you back, Watson,” said the big-nosed detective. “What do you recall about the invitation Armstrong, or whoever he was, received?”

Johnny shrugged.

“You remember,” went on Holmes, “Armstrong’s invitation mentioned some ‘wonderful opportunity’ which he would receive if and when he arrived at the island?”

“I suppose,” said Johnny, his expression now one of complete confusion.

“In your examination of the invitation itself, do you recall the left-hand edge of the card?”

Johnny sighed, shaking his head. “No, Holmes I do not recall the left-hand edge.”

Our companion smirked and waved a hand dismissively. “Apologies Watson, I’m showing off again. No, there was a slight difference in the border of the card which at the time I thought little of, but of late I have begun to consider of utmost importance.” He glanced around to ensure the others were still seated in their respective chairs. Then, “I suspect the card was originally of the folding variety and that the second half had been cut off in order that I should not see it.”

“And why would Armstrong not wish you to see it?” said Johnny.

“Because, friend Watson, it was on that piece of card that Armstrong’s instructions were written.” He sat back, apparently satisfied.

“For God’s sake, Holmes,” spluttered Johnny. “What instructions?”

With another sardonic smile, Holmes murmured, “the instructions that he was to murder one of the other guests.” He turned to me and gave a small nod.

“It’s simple darling,” I said. “Each of the guests was told to murder one of the others, or they themselves would be murdered.”

Johnny threw up his hands. “That’s ridiculous – why wouldn’t they just go to the police?”

“Because all of them had committed crimes and would’ve landed themselves in even more trouble.”

I watched my husband’s face as this information worked its way through to his brain. Then his eyes lit up. “But that’s preposterous!”

“It is,” said Holmes. “And brilliant.”

“The only problem,” I said, with a glance at Holmes, “is Armstrong.”

“Yes,” he said, letting out a long breath. “If he wasn’t who he said he was, then…”

“Then the real Armstrong could be the brains behind it all,” said Johnny.

“He could,” said Holmes. “Or he could be our one saving grace. The one person who could bugger things up for whoever planned this bizarre charade.”

We turned to look at the other guests, all still sitting in a circle and all staring straight back at us.

“Yes,” said Holmes, in a low voice. “Each one of them intends to murder one of the others. Except for that one individual who does not need to, because he or she intends to be the only person left alive.”


Posted by on June 30, 2019 in Detective Fiction


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The Plot Thickens

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Following the discovery of Frau Klopp’s body yesterday, Holmes demanded that we all meet in the kitchen. Here, he announced his intention to prepare a meal for the guests who still remained alive – eight now, including Holmes. My initial surprise in hearing my Baker Street pal suggest that he embark on an activity as mundane as cooking, was soon dispelled as he proceeded to open several tins of bully beef, to which he added several tins of baked beans, dropped the lot in an eight-pint saucepan and popped it on the stove.

“Reminds me of when I was at Rorke’s Drift,” he said, as he and I stood watching the pot.

“Wasn’t aware you’d been a soldier, Holmes,” said I.

“The sum total of those things of which you are not aware, Watson, would fill a large box.”

I felt a little hurt at this, but laughed it off and changed the subject. “I suppose you have a plan, eh?”

The big-nosed detective lowered his voice. “For once, old friend, I find myself at a loss. Discovering the body of Ethel Rogers and the revelation that she was none other than Professor Helga Klopp, has thrown all my current theories out the window.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The whole thing makes no sense.”

Mary brought over a pile of soup bowls. “What’s the plan, Sherlock?”

Holmes glanced around at the others. Apart from the butler, they were all seated around the kitchen table. Other than an occasional comment about the weather, no-one spoke. Every so often, one of them would glance pityingly at Rogers, who stood by the window staring blankly out across the lawn. The poor man hadn’t uttered a word since learning his wife was not only dead, but not who he thought she was, and I judged he must be feeling pretty rotten about it. Unless he turns out to be the killer, of course, though Holmes thinks this unlikely, due to the man’s general ineptness. Then again, his ineptness may be part of his plan, in which case I have to admire his acting ability. Unless he tries to murder me, in which case I shall not hold back in my choice of expletives.

“I don’t know, Mary,” said Holmes. “I really don’t know. But we must come up with something soon, because the killer will strike again. Of that, I am certain.”

“Why don’t we lock them all in their rooms until we’ve decided what to do?”

Holmes grimaced, but he had to admit, short of tying them all up, it was the only solution which might prevent further murders.

By the time the meal was over, it was early evening and there seemed to be no reason not to proceed with Mary’s suggestion. Lining everyone up, Holmes led the way around the house, dropping each person off at their rooms and locking them in, until there was only the three of us left.

In our own room, Holmes produced a bottle of brandy and three glasses (which apparently, he’d half-inched from the kitchen). “Now, Watsons,” he said, pouring out generous helpings, “do either of you have any ideas?”

“It seems to me,” I said, pulling up an armchair, “that none of the others could have been in a position to kill Marston and Miss Bent and the judge and Mrs Rogers – there are simply too many variables. And now the revelation that she wasn’t who we thought she was, just makes it even more complicated.”

Holmes nodded. “So what might make it less complicated?”

I pondered on this for a moment. “If there were two killers, perhaps, as you suggested earlier?”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “As you say, it had occurred to me that the most likely solution was that Mr and Mrs Rogers were in collusion and that they are in fact Mr and Mrs Owen. Since they were masquerading as servants, not guests, it would not seem unusual for either or both of them to be out of sight of the others for any length of time.”

“Apart from Mr Marston,” put in Mary. “They’d have had to be on the mainland for his murder.”

“Yes,” said Holmes, “there’s always one fly in the liniment and that particular theory is further buggered by the fact that the butler’s wife was not his wife.”

“Perhaps he discovered that not only was she not his wife, but was also the killer, and so he killed her,” I said. “Except that if she wasn’t his wife, you’d think he would have noticed sooner.”

“Unless they were in collusion from the start and had a falling out,” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “If the fellow would only deign to speak to us, we might discover exactly what was their arrangement. As it is, we can only guess.”

“Has Lestrade heard back about the post-mortem on Marston yet?” I asked.

Holmes shook his head. “I expect to hear very shortly, though I doubt it will shed light on how the killer effected the murder.”

We discussed the case for a while longer, but as the brandy began to take effect, our abilities to converse sensibly soon curtailed our discussion and the three of us nodded off where we sat.

On awaking this morning, my first thought was that my mouth had somehow been the recipient of a large spoonful of horse manure. Jumping up, I hurried to the bathroom and drank greedily from the tap, til my thirst was quenched. On re-entering the bedroom, I was pleased to see Mary and Holmes had both opened their eyes and both quickly advanced to the bathroom to follow my lead vis a vis slaking their individual thirsts.

We each took a few minutes to make ourselves presentable and after taking a couple of Sarson’s Vinegar Pills for my headache, I walked over to the window and stuck my head out, breathing deeply and striving to keep down the bile that threatened to announce its presence at any moment.

It was then I noticed the pigeon sitting on the far side of the window ledge, looking up at me. Gathering him in my hands, I took him inside and Mary unfastened the note from his leg.

Holmes took it out of her hand and unfurled it.

We both watched him keenly and saw his initial eagerness sink into an expression of gloom. Still holding the note, he dropped into his chair and for several minutes, glared at the carpet. I knew from experience that this was not a time to interrupt his thoughts and that he would share the contents of the note only when he was ready to do so.

“This is bad,” he said, eventually. “It appears the post-mortem on Marston cannot help us. But there is something else of far greater concern to us – Doctor Armstrong has died of consumption. Unfortunately, it turns out he was not Doctor Armstrong.”

“Not Doctor Armstrong?” I said. “Then who the bloody hell was he?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Holmes, “but I’ve an awful feeling that the whole point of this charade was not to persuade me to investigate this case, or to prevent the murders of anyone else, but to lure the three of us here to the island, in order to kill us.”


Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Detective Fiction


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Londen Calling

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

I am happy to report that Mrs Miniver has finally heeded my request to desist from sexual shenanigans, and last evening, for the first time since arriving here, I spent a peaceful and wonderfully unmolested night. Arising feeling refreshed and ready for anything, I washed, dressed and brushed my sideburns, before bounding downstairs for breakfast. However, it turned out that I was not, after all, ready for anything. This morning’s news has put me out of sorts a good deal and I am a little concerned that my Baker Street pals may be in grave danger.

Following my most recent message to Mister Holmes yesterday, I received by first pigeon-post this morning his return communication, indicating that the current toll of corpses has now risen to four. I have to admit to feeling more than a little uneasy to learn that Holmes is no longer concealing himself as a rectangle of lawn grass (which did at least afford him the luxury of remaining unknown to the other guests). In showing himself, Holmes has made himself a target for the deranged killer (in my humble opinion), along with Doctor and Mrs Watson. My sense of agitation has further been heightened with the knowledge that Holmes has still not requested assistance from either myself or his brother Mycroft. This fact alone would seem to leave him open to the very real threat of death. Nevertheless, I realise that a horde of coppers pouring over the island won’t necessarily help the situation and may well cause the killer to go to ground.

After ruminating on the problem over a breakfast of muffins and quince jelly, I walked up to the post office in the hope of collecting Mister Stallworthy’s post-mortem report on Anthony Marston. (I thought it best to have all mail forwarded to a central collection point that would ensure some degree of confidentially, since the murderer may well have spies on the mainland, and Mrs Miniver, while of sound mind and willing body, has a complete absence of insight regarding discretion and police matters in general. (She told me over supper last evening that she once dropped a police officer in the shit when she related the full details of her affair with him to the man’s wife – a matter not helped by her description of how she had employed the officer’s own truncheon for a purpose which most definitely was not part of official procedures.)

The little woman in the post office gave me a toothy grin as she handed over two large brown envelopes and a smaller white one bearing the Scotland Yard crest. “Ar ye go, Inspec’or Lesbian,” said she, “Oi expect you’ll be a-solving of that murder the other night, eh?”

“For your information, missus, my name is Lestrade, not Lesbian, and this is confidential police business that I’ll thank you to keep your gob shut about.”

At this, the other people waiting in line turned to look at me as if I’d uttered a blood-curdling threat at the old dear, so I coughed and lowering my voice, added, “that is to say, it isn’t information what you want to be putting about, if you see what I mean.”

The woman grinned, but it was obvious that I had offended her. As way of recompense, I purchased four second class stamps and a packet of envelopes.

Hurrying back to my lodgings, I perused the contents of the envelopes in the privacy of my room. The first was from the lady novelist Mrs Agatha Christie and listed several possible methodologies that a killer might utilise if he or she were to concoct a murder that takes place on a remote island. I deemed none of these worthy of further study, as one relied on the application of mass hypnotism, another required the cooperation of the psycho-killer Kay Kersey (who is currently serving a life-sentence in Durham jail for slaughtering a family of Geordie miners and their pet whippet), and the others are all too far-fetched to even consider.

Putting the papers aside, I opened the other envelope and read through the autopsy report for Mr Marston. This appeared to be very much as Watson and myself had expected, including details of the damage to the hands and the strangulation, which is of course what killed him. In any case, there was nothing that would give us a clue to who the murderer might be or how they had engineered the whole thing.

I tossed the document aside and it was only then that my eye caught the third envelope. I had assumed it to be some tedious reminder of the workload awaiting me on my return to Londen, but I was mistaken. The letter was from Sergeant Radish, who is best known among my colleagues as a fairy fancier and lover of Lancashire beer. However, one of his roles is to update the files on unidentified bodies. His letter ran thus:

Dear Inspector Lestrade

Just a short note to say how we is all missing you down at the Yard and hoping you are enjoying your holiday.

Oh, by the by, you might be interested to know something what I discovered relating to a chap known to your friend Mister Holmes. Doctor Edward Armstrong, who apparently visited Holmes a few weeks ago, has died of consumption. This is not news in itself of course (I hear you say!) but the reason it came to my attention was due to the Doctor not having no living relatives to identify him other than a cousin who lives in Cambridge. Anyways, this cousin eventually arrived to do his duty and lo and behold, it turns out that the dead man is not Doctor Armstrong after all, but an anonymous imposter.

Well, that’s all – I just thought it might be of interest to you, though I do not suppose it will be relevant to whatever it is you are up to down there in Devon (nudge nudge, wink wink!)

Well, that is all for now, Inspector.

Your faithful friend,
Sergeant Radish.

A cold chill ran up my spine as if someone had walked over my grave. However, it turned out to be a draught from the window. I put the letter in my pocket, but then I said to myself, could this Armstrong business have something to do with these murders? Nah, I told to myself. But then, I said to myself again, as I was not in fact present when Holmes met with Doctor Armstrong, I probably ought to pass the information on to him.

Just in case.


Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Detective Fiction


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Twelve Little Indian Braves

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Crashing through the French windows, we hurried towards the stairs, then having a sudden brainwave, I swerved right and ran to the dining room.

Holmes, Mary and Rogers skidded to a halt then followed me into the room. There, on the table (as I’d expected) we beheld the murderer’s latest message.

The row of miniature Indian braves still stood in a line as before, but now three of them had been tampered with. One had a small nail thrust through his chest, a second had a piece of string knotted around its neck and a third appeared to have lost his head.

Holmes crouched down and peered at the statuettes. “Ah. Ten little Indians.”

“Eleven, actually,” said Mary.

Holmes ran his gaze along the line. “Are you sure about that, my dear?” he said, a furrow sliding across his brow.

I watched my wife turn back to the statuettes and silently count along the row of miniatures. Then, looking back at Holmes, she whispered, “Twelve.”

I glanced at Sherlock. There was no need to ask who the new Indian brave represented.

Changing the subject, I stepped forward. “This one must be Warmonger.” I picked up the headless one. “Which means…”

“Which means,” said Holmes, “that my prediction was right and the good judge has met his end. But that is not what interests me here.” Reaching out, he picked up the fourth Indian brave, which had been lying on its back.

“Must’ve fallen over,” I said.

“Unlikely,” murmured Holmes, examining the small platform that held the tiny fellow. “Look here, the base is wide and heavy. It would take a jolly good thump on the table for this to have fallen over by itself.” He peered at me. “Don’t you think, Watson?”

“I suppose so,” I said. Then as my companion’s meaning filtered through to my brain, I saw what he meant. “Oh. It has deliberately been placed like that.”

“Quite so,” said he. “But why?”

At this, Rogers pushed in between us. “You sayin someone else ‘as snuffed it? As well as the judge, I mean?”

“I’m saying exactly that,” said Holmes. Here, he looked up and made a come-hither movement with his hand. General MacArthur, Miss Claymore, Mister Lombardi and Billy Blah had come to see what was going on.

“What’s gong on?” demanded the general. “And who might you be, sir?” This last was addressed to Holmes.

“I might be a nymph or a shepherd,” quipped Holmes, “but I’m not. Sherlock Holmes at your service, ladies and gentlemen.”

Miss Claymore let out a gasp of excitement. “The real Sherlock Holmes? Oh, my!”

“Don’t have an orgasm, dear,” said Holmes, placing the little Indian back on the table in the position we’d found him. “Everyone please stay here while Watson and I check on the judge. Mary, you’re in charge.”

“I’ll come wiv yer,” said Rogers, moving towards the door.

“No,” said Holmes sharply. “You, in particular must stay exactly where you are.”

I followed the Great Detective up the stairs but as soon as we were out of earshot of the others, I grabbed his sleeve and pulled him to a halt on the landing. “You think something’s happened to Mrs Rogers, don’t you?”

“I’ve been a fool, Watson, an utter fool. We’ve been investigating this mystery under the impression we were hunting a single killer.”

“You mean there’s more than one?”

He gave me a curious look then whirling round, ran up the next flight of stairs and down the passage that led to Warmonger’s bedroom. Bursting through the door, he stopped, one hand on the doorknob, the other holding his revolver. But we had no need to defend ourselves – the judge was dead. This time there was no mistake, as the absence of his head guaranteed that any involvement he might have had in this affair had come to an abrupt end.

“Bloody hell,” I muttered. “I wonder where his head is…”

“I expect it’ll turn up, Watson,” said Holmes with a smile that seemed to suggest he knew exactly where that particular object might be found. “Now, we must locate Mrs Rogers.”

As we flew up the staircase to the servant’s quarters, it occurred to me that the mask I’d found with the judge’s body had gone. I made a mental note to ask Holmes about it later, but reaching our destination, we hurriedly checked first the living room and then the bedroom. Nothing had changed since my earlier visit, except that a door I hadn’t noticed before stood open on the far wall.

“Of course,” I muttered. “I forgot to check the bathroom.”

Holmes strode across the room and opened the door wide. “Well, I doubt it would have made any difference, old friend.” He shook his head and stood aside.

Brushing past him, I gazed down at Mrs Rogers. She lay on her back, fully clothed, in a bath filled to the brim with water, her clear blue eyes staring straight up as if she might simply be holding her breath in some sort of macabre breath-holding competition. However, it was the bucket of ice next to the bath that drew my attention – Judge Warmonger’s pasty face stared up at me, its unblinking eyes wide open in surprise.

Moving the bucket to one side, I noticed the two Agatha Christie masks perched against the sink. Clearly the killer was intelligent enough to know that, on this occasion, placing them in water with the corpses wouldn’t work. I rolled up my sleeve and reached down into the icy water to pull out the plug. As I did so, the top of the dead woman’s head seemed to slide off.

“Fuck me,” I gasped, jumping backwards.

“No need to panic, Watson,” said Holmes, crouching down. As the offending item floated to the surface, he deftly picked it up and held it out so I could see it clearly.

“A hairpiece?”

He nodded. “One of her better ones, I might add.” Here, he looked up at me, a glint in his eye. “You recognise her now, Johnny?”

I stared at the woman’s face. The short curly hair that had nestled beneath her wig, the prominent front teeth and the thin unfriendly mouth, triggered something in my memory. “My God, it’s Professor Helga Klopp. Responsible for the murders of two British agents, three industrialists and several innocent bystanders, not to mention –”

“Yes, yes, Watson,” said Holmes with some degree of impatience. “No need to relate Frau Klopp’s role in our adventures for my benefit. The fact is it took me some little time to recall where I’d seen her face before, and when I did, I had no doubt that she, and she alone, was responsible for these ghastly killings.” He sighed heavily. “But apparently not. At least, not all of them.”

“Then the murderer is still at large?”

He nodded. “He is. And unfortunately, I think he’s winning.”


Posted by on June 4, 2019 in Detective Fiction


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