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.”