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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Lestrade to the Rescue


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Having received no reply from either the Watsons or from Holmes, I determined to go to the island myself. Though I may well be (as Holmes has often chided), a sallow, rat-faced, dark-eyed, furtive-looking fellow, I am nevertheless, a jolly good detective and my gut feeling is that my Baker Street friends are in mortal danger. The telegraphical communication which arrived this morning from Sergeant Radish gave me a deal more than a bit of a turn, and for a moment my mind was in turmoil. Thankfully, turmoil is not a new experience for me and I dealt with it in a fitting and correct manner as outlined in the current edition of Police Procedures (Londen Edition).

I had entreated the pathologist Mister Stallworthy to investigate further into the possible identity of the dead person we had previously assumed to be Doctor Edward Armstrong, and in this respect had also sent a memo to Sergeant Radish to assist the doctor by any means possible.

Radish is not the most intellectual of coppers, but the man has a good heart and has seemingly moved heaven and earth (or earth, at least) in a bid to discover the truth. It turns out that the distant relative who came to identify Armstrong forgot to mention a rather significant piece of information which I have to say, sheds a light of a very different kind on the matter. Why the chap did not mention this at the time was a mystery, but the receipt of supplementary information explained his initial reticence, leaving no doubt as to his motives in concealing the truth. As Radish notes: It has been revealed that the Cousin from Cambridge is an inveterate shirt-lifter who often dresses up in ladies attire, goes waltzing off around the Old Town in the middle of the night, offering sexual favours to anyone with twopence-ha’penny to spare… This, to my mind explains everything.

Anyways, the upshot is that this shirt-lifting cousin did not want to admit that the real Doctor Edward Armstrong was in fact Doctor Edwina Armstrong, who, having found herself unable to obtain a position in General Practice, had masqueraded as a gentleman in order to further her career.

All of which suggests that the person who visited Mister Holmes was nothing more than an imposter, employed or otherwise persuaded to go to Baker Street and tell a certain story. I have no doubt that this was done entirely because of the reputation the famous detective has for digging out the truth. Whoever instigated this assignment knew Holmes couldn’t be fooled by a mere woman and would sniff her out in a trice, in which case the game, as it were, would not have been afoot, but up, good and proper.

All of which (again) suggest that someone on the island is a woman. And not only that, but a woman who is pretending to be a different woman, and in fact may be doubly pretending to be a woman who is really a man. Or something like that.

It was with all of this going round in my tiny mind that I made the crossing to Huge Island in a rowing boat borrowed from an old sea dog named Captain Ahab (so-named due to his being from Wales).

It was getting on for noon when I steered the boat towards the jetty and tied her up. From the shore I could see nothing, so hurried up the incline towards where I surmised the house would be. A few minutes later I had reached the crest of the incline and stood on the edge of a vast lawn. Making my way across the grass, I kept to one side, concealing myself as best I could among the trees and weirdly shaped hedges. The house now lay in front of me, and pausing for a moment, I took in its vastness, marvelling in the knowledge that this once-grand edifice had been the scene of at least four murders.

Just as I started forward again, a terrifying scream broke the stillness and as if that were not enough, I recognised the voice – it was Doctor Watson.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Doctor in the House


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Reaching the first landing, I looked out of the window and watched the others. Holmes and Mary were deep in conversation but had not yet made their move. Taking out the field glasses I’d borrowed from Holmes, I gazed at each of the other guests in turn – the General, Mr Lombardi, Billy Blah, Vera Claymore and Rogers. Apart from the latter, they were all sitting there, eyes closed and apparently completely oblivious to their surroundings. Of course, I knew that this could not be the case, since at least one of them must be the brains behind this ghastly affair and each of the others had killed, or intended to kill, someone else.

Just then, Holmes stood up and stretched lazily. He spoke to Mary and she too stood and made some indication of interest in the bird house that stood on the edge of the lawn, a few yards from the trees.

The two of them wandered over there, apparently chatting amiably with each other, though I could see the Great Detective’s nose twitching as he cast his beady eyes around the garden.

Turning my attention back to the remaining five, I trained the binoculars on them and studied each one for a few moments. First there was Rogers, and in his case, a straightforward judgement could not be made – the man had lost his wife, or at least the person he thought was his wife, and if not that, the woman he was in league with. None of which could gloss over the fact of her being dead. (Of course, it was also entirely possible Frau Klopp had been working alone with her own motives, but she must still have had some involvement in the overall set-up inasmuch as she had been invited to the island along with her so-called husband as cook and butler in the employ of the so-called Mr Owen.)

General MacArthur was a concern to me purely because of his age. I could not imagine him bounding around stringing people up from trees and the like, though as a former soldier in the Crimea, he would be familiar with guns and most likely had experienced the taking of lives. Mr Lombardi too had served in the army, though I was unclear in what capacity, so he could not be ruled out as a professional killer. Vera Claymore in fact, was the only one of the five I could not contemplate in the role of murderer. She was thin and feeble-looking with a gait that suggested varicose veins or some other leg-related malady that caused her to limp as she walked. Even so, she had worked as a teacher and may well have been responsible for some fatal incident resulting in the termination of her employment (as was the explanation in Mrs Christie’s novel).

Considering this detail, I also remembered that cardboard masks of Agatha Christie’s face had been attached to the heads of each of the victims (expect for Klopp, whose watery demise had not allowed for this macabre ritual, though the mask was still present at the scene). But no mask was found on Tony Marston’s body, which might suggest his killer had either ignored his or her instructions or had not included the item due to some other reason.

My musings on the matter were given a jolt as Tommy Rogers leaped out of his seat and began striding towards the icehouse. Lowering the glasses, I watched his progress and noted that Holmes and Mary were now loitering near the birdhouse but had also seen the butler’s sudden departure.

None of the others had moved, but Miss Claymore was looking towards the house, openly watching me. I waved limply and moved out of her line of sight, but quickly ran up to the floor above to look out of the corresponding window and saw that she too had left her deck chair and was now making her way towards the house.

Between Rogers and Claymore, I’d expected the former to be the most likely to come after me, but now I was in a quandary. If Miss Claymore intended to do me harm, I should have to rethink my strategy, as I could not imagine putting a bullet in her dull, but youthful features.

Leaning over the banister, I heard the young woman’s shoes clopping inelegantly across the hall floor below. Several seconds later her head appeared as she swung herself round onto the staircase and began to climb up towards me. It occurred to me she’d taken longer than expected to reach the stairs and as I stared down at her bobbing head, I saw that she must have made a detour – in her right hand she was carrying a large kitchen knife.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Making Plans for Watson


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Oughtn’t we to discuss this with the others?” I said to Holmes in a low voice.

“Absolutely not,” muttered the Great Detective. “Such a move would alert them to the extent of our suspicions, including, of course, the mastermind who’s behind this whole thing. No, I have something quite different in mind.” He gave me a sharp look, his piggy little eyes boring into me. “But you have a question, Watson?”

“How on earth..?” I spluttered, struggling to maintain a calm exterior for the benefit of the others.

He smiled smugly. “For the past several minutes you have been picking at the edge of your waistcoat with your thumb and forefinger – an activity you engage in only when pondering a problem or unanswered question.”

I sniffed and shrugged as if his apparent mind-reading act had not in the least unsettled me. In fact, Sherlock’s ability to seemingly identify exactly what I’m thinking at any given moment never fails to amaze me. “Well,” I said, avoiding his gaze. “As it happens, I was pondering on the fact that as Doctor Armstrong’s place on the island was taken by me, whoever Armstrong was supposed to murder has not, and presumably, will not, be murdered.”

“Oh,” said Holmes, his mouth dropping open. “Bugger.”

“Hadn’t you thought of that, then, Sherl?” said Mary, giving me a wink.

“For once, Mrs Watson, your husband has the better of me.” He steepled his fingers and leaned his chin against them, eyes narrowed in thought.

“But the mastermind murderer will know that, anyway,” added Mary. “So…”

Holmes looked up abruptly. “Of course, and has no doubt made alternative plans.” His eyes slid across the faces of our companions – five now, not including ourselves. “I think we had better put my plan into action.” He gave me an odd look, the sort of mournful look a person might expect from a long-time acquaintance when lying on his deathbed. “I should be obliged if you would do the honours, John.”

“What are you talking about?” I said, striving to keep the anxiety out of my voice.

“As you so cleverly pointed out, old friend, apart from Mary and myself, who are somewhat superflous to the original guestlist, you – being a replacement for Armstrong – are the odd one out. If our killer’s real intention is to do away with the three of us, I suspect he or she will have bumped you up the list. To take Armstrong’s place in the order of…er…dead people.”

“D’you mean to say that the killer himself, or herself, is going to attempt to murder me?” I said, with a distinct absence of enthusiasm.

“Well, I would,” said Holmes.

“You surely don’t expect poor Johnny to wander off by himself and await his own execution?” said Mary.

“That is precisely what I expect, my dear, though of course you and I shall be on hand to nab the culprit before he or she strikes the fatal blow.” He took a moment to relight his Meerschaum and puffed away with an air of arrogant nonchalance.

I sighed. “Fine. Whatever.”

Mary touched my hand. “Don’t worry darling, I’m sure Holmes won’t throw you to the wolves.”

We spent the next few minutes going over Sherlock’s proposal. The whole thing sounded a little too opportunistic to me and I couldn’t imagine the killer would take the chance of getting away with another round of slaughter without first assessing the various permutations and possibilities from every angle. After all, each of the previous killings must have been carefully thought out first. Nevertheless, armed with my trusty revolver, I doubted anyone would get the better of me without at the very least incurring a substantial gunshot wound.

Holmes gave me a nod. I stood up and stretched, gazed around the garden and announced in a casual manner that I had a bit of a headache and was going for a lie down upstairs.

“Lie down?” said General MacArthur. “Bit of a chance, what? Likely get yourself killed.” He hmphed, sniffed and shook his head. “Please yourself.”

“I really don’t think that’s wise, Doctor,” said Vera Claymore. She glanced at her neighbour nervously. “Don’t you think, Mister Rogers?”

The butler had been gazing at the ground in front of his deck chair for the past few minutes. Now he looked up. “She’s dead.”

Vera leaned over and patted his hand. “She’s in a better place, though.”

Rogers sneered. “Fuckin jokin, aren’t yer? Better place? Tch.” He nudged her hand away and went back to staring at the lawn.

Miss Claymore gazed at me, her lower lip quivering, but she said nothing more.

“Well, I’ll see you all later,” I said. Then added, “I hope.”

As I walked across the lawn towards the house, I had the odd feeling I was being watched. Obviously, the seven people behind me would be watching, but this was different, and the awful thought that we may have seriously underestimated the killer’s strategy washed over me like a wave of sloppy shit. We had assumed all along that the mastermind behind all this was one of the people on the lawn, but what if it wasn’t? What if this was all down to someone who we had yet to meet, and who up until this point, had remained very much out of sight? In that case, I mused, we were in a rather perilous situation and I might very well be walking to my death.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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