Reaching the front door, I launched myself against it. Luckily, it was ajar and swung inwards as my shoulder made painful contact with the large brass knocker.
Getting to my feet, I looked up and saw across the hall a familiar figure lying prostrate on the floor. It was Holmes and he had a knife sticking out of his chest.
“Oh, bloody Nora,” I yelped, my hand going to my mouth in a girly display of fright. Pulling myself together, I ran to his side, aware of the clatter of footsteps somewhere above me.
“Holmes,” I screamed. “You’re not bloody dead, are yer?”
Doctor and Mrs Watson tore down the stairs and knelt beside me, the good doctor immediately taking over and checking his friend’s vital signs.
“Sherlock?” said Watson, running his fingers around the area of the apparent wound. “Is this what I hope it is?”
At that, Holmes raised his head. “What d’you hope it is, Watson?”
“I hope it’s one of Mycroft’s knife-proof vests.”
Holmes sighed. “Ah, yes. That would have been a capital idea. Had I thought of it.” His head dropped to the floor with a thump, his eyes closed and his mouth open, a last gasp of life escaping his thin lips.
Sherlock Holmes was dead.
Watson’s lower lip trembled. He placed a hand over his friend’s eyes, then murmured something that sounded like a prayer. He sniffed, then sat up and turned to me. “Lestrade. You came.”
“Too late, it seems,” said I, a sense of despair washing over me. I gazed down at the lifeless face of our former colleague. “We’ll not see the like of ‘im again,” I said. “Not in this life.”
“Hold the eulogies, chaps,” muttered Holmes.
“Bloody hell,” I gasped. “He ain’t dead at all.”
“Christ,” said Watson, “give me a hand.” Grasping Holmes under the arms we took a firm hold and hauled the undead detective to his feet, the knife in his chest waving slightly with the effort, then shuffled him over to a nearby chair.
It was only then that we noticed the other weapon – a large kitchen knife – on the floor. Holmes had apparently been lying on top of it.
Watson stared at it, then looked at Holmes. “If that’s the knife there…” He let out a low growl. “Where did this one come from?”
“What? This?” Holmes gave the knife sticking out of his chest a playful flick with his finger. The implement waved back and forth as if made of rubber.
Watson straightened up. “You fucking twat,” he hissed. “I thought you were dead.” Snatching the knife, he gave it a sharp tug and it came away from Holmes’ chest, revealing it to be little more than a handle and a two-inch ‘blade’ that had been fastened in place with the aid of sticky tape.
“Keep it down, please, John,” said Holmes, glancing around in a rather furtive manner. “Common-or-garden joke-shop, as it happens.”
Standing up, Holmes ripped off the remaining pieces of sticky tape and fastened his shirt. Then, signalling our silence with a finger to his lips, whispered, “This way.” And with that, he scurried off towards the dining room. Once inside, he shut the door softly and crossed over to the windows to draw the curtains.
Watson stood and watched him, hands on hips, indicating that he was still very angry.
“What’s going on, Holmes?” said Mary, stroking her husband’s arm in a calming motion.
“Fink he’s ‘aving one of ‘is clever clogs moments,” said I.
Holmes held up a warning hand. “Shh.” He cocked his head as if listening, then indicated for us to gather round. “Now,” he said. “Admittedly my little performance may appear to you to be in poor taste, Watson, but I have my reasons. Had you been a little quicker in looking over the banister rail just now you would have observed another individual peering down at me from the first-floor landing.”
“Oh, shit,” said Watson. “Klopp.”
“Correct. Seeing that Miss Claymore’s knife-throwing act had apparently killed me instead of you, she quite naturally decided to make herself scarce. I suggest we do not avail her of the news that I am still very much alive until we can track her down.”
“Hang on,” said I. “Is this the Professor Klopp that…”
“Yes, yes,” said Holmes, “the very same, and if she’s not the mastermind behind this whole affair, then I’m a monkey’s carbuncle.”
“I don’t understand,” said Watson. “When did you strap that device to your chest?”
“Unlike you, friend John, I prepared myself for a successful attempt to be made on my life, and as there is an abundance of large knives in this house, I suspected the killer, one of them at least, to utilise such a weapon in an attempt to kill me.”
“But you said I was to be the next victim,” said Watson.
Holmes coughed. “Ah, yes. A ploy devised purely to protect you.” He looked at the floor. “Of course, I didn’t know Miss Claymore would actually try to kill you – I thought she was merely after a bit of…” He waved a hand in a suggestive manner.
“For God’s sake,” said Mary. “And you didn’t think it necessary to tell us the truth?”
“Mea culpa,” said Holmes, the beginnings of a sardonic smile playing around his mouth. “The fact is, Mary, I expected you two would be safely out of the way leaving me free to tackle our Germanic friend. Who, by the way, is still at large.”
“Wait a minute,” persisted Mary. “So you didn’t go off to the icehouse to follow Rogers?”
“I did, actually,” said Holmes, a look of concern sliding over his features.
“Oh,” said Mary, “but you didn’t think he might be in league with Klopp?”
“Again,” said Holmes, “I did, actually.”
Mary stamped her foot. “So you know what Rogers is doing right now, then?”
“Yes,” he said, simply.
“And what might that be?”
“Right now? He’s lying dead in the icehouse with an ice-pick in his head.”
We were all too stunned to speak.
After a moment, Holmes continued. “Some sort of spring mechanism attached to the door. Rather clever, actually. Poor chap didn’t have a chance.”
“Oh shit,” said Watson. “Look.”
We all turned to look at the row of miniature Indians on the dining table. One of them was lying down, his head melting into an ice cube.