We stood in silence for a few moments while Moriarty and Klopp huddled together. Though I could hear nothing of their conversation, from Klopp’s puce-coloured upturned face and Moriarty’s scowling mouth, there could be no doubt they were arguing.
Holmes leaned towards me. ‘I don’t imagine you have a sgian-dubh down your trouser-leg, Watson?’
‘Alas, no,’ I muttered. Then something else occurred to me. ‘But I do still have that jar of chilli sauce in my pocket.’
Holmes closed his eyes and smiled beatifically, as if in the throes of an orgasmic dream. Then his features dropped back into their usual expressionless gaze and he whispered, ‘Excellent.’
Klopp barked an unintelligible order at the group of white-coated workers nearest her, prompting the minions to hurry away. They returned in a flash, carrying high-backed chairs much like those in the dining room.
Behind me, Lestrade leaned forward. ‘What’s a sgian-dubh?’
‘A small knife,’ I said. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got one?’
He shook his head. ‘Not a sgian-dubh, but I do ‘ave a pair of nail scissors and a needle and thread pinned under my lapel.’
He sniffed. ‘The missus makes me carry ‘em. She won’t sew on buttons, see, so I ‘ave ter do it meself.’
‘Think you could cut through my bonds?’
‘The ones we’re about to be tied up with,’ I said, nodding towards the minions.
The white-coats lined us up, instructing us to sit. The expected ropes appeared. In a trice, they lashed all four of us to the chairs like pigs in blankets. Except with rope, instead of bacon. Obviously.
Holmes and I were close enough to speak in low tones. ‘I think I can reach the jar,’ I said.
‘See if you can conceal it in your hand and get the lid off.’
‘Of course,’ I said, wishing I’d done that earlier.
‘Good. I’ve got a plan.’ Turning to face Mary, who was next to him, Holmes said in a loud voice, ‘Is it true what they say about a woman scorned, my dear?’ I knew from his tone of voice that he had also imparted some secret message to my dear wife. Her answer confirmed it.
‘Scorned, Holmes? Fucking scorned? I tell you, if that Italian lothario came back in here now, I’d tear his bloody face off.’ Her voice had risen in pitch to a near scream. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was really pissed off.
‘What’s that?’ said Moriarty, looking over. ‘The little woman rising from her baby carriage, is she?’
‘It’s ‘getting out of her pram’, you imbecile,’ said Holmes. He turned to me, ‘These bloody Scandinavians. Tch.’
Moriarty erupted. ‘Scandinavian? You think I’m Scandinavian?’
‘Aren’t you?’ said Holmes.
‘I’m an Icelander, you dolt, which makes me Nordic, not Scandinavian.’
Mary turned to Holmes. With a voice dripping in pure condescension, she said, ‘See, I told you.’
Moriarty glared at her. ‘Told him what?’
‘Oh, nothing. Just that I always knew there was something wrong with that so-called ice-cream seller.’
‘Yes. A Scandinavian lover wouldn’t have had such a tiny–’
‘No!’ he screamed. ‘Do not tell them. Do not, do not, do not!’
‘A tiny willie,’ said Mary, sniggering.
‘Now!’ shouted Holmes.
‘Sorry, what?’ said I.
Holmes stared at me and hissed, ‘The Chilli sauce, Watson. Throw it.’
‘I can’t get it out of my pocket,’ I said, demonstrating my inability to move.
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake …’
‘You didn’t give me a bloody chance,’ I said. ‘I’m not fucking Houdini.’
‘That, my dear Watson, is patently obvious.’
A sudden grinding noise came from the area at the back of the vast space. Twisting round, I saw that the floor we had arrived on had begun to move back up. I glanced at Holmes. ‘D’you think that’s …?’
‘Our saviour?’ muttered Holmes. ‘I do, Watson, I do.’
‘What’s happening?’ barked Moriarty, pushing workers aside as he stormed across the floor. ‘Who is that?’
Klopp hurried across to join him, shouting orders at the white-coated underlings. The pair stood gazing upwards as the floor reached its meeting point with the stone steps above and a second later began to slide back down again.