Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)
My eyes were still closed when I heard the sound. Blinking, I looked up at the cracked ceiling and realised two things— one, the night had not ended, and two, Johnny and I were not ensconced in our own comfy bed in our little house in Marlborough Hill, but in an ancient four-poster in a dreary tavern in an equally dreary village. As the reasons for our being in this strange place came back to me, I heard the sound again.
What could it be? I took a moment to assure myself it did not resemble the creaking of the bed, nor the soft tread of footsteps outside our room. Neither could it be it the horse-like neighing of Johnny’s snoring. Sitting up, I stared hard at the window, the slight parting in the musty curtains emitting a sliver of moonlight. Sliding out of bed, I crept over and peeked out. Our host had billeted us in a room at the rear of the inn, with a view that had little to be proud of. Across the inn yard, a dense wood stretched from the edge of the yard as far as I could see, except for a gap—a pathway, perhaps—that allowed the full moon to appear in the space as if to light the way.
Gazing at the astral orb, I spied the silhouette of an owl shooting across the sky and for a moment the beauty of nature overwhelmed me.
Then I heard the sound again—a strange whooshing that had an oddly metallic quality to it.
This time, I saw what might be its source—in between the trees to my right, a shadowy figure seemed to glide through the bare branches. But this figure could be no human one, for its feet (if indeed it possessed any) floated at least two yards off the ground.
Hurrying across to the bed, I gave Johnny a good shake.
“Wha…” he muttered, rubbing his eyes.
“Quickly, darling. There’s something outside.”
With a glance at my naked form, a familiar leer slid over his features. Delivering a hefty slap across his chops, I knocked any thoughts of shenanigans out of his head.
“Come along, dear,” I said, dragging him towards the window. “Before it disappears.”
Naturally, by the time I’d got him to the window and pointed to the strange apparition, the damn thing had gone.
“Probably an owl,” muttered my bleary-eyed husband, scratching his testicles.
“No, I’ve just seen an owl. That thing looked more like a…”
“Well, I don’t know. Like something spooky.”
A sudden rap at the door, reminded me we were both stark naked. Grabbing a bedsheet, I wrapped myself up while Johnny pulled on his long johns.
“Ah, Watsons,” said Holmes, fastening his dressing gown. “Did you see it?”
He strode into the room and stood gazing out of the window.
“I did,” I said.
He turned and stared at me with those piggy little eyes. “Something spooky, eh?”
“I thought so.”
“Come along, then. Let’s get after it.”
As he hurried out of the room, I noticed he already had his boots on.
“You heard him, husband. Get dressed.”
A minute later the three of us slid out of the back door and into the darkened inn yard. The moon had vanished behind a cloud, leaving the whole place in utter darkness.
Hurrying to the edge of the woods, we veered to the right to where I recalled the path lay. Luckily, I’d remembered to pack my clockwork lamp and giving it a quick wind, I aimed the meagre beam into the trees ahead of us.
“There’s the path,” I said, stepping over a pile of timber that lay in the way, marking the boundary between the inn yard and the woods.
“Careful, Mrs Watson,” said Holmes, taking my arm. “We don’t know what’s out there.”
“Thank you, Sherlock, but I’m perfectly capable.” I removed myself from his grasp and forged ahead.
Taking our time, we stumbled over the track between the trees, but it wasn’t until the clouds moved away that the moon allowed us to see the path clearly.
“It came from over there,” I said, pointing to the right.
“Then over there, we must go,” said Holmes, forcing his way through the trees.
As soon as we’d moved off the track, the darkness enveloped us again, my lamp making little impression on the branches that seemed determined to block our path.
“Wait,” murmured Johnny. “There.” Holmes and I peered into the darkness and for a moment I could see nothing. Then, as the shape began to move again, I saw it plainly. The figure seemed to move towards us, rising upwards as it did so. Only then did I see its eyes—bright red staring eyes, glaring at us.
“Bloody Norah,” said Johnny, grabbing my hand.
“Hold firm, Watson. Whatever that thing is—”
But before he could go on, the ‘thing’ had risen high above the trees and scooted off in the direction of the barn.
“It’s heading for that old barn,” said Holmes.
“I was just thinking that,” I said.
“Me too,” put in Johnny.
But all three of us simply stood there, looking at each other.
After a moment, I said, “Should we follow it?”
Holmes nodded. “Of course. That is exactly what we should do.”
Still, none of us moved.
“Perhaps a jug of hot chocolate first, eh?” said Johnny.
“To warm us and revive our spirits,” said Holmes.
“Are you two sacred?” I said, unable to keep the annoyance out of my voice.
“Not at all, Mary,” said Holmes. “I simply meant that before setting out to chase that thing, we ought to take stock. And in doing so, ensure that every member of our party is properly revived and appraised of the situation before setting out again.” He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow.
“Ravensburg,” I murmured.
“The very same. I should not wish him to miss one single moment of our investigation, but mark me – If that man is at this moment tucked up at home asleep in his bed, I shall be very much surprised.”
“I do hope he’s going to get changed first,” I said, watching Holmes march round the corner of the inn.
“Course he is,” said Johnny. He paused, then when the big-nosed detective didn’t reappear, hurried after him. “Holmes? I say, Holmes?”
I rolled my eyes and went back to my room.