Diary of Doctor Watson
It’s hard to believe that little more than a week has passed since Holmes, Mary and I returned from our adventure in Pokebottom-on-the-Moor. Since then, each day has felt like an eternity, and only the necessity of keeping my medical practice going has prevented my pestering Holmes for news of Ravensburg.
However, this afternoon I received a note from my companion on that very subject. Hand delivered by urchin, it read:
Interesting article in The Times. Suggest you come at once.
I had of course regularly scanned the daily papers for clues to the whereabouts of either Ravensburg or Lord Blackwood (the latter having always proved to be a newsworthy subject) but nothing had caught my eye. I suspected Holmes of reading between the lines again. Whatever he’d noticed, I knew it must be important.
Cancelling the rest of my appointments, I made my excuses to Mary and set off for Baker Street.
“Ah, Watson,” murmured Holmes on my arrival. He nodded towards my usual seat by the fire. Sitting myself down, I waited somewhat impatiently while he spent several minutes stuffing his Meerschaum with hard shag. Finally, he lit the concoction and, puffing away, tossed me the day’s copy of The Times.
I opened the newspaper and cast my eye along the various columns but could not immediately see what he might be referring to.
“Really Watson,” he said, when a full minute had passed without my having located the relevant article. “You see but you do not observe—Coroner’s Session Continues at St Giles.”
I ran a finger down the page and found the tiny headline.
Yesterday, Mr. Michael J Benedict, Coroner for the North-Eastern Division, resumed his inquiry at the Bakers and Muffin-Tasters Institute, Old Compton Street, in respect of the death of Rev G Burnsbean, a visiting clergyman, who was found brutally murdered in the Parish Church of St Giles-in-the-Fields, on the morning of Friday last.
Detective-Inspector Lestrade (Scotland-yard) watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department and Commissioners of Police. Inspector Lestrade commented afterwards that this was, ‘A very brutal slaying that will haunt my dreams for years to come.’
I laid the newspaper on my knee. “Terrible business, for sure, Holmes, but I can’t see—”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Watson,” sighed Holmes, leaning forwards. “Look at it. Read the words. Understand the significance.”
I peered at the article again. “A church chappy has been murdered…”
“And Lestrade is involved…”
I shook my head. “Sorry, old chap, I don’t get it.”
Holmes let out another sigh. “Who has been murdered?”
“Rev G Burnsbean.”
He raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
I looked again at the name and then it hit me. “An anagram?”
Peering at the letters, I struggled to rearrange them in my head. Eventually, I looked up. “Of course—Ben Ravenscroft.”
“Finally,” muttered Holmes, relighting his pipe. “Now, what’s the implication of the location?”
“St Giles?” I frowned and tried to look thoughtful. “It’s a church.”
“Yes, and it’s close to…”
“Ahm, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road…” I blinked. “Soho Square.”
“And which of our evil genius contemporaries lived until recently in Soho Square?”
I felt a sudden lurch in my stomach. “Lord Blackwood.” Undoing two buttons on my waistcoat, I had another thought. “Christ, Holmes, d’you think he’s still there?”
“Absolutely—sitting in a comfy armchair awaiting our arrival.”
“No, Watson, not really.” He caressed his chin. “But I’m willing to bet he’s left a little something for us to find.”
I leaped out of my chair. “Then we must get over there before Lestrade tramples over the evidence.”
Holmes waved a hand at me to sit down. “Lestrade won’t have made the connection yet, though he may have useful information vis-à-vis the corpse.”
I stood up again. “To St Giles, then.”
“No, Watson. At this hour Lestrade will be on his way home via the nearest alehouse. I suggest we allow him time to partake of a few pints before he makes his appearance.”
“Makes his appearance where, Holmes?”
“Here, Watson.” He smiled sardonically.
We sat for a few moments, each of us contemplating the ramifications of a dead Ben Ravensburg, when Mrs Hudson bustled in with a tray of refreshments.
“Wish you two’d get off yer arses and solve some murders, stead of sittin round ‘ere munchin my muffins.”
“Really, Mrs Hudson,” said Holmes, helping himself to a mug of hot chocolate. “I sometimes think you must have an extraordinarily low opinion of my comrade and I. In fact, we have been pondering on a murder at St Giles.”
The old woman nodded solemnly. “Oh, yes—nasty affair. Apparently, someone cut off his paraphernalia.”
Holmes frowned. “His what?”
“His dick,” she said. “Don’t you lot read the bleedin papers?” She bustled out, leaving us both open mouthed.
I half-pointed to the door. “Mrs H doesn’t read The Times, does she?”
Holmes leaped out of his seat. “No, Watson, but she does read the Tittle-Tattle Weekly and I’ll wager one of their reporters has been talking to a certain interested party.”
“Lestrade wouldn’t give out that sort of information to a journalist.”
“Lestrade wouldn’t, but someone trying to attract our attention, might.”
“Blackwood,” I murmured.
A noise on the stair made us both sit up. Crossing the room, I yanked the door open to reveal Inspector Lestrade, sweating and pasty-faced.
Urging him to take a seat, we waited while he got his breath back.
“There’s been a bleedin murder, Mr ‘Olmes,” he panted.
“Yes, we know that, Lestrade,” said Holmes, rather irritably.
The police officer waved a hand. “Nah, not the one at the church. This is anovver one.”
Holmes and I exchanged glances.
Lestrade leaned towards us, his eyes wide. “It’s Lord Blackwood.”
“What?” said Holmes. “Again?”
He nodded, and reaching out, grabbed one of Mrs Hudson’s muffins. “Fink you’d better ‘ave a look at it,” he said, between mouthfuls.
“In the church, you didn’t find an old book, did you?”
Lestrade shook his head and took another mouthful.
I pushed myself back in my chair and let out a long breath. It had been difficult enough to come to terms with the idea that Blackwood might be alive, but for him to have somehow come back to life and then got himself murdered, seemed a little too much to bear.
After a moment, Holmes said, “I suppose Blackwood’s body is at his old house in Soho Square?”
Lestrade’s eyes went like saucers “Ow the fuckin ‘ell did yer know that?”
Ignoring him, Holmes went on. “I trust you did not leave the corpse unattended.”
“Course not—d’yer fink I’m stupid? I’ve got eight constables guarding it. There’s no fuckin way I’m letting that slippery sod do anovver vanishin trick.”
The feeling that something very bad lurked in our near future had begun to make itself known in the form of a tightening in my stomach. For a moment I thought I might have to excuse myself. But I clenched my buttocks and put on a brave face. Whatever we were about to encounter would take all our combined bravado as well as a large helping of ingenuity and guile. After all, Blackwood had already died twice and if, as we suspected, he had possession of Ravensburg’s book, we had no way of knowing what he might achieve.