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Monthly Archives: November 2021

Dressing Up, Dressing Down

Diary of Doctor Watson

The three Marks brothers proved to be attentive and quick-thinking. In the space of a couple of hours they had fed us, run up four new sets of clothes and sent off a lad to Fleet Street with various messages from Holmes detailing reports of our recent deaths.

“Look here,” I said pulling on my new outfit, “don’t you think Blackwood will be suspicious when no bodies are found in that house?”

Holmes shook his head. “I suspect the bomb he used was intended to quite literally blow us apart at the seams. The upstairs rooms were destroyed. Had we remained there, I think we really would be in bits. It’ll be several days before Lestrade’s colleagues realise there aren’t any actual body parts.”

Mary had finished doing up the buttons on her prostitute’s costume and had begun helping Lestrade into his corset. “That may be so, Sherl, but with all those fake coppers around, how do we know those investigating the scene will be the real thing?”

“Elementary, Mary,” said the Great Detective. “Blackwood thinks we’re dead, at least temporarily, so he’d never risk his men mixing with real coppers in case they’re spotted. Besides, I suspect he and his cronies are miles away by now, no doubt putting villainous plans into action.”  

“Mr ‘Olmes is right,” said Lestrade, adjusting his false bosoms. “Without me around they’ll likely put Bradstreet in charge, and he’s a complete dickhead.”

Holmes and I exchanged a look. Lestrade comparing himself to the likes of Inspector Bradstreet reminded me of that old adage about pots and black kettles. My companion gave me a wink, indicating I say nothing.

“Yes, Lestrade,” said he. “Luckily we have the cream of Scotland Yard at our service. And may I say, you make a magnificent lady.”

How Holmes managed to keep a straight face at this, is beyond me—his own costermonger costume at least represented him as a complete man, while mine involved a false leg, a wooden crutch, and a the application of some warty legions.

Lestrade pulled on his bonnet and looked at himself in the full-length mirror. “Suppose I do at that. In fact, my breasts are bigger than Mrs Lestrade’s.” Cradling the said bosoms in his hands, he fondled them for a moment. “Much bigger, actually.”

“Yes, yes, all right, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “Leave yourself alone and let’s have a look at you.”

We stood in front of the mirror one at a time and examined ourselves. Holmes had chosen a large moustache and beard, along with an eye patch, giving him a surly look that complemented his outfit. For my own part, I resembled a beggar who’d had a really bad day, while Mary portrayed a sluttier version of herself, with the addition of some garish makeup. Only Lestrade looked ridiculous in a red dress and black thigh boots but that was mainly because of his refusal to shave off his moustache.

“Don’t look bad,” said the inspector. “I’ve seen loads of girlies wiv taches.”

“Right,” said Holmes. “I suggest we leave this establishment separately and meet at the safe house.”

“Where’s that, again?” said Lestrade.

“The old gin shop on Drury Lane, next door to the Waldorf Theatre. The proprietor knows me well and will provide us with temporary lodgings while we work out what to do next.”

“Exactly what are we going to do next?” said Mary.

Holmes rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I think the Baker Street Urchins might prove useful. I’ve asked Groucho to get a message to them and report to me within the hour. It’s imperative we hear about every strange occurrence over the next twenty-four hours.”

I rubbed my chin, unconsciously mimicking Holmes. “You think Blackwood will make his move so soon?”

“I’m certain of it, Watson. In fact, we may already be too late.”

And with those words, Holmes strode out of the shop. A few minutes later, Mary, Lestrade and I took our own turns, setting off in different directions. Whatever we were heading into, I had the awful feeling I might not survive to write about it.

NB Clearly, I did survive as I’m writing about it now, but it’s important to keep the tension going.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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Big Bangs in Londen

Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Having been grabbed by the wrists and hurled through the nearest doorway, my first thought was to utter some grumpy complaint at Holmes, but at that very second, a tremendous noise thundered through the house, rattling its doors and shattering the windows.

“Jeezus We—” said Lestrade, but his words were cut off by a terrific crash as the ceiling we had until a moment before been standing under, collapsed onto the floor, throwing debris into the room where we now sprawled in a heap.

“Johnny!” I yelled, scrambling to my feet.

“No, Mary,” said Holmes, pulling me back down. “Your husband is more than capable of looking after himself.”

The three of us stared at each other, dust swirling around the room. After a minute, the rumbling from above ceased and Holmes helped me to my feet.

“A bomb?” I said, looking up at him.

“It would appear so, Mary.” He turned his beady eyes towards the front window, and I saw that the heavy curtains had protected us from the worst of the damage when the glass shattered.

“Watson,” yelled Holmes, crunching over the shards of broken glass to the shattered frame.

A noise came from behind us and looking round, I saw a dusty figure standing by the rear window peering in at us.

“Darling, you’re all right,” I gasped, hurrying towards him. Keeping my hands away from any broken glass, I leaned on the window ledge. “Are you hurt?”

He shrugged and gave me a dopey grin. “Take more than one of Blackwood’s bombs to finish me off, though it did blow me right across the bloody room and out through the kitchen window.” Taking out a handkerchief he began dusting himself down.

“Give us a hand, Watson,” said Holmes, and pushing past me he clambered through into the garden.

As the inspector and I followed suit, I saw Holmes had already run across the grass to look up at the house. Picking our way through the rubble where parts of the roof had collapsed onto the back garden, we made our way to where Holmes stood.

Johnny entwined his fingers in mine and pulled me into a hug. “For a moment, there, old girl, I thought I must be back in Afghanistan.”

Brushing dust away from his eyebrows, I nodded. “But at least then you knew what you were dealing with.”

Holmes muttered his agreement. “Quite right, Mary. Except that I, at least, should have foreseen such an event.” He raised his hat at me and gave a little bow. “My apologies to you all. I must be the stupidest man in Londen.”

“Ow, no,” said Lestrade, picking at a rip in his jacket. “I won’t ‘ear of it. You wasn’t to know that fuckin arsehole would go an do sumfink like that, was you?”

“On the contrary, Inspector, I should have known. Blackwood has demonstrated his ingenuity and dastardliness to me on many occasions.” He shook his head. “For once, he has outsmarted me.”

“But we’re still alive,” I said, patting his arm.

“We are, my dear, but we won’t be for long once Blackwood learns of our escape.”

Lestrade stepped forwards, and poked Holmes with a finger. “Yer know what we ought ter do, doncha?”

Holmes raised an eyebrow.

“We ought ter do what your mate from the Secret Service did, that time. What was ‘is name? James Pond?”

Holmes stared at him for a moment, then he grinned. “Bond, Lestrade. James Bond.”

“I didn’t know you knew anyone in MI5, Holmes,” said Johnny.

“MI6, actually,” said Holmes. To Lestrade, he nodded slowly. “You might be right, Inspector. The incident you refer to gave Bond his nickname. They called him the spy who lived twice.”

“He pretended to be dead?” said I.

Sherlock Holmes winked at me. “As I always say, Mary is the smart one. Yes. And I think Lestrade has a good point—if Blackwood thinks we’re dead, it could give us time to track him down.”

“We’ll need to be quick, then,” said Johnny. “This place’ll be overrun with sightseers before you can say—”

“Hark.” Holmes straightened up, listening.

For a moment I couldn’t hear anything but the still-insistent ringing in my ears. Then I discerned shouts and yelled instructions coming from the front of the house.

“By God, Watson,” said Holmes, “you’re right. Most of the damage would’ve been at the front of the house and from that noise, I’d guess we only have a few seconds to make ourselves scarce before someone thinks to search the rear of the property and finds us four standing here like a collection of scarecrows.”

I glanced along the street in both directions. The house backed onto a narrow lane which in turn backed onto the gardens of another row of houses. “But where can we hide?”

Holmes walked back towards the house and stood on a pile of guttering that had fallen from the roof. Stretching up, he peered over the garden fence. A moment later he’d re-joined us.

“Over that fence, across the lane and through the passage next to the house over yonder. That should bring us out into Oxford Street.”

Lestrade laughed. “Yer do know Oxford Street’s about the busiest road in the whole of Londen, doncha?”

Holmes glared at him. “Of course I know that, Lestrade, but I also know of a tailoring outfit called Marks Brothers who owe me a favour.”

And with that, he was off, climbing over the fence, peering both ways and waving at us to hurry along.

Within five minutes we had traversed two gardens, a narrow alley and skirted round a rather smelly midden that brought us out into, as Lestrade had pointed out, the busiest road in Londen.

But before we stepped out in into Oxford Street itself, Holmes pulled the three of us into another alley that ran behind a row of shops. Following him down a set of wrought iron stairs into what I judged must be a cellar, we pushed through a wooden gate and into a small, darkened area and found ourselves facing a large metal door.

Holmes gave a sharp rap on the door and within seconds it swung open. A bearded fellow wearing a patterned smoking cap, looked out. Seeing Holmes, he grabbed my companion by the shoulders and hugged him.

“Oh my Gawd, Mr ‘Olmes, Mr ‘Olmes. It’s been so long since you was ‘ere. Come in, come in and ‘ave a brew.”

Holmes glanced at me. “A place to hide, Mary, and with any luck, I’ll get a new suit out of them to boot.”

“Maybe they’ll sort me out some new togs an all,” said Lestrade, pulling at his torn jacket.

Holmes peered through the doorway. “Well, come along, you lot. And don’t worry about clothes—by the time Mr Marks has finished with us, your own mothers wouldn’t recognise you.”

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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Murder in Soho Square

Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Leaving 221B Baker Street, the three of us took a Hackney and set off for Soho Square. We’d only gone a few yards when I heard a piercing scream and the cab skidded to a halt.

Holmes leaped out of the vehicle to see what the matter might be, but immediately climbed back in.

“What is it, Mr ‘Olmes,” said I. “Been an accident?”

The big-nosed detective gave his companion a sidelong look and muttered, “Nothing so trivial. No, I believe another party wishes to join us.”

At this, Mrs Mary Watson clambered into the cab and squeezed herself between me and her husband.

“Hello, darling. Mr Holmes. Inspector. I thought I’d save you the trouble of picking me up on the way.”

“Look, Mary…” said Doctor Watson, “we would’ve—”

“No, you wouldn’t. But I’m here, now, so you can lump it or like it.”

“I think the phrase is like is—”

“Shut the fuck up, Sherlock, before I punch your face in.”

“I was merely about to point out, Mary,” he continued, “that this case is a particularly dangerous one. I had privately advised John to leave you out of things.” He took Mary’s hand in his and I observed a very serious look come over his features. “I have placed you in danger too many times, Mary, and I simply could not bear for anything to happen to you. I know Johnny would be utterly distraught without you.”

Mrs Watson blushed slightly. “I see. That’s unusually thoughtful of you, Sherl, but if I am to die a horrible death, I should rather it occurred while in the service of my country and with my darling Johnny at my side.”

Holmes sniffed and let go her hand. “Fine. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The rest of the journey passed in total silence, and I will admit to feeling a bit of gooseberry sitting there with a very definite atmosphere between Mary and Mr Big Nose. However, I took the opportunity to go over what I knew about the case in my head, so as not to look a complete fool when we arrived at the scene.

The house in Soho Square remained as I had left it, with two constables standing guard outside.

As we alighted from the Hackney, Holmes took me aside.

“The dead man at St Giles, Lestrade…”

“What about ‘im?”

“You are aware of his identity?”

“Course I am— Rev G Burnsbean.”

“Ah. Then you didn’t recognise him?”

“I ain’t never seen ‘im before.”

“Rev G Burnsbean is an anagram, Lestrade. An anagram of Ben Ravenscroft.”

“What? The museum bloke? But—”

“But me no buts, Inspector, I shall fill you in on the details later. For now, I should like to know exactly how he died.”

Feeling a bit miffed at this new information, I took a moment to compose myself. “Right. Well, I didn’t let the papers know cos of the brutal nature of the slayin. See, the poor feller were nailed to the floor of the church. Ye know? Like a sort of crucifixion.”

“Christ.”

“Exactly. And the killer also cut off his whasname.”

“Yes, so I heard. I suspect one of your subordinates has been leaking information to the Tittle Tattle Weekly.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Can’t trust nobody these days.”

We followed the Watsons up the steps to the front door, both of us deep in thought, though I admit my thoughts were more about how I might redeem myself in the eyes of the Great Detective, rather than the case itself.

Upstairs, I waved the other constables aside and waited at the bedroom door with the Watsons while Holmes examined the room.

The dead man had been laid out on the floor with his arms outstretched as if he too had been crucified, though without the addition of six-inch nails through his hands and feet and only a knotted rope around his neck.

Holmes crawled across the floor, avoiding the occasional spatters of white paint that specked the bare floorboards. Approaching the corpse, he slid one hand up the dead man’s trouser leg, withdrew it and smelled whatever substance his fingers had encountered. Then, jumping up, he strode back to the doorway.

“As I suspected, Lestrade, this is not Lord Blackwood.”

“What d’yer mean, it ain’t Lord Blackwood? I examined the body myself. It’s definitely ‘im.”

Holmes laid a calming hand on my shoulder and gave me what I suppose was a pitying look. “It may well have been Blackwood when you examined him, but at that time he wasn’t dead.”

“Yer mean he were alive?”

“Not only alive, but no doubt experiencing an inner thrill at your inability to recognise that fact.”

I blinked several times and waved a hand at the corpse. “But he’s right there—dead as a dodo.”

“No, Lestrade.” He turned and indicated the several white spots on the floor. “Not paint, as you probably assumed, but Plaster of Paris. What we have here is the perfect likeness of Blackwood dressed in his own clothes, painted up and placed in the same position on the floor immediately after your departure. But don’t take my word for it.” He turned to Doctor Watson. “Would you do the honours, John?”

Watson crossed to the body and carried out a quick examination. When he came back, he too gave me a pitying look. “Sorry, Lestrade. He’s right.”

At this point, Mary Watson broke into the discussion. “Is it just me, or does this not make any sense?”

Holmes nodded. “On the surface, Mary, no, no sense at all, but be assured Blackwood did not do this for no reason. It is unfortunate that at the moment we are unable to see that reason.”

Doctor Watson poked his companion’s chest with a finger. “Hang on Holmes, how could Blackwood have swapped himself for a Plaster of Paris dummy with all these police officers standing around?”

Holmes smiled and looked at the floor. A moment later he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a revolver. “Because, Watson, these are not police officers.”

With a sudden flurry of activity, the three cops standing by turned and fled down the stairs. Holmes rushed after them, firing warning shots over their heads, but a second later we heard the front door slam shut.

Hurrying downstairs, Mary, Lestrade and I found Holmes banging on the door.

“They’ve locked it. Damn it all, Watson, it was there right in front of me, and I didn’t see it.”

“To be fair, Holmes,” said Watson, “I didn’t see it either.”

“Thank you, old friend, but that is little comfort. Be a good fellow and break a window and fetch someone to open this bloody door.”

Watson scampered off and a moment later we heard the tinkle of broken glass and his voice calling to someone in the Square.

“I still don’t understand,” said Mary. “Why on earth would Blackwood leave a dummy lying on the floor?”

Holmes shrugged and shook his head. Then, with a low groan he muttered, “unless it isn’t just a dummy.” Grabbing mine and Mary’s hands he dragged us into the nearest room just as an explosion rocked through the building.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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