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.”
“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.