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.