Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)
On hearing a key turn in the lock, the brace of thugs guarding the door pulled out their weapons and took up a readied stance. One of the men nodded to his mate, then pulled the door open. In the dim light beyond, three figures stumbled into the room.
“Johnny,” I murmured, jumping up. No-one tried to stop me as I ran over and flung my arms around him, kissing his mouth as if we’d not seen each other in months.
Picking a morsel of bread from his chin, I said, “Cheese sandwiches?”
“Dorset Blue Vinney, actually.” He squeezed my bottom, making me go all squidgy inside, then straightening up, he peered around the room.
“At least we’re all safe,” he said. “For now.”
Inspector Lestrade tipped his hat. “Mrs Watson.” He gave me a dopey grin. “Fraid we ain’t here ter save yer from certain death.”
Seeing Holmes by the fire, the pair hurried over to embrace him. As I turned to look at the third man, a gasp escaped my lips. Except for an oddly flattened nose, the person standing in front of me might have been Sherlock Holmes himself.
“So you’re the fake Holmes,” I said, barely supressing a laugh.
“Fake enough to fool your nitwit of a husband and that stupid copper,” he muttered, pushing past me.
Two more thugs came in, followed by Colonel Moran. For a moment, I stared at him, my mouth involuntarily sliding into a sneer.
Moran grinned. “How lovely you look tonight, Mary.” He glanced at the group by the fire, then leaning towards me, whispered, “Y’know, if things were different, you and I would make a damned attractive couple.” He licked his lips in what he no doubt imagined to be a seductive fashion.
“In your dreams, mate.”
Taking my hand in his, he raised it to his lips and for the first time, I noticed how finely manicured his fingernails were. Nevertheless, I pulled my hand away before he could slobber over it with his villainous mouth.
“Oh, Mary,” he murmured, “what a delight you are.”
The fake Sherlock disappeared into the back room with the two new thugs, leaving Moran to wander over and lean an elbow on the mantle, a satisfied smirk spreading across his features. Idly twirling his moustache, he addressed Holmes.
“Shame we weren’t able to drag out our little performance a little further, but I think the point has been made.”
Holmes smirked. “That a mere amateur can take my place, leaving you and Blackwood to run the biggest criminal empire in Londen, must be every master-criminal’s dream. But that’s all it is—a dream.” He sniffed. “Besides, you have yet to demonstrate your ability to replace Lestrade and the Watsons as well, which of course would be essential to allow you any chance of making this evil plan work.”
“Replacing you was my biggest problem, Sherlock,” said Moran. “Luckily, your biographer here provided plenty of background material in the form all those silly stories in The Strand Magazine and other periodicals.” He glanced at Johnny and gave him a big wink.
I fancied this disclosure may have unsettled Sherlock, but his face betrayed no emotion. It also hadn’t escaped my attention that Moran hadn’t denied the Blackwood connection.
Holmes sniffed. “Let’s wait and see, shall we?”
“No need,” said Moran, with a flourish. “Bring them in,” he called.
A moment later the back-room door opened, and three individuals marched into the room. They stood in a line next to Moran, as if their entrance had been rehearsed.
I felt my mouth drop open and perceived from the deathly silence around me that my companions were suffering the same sense of disbelief. The woman standing opposite me, sported my favourite blue dress and bonnet, the very one I’d worn at Roderick Usher’s house only a few short weeks earlier. But it was the woman’s face that took my breath away. Apart from the embroidered eyepatch, I might have been staring at a reflection of myself.
Moran coughed. “Obviously we couldn’t easily replicate your wonky eye, Mary, hence the patch, but aside from that, I’m sure you’ll agree, the likeliness is remarkable.”
I nodded dumbly, turning my head to look at the man next to the fake Mary. Again, it might have been an exact reflection of my own dear husband, from the bowler hat and checked waistcoat to the Windsor knot in his tie. Only the colour of his eyes differed from John’s.
“Nothing like me,” muttered Johnny, but his face had turned pale and the nervous rumbling in his stomach echoed around the room.
I glanced at Lestrade, whose attention focused on his own representation. The imposter’s weasel-like countenance replicated the real inspector from his tight-fitting suit to the scuff marks on his shoes.
Moran cleared his throat. “You were saying, Sherlock?”
Holmes let out a gruff laugh. “I suppose you intend to install your imposter at my lodgings in Baker Street, eh?”
“As I mentioned earlier,” said Moran, “I had hoped to drag this little charade out a bit longer. Purely for my own amusement, you understand, but yes—in fact my Sherlock Holmes will be moving into 221B tonight, while the Watsons make themselves comfortable in their little house in Marlborough Hill and Lestrade takes up residence with his good lady wife.”
“Good luck wiv my missus,” said Lestrade, nodding at his mirror image. “She’ll eat this fucker for breakfast.”
“You’re forgetting one thing,” said Holmes, to Moran. “While Mrs Lestrade sees little of her husband and may therefore remain unaware of the imposter while riding him like a Grand National jockey, no-one could fool my trusty housekeeper Mrs Hudson. She’ll see through this puppet of yours in a flash.”
Moran nodded sagely. “That may be so, in which case the newspapers will reveal how her sordid sexual adventures with a brace of barrow boys from Bow led to a case of autoerotic asphyxia. I’m sure Maudie would be happy to instruct you in the procedure, should you wish to try it for yourself.”
“You sadistic fiend,” spat Sherlock. “If you hurt one hair—”
Holmes sprang forwards, hands outstretched, but the fake Watsons grabbed his arms before he could get close enough to ring the villain’s neck.
Sebastian Moran sniggered. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have evil plots to work on. I shall arrange food and drink for you, but you can be assured that all four of you will be dead within the next twenty-four hours.” He started towards the door, then turned to Mary. “Apart from you, my dear. Maudie has a yen to practice her fisting techniques. I dare say she’ll widen your horizons before you’re much older.”
The door closed and we heard a bolt slide into place on the other side.
Sherlock turned to me. “Fisting, Mary? What on earth’s that?”
Johnny and Lestrade looked at each other and muttered simultaneously, “Don’t ask.”