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The Unmasking of a Master Criminal

27 Mar

Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

A collective gasp went around the room and the man with the face fungus took several steps backwards.

For a moment, I thought he’d continue to deny everything, but then he took a long breath and exhaled slowly, as if allowing his real self to emerge. Straightening up, his entire torso seemed to fill out. With one hand, he took hold of his whiskers and peeled them off, revealing the smooth and manly chin of Lord Henry Blackwood.

When he spoke again, his voice had dropped almost an octave, but its rich deep timbre had a far more menacing tone to it than Moran’s ever had.

‘Moriarty told me not to underestimate you, Holmes. Seems he was right.’ Blackwood rubbed the remaining bits of makeup from his face, took off the brown wig and pushed his fingers through his long black hair.

‘Right, matey,’ said Lestrade, striding forwards. ‘I’m arrestin you in the name of the law.’

Blackwood laughed. ‘I wouldn’t bank on it, Inspector.’ With a quick movement, he whipped out a pistol and aimed it at Sherlock’s heart. ‘Surprised you took so long to work it out, Holmesy. Just goes to show the deductive powers ain’t what they used to be. Never mind, I’ve other plans for your demise that’ll work just as well.’ Turning the gun on me, he smiled. ‘Would’ve been nice to see you skewered, Mary.’ Then with a wink, added, ‘Nice tits, though.’

‘You won’t get away with this,’ said Holmes.

The villain rolled his eyes at me, as if we shared a private joke. ‘Don’t think too badly of me, Mary—I’m a sucker for a stupid doctor and a wonky-eyed woman.’ Leaning closer, he lowered his voice. ‘The best is yet to come. I’ll see the Holmes later.’

Moving around the other side of the table, he nodded to his henchmen. ‘You chaps may have once been Moriarty’s men, but now you have the opportunity to join me in creating the largest criminal empire in England. Are you with me?’

The thugs nodded like the imbecilic morons they were. Opening the double doors, they followed Blackwood outside. The moment the doors clanged shut we heard bolts slammed into place on the other side.

Holmes sprang into action. ‘Get dressed, Mary. Watson, Lestrade—go after him.’

Lestrade reached the doors first. ‘No use, Holmes—we’ll never get through here. See if there’s an axe or a crowbar.’

At the other side of the workshop, Holmes searched for something to use but all the tools had been locked away. Spying a length of timber, he picked it up. ‘Stand aside, chaps.’

With a short burst of speed, he ran towards the doors and crashed into them, bouncing back into the room.

‘Humph,’ he said. ‘Stronger than they look.’

Johnny and Lestrade joined him with the makeshift battering ram and took another run at the doors. On their third try, the bolts gave way.

Outside, we found ourselves in a wide courtyard. The building we’d vacated turned out to be part of a country house. At the far side of the courtyard, a high wall ran down to the gates, opposite a stable block. Directly in front of us stood the main building—a country house of some considerable size.

Lestrade let out a yell and pointed to one of the ground floor windows of the house. ‘He’s in there.’

We ran across to the ornate front doors and Holmes gave the knocker a series of sharp raps.

After a moment, we heard footsteps and the door opened. A bald man in what I took to be a servant’s outfit gave us a bow.

‘Good day, sirs, madam. What can I do for you?’

‘Where’s Lord Blackwood?’ demanded Holmes.

‘Blackwood, sir? There’s no Lord Blackwood here.’

‘Then who was that lookin out of the window just now?’ said Lestrade.

‘Oh, that were just me, sir. Heard a commotion.’

‘Now look here my good man,’ said Holmes, adopting an authoritative tone. ‘Who lives in this house?’

The old man shrugged. ‘No-one, sir. Dene House Manor is owned by the National Trust. We’re open to visitors from August to December, but the place is empty just now. I’m the caretaker, see.’

Holmes frowned. ‘So, you don’t know Lord Blackwood?’

‘Never heard of him, sir.’

‘Then who’s been using the workshop over there?’

The man leaned forwards and muttered in a conspiratorial manner, ‘That be part of a secret Government project, sir. I ain’t supposed to say.’

Holmes clenched his jaw. I hoped he wasn’t about to get physical with the caretaker. ‘Look. If you don’t tell me who has been working in there, I shall—’

‘No, no, you’re alright. I ain’t no hero, sir. It’s just that it’s meant to be top secret, that’s all.’

‘Yes, yes, I understand that,’ said Holmes, his voice rising with each syllable. ‘Just tell me his name.’

The man leaned closer. ‘Sherlock Holmes.’

The big-nosed detective went a shade of purple, but his anger dissipated instantly, and he let out a gentle laugh. ‘Of course, of course, who else could it have been?’ He patted the old man on the shoulder. ‘Obliged for your assistance, sir. Now, where’s the nearest town or village?’

‘That’d be Richmond Hill. Follow the road for half a mile and it’ll take you down to the river. You’ll be able to get transport there, I expect.’

‘He must have had an escape plan,’ said Holmes, as we retreated across the courtyard. ‘Better check the stables.’

We hurried off towards the stable block, where a wide door had been left open. Inside, we found six box stalls but no horses. Holmes dropped to the ground and began crawling around on hands and knees.

‘What’s he doin?’ said Lestrade.

‘Looking for clues,’ I said.

‘Here we are,’ said Holmes. ‘Four horses, two carriages…no—make that one carriage and a Brougham. But they must have been brought outside some time earlier, otherwise we’d have heard them leaving.’ Getting to his feet, he brushed himself down. ‘Suppose we’d better start walking.’

‘Look on the bright side,’ said Johnny. ‘At least we’re still alive.’

The consulting detective dropped his chin to his chest. ‘Yes, yes, I suppose that is something.’

‘It certainly is,’ I said. ‘I’m much happier not having a steel phallus shoved up my—’

‘Thank you, Mary,’ said Holmes. ‘Though as my deductive powers were on top form, I don’t think you were ever in any real danger.’ He gave me a sardonic smile.

‘Oh, you don’t, do you?’ Curling my fingers into a fist, I made ready to smack him in the mouth.

‘Later, dear,’ said Johnny, holding me back. ‘I rather think we ought to save our energy for finding Blackwood, eh?’

We stood for a minute, looking at each other. Then I remembered something. ‘Holmes, what did he mean by seeing you later?’

Holmes scratched his chin. ‘I’m sorry to say I have no idea, Mary. After his criminal activities first came to light, he was banned from entering any public meeting place in Londen.’

He started to walk down the driveway to the gates, but I caught hold of his arm. ‘Wait. Blackwood isn’t known for his conversation. I got the feeling that when he says something, he says it for a reason. Could it be some sort of clue?’

He stopped and looked at me. ‘Blackwood was talking to you, at the time.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘If he meant it as a clue, why not say it directly to me?’

‘Because he was looking at my tits. Anyway, he said he’d see the Holmes later.’

‘D’yer fink he’s expectin ter see yer somewhere specific?’ said Lestrade. ‘Somewhere you’d know about.’

‘Oh, hell,’ I muttered. ‘What if he didn’t mean Holmes, but Holmes’s, as in both of you—Sherlock and Mycroft?’

Holmes swallowed hard. ‘The Diogenes Club.’ He slapped a hand against his forehead. ‘Of course. I’ve been so blind. Mycroft has been sending me dinner invitations for weeks. Something is going to happen at the Club and Blackwood’s expecting both of us to be there.’

Johnny butted in. ‘But if it’s just dinner…’

‘No, no, no,’ said Holmes. ‘It’s never just dinner with Mycroft—he’ll have some ulterior motive. Something he needs me to do, some vital mission for the Government—saving the world or something like that.’

‘Did Mycroft mention a date?’

‘He did, Mary, but as I only read the first part of the invitation, I took no notice of the details.’

‘We need to get a newspaper,’ said Johnny. ‘If something important is due to happen at the Club, it could be what Blackwood’s been waiting for.’

With that, we set off at a pace for Richmond Hill. As we hurried along, I couldn’t help wondering why Blackwood had walked away from his plan to kill us. Could it be that the whole thing had been a diversion to distract us from his real target? Whatever the reason, I knew he wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of creating stand-ins for the four of us if he meant to keep us alive.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 27, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , ,

2 responses to “The Unmasking of a Master Criminal

  1. henhouselady

    March 27, 2022 at 2:20 PM

    Wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

     

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