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Monthly Archives: May 2022

Blackwood to the Stage

Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Having searched the guest bedroom and a couple of nearby closets, Holmes and I decided to go back to the dining room.

Back at our table, we found the Watsons had not returned.

‘How long have they been gone?’ said Holmes to his brother.

Mycroft checked his Half Hunter. ‘It’s just after seven, so almost fifteen minutes. Hadn’t you better go and look for them?’

Holmes started to rise from his seat, then sat down again. I followed his gaze to the far end of the room where a woman had stepped onto the stage. Standing at the lectern, she stared at the audience.

‘It’s Klopp,’ muttered Holmes.

While she waited for the diners to fall silent, I picked up my spoon and was about to start on the pea soup when Holmes touched my hand. His eyes went from mine to the soup bowl and back again.

‘Don’t.’

I looked at Mycroft and the two ambassadors, who had all finished their soups. With my stomach grumbling, I was about to complain that I hadn’t eaten for hours, when Professor Klopp began to speak.

‘Gentlemen and gentlemen, I vould like to zank you all for coming here tonight to hear my thoughts about bringing economic equality to ze world. Unfortunately, zer vould be no point in telling you zat, because by eight o’clock tonight you vill all be dead.’

A murmur of disapproval ran around the room, but rather unexpectedly, no-one stood up to protest. I glanced at Holmes whose beady eyes were scanning the other diners. When I looked at Mycroft and the ambassadors, I saw they were all sitting very still, with only their eyes moving.

‘What’s happenin, Holmes?’ I whispered.

‘It’s the soup. They’ve all eaten it. Probably laced with a formula taken from that damned book of Ravenscroft’s, or perhaps a substance similar to the one Blackwood used to murder his father.’ He leaned over and poked Mycroft in the chest. Mycroft’s eyes widened but he did not move.

‘They’re bloody paralysed.’

‘But still able to hear,’ said Holmes.

‘Yes, Mr Holmes,’ said Lord Henry Blackwood, who had now arrived on the stage, a tall black hat and long cape giving him the appearance of some sort of posh wizard. ‘In fact, you and the inspector are the only individuals still able to move. Unfortunately, you are also unable to escape, as all the doors and shutters have been locked from the outside. Your friends Mr and Mrs Watson are,’ he laughed, ‘also unavoidably detained. Anyway, on with the show. I’d like to welcome the American and Russian ambassadors, gentlemen of the British government and various other industrialists and businessmen. You were all invited here in the belief that you would hear something to your advantage. Sadly, that is not the case. As you will have guessed by now, you have all been poisoned. Our good friend, the world’s first and only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, assisted me in locating a certain ancient book of spells. It is this book that has allowed me to develop a poison that would take effect approximately 30 minutes after imbibing it. However, the bombs we have planted above your heads will ensure that anyone who does not succumb, will be blown up.’

Holmes jumped to his feet. ‘You won’t get away with this, you fiend.’

‘Ah, Sherlock. Your rather stupid friend, Doctor Watson, said something along the same lines. Alas, he and his good lady are currently tied up in the company of one of my explosive devices and therefore won’t be with us for the rest of their lives. But I would not wish to kill everyone here without giving you, Sherlock, a small chance to save a few individuals, so I have hidden in this building, somewhere, a bottle of antidote. If you can locate it and give three or four drops to anyone still alive, you can save them. Of course, you still risk being blown to hell when the bombs go off, but you can’t have it all ways.’

‘Even if you kill us all,’ said Holmes, ‘you’ll still have half the government and the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force to contend with.’

Blackwood grinned. ‘The Government, yes, but not the dreaded fuzz. My men have also placed bombs at Scotland Yard and have utilised the services of a local soup kitchen to provide my special soup to any officers wishing to partake. So, you see, one way or the other, most of my current enemies will be dead by this time tomorrow.’

‘You’ve forgotten one thing, Blackwood,’ said Holmes. ‘You’re still here.’

‘For the moment, yes, but I have arranged an escape route for myself and my team.’ He glanced at his pocket watch. ‘In half an hour, I shall be dining at my country estate in the company of several elder politicians who share my beliefs on the future of Londen. Which gives me what I believe the gentlemen of the law would call a water-tight alibi.’

With that, he grabbed Klopp’s hand and hurried offstage.

‘What the bleedin hell are we goin ter do now, Holmes?’ said I.

‘Find that bleedin antidote, that’s what.’ He pushed his chair back. ‘And save John and Mary, and find the bombs and…’ He sighed. ‘Or at least give it a bloody good go.’

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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Flushed Away

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The two doors on the right side of the hallway were marked Kitchen and Gentlemen. A quick glance up and down the passage highlighted nothing we might use to defend ourselves. Just then, a waiter emerged from the kitchen bearing a large silver tray, three dinner plates and an assortment of cutlery.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, pointing my blank-filled revolver at him. ‘Is there anyone in the kitchen who isn’t familiar to you?’

The man blinked several times. ‘No, sir.’ He paused. ‘Apart from the new sous chef.’

‘Take us to him. Now.’

The waiter laid his tray on a side table and led us into the kitchen. The whole place rang with the clatter of knives on chopping boards and shouts of ‘Two soups, chef’ and ‘Deep fried swan for table six’. A few faces turned to look at us and I kept my revolver hidden so as not to alarm anyone. 

The waiter led us past a row of iron stoves bearing steaming pots, sizzling joints, and simmering vegetables. He came to a halt beside a young man in a toque engaged in berating another worker for some cooking-related blunder. The chef looked up as we approached.

‘What is it now?’

Yanking off the man’s hat, I pulled his hair while Mary ran her fingers around his face.

‘What the hell?’

‘Sorry, thought you might be in disguise,’ I said, replacing his hat.

‘Would you like to meet all the other members of staff, sir?’ said the waiter.

‘No, that’s fine, thanks.’

‘But aren’t you the famous Doctor Watson? The Doctor Watson who helps Sherlock Holmes solve all those mysterious murders?’

‘Well, sometimes,’ I muttered, glancing at Mary.

‘Then, I’m sure everyone would love to say hello to y—’

‘Come on, Johnny,’ said Mary, tugging my sleeve. ‘We’re wasting time.’

I thanked the waiter, and we retraced our steps into the hallway.

As the door swung shut behind us, I let out a breath. ‘One down.’

The waiter’s tray still lay on the table where he’d left it, so I removed two of the forks and gave one to Mary. ‘Not much, but marginally better than an unloaded gun.’

Taking care, we entered the gentlemen’s toilets, creeping across the shiny white tiles towards the inner door. Pushing it open, the hinges squeaked. Pausing, I listened. When no further sound arose, I pushed the door wider and peeked inside. Six sinks, six cubicles and one moustachioed attendant holding a tray of small hand towels.

He opened his mouth to speak, but I silenced him with a finger to my lips and a harsh look. The man’s eyes widened but he said nothing. Pointing at one of the two occupied cubicles, I mouthed, ‘Who’s in there?’ to which he mouthed back, ‘The Earl of Cardigan’.

I nodded, and pointed to the second cubicle, mouthing the same question.

This time, the attended shrugged and shook his head.

Signalling to Mary to wash her hands and thus create enough noise to cover my movements, I dropped to the floor and peered underneath the unknown cubicle. What I saw were a pair of high-heeled laced boots. Not the sort of thing a chap would be seen dead in, but exactly the sort of thing Professor Helga Klopp would choose.

As I lay there staring at the boots, it occurred to me that if a woman occupied the cubicle, the attendant must surely have noticed. Unless…

‘Johnny?’ Mary’s voice had an edge to it.

Getting to my feet, I turned and found myself staring at the wrong end of a pepper-box revolver—a multiple-barrel firearm, easily concealed in an average-size coat pocket.

The attendant, having discarded the (obviously) false moustache, uttered a harsh laugh. ‘I never cease to be amazed at how stupid you are, Doctor. Even Holmes acknowledges Mary Watson as the clever one.’

‘You fiend,’ I muttered. ‘You won’t get away with this.’

‘I beg to differ,’ said Blackwood, crossing to the nearest of the occupied cubicles. Unlocking the door, he pushed it open, revealing two henchmen standing on top of the toilet holding the legs of a third man, who had now begun to climb down from the hole in the roof space.

Before I could say anything, the other cubicle opened and Helga Klopp emerged, clutching a strange-looking device. Consisting of several sticks of gelignite, lots of wires and some sort of timing mechanism, it didn’t take a genius to understand its deadly purpose.

‘It’s a bomb,’ I said.

‘Ah,’ said Klopp, giving me her familiar villainous smile. ‘Vonce again you dizappoint me, Johnny. Stating ze bloody obvious.’

‘You won’t get away with this.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Blackwood, ‘we’ve done that bit. How about we get on with what you two nitwits are going to do now?’

‘Well,’ I said, stalling for time. ‘Since you clearly intend to blow us all to smithereens, why don’t you outline your fiendish plan?’

‘Oh, you’d love that, wouldn’t you, Watson? Give the arch-villain a chance to embark on a monologue, bragging about his exploits, therefore wasting time while your colleagues come to your rescue. No, I don’t think so.’

I glanced at Mary and noticed her hands were still wet. ‘Then at least allow my wife to dry her hands.’

Blackwood nodded and indicated the tray of hand towels. Mary took one and carefully wiped her fingers, one by one, keeping the towel close to her jacket pocket. As she handed the towel back, I glimpsed the fork in her right hand a second before she lunged at the villain’s unguarded stomach.

But Blackwood stepped aside, deftly avoiding the fork and grabbing Mary’s wrist. ‘Now, now, Mary.’

He threw the fork away and held out a hand to me. ‘And yours, Doctor.’

I sniffed and handed over my fork.

‘Now,’ said Blackwood. ‘As you noticed, we have a bomb. In fact, this is one of several, the others having been distributed above the roof of the dining room. I had intended this one to be placed on the stage as part of my presentation, but as you so rudely interrupted our arrangements, and given that I cannot allow you to disrupt my plans any further…’

He signalled to the thugs to tie us up and a moment later we were bound up in one of the cubicles, our feet balanced on top of the bomb which itself stood on top of the toilet seat. A loop around our necks led to a hook on the wall above me. Any but the smallest of movements would unbalance us, prompting a combined version of the Tyburn Jig. And if that didn’t kill us, the bomb definitely would.

Klopp adjusted the timing mechanism and leaned over to give my nether regions a squeeze. ‘Ah, Johnny—ve could hav made zuch beautiful muzic togezer.’

Before closing the cubicle door, Blackwood took a piece of wire attached to the bomb and wound it carefully around the handle of the door. ‘In the unlikely event some foolhardy detective attempts a rescue, a tug on this will trigger the timer.’ He smiled his most evil smile. ‘Sadly, you two won’t be able to witness my performance in the dining room, but you can at least take pleasure in the knowledge that, one way or another, you’re going to be well and truly fucked. Mwah, hah, hah.’

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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