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.’