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Author Archives: colingarrow

About colingarrow

Indie author of murder, mystery and horror books. Short stories in: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Flood, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind...

An Invitation


Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Saturday 1st July 1893

Things being somewhat quiet of late, Mary and I planned to take a short holiday to the lake District. An overindulgence in sweetmeats and the like over these last few months has resulted in both of us adding a few inches to our waistlines. To be fair, I suspect it was the increase in my own girth that prompted Mary’s suggestion we ‘get a little exercise’ and try a spot of hillwalking.

However, having set the proverbial wheels in motion, an urgent telegraphical communication from Mary’s Great Aunt Bob (short for Roberta), scuppered our plans, and yesterday afternoon I somewhat huffily waved my wife off on the 2:45 to Skipton.

We did agree to try and meet up in a few days, though if the health of the aforementioned relative does not improve, it seems likely I’ll be left to my own devices.

This morning, after sorting out a few medical affairs and finding myself with no immediate plans, I determined to pop over to Baker Street and call on Holmes, when a message arrived from that very personage:

Watson,

Come at once, if convenient.
(If not convenient, come all the same).

H

I told the boy I’d leave immediately, collected my hat and overcoat, summoned a Hackney and set off to see my old friend and colleague. As we trotted along, it occurred to me that I’d not heard from Holmes since his return from Massachusetts, and I was keen to probe him on his adventures.

Mrs Hudson greeted me with a grunt, slamming the door sharply behind me. She proceeded to follow me up the stairs, muttering disgruntled remonstrations concerning the absence of her name from any of my stories in The Strand.

“Well,” I said, as she pressed her bosoms into my chest, “I always make a point of mentioning your lovely muffins…”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “And don’ you make a bloody fing of ‘em as well. You was a decent bloke afore you got all involved wiv ‘is ‘ighness in there. When you first moved in ‘ere, you was all nice and polite an’ that. Now all I get is snidey remarks about my minge and my boobies.”

I coughed and patted her shoulder. “I’m fairly certain I’ve never mentioned your minge, Mrs Hudson, but you’re quite right, and I will from henceforth rather be myself.” Expecting the quote to go over her head, her response surprised me.

“I should fink so, an’all. Always thought your presence was too bold and peremptory.” She gave me a sly smile, then turned and stomped back downstairs, her rear end wobbling from side to side like a sack of overinflated balloons. (Note to self—replace with a more appropriate description.)

“Ah, Watson,” said Holmes, pulling the door wide. “Jolly good to see you old chap. Take a pew.”

I settled into my usual armchair by the fire and waited while Holmes poured tea and offered me one of Mrs Hudson’s delightful muffins.

“Mary get off alright, eh?”

“Mary?” I said.

“Skipton, wasn’t it?” His eyes sparkled, and I could see I wouldn’t get away with ignoring him.

“That’s right, Holmes.” I paused, sighed and, striving to keep the irritation out of my voice, added, “but how could you possibly know?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson.” He leaned back, gazing upwards, as if searching for a tiny crack in the ceiling. “I recall Mary mentioned an ancient aunt in Yorkshire. Great Aunt Roberta, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “But the county covers a large geographical area. Hardly specific.”

He smiled sardonically. “I occasionally take The Yorkshire Post, you know, and last week’s issue reported an outbreak of influenza. In Skipton. And of course,” he added, stuffing his meerschaum with a generous helping of Hard Shag, “the elderly can be prone to such infections.” He struck a Swan Vesta and lit his pipe, puffing away for a moment. “Aside from such details, I did see Mary get on the train as I was booking our tickets yesterday afternoon.”

“You never fail to amaze me,” I said, with only a hint of sarcasm.

Holmes grinned and watched me for a moment. I realised he was waiting for me to ask another question.

“Er…”

“Really, Watson,” he muttered. “Sometimes I wonder about your faculties. I said, Although, to be fair…”

“Oh!” I laughed and slapped my leg as if chastising myself. “Of course. What tickets, Holmes?”

“Monday morning,” he said. “The 11:36 from Kings Cross. We’re off to Clovenhoof Vale.”

“Clovenhoof what?”

“Vale. You won’t have heard of it. The place is a small village a few dozen miles south of Carlisle. An old school pal of mine has written, asking me to visit.”

I nodded. “I see.”

Holmes chewed his lower lip in a manner that suggested there might be something he hadn’t told me.

“And?” I said.

“And I thought you might like to come along, that’s all.” He coughed and looked out of the window.

“Holmes…”

“Oh, very well.” He coughed again and made humphing noises for a moment. Eventually, he said, “Fact is, this chap’s sister is ill.”

“Ah. Like Mary’s Aunt.”

“Possibly. But…” He sighed. “You know me, Watson. Not at home to sickly folk. I thought…” he looked up, hopefully.

“You thought I might come along and take care of any…medical issues.”

“That’s it entirely.” He resumed puffing his pipe,

I had no reason to refuse his offer, and as Mary would be indisposed for a few days at least, the ministering to a lone patient would hardly tax my skills. “Very well,” I said. “So, this pal of yours—rich, is he?”

“Not short of a few bob,” said Holmes. “Never been to the family seat before, but I believe it’s a fairly impressive residence.”

“Well,” I said. “At least it won’t collapse around our ears.”

We shared a chuckle at this, recalling our adventure on Huge Island.

“By the way,” I said, helping myself to another muffin. “What’s this chap’s name?”

“Usher,” said Holmes. “Roderick Usher.”

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2020 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Interesting Pair of Trousers


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

‘We’ve got to do something, Holmes,’ I muttered. ‘In less than a minute poor Mrs Christie will get squashed like a–’

‘Yes, yes, I know that, Watson,’ hissed my companion. ‘But this is not the time for descriptive passages. This is a time for action. Where’s that jar of chilli sauce?’

‘It’s in my hand,’ I said, careful not to display the object, in case the man guarding us saw it.

‘Then do what you were going to do earlier,’ said Holmes, nodding towards the steam engine.

I could see no benefit from chucking a jar of chilli sauce into a steam engine, but as we had very little else in our store of retaliative weaponry, and as the floor of the library had already reached the halfway mark, we were out of options. Flinging my arm back, I hurled the jar towards the giant engine and watched as it flew up in a long arc and came down to land between two huge cogs.

I heard the jar shatter above the noise of the engine, then a jet of sauce spurted out and landed in Moriarty’s left eye.

For an Evil Genius, Moriarty screamed like a girl. Grasping at his injured eye, he waved a hand at Frau Klopp to help him. ‘My fucking … aaargh!’ he screeched.

As Klopp and the minions flocked around their leader, the man holding us at gunpoint glanced away for a second. That was all we needed. Leaping forwards, Holmes grasped the man by the neck. Lestrade knocked his gun to the ground and kicked it towards me. I picked it up and ran across to where Mrs Christie lay, now only a few feet from the descending floor and certain death. Keeping the gun raised in the direction of the villains, I grabbed one of the ropes holding the famous novelist and hauled her away from the danger area.

A moment later, Moriarty had pushed aside his workers and stood over us. ‘That’s it,’ he roared. ‘Kill them all!’

But the metal lid from the jar of chilli sauce had slipped into some vital part of the steam engine, and as the library floor hit the ground, the engine screamed as if in pain. The machine seemed to be attempting to force the library floor to continue its journey through the ground it now rested on. With a grinding of gears and a sudden lurch, the engine began to shake violently. The iron struts linked to the engine shuddered, and with a metallic whine, the first strut bent under the strain and collapsed, crashing down into the crowd of dumbstruck villains. A second strut followed and in a matter of seconds, the whole supporting structure of the vast hall buckled under the weight of the house above.

‘Quickly, Johnny,’ yelled Mary, cutting through Mrs Christie’s bonds with Lestrade’s nail scissors. ‘We have to get out before the whole place collapses.’

Moriarty’s men ran around the steam engine pulling levers and pushing buttons while the arch-villain himself stood in the middle, clutching his eye and screaming at Klopp.

Holmes grabbed my sleeve. ‘Back to where we came in,’ he said, pushing Mary and Mrs Christie towards the square of stone floor that led to the cellar steps.

‘D’you think it’ll still work?’ I yelled, above the roar of the collapsing engines.

‘If it doesn’t, we’re fucked,’ he said. ‘Come on.’

Racing to the end of the hall, I glanced over my shoulder and saw Moriarty still ranting at Klopp, with Fu Manchu and the forger struggling to separate their furious leaders. But two people were missing. Colonel Moran and Ratched had disappeared.

Gathering ourselves on the small square of floor, I looked at Holmes. ‘How do we make it go?’

‘Oh, I know,’ said Mrs Christie. ‘There should be a brick somewhere …’ She pressed her hands against various parts of the wall.

‘Quickly,’ said Holmes. ‘Try them all.’

The rest of us eagerly pushed and prodded the wall. At first it seemed that whatever Mrs Christie thought might be there, simply didn’t exist, but then one of the smaller bricks moved, and in a flash, the floor trembled and started its upward journey.

Below us, the noise level rose and the thumping and clanking of the steam engine hit a deafening pitch.

The floor re-connected with the cellar steps and clanked into place. Racing up the staircase, I crashed through the cellar door into the sudden glare of torchlight.

‘Who’s there?’ I demanded.

‘Oh, hello there,’ said a voice. ‘You must be Doctor Watson. And this would be your good lady wife, would it?’

Shading my eyes, I saw a plump constable holding a torch. Behind him were a crowd of other officers, all armed with torches and truncheons.

‘No, actually,’ I said, ‘this is the famous novelist Mrs Agatha Christie.’

‘Sergeant Radish,’ said Lestrade, stepping into the light. ‘Never thought I’d be ‘appy ter see your mutton chops.’

‘Never mind all that,’ said Holmes, pushing me out of the way. ‘Sergeant, the house is about to collapse. Get your men back outside with all speed.’

The big sergeant saluted smartly and shouted at his men. I grabbed Mary and Mrs Christie and escorted them through the drawing room and out through the French windows.

Once everyone had retreated to a safe distance, I looked back at the house. Holmes stood beside me.

‘There’s someone missing,’ I said.

Holmes nodded. ‘Yes,’ he murmured. ‘Moran and that awful former nurse. Keep your eyes open, Watson. I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’d found another way out.’

As we watched, the whole house shuddered violently, shaking roof tiles loose and rattling window frames in their housings. As tiles and glass crashed to the ground, the house gave a massive judder, and one by one, the walls fell inward, clouds of debris, glass and dust flying about in all directions.

‘Well,’ said Holmes, ‘anyone left under there won’t be coming out in one piece. A fitting end to that bunch of atrocious individuals.’

‘Not including me in that, I hope, Mister Holmes?’

I turned and saw the woman who had arrived with Mrs Christie. Naturally, she was holding a gun.

‘Ratched,’ said Holmes, smiling sardonically. ‘I’d rather hoped you’d be dead and buried by now.’

‘Sorry to disappoint. But my lover knew another way out, so …’ She jerked her head indicating someone next to her and I saw Colonel Moran standing there holding his famous elephant gun.

‘Ah,’ said Holmes. ‘Guns all round, then.’

By this time Sergeant Radish and his officers had realised we had company. ‘Now then, now then,’ he said. ‘We don’t want no trouble here.’

‘Oh, it’s no trouble,’ said Moran, lowering his rifle. ‘I’m just going to pop off a few rounds and get rid of all my concerns in one go.’ Cocking the weapon, he raised it to his shoulder.

‘Hold on a mo, would you?’ said Mrs Christie, pushing through the crowd. ‘I’d like a quick word with Maudie. I mean Nursie, or whatever she’s calling herself these days.’

‘I’ve got nothing to say to you, Aggie, apart from goodbye.’ Ratched laughed and gave Moran a nod. ‘Get on with it.’

But Mrs Christie was not to be outdone. With a quick step forwards, she stuck out a finger and pushed the buckle of Ratched’s jodhpurs. Incredibly, the johdpurs came alive, vibrating and emitting a whirring noise that appeared to be centred around the genital area.

Ratched looked down at herself and began to moan. ‘Oh, my God, oh my fuckin God.’

Moran lowered his gun. ‘What’s happening Nursie? What’s she done to you?’

‘I don’t know,’ she squealed clasping at her lady parts. ‘These bloody trousers are making me all squidgy. Oh, bloody hell …’

At this, Holmes leaped forward, snatched Moran’s gun, upended the weapon and brought it crashing down on the grass, smashing the stock and separating the barrel from its casing.

‘That’s better,’ he said, handing the broken pieces back to Moran. ‘Now, I think Sergeant Radish has something to say.’

The big policeman stepped forward. ‘Right, Mister whoever-you-are, I am arresting you in the name of all that is good and proper and will be handing you over to the relevant police station at the earliest opportunity.’ Unfastening a pair of handcuffs from his belt, he clamped them over Moran’s wrists, while another officer did the same to Ratched, who writhed about like a bag full of cats.

‘Well,’ I said, looking at Mrs Christie with a sense of wonder. ‘An interesting pair of trousers.’

‘Yes,’ said the famous lady novelist, ‘I had them made after my husband curtailed his interest in my womanly needs. They’ve a built-in device for giving pleasure to those parts that most require it. Sadly, the thing developed a fault and now it’ll keep going until Miss Ratched has experienced the maximum number of orgasms.’ She paused. ‘Thirty-seven, I think.’

As we walked down to the beach and the waiting police launch, I caught up with Holmes.

‘That’s not the end of him, you know,’ he said.

‘Moriarty? No, we wouldn’t be that lucky.’

Glancing back at the house, a sense of great loss washed over me. Not for the house, or even for Moriarty, but for those innocent and not-so-innocent fools who got caught up in a ridiculous game—a game that didn’t even have a point, other than to make Sherlock Holmes look like a failure. And that would never happen.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Agatha Goes Down


From the Private Diary of A. Christie (Mrs)

Dear Diary,
I should have expected the noise of the descending floor to alert whoever waited below us, but even so, I experienced a wave of fear as we emerged into a vast arena and a crowd of expectant villains.

Maudie gave me a pitying smile and slunk away to join her comrades. Obviously, the threat of a Derringer held no sway. Nevertheless, I held onto my weapon, pointing it at the man in front of me.

‘Now then,’ I said. ‘Who’s in charge, here?’

‘That would be me, madam,’ said the man, smiling.

‘Ant me, of course,’ said the woman standing next to him.

I recognised her immediately, though of course her accent had reverted to her native German. ‘Ah yes,’ I said. ‘The kraut.’

‘I don’t zink zer’s any need for zat zort of talk,’ she said, looking as if I’d slapped her stupid face. ‘Zer name iz Klopp.’

‘Then I suggest you Klopp off.’ I walked forwards, keeping my eyes and my gun on the man next to her. ‘And you are …?’

‘Professor James Moriarty, Mrs Christie. At your service.’ He bowed. ‘I see you’ve already met our friend, Nurse Ratched …’ He laughed, mirthlessly. ‘Now, if you’d like to hand over your little pop gun …’

There seemed no point maintaining my stance as the vengeful warrior, so I passed it across to him. ‘So, what do you do here?’ I said, looking around intently.

The Professor laughed. ‘Oh, the usual—murder, mayhem, a little bit of intimidation, protection. You know the sort of thing.’

‘And these are …?’ I waved a hand at the assembled throng.

‘Comrades, minions, various arch villains—Doctor Fu Manchu, Colonel Sebastian Moran, etcetera, etcetera.’

Keeping a straight face, despite my surprise at the sheer quantity of rogues, villains and very bad people gathered in one place, I said, ‘And this moving floor business. What’s all that about?’

‘You’d like a demonstration?’ He seemed pleased at this, and I wondered if it might be possible to launch him into one of those fatal monologues that villains in trashy crime novels love so much, where they explain everything before killing the hero. If nothing else, it would fill in a bit of time.

Frau Klopp interrupted. ‘I don’t zink zis is necessary. Let’s just kill zem all now.’

Moriarty smiled at her. ‘If Mrs Christie wants a demonstration, let’s give her a demonstration.’

The way he said this gave me a start. I realised with growing horror that he meant something likely to prove extremely injurious—mainly to me.

‘Tie her up and place her beneath the library.’

A horde of white-coated henchmen surrounded me, and in a trice, they trussed me up like an out-of-season turkey. Hoisting me into the air, they carried me like a rolled-up carpet to an area at the far side of the hall where they laid me down. Far above me, I could make out the plan of the house—the rooms linked by iron struts leading to pulleys and gears and thence to a massive steam engine in the middle. The struts connected to the room above me stretched up to the sides of the library floor but were hinged in places to allow the whole thing to slide down on top of me without getting in the way. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be squashed flat. It wasn’t a scene I’d envisaged for any of my own characters, and I positively did not wish to see it played out for real.

Twisting my head, I could see Inspector Lestrade and an attractive, wonky-eyed woman, standing at the other side of the hall. Next to them stood Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (identifiable from the images used in The Times and Strand Magazine). Standing there and guarded by a white-coat with a gun, I stared hard, struggling to convey something of my fear in a way that might prompt them into one of their famous rescues.

But as Moriarty pressed a button on the steam engine, any hope I had of liberation slipped away like a lover in the night.

With a screech of gears, the floor began its descent.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mary and The Colonel


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

As we were tied up facing away from the end of the room, it was tricky to see what was going on, but I managed to shuffle my chair back and forth and twist around enough to watch the proceedings. The elevator-type floor descended, while Moriarty barked at his henchmen, their Lugers at the ready. He and Klopp stood side by side, with Fu Manchu and that forger chap next to them. I realised someone was missing from the group just as a hand touched my knee.

‘Mrs Watson,’ purred Colonel Moran, crouching next to me. ‘Feisty little thing, aren’t you?’ His hand slid around to my bottom.

‘Get off me, moron,’ I snapped.

‘You mean Moran,’ he said.

‘I know what I mean.’

He sniffed and sat back on his haunches, watching me. ‘You know, Mary, even with that wonky eye, you’re a startlingly attractive woman. If you and I were able to get to know one another a little, I could spare your life.’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I don’t drop my knickers for villains.’

‘But you already did,’ he said, sniggering.

I turned away from him and in doing so, caught sight of what Johnny and Lestrade were up to—Lestrade had a small pair of scissors in his fingers and had managed to snip through his own ropes. Now his attention was on my husband’s bonds.

Turning back to Moran, I smiled at him and put on my ‘coy’ face, determined to keep his focus on me. ‘Of course, you’re not any old villain, are you, Sebastian?’

He gazed into my eyes and began fondling my knee again. ‘I’m not?’

‘No,’ I murmured. ‘I mean, for one thing, you’ve got a really big gun, haven’t you?’

Amazingly, the man became embarrassed and dropped his head to look at the floor. Luckily, he faced away from Lestrade and Johnny. If I could keep him occupied for a few more precious seconds, we’d still have a chance.

At that moment, the descending floor thumped into place, and Moran jumped up and stalked off to join Moriarty.

‘Mary,’ hissed Holmes. I looked over and saw he’d wriggled one hand free of the ropes and clutched the box of Swan Vestas. ‘Can you get a match out?’

Shuffling my chair closer, I managed to get two fingers into the box and with a bit of fiddling around, picked out a single matchstick.

‘Strike it?’ I said, glancing over to the crowd at the far end of the room.

He nodded, holding the box as close as he could to my fingers and the single match. With a quick movement, I hit the thing against the course side of the matchbox. It burst into flame, and I leaned over, holding it under one of the ropes tying Sherlock to the chair.

A movement behind me told me our plan was discovered, and Colonel Moran leaned down and blew out the match.

‘Naughty, naughty,’ he said with a sneer. Looking across at my companions he saw that Johnny and Lestrade had almost succeeded in freeing themselves. ‘Don’t bother, chaps,’ he said. Pulling a long knife from a sheath tied to his shin, he held the blade in front of my face. ‘Time for slicing.’ With that, he cut through my ropes, then moving across to the others, freed them of their remaining bonds.

‘Get over there,’ he shouted, indicating an area away from the tables. One of the minions hurried over to guard us, his gun pointing straight at Holmes.

Free of the chairs, we could now see what was happening with the new arrivals. I recognised Agatha Christie immediately and saw that she had a small gun in her hand. Unfortunately, five guns were also pointing right back at her.

If this was the famous novelist’s attempt at a rescue, she’d better re-think the dénouement.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mary and the Professor


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

We stood in silence for a few moments while Moriarty and Klopp huddled together. Though I could hear nothing of their conversation, from Klopp’s puce-coloured upturned face and Moriarty’s scowling mouth, there could be no doubt they were arguing.

Holmes leaned towards me. ‘I don’t imagine you have a sgian-dubh down your trouser-leg, Watson?’

‘Alas, no,’ I muttered. Then something else occurred to me. ‘But I do still have that jar of chilli sauce in my pocket.’

Holmes closed his eyes and smiled beatifically, as if in the throes of an orgasmic dream. Then his features dropped back into their usual expressionless gaze and he whispered, ‘Excellent.’

Klopp barked an unintelligible order at the group of white-coated workers nearest her, prompting the minions to hurry away. They returned in a flash, carrying high-backed chairs much like those in the dining room.

Behind me, Lestrade leaned forward. ‘What’s a sgian-dubh?’

‘A small knife,’ I said. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got one?’

He shook his head. ‘Not a sgian-dubh, but I do ‘ave a pair of nail scissors and a needle and thread pinned under my lapel.’

‘Really? Why?’

He sniffed. ‘The missus makes me carry ‘em. She won’t sew on buttons, see, so I ‘ave ter do it meself.’

‘Think you could cut through my bonds?’

‘What bonds?’

‘The ones we’re about to be tied up with,’ I said, nodding towards the minions.

The white-coats lined us up, instructing us to sit. The expected ropes appeared. In a trice, they lashed all four of us to the chairs like pigs in blankets. Except with rope, instead of bacon. Obviously.

Holmes and I were close enough to speak in low tones. ‘I think I can reach the jar,’ I said.

‘See if you can conceal it in your hand and get the lid off.’

‘Of course,’ I said, wishing I’d done that earlier.

‘Good. I’ve got a plan.’ Turning to face Mary, who was next to him, Holmes said in a loud voice, ‘Is it true what they say about a woman scorned, my dear?’ I knew from his tone of voice that he had also imparted some secret message to my dear wife. Her answer confirmed it.

‘Scorned, Holmes? Fucking scorned? I tell you, if that Italian lothario came back in here now, I’d tear his bloody face off.’ Her voice had risen in pitch to a near scream. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was really pissed off.

‘What’s that?’ said Moriarty, looking over. ‘The little woman rising from her baby carriage, is she?’

‘It’s ‘getting out of her pram’, you imbecile,’ said Holmes. He turned to me, ‘These bloody Scandinavians. Tch.’

Moriarty erupted. ‘Scandinavian? You think I’m Scandinavian?’

‘Aren’t you?’ said Holmes.

‘I’m an Icelander, you dolt, which makes me Nordic, not Scandinavian.’

Mary turned to Holmes. With a voice dripping in pure condescension, she said, ‘See, I told you.’

Moriarty glared at her. ‘Told him what?’

‘Oh, nothing. Just that I always knew there was something wrong with that so-called ice-cream seller.’

‘Something wrong?’

‘Yes. A Scandinavian lover wouldn’t have had such a tiny–’

‘No!’ he screamed. ‘Do not tell them. Do not, do not, do not!’

‘A tiny willie,’ said Mary, sniggering.

‘Now!’ shouted Holmes.

‘Sorry, what?’ said I.

Holmes stared at me and hissed, ‘The Chilli sauce, Watson. Throw it.’

‘I can’t get it out of my pocket,’ I said, demonstrating my inability to move.

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake …’

‘You didn’t give me a bloody chance,’ I said. ‘I’m not fucking Houdini.’

‘That, my dear Watson, is patently obvious.’

A sudden grinding noise came from the area at the back of the vast space. Twisting round, I saw that the floor we had arrived on had begun to move back up. I glanced at Holmes. ‘D’you think that’s …?’

‘Our saviour?’ muttered Holmes. ‘I do, Watson, I do.’

‘What’s happening?’ barked Moriarty, pushing workers aside as he stormed across the floor. ‘Who is that?’

Klopp hurried across to join him, shouting orders at the white-coated underlings. The pair stood gazing upwards as the floor reached its meeting point with the stone steps above and a second later began to slide back down again.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mrs Christie is in the Building

From the Private Diary of A. Christie (Mrs)
Huge Island

Dear Diary,
The captain of our paddle steamer seemed a little put out by my insistence that he ferry Maudie and I across to the island, so I slipped him twenty pounds over and above the usual fare and promised him a feel of my bosoms if he made the crossing in less than an hour.

Needless to say, the man took to his task with enthusiasm, and we were soon speeding across the choppy waters to what I hoped would not be an almighty mess of bloody bodies.

During the drive to Dolphin Cove, I did some serious thinking. I may be a piddle-headed twit sometimes, but I felt sure something wasn’t right with my maid-turned-chauffeur. Being a staunch supporter of women’s privileges and the vote, etcetera, I could hardly object when one of my own staff turned out to have a bit of good old get-up-and-go. That said, I did take one small precaution before we left, which may have been a little pre-emptive on my part, but Maudie has only been in my employ for a few months and her announcement that she could drive a car floored me somewhat. Anyway, if it turns out I’ve made an error of judgment in bringing her along, my old jodhpurs might still save the day.

‘Nearly there, ma’am,’ said Maudie, half an hour later. I stood behind her and gazed out across the water at the stark image before us. Seeing it there, in real life, brought the book back to me, almost as if I’d based the novel on this very island. Strange, I mused, how one’s imagination can conjure up images of things that do not exist, and yet that exact image lay here before me, as if I’d created it myself and plopped it into the sea, readymade for a murderous gathering.

‘Be dark soon, missus,’ said the captain. ‘Might be needing this.’ He handed me a paraffin lantern and a box of Swan Vestas.

‘Thank you, my man,’ I said. ‘Tell me, did you take the party of guests across to the island a few days ago?’

‘No, not me, missus,’ he said. ‘That were some detective bloke from Londen. I rented ‘im moi boat. Fetlock Soames, I think ‘e said ‘is name were.’

‘Sherlock Holmes,’ I said.

‘That’s ‘im. Made me hide in the galley while he dressed up in me gear an’ pretended to be captain. Nice bloke, though. Gave me twenty quid.’ His face took on a pleading aspect, as if I had not already paid him, but allowing his expectation of fondling me later, I slipped him another ten pounds to keep him happy.

We pulled up at the small dock a few minutes later, and Maudie helped me onto the jetty while the captain stood there looking like a little boy who’d lost his lollipop. I waved a hearty goodbye and promised we’d be back shortly.

We trudged up the hill to the top and on reaching the crest found ourselves on the edge of a vast lawn. As I took in the scene in front of us, the flagged path snaking away through a series of shaped hedges, depicting odd-looking woodland animals, I was again reminded of how similar the whole thing was in relation to my book. Could the mastermind behind all this have used my novel to plan every little detail?

Walking through the ornamental gardens, past the Leylandii hedge we came upon the house itself. I’m no connoisseur of architecture, but it was obvious to me that the structure must be modern, perhaps built in the last few months and modelled on that awful Tudor Revivalist style so popular a few years ago. Even so, whatever else I might have thought of it, the place had a striking air of self-importance and I couldn’t help marvel at the mind that must have created such a monstrosity in order to carry out such a monstrous plot.

‘There’s the front door, ma’am,’ said Maudie, striding forward in a rather mannish way.

‘That’s alright,’ I said. ‘We’ll have a look round the back, first.’

Maudie scowled, but did not object. We walked off to the right, skirting around past the end of the tree-lined walkway, and followed the path to what I suppose they like to call the fenêtres françaises.

On rounding the corner, I’d spotted something sprawled on the lawn. The growing darkness made it difficult to perceive details, so as we drew closer, I left the path and strode over to where the thing lay, holding my lantern high. As I feared, it was a man, and he was dead. If I’d harboured hopes this adventure might turn out to be a bizarre game, the image of that tragic and bloody figure caused those hopes to vanish.

Heading towards the French windows, I saw that one door stood open. I peeked inside. There were no lights on, and I muttered another ‘thank you’ to the captain for the gift of his lantern. Making our way into what must be the drawing room, I noticed a chair in the middle of the floor. Several lengths of cut rope lay here and there, which indicated someone had recently escaped, though as the result of that escape had skewered him on the grass, I could only imagine the man’s fleeting thoughts of victory before meeting a truly horrible end.

Maudie had not uttered a word through all this, and when I touched her arm, thinking she may have descended into a state of shock, she looked up, smiled, seemed to realise her mistake, and frowned.

‘Ain’t it awful, ma’am?’

I agreed that it was and hurried her to the door and out into the main hall where yet another door stood open, inviting us to explore whatever hell lay beyond. Its location beneath the main staircase suggested it led to the cellar. Yes, I thought, definitely hell.

We stood together for a moment, peering into the darkness. ‘Off you go, then, Maudie,’ I said, waving a hand towards the stone steps.

‘Ooh, no ma’am,’ said she. ‘Oi couldn’t go in front of you. Oi’m only a maid, after all, ain’t Oi?’

I gave her my sweetest smile. ‘No, I insist.’

Was it my imagination, or the eerie glow from the lantern? I don’t know, but I swear her face drained of colour for a moment, before she gave herself a shake and returned my smile. Seeing her close up like that, the lines around her small mouth and eyes seemed more pronounced than usual, and I realised she had lied about her age when we’d first met. No doubt she’d lied about other things, too.

Holding the door, I waited until she’d begun to descend before removing my Remington Derringer from its hiding place in the back pocket of my corduroy trousers. Fitting snugly into my hand, the twin barrels promised two shots. I could only hope it would be enough.

Reaching the foot of the stone staircase, I noted the space where the floor ought to be, but there was nothing there. At the other side of the small room was a door but again there was no floor to hold it up. Given this unexpected circumstance, I paused, peering into the gloom. The meagre light offered by the lantern, illuminated the vast expanse beneath us and somewhere in the distance, I discerned the sound of voices.

‘Well, will yer look at that, ma’am,’ said Maudie, affecting all innocence. ‘There ain’t no floor.’

‘Come along, Maudie,’ I said. ‘Stop playing silly-buggers. You’ve been here before—you know what to do.’ I gave her a nudge with the Derringer in case any doubt lingered about my intentions.

Her smiled faded, and she pouted in the most unappealing manner. Then, leaning one hand against the wall, she reached over and pressed one of the smaller bricks. Immediately, a grinding noise started up somewhere below us. Looking down, I saw what must be the missing floor sliding up towards us.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Outmanoeuvred Detective


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

‘You’re forgetting something,’ I said, raising my revolver.

‘Ah,’ said Moriarty. ‘I did hope to avoid your typical English tit-for-tat behaviour.’

Holmes had also raised his weapon, but the villain showed no sign of having been outmanoeuvred.

‘Would you, my dear?’ said Moriarty, inclining his head to one side.

Klopp stepped forward and reached out to take our guns.

‘Hah,’ said Holmes, ‘you think I don’t have the nerve?’ And with that, he pulled the trigger.

For the second time that day, there was a dull click.

Holmes sighed. ‘Typical.’

‘Vot’s vrong, Holmes?’ said Klopp, grasping our weapons by the barrels. ‘Did you zeriously zink ve vould haf let you vander round wiz guns full of real bullets?’ She laughed and threw the revolvers on the floor behind her. ‘No, papier mâché, a wemarkably fwexible material.’

Moriarty made a gesture towards two of the white-coated workers and the pair stepped towards us, each one holding a German Luger.

‘Keep them covered,’ said the Evil Genius. ‘And if anyone moves before Mrs Christie gets here, kill them.’

‘Now, just wait a bleedin minute,’ said Lestrade, pushing past me. ‘I’ve met this Mrs Christie and she ain’t a bad old girl if yer ask me, so I’d like to know just what you fink she’s going ter do when she gets ‘ere.’

I nudged his arm. ‘It isn’t Mrs Christie we need to worry about,’ I said. ‘It’s the other one. Ratched.’

‘Oh, right. Sorry.’

‘Yes,’ said Moriarty. ‘So, to clarify, Maudie will aid Mrs Christie in locating us down here. She will escort the silly woman into the dining room which will then descend into our little departure lounge over yonder, where she and you will be … departed, forever. After that, our team here will make the final preparations to begin the takeover of Londen.’

‘Don’t think so,’ said Holmes. ‘I think you underestimate the cunning of our favourite lady novelist.’

‘I do not underestimate her cunning at all, Holmes,’ said the Evil Genius, ‘but I’m sure you’ll agree, real life is not one of her strong points. Take that eleven-day disappearance of hers—hardly the actions of a sound mind, eh?’ He laughed. ‘No, I don’t think we have anything to fear from that quarter.’

I had to admit, I could see Moriarty’s point—a middle-aged woman who spends her time drinking tea and writing novels is hardly likely to parachute in, all guns blazing, and save the day.

All in all, things were looking rather bleak.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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