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Category Archives: Detective Fiction

Lestrade to the Rescue (Again)


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Reaching the front door, I launched myself against it. Luckily, it was ajar and swung inwards as my shoulder made painful contact with the large brass knocker.

Getting to my feet, I looked up and saw across the hall a familiar figure lying prostrate on the floor. It was Holmes and he had a knife sticking out of his chest.

“Oh, bloody Nora,” I yelped, my hand going to my mouth in a girly display of fright. Pulling myself together, I ran to his side, aware of the clatter of footsteps somewhere above me.

“Holmes,” I screamed. “You’re not bloody dead, are yer?”

Doctor and Mrs Watson tore down the stairs and knelt beside me, the good doctor immediately taking over and checking his friend’s vital signs.

“Sherlock?” said Watson, running his fingers around the area of the apparent wound. “Is this what I hope it is?”

At that, Holmes raised his head. “What d’you hope it is, Watson?”

“I hope it’s one of Mycroft’s knife-proof vests.”

Holmes sighed. “Ah, yes. That would have been a capital idea. Had I thought of it.” His head dropped to the floor with a thump, his eyes closed and his mouth open, a last gasp of life escaping his thin lips.

Sherlock Holmes was dead.

Watson’s lower lip trembled. He placed a hand over his friend’s eyes, then murmured something that sounded like a prayer. He sniffed, then sat up and turned to me. “Lestrade. You came.”

“Too late, it seems,” said I, a sense of despair washing over me. I gazed down at the lifeless face of our former colleague. “We’ll not see the like of ‘im again,” I said. “Not in this life.”

“Hold the eulogies, chaps,” muttered Holmes.

“Bloody hell,” I gasped. “He ain’t dead at all.”

“Christ,” said Watson, “give me a hand.” Grasping Holmes under the arms we took a firm hold and hauled the undead detective to his feet, the knife in his chest waving slightly with the effort, then shuffled him over to a nearby chair.

It was only then that we noticed the other weapon – a large kitchen knife – on the floor. Holmes had apparently been lying on top of it.

Watson stared at it, then looked at Holmes. “If that’s the knife there…” He let out a low growl. “Where did this one come from?”

“What? This?” Holmes gave the knife sticking out of his chest a playful flick with his finger. The implement waved back and forth as if made of rubber.

Watson straightened up. “You fucking twat,” he hissed. “I thought you were dead.” Snatching the knife, he gave it a sharp tug and it came away from Holmes’ chest, revealing it to be little more than a handle and a two-inch ‘blade’ that had been fastened in place with the aid of sticky tape.

“Keep it down, please, John,” said Holmes, glancing around in a rather furtive manner. “Common-or-garden joke-shop, as it happens.”

Standing up, Holmes ripped off the remaining pieces of sticky tape and fastened his shirt. Then, signalling our silence with a finger to his lips, whispered, “This way.” And with that, he scurried off towards the dining room. Once inside, he shut the door softly and crossed over to the windows to draw the curtains.

Watson stood and watched him, hands on hips, indicating that he was still very angry.

“What’s going on, Holmes?” said Mary, stroking her husband’s arm in a calming motion.

“Fink he’s ‘aving one of ‘is clever clogs moments,” said I.

Holmes held up a warning hand. “Shh.” He cocked his head as if listening, then indicated for us to gather round. “Now,” he said. “Admittedly my little performance may appear to you to be in poor taste, Watson, but I have my reasons. Had you been a little quicker in looking over the banister rail just now you would have observed another individual peering down at me from the first-floor landing.”

“Oh, shit,” said Watson. “Klopp.”

“Correct. Seeing that Miss Claymore’s knife-throwing act had apparently killed me instead of you, she quite naturally decided to make herself scarce. I suggest we do not avail her of the news that I am still very much alive until we can track her down.”

“Hang on,” said I. “Is this the Professor Klopp that…”

“Yes, yes,” said Holmes, “the very same, and if she’s not the mastermind behind this whole affair, then I’m a monkey’s carbuncle.”

“I don’t understand,” said Watson. “When did you strap that device to your chest?”

“Unlike you, friend John, I prepared myself for a successful attempt to be made on my life, and as there is an abundance of large knives in this house, I suspected the killer, one of them at least, to utilise such a weapon in an attempt to kill me.”

“But you said I was to be the next victim,” said Watson.

Holmes coughed. “Ah, yes. A ploy devised purely to protect you.” He looked at the floor. “Of course, I didn’t know Miss Claymore would actually try to kill you – I thought she was merely after a bit of…” He waved a hand in a suggestive manner.

“For God’s sake,” said Mary. “And you didn’t think it necessary to tell us the truth?”

“Mea culpa,” said Holmes, the beginnings of a sardonic smile playing around his mouth. “The fact is, Mary, I expected you two would be safely out of the way leaving me free to tackle our Germanic friend. Who, by the way, is still at large.”

“Wait a minute,” persisted Mary. “So you didn’t go off to the icehouse to follow Rogers?”

“I did, actually,” said Holmes, a look of concern sliding over his features.

“Oh,” said Mary, “but you didn’t think he might be in league with Klopp?”

“Again,” said Holmes, “I did, actually.”

Mary stamped her foot. “So you know what Rogers is doing right now, then?”

“Yes,” he said, simply.

“And what might that be?”

“Right now? He’s lying dead in the icehouse with an ice-pick in his head.”

We were all too stunned to speak.

After a moment, Holmes continued. “Some sort of spring mechanism attached to the door. Rather clever, actually. Poor chap didn’t have a chance.”

“Oh shit,” said Watson. “Look.”

We all turned to look at the row of miniature Indians on the dining table. One of them was lying down, his head melting into an ice cube.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Empty Bath


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

On seeing Vera Claymore hurrying towards the house, Holmes suggested I follow her while he went after Tommy Rogers. Giving the others an irritated glance (which I interpreted as annoyance at having to leave Messrs Blah, Lombardi and the General unguarded) he ran off in the direction of the icehouse.

Miss Claymore had already reached the French windows and slipped inside as I sprinted across the lawn, grateful I’d taken the precaution of kicking off my comfortable, but impractical, garden clogs a few minutes earlier. Bare footed and determined to apprehend my quarry, I nonetheless managed to trip over one of the deck chairs, wasting several precious seconds nursing an injured big toe.

Picking myself up, I raced into the morning room and thence into the hall, catching a glimpse of my prey running up the stairs brandishing a large kitchen knife. My God, I thought, she intends to kill Johnny! Tearing across the hall, I swung round onto the staircase and pelted upwards as fast as I was able. Above me the killer’s footsteps clattered over the landing and onto the upper staircase.

Where could she be going? Johnny had planned to conceal himself in our bedroom on the first floor, but Claymore was already nearing the second floor. Could she be searching for someone else?

“Mary!” hissed Johnny, hurrying towards me. “She’s got a knife. You stay here.”

“Not bloody likely,” said I, giving him a thump on the arm. “Come on.”

We hit the next staircase together, taking the steps two at a time. As we reached the top floor, Johnny pulled me to a halt. “Which one?”

A corridor stretched the length of the top floor, leading to two doors – one at either end. The first had a small brass sign attached pronouncing it to be the linen closet. It was also padlocked shut, so posed no danger as a possible hiding place. The other door had to be the entrance to the butler’s residence.

“The servants’ quarters,” I whispered. “There’s nowhere else she could have gone.”

Taking out his revolver, my hear husband stepped in front of me, holding his weapon firmly. Having left my own firearm in our bedroom, I rolled up the rug from the landing and held it up like a baton. It may not be sharp, I reasoned, but I’d be able to give the silly bitch a good wallop round the head if she came my way.

The door stood ajar. Johnny slid along the wall opposite and craned his neck. Can’t see her, he mouthed.

Skipping lightly across to the far side of the door, I signalled that we should rush in together on a count of three. Johnny nodded, so I held up one finger, then two then…

“Ahhhh…”

Miss Claymore shot through the door like a mad thing, hurtled past us and ran off towards the stairs. In the same instant her right foot slewed across the uncarpeted and highly-polished surface of the landing and she did what can only be described as an impromptu ballet move – one foot went forwards, the other went back and she did the splits, causing her womanly parts to hit the ground with a sharp slap.

“Ooh,” winced Johnny. “That’s got to hurt.”

With one hand clinging to the banister rail for support, Vera twisted round as if to fling the knife at us, but in throwing her arm back in readiness, she lost her grip on the deadly weapon, sending it spinning upwards in a rather graceful arc. The knife twirled in mid-air then as gravity took over, dropped like a stone down the stairwell. I was about to run to the woman’s aid (if only to chide her for being a silly cow), but Johnny grabbed my arm.

“Leave her – she’s lost the knife and, pardon me for gloating, won’t be going anywhere fast.” He turned towards the butler’s room and nodded. “Let’s go.”

As we moved carefully into the apartment, I couldn’t help wondering if, after all, there was someone else in the house we didn’t know about, in which case that same individual might at this very moment be waiting to… but no, Miss Claymore had to have come up here for a reason and as she had now left the room, whatever she’d intended must either have already been done, or failed in its execution for some other reason.

The bathroom door stood wide open and I was reminded that the body of Professor Klopp and the head of Justice Warmonger would still be where Johnny and Holmes had left them. From the doorway, I could see the bucket with the judge’s head in it, the bulging eyes gazing up at us with a slightly surprised expression. The bath, on the other hand, was entirely empty.

“Oh shit,” said Johnny. He looked at me. “She’s gone.”

“You mean she isn’t dead?” I said.

Johnny gritted his teeth and growled. “Bloody Vera,” he muttered. “Come on,” and we started back towards the landing.

Miss Claymore, while also not dead, was definitely in a lot of pain, which I freely admit to not feeling unhappy about. Her legs stuck out horizontally front and back, and she clung to the banister rail, mewing like a cat in heat.

“Ow, ow, ow…” she whined. “It hurts…”

“Well, serves you right,” said I, making some little effort not to laugh. “Now, where’s Professor Klopp?”

She stopped her moaning, turned her face towards me and said in a horridly prissy voice, “I don’t know what you mean.”

At that point Johnny leaned over the banister rail to look down and let out a howl of anguish.

“Darling, what is it?” I said jumping up.

“Look,” he said, simply, pointing down the stairwell.

Leaning over the banister rail, I looked, and there below us was the body of Sherlock Holmes, flat on his back, the kitchen knife sticking out of his chest.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Lestrade to the Rescue


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Having received no reply from either the Watsons or from Holmes, I determined to go to the island myself. Though I may well be (as Holmes has often chided), a sallow, rat-faced, dark-eyed, furtive-looking fellow, I am nevertheless, a jolly good detective and my gut feeling is that my Baker Street friends are in mortal danger. The telegraphical communication which arrived this morning from Sergeant Radish gave me a deal more than a bit of a turn, and for a moment my mind was in turmoil. Thankfully, turmoil is not a new experience for me and I dealt with it in a fitting and correct manner as outlined in the current edition of Police Procedures (Londen Edition).

I had entreated the pathologist Mister Stallworthy to investigate further into the possible identity of the dead person we had previously assumed to be Doctor Edward Armstrong, and in this respect had also sent a memo to Sergeant Radish to assist the doctor by any means possible.

Radish is not the most intellectual of coppers, but the man has a good heart and has seemingly moved heaven and earth (or earth, at least) in a bid to discover the truth. It turns out that the distant relative who came to identify Armstrong forgot to mention a rather significant piece of information which I have to say, sheds a light of a very different kind on the matter. Why the chap did not mention this at the time was a mystery, but the receipt of supplementary information explained his initial reticence, leaving no doubt as to his motives in concealing the truth. As Radish notes: It has been revealed that the Cousin from Cambridge is an inveterate shirt-lifter who often dresses up in ladies attire, goes waltzing off around the Old Town in the middle of the night, offering sexual favours to anyone with twopence-ha’penny to spare… This, to my mind explains everything.

Anyways, the upshot is that this shirt-lifting cousin did not want to admit that the real Doctor Edward Armstrong was in fact Doctor Edwina Armstrong, who, having found herself unable to obtain a position in General Practice, had masqueraded as a gentleman in order to further her career.

All of which suggests that the person who visited Mister Holmes was nothing more than an imposter, employed or otherwise persuaded to go to Baker Street and tell a certain story. I have no doubt that this was done entirely because of the reputation the famous detective has for digging out the truth. Whoever instigated this assignment knew Holmes couldn’t be fooled by a mere woman and would sniff her out in a trice, in which case the game, as it were, would not have been afoot, but up, good and proper.

All of which (again) suggest that someone on the island is a woman. And not only that, but a woman who is pretending to be a different woman, and in fact may be doubly pretending to be a woman who is really a man. Or something like that.

It was with all of this going round in my tiny mind that I made the crossing to Huge Island in a rowing boat borrowed from an old sea dog named Captain Ahab (so-named due to his being from Wales).

It was getting on for noon when I steered the boat towards the jetty and tied her up. From the shore I could see nothing, so hurried up the incline towards where I surmised the house would be. A few minutes later I had reached the crest of the incline and stood on the edge of a vast lawn. Making my way across the grass, I kept to one side, concealing myself as best I could among the trees and weirdly shaped hedges. The house now lay in front of me, and pausing for a moment, I took in its vastness, marvelling in the knowledge that this once-grand edifice had been the scene of at least four murders.

Just as I started forward again, a terrifying scream broke the stillness and as if that were not enough, I recognised the voice – it was Doctor Watson.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Doctor in the House


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Reaching the first landing, I looked out of the window and watched the others. Holmes and Mary were deep in conversation but had not yet made their move. Taking out the field glasses I’d borrowed from Holmes, I gazed at each of the other guests in turn – the General, Mr Lombardi, Billy Blah, Vera Claymore and Rogers. Apart from the latter, they were all sitting there, eyes closed and apparently completely oblivious to their surroundings. Of course, I knew that this could not be the case, since at least one of them must be the brains behind this ghastly affair and each of the others had killed, or intended to kill, someone else.

Just then, Holmes stood up and stretched lazily. He spoke to Mary and she too stood and made some indication of interest in the bird house that stood on the edge of the lawn, a few yards from the trees.

The two of them wandered over there, apparently chatting amiably with each other, though I could see the Great Detective’s nose twitching as he cast his beady eyes around the garden.

Turning my attention back to the remaining five, I trained the binoculars on them and studied each one for a few moments. First there was Rogers, and in his case, a straightforward judgement could not be made – the man had lost his wife, or at least the person he thought was his wife, and if not that, the woman he was in league with. None of which could gloss over the fact of her being dead. (Of course, it was also entirely possible Frau Klopp had been working alone with her own motives, but she must still have had some involvement in the overall set-up inasmuch as she had been invited to the island along with her so-called husband as cook and butler in the employ of the so-called Mr Owen.)

General MacArthur was a concern to me purely because of his age. I could not imagine him bounding around stringing people up from trees and the like, though as a former soldier in the Crimea, he would be familiar with guns and most likely had experienced the taking of lives. Mr Lombardi too had served in the army, though I was unclear in what capacity, so he could not be ruled out as a professional killer. Vera Claymore in fact, was the only one of the five I could not contemplate in the role of murderer. She was thin and feeble-looking with a gait that suggested varicose veins or some other leg-related malady that caused her to limp as she walked. Even so, she had worked as a teacher and may well have been responsible for some fatal incident resulting in the termination of her employment (as was the explanation in Mrs Christie’s novel).

Considering this detail, I also remembered that cardboard masks of Agatha Christie’s face had been attached to the heads of each of the victims (expect for Klopp, whose watery demise had not allowed for this macabre ritual, though the mask was still present at the scene). But no mask was found on Tony Marston’s body, which might suggest his killer had either ignored his or her instructions or had not included the item due to some other reason.

My musings on the matter were given a jolt as Tommy Rogers leaped out of his seat and began striding towards the icehouse. Lowering the glasses, I watched his progress and noted that Holmes and Mary were now loitering near the birdhouse but had also seen the butler’s sudden departure.

None of the others had moved, but Miss Claymore was looking towards the house, openly watching me. I waved limply and moved out of her line of sight, but quickly ran up to the floor above to look out of the corresponding window and saw that she too had left her deck chair and was now making her way towards the house.

Between Rogers and Claymore, I’d expected the former to be the most likely to come after me, but now I was in a quandary. If Miss Claymore intended to do me harm, I should have to rethink my strategy, as I could not imagine putting a bullet in her dull, but youthful features.

Leaning over the banister, I heard the young woman’s shoes clopping inelegantly across the hall floor below. Several seconds later her head appeared as she swung herself round onto the staircase and began to climb up towards me. It occurred to me she’d taken longer than expected to reach the stairs and as I stared down at her bobbing head, I saw that she must have made a detour – in her right hand she was carrying a large kitchen knife.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Making Plans for Watson


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Oughtn’t we to discuss this with the others?” I said to Holmes in a low voice.

“Absolutely not,” muttered the Great Detective. “Such a move would alert them to the extent of our suspicions, including, of course, the mastermind who’s behind this whole thing. No, I have something quite different in mind.” He gave me a sharp look, his piggy little eyes boring into me. “But you have a question, Watson?”

“How on earth..?” I spluttered, struggling to maintain a calm exterior for the benefit of the others.

He smiled smugly. “For the past several minutes you have been picking at the edge of your waistcoat with your thumb and forefinger – an activity you engage in only when pondering a problem or unanswered question.”

I sniffed and shrugged as if his apparent mind-reading act had not in the least unsettled me. In fact, Sherlock’s ability to seemingly identify exactly what I’m thinking at any given moment never fails to amaze me. “Well,” I said, avoiding his gaze. “As it happens, I was pondering on the fact that as Doctor Armstrong’s place on the island was taken by me, whoever Armstrong was supposed to murder has not, and presumably, will not, be murdered.”

“Oh,” said Holmes, his mouth dropping open. “Bugger.”

“Hadn’t you thought of that, then, Sherl?” said Mary, giving me a wink.

“For once, Mrs Watson, your husband has the better of me.” He steepled his fingers and leaned his chin against them, eyes narrowed in thought.

“But the mastermind murderer will know that, anyway,” added Mary. “So…”

Holmes looked up abruptly. “Of course, and has no doubt made alternative plans.” His eyes slid across the faces of our companions – five now, not including ourselves. “I think we had better put my plan into action.” He gave me an odd look, the sort of mournful look a person might expect from a long-time acquaintance when lying on his deathbed. “I should be obliged if you would do the honours, John.”

“What are you talking about?” I said, striving to keep the anxiety out of my voice.

“As you so cleverly pointed out, old friend, apart from Mary and myself, who are somewhat superflous to the original guestlist, you – being a replacement for Armstrong – are the odd one out. If our killer’s real intention is to do away with the three of us, I suspect he or she will have bumped you up the list. To take Armstrong’s place in the order of…er…dead people.”

“D’you mean to say that the killer himself, or herself, is going to attempt to murder me?” I said, with a distinct absence of enthusiasm.

“Well, I would,” said Holmes.

“You surely don’t expect poor Johnny to wander off by himself and await his own execution?” said Mary.

“That is precisely what I expect, my dear, though of course you and I shall be on hand to nab the culprit before he or she strikes the fatal blow.” He took a moment to relight his Meerschaum and puffed away with an air of arrogant nonchalance.

I sighed. “Fine. Whatever.”

Mary touched my hand. “Don’t worry darling, I’m sure Holmes won’t throw you to the wolves.”

We spent the next few minutes going over Sherlock’s proposal. The whole thing sounded a little too opportunistic to me and I couldn’t imagine the killer would take the chance of getting away with another round of slaughter without first assessing the various permutations and possibilities from every angle. After all, each of the previous killings must have been carefully thought out first. Nevertheless, armed with my trusty revolver, I doubted anyone would get the better of me without at the very least incurring a substantial gunshot wound.

Holmes gave me a nod. I stood up and stretched, gazed around the garden and announced in a casual manner that I had a bit of a headache and was going for a lie down upstairs.

“Lie down?” said General MacArthur. “Bit of a chance, what? Likely get yourself killed.” He hmphed, sniffed and shook his head. “Please yourself.”

“I really don’t think that’s wise, Doctor,” said Vera Claymore. She glanced at her neighbour nervously. “Don’t you think, Mister Rogers?”

The butler had been gazing at the ground in front of his deck chair for the past few minutes. Now he looked up. “She’s dead.”

Vera leaned over and patted his hand. “She’s in a better place, though.”

Rogers sneered. “Fuckin jokin, aren’t yer? Better place? Tch.” He nudged her hand away and went back to staring at the lawn.

Miss Claymore gazed at me, her lower lip quivering, but she said nothing more.

“Well, I’ll see you all later,” I said. Then added, “I hope.”

As I walked across the lawn towards the house, I had the odd feeling I was being watched. Obviously, the seven people behind me would be watching, but this was different, and the awful thought that we may have seriously underestimated the killer’s strategy washed over me like a wave of sloppy shit. We had assumed all along that the mastermind behind all this was one of the people on the lawn, but what if it wasn’t? What if this was all down to someone who we had yet to meet, and who up until this point, had remained very much out of sight? In that case, I mused, we were in a rather perilous situation and I might very well be walking to my death.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Circle of Deceit


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

While Holmes and my dear Johnny organised breakfast for everyone, I worked my way around the house and unlocked the bedrooms, collected the others and ensured no-one had popped off during the night. Thankfully no-one had, and they quietly fell in behind and followed me back down to the kitchen without complaint.

“Here we are,” said Holmes, ladling porridge into eight bowls. “A traditional Scottish breakfast for all, och the noo, etcetera.”

“Hmph,” said General MacArthur, inspecting his oaty provision. “Out of a tin, eh?”

Holmes shook his head. “Sealed cardboard box, actually.” He passed the container across the table for inspection.

“What’s this? Awfy Guid Porridge fer Wee Scots Folk,” said the general, reading the label. “And sealed, you say?”

“We both gave the box a thorough going over before opening it,” said Johnny helpfully. “I can assure you, it’s poison free.”

Vera Claymore was the first to start eating and had already shovelled several spoonfuls into her not-so-dainty mouth when she held up her spoon. “Any more, Mr Holmes?”

“Plenty in the pan,” said the Great Detective, tucking into his own bowl with gusto.

The General hmphed some more but set about filling his own stomach, nevertheless.

“What shall we do today, Sherl?” I asked Holmes, when the others had cleared their plates and begun organising the washing up.

“I should very much like to have a day free of murder, Mary.”

“I’ll second that,” said Johnny. “Perhaps we could all sit outside – it’s warm enough and we could keep an eye on everyone.”

“Good plan,” said Holmes. “Think I spied a few deck chairs behind the shed.”

And so, fifteen minutes later, we had arranged a rough circle of chairs and loungers on the lawn behind the house, with two small tables bearing jugs of tap water (the pouring of which we had all witnessed).

I arranged our chairs so Johnny and Holmes were on either side of me but none of the others were within hearing distance. As we sat there gazing around our depleted circle of acquaintances, I couldn’t help wondering who would be next on the killer’s list.

Holmes produced his meerschaum pipe and after stuffing it with a lump of Hard Shag, proceeded to puff away as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I glanced at Johnny, who rolled his eyes, though not in a scornful way.

“What are you thinking, Sherlock?” I said, when the silence had dragged on for several minutes.

“I’m thinking, Mary Watson, that if we could work out who killed Marston, we should be a great deal closer to solving this mystery.” He puffed away for a while, then added, “but I’m bound to say that I can’t see how even two murderers could pull off this thing easily.”

“What?” said Johnny. “You surely don’t think there can be more than two?”

Holmes looked at me with a sardonic smile. “Go on, Mary, you’ve worked it out, I’ll be bound.”

As it happens, I’d spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I could only come up with one possible solution. “As it happens,” I said, “I’ve spent a good deal of time considering how one or even two individuals could be responsible, and I can only come up with one possible solution.”

My husband stared at me. “Really?”

“Yes,” I said. “Really.”

Holmes shuffled round in his chair and gave me a wide smile. “Go on, then, spill it.”

I took a sip of water and a deep breath. “The way I see it, no single person has been unaccounted for in each case. If they had, we’d have spotted it before now. However, if one person was unaccounted for in each case, but only on one occasion, we’d have little reason to suspect them…”

“Since they were accounted for on the other occasions,” finished Holmes, nodding.

“And as you say,” I went on, “if we knew who Marston’s killer was, we’d be well on the way to working out the rest of it.”

Holmes sniffed. “You’re so close, Mary, so very damn close, but not quite there.” He looked at Johnny. “Watson? You must have your own ideas about Marston?”

“Oh, well, you know. Nothing specific.”

“Come on, John,” urged Holmes. “Even if you’re completely wrong, I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

“Thanks for the encouragement, Holmes,” said Johnny with more than a trace of bitterness.

“Go ahead, darling, I know you have a theory,” I said, patting his leg.

My husband reddened a little and coughed several times before continuing. “Well, I was thinking about the other guests. As I recall, we first of all followed the footprints to Emily Bent’s bedroom. Then General MacArthur arrived, followed by Billy Blah, Lombardi, Vera Claymore and finally Warmonger.”

“And Warmonger came down the stairs from the upper floor?” said Holmes, a frown creasing his brow.

“Yes,” said Johnny, “but…”

“Go on,” said Holmes leaning forward.

“It’s just that I didn’t actually see him coming down the stairs. Rather, I heard him come down – clump, clump, clump – his footsteps somewhat exaggerated, if you see what I mean.”

Holmes waggled his meerschaum. “So he could have simply given the impression that he was coming downstairs, when in fact he had just come back upstairs from the store cupboard underneath Marston’s bedroom?”

I nodded eagerly. “Where he’d created the thumping noise with a broom attached to a breadknife poking through the floorboards and banging against the chamber pot in order to attract our attention and give him time to come back upstairs and appear to have nothing to do with the murder.”

We all looked at each other for a moment, digesting the consequences of this information.

“I don’t understand,” said Johnny. “Warmonger’s dead, so even if he did kill Marston, he can’t be the main killer.”

“But that’s the whole point, darling,” I said, grasping his hand. “He’s only one of the killers.” I looked at Holmes.

“Let me take you back, Watson,” said the big-nosed detective. “What do you recall about the invitation Armstrong, or whoever he was, received?”

Johnny shrugged.

“You remember,” went on Holmes, “Armstrong’s invitation mentioned some ‘wonderful opportunity’ which he would receive if and when he arrived at the island?”

“I suppose,” said Johnny, his expression now one of complete confusion.

“In your examination of the invitation itself, do you recall the left-hand edge of the card?”

Johnny sighed, shaking his head. “No, Holmes I do not recall the left-hand edge.”

Our companion smirked and waved a hand dismissively. “Apologies Watson, I’m showing off again. No, there was a slight difference in the border of the card which at the time I thought little of, but of late I have begun to consider of utmost importance.” He glanced around to ensure the others were still seated in their respective chairs. Then, “I suspect the card was originally of the folding variety and that the second half had been cut off in order that I should not see it.”

“And why would Armstrong not wish you to see it?” said Johnny.

“Because, friend Watson, it was on that piece of card that Armstrong’s instructions were written.” He sat back, apparently satisfied.

“For God’s sake, Holmes,” spluttered Johnny. “What instructions?”

With another sardonic smile, Holmes murmured, “the instructions that he was to murder one of the other guests.” He turned to me and gave a small nod.

“It’s simple darling,” I said. “Each of the guests was told to murder one of the others, or they themselves would be murdered.”

Johnny threw up his hands. “That’s ridiculous – why wouldn’t they just go to the police?”

“Because all of them had committed crimes and would’ve landed themselves in even more trouble.”

I watched my husband’s face as this information worked its way through to his brain. Then his eyes lit up. “But that’s preposterous!”

“It is,” said Holmes. “And brilliant.”

“The only problem,” I said, with a glance at Holmes, “is Armstrong.”

“Yes,” he said, letting out a long breath. “If he wasn’t who he said he was, then…”

“Then the real Armstrong could be the brains behind it all,” said Johnny.

“He could,” said Holmes. “Or he could be our one saving grace. The one person who could bugger things up for whoever planned this bizarre charade.”

We turned to look at the other guests, all still sitting in a circle and all staring straight back at us.

“Yes,” said Holmes, in a low voice. “Each one of them intends to murder one of the others. Except for that one individual who does not need to, because he or she intends to be the only person left alive.”

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Plot Thickens


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Following the discovery of Frau Klopp’s body yesterday, Holmes demanded that we all meet in the kitchen. Here, he announced his intention to prepare a meal for the guests who still remained alive – eight now, including Holmes. My initial surprise in hearing my Baker Street pal suggest that he embark on an activity as mundane as cooking, was soon dispelled as he proceeded to open several tins of bully beef, to which he added several tins of baked beans, dropped the lot in an eight-pint saucepan and popped it on the stove.

“Reminds me of when I was at Rorke’s Drift,” he said, as he and I stood watching the pot.

“Wasn’t aware you’d been a soldier, Holmes,” said I.

“The sum total of those things of which you are not aware, Watson, would fill a large box.”

I felt a little hurt at this, but laughed it off and changed the subject. “I suppose you have a plan, eh?”

The big-nosed detective lowered his voice. “For once, old friend, I find myself at a loss. Discovering the body of Ethel Rogers and the revelation that she was none other than Professor Helga Klopp, has thrown all my current theories out the window.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The whole thing makes no sense.”

Mary brought over a pile of soup bowls. “What’s the plan, Sherlock?”

Holmes glanced around at the others. Apart from the butler, they were all seated around the kitchen table. Other than an occasional comment about the weather, no-one spoke. Every so often, one of them would glance pityingly at Rogers, who stood by the window staring blankly out across the lawn. The poor man hadn’t uttered a word since learning his wife was not only dead, but not who he thought she was, and I judged he must be feeling pretty rotten about it. Unless he turns out to be the killer, of course, though Holmes thinks this unlikely, due to the man’s general ineptness. Then again, his ineptness may be part of his plan, in which case I have to admire his acting ability. Unless he tries to murder me, in which case I shall not hold back in my choice of expletives.

“I don’t know, Mary,” said Holmes. “I really don’t know. But we must come up with something soon, because the killer will strike again. Of that, I am certain.”

“Why don’t we lock them all in their rooms until we’ve decided what to do?”

Holmes grimaced, but he had to admit, short of tying them all up, it was the only solution which might prevent further murders.

By the time the meal was over, it was early evening and there seemed to be no reason not to proceed with Mary’s suggestion. Lining everyone up, Holmes led the way around the house, dropping each person off at their rooms and locking them in, until there was only the three of us left.

In our own room, Holmes produced a bottle of brandy and three glasses (which apparently, he’d half-inched from the kitchen). “Now, Watsons,” he said, pouring out generous helpings, “do either of you have any ideas?”

“It seems to me,” I said, pulling up an armchair, “that none of the others could have been in a position to kill Marston and Miss Bent and the judge and Mrs Rogers – there are simply too many variables. And now the revelation that she wasn’t who we thought she was, just makes it even more complicated.”

Holmes nodded. “So what might make it less complicated?”

I pondered on this for a moment. “If there were two killers, perhaps, as you suggested earlier?”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “As you say, it had occurred to me that the most likely solution was that Mr and Mrs Rogers were in collusion and that they are in fact Mr and Mrs Owen. Since they were masquerading as servants, not guests, it would not seem unusual for either or both of them to be out of sight of the others for any length of time.”

“Apart from Mr Marston,” put in Mary. “They’d have had to be on the mainland for his murder.”

“Yes,” said Holmes, “there’s always one fly in the liniment and that particular theory is further buggered by the fact that the butler’s wife was not his wife.”

“Perhaps he discovered that not only was she not his wife, but was also the killer, and so he killed her,” I said. “Except that if she wasn’t his wife, you’d think he would have noticed sooner.”

“Unless they were in collusion from the start and had a falling out,” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “If the fellow would only deign to speak to us, we might discover exactly what was their arrangement. As it is, we can only guess.”

“Has Lestrade heard back about the post-mortem on Marston yet?” I asked.

Holmes shook his head. “I expect to hear very shortly, though I doubt it will shed light on how the killer effected the murder.”

We discussed the case for a while longer, but as the brandy began to take effect, our abilities to converse sensibly soon curtailed our discussion and the three of us nodded off where we sat.

On awaking this morning, my first thought was that my mouth had somehow been the recipient of a large spoonful of horse manure. Jumping up, I hurried to the bathroom and drank greedily from the tap, til my thirst was quenched. On re-entering the bedroom, I was pleased to see Mary and Holmes had both opened their eyes and both quickly advanced to the bathroom to follow my lead vis a vis slaking their individual thirsts.

We each took a few minutes to make ourselves presentable and after taking a couple of Sarson’s Vinegar Pills for my headache, I walked over to the window and stuck my head out, breathing deeply and striving to keep down the bile that threatened to announce its presence at any moment.

It was then I noticed the pigeon sitting on the far side of the window ledge, looking up at me. Gathering him in my hands, I took him inside and Mary unfastened the note from his leg.

Holmes took it out of her hand and unfurled it.

We both watched him keenly and saw his initial eagerness sink into an expression of gloom. Still holding the note, he dropped into his chair and for several minutes, glared at the carpet. I knew from experience that this was not a time to interrupt his thoughts and that he would share the contents of the note only when he was ready to do so.

“This is bad,” he said, eventually. “It appears the post-mortem on Marston cannot help us. But there is something else of far greater concern to us – Doctor Armstrong has died of consumption. Unfortunately, it turns out he was not Doctor Armstrong.”

“Not Doctor Armstrong?” I said. “Then who the bloody hell was he?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Holmes, “but I’ve an awful feeling that the whole point of this charade was not to persuade me to investigate this case, or to prevent the murders of anyone else, but to lure the three of us here to the island, in order to kill us.”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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