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Caught in the Act


Diary of Doctor J Watson

Beneath the bedsheet, the sounds of the house came to me in subtle, oddly-subdued ways. I heard the soft creak of the French windows in the drawing room followed by the familiar slap-slap of General MacArthur’s hob-nailed boots as he crossed the hall, the soft swish as his heels caught on the carpet, then a hesitant, halting step as the old man paused outside the dining room. I imagined I could feel his gaze on me and wondered what he might be thinking.

There was a deep, almost mournful sigh, a cough, then the footsteps retreated back into the hall and the slow clop, clop up the stairs.

One down.

More footsteps in the hall. This time there had been no creak at the French widows – had someone wedged them open? The step was light and quick, reminding me of the confident, swaggering gait of that infernal ice-cream seller, Mario, whose amorous attentions towards my dear Mary had almost brought us to blows. Suppressing a growl of anger, I forced myself to concentrate. The footsteps had stopped in the hall and there came a swishing noise as if the individual turned sharply on his heel. Two steps on the soft carpet followed, then receded back into the hall. Whoever it was, had changed his mind about gazing upon the body of Sherlock Holmes. Again, I discerned the clop, clop of footsteps up the stairs.

The next sound was unexpected. It was as if something, or someone, had disturbed the air in the room. I stared up at the bedsheet that covered my face, striving to see through the thin material, but there was only whiteness.

A soft breeze seemed to waft the sheet, and I wondered if someone had opened the window. But that was impossible – at the very least, I’d have heard the scrape of wood against wood as the sash was forced upwards. So that wasn’t it. But still this soft wind blew against the sheet, as if someone was blowing gently in my ear. What could it be?

A soft intake of breath, then, “Hallo, Dokter Vatson. I haf come to kill you.”

It was her! Professor Klopp! With a swift movement, I threw back the sheet, jumped up, and thrust my hands forward. Making contact with the villain’s face, I twisted my fingers, grinding the chilli sauce into her damned eyes.

“Ow, ow, you fuckin arsehole!” screamed the man, rubbing his injured orbs.

In the same instant, Sherlock Holmes sprang out of the cupboard. “Ha!” he yelled. “Now we’ve got you. Klopp.”

“It seems not,” said I, sitting on the edge of the dining table.

Billy Blah had crumpled and sat on the floor, cross-legged like a naughty schoolboy. “What the hell was that for?” he whined. “Wasn’t going to do anyfing…”

“No, of course you weren’t,” said Holmes, his face creased in a snarl. Then leaning forward, he dug his hands into Blah’s jacket and pulled out a vegetable knife. “And you wouldn’t dream of stabbing Johnny through the heart?”

“No, I were just gonner…” He let out a loud sob and continued rubbing his eyes.

Mary and Lestrade appeared in the doorway.

“Where’s Klopp?” said Lestrade, staring at Mister Blah.

Mary glanced at me. “Are you alright, Johnny?”

I nodded and turned back to our captive. “How did you know Holmes wasn’t dead,” I said, handing the man a handkerchief. “And that it was me on the table, not him?”

Blah sniffed and wiped the hankie across his face, blinking furiously. “It’s what she said.”

“Talk sense, man,” barked Holmes. “What did she say, exactly?”

Blah looked at the Great Detective, his lower lip trembling. “She told us what you would do.”

Holmes rolled his eyes. “Which bit of it?”

“All of it,” said Blah, blowing his nose on my handkerchief. “From when Dixie Dean first went to see you at Baker Street.”

At this, Holmes sank down and sat with a thump on the floor. “All of it? Every detail?”

Kneeling beside them, I took my handkerchief back and wiped the chilli sauce from my throbbing hands. “Dixie Dean was the fellow masquerading as Doctor Armstrong?”

Blah nodded.

I looked at Holmes and saw from his face that this was as much a blow to him as it was to me.

“I think, dear friends,” said Holmes, in a low voice, “that we have greatly underestimated Frau Klopp.” He poked a thin finger at Blah. “Where is she, Billy?”

The other man shook his head. “More’n me life’s worth, mate. Yer don’t know what she’d do.”

“I know what I shall do if you don’t tell us,” said Holmes.

“Don’t care,” he sobbed, looking up at Mary. “She ain’t a woman like what you are, Mrs Watson. She ain’t human.”

“Of course she’s human, you stupid man,” said Holmes. “Though I suspect she has more resources in her arsenal of skills than we could ever have imagined.”

Blah nodded sadly. “She ‘as. And you lot are gonner be bloody sorry by the time she’s finished.”

“Why, said Holmes, his voice almost inaudible. “What is she going to do?”

Billy looked at each of us in turn. “She’s going to kill yer. Kill all of yer. And it’s gonner hurt. A lot.”

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Detective in the Cupboard


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Well,” said Holmes, “I think we can safely assume Miss Claymore is in the employ of Professor Klopp.”

“But why would she go up to the second floor?” I said.

Holmes smiled sardonically. “Elementary, Watson. Claymore probably feared we were getting too close to the truth and wanted to warn Klopp. She took the knife in case you got in the way.”

I shook my head. “That can’t be right, Holmes – I did get in the way and she could very easily have stabbed me as she ran out onto the landing.”

The Great Detective shrugged. “What can I say – women!”

“Now just wait a minute…” Mary butted in.

But Holmes held up a hand. “I shall take great pleasure in arguing the proverbial toss with you my dear when we have the luxury of having Frau Klopp in custody. For the moment, please listen.”

Holmes quickly outlined his idea, then massaging his chin thoughtfully, gazed around the room. “Ah-ha,” he said, “this will do nicely.” He crossed to one of the cabinets that contained serving dishes, plates and crockery and flinging the doors open, began piling teh contents on the floor. I saw his plan immediately and opening the other cabinet, transferred various items of cutlery and silverware into the lower section to make room for the additional items.

“Should be enough space for a small one,” said Holmes, sliding his backside onto the now empty middle shelf. With a little manoeuvring, he was able to fit himself into the cabinet without too much trouble. “Shut the door, Johnny, would you?”

Carefully closing the door, I gave it a gentle shove as the catch slipped into place. Taking my hand away, the door remained firmly shut, giving no clue to the cabinet’s newly-acquired cargo.

“Excellent,” said Holmes, his voice sounding oddly echoey from inside the wooden refuge. “Now, you all know what to do, so get about it.”

I nodded to Mary and Lestrade, who slipped out of the room to fetch the items Holmes had asked for. Meanwhile, I busied myself fastening the false knife onto my chest with the aid of the belt from my trousers, then I moved the little Indian miniatures to the far end of the dining table. A minute later, Mary was back carrying a large bedsheet, followed by Lestrade with a few items from the pantry.

Once I’d prepared myself on the table, my dear wife covered me over with the sheet, the false knife sticking up from my chest.

“That should do it,” she said, fussing over the edges of the sheet. “You’re not quite as tall as Holmes, darling, but I don’t think that German bitch will notice.” She patted my forehead and leaning over me, kissed the part of the sheet that covered my mouth. “Try not to breathe.”

I heard the door open and someone kicked the wooden wedge into place to stop it closing by itself. Two sets of footsteps receded down the corridor, leaving Holmes and I to our fates.

The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Having left Johnny wrapped up like a corpse on the table, Inspector Lestrade and I went back into the hall where Holmes had been ‘stabbed’. Looking up, I could see Miss Claymore’s hand waving forlornly through the banister rails on the upper landing. She was still whining softly, but from the sound of it, her raging anger had subsided.

“Reckon we’d better do summat about that one,” said Lestrade, tugging at his moustache.

“Let’s get the others together first,” I said. He agreed and we hurried back outside and walked across the lawn to the icehouse where Billy Blah, Dilip Lombardi and General MacArthur hovered near the open doorway. All three looked at Lestrade but made no comment on his sudden appearance, as if they’d expected him to turn up at any moment.

“Bally bad show,” muttered the general as we approached. “Hitting a fellow from behind.”

I looked at Mister Rogers, whose body lay face down just inside the doorway. An ice-pick was lodged in the back of his head, its handle attached to a length of wire which in turn connected to a spring-like mechanism above the doorframe. The contraception reminded me of the old bucket-over-the-open-door trick we used to play on unwary teachers at school. Though of course this version was rather more deadly.

“Anyone see what happened?” said Lestrade.

Lombardi shook his head sadly. “Holmes got here first and called us over.” He looked over Lestrade’s shoulder. “Where is he, by the way? And Doctor Watson, is he..?” He looked pointedly at me, as if I might be hiding something.

I glanced at Lestrade and he gave a small nod.

“Unfortunately,” he began, “Sherlock Holmes has been murdered.”

I watched each of them as they took in this news, but all three reacted as if they were completely innocent, though I knew that such a circumstance was quite impossible.

Lestrade explained how Holmes had been the victim of a knife attack and that Johnny had laid his body out in the dining room.

“And what about Vera?” said Mister Blah. “I mean, Miss Claymore,” he added, with a cough.

“She too has had an accident, though she’s largely unhurt,” I said.

“Ah, well that’s something.”

“So,” I said, rubbing my hands together in a let’s-get-going sort of way, “my husband asked that we should all go to our rooms for now and he will decide what to do shortly.”

“Really?” said Mister Lombardi. “Go to our rooms? Where any or all of us might be murdered at any moment?”

At this, I was sorely tempted to say something else, but I reigned myself in and simply said, “We’re all to go to our rooms and Johnny will gather us all together soon.”

The three of them grumbled for a moment, then began to make their way across to the house.

“Right then, “said Lestrade, his little eyes twinkling. “Which one of ‘em’s going to crack first, eh?”

“I think that rather depends on which one Professor Klopp finds first, don’t you?”

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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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