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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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Suspicions at the Window


From the Private Diary of A. Christie (Mrs)

Dear Diary

This morning I experienced an epiphany, or more truthfully, the germ of an idea that forced me to stop banging away at my Remington Victor T and sit back from my desk. I’d wasted several hours chewing pencils, staring at my typewriter, and mulling over the characteristics of the killer in my new book, ‘An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced’. I’d even spent half an hour tying to work up a sweat on my other current work-in-progress, ‘Humping Miss Daisy’ (though I suspect Bodley Head won’t touch that one with even the longest of barge poles, due to its working-class connotations).

It was something Inspector Lestrade mentioned, as we sauntered across the golf course the other day, that gave me cause to ponder. He talked about the use of masks (utilising my very own visage) and wondering why on earth anyone would place such an item on their victim’s faces. We had come to the joint conclusion the perpetrator must either be completely bonkers or simply endeavouring to throw Mister Holmes off the scent, vis a vis the murders.

And then it hit me – Lestrade is not the only person to put the idea of mask-wearing in my mind recently. A fan of mine (whose name I forget) appeared at my window one morning a few months ago, having somehow evaded the chaps at the main gate, and tapped her fat fingers on my windowpane until I gave up trying to ignore her and lifted the sash.

“Arr,” she began, climbing through the opening, “never thought Oi’d see the day when Oi might come face ter face wi’ the famous writer Missus Christie.” Sitting on the open sill, she clumped her boots onto the floor and grinned up at me.

I forced myself to suppress a sigh and held out my hand. “Very well, then, where is it?”

“Where’s what, moi luv?” said the dull-witted woman.

“The book you wish me to sign.”

“Oh-arr,” she said, gurgling like a drain. “This ‘ere.” And with that, she pulled out a paperback copy of ‘The Merder of Bodger Ackrood’ by Egetha Chroosty.

This time, I did not attempt to supress a sigh, and instead let out what I can only describe as a very definite grunt of irritation. “This is not one of mine,” I said, tapping the cover with my forefinger. “As you can see from the title, it is by one of those copycat writers who steal the manuscripts of famous authors like myself and put them out with a slightly different title in order to sell them to stupid people. Like you.”

The woman scarcely reacted to this put-down (almost as if she’d expected it), and with a shrug, stuffed the book back into her overcoat.

“If you’d care to buy a genuine copy of one my books, I’d be happy to sign it,” I said, adopting an air of pretended bonhomie. “Until then, goodbye.”

“Oh, oh,” she muttered, “can’t Oi jest take a picture of you for moi scrapbook, please?”

I sniffed and gave a curt nod. “If you must.”

The woman produced one of those cheap cameras that are all the rage these days and began snapping away.

“Happy now?” I said, my natural churlishness beginning to get the better of me.

“Thank ye muchly,” said the fool, clambering back through the window. “Oi’ll get it printed life size so Oi can wear it and look just like what you do.”

“Why on earth should you wish to do that?” I said.

“Oh, no partic’lar reason.” So saying, she hurried away across the lawn, just as one of my chaps came into view, brandishing a shotgun.

“And stay out, you fuckin bitch!” he shouted. Then making his way over to the still-open window, he lifted his hat. “Excuse the language, Aggie, but that bloody cow put something in me tea. I been out cold for the last twenty minutes.” He peered into the room. “Didn’t cause you no trouble, did she?”

I glanced around the room in case I had somehow missed something. “No, I don’t think so. She wanted a photo, that’s all.”

“I see,” he said. “Well if she shows her face again, I’ll stick my boot up her fat arschfotze.”

“Excuse me?” I said, a little taken aback.

“Oh, sorry, Aggie. Something she said as she was running off just now. German, I believe. It means–”

“Yes, I know what it means, thank you Brian. Look here, I don’t know what that silly woman put in your drink, but I suggest you pop round to the kitchen and ask cook for some tea and Battenberg. I think you deserve it.”

“Thanks very much,” he said, raising his hat again.

“You’re welcome. And if you fancy a quick one later, you know where I am.” I gave him a wink and he reddened slightly, but giggled, nevertheless. Then he was off round the side of the house in search of cake.

The memory of this incident suddenly seemed vitally important, and after pondering on it for a while longer, it occurred to me that the strange woman and her Deutschlandish colloquialisms might well have something to do with the goings-on at Huge Island.

Striding over to the mantelpiece, I tugged on the bell, drumming my fingers on the shelf as I waited.

Maudie popped her head around the door a few seconds later. “Yes ma’am?”

“Ask my chauffeur to pop up here, will you? I’m going on a little trip.”

“Sorry ma’am, William’s got a dose of the clap. He’s gone to the doctors.”

“Really? Well, I suppose that’s what he gets for hanging around with those tarts in the village.” I hesitated for moment, unsure what to do.

Then Maudie piped up, “Oi can drive, ma’am, if you like?”

“Oh, jolly good.” I looked her up and down. “Can’t have you going out in that skimpy skirt though, Maudie. Come up to my bedroom and you can try on a pair of my jodhpurs.”

And so half an hour later we were speeding towards Devon and the small village of Dolphin Cove. I could only pray we’d get there in time.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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To the Icehouse


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As we could hardly leave the body of Miss Bent hanging from the tree like a giant flesh-coloured banana, I engaged Billy Blah and Dilip Lombardi to assist me in cutting her down and conveying the body to the icehouse. This brick-built structure was located on the north side of the island on the edge of a small wood that peppered the area behind the main house. Utilizing a wooden wheelbarrow dutifully provided by Rogers, we were able to complete the quarter-mile journey in a few minutes, then, girding our collective loins for the task, hoisted the corpse onto our shoulders as if it were a roll of carpet and began to hump her down the steps.

“Flippin cold in ‘ere,” muttered Blah, backing through the door.

“Better to be cold than hot and smelly,” I countered, spying a low bench along the back wall of the icehouse.

Sliding Miss Bent’s body across the rough surface, I found a piece of tarpaulin underneath the bench and covered her over to preserve what little was left of her dignity.

“Bit of a contradiction in terms, don’t you think?” said Mister Lombardi.

Turning to look at him, I saw he was leaning against the door post, panting a little, his face furrowed in thought. “How’s that?” I said.

He waved a hand in a general sort of way at our surroundings. “Just that there isn’t any ice.”

Taking care to keep my head down due to the low roof, I stepped back and rotated myself through three hundred and sixty degrees. The structure had been sunk into the earth a good four feet and I could already feel the cold seeping through the bare earth into my patent-leather Oxfords. With a floorspace of no more than ten feet square there was barely room to swing a muffin. Apart from shelving on two sides and the rough bench against the rear wall which now held the dead woman, the icehouse did not appear to contain anything.

“Well,” I said, “perhaps the kitchen has some kind of new-fangled cooling mechanism. Mister Owen clearly has plenty of cash.”

Billy Blah sniffed. “No. I arsked Rogers for a whisky on the rocks after lunch and he told me the house don’t have no means of storing ice.”

Lombardi laughed. “And yet we’re standing in an icehouse.”

“I don’t suppose they get many visitors,” said I, tapping my fingers on the walls the way Holmes does when searching for hidden compartments. “But you’re right – it does look very much like what it is: an icehouse without ice.”

“Doctor Watson,” said Blah, “I ‘ope you don’t mind me saying, but were you aware that Miss Bent wasn’t…you know…?”

“That she was a man?” I nodded. “Mary and I found out a little while ago. I don’t believe it’s significant. In relation to the murders, I mean.”

“Huh,” muttered Blah. “Speaking as a former police inspector, I’d say every bloody thing means something in relation to the murders.” He gave me a gentle punch on the arm. “I’ll bet your Mister Holmes would say the same.”

He was right. Holmes never allowed even the smallest detail to go unexamined. But for the life of me, I couldn’t see any clues in our present surroundings.

Back outside in the sunlight, I gazed across at the house. Mary was standing talking to General MacArthur and Vera Claymore. There was no sign of the servants or Justice Warmonger. If this ridiculous affair were running true to form, Warmonger would prove to be the killer, which might also mean that he was Mister Owen.

“There’s something I need to check,” I said and warned my two companions to stay with the others. Then, hurrying across to where Mary waited, I signalled her to come with me.

“No ice in the icehouse?” she whispered as we hastened around to the front of the house.

“No,” I said. “And I think I know why.”

Taking the stairs two at a time, we headed for the judge’s bedroom at the end of a long corridor. Leaving niceties at the door, I burst into the room.

“Oh, Christing hell,” said Mary, clinging to my arm. “Is he…?”

Justice Warmonger lay on his bed, hands crossed over his chest in the style so revered by undertakers. A cardboard Agatha Christie mask had been positioned over the man’s face. Removing the disguise, I examined him closely. His eyes were shut, his mouth a thin pale line turned up at one side as if in a deathly sneer. Holding two fingers to his carotid artery, I discerned there was no obvious pulse. Finally, lifting one eyelid, I saw exactly what I’d expected to see.

“He’s dead.” Leading my wife back out into the passage, I gave her a rapid explanation of my theory and we hurried down to the kitchen to find Rogers and his wife.

The kitchen itself was markedly free of servants. A quick check of the larder and scullery also proved fruitless.

“Where can they be?” said Mary, peering out of the window.

“Think,” I said. “Where would you least expect a servant to be during the time they would normally be on duty?”

Mary shrugged. “In bed?”

Hurrying back upstairs and up to the top floor, we located the two rooms given over to Rogers and his wife. The first door stood open and led into a living room, sparsely decorated with tatty furniture including two armchairs and a table. The second was closed. I knocked and went in. The bed, and indeed the room, were empty.

“Johnny…” Mary had moved across to a window that overlooked the rear lawn. “Look.”

Standing behind her, I followed her gaze. A lone figure strode across the lawn towards a wooden shed on the south side of the house. It was Rogers. In one hand he carried what looked like a brown sack. In the other, a large kitchen knife that glinted in the sunlight. The expression on his face was not pretty. It was the look of a man who intended to do harm.

“What’s in that shed?” said Mary.

“I don’t know for sure,” I said, “but I’ve a nasty feeling that’s where Holmes is hiding.”

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Tea and a Quickie with Aggie


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up
Dolphin Cove

Having spent most of the last twelve hours in the company of a most interesting woman, I am now back in my room, taking the opportunity to update my journal on recent events.

Since the Watsons departed for the island, I had begun to regret my decision to remain in Dolphin Cove. Though I’d agreed to report back to Holmes on the post-mortem of Mister Marston and related matters, I failed to appreciate the foolhardiness of staying at Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up in the village. Having been advised by that same lady’s niece that the aforementioned lodging-house is held in the highest regard in this locality, I soon learned this fact has less to do with Mrs Miniver’s ability to deliver the requisite services usually provided at such establishments, and more to do with her penchant for climbing into her guests beds of a night-time. So far, I have been the victim of roaming fingers, an extraordinarily long and inquisitive tongue and an inclination to indulge in the local nightly pastime of ‘fisting’.

I should point out that although this latter practice has been mentioned several times by my hostess, with the explanation that it is the ‘ultimate delight’ for many of her male lodgers, I have not as yet been on the receiving end, so to speak. Following her rather detailed description of the activity, I made it quite clear I would not be a party to such deviant practices and if she attempted to realise such an act, she would find herself in very hot water indeed.

However, I digress.

Yesterday morning I determined to follow up on one of the suggestions put to me by Holmes before he departed for the island, and it was with this objective in mind that I made the journey to Greenway House in Devon in a little under an hour, thanks to the generosity of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the provision of one of his flying contraptions. (I don’t mind admitting that the experience of being whisked into the air at great speed, surrounded by pounding pistons and hissing steam, scared me half to death and I was only too glad to reach my destination and clamber down from the infernal machine.)

A chap in a butler’s outfit greeted me on the lawn and led the way up to the house. One of Mycroft’s minions had alerted the lady in question to my imminent arrival and I was gratified to learn she had proffered no objections to my visit.

The house is quite magnificent, and I confess to feeling somewhat overawed by its daunting immensity and the sheer bloody opulence of the furnishings.

The butler chappie spoke kindly to me as we crossed the great hall, advising that The Mistress would be delighted to meet me, so long as I made no attempt to persuade her to divulge the plot of her latest book – currently titled An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced.

“Ah,” said Miss Christie, rising from her chair, “Inspector Lestrade. How the buggering hell are you?”

I blinked at this unexpected use of colloquialisms, but took her hand and shook it firmly.

“I ‘ope you ain’t gonner find my questions objectionable, Miss Christie, but a copper ‘as ter do what he ‘as to do, eh?”

“Bloody good show, Inspector,” she said, waving me into a seat by the window. Dragging her own chair across the carpet in order to sit opposite me, she plonked herself down heavily and spread her legs wide, in a rather mannish manner.

“Hope you don’t mind the plus fours,” she said, brushing a hand down her tweeds. “Stops the servants looking at my snatch.”

When I’d finished coughing, I pulled out my notebook and stared at it until the blood had once again drained from my face. “Right, then, Miss er…”

“Call me Aggie. Everyone does,” she said, with a snort.

“Right,” I said again. “Now I ‘ave ter tell yer that the private investigators Messrs Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are involved in a case what I am also examining, so…”

“Oh, jolly good,” she erupted, rubbing her hands together gleefully. “Love a nice bloody murder.” Her face went serious and she leaned forward, eagerly. “There has been a murder, has there?”

“There has, Miss, er, Aggie. The victim is one Mister Marston.”

At this, the famous novelist sat back, rubbing her chin. “Marston, you say? That’s interesting.”

“Yes, and that’s what I was wantin ter talk to yer about.” I hesitated, unsure how to continue.

“Don’t tell me, “she said with a sly smile. “It’s a copy-cat killer.” She leaned forward again and squeezed my knee. “I’m bloody right, aren’t I?”

“Actually, yes. Mister Holmes was of the opinion that someone may be replicating the murders in your novel, And Then There Were None, though if yer ask me, I fink it’s all a bit far-fetched.”

Agatha gazed out of the window, her mouth slightly open. “I wonder…”

“Although, to be fair,” I continued, “so far there ‘as been only one murder.”

“Mister Marston. Hmmm.” She nodded. “Yes, but Holmes expects there to be more, in fact I wouldn’t mind betting twenty bloody quid that another one has already occurred.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, Miss…”

“Sequential Killers rarely hang about, you know. Best nip this one in the bud, before he or she does it again, eh?”

“Exactly.” Glancing at my notebook, I steeled myself for the next question. “Now, I was wonderin…that is, Mister Holmes was wonderin, if you yourself had, by any strange coincidence, in recent days, visited a place called Huge Island. Or perhaps Dolphin Cove?” Licking my lips, I watched her face for any tell-tale sign of guilt.

“Well now, Inspector,” said she, a crafty smile sliding across her thin face. “If I was the murderer, pretending to follow the plot of a highly successful and very well received crime novel, I’d most likely also pretend to be the author herself.” She winked at me. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, I might, I suppose,” I stuttered. “Though…”

“Yes, Inspector?”

“Well, Mister Holmes and me, we was wonderin, if that is indeed the murderer’s intention – pretending to be you, I mean – how might an individual do that in practice?”

She shrugged. “If it were me, then obviously I would just be me. But if the murderer were someone else, then he or she would simply wear a mask.”

With a sudden spurt of energy, she leaped out of her chair and slapped her thigh. “Now, d’you fancy tea and scones before we go for a quickie?”

“Erm…a quickie?”

“A round of golf, dear. What’d you think I meant – a fuck?” And with that, she collapsed into gales of laughter before ringing the bell for tea.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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