‘We’ve got to do something, Holmes,’ I muttered. ‘In less than a minute poor Mrs Christie will get squashed like a–’
‘Yes, yes, I know that, Watson,’ hissed my companion. ‘But this is not the time for descriptive passages. This is a time for action. Where’s that jar of chilli sauce?’
‘It’s in my hand,’ I said, careful not to display the object, in case the man guarding us saw it.
‘Then do what you were going to do earlier,’ said Holmes, nodding towards the steam engine.
I could see no benefit from chucking a jar of chilli sauce into a steam engine, but as we had very little else in our store of retaliative weaponry, and as the floor of the library had already reached the halfway mark, we were out of options. Flinging my arm back, I hurled the jar towards the giant engine and watched as it flew up in a long arc and came down to land between two huge cogs.
I heard the jar shatter above the noise of the engine, then a jet of sauce spurted out and landed in Moriarty’s left eye.
For an Evil Genius, Moriarty screamed like a girl. Grasping at his injured eye, he waved a hand at Frau Klopp to help him. ‘My fucking … aaargh!’ he screeched.
As Klopp and the minions flocked around their leader, the man holding us at gunpoint glanced away for a second. That was all we needed. Leaping forwards, Holmes grasped the man by the neck. Lestrade knocked his gun to the ground and kicked it towards me. I picked it up and ran across to where Mrs Christie lay, now only a few feet from the descending floor and certain death. Keeping the gun raised in the direction of the villains, I grabbed one of the ropes holding the famous novelist and hauled her away from the danger area.
A moment later, Moriarty had pushed aside his workers and stood over us. ‘That’s it,’ he roared. ‘Kill them all!’
But the metal lid from the jar of chilli sauce had slipped into some vital part of the steam engine, and as the library floor hit the ground, the engine screamed as if in pain. The machine seemed to be attempting to force the library floor to continue its journey through the ground it now rested on. With a grinding of gears and a sudden lurch, the engine began to shake violently. The iron struts linked to the engine shuddered, and with a metallic whine, the first strut bent under the strain and collapsed, crashing down into the crowd of dumbstruck villains. A second strut followed and in a matter of seconds, the whole supporting structure of the vast hall buckled under the weight of the house above.
‘Quickly, Johnny,’ yelled Mary, cutting through Mrs Christie’s bonds with Lestrade’s nail scissors. ‘We have to get out before the whole place collapses.’
Moriarty’s men ran around the steam engine pulling levers and pushing buttons while the arch-villain himself stood in the middle, clutching his eye and screaming at Klopp.
Holmes grabbed my sleeve. ‘Back to where we came in,’ he said, pushing Mary and Mrs Christie towards the square of stone floor that led to the cellar steps.
‘D’you think it’ll still work?’ I yelled, above the roar of the collapsing engines.
‘If it doesn’t, we’re fucked,’ he said. ‘Come on.’
Racing to the end of the hall, I glanced over my shoulder and saw Moriarty still ranting at Klopp, with Fu Manchu and the forger struggling to separate their furious leaders. But two people were missing. Colonel Moran and Ratched had disappeared.
Gathering ourselves on the small square of floor, I looked at Holmes. ‘How do we make it go?’
‘Oh, I know,’ said Mrs Christie. ‘There should be a brick somewhere …’ She pressed her hands against various parts of the wall.
‘Quickly,’ said Holmes. ‘Try them all.’
The rest of us eagerly pushed and prodded the wall. At first it seemed that whatever Mrs Christie thought might be there, simply didn’t exist, but then one of the smaller bricks moved, and in a flash, the floor trembled and started its upward journey.
Below us, the noise level rose and the thumping and clanking of the steam engine hit a deafening pitch.
The floor re-connected with the cellar steps and clanked into place. Racing up the staircase, I crashed through the cellar door into the sudden glare of torchlight.
‘Who’s there?’ I demanded.
‘Oh, hello there,’ said a voice. ‘You must be Doctor Watson. And this would be your good lady wife, would it?’
Shading my eyes, I saw a plump constable holding a torch. Behind him were a crowd of other officers, all armed with torches and truncheons.
‘No, actually,’ I said, ‘this is the famous novelist Mrs Agatha Christie.’
‘Sergeant Radish,’ said Lestrade, stepping into the light. ‘Never thought I’d be ‘appy ter see your mutton chops.’
‘Never mind all that,’ said Holmes, pushing me out of the way. ‘Sergeant, the house is about to collapse. Get your men back outside with all speed.’
The big sergeant saluted smartly and shouted at his men. I grabbed Mary and Mrs Christie and escorted them through the drawing room and out through the French windows.
Once everyone had retreated to a safe distance, I looked back at the house. Holmes stood beside me.
‘There’s someone missing,’ I said.
Holmes nodded. ‘Yes,’ he murmured. ‘Moran and that awful former nurse. Keep your eyes open, Watson. I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’d found another way out.’
As we watched, the whole house shuddered violently, shaking roof tiles loose and rattling window frames in their housings. As tiles and glass crashed to the ground, the house gave a massive judder, and one by one, the walls fell inward, clouds of debris, glass and dust flying about in all directions.
‘Well,’ said Holmes, ‘anyone left under there won’t be coming out in one piece. A fitting end to that bunch of atrocious individuals.’
‘Not including me in that, I hope, Mister Holmes?’
I turned and saw the woman who had arrived with Mrs Christie. Naturally, she was holding a gun.
‘Ratched,’ said Holmes, smiling sardonically. ‘I’d rather hoped you’d be dead and buried by now.’
‘Sorry to disappoint. But my lover knew another way out, so …’ She jerked her head indicating someone next to her and I saw Colonel Moran standing there holding his famous elephant gun.
‘Ah,’ said Holmes. ‘Guns all round, then.’
By this time Sergeant Radish and his officers had realised we had company. ‘Now then, now then,’ he said. ‘We don’t want no trouble here.’
‘Oh, it’s no trouble,’ said Moran, lowering his rifle. ‘I’m just going to pop off a few rounds and get rid of all my concerns in one go.’ Cocking the weapon, he raised it to his shoulder.
‘Hold on a mo, would you?’ said Mrs Christie, pushing through the crowd. ‘I’d like a quick word with Maudie. I mean Nursie, or whatever she’s calling herself these days.’
‘I’ve got nothing to say to you, Aggie, apart from goodbye.’ Ratched laughed and gave Moran a nod. ‘Get on with it.’
But Mrs Christie was not to be outdone. With a quick step forwards, she stuck out a finger and pushed the buckle of Ratched’s jodhpurs. Incredibly, the johdpurs came alive, vibrating and emitting a whirring noise that appeared to be centred around the genital area.
Ratched looked down at herself and began to moan. ‘Oh, my God, oh my fuckin God.’
Moran lowered his gun. ‘What’s happening Nursie? What’s she done to you?’
‘I don’t know,’ she squealed clasping at her lady parts. ‘These bloody trousers are making me all squidgy. Oh, bloody hell …’
At this, Holmes leaped forward, snatched Moran’s gun, upended the weapon and brought it crashing down on the grass, smashing the stock and separating the barrel from its casing.
‘That’s better,’ he said, handing the broken pieces back to Moran. ‘Now, I think Sergeant Radish has something to say.’
The big policeman stepped forward. ‘Right, Mister whoever-you-are, I am arresting you in the name of all that is good and proper and will be handing you over to the relevant police station at the earliest opportunity.’ Unfastening a pair of handcuffs from his belt, he clamped them over Moran’s wrists, while another officer did the same to Ratched, who writhed about like a bag full of cats.
‘Well,’ I said, looking at Mrs Christie with a sense of wonder. ‘An interesting pair of trousers.’
‘Yes,’ said the famous lady novelist, ‘I had them made after my husband curtailed his interest in my womanly needs. They’ve a built-in device for giving pleasure to those parts that most require it. Sadly, the thing developed a fault and now it’ll keep going until Miss Ratched has experienced the maximum number of orgasms.’ She paused. ‘Thirty-seven, I think.’
As we walked down to the beach and the waiting police launch, I caught up with Holmes.
‘That’s not the end of him, you know,’ he said.
‘Moriarty? No, we wouldn’t be that lucky.’
Glancing back at the house, a sense of great loss washed over me. Not for the house, or even for Moriarty, but for those innocent and not-so-innocent fools who got caught up in a ridiculous game—a game that didn’t even have a point, other than to make Sherlock Holmes look like a failure. And that would never happen.