From Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Apologies for this delay in replying to your recent missive, but my mind has been racing and I have been forced to take several precautions before putting pen to paper. I am sending this to you by hand and intend to follow it shortly myself when all is ready. Read on, to learn why…
My good lady wife insisted that we attend a rather ghastly dinner party last evening at the home of that dreadful bore, Ernie Hemmingway. I’m certain you’ll have come across his books – novels, he laughingly calls them – detailing the exploits of outlandish characters who always have some similarly outlandish difficulty to overcome and who invariably end up shooting themselves in the head at the end of the story.
Anyway, the damn fellow bored the arses off his guests (myself included) for several hours while relating the turgid and unimaginative plot of his latest (apparently) prize-winning novel, which, like all his previous rather tedious attempts at entertainment, is written using what he likes to call ‘the iceberg technique’. Quite what the actual point of this farcical literary mechanism is, passed me by completely, however, one rather odd phrase of his did strike me as strangely relevant to your letter:
It seems that Ernie used to play the part of a horse’s arse in some pantomimic show down at Filthy McNasty’s Liquor Emporium between skirmishes during the Boer War. I wasn’t really listening, but when Ernie was explaining the punch-line of a particular sketch he was involved in, the phrase ‘just like The Dangerous Brothers’ caught my attention. I immediately boned him about this, but he palmed me off with some rubbish about seeing an early version of their act at the Alhambra in Newcastle.
I kept a close watch on Hemmingway after that and couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of eye contact on his part for the rest of the evening. As we were bidding our host goodnight at the door, he suddenly grasped my arm, pulled me to one side and whispered harshly in my ear. At first I thought he said ‘By Christ, but you’ve got a big one, Watson’, but then I realised he’d actually mumbled ‘Five nights until the big one, Watson’. I gave him what I imagined was a curious stare but he merely held his forefinger to his nose and murmured ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’.
Before I could ask him what this meant he had ushered myself and Mrs Watson into a gloomy Cheapside (his books clearly aren’t doing that well) and we quickly hailed a Hansom in case some ruffian leaped out of the shadows to relieve us of our few possessions. As the carriage trundled along, I mentioned the strange phrases to my wife and she immediately responded with a review of a novel she had recently read by some chap named Hornung, who I’m sure you’ll know is a relative of that buffoon Conan Doyle.
However, she then went on to say ‘but darling, I think Mr Haemorrhage [she was quite drunk] would have been referring to his own book of the same title, wouldn’t you think?’ She gave me a look that told me we have conversed on this same topic before, but of course I had no recollection of it, so simply replied ‘Oh, yes, of course, dear’.
I realise I am rambling somewhat, but to get to the point, when we returned home, I looked through my wife’s bedtime reading and discovered the very book in question. I’m sure you can imagine my horror on reading the title of the first chapter, which stated: In Which the Famous Detective is Horribly Killed During an Altercation with a Vaudeville Act…
Needless to say, I would urge you to stay indoors until I can pack my trusty revolver and any other weapons I can find and make my way to Baker Street.