Diary of Doctor Watson
Once all three of us were fully dressed, we hurried along the road towards the old barn. Then something occurred to me.
“Hold on, Holmes. Does Ravensburg live in the barn?”
The big-nosed detective stopped in his tracks. “Of course not.”
“Because,” said Holmes with a sigh, “we cannot possibly visit the fellow’s house and the barn at the same time. If I’m wrong and he’s not at the barn, then we can go to the house.”
He raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Ah,” I said. “I see.”
“Good,” said he, and with that we resumed our hurrying.
Within a few minutes we had reached the darkened building. This time, however, the place had a spookiness to it that did not fill me with bravado.
We were stood looking up at the rickety building when Mary’s hand shot out, indicating one of the upper windows.
At the far-right hand window, peering down at us through the shattered glass, a whitish figure moved back and forth.
“Bloody hell,” I muttered. “It’s the witch.”
“Of course it isn’t the witch,” barked Holmes. “Witches do not exist. Come along.”
He sprinted towards the open doors of the barn, Mary and I fast on his heels.
Inside, we slithered to a halt and looked upwards to where the ‘witch’ had appeared.
“Wait a minute,” I said, staring up at the still-hovering spectre above us. “There’s no upper floor in this place.”
“Precisely,” muttered Holmes. “Whatever’s holding that thing up, is of human construction.” Crossing to the far corner of the barn, he grabbed hold of a ladder leaning against the wall. “Give me a hand, Watson.”
Together we heaved the ladder across to where the ghostly figure wafted in the window. Then Holmes and I looked at each other.
“Go on, then, Doctor, get after it.”
“You’ve got a better head for heights than me, Holmes.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, “said Mary, pushing us aside. “You’re a pair of spineless pansies.” And with that, my dear wife began to clamber up the ladder.
Just as she came within reach of the spectre, the thing juddered in mid-air and vanished through the window.
“Oh my God,” I gasped. “It’s real.”
Mary looked down at me. “No, Johnny, it’s on a string.”
“Yes. A length of wire, in fact. It appears to be some sort of pulley arrangement.” Reaching above her head, she tugged at the wire—a thin, almost invisible line. No wonder we hadn’t noticed it before. I also noticed my wife wasn’t wearing any undergarments. Catching sight of my companion’s open mouth and staring eyes, I saw that he had noticed too.
“Holmes! D’you mind?”
He coughed and averted his eyes.
Mary gave a tug on the wire. “It’s fastened to a beam over there,” she said, pointing.
“Where does it go to,” I called.
“Out through the window. We need to get after it.”
Scrambling back down the ladder, Mary grabbed my hand and we ran outside. Above us, in the space between the barn and the trees, we could see the ghostly spectre flying through the air.
“It must be suspended all through the woods,” said Holmes, staring at the apparition.
“Let’s get after it, then,” I said, pulling at his sleeve.
But Holmes just stood there. “No, Watson. That’s what he wants us to do.”
“Ravensburg, of course. If we go haring after that so-called witch, it’ll give him time to hide it and get back into his bed to pretend he’s been asleep the whole time.”
“Oh. So, what should we do?”
Holmes sighed and looked at my wife. “Tell him, Mary.”
“Well, I imagine the whole witch thing is to make us believe the legend and persuade us to help him find this bloody book he keeps going on about.”
“Fine,” I said, with more than a touch of disgruntlement.
Mary began to wander away, staring at the nearby trees and bushes. “What was it he said? The book could be buried under a tree…”
I glanced at Holmes, hoping for a bit of support. “But darling,” I called, “hasn’t he already dug up all the likely spots around here?”
Holmes rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. “Perhaps he has, but has he searched all the unlikely spots?”
I sighed. “Come on then, Mr Brainbox—which unlikely spot might he not have searched?”
Mary had walked in a full circle around the barn. Now she came back to join us. “There are signs of digging around all the nearest trees. Nearest to the barn, that is.”
“So,” said Holmes, “what about the trees in the barn?”
He and Mary hurried back into the barn to search. I felt my shoulders sag. This was a waste of time. Digging my hands in my pockets, I sighed again (mainly for my own benefit) and trudged after them.
“I’ll start of here,” said Mary, crossing to the far corner.
Holmes began his exploration at the opposite side.
I stood and watched.
After a moment, Holmes noticed I had not made any effort to participate in the search. “Really, Watson. A little help would be appreciated.”
He resumed his rummaging about, while I began to walk rather morosely around the barn, close to the walls. Even in the darkness, it seemed obvious there was nothing to see. But then I did see something. Poking up through the rotten floorboards, I spied the tiniest green shoot. Crouching, I gave it a tug and the thing came away in my hand. Reaching into my jacket pocket, I took out my trusty Swiss Army Knife and opened the largest of the blades. With a little perseverance, I found I could dig away part of the rotting floorboards to create a hole. Lighting a Swan Vesta, I held it to the gap. A cold draught blew out the match and caused me to shiver involuntarily. But not before I had glimpsed what could well be the root of a tree.
“I say, Holmes,” I called. “I think I’ve found something.”