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Tag Archives: Edgar Allan Poe

The Search for a Clue


Dairy of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Having completed our search of the upstairs rooms, we trooped back downstairs.

“Thought you’d already looked into all these ones,” I said, peeping into the music room.

“Indeed,” said Holmes, “but I neglected to thoroughly examine one particular room where a definite odour assailed our nostrils.”

“You mean the seventh room?” I said.

“I do,” said he.

Johnny sniffed. “It did pong a bit, but I’d have described it as musty. Old-peopley.”

“And with a hint of decaying human flesh?” said Holmes.

“I think I’d have noticed the smell of a dead body. I am a doctor, you know.”

Holmes gave him a sardonic smile. “Of course, Watson, but unlike me, you have not adapted your olfactory abilities to the practice of smell assessment and identification.”

“I suppose having a big nose helps,” said Johnny, with a smirk.

We followed Holmes along the passage to the seventh room, where he held up his hand. Turning the handle, he pushed the door open. Inside it looked just as it had before—the deep red velvet of the walls, the lack of furniture and the wooden altar-like table in the middle.

“Unless the walls are false,” I said, “there’s nowhere to hide a stiff.”

Holmes stepped forwards and Johnny and I pushed in behind him. For a moment, we all stood there, gazing at the wooden structure that dominated the room.

“What was it you said about some death-mask thingy?”

Holmes gave me a piercing stare. “What I said, Mary, was that while at college, under the influence of opium, Usher became interested in an ancient ritual known as the Masque of the Red Death.”

“Ah yes. And this mask…” Johnny looked around the room. “Where would that be?”

“I said masque, not mask.”

Leaning towards my husband, I whispered in his ear.

He coughed. “Of course—different spelling.”

“As always,” muttered Holmes, “Mary is the clever one.”

The three of us set about examining the room, tapping walls, knocking on floorboards, checking underneath the table, but the entire room appeared solid. Holmes took out his magnifying glass and began to scrutinise the tabletop, working his way along its length, occasionally picking at the wood with a pair of tweezers.

Eventually, he straightened up, holding out the tweezers. Grasped between the metal tongs was a tiny sliver of paint.

“Is that paint?” said Johnny.

“Alas no,” said Holmes. “Dried blood. Which is suggestive, don’t you think?”

“It doesn’t suggest much without a body, old bean,” said Johnny.

We ruminated on this for a few minutes then went over every inch of the table again. Unfortunately, we found nothing else that might back up the theory of foul play.

When I suggested we ask our host, Holmes snorted. “If Roddy’s killed this woman, he’s hardly likely to admit it, is he?”

I patted his chest and in my best, ‘seductive’ voice, murmured, “But your immense powers of reason and discovery will be able to unearth the truth, won’t they?”

Holmes cleared his throat noisily. “Perhaps, Mary, perhaps. But questioning Roddy should be our last strategy in this affair. Evidence is what we require, Watsons. Evidence.”

And with that, he stalked off along the passage.

“D’you think he’s a bit stuck?” I said to my husband.

Johnny nodded. “I think so.”

Closing the door, we walked back to the main entrance and saw Holmes sitting on the stairs, stuffing a portion of Hard Shag into his Meerschaum.

“Sherlock,” I said, sitting next to him, as he struck a Swan Vesta. “This Masque of the Red Death thing. D’you actually know what it is?”

He drew in a mouthful of smoke and blew it out slowly, a long blue spiral curling up to the ceiling. “In one sense—yes. In another—no. Roddy’s explanation always tended towards vagueness and abstract descriptions.”

“Could it be some sort of ancient ceremony?”

He shrugged. “It could.” He looked at me. “You’re wondering if our friend might possess some kind of guide—an instruction book of some type.”

“I am.”

At that, we both turned to look at the door next to where we sat.

The library.

While Holmes and Johnny worked their way along the uppermost shelves of the enormous bookcases, I began at the bottom, pulling out anything with a weird title, old binding or with signs of having been well-thumbed. There were several tomes on witchcraft, vampirism, lycanthropy, and a wide variety of mythological creatures. There was also a selection of books on the topic of erotica, many with hand-coloured plates, depicting scenes of an orgiastic nature. Finding myself becoming rather aroused by these, I hastily put them aside, intending to secrete them away for bedtime reading.

“Think I’ve found something,” said Johnny, moving across to the sofa.

Holmes and I joined him, sitting on either side and peering at the book open on his knees. The binding appeared to be of fine leather with gold edging on the pages and several lithographic plates showing murderous encounters and hideous creatures.

“It’s by that American writer, Poe,” said Johnny, showing us the front of the book.

“Poe?” I said. “Isn’t he the one who died of drink?”

Holmes chuckled. “Actually, the whole ‘demon-drink’ scenario turned out to be a fabrication created by the man himself. I suspect he intended to entertain his many admirers, leaving them a puzzle to keep them guessing for years to come. As Johnny and I discovered during our trip to Baltimore some years ago, Poe is not dead, but living under the assumed name of Mildred Flange in a small town in Pennsylvania.” He shook his head. “However, that is neither here nor there. You were saying, Watson…”

“Thank you, Holmes. Look here…” He flicked back to the page he’d been looking at.

Leaning over, I gawked at the story’s title, but my eyes were drawn to the image on the opposite page. It portrayed a crowd of people gathered in a great hall, all wearing creepy Commedia dell’Arte-type masks and long flowing cloaks.

“What’s it about?” I said.

“Oh, tish tosh,” said Holmes, dismissively. “Read it years ago. A stupid prince tries to avoid a plague known as the Red Death. He gives a masquerade ball for his pals in seven rooms and they all have a raucous time until some bloke disguised as a victim of the Red Death comes in and everybody dies.”

“Sounds fascinating,” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic.

“The point is,” said Holmes, “it bears no resemblance to the situation we have here. There’s no plague, no masquerade, no mysterious stranger.”

“Unless you call the missing French cook a mysterious stranger,” I murmured, looking out of the window. As I gazed across the dreary landscape, the late afternoon sun seemed to sink into the horizon and a mass of dark clouds slid across the sky, creating the impression of twilight. I shivered involuntarily. “Boys,” I muttered, my eyes fixed on the strange figure gliding past the window. “There’s someone outside…”

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2020 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Poo of Fu Manchu…

From the Diary of Dr J Watson:

When I heard nothing from my illustrious companion followFront Door Arch with Crows Foot Hardwood Painteding the delivery of a certain publication, I began to experience a growing feeling of dread. (It put me in mind of the opening passage of a story by our old pal Poe – ‘The Balls of the Pants of Usher’ or some such thing). In any case, I determined to seek out my friend and reassure myself that he was in no danger and was in fact simply ignoring me. As usual.

However, my anxiety was not to be so easily exorcised, for as I approached the door to 221B Baker Street, I ran smack into Inspector Lestrade, who was exiting that very building with some haste.

“Lestrade, old fellow, what’s to do?”

The inspector’s usually pallid features were even more pallid than usual and he gripped my arm, pulling me to one side. “Watson, thank God you’re alive – after witnessing the…” and here he held a hand to his face as if he were about to experience his breakfast a second time. “I was about to fetch a doctor, but you’ll do. Quickly…” And he pushed me through the doors and up the stairs.

My companion’s rooms were untidy (even by his standards) and Holmes himself was lying on a makeshift bed in the centre of the room, his face a rather nice shade of scarlet. The hue was so fetching that it put me in mind of our first case together – ‘A Study in Deep Purple’ but my short reverie was indeed short-lived as a shriek from my friend’s beautiful lips jerked me back to reality.

“Arrrrggh!” He said.

“Holmes!” I shrieked.

“Watson!” Screamed Lestrade. “Control yourself, man.”

I knelt down by the bed and held a hand to my companion’s forehead. “Tell me what you know, Inspector.”

And he did just that. It seems that the pages of the book I had sent to Holmes had been infused with a strange potion. Holmes, being thorough as was his wont, had scrutinised the pages over the course of a few days and at the end of that time had begun to realise that in doing so he had actually poisoned himself. Calling for Lestrade, he was able to utter a few garbled phrases (mostly containing the words ‘fuck’ and ‘shite’) before lapsing into the coma that I now found him in.

During the next few hours, Lestrade and I were able to transport Holmes to Hardacre’s Sanatorium,  which deals with many such strange cases. I collected my bag on the way, along with my old chemistry set and four pairs of latex gloves, and set to work to identify whatever it was that had laid out my companion in this way.

Late into that first night, I sat back from my studies and rubbed my head. Lestrade, who had stayed by Holmes’ bedside mopping his brow, cast me a hopeful glance.

“Any luck?”

I shook my head. “I haven’t been able to identify the exact quantities involved, but I’m certain of one thing – the pages of this book were drenched in the poo of Fu Manchu.”

“Oh, shit.”

I nodded. “Indeed.”

(To be continued)

Watson

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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Baltimore (Final) Diaries (Again)..

from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:

From the diary of Doctor Watson

On waking this morning, I called on Holmes in the next room, to find that my companion had disappeared. It was only on returning to my room that I noticed a hastily scribbled note had been pushed under my door:

Watson
After we had escorted Dr Snodgrass home to his Lodgings and tucked the fellow up with a toasty Hotty and glass of H2O on his bedside table for the inevitable alcoholic thirst, I made my way, unbeknownst to you ( believing me snoring under the eiderdown in the next room), to Madame Marmalade’s Emporium, in order to winkle out some pertinent facts and relevant information….( she agreed to waive your Invoice on production of my Official Papers. I flashed her my Membership Papers for Theosophilus’ Smith’s Travelling Freakshow and Assocs, which seemed to placate her somewhat).

After some practised smarming and smooth-talking, I ascertained that Edgar had been a regular visitor to her Franchises, not to sample the wares, but to obtain ideas and suggestions for his short stories – as the other customers were a mine of information and gory details, being members of the shady and perverse stratum of Society, known as The Establishment; she kept me engrossed and enthralled for quite some time, revealing snippets and tales, which, if endorsed and tagged with names, would have brought down Public Figures and Influential Persons, over a wide and spreading radius of The Colonies.

As that may be, I was making my way towards our Hostelry, when I noticed a shadowy figure to my left, keeping to the verges, attempting to blend in with the darkness, keeping pace with my progress, albeit slightly behind me; on turning quickly round, the figure scurried back somewhat – I called out “Who goes there!” – and almost staggered back in surprise, as the familiar lanky length of Robert Louis Stevenson drew itself up to its full height – “Holmes!”, he ejaculated, “What the Devil are you doing here?!” – ” I could ask You the same question!” I emitted – “Let us immediately wend our way to my Lodgings, and rouse Dr Watson from his slumbers….we have much talking to do….”, and with that, we set off.

I washed and dressed hurriedly and made my way downstairs where I found my companion and the aforementioned RLS deep in conversation…

Watson

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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Baltimore (Final) Diaries…

from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:

From the diary of Doctor Watson

I should have realised that leaving Holmes to his own devices might result in my companion discovering the local liquor emporium and, just as I suspected, on arriving at “The Gibbet and Post”, there was my boon friend supping Jack Daniels as if his life was dependant on it.

A rather dull looking fellow was seated with him and clearly much further down the road to drunkenness than Holmes. The poor chap’s nose was almost on the table in his stupor, but as I pulled up a chair, Holmes grasped the fellow by the collar and hauled him upright.

Holmes smiled up at me. “Ah, Watson, about time you showed up.” He waved an empty glass in front of my face. “Get me some chores, please.”

Foolishly I fell into this all-too-familiar trap, uttering “What Chores?” To which he glibly replied, “Doubles all round, Watty!”

When I returned form the bar (bearing three glasses of ginger ale), Dr Snodgrass was once more alert. He stared straight at me and said, “I am positive that there was no evidence whatever of any such violence having been used upon Poe when I went to his rescue at the tavern. However, one unusual fact was an item we encountered during his stay at the hospital – a pair of ladies undergarments hidden about his person.” And with that he closed his eyes and slid under the table.

“Did you bring your trusty revolver, old chap?” said Holmes, snatching a glass from my hand.

I nodded. “I did, but it looks as if I shan’t be needing it.”

Holmes downed his ale in one gulp. “Indeed not. We’ve been had, Watson.” He shook his head sadly. “Poe’s apparent last act was that of any writer worth his salt.”

I frowned. “Last act, Holmes?”

My companion helped himself to the Doctor’s drink before he went on: “It is clear that Poe was in poor health and that he foresaw his own death at the hands of the demon drink. But unknown to his friends and family, he in fact cured himself some weeks ago with the aid of Acme’s Patented Drink-Abstention Kit. And that, my dear Watson was why he chose to set us a mystery. You see, this whole thing…” he waved an arm around as if to encompass not only our immediate surroundings, but the whole of Baltimore. “The whole thing was merely a fabrication to entertain his many admirers and a leave them with a puzzle which will no doubt keep them guessing for years to come.”

“You mean…?” I gasped.

“Yes,” Holmes nodded. “Poe is not dead – but living under the assumed name of Mildred Flange in a small town in Pennsylvania, where he will no doubt sell clothes-pegs door to door.” He finished his drink. “I doubt if we shall hear of him again.”

Holmes would not be drawn further on the subject, so after lunch I set off for the Thomas Cook offices to book our tickets home.

Watson

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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Baltimore Diaries (Again-illy)…

from Sherlock Holmes Esq to Dr J Watson:

Watson – I have been doing a little digging concerning D’bignose and his associates…I fear we have stepped in to a veritable Vipers’ Nest of Political Intrigue, Skullduggery and Matters which should not be brought in to the Public Arena. I fear poor Poe was getting too near to exposing these corrupt and, yes, evil people, masquerading as Public Citizens and Guardians of the Peace, and paid the ultimate price for his Investigations.

I believe our very Lives are in danger, also, and we must therefore proceed with the utmost Care and Caution, looking over our shoulders at every turn, and ensuring our finely-honed senses and famous Antennae are tuned to the highest setting.
Did you by any chance pack your Special Supplies and Artefacts, as they assuredly would prove themselves Extremely useful in this instance? – I trust you also have brought your Ancillary Bag, with its contents. I believe, Watson, that we have entered in to a Case, which may prove to be our most Dangerous yet, fraught with Terrible Happenings, and Frightful Peril. For once, your legendary Warnings of Doom may be well-founded, but before we can even attempt to start our enquiries, we must locate Barnaby and that Dolt of a Sergeant, who went off 2 hours ago – to “Reconnoitre the Locality” – doubtless we will find them legless and devoid of dignity in some Hostelry or other…or Worse.

Therefore, it falls to us to search the Area, without entering in to similar difficulties…I realise that will be fairly hard to accomplish, but attempt it we must….Meet me outside “The Gibbet and Post” in 30 minutes, ready to venture forth in to the fray.
Your friend, SH.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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Baltimore Diaries…

from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:

From the diary of Doctor Watson

Our first port of call on arriving in Baltimore, was to visit Inspector D’bignose at the Police Department. The inspector went over his theories concerning the death of Mr Poe, while entertaining us with various anecdotes about his fellow officers. Holmes began to grow a little weary of these stories and at length advised our friend that perhaps he “might proceed to the actual point?”

The inspector then went on to tell us how between September 28 to October 3, his investigations could not prove conclusively whether Poe died by his own foolish behaviour, by an illness, by a gang of political hooligans, or at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. Though, he added, it was his own theory that ‘something wicked this way comes.”

Holmes smirked and muttered something along the lines of how Americans always quote Shakespeare at the most inappropriate times.

Inspector D’bignose flushed. “I was merely supposing, Mr Holmes, that whoever done for Mr Poe may still be out there.” He peered around suspiciously, as if a murderer might be lurking round every corner. “Waiting for his next unsuspecting victim.”

Holmes snorted. “I suggest we move on, Inspector. Watson and I will question Dr Snodgrass.”

And with that, Holmes turned on his ever-so-gallant heel and walked out into the street. After a moment he re-entered the room and coughed. “Where exactly can we find Dr Snodgrass, Inspector?”

The Inspector scribbled an address on a piece of paper and handed it to Holmes. After the latter had again departed, the policeman gave me a baleful stare. “Just between you and me, Doctor, I’d keep an eye out for your companion – if there is a killer out there, he might come a-knock knock knocking at your chamber door.”

I thanked him for his help and hurried off after Holmes, wondering if it was the Inspector himself who was responsible for the murder – if indeed, one had been committed.

To be continued

Watson

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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American Psycho Killer…

from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Holmes,

I know you’re probably a little bored at the moment, but I have something I think you’ll be interested in – yesterday morning I had a letter from an old pal of mine. Edgar Allan Poe, or Eddy Poo-Brain (as I used to call him) attended a school near the house of my Great Aunt Mimsy while I was holidaying in Hackney with her one year. I was surprised that Poe still considered us to be pals – the last time we met, I put him over the kitchen table and gave him a good licking for scaring my Great Aunt with tales of a diabolical raven who came tapping at her chamber door in the middle of the night. The poor woman hasn’t slept properly since.

However, I digress: shortly after reading his letter, I received a rather alarming telegram from the Baltimore police department. It seems that last week, Poe was found in a drunken state outside Ryan’s Tavern and was subsequently taken to hospital where he died a few days later. As if this news were not upsetting enough, the message went on to ask if Sherlock Holmes would be interested in investigating rumours that Poe did not, as was first thought, die of alcohol poisoning, but was in fact the victim of murder.

I’ll be happy to make the necessary arrangements should you wish to take on the case.

Yours Watson.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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