Tag Archives: Harry Lime

Stranger on a Train

Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Aboard the Cumbrian Express

It was while I waited for the clerk to arrange our tickets at the station that I realised my mistake in assuming our nemesis would not be nearby. Mary and Penelope had retired to the waiting room armed with a tray of sandwiches, a pot of coffee and my revolver (the latter concealed in Mary’s handbag). Penelope too, had a handgun hidden about her person, just in case.

Keeping half an eye on their table through the adjoining door, I scanned the area for possible threats. At once, I spotted three dubious-looking men who might easily be on the side of the damned Claw. All three were plainly dressed, had swarthy or ruddy faces, and were seated at separate tables, drinking tea. This was not in itself unusual – it is a well-known fact that the English working man is rarely comfortable in the company of others and will often secrete himself away from the gaze of fellow workers in order to avoid the horror of being engaged in spontaneous conversation.

The chap nearest to me held a copy of The Times up to his face, but I discerned from his oscillating gaze that he was no more reading it than dancing a jig. From where I stood, I could see the newspaper was not a recent edition (the crossword had been completed and one corner of the broadsheet was torn off). Noting the fellow’s eyes had fixed firmly on Miss Pitstop’s chest, I quickly dismissed him as nothing more than a lustful hireling, utilising a day-old newspaper as a prop for eyeing up young women.

Turning my attention to the other two men, I immediately saw that one was roughly middle-aged, had a white stick at his side and a hand-written sign pinned to his jacket. The emblem declared the fellow to be a veteran of the Crimea who’d lost his sight in that terrible conflict. Clearly, a blind man was no threat to us.

Lastly, a tall chap with a shock of red hair had seated himself at the table next to Mary and Penelope. I was reminded of The Case of the Red-Haired League and for a moment found my mind drifting back to that lusty young chap whose fortune Holmes and I had recovered when we exposed a scheme to rob the poor lad of his savings. Perhaps it was for this reason that I dismissed this man too from my scrutiny.

At that point, a newcomer wearing a black Fedora and greatcoat entered the waiting room and immediately approached the women’s table.

“That’ll be nineteen shillings and sixpence, sir.”

“What’s that?” I exclaimed, turning back to face the ticket master.

“I said,” the little man repeated, raising his voice a little too gamely, “That’ll be…”

“Yes, yes, I heard you the first time,” I said, tossing the required coinage across the counter and grabbing the tickets from his outstretched hand.

Ignoring the man’s continuing commentary, I hurried into the waiting room to find the stranger standing with his back to me and speaking in low tones to Mary.

“Hold it right there,” I whispered in the man’s ear, “or I’ll blow your spine to smithereens.”

“I don’t reckon you’ll do a lot of damage with that finger, Doc,” said the man in front of me, “but you’re welcome to try.”

I recognised the familiar American drawl before he turned to face me, but it was his suggestive smirk that made my knees go weak. “Harry!” I gasped, hugging him like a long-lost brother. “What the deuce are you doing here?”

Harry Lime glanced around the room before urging me to sit down. Pulling up two chairs, he leaned in close. “Heard you were having a little trouble with an old pal of ours, so thought I’d drop by to lend a hand.”

“Really, you know about t’Claw an’all?” said Penelope, her eyes taking in Harry’s huge shoulders and winning smile.

“Sure do, Miss Penny, but let’s not tell the whole world about it just yet, eh?” He gave her a wink and patted her hand, then turning to me, whispered, “I guess you noticed the guy with the stick?”

“Who?” I said, glancing around. “The blind chap?”

“Johnny, Johnny,” he chided. “That there’s no more a blind man than a side of beef. Take a glance at him now and I’ll bet ya he’s staring right at us.”

As surreptitiously as possible, I made as if to look back at the ticket office and as my eyes drifted past the war veteran, I saw that he was looking straight at me.

“As your pal Sherlock would say,” said Harry, “it’s elementary, Watson.”

The former blind man had dropped his eyes, so I took the opportunity to take a good look at him. Now of course I could see the all the clues as plain as day – being no more than forty years old, he couldn’t possibly have taken part in the Crimean War, and the hairline around his forehead showed the edge of an elasticated band of the type used to fasten hairpieces in place. No doubt the white stick leaning against his table was just another prop to aid his pathetic disguise.

“Ah, I see,” I said, feeling small.

“And just to prove it…” Harry stood up cautiously, making not the slightest sound. Then, taking two steps towards the other man, he deftly lifted the white stick from where it stood and passed it across to me. The man did not move, but started straight ahead, as a true blind man might, unaware of the theft.

Taking hold of the stick, I immediately realised that it was not constructed from wood as I’d have expected, but from some sort of painted metal. Twisting the handle, I was amazed when it came away in my hand, revealing the razor-sharp blade inside.

“My God, “I said. “It’s a swordstick.”

The shriek of a train whistle told us our transport had arrived.

“Come along,” said Harry, pulling us all to our feet. “You guys get aboard the train. I’ll make sure this joker stays exactly where he is.”

“Thank you, Harry, “I gushed, feeling a little overwhelmed. “What’d we do without you?”

“You can thank me when the Claw is in custody. For now, take this.” He pushed something into my hand and looking down I saw that it was a machine pistol – the latest American model.

A moment later, the three of us were climbing onto the train. Leaning out of the window as we chugged out of the station, I saw Harry pull back an arm in readiness to smash the blind man in the face, but before he could do so, the other two so-called working men had jumped up and grabbed Harry, throwing him back against the counter. A second later, they were running up the platform and clambering aboard the accelerating locomotive.

“We’ve got company,” I said, sliding the window closed.

Mary and Penelope exchanged glances, then reaching into their respective handbags, pulled out their weapons.


Posted by on November 4, 2018 in Detective Fiction


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This Train Ain’t Bound for Glory…

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

There wasn’t a minute to lose – if the bridge remained open, Holmes (along with several hundred villains) would be hurled from the train and plummet to a painful death in the ravine below. Even though I was dying for a wee, I was certain I could still save the day and get to the toilet on time. Grasping Mary’s hand, I sprinted down the platform towards the bridge control wheel. As I reached up to pull the leaver back, something hard and fist-shaped hit me in the jaw and a moment later I was flat out on the ground.

“What the fuck was that for?” I croaked at Harry.

“I’ll tell you what it was for,” said the famous actor. “It’s for all those innocent people who’ll die if that train is allowed to reach its destination.”

“But…but…” I started.

“But me no buts, as your Baker Street buddy would say if he were here now. It’s a matter of principal, Doctor, and in this case the principal is to sacrifice a few lives for the greater good.”

Mary knelt down beside me. “He’s right, Johnny – Holmes would say the same if he were here now…”

“He fucking wouldn’t, you know.”

All three of us looked up at the newcomer and before I could stop myself, my bladder gave up the ghost and I wet my pants. “Holmes! You’re alive!”

“Course I’m alive,” he said taking out his trusty Meerschaum. “D’you think I learned nothing from that fateful day at Reichenbach?” Striking a Swan Vesta, he lit his pipe and placed it between his thin, bloodless lips. Then looking up, he nodded towards the bridge. “Hark – the sound of screaming villains, methinks…”

I scrambled to my feet and followed his gaze. A sudden screeching of brakes shattered the night and a terrible thundering roar echoed all around. All we could see was a thick cloud of fiery smoke curling upwards from where the bridge had been, then an almighty crash as the locomotive smashed into the ravine.

For a long while, all we could do was stand there, stunned. Finally Mary broke the silence:

“Darling, did you have a little accident?” She pointed to my trousers.

“Oh, just a touch of over-enthusiasm on my part, I think,” I murmured. I glanced at Holmes and noticed he was wearing some sort of harness around his waist. “I suppose that Grimshaw woman in her Steam-powered hydro-lifty-plane thingy came to your rescue, eh, Holmes?”

He gave me a sardonic smile. “Naturally, my Plan B included an additional, and rather important, objective.”

“To stop the train?” I said.

“That’s right Watson. After all,” he went on, turning his piggy little eyes on Harry, “We can’t let the bloody Americans have all the fun, can we?”

Harry coughed. “Yeah, well, we had a Plan B too.”

“Really?” said Holmes. “You’ll have to tell me about it someday. In the meantime, a fleet of zeppylyns are hovering above the tunnel entrance, parachuting British troops in to clear up the mess. You can join them if you like.” Then turning his back on the actor, he took Mary’s arm. “However, the Watsons and I have a prior engagement.”

“We do?” said I.

“We do, Watson. The Thankyew Twins are at this very moment being conveyed by hydro-lifty-plane to their original destination. If we’re lucky we can still get tickets for tonight’s performance at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods.”

“By Jove, Holmes,” I said. “I do believe your cultural education has taken a turn for the worse – a week ago you’d have crook’d your nose at the thought of a music hall extravaganza.”

He raised a querying eyebrow. “My apologies, Watson. I did not mean to imply that I would be joining you for the entertainment. I have no desire to watch a pair of slack-chinned tossers perform a series of hackneyed and no doubt ludicrous routines to an audience of equally slack-chinned commoners. You and your good lady can do as you please, but I shall be joining the Prime Minister in Westminster Hall for a meeting with the Chinese Emperor.”

I nodded happily and allowed myself a metaphorical pat on the back. I was glad my companion’s brush with death hadn’t altered his personality, though I’d’ve been happy to see the back of his sardonic smile. It occurred to me too, that I still owed him a good hard smack in the face, but I reasoned the great detective had endured enough excitement for one day.

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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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Ghost Train Coming…

From the Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Dear Diary

All three of us whirled round at the sound of the voice. The man in front of us was wearing a dress. My dress, in fact. I felt a rather sickly sort of rumbling in my tummy.

“You!” He said, pointing directly at me. “Vot are you doingk vearingk my clothes?”

I smoothed a hand down my stolen overcoat and was in the midst of forming a witty riposte when Harry stepped in front of me and addressed the interloper:

“Keep your voice down, man. If Lord Manchu hears of your desultory behaviour, you’ll be on a court martial.” He glanced around then took the man’s arm. “Tell you what, come in here and I’ll bring you up to speed.”

And with that, he led the poor fool into our former prison and closed the door. Johnny and I looked at each other, but a moment later there was a dull thud and Harry emerged from the cell wiping his hands.

“That’ll keep him quiet for a while. Now, we’d better get moving.”

Continuing towards our destination, we marched in single file to the open end of the tunnel. A few soldiers busied themselves unloading hand grenades and other dangerous objects, placing them at intervals along a line of trestle tables.

“Probably intending to hand those bally things out when the troops come in,” muttered my husband as we passed by.

Harry shushed us with a sturdy finger and we hurried out into the cold night air.

Once outside, all three of us were startled by a shrill whistle from the train above us. Extra carriages had been added to the locomotive and even as we watched, the steaming beast began its return journey across the bridge.

“Damn them,” said Harry. “We’d better get up there.”

No-one took any notice of us as we climbed back up the steps to the track. A handful of overall-clad men were on their way down, but thankfully, were in too much of a hurry to pay us any attention.

Up on the bridge once more, we retraced our route along the line, the train building up speed ahead of us. The walk was longer than I remembered, but we made good time and the locomotive was just disappearing out of sight as we drew level with the station platform.

Harry leapt up onto the darkened platform and pulled Johnny and I up in one easy movement.

“Is there anyone else around here I should know about?” said Harry, keeping his voice low.

“Yes,” said Johnny. “There’s a young married couple and an old chap in a raincoat.”

“And the stationmaster,” I added.

Harry nodded. “Oh yeah, we know about that guy – we think he’s one of them.”

Johnny shook his head. “Surely not – I’m sure he said he was married.”

“Not one of them – one of them!”

“Oh.” My husband adopted his silly-me look.

Heading for the waiting room, Harry pushed through the door. Inside, the young couple were sitting at the table eating chocolate and Mac Man was standing by the window watching them.

“I say,” said Mr Raincoat. “Who the devil are you?”

Harry flashed an ID card at him. “Hollywoodland Secret Service, that’s who. Now sit down and shut up.”

The man did as he was told, apparently too shocked to object.

“Is the train coming, then?” the young woman asked, looking at me as she popped the last bit of chocolate into her mouth.

“You could say that,” I said.

“Ooh eck,” she went on, gazing at Harry. “Is he that famous actor bloke?”

“Yes he is,” I said, “and he’s not interested in you.”

Harry had pulled a length of twine from his pocket and handed it to the young man. “If the Stationmaster comes back, tie him up.”

“Really,” said the young man, waving a chocolate-stained finger. “That’s not very sportsmanlike.”

Harry nodded. “You’re damn right it ain’t, son, and if you don’t do as I say, you’ll get the same treatment.” He glanced at me and Johnny. “Come on you two, we’ve got a train to catch.”

We followed him back out onto the platform where he stood rubbing his chin.

“What now?” I said.

“Now? Well, I reckon we’ve got about five damn minutes before that choo-choo comes screaming back through here. And if we three can’t bring it to a standstill, Manchu will carry out his dastardly plan and the world as we know it is gonna change forever. And not in a good way.”

“Holmes would know what to do,” muttered Johnny, giving Harry a doubtful look.

“Oh he would, would he? Well he ain’t here right now so if you’ll put your stiff upper lip away for a moment I suggest we come up with a plan.”

My husband glared at him, but nodded in agreement.

Harry was gazing along the track in the direction the train would be coming from. “Christ, I don’t know…” He glanced at me. “Maybe if you could lie down on the track…?”

Johnnie strode forward, his hand covering my womanly bits in a protective attitude. “She bloody well will not! If you want to lay down your life, that’s fine with me, Harry, but you can leave my Mary out of it, thank you very much.”

I gave him a hug and murmured a thank you. “Actually, I did wonder about something…” Beckoning to them both to follow me, I hurried off along the platform.

Reaching my objective, I delved inside my knickers and produced a bunch of skeleton keys.

Johnny nodded approvingly. “What else have you got hidden in there?”

I gave him a mischievous grin. “Nothing you’re going to get tonight, Johnny. Now, let’s see if we can move this.”

A minute later, I had the padlock open and the three of us heaved the great iron wheel towards the Open side, tensing as the mechanism clicked into place.

“That should do it,” I said.

Harry looked up. “Sounds like just the nick of time.” We turned to look down the track and could just make out the dull glow of the engine as it thundered towards us, steam and smoke billowing upwards.

We could do nothing but stand there as the mighty beast thundered past, the additional dozen or so coaches packed with uniformed men, all gazing dumfoundedly at us from the carriage windows. As the last carriage drew level with us, a familiar face came into view. Sherlock Holmes was clinging gamely to the roof of the locomotive, a knife between his teeth. When his eyes met mine, a puzzled expression slid over his face. Then, as we watched, the Stationmaster emerged above Holmes. Struggling to keep his balance on the juddering vehicle, he rose to his full height and reached out his hands towards the bared neck of the great detective.

“Fuck,” said Johnny.

“Crap,” said Harry.

“Heavens,” said I. Then, turning to my husband, I grasped his sleeve. “He’ll be able to jump off, won’t he? I mean, before the train…?”

Johnny’s face was ghostly. “Before it plunges into the river and kills everyone onboard?” He bit his lip. “Bloody hope so, otherwise it’ll be the Reichenbach Falls all over again…”

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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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The Theme From…

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

The man standing in the doorway smiled at my wife in a way I might’ve thought a little suspicious if it were not for the fact of him being a total stranger.

“And who are you?” I said, pulling the door wide. “Some Nazi fiend sent to torture us til we reveal our plans?”

“Don’t be silly, darling,” Mary chided. “We don’t have any plans.”

“Of course we don’t,” said I, clearing my throat. “It was a trick question.”

The man nodded. “Clearly Doctor Watson, your reputation as a man of guile and cunning is a worthy one.” His accent had a faint American twang to it, and his turn of phrase reminded me of someone. “But there’s no time to waste – I’m here to get you guys out.”

I sniffed. “Really? Well, that’s very noble of you but I think we can manage, thank you.” Stepping forward, I peeked into the tunnel and noted that although several of Fu Manchu’s men were standing close by, none of them seemed to have noticed the man standing in the doorway of our prison-like chamber.

Taking my arm, the newcomer led me back inside and closed the door quietly. Stepping to one side, he undid the collar of his overalls and unzipped himself, letting the apparent disguise fall to the ground, revealing a dark herringbone-style overcoat underneath. Then sliding a finger around his neckline, he tugged on a piece of what I initially thought to be a flap of loose skin. But as he pulled the thing off his face, I realised it was another of those silly masks Holmes is so fond of.

Dropping the rubber facade to the floor, our evident saviour pulled a black Fedora from his pocket and placed it on his head at a jaunty angle. He raised an eyebrow and smiled at me.

“My God!” I turned to Mary. “Darling – look who it is: the Hollywoodland actor Harry Lime.” I turned to shake his hand, but my wife was already hugging him, her hands around his neck, her chest pressed perhaps a little too eagerly against his substantial torso.

“I’d recognise your silhouette anywhere, Harry,” she gushed. “That manly upper body, those impressive shoulders, that massive –”

“Darling! D’you mind?” Taking a firm hold of her, I pulled my dear wife away from our guest. “Sorry Mr Lime, I don’t what’s got into her lately.”

“It’s quite alright Doctor.” He gave Mary a curious look and murmured, “Remember Vienna?”

“How could I forget?” She murmured back.

I coughed loudly. “Sorry, but excuse me just one moment Mr Lime.” Grabbing Mary’s arm, I led her to the other side of the chamber. Keeping my voice low so as not to appear rude in the presence of a famous actor, I muttered, “Vienna? What?”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head in a dismissive way that signalled quite plainly she had no intention of explaining herself. “It was a long time ago, Johnny. Before I met you.”

“Oh.” I let go her arm. “I see. Another one of your…” I tried to think of an appropriate phrase, but Mary held up a finger to my lips.

“Darling, you know I love only you, so there’s no reason to be jealous of Harry just because he’s incredibly good looking, is charming and witty and has a massive –”

“Yes! Alright, I get the picture, but I shall require a full explanation of this…whatever it is, when we get out of here.”

She nodded meekly, though I caught the quick glance of delight she cast in our companion’s direction. Nevertheless, more important matters were at hand so I determined to put aside my suspicions and take the proverbial by the whatsits.

Harry was pacing back and forth, frowning. “I take it Sherlock Holmes has already escaped?”

I pointed upwards. “Yes, just now.”

He nodded. “Then we must complete the mission ourselves.”

I glanced at Mary. “Mission? What mission?”

“Why, the mission to stop Fu Manchu from committing murder.”

My mouth dropped open. “What?”

Harry gave me a smile that could only be described as sardonic. I made a mental note to slap Sherlock’s face next time we met.

“Don’t you realise what he’s been doing here?” He waved a hand in a way I assumed was meant to encompass the tunnel, the chimney and the whole Ghost train scenario.

“Of course, we do,” I said.

Harry looked at me. “Go ahead then, tell me.” He folded his arms and waited.

“Well, he’s made this tunnel to er…to tunnel under the English countryside from Milford Junction to the Houses of Parliament.”

“That’s right. But what for?”

I chewed my lip thoughtfully. “Well, to break into the houses of Parliament. I suppose.”

Harry shook his head. “You know, Doctor, I sometimes think if we Americans had got involved in your little war with Germany, the whole thing would’ve been straightened out in four years instead of twenty-seven. Anyhow, the point is, your head honcho is meeting with the Chinese Emperor Wing Wang in Westminster Hall in less than an hour from now. Manchu plans to break through into the Hall and kill the Emperor.”

“My God!” said I. “But the Chinese people will think the British government are responsible and…”

“And war will break out between your two countries, leaving the way open for Manchu and his troops to take over whatever’s left when everyone else is dead.”

“But if that’s true, why would he bother to construct this ridiculous tunnel?”

“Because, Doctor, Manchu is at this very moment flying in more troops via a secret squadron of hydro-lifty-planes. I’ve just watched his engineers fitting an extra thirty carriages to the Ghost Train. When it comes back over the bridge, those troops will scuttle in here like thousands of tiny ants. Except, not tiny. Fu Manchu will have the equivalent of a small army down here.”

“Egad!” I exclaimed. “And that very same small army will emerge from underneath the Houses of Parliament like…well, like a small army.”

“Precisely. So if you don’t mind..?” He leaned out of the doorway and looked around. “Fall in behind me. With any luck, the villains will be too stunned by my boyish good looks to stop us and won’t see you two for my massive shoulders.”

As we stepped into the tunnel once more, Harry set off at a brisk pace, but we’d only gone a few yards when a shout came from behind us:

“Stop right there!”


Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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