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Lestrade to the Rescue (Again)


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Reaching the front door, I launched myself against it. Luckily, it was ajar and swung inwards as my shoulder made painful contact with the large brass knocker.

Getting to my feet, I looked up and saw across the hall a familiar figure lying prostrate on the floor. It was Holmes and he had a knife sticking out of his chest.

“Oh, bloody Nora,” I yelped, my hand going to my mouth in a girly display of fright. Pulling myself together, I ran to his side, aware of the clatter of footsteps somewhere above me.

“Holmes,” I screamed. “You’re not bloody dead, are yer?”

Doctor and Mrs Watson tore down the stairs and knelt beside me, the good doctor immediately taking over and checking his friend’s vital signs.

“Sherlock?” said Watson, running his fingers around the area of the apparent wound. “Is this what I hope it is?”

At that, Holmes raised his head. “What d’you hope it is, Watson?”

“I hope it’s one of Mycroft’s knife-proof vests.”

Holmes sighed. “Ah, yes. That would have been a capital idea. Had I thought of it.” His head dropped to the floor with a thump, his eyes closed and his mouth open, a last gasp of life escaping his thin lips.

Sherlock Holmes was dead.

Watson’s lower lip trembled. He placed a hand over his friend’s eyes, then murmured something that sounded like a prayer. He sniffed, then sat up and turned to me. “Lestrade. You came.”

“Too late, it seems,” said I, a sense of despair washing over me. I gazed down at the lifeless face of our former colleague. “We’ll not see the like of ‘im again,” I said. “Not in this life.”

“Hold the eulogies, chaps,” muttered Holmes.

“Bloody hell,” I gasped. “He ain’t dead at all.”

“Christ,” said Watson, “give me a hand.” Grasping Holmes under the arms we took a firm hold and hauled the undead detective to his feet, the knife in his chest waving slightly with the effort, then shuffled him over to a nearby chair.

It was only then that we noticed the other weapon – a large kitchen knife – on the floor. Holmes had apparently been lying on top of it.

Watson stared at it, then looked at Holmes. “If that’s the knife there…” He let out a low growl. “Where did this one come from?”

“What? This?” Holmes gave the knife sticking out of his chest a playful flick with his finger. The implement waved back and forth as if made of rubber.

Watson straightened up. “You fucking twat,” he hissed. “I thought you were dead.” Snatching the knife, he gave it a sharp tug and it came away from Holmes’ chest, revealing it to be little more than a handle and a two-inch ‘blade’ that had been fastened in place with the aid of sticky tape.

“Keep it down, please, John,” said Holmes, glancing around in a rather furtive manner. “Common-or-garden joke-shop, as it happens.”

Standing up, Holmes ripped off the remaining pieces of sticky tape and fastened his shirt. Then, signalling our silence with a finger to his lips, whispered, “This way.” And with that, he scurried off towards the dining room. Once inside, he shut the door softly and crossed over to the windows to draw the curtains.

Watson stood and watched him, hands on hips, indicating that he was still very angry.

“What’s going on, Holmes?” said Mary, stroking her husband’s arm in a calming motion.

“Fink he’s ‘aving one of ‘is clever clogs moments,” said I.

Holmes held up a warning hand. “Shh.” He cocked his head as if listening, then indicated for us to gather round. “Now,” he said. “Admittedly my little performance may appear to you to be in poor taste, Watson, but I have my reasons. Had you been a little quicker in looking over the banister rail just now you would have observed another individual peering down at me from the first-floor landing.”

“Oh, shit,” said Watson. “Klopp.”

“Correct. Seeing that Miss Claymore’s knife-throwing act had apparently killed me instead of you, she quite naturally decided to make herself scarce. I suggest we do not avail her of the news that I am still very much alive until we can track her down.”

“Hang on,” said I. “Is this the Professor Klopp that…”

“Yes, yes,” said Holmes, “the very same, and if she’s not the mastermind behind this whole affair, then I’m a monkey’s carbuncle.”

“I don’t understand,” said Watson. “When did you strap that device to your chest?”

“Unlike you, friend John, I prepared myself for a successful attempt to be made on my life, and as there is an abundance of large knives in this house, I suspected the killer, one of them at least, to utilise such a weapon in an attempt to kill me.”

“But you said I was to be the next victim,” said Watson.

Holmes coughed. “Ah, yes. A ploy devised purely to protect you.” He looked at the floor. “Of course, I didn’t know Miss Claymore would actually try to kill you – I thought she was merely after a bit of…” He waved a hand in a suggestive manner.

“For God’s sake,” said Mary. “And you didn’t think it necessary to tell us the truth?”

“Mea culpa,” said Holmes, the beginnings of a sardonic smile playing around his mouth. “The fact is, Mary, I expected you two would be safely out of the way leaving me free to tackle our Germanic friend. Who, by the way, is still at large.”

“Wait a minute,” persisted Mary. “So you didn’t go off to the icehouse to follow Rogers?”

“I did, actually,” said Holmes, a look of concern sliding over his features.

“Oh,” said Mary, “but you didn’t think he might be in league with Klopp?”

“Again,” said Holmes, “I did, actually.”

Mary stamped her foot. “So you know what Rogers is doing right now, then?”

“Yes,” he said, simply.

“And what might that be?”

“Right now? He’s lying dead in the icehouse with an ice-pick in his head.”

We were all too stunned to speak.

After a moment, Holmes continued. “Some sort of spring mechanism attached to the door. Rather clever, actually. Poor chap didn’t have a chance.”

“Oh shit,” said Watson. “Look.”

We all turned to look at the row of miniature Indians on the dining table. One of them was lying down, his head melting into an ice cube.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Lestrade to the Rescue


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Having received no reply from either the Watsons or from Holmes, I determined to go to the island myself. Though I may well be (as Holmes has often chided), a sallow, rat-faced, dark-eyed, furtive-looking fellow, I am nevertheless, a jolly good detective and my gut feeling is that my Baker Street friends are in mortal danger. The telegraphical communication which arrived this morning from Sergeant Radish gave me a deal more than a bit of a turn, and for a moment my mind was in turmoil. Thankfully, turmoil is not a new experience for me and I dealt with it in a fitting and correct manner as outlined in the current edition of Police Procedures (Londen Edition).

I had entreated the pathologist Mister Stallworthy to investigate further into the possible identity of the dead person we had previously assumed to be Doctor Edward Armstrong, and in this respect had also sent a memo to Sergeant Radish to assist the doctor by any means possible.

Radish is not the most intellectual of coppers, but the man has a good heart and has seemingly moved heaven and earth (or earth, at least) in a bid to discover the truth. It turns out that the distant relative who came to identify Armstrong forgot to mention a rather significant piece of information which I have to say, sheds a light of a very different kind on the matter. Why the chap did not mention this at the time was a mystery, but the receipt of supplementary information explained his initial reticence, leaving no doubt as to his motives in concealing the truth. As Radish notes: It has been revealed that the Cousin from Cambridge is an inveterate shirt-lifter who often dresses up in ladies attire, goes waltzing off around the Old Town in the middle of the night, offering sexual favours to anyone with twopence-ha’penny to spare… This, to my mind explains everything.

Anyways, the upshot is that this shirt-lifting cousin did not want to admit that the real Doctor Edward Armstrong was in fact Doctor Edwina Armstrong, who, having found herself unable to obtain a position in General Practice, had masqueraded as a gentleman in order to further her career.

All of which suggests that the person who visited Mister Holmes was nothing more than an imposter, employed or otherwise persuaded to go to Baker Street and tell a certain story. I have no doubt that this was done entirely because of the reputation the famous detective has for digging out the truth. Whoever instigated this assignment knew Holmes couldn’t be fooled by a mere woman and would sniff her out in a trice, in which case the game, as it were, would not have been afoot, but up, good and proper.

All of which (again) suggest that someone on the island is a woman. And not only that, but a woman who is pretending to be a different woman, and in fact may be doubly pretending to be a woman who is really a man. Or something like that.

It was with all of this going round in my tiny mind that I made the crossing to Huge Island in a rowing boat borrowed from an old sea dog named Captain Ahab (so-named due to his being from Wales).

It was getting on for noon when I steered the boat towards the jetty and tied her up. From the shore I could see nothing, so hurried up the incline towards where I surmised the house would be. A few minutes later I had reached the crest of the incline and stood on the edge of a vast lawn. Making my way across the grass, I kept to one side, concealing myself as best I could among the trees and weirdly shaped hedges. The house now lay in front of me, and pausing for a moment, I took in its vastness, marvelling in the knowledge that this once-grand edifice had been the scene of at least four murders.

Just as I started forward again, a terrifying scream broke the stillness and as if that were not enough, I recognised the voice – it was Doctor Watson.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Plot Thickens


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Following the discovery of Frau Klopp’s body yesterday, Holmes demanded that we all meet in the kitchen. Here, he announced his intention to prepare a meal for the guests who still remained alive – eight now, including Holmes. My initial surprise in hearing my Baker Street pal suggest that he embark on an activity as mundane as cooking, was soon dispelled as he proceeded to open several tins of bully beef, to which he added several tins of baked beans, dropped the lot in an eight-pint saucepan and popped it on the stove.

“Reminds me of when I was at Rorke’s Drift,” he said, as he and I stood watching the pot.

“Wasn’t aware you’d been a soldier, Holmes,” said I.

“The sum total of those things of which you are not aware, Watson, would fill a large box.”

I felt a little hurt at this, but laughed it off and changed the subject. “I suppose you have a plan, eh?”

The big-nosed detective lowered his voice. “For once, old friend, I find myself at a loss. Discovering the body of Ethel Rogers and the revelation that she was none other than Professor Helga Klopp, has thrown all my current theories out the window.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The whole thing makes no sense.”

Mary brought over a pile of soup bowls. “What’s the plan, Sherlock?”

Holmes glanced around at the others. Apart from the butler, they were all seated around the kitchen table. Other than an occasional comment about the weather, no-one spoke. Every so often, one of them would glance pityingly at Rogers, who stood by the window staring blankly out across the lawn. The poor man hadn’t uttered a word since learning his wife was not only dead, but not who he thought she was, and I judged he must be feeling pretty rotten about it. Unless he turns out to be the killer, of course, though Holmes thinks this unlikely, due to the man’s general ineptness. Then again, his ineptness may be part of his plan, in which case I have to admire his acting ability. Unless he tries to murder me, in which case I shall not hold back in my choice of expletives.

“I don’t know, Mary,” said Holmes. “I really don’t know. But we must come up with something soon, because the killer will strike again. Of that, I am certain.”

“Why don’t we lock them all in their rooms until we’ve decided what to do?”

Holmes grimaced, but he had to admit, short of tying them all up, it was the only solution which might prevent further murders.

By the time the meal was over, it was early evening and there seemed to be no reason not to proceed with Mary’s suggestion. Lining everyone up, Holmes led the way around the house, dropping each person off at their rooms and locking them in, until there was only the three of us left.

In our own room, Holmes produced a bottle of brandy and three glasses (which apparently, he’d half-inched from the kitchen). “Now, Watsons,” he said, pouring out generous helpings, “do either of you have any ideas?”

“It seems to me,” I said, pulling up an armchair, “that none of the others could have been in a position to kill Marston and Miss Bent and the judge and Mrs Rogers – there are simply too many variables. And now the revelation that she wasn’t who we thought she was, just makes it even more complicated.”

Holmes nodded. “So what might make it less complicated?”

I pondered on this for a moment. “If there were two killers, perhaps, as you suggested earlier?”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “As you say, it had occurred to me that the most likely solution was that Mr and Mrs Rogers were in collusion and that they are in fact Mr and Mrs Owen. Since they were masquerading as servants, not guests, it would not seem unusual for either or both of them to be out of sight of the others for any length of time.”

“Apart from Mr Marston,” put in Mary. “They’d have had to be on the mainland for his murder.”

“Yes,” said Holmes, “there’s always one fly in the liniment and that particular theory is further buggered by the fact that the butler’s wife was not his wife.”

“Perhaps he discovered that not only was she not his wife, but was also the killer, and so he killed her,” I said. “Except that if she wasn’t his wife, you’d think he would have noticed sooner.”

“Unless they were in collusion from the start and had a falling out,” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “If the fellow would only deign to speak to us, we might discover exactly what was their arrangement. As it is, we can only guess.”

“Has Lestrade heard back about the post-mortem on Marston yet?” I asked.

Holmes shook his head. “I expect to hear very shortly, though I doubt it will shed light on how the killer effected the murder.”

We discussed the case for a while longer, but as the brandy began to take effect, our abilities to converse sensibly soon curtailed our discussion and the three of us nodded off where we sat.

On awaking this morning, my first thought was that my mouth had somehow been the recipient of a large spoonful of horse manure. Jumping up, I hurried to the bathroom and drank greedily from the tap, til my thirst was quenched. On re-entering the bedroom, I was pleased to see Mary and Holmes had both opened their eyes and both quickly advanced to the bathroom to follow my lead vis a vis slaking their individual thirsts.

We each took a few minutes to make ourselves presentable and after taking a couple of Sarson’s Vinegar Pills for my headache, I walked over to the window and stuck my head out, breathing deeply and striving to keep down the bile that threatened to announce its presence at any moment.

It was then I noticed the pigeon sitting on the far side of the window ledge, looking up at me. Gathering him in my hands, I took him inside and Mary unfastened the note from his leg.

Holmes took it out of her hand and unfurled it.

We both watched him keenly and saw his initial eagerness sink into an expression of gloom. Still holding the note, he dropped into his chair and for several minutes, glared at the carpet. I knew from experience that this was not a time to interrupt his thoughts and that he would share the contents of the note only when he was ready to do so.

“This is bad,” he said, eventually. “It appears the post-mortem on Marston cannot help us. But there is something else of far greater concern to us – Doctor Armstrong has died of consumption. Unfortunately, it turns out he was not Doctor Armstrong.”

“Not Doctor Armstrong?” I said. “Then who the bloody hell was he?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Holmes, “but I’ve an awful feeling that the whole point of this charade was not to persuade me to investigate this case, or to prevent the murders of anyone else, but to lure the three of us here to the island, in order to kill us.”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Londen Calling


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up
Dolphin Cove

I am happy to report that Mrs Miniver has finally heeded my request to desist from sexual shenanigans, and last evening, for the first time since arriving here, I spent a peaceful and wonderfully unmolested night. Arising feeling refreshed and ready for anything, I washed, dressed and brushed my sideburns, before bounding downstairs for breakfast. However, it turned out that I was not, after all, ready for anything. This morning’s news has put me out of sorts a good deal and I am a little concerned that my Baker Street pals may be in grave danger.

Following my most recent message to Mister Holmes yesterday, I received by first pigeon-post this morning his return communication, indicating that the current toll of corpses has now risen to four. I have to admit to feeling more than a little uneasy to learn that Holmes is no longer concealing himself as a rectangle of lawn grass (which did at least afford him the luxury of remaining unknown to the other guests). In showing himself, Holmes has made himself a target for the deranged killer (in my humble opinion), along with Doctor and Mrs Watson. My sense of agitation has further been heightened with the knowledge that Holmes has still not requested assistance from either myself or his brother Mycroft. This fact alone would seem to leave him open to the very real threat of death. Nevertheless, I realise that a horde of coppers pouring over the island won’t necessarily help the situation and may well cause the killer to go to ground.

After ruminating on the problem over a breakfast of muffins and quince jelly, I walked up to the post office in the hope of collecting Mister Stallworthy’s post-mortem report on Anthony Marston. (I thought it best to have all mail forwarded to a central collection point that would ensure some degree of confidentially, since the murderer may well have spies on the mainland, and Mrs Miniver, while of sound mind and willing body, has a complete absence of insight regarding discretion and police matters in general. (She told me over supper last evening that she once dropped a police officer in the shit when she related the full details of her affair with him to the man’s wife – a matter not helped by her description of how she had employed the officer’s own truncheon for a purpose which most definitely was not part of official procedures.)

The little woman in the post office gave me a toothy grin as she handed over two large brown envelopes and a smaller white one bearing the Scotland Yard crest. “Ar ye go, Inspec’or Lesbian,” said she, “Oi expect you’ll be a-solving of that murder the other night, eh?”

“For your information, missus, my name is Lestrade, not Lesbian, and this is confidential police business that I’ll thank you to keep your gob shut about.”

At this, the other people waiting in line turned to look at me as if I’d uttered a blood-curdling threat at the old dear, so I coughed and lowering my voice, added, “that is to say, it isn’t information what you want to be putting about, if you see what I mean.”

The woman grinned, but it was obvious that I had offended her. As way of recompense, I purchased four second class stamps and a packet of envelopes.

Hurrying back to my lodgings, I perused the contents of the envelopes in the privacy of my room. The first was from the lady novelist Mrs Agatha Christie and listed several possible methodologies that a killer might utilise if he or she were to concoct a murder that takes place on a remote island. I deemed none of these worthy of further study, as one relied on the application of mass hypnotism, another required the cooperation of the psycho-killer Kay Kersey (who is currently serving a life-sentence in Durham jail for slaughtering a family of Geordie miners and their pet whippet), and the others are all too far-fetched to even consider.

Putting the papers aside, I opened the other envelope and read through the autopsy report for Mr Marston. This appeared to be very much as Watson and myself had expected, including details of the damage to the hands and the strangulation, which is of course what killed him. In any case, there was nothing that would give us a clue to who the murderer might be or how they had engineered the whole thing.

I tossed the document aside and it was only then that my eye caught the third envelope. I had assumed it to be some tedious reminder of the workload awaiting me on my return to Londen, but I was mistaken. The letter was from Sergeant Radish, who is best known among my colleagues as a fairy fancier and lover of Lancashire beer. However, one of his roles is to update the files on unidentified bodies. His letter ran thus:

Dear Inspector Lestrade

Just a short note to say how we is all missing you down at the Yard and hoping you are enjoying your holiday.

Oh, by the by, you might be interested to know something what I discovered relating to a chap known to your friend Mister Holmes. Doctor Edward Armstrong, who apparently visited Holmes a few weeks ago, has died of consumption. This is not news in itself of course (I hear you say!) but the reason it came to my attention was due to the Doctor not having no living relatives to identify him other than a cousin who lives in Cambridge. Anyways, this cousin eventually arrived to do his duty and lo and behold, it turns out that the dead man is not Doctor Armstrong after all, but an anonymous imposter.

Well, that’s all – I just thought it might be of interest to you, though I do not suppose it will be relevant to whatever it is you are up to down there in Devon (nudge nudge, wink wink!)

Well, that is all for now, Inspector.

Your faithful friend,
Sergeant Radish.

A cold chill ran up my spine as if someone had walked over my grave. However, it turned out to be a draught from the window. I put the letter in my pocket, but then I said to myself, could this Armstrong business have something to do with these murders? Nah, I told to myself. But then, I said to myself again, as I was not in fact present when Holmes met with Doctor Armstrong, I probably ought to pass the information on to him.

Just in case.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Sherlock Sheds a Light

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we arrived back downstairs and exited the house via the French windows, Rogers had reached the shed. Sprinting across the lawn, I arrived a few seconds later and yanking the door open, found myself faced with an odd scene. Sherlock Holmes was sitting in a deck chair in the rear part of the shed, holding his Meerschaum pipe in one hand and a wine glass in the other.

“Ah, Watson,” said he, taking a sip from his drink. “Won’t you join me in a gin and tonic?” He nodded at a selection of spirit bottles atop an upturned crate at his side along with two large buckets of ice.

“It was you who took the ice?” I muttered, staring at his glass.

“Of course, old bean. Can’t have gin without the necessaries.”

It was only then that I remembered Rogers, and turning round, found the butler hovering in the corner behind me, still brandishing the knife. The man gave me a sharp look, his mouth a snarling grimace, then his features abruptly sagged into an expression of hopeless resignation and he let his arm, and the weapon, drop down to his side.

Noticing that Rogers still held an old sack in his other hand, I gestured towards it. “What’s that for?”

He shrugged. “I were going ter put it over his head before I did the deed.” He shrugged again. “Bit squeamish, yer see.”

“Hardly the attitude of a murderer,” murmured Holmes.

“I’m not sure I understand…” I said.

“Of course not, Watson,” said Holmes with a sardonic smile. “Rogers here thought I was up to something with his dear wife and no doubt having followed the trail of ice cubes I left across the lawn, he expected to confront the two of us.” He raised an eyebrow at the butler.

“Well, I dunno…” said Rogers, his anger having petered out completely.

“Let me see if I can help,” said Holmes, getting to his feet. “Mrs Rogers likes a drop of gin, does she not?”

The butler nodded meekly.

“And on hearing that all the ice had disappeared from the icehouse you naturally leapt to the conclusion that she had secreted it away somewhere in order to avail herself of a quiet drink, eh?”

“I did fink that, yes.”

“And when you noticed a few apparently stray ice cubes on the grass, you followed the trail here. Except,” here he wagged a finger at the butler. “You did not immediately come into the shed to confront what you imagined was occurring.”

Rogers shook his head solemnly.

“Because,” continued Holmes, “you heard my voice and assumed that your wife was in conversation and therefore collusion with me. You therefore decided to arm yourself and put an end to her shenanigans and the murders in one fell swoop.”

“I heard you saying there were going to be another murder. So I thought you was the killer…”

Holmes sighed and reaching down, pulled up a long metallic tube attached to a rectangular wooden box. “An invention of Mycroft’s, based on Moriarty’s Conical-Rite-a-Phone machine.” He smiled and poured himself another drink.

Turning to Rogers, I explained. “It’s a mechanical device that interprets his words and scribbles them down by means of a copper nib onto a wax cylinder. No doubt what you heard was Holmes recording the case for future reference, rather than him having a conversation with your wife. Or anyone else, for that matter.”

Holmes nodded. “Thank you, Watson. And as Mr Rogers was quite obviously employed for some considerable time tracking down his wife, returning to the kitchen to fetch a knife, then coming back here to wreak vengeance, I imagine he could not have been involved in the murder upstairs which you and your dear wife have just discovered.”

“How the hell did you know about that?”

I turned to see Mary in the doorway, her face a mixture of annoyance and confusion.

“Because, dear lady,” said Holmes in that irritating manner he adopts when in possession of more information than anyone else, “while you and the other guests were taken up with the demise of the unfortunate Miss Bent, I took the liberty of popping up to your bedroom to take delivery of the message that had recently arrived on your windowsill via Lestrade’s pigeon post. I won’t bore you with the details, but having visited Mrs Christie, Lestrade is of the opinion that the murderer is not following the sequence of deaths as they occur in the book, in which case the aforementioned lady novelist is unlikely herself to be connected with the killings. However, while I am of the opinion that our adversary intends to kill everyone on the island, I believe he or she has utilised the plot of the book as a means of drawing us off his or her real purpose.”

Mary looked at me, then back at Holmes. “And what would that be?”

“Before I tell you, please fill me in on the details of the most recent killing.”

Between us, Mary and myself related how we’d found Warmonger’s body but that I believed he was not actually dead and had merely injected himself with some form of sedative to slow down his heartrate and therefore give the impression he had shuffled off his proverbial coil.

“Ah,” said Holmes. “And he could then go about the business of killing the rest of us without casting suspicion in his direction, since a dead man could hardly be responsible for killing anyone.”

“Precisely,” said I.

“The problem,” said Holmes, with a frown, “is that Justice Warmonger is actually dead.”

“I’m fairly sure he isn’t, Holmes,” I said, a little put out to have my medical judgment questioned.

“Tish tish, Johnny,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I do not doubt your expertise, but I think I’m right when I say that while we have been engaged in this little catch-up session, our murderer has once more been at work.”

“But I thought you said Warmonger was the killer?”

He shook his head. “Never said any such thing, Watson. In fact, Warmonger was most likely persuaded by the real murderer to pretend to be dead.”

“Just like in the book,” said Mary.

“Except,” said Holmes, “that in the book Warmonger is the killer.”

“Well there’s one way to make sure,” I said.

“Exactly Watson,” said Holmes. “To the bedroom!” And with that, he pushed past us and began to run across the lawn towards the house.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Tea and a Quickie with Aggie


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up
Dolphin Cove

Having spent most of the last twelve hours in the company of a most interesting woman, I am now back in my room, taking the opportunity to update my journal on recent events.

Since the Watsons departed for the island, I had begun to regret my decision to remain in Dolphin Cove. Though I’d agreed to report back to Holmes on the post-mortem of Mister Marston and related matters, I failed to appreciate the foolhardiness of staying at Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up in the village. Having been advised by that same lady’s niece that the aforementioned lodging-house is held in the highest regard in this locality, I soon learned this fact has less to do with Mrs Miniver’s ability to deliver the requisite services usually provided at such establishments, and more to do with her penchant for climbing into her guests beds of a night-time. So far, I have been the victim of roaming fingers, an extraordinarily long and inquisitive tongue and an inclination to indulge in the local nightly pastime of ‘fisting’.

I should point out that although this latter practice has been mentioned several times by my hostess, with the explanation that it is the ‘ultimate delight’ for many of her male lodgers, I have not as yet been on the receiving end, so to speak. Following her rather detailed description of the activity, I made it quite clear I would not be a party to such deviant practices and if she attempted to realise such an act, she would find herself in very hot water indeed.

However, I digress.

Yesterday morning I determined to follow up on one of the suggestions put to me by Holmes before he departed for the island, and it was with this objective in mind that I made the journey to Greenway House in Devon in a little under an hour, thanks to the generosity of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the provision of one of his flying contraptions. (I don’t mind admitting that the experience of being whisked into the air at great speed, surrounded by pounding pistons and hissing steam, scared me half to death and I was only too glad to reach my destination and clamber down from the infernal machine.)

A chap in a butler’s outfit greeted me on the lawn and led the way up to the house. One of Mycroft’s minions had alerted the lady in question to my imminent arrival and I was gratified to learn she had proffered no objections to my visit.

The house is quite magnificent, and I confess to feeling somewhat overawed by its daunting immensity and the sheer bloody opulence of the furnishings.

The butler chappie spoke kindly to me as we crossed the great hall, advising that The Mistress would be delighted to meet me, so long as I made no attempt to persuade her to divulge the plot of her latest book – currently titled An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced.

“Ah,” said Miss Christie, rising from her chair, “Inspector Lestrade. How the buggering hell are you?”

I blinked at this unexpected use of colloquialisms, but took her hand and shook it firmly.

“I ‘ope you ain’t gonner find my questions objectionable, Miss Christie, but a copper ‘as ter do what he ‘as to do, eh?”

“Bloody good show, Inspector,” she said, waving me into a seat by the window. Dragging her own chair across the carpet in order to sit opposite me, she plonked herself down heavily and spread her legs wide, in a rather mannish manner.

“Hope you don’t mind the plus fours,” she said, brushing a hand down her tweeds. “Stops the servants looking at my snatch.”

When I’d finished coughing, I pulled out my notebook and stared at it until the blood had once again drained from my face. “Right, then, Miss er…”

“Call me Aggie. Everyone does,” she said, with a snort.

“Right,” I said again. “Now I ‘ave ter tell yer that the private investigators Messrs Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are involved in a case what I am also examining, so…”

“Oh, jolly good,” she erupted, rubbing her hands together gleefully. “Love a nice bloody murder.” Her face went serious and she leaned forward, eagerly. “There has been a murder, has there?”

“There has, Miss, er, Aggie. The victim is one Mister Marston.”

At this, the famous novelist sat back, rubbing her chin. “Marston, you say? That’s interesting.”

“Yes, and that’s what I was wantin ter talk to yer about.” I hesitated, unsure how to continue.

“Don’t tell me, “she said with a sly smile. “It’s a copy-cat killer.” She leaned forward again and squeezed my knee. “I’m bloody right, aren’t I?”

“Actually, yes. Mister Holmes was of the opinion that someone may be replicating the murders in your novel, And Then There Were None, though if yer ask me, I fink it’s all a bit far-fetched.”

Agatha gazed out of the window, her mouth slightly open. “I wonder…”

“Although, to be fair,” I continued, “so far there ‘as been only one murder.”

“Mister Marston. Hmmm.” She nodded. “Yes, but Holmes expects there to be more, in fact I wouldn’t mind betting twenty bloody quid that another one has already occurred.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, Miss…”

“Sequential Killers rarely hang about, you know. Best nip this one in the bud, before he or she does it again, eh?”

“Exactly.” Glancing at my notebook, I steeled myself for the next question. “Now, I was wonderin…that is, Mister Holmes was wonderin, if you yourself had, by any strange coincidence, in recent days, visited a place called Huge Island. Or perhaps Dolphin Cove?” Licking my lips, I watched her face for any tell-tale sign of guilt.

“Well now, Inspector,” said she, a crafty smile sliding across her thin face. “If I was the murderer, pretending to follow the plot of a highly successful and very well received crime novel, I’d most likely also pretend to be the author herself.” She winked at me. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, I might, I suppose,” I stuttered. “Though…”

“Yes, Inspector?”

“Well, Mister Holmes and me, we was wonderin, if that is indeed the murderer’s intention – pretending to be you, I mean – how might an individual do that in practice?”

She shrugged. “If it were me, then obviously I would just be me. But if the murderer were someone else, then he or she would simply wear a mask.”

With a sudden spurt of energy, she leaped out of her chair and slapped her thigh. “Now, d’you fancy tea and scones before we go for a quickie?”

“Erm…a quickie?”

“A round of golf, dear. What’d you think I meant – a fuck?” And with that, she collapsed into gales of laughter before ringing the bell for tea.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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And Then There Were Ten


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It occurred to me as I returned to the dining room, that I’d forgotten to leave any birdseed on my bedroom windowsill. If Holmes or Lestrade sent any messages via carrier pigeon, I might never see them and consequently miss important information. Then again, it seemed unlikely my companion would be on the island already and Lestrade wouldn’t have anything to impart until after the examination of Marston’s body, so I probably didn’t need to worry about it.

Crossing the entrance hall, I noticed an ornate bowl on the hall table containing a variety of fruit. Picking it up, I congratulated myself that I’d at least have some good news to divulge to my companions. On pushing open the dining room door, I found everyone in much the same locations as when I’d left. As one, they turned towards me.

“Luncheon is served,” I said, sliding the bowl onto the table.

All eyes fell on the bowl and for a few seconds, there was silence. Then everybody moved at once, standing, pushing, squeezing in and grabbing anything that might feasibly pose a risk-free meal. (Luckily, I’d pocketed a few damsons for myself.)

“What did Rogers have to say?” asked the judge, chomping on an apple.

I slid into my seat next to Mary and pulled out my plums. “Apparently, Mrs Rogers does the cooking and the Owens are expected back this evening.”

“For God’s sake, man, we knew that already,” said Warmonger with a scowl.

“And if Mrs Rogers is the killer, what are we going to eat?” Emily Bent gazed forlornly at her banana. “She might have poisoned the fruit too.”

At this, they all stopped eating and stared at their own choices.

“Which is precisely why I’m taking a moment to examine my plums for signs of intrusion,” said I, none too smugly.

“Intrusion?” bellowed Warmonger. “What the deuce d’you mean by intrusion?”

“I believe my husband is referring to marks made by a hypodermic needle,” said Mary. “Which would be the obvious way to poison soft fruit.”

Billy Blah looked down at the orange peelings on his plate. “Bollocks. That’s my dinner fucked, then.”

Mary passed the fruit bowl across to him. “Try an apple – easier to see any marks on the skin.”

Blah nodded a thanks, examined a Cox’s Pippin and took a careful bite out of it.

“So, Doctor Watson,” said Warmonger, giving me a baleful stare. “What do you suggest we do about the rest of our meals here?”

“After visiting the kitchen, I looked into the pantry. There are dozens of tins of meat and vegetables that will be perfectly safe to eat. All we have to do is prepare them ourselves.”

“Really?” continued the judge. “And how do you suggest we organise that?”

“I suggest,” I said, in what I hoped was a condescending tone, “that we congregate in the kitchen this evening and prepare a meal together, so no one person is left alone with the food.”

“But you just said Mrs Rogers was the poisoner,” wailed Emily.

“No,” I said, “that was your suggestion.”

“Well I for one do not intend slaving over a stove, hot or otherwise,” said Warmonger.

General MacArthur thumped the table, making us all jump. “In the Crimea,” he said, “all the chaps did their own. Cooking, you know. Not difficult. Straightforward, mainly. Heat it up. Eat.”

“I just don’t see why all of us have to be involved,” said Emily.

“Oh, I see,” said Warmonger, jumping to his feet. “You know who the killer is, do you?”

“Well, no…” she said, avoiding his glaring eyes.

“So, in order to avoid death, what would your wonderful solution be, Miss Bender?” growled the judge.

“It’s Bent, actually,” she murmured.

There was silence for a moment, then Dilip Lombardi spoke up.

“Surely the solution is obvious?” he said.

“Not to me,” growled Warmonger, “but what do I know? I’m only a high court judge?”

“The solution,” continued Lombardi, “is for Doctor and Mrs Watson to do the cooking.”

“On the basis of what, exactly?” said Warmonger.

“On the basis that out of all of us, including the butler and his wife, the Watsons are the only two people who were not invited here.”

This made perfect sense, though if Mary and I were the killers, we would surely have arranged things precisely this way to fool our potential victims. This important point, however, did not seem to have occurred to anyone else.

“That’s fine with us, if everyone agrees?” said Mary.

Everyone did, albeit with a sense of desperation.

“That’s settled then,” said Mary. “We shall prepare an evening meal for seven o’clock.”

“And what are we supposed to do until then,” asked Emily Bent.

Mary glanced at me, then said, “Lock yourselves in your rooms.”

There were no objections, so we all drifted off to our respective quarters.

Upstairs, I closed our bedroom door behind me and sat on the bed. “What now?”

“Now, dear? I think you ought to answer Sherlock’s message.”

“Oh, sod it, I forgot to put out the bird seed.”

“But I didn’t, Johnny.” Mary smiled and pointed at the window.

A pigeon had perched on the sill, his beady eyes watching us. Sliding the sash upwards quietly so as not to alarm the creature, I took hold of the bird and brought him inside. A moment later, I’d unfasted the message tied to his leg. It read:

    Watsons
    Do not trust the servants. Very likely they have not met the Owens. Possible the Owens do not exist. Possible the Owens are the servants. Also, watch Emily Bent – Lestrade informs that she killed her employer.
    Holmes

“So,” said Mary, “do you think Rogers and his wife are the murderers?”

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully, but it didn’t help. “I suspected Rogers was lying, but I don’t think it’s just about the Owens. I think there’s something else.” Recalling my conversation with the butler, I added, “He mentioned something about having had instructions from the Owens.”

“What sort of instructions?”

“Not sure, but he implied they’d been told not to divulge any information about Mister or Mrs Owen.”

“But you agree with Sherlock that perhaps they’ve never met?”

“I do. Which still means one of our companions could be the real Owen.” Placing the pigeon back on the windowsill, something across the lawn caught my eye.

“So we’re back to the beginning,” said Mary, squeezing my hand.

“I wouldn’t say that, darling. I think we can cross one name off the list…”

Across the lawn on the north side of the house we could see the upper parts of the oak trees above the hedgerows. Hanging from the tree nearest us, was a body. A naked body. A body that looked awfully familiar.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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