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Werewolves of Londen


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was a few minutes before I was able to regain my composure. Lestrade and his men had run out into the street in pursuit of Kessler, while Holmes calmly stripped off his disguise and pulled on his familiar greatcoat and deerstalker. Mary stood at my side, patting my arm supportively and making cooing sounds in my ear.

“Don’t worry, darling,” she said, “I was as surprised as you.”

I knew she was lying, but her words did make me feel a little less stupid.

The woman from Pinkerton’s appeared to be having a subdued, yet strident argument with Caddy and Schitt concerning the latter’s impersonation of her.

“What you don’t understand, you silly bint,” fumed Schitt, “is that I weren’t pretending ter be you, I were pretending ter be Kessler’s sister.”

“Kessler doesn’t have a sister, honey,” said the woman. The cut-glass English accent had gone, and in its place was a curious but somewhat alluring southern drawl.

“What I’m bloody saying,” said Schitt with more than a hint of menace in his voice, “is that if you hadn’t stuck your bleedin oar in, we’d have had him bang to bleedin rights.”

Kate Warne let out a sneering laugh. “Rilly? And how would you have protected y’rself agaynst him, honey?”

Inspector Schitt blustered for a moment, then failing to come up with a feasible explanation, turned to Caddy. “Go on, Buckie, you tell her.”

“Oh,” said Caddy, clearly feeling he’d been put on the spot. “Well, we could…er…I mean…ahm…”

“Precisely,” said Miss Warne. “You hayve no ah-deah.” And with that she began to undo the buttons of her blouse.

The eyes of the two men popped out like plums on sticks, but the lady wasn’t about to expose her feminine resources. Instead, she pulled open the garment’s collar to display a woven circle of some sort of grass or straw that hung around her slender neck.

“Of course,” murmured my wife. “Rye.”

“What?” said I, staring at her.

“It’s an ancient Celtic thing – apparently it wards off werewolves. Mistletoe has a similar effect.”

Once again, I was floored by the sheer breadth of Mary’s knowledge. I learned later that at least some of her information had been garnered from reading Curiouser and Curiouser, a monthly periodical which had recently featured an article on Celtic folklore.

Turning my attention back to the others, I heard Schitt mutter something derogatory under his breath, but aloud, he said, “Of course. I knew that.”

Holmes, having adjusted his clothing satisfactorily, now stepped forward. “Watson, Mrs Watson, I suggest we get going.”

A heavy sigh escaped my lips before I could stop it. “Hmph. Very well, Holmes. Anywhere in particular?”

“I thought we might get something to eat.”

A glance at Mary told me she was as stupefied as me. Holmes rarely mentioned food, and never in the midst of an investigation.

Before I could venture another question, the big-nosed detective had left the room. Caddy, Schitt and Miss Warne immediately curtailed their differences of opinion and hurried after him.

“Come on, then,” I said to Mary. “If nothing else, we might fill our bellies.”

Out in the street, Holmes had taken off after Lestrade and the two constables, whose lanterns we could clearly see bobbing about at the far end of the lane. They appeared to be engaged in checking every side road and back alley in the vicinity.

Just then, Holmes slithered to a halt, sniffing the air and turning his head this way and that. With his eyes tightly shut, his lips moved silently as they often did when his nasal analysis was at its keenest point.

As I watched, waiting for him to spout one of his ridiculous conclusions, one sound did escape his thin mouth. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘Biff Show Lane’ made no sense to me.

Assuming the officers had already explored the avenues in-between us and them, I was surprised to see Holmes abruptly whirl round and tear off down a nearby alleyway. Hastening after him, I noted the faint glow from a window halfway along. Approaching the place cautiously, Holmes dropped to his haunches and peered over the sill. Swivelling round, he beckoned us over.

“We’re too late,” he whispered, and signalled that I should look inside.

Keeping low, I raised my head just enough to see over the windowsill. Steam had misted the glass, but I could make out a long bench, behind which several cooking pots bubbled away on a rusty but serviceable kitchen range. However, it was the huge quantity of blood splashed across one wall that drew my gaze.

“Christ on a bike,” I muttered.

“Have a care, Watson,” said Holmes, standing up. “Caddy, Schitt – you two nip round the back. Watson, you and the others follow me.” Pushing open the door, Holmes stepped across the threshold, a cloud of steam billowing over his head as he did so.

Taking out my revolver, I held it like a baton as I prepared to advance. Beside me, Kate Warne pulled out her own weapon. I must have given her a questioning look for she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “My own favourite, don’t ya know – Webley five-shot pocket. Gets ‘em every time.” With that, she pushed past me and followed Holmes into the shop.

“Careful, Johnny,” said Mary, tugging at my jacket. She too had one hand on her pistol and the two of us crept inside after Miss Warne.

The blood on the walls had splattered upwards as if thrown from the end of a well-loaded paintbrush. The resultant mess appeared to be the result of arterial spray – the kind I might expect from a severe neck wound. I guessed the victim, if by some miracle still alive, would be unlikely to survive more than a few minutes.

Holmes had stopped by the long bench in front of the cooking area. Various bowls and plates were scattered haphazardly across the table, but it was one particular bowl that occupied his attention.

“See here, Watson,” he said, pointing a slender finger at the half-eaten meal. “Beef chow mein, if I’m not very much mistaken.”

I was about to comment, when Kate Warne pushed in front of me and stuck a finger in the meaty remains. Licking the digit thoughtfully, she said, “Sure is. His favourite.”

“Whose?” said I. “The werewolf?”

She nodded. “Werewolves love Chinese food.” She moved away to follow Holmes through to the rear of the building.

It was there we found the remains of the shop’s proprietor, Lee Ho Fook. His neck had been slashed so deeply that only a sliver of skin held his head to his body.

“Oh my,” said Mary, her face pale.

But Holmes was already off again, running towards the door at the rear of the building. Hurrying after him, I grabbed his sleeve and pulled him to a stop.

“Look here, Holmes,” I said. “Don’t you think we should get Lestrade and his men, before anyone else gets hurt?”

We had stepped outside into a darkened alley. To our left, Caddy and Schitt had paused to investigate a pile of dustbins. To the right was mere darkness. I was about to repeat my question when something moved in the shadows.

“Ah-ha,” murmured Holmes. “Werewolves of Londen.”

Before either of us could move, the black shape launched itself into the air with a piercing howl. Whether it was my imagination or some weird effect of the brain, everything seemed to slow down. As the creature flew through the air towards where we stood, my only recollection is of pulling my companion to the ground and the feeling of something claw-like gliding across the top of my head, scrutinizing my hair like some animalistic barber.

From somewhere in the distance, a series of shouts and screams echoed back and forth. Strong hands gripped my arms and I felt myself hauled upright. Struggling to focus, I became aware of movement below me and the sensation of the passing of time washed over my entire being.

When my senses finally returned, I found myself gazing up at an ornate ceiling, decorated with cherubs and god-like beings. For a moment I wondered if I were in Heaven.

“Ah, there you are, Watson,” said a familiar voice. “And no, to answer your question, you’re not in some unearthly paradise, but in a suite of rooms at The Dorchester, courtesy of Lord Greystoke.” He sniffed. “Apparently he hates werewolves.”

Blinking, I managed to raise myself into a sitting position and saw that I was in a large baroque-style bed, in a large baroque-style room.

A throbbing sensation began to make itself known, and looking down I saw a bandage around my arm.

“Don’t fret, Johnny, it’s only a slightly deep gash.”

“From the creature?”

Holmes coughed. “No, actually.” He averted his gaze for a moment. “As it happens, I appear to have slashed your arm open in my desire to protect you. My spatial awareness isn’t what it was.”

“I see. Where’s Mary?” I asked.

Holmes sat on the side of the bed and patted my leg. “She’s out shopping with the Pinkerton woman.” He rolled his eyes and uttered a passable imitation of Miss Warne’s voice: “Us gals sure do love to shop, doncha know?”

“So they’re both fine?”

He nodded. “In fact, it might interest you to know that your dear wife managed to shoot Kessler several times in the testicles before he disappeared into the sewers.”

I stiffened. “My God – he escaped!”

“No, far from it.” He let out a long sigh, then shifted his position and nodded to the other side of the room. “He’s over there.”

Looking past him, I gazed at the man in the other bed. The American’s face looked serene, as if he were experiencing the most beautiful dream. “Is he..?”

“Dead? As a Dodo. Though I’ll be happier when he’s six feet under – just to be sure.” Holmes dropped his voice and spoke in an almost reverential tone. “Kessler attacked Inspector Schitt and in doing so, fell down an open manhole cover into the sewers thirty feet below. Broke his neck.”

“Bloody hell,” I said. “And Schitt? Where’s he?” Looking around I noted there were no other beds in the room.

Holmes shook his head. “No.”

I blinked. The inspector had never been one of my favourite people, but I had to admit to feeling a deep sense of loss, if not for Schitt himself, then for the life of another human being.

It was several days before we finally returned home. Kate Warne had some Pinkerton-related business in Londen and promised to drop in and see us before heading back to the States. Inspector Caddy went back to Titfield to continue his holiday, though I was sure we’d see him again soon.

As to my own dear Mary, she was her usual self, though I suspected the adventure had affected her more than she was prepared to admit. Nevertheless, when a telegram arrived from the famous lady racing driver Penelope Pitstop, concerning a series of threatening letters, my wife was eager to join the investigation.

As it turned out, those letters were merely the bait to lure us into yet another mystery that would see us fighting for our lives.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Encounter in a Darkened Room


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

No sound came from inside the room and after half a minute or so, I knocked again – louder this time. Glancing at my wife, I noted a hint of desperation in her eyes as she and Schitt launched into another chorus of ‘Get Yer Nob Aht, Yer Naugh’y Boy’. Then a noise from within brought my attention back to Kessler’s room: thud – thud – thud. Someone, or something was walking slowly towards the door. Preparing myself for the worst, I leaned back and kept one hand on my weapon in readiness.

The door handle rattled, twisted and finally clicked as the door itself began to move. The dimly-lit corridor in which we stood told me the room beyond must be in darkness, as no tell-tale shaft of light shimmered across the landing carpet as the door swung open.

“Hello?” I ventured.

“Ah, Doctor Watson, I presume?” The person who’d opened the door stepped into the light and held out a hand in greeting.

I blinked several times. The woman standing before me was…

No, that can’t be right (I told myself). While my brain fought to fit the pieces of this bizarre jigsaw together, I became aware the singing had stopped, and sensed (rather than saw) that the mouths of my colleagues had either dropped open, or were fully in contact with the floor in utter amazement.

“You?” I spluttered, stupidly.

Inspector Schitt was the first to pull himself together. Leaping forward, he grabbed the woman’s arm with one hand and began pressing her breasts with the other. “Get them orf, yer bloody cow, get them orf now!”

“Schitt!” I barked, seizing the inspector’s shoulder. “What the hell are you doing, man?” Pulling him back into the corridor, I threw him against the wall. Immediately, the man’s knees gave way and he sank to the floor.

“Oh-my-God-they’re-fucking-real,” he spluttered, covering his face with his hands. “They’re real and I touched them. Oh my God.”

Turning round, I faced the newcomer again. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Doctor Hirsch. How nice to meet you, at last.”

Judith’s hand still hovered in mid-air, so I shook it as firmly as a man can when he’s just had the metaphorical shit kicked out of him. In doing so, I noticed the small scratches her fingernails left on my palm as she withdrew her slim fingers, and the somewhat enlarged and pointy canine teeth on each side of her mouth as she smiled demurely.

“I’m afraid I can’t invite you in, Doctor Watson, as I’ve–”

But I did not wait for her to finish that sentence. My years of observing Sherlock Holmes at work has taught me many things, one of which is the ability to evaluate any situation instantly. I took in the woman’s identity, the darkness of the room, her unwillingness to invite us in and the unmistakable transformation that was even now advancing upon her heavenly, but very dangerous body. Within a split second I knew what I must do. Pulling out my gun, I charged forward, knocking Judith to the floor.

“Johnny, what are you doing?” I heard Mary shout behind me, but I was already inside and determined to get the upper hand while there was still time.

In the half-light from the corridor, I was able to make out the few items of furniture in the room – a bed, two chairs and a wardrobe, but it was the window I was interested in. The blind had been pulled down, blocking out any light from outside. As I stood staring at the window considering the implications of ripping the screen away, I perceived a low guttural snarl from somewhere in the shadows of the room. Whirling round, I discerned a familiar shape crouching against the far wall. It was the shape of a man, but as I watched in horror, the arms began to extend, its legs became thickened and matted with fur and the head twisted sideways as the jaws extended and its teeth grew into the unmistakable outline of a wolf.

Raising my gun, I prepared to pull the trigger, but before I could act, Inspector Caddy threw himself against me and we crashed to the floor in a tangled heap of arms and legs. Looking up into his face, I witnessed a look of utter joy slide across his face.

“No Johnny,” he whispered. “You can’t kill her – she’s gorgeous.”

With a superhuman effort, I pushed him off me and struggled to my feet. “I wasn’t going to kill her, you stupid prick – I was going to kill him.” And I pointed to where the creature had been standing only seconds before, but of course it had gone. In the same instant this information entered my brain, a resounding crash told me the werewolf had thrown itself through the window.

Suddenly the room was full of people – Lestrade and his men ran to the shattered window, Mary and Schitt helped Caddy to his feet and Sherlock Holmes stood in the doorway, hands on hips and looking distinctly annoyed.

The only other person in the room was Judith Hirsch, who was now leaning against the wall, arms folded. She shook her head at me. “And there was me thinking Mister Holmes had you all wrong, Doctor. It seems you really are a total dick.”

“Inspector Lestrade,” I said, feeling my face flush scarlet, “arrest that woman.”

Holmes removed his false wig and mask, allowing it to dangle against his chest. Holding out a hand to prevent Lestrade slapping the ‘cuffs on Miss Hirsch, he said, “Don’t do that, old bean, we wouldn’t want to upset out American friends now, would we?”

A familiar churning sensation began to make itself known in my stomach. “No?” I said to Holmes, “and why’s that, then?”

Holmes smiled sardonically. “Watson, Lestrade, I’d like to introduce you to Miss Kate Warne, of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency.”

I bit my lip. “Kate Warne?”

The woman nodded.

“Of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency?”

She nodded again.

“That’s the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in Chicago?”

“That’s the one,” she said, giving me a sly wink.

“Oh,” I said. “Shit.”

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Not Much of a Plan


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The inspector was waiting by the turnstile as we hurried down the platform towards him. For once, his weasel-like features did not prompt my usual urge to snigger, and instead I shook his hand firmly.

“Lestrade. Good to see you, old chap.”

“And you, Doctor,” said the other, clearly surprised at my bonhomie. “Now, if you and Mrs Watson come with me, the others can take the second carriage.”

Leading us out onto the road, Lestrade made a show of getting us settled into our respective Hackneys before climbing in next to me and giving instructions to the driver.

We set off at a pace, hurtling through the darkened streets towards our destination, the cold wind doing nothing to cure my anxiety. Lestrade said nothing about our mission and made only the occasional banal comment relating to our current whereabouts. Within twenty minutes we pulled into a side street and disembarked under the meagre glow of a gas-lamp. Two constables emerged from the shadows and greeted Lestrade with the news that the object of their surveillance had not moved from the Tavern.

“Ah,” said Holmes, nodding towards the dimply lit windows of the public house opposite. “Then he is in his room?”

Lestrade frowned. “More likely to be in the public bar ‘aving a few jars, don’t you think?”

“Observe,” said Holmes pointing a slender finger skywards. Following his gaze, I looked up between the buildings to a narrow patch of the night sky and saw the moon emerge from behind a cloud.

“Full moon,” said Lestrade.

“Yes,” said Holmes. “My guess is the fellow will be waiting for the change to occur. We must get to him before it does, or we may be too late.”

“You think he’ll kill again,” said Mary, squeezing my hand tightly.

“Of course, Mrs Watson. If he is truly a werewolf, he cannot fail to. It is in his nature.”

“Now look here, Holmes,” I said, “we can’t go bursting in there without a plan.”

Holmes looked at me and nodded. “No, Johnny, we can’t. And that is why you will do precisely what I say.”

And so the Great Detective spent the next few minutes outlining the plan he’d worked out on the train journey. Mary, myself and Inspectors Schitt and Caddy were to act as decoys in a bid to lure Kessler out of his room with the offer of alcohol and sex, and thereby observing if the transformation had already taken place. Quite how we were supposed to escape if it had, was not explained. Lestrade and his men, meanwhile, would stand by in the room next door to Kessler’s armed with several rifles and a large net, though Holmes made it clear that killing the werewolf was to be considered only as a last resort.

“And where will you be?” I asked, as we made ready to enter the premises.

“I, Watson,” said Holmes, “shall be the bait.” And with that he unwrapped a package he’d been carrying since we boarded the train. As he unrolled it, I saw with horror that it was the disguise Schitt had used when masquerading as Judith Hirsch.

“You’ve got to be joking,” I said, stifling a laugh.

“Not a bit,” said Holmes, throwing aside his greatcoat and pulling on the false breasts, mask and wig. A moment later he had transformed himself into what can only be described as a very unappealing and grossly misshapen woman. “If the transformation has not already taken place,” he muttered, running his hands up and down his newly acquired chest, “Lestrade and his men will restrain him. If he has made the transformation, I shall tantalise him with my feminine allure, giving the rest of you a chance to move in from behind.”

“Have to say, Holmes,” I said, “that’s not much of a plan.”

“No, it’s not, Watson, but it’s all we’ve got.”

A few minutes later, we were all in position. Kessler’s room was on the second floor at the end of narrow corridor. Keeping one hand on my trusty revolver, I took up a stance outside the room in question, with Caddy standing close by holding two bottles of Baxter’s Very Brown Ale. With a curt nod, I signalled Mary to do her bit. Holding onto Inspector Schitt, she set about singing a music-hall ditty in a manner that might convince listeners she was several sheets to the wind. Schitt ad Caddy joined in the chorus and when I judged that anyone within a hundred yards of us could not have failed to hear them, I knocked on the door.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Into the Fray…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

In setting down the final chapter in this bloody saga, I am gratified that I’m able to do so from the comfort of my own home. This evening, Mary kept me supplied with Custard Creams and hot chocolate while I revised my notes, reviewing and rewriting the sequence of events that led to the deaths of two of the protagonists. Now, she sits on the floor massaging my feet while I consider how best to relate the conclusion to this gory tale…

By the time we made our final rail connection on the last leg of our journey back to Londen, it was the afternoon of the following day. Inspector Schitt, not having brought a suit with him, was still clad in a dress, giving him the appearance of a rather miserable and wholly unconvincing female impersonator. His face reflected a sense of the annoyance he had revealed earlier, and a permanent scowl now lodged across his unshaven countenance.

Holmes, as usual, had reverted to his customary reluctance to share information, so we were no nearer to knowing exactly what had happened in his bedroom. Nevertheless, it didn’t take a genius to work out that while Holmes was at his toilet, Schitt had dressed up as some sort of pretend werewolf in a bid to scare us. If the man had not succumbed to the sleeping potion, Christ knows what he might have done – intentionally or otherwise. Presumably he’d employed the same tactic some days earlier in order to ‘attack’ Inspector Caddy on the moors for the benefit of the locals at The Slaughtered Lamb, giving credence to the werewolf rumours.

Since he could not have repeated this scenario a second time with the rest of us in the immediate vicinity, the truth of the matter had come from Caddy himself, who admitted that on the last occasion, the slashes to his neck were self-inflicted. Apparently, he’d borrowed one of Schitt’s knifey gloves and had unintentionally cut a little too deeply, which nevertheless served the purpose of, at least partly, convincing Holmes and I that some wolf-type beast had set upon him.

Even so, if we discovered that David Kessler was the real werewolf (and Holmes seemed convinced that this was the case), none of the Schitt/Caddy shenanigans really meant anything.

In an effort to avert further fisticuffs from the aforementioned pair, Holmes had seated himself between them, allowing exchanges of only stern glances and suitably insulting hand-signals. Mary and I sat opposite, taking turns trying to persuade Holmes to divulge his plans.

“I’ve told you, Watson,” said Holmes for the umpteenth time, “there is no specific plan other than to apprehend David Kessler.”

“You’re not going to…you know?” said Mary.

“You know my methods, Mary – the taking of another human life is not one of my usual solutions, though if it becomes the only viable option…” He tailed off, clearly not wanting to put into words what we were all thinking.

For my own part, I couldn’t see how keeping the fellow in some sort of confinement would be any different to taking his life, though as I was only too well aware, our old pal Doctor Lecter had not found any institution capable of permanently removing his liberty. That very morning, The Times had reported the famous cannibal’s latest bid for freedom. It seemed Lecter had beaten up two guards, hung one of them up on a meat hook and removed the other’s face in order to wear it as a mask, thus giving himself the perfect disguise. When the authorities whisked him off to hospital thinking he was a prison guard in the final throes of life, the canny doctor had overpowered his captors and escaped into the night.

It was hard to imagine Kessler being more adept at escape than Lecter, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d been proved completely wrong.

I was aroused from my meanderings by the conductor, who announced that we would shortly be approaching King’s Cross.

“I suggest we stick together,” said Holmes, gathering his belongings. “Lestrade is meeting us at the station with a Hackney, so we should reach Bishopsgate within the next half an hour.”

Allowing our companions to leave the carriage first, I grasped Mary’s hand and urged her to stick by me at all costs – I didn’t want to be stitching her wounds if things turned nasty.

“Don’t worry, Johnny,” she said, “I’ll keep us safe.” And with that she produced a small repeating pistol from her handbag. “If he comes near me, I’ll blow his bloody brains out.”

I had to admire my wife’s courage – given what she’d been through, it was reassuring she hadn’t run screaming all the way back to Marlborough Hill. Checking my own weapon, I experienced a modicum of relief that my pistol was fully loaded and ready for action. My one concern lay in the old legend that werewolves could only be killed by a silver bullet. Though, truth be told, if it all came down to legends, we were all going to be well and truly buggered.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Myths and Delusions…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

To say I was a little put out at meeting Doctor Hirsch is perhaps to under-egg the custard. To be blunt, I was positively fuming! But I’m getting ahead of myself:

Having tried on several hats (none of which suited me), I admonished the milliner’s assistant for being a complete twit and stormed out of the changing rooms to find my husband was nowhere to be seen. However, all it took was a glance towards the stairs to see the be-tweeded buffoon hurrying away. Ah-ha, Mister Watson, I thought, what are you up to?

It was not a difficult task pursuing Johnny from Debenhams to the hotel, even though he adopted an annoyingly circuitous route involving two trams, a hackney carriage and three visits to the gents’ toilets (a tactic that temporarily convinced me he’d turned queer and had sneaked off to meet some fancy-man).

Happily, I was wrong on the latter point, but even so felt a flush of jealousy to discover he was actually meeting a woman – and a startlingly beautiful one to boot. Judith Hirsch’s unfeasibly golden hair and bright smiling face triggered within me a feeling of salacious juiciness. However, I sensibly cast such thoughts out of my head and told myself to concentrate on the details of the case, which that same person was about to impart. Once I’d given my husband the requisite vexatious stare (ie my well-known jealous-wifey-on-the-war-path look), he knew to behave himself. But just to make sure, I sat next to him and slipped one hand down the back of his trousers, leaving him in no doubt I knew where to poke him if he tried anything saucy with the gilded-haired temptress.

True, I was still a little miffed to find Big-Nose Holmesy had arrived on the scene at the same time, but when I saw that neither he nor Johnny had realised Hirsch was a woman, I calmed down and determined to contribute something useful to the conversation. Judith had shown us the three horrid gashes down her arm and Sherlock was postulating on the apparent fact of her being a werewolf.

“Sorry, Sherl,” I said, helping myself to a digestive biscuit, “but why would a little scratch make her into a werewolf?”

To his credit, Holmes did not adopt his infamous sardonic smile, and surprised me when he actually answered the question without the merest hint of sarcasm.

“It wouldn’t, Mary. Unlike Count Dracula, werewolves do not exist. As your dear husband has already pointed out, there is a condition known as clinical lycanthropy, which I believe this young woman to be suffering from. It is mere myth that perpetuates a belief in a human’s ability to transform into a werewolf.” He smiled warmly at Doctor Hirsch, then taking out his Meerschaum, began to stuff it with tobacco.

I looked at Judith and noted her bright complexion had not altered. “Your scepticism is admirable, Mister Holmes,” she said, “but on this occasion I fear it is misplaced. I am not pretending to be a vampire.”

Holmes didn’t look up, but finished filling his pipe, lit up a Swan Vesta and took a few puffs before continuing. “That particular creature, as Watson recorded in a case of ours entitled, ‘The Vampire Lestrade’, was very real and very dangerous.” He paused and raised an eyebrow in my direction. “You recall that adventure, Mary?”

I nodded.

“Then you will also recall that the Count comes from a long line of vampires which can be traced back to Vlad the Impaler in the fifteenth century. Werewolves, on the other hand, are based on nothing more sinister than European folklore, and we all know what a load of bollocks that is.” He glanced at Judith. “Like God, werewolves are a myth, a delusion, a means of scaring small children into going to bed early.”

Judith smiled, but this time there was no trace of humour in her features. “Two days from now there will be a full moon. If you truly believe there is nothing to fear, perhaps all three of you would accompany me to Yorkshire?”

My companions were silent, so I leaned forward and asked the obvious question. “And what do you expect to find in Yorkshire?”

She sniffed. “The man who did this to me.” She touched her arm and gave me a sideways glance. The look was so fleeting it may have been my imagination, but I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of a somewhat enlarged and pointy canine tooth. But then she grinned, and the image was gone.

Nevertheless, for the rest of the day I had the distinct impression that something deeply disturbing nestled within the bosom of that gorgeous and beautifully thrilling woman.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mrs Watson Drops in…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Whatever possessed me to disrobe in front of everyone, I cannot say. It must surely have been one of those moments when my mind was somewhere else entirely (though I have no desire to explain where, dear reader, so you shall have to use your own imaginations). Suffice it to say that had I been about my senses, my evening gown would not have dropped to the floor like a wet rag and my feminine articles might have remained unstared at.

Nevertheless, I could never have slid my lithesome body into that dark hole while fully dressed and since neither my husband nor that big-nosed detective could have taken on such a task with all their manly flab and muscle (though I should have enjoyed casting my eye over the naked forms of Passepartout or his hunky master), it was clear that any chance of escape was down to little old me.

No sooner had I slid into the vent and shuffled along a few yards, than I began to hear voices. Listening for a moment, I discerned they were coming from somewhere below me. Sliding over onto my back, I continued along the passage until I came to a sort of junction. One section seemed to slope downwards and the other veered off to the left. It was from the descending passage that the voices now grew louder, so squirming round, I heaved myself into the new section and shuffled along a few feet, my weight carrying me downwards rather more quickly than I’d have liked, due to the steep angle.

It was at this point that the section of vent I was lying on gave way and my hindquarters fell through the hole.

The first thing I noticed was that the voices had stopped. Then a gruff-sounding fellow shouted, “Bloody Norah, there’s a naked woman in the air vent.”

It didn’t take a genius to guess he was referring to me, so with as much decorum as I could muster, I turned myself around and dropped through the hole onto a piece of rough matting, which I instantly picked up and wrapped around myself.

“Mrs Watson,” said a voice behind me.

I turned and stared up into the dark hooded eyes of Professor Moriarty. I had to admit for an evil villain, he was a rather dashing sort of chap.

“Couldn’t resist, eh?” he said with a low chuckle. He turned to the Hooded Claw who was standing next to what I assumed must be the control desk – a big table with lots of knobs and levers sticking out of it. “See, Claw?” he said. “One look and they’re mine, mwah, hah, hah…”

Fluttering my eyelids, I let out a series of girlish giggles, but in reality I was taking in my surroundings: Two henchmen stood behind the professor, their dull faces reminding me of Inspector Lestrade after three bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale. The pair looked as if a brain cell between them would have been one too many. They were no match for me. Flicking my gaze from the men to the various dials and levers, I did a quick calculation as to which ones might earn me the most brownie points. Then, turning my attention back to Moriarty, I gushed, “Oh, please, it’s not you I want…” I swivelled my head towards the Claw and stretched out a hand, stroking his shoulder seductively.

“Oh,” he said, with a look of lecherous excitement. “You are trying to entice me with your womanly willies?”

Moriarty groaned. “It’s wiles, you stupid man.”

Claw’s mouth dropped open and he waved an accusing finger at the Professor. “Don’t call me stupid. I told you never to call me stupid.”

The other man sighed. “See what I have to put up with?”

Feeling that I’d lost my chance, I was about to remove my hand from the Claw’s shoulder when he looked at me and smiled. I made a sudden decision – I would go ahead with my plan. If it failed, at least I could say I’d tried.

Running my hand up the villain’s neck, I caressed his face, teasing his evil laughter-lines with my fingernail. “Oh, you’re just a big old softy, aren’t you Mister Claw. I bet all that evily-weevily stuff is just a show, isn’t it?” I let go of the rough matting, revealing my nakedness once more. As I’d hoped, the Claw’s eyes slid down to stare at what my husband likes to call my ‘box’. At the same moment, a sideways glance told me Moriarty’s gaze had followed that of his murderous friend. I had them. With a deft movement, I grabbed the nearest leaver and thrust it forward. The whole room, and therefore the iceberg, lurched drunkenly and a moment later the floor dropped away as the whole vessel pitched forward diagonally.

Though my choice of levers was a random one, I couldn’t have chosen better. Both Moriarty and the Claw, having nothing to hold on to, fell over and slid along the floor towards the doorway. Their two henchmen followed suit and the four of them toppled over and fell in a heap against the now sloping wall. Luckily, I was still hanging onto the lever and was able to stop myself from joining the motley crew. The only thing I had to do now, was work out how to save my companions…

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Conversations on a Train…


From the Diary of Doctor Watson

It was late the following afternoon when we arrived at the little station at Netherly Stratton. Lambton had his man drop us off and we spent a pleasant half hour enjoying tea and scones from the little kiosk. The platform itself was otherwise free of home comforts and with the nights drawing in, it was already dark when our train pulled into the station.

Our journey back to Londen was, initially, uneventful. Doctor Lecter acquiesced to being locked in the wooden crate in the baggage car again. Public opinion is not likely to turn in his favour until my account of our latest adventure appears in The Strand Magazine. Even then, the marque of ‘cannibal’ will, I fear be hard to shake off.

Sitting opposite Holmes, my dear wife at my side, I considered the details of the last few days and occasionally glanced at my illustrious companion. He busied himself scribbling notes in the margin of his copy of Potter’s Toxins and Murderous Mixtures – his current choice of bedtime reading. As the locomotive rocked gently from side to side, I detected the beginnings of a smirk on Sherlock’s manly features, though he kept his piggy little eyes on the book.

I was tempted to question Holmes on a few points, but I knew very well how he’d delight in showing off his powers of deduction, so I chose to keep my thoughts to myself. Holmes, however, was not to be robbed of victory. A short while later, the great detective closed his book and laid it in his lap. “Well, Watson?”

“What’s that, Holmes?” said I, feigning indifference.

He raised an eyebrow. “Your questions, dear fellow.”

I half-turned to Mary with the intention of starting up a conversation and thus ignoring the expected jibes, but she too raised an eyebrow.

“What?” I said, with more than a little venom.

“Go on, Johnny,” said my wife. “You know you want to…”

I sighed. “You know, Holmes, it would be nice if for once, you could explain your observations at the time they occurred, instead of keeping your horrid little secrets to yourself.”

Holmes sniffed. “Hardly little secrets, John. Merely details which, I presume, have thus far eluded your observations.”

Mary coughed loudly and gave Holmes a hard stare.

“Very well,” he said. “First of all, as you know, the young man known as Veronica was responsible for the murders of the grocer’s boy, his own aunt and uncle, and of course his step mother, Lucy.”

“And would have killed his father too, if he’d had the chance,” I said.

“Quite,” said Holmes. “However, such deadly intentions did not simply pop into his head, did they?”

I shrugged. “Might have.”

He shook his head. “No, Watson, they were planted there – planted and nurtured, given encouragement, nourishment, love.”

“Oh God…” Mary’s hand grasped my arm. Her face had turned pale. “You mean…?”

“Once again, Mrs Watson, your intellect surpasses that of your husband.” Holmes nodded solemnly. “Yes, Veronica’s murderous journey was no accident of nature. The idea was deposited in his brain by his doctor – the psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.”

“You’re fucking joking!” I exclaimed.

“I’m fucking not,” said he. “If only I’d realised it sooner. In fact, it was you yourself who sparked my suspicions. When you reminded Lecter he had tried to eat you, it occurred to me that once again we’d been had. The canny criminal played us like a string quartet – a cheap one at that.”

I let out a groan. “If you knew that, why the hell didn’t you say anything?”

“Had I told you, Watson, Lecter would’ve seen it in your eyes in an instant. You too, Mary. I couldn’t take the risk – Christ knows what he might have done.”

I jumped up and reached for the emergency cord. “Then we must stop the train right now. Alert the authorities. The media…the…”

“Yes, yes,” said Holmes, flapping his hand at me as if I were a truculent child. “It’s all in hand, Watson. While you and Mary were supervising the crate, I took the liberty of sending a telegram to our friend Lestrade. He and his men will be waiting at the station when we arrive. If all goes to plan the crate will be unloaded and Lecter will be none the wiser until he’s safely locked up in the Londen Asylum for the Really Rather Mad.

I let out a long breath and sat down. “That’s a relief.”

Holmes nodded, then added, “Unless he escapes, of course…”

A shiver went up my spine and I grasped Mary’s hand. A second later, the lights went out and the train screeched to a halt.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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