Tag Archives: John Buchan

The Cutting Table…

Circular saw350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The next few hours passed like a blur as Holmes, Lestrade and I were trussed up and bundled into the back of one of those new-fangled ‘horseless carriage’ machineries and transported to the place of our execution. Had my focus not been drawn by our perilous situation, I might have admired the strange vehicle as it trundled through the dark streets of Edinburgh, clouds of noxious gas bellowing from its rear, accompanied by intermittent phart-like gurgling noises. A similar mode of transport chugged along behind, bearing Moriarty and the rest of the film crew.

We had been tied up and shoved onto the passenger seat of the vehicle, while the arsehole formerly known as Hannay sat at the wheel, casting the odd glance over his shoulder and grinning like the proverbial cat. Holmes sat beside me and (to my consternation), spent the whole journey attempting to engineer ‘a quiet smoke’. Having managed to extract his Meerschaum pipe from his top pocket using only his teeth, he gave me one of those ‘Would you mind, Watson?’ looks, and urged me to lean over his crotch to grasp his pouch with my own sturdy incisors and pull it out of his trouser pocket. How he succeeded in opening the small bag of Hard Shag, stuffing his pipe and lighting it using only his mouth and left ear, will forever remain a mystery.

Lestrade, on the other hand, was considerably less relaxed, screaming, “Arrrgggh!” and “Eeargh!” several times throughout the journey (in a surprisingly varied selection of tonal ranges). Thankfully, he eventually settled down and adopted a ‘fed-up’ expression.

We arrived at our destination in the early hours of the morning – a remote farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. In the dim light, I could make out two or three large barns. While Moriarty supervised, the three of us were manhandled off the motor vehicle and into the nearest of these, where we were made to stand in one corner of the building while the crew set things up. Once again, had I not been preoccupied with thoughts of my impending death, I might have enjoyed watching the proceedings: several large pieces of ‘set’ were arranged to resemble what I eventually realised was a representation of a stage play I’d seen at the Almeida a few months ago, entitled ‘Herr Batman Gets Cut in Half by Count Von Joker’, a piece of German-expressionistic theatre I hadn’t understood at the time, but which now made perfect sense.

“Don’t worry, friend Watson,” purred Holmes, still puffing on his pipe. “I have a plan.”

I snorted rather scornfully. “It’d better involve a bloody miracle then, or we three are about to be well and truly fucked.”

“Now, now, Watson, no need for that sort of talk. Stiff upper lip and all that.”

I didn’t bother replying as my attention was taken by the extended workbench that Moriarty’s henchman had manoeuvred into the middle of the ‘theatre’ set. Slotted in one end of the thing was a shiny circular saw, with a small steam engine fixed beneath. More worryingly, the parallel conveyor belts that ran the length of the table would ensure any item placed there would quickly be thrust towards the jagged, yet twinkling, teeth of the saw. I began to feel sick.

“Now gentlemen,” said Moriarty, tying a bloodstained apron around his waist. “Who’d like to go first?”

At this point, Lestrade gave way to his cowardly side. “It’s Holmes you want – do him, let me and the Doc go.” A familiar smell hit my nasal passages and I realised the poor chap had weed himself.

Hitchcock finished setting up the cameras and wobbled over to where we were waiting. “I assume you don’t want to rehearse this bit?”

Moriarty grinned. “I’d be happy to do a run-through, but I think Mr Holmes might find it a bit difficult. The first cut, as they say, is the deepest.” He broke into a hearty laugh.

Holmes gave him a sardonic smile. “Shoot me from the left, won’t you, Hitch? It’s my best side.”

At a signal from the Evil Genius, four henchmen dragged Holmes to the saw bench, untied the ropes that held him and strapped his manly form onto the despicable device. My companion now lay face up with his legs either side of the circular saw. It didn’t take an evil genius to work out what would happen when the machine screamed into life and the conveyor belt shunted the great detective towards his final problem.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

Moriarty inclined his head and gave me a condescending smile. “Really, Doctor Watson? Don’t you think it’s time to give up?”

I knew I was grasping at straw-like articles, but I soldiered on. “Of course it is, any fool can see that, but I wanted to point out that you haven’t filmed the scene before this one – the one where you capture Holmes and bring him here.”

Hitchcock glanced at Moriarty. “He’s right, you know. We haven’t.”

Moriarty glared at me. “A small matter – we’ll use stooges dressed as you three. A couple of long shots should do it, I think.” He took a step towards me. “In any case, the punters won’t remember the penultimate scene, they’ll remember the last one: the one where Sherlock Holmes gets sawn in two. Mwah, hah, hah…”

The next few minutes passed in a blur (much like the earlier one), and I had to force myself to concentrate. As the circular saw started up and the set was lit, I saw Moriarty take up his position next to the staircase at the edge of the set.

“Action!” Hitchcock clicked his fingers and the next few seconds seemed to slow into some sort of slow motion that was very, very slow. I watched transfixed as Moriarty took his cue:

“And so, Mr Holmes, this is the end. I will be rid of your meddling forever. Goodbye.” He started up the staircase and moved along the gantry. The cameras tracked his progress as he looked down on Holmes, the conveyor belt juddering my friend’s nether regions ever closer to the saw.

Holmes, however, appeared unconcerned. “Do you expect me to talk?” he called.

“No Mr Holmes, I expect you to die.” Moriarty laughed again.

Holmes stared up at him. “But what about the plans for a top secret steam-powered undersea torpedo-ship designed by the famous submarine boffin Bruce Partridger?”

Moriarty sneered. “You cannot distract me from my purpose, Holmes.”

My soon-to-be-sliced companion chuckled. “You don’t know what they are, do you?”

Moriarty stopped. “I’ll have an abundance of time to peruse them, Holmes, after I’ve seen you in halves – preferably two.”

Holmes lifted his head and peered at the screaming blade. I detected a note of concern in his voice as he looked straight up at the ceiling and yelled, “I think we can safely say this would be a good time, dear brother!”

At that moment, it seemed that the whole roof of the barn was lifted away as if by some gigantic, unseen hand. The cold air gushed in and the whirling blades from the flying machines hovering above us filled the air with a great noise. Seconds later, dozens of hunky, leather-clad men descended into the barn on ropes, and in the melee that followed, Hitchcock, Buchan, Moriarty and his men were caught and tied up, Lestrade and I were set free and (most thankfully) the deft flick of a switch ensured that the circular saw juddered to a halt a mere three millimetres from the testicles of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.

“You took your bloody time,” barked Holmes to the man in the white suit.

Mycroft smiled and helped him up, then gazed around as his men dragged their prisoners into the centre of the barn. “You know me, dear brother, I like a dramatic ending.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Good thing we gave you that locating device, eh?”

Holmes stuck a hand down his trousers and fiddled around for a moment before pulling out a small metal box. “Your patented Telegraphical Steam Conduit.” He handed the device to his brother. “Indeed, as Watson pointed out, we’d have been fucked without it.”

Mycroft slipped the device into his own pocket. “I suppose you do still have the plans for the submarine?”

Holmes nodded. “Of course. In fact I never gave them to John Buchan at all – what he thought were the submarine plans was merely a design for a new type of exploding cigar I’ve been working on. Would have been rather fun if Moriarty had tried to build it.”

“So the plans are…?”

“In the safest place I could think of – inside Mrs Hudson’s knickers.”

Out of the corner of my eye, a sudden flash of Evil Genius tore towards my companion, his face fixed in a snarl of rage. I stuck out my leg and Moriarty fell in a heap on the ground.


“Tch,” muttered Mycroft. “Keep him under control, can’t you?” Two of his men hauled the Evil Genius to his feet and tied him up. Again.

As we climbed into one of the steam-powered gyrocopters, I slid in behind Holmes and half-listened to the idle bickering between the brothers. Another adventure at an end, I thought, allowing myself a satisfied sigh. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help wonder if all this might have been resolved more easily and with considerably fewer threats to human life. But then, it wouldn’t have been half so much fun!

As the machine rose into the early dawn, Lestrade rested his head on my shoulder. He stank of wee, but I didn’t mind – I was already thinking about the title for this adventure…



Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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The Director’s Cut…

Hitchcock Holmes
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As I sit here in front of a warm fire, a mug of Cocoa on the arm of my favourite chair, my dear wife rubbing my poor feet in that special way of hers, I can only thank God that this nasty business is all over. In detailing this final account of the adventure I’m calling ‘Not the Thirty-Nine Steps’, I’m indebted both to Inspector Lestrade and (somewhat unusually), to the Evil Genius Professor Moriarty, who sent me his own account of events (no doubt in the hope that I might paint him in a more favourable light than I might otherwise be inclined).

Lestrade’s contribution was, I felt, a little begrudging – as he handed over his notes, I detected a hint of cynicism. He muttered a half-hearted ‘For the record’ then cajoled his features into what he likes to think of as a smile. I was unsurprised, therefore, to read a footnote in one of his entries commenting on the ‘utter drivel Watson will conjure up’ in place of actual conversation. Well, he can just bugger off if he thinks I shall write anything but the truth – drivel or otherwise!

So, to continue…

As I stared up into the face of the silent movie director and impresario Alfred (Tch!) Hitchcock, I noticed another familiar visage at his shoulder.

“Hannay!” I exclaimed. “What the hell..?”

But Hitchcock was quick to silence me with a finger to his bulbous lips. “Not a word, Doctor – we are filming!”

I struggled to my feet and couldn’t help the sarcastic quip that slipped out as I dusted myself down. “Would’ve thought it’d be rather superfluous in a silent movie…”

The little fat man slapped me so suddenly and so vehemently that it was all I could do not to scream like a girl.

“Cut!” There was a general murmur of disapproval in the background and Hitchcock turned back to me. “This is the age of sound, Doctor, so be a good chap and shut the fuck up during filming.” He smiled genially and with a hand on Hannay’s elbow, urged the other man to step forward. “And as it happens, you are mistaken about our friend here.”

“Ah, sorry old bean,” said the man who apparently wasn’t Hannay. He gave me what was obviously a practised wry smile and added, “Buchan’s the name, Johnny to my pals.”

“Ah,” said I. “I see.” I shrugged as nonchalantly as I was able and offered him my own wry smile. “So you’re not in league with Moriarty after all?”

Buchan laughed quietly. “On the contrary, Doctor Watson, we’re all in league with Moriarty.” He glanced at Hitchcock and the fat man winked conspiratorially. “Shall we re-set, Hitch?”

“Better tie them up first,” said an all-too-familiar voice behind me. I felt a sliver of ice slip down my spine as I turned to see Holmes and Lestrade pushed roughly to the ground. Professor Moriarty strode through the ripped scenery, brandishing a large pistol. “The final scene approaches, I think.”

I helped Holmes and Lestrade to their feet and the three of us stood in the centre of what was now a large circle of sour-faced villains.

“You’ll never get away with this, you know,” muttered Holmes, straightening his tie.

“Oh, I think we will,” said Moriarty. “You’re to star in an extraordinarily ingenious scene involving a circular saw and several large skewers. I’ve also commissioned a new musical score by Herman Herrmann with lots of ‘Eee! Eee! sounds. It’ll be a hit at the box office – especially when I reveal how a terrible accident resulted in the death of that stupid detective Sherlock Holmes. The punters love a good murder, you know.” He signalled for his men to bind our wrists while he, Buchan and Hitchcock huddled together.

“I say, Holmes,” I whispered. “I’m awfully sorry about this.”

Holmes smiled that sardonic smile of his. “Don’t worry, Watson – everything’s going to plan.”

I put on a brave face, but couldn’t help wonder if Holmes might be talking bollocks…


Posted by on April 16, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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Hannay Gets Ahead…

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Die 39 Stufen Book
In what seemed like an instant, but was probably about half an hour, we were free, our bonds cast aside on the dirty floor as we struggled to our feet and brushed ourselves down.

I gazed at the sombre-faced head still sitting on the bench. My desire to touch Lestrade’s likeness had melted like the wax that created it, and I felt only a genuine wish to see the man himself alive and with his be-whiskered bonce unharmed. I turned my attention to the hole in the ceiling. “Give me a leg up, Holmes.”

My bosom companion shook his head. “No, Watson. You give me a leg up – I’m lighter than you.”

I frowned. “Are you inferring I’m fat, Holmes?”

“No, no, no, Watson.” He paused, a sly smile creeping across his rugged features. “A little on the stocky side, perhaps?”

I gritted my teeth and was about to throw him a witty riposte when Hannay butted in:

“Actually, chaps, I’m probably lighter than both of you.” His dark eyes flicked back and forth between us as if we were part of some bizarre underground tennis tournament that had turned sour due to lack of strawberries and cream.

I waited for Holmes to slap the man down with one of his amusing rejoinders. But he didn’t. “Excellent idea, Dickie.” And with that he bade me clasp my hands together with his, forming a cradle of fingers in preparation for Hannay’s foot. Bracing ourselves, we took our companion’s boot in our grip and hoisted him upwards.

“A little higher, chaps,” he muttered, reaching for one of the sturdier joists.

A moment later, Hannay was standing on the floor above. Peering down, he effected a small bow, waggled his fingers in a sort of ‘toodle-oo’ gesture and was gone.

“Come along man!” I shouted to the empty space. “Find a rope, a ladder, a sturdy plant – anything to get us out of here.”

But there was no reply, only Hannay’s retreating footsteps above us.

“Oh for fu – ” I began but Holmes silenced me with a warning look.

“I knew it, Watson. The cad’s double-crossed us.”

I stared at him for a moment. “Holmes, sometimes I despair of you – if you’d suspected such underhandedness, then why the buggering hell didn’t you take some sort of..some sort of…” I struggled for a suitable phrase.

“Evasive action?” quipped Holmes. “And alert him to my superior intelligence?”

“Well, yes. I mean, no. I mean…” I took a deep breath and indulged in a moment of internal reflection, albeit tinged with a degree of resignation. I breathed out slowly, releasing the tension in my shoulders, my torso, my nether regions. “Very well, Holmes. Since I clearly have no idea what’s going on, here, why don’t you share your enormous perspective?”

Holmes picked up one of the chairs from the floor and settled himself onto it. He took out his prized Meerschaum pipe and began to stuff it with shag. “This book of Hannay’s. You’ve seen it eh?”

I felt the tension returning. “Not seen it as such, no.”

“But you believe he has written it? Or has at least made a measure of progress with the manuscript?” He patted down the rough shag with his little finger in a slightly ‘camp’ fashion, and proceeded to light the pipe. I watched as a plume of blue-grey smoke spiralled up through the hole in the ceiling.

“Well…can’t really say for sure.”

Holmes stared into space. “Then you are clearly unaware that the title of his so-called book ‘The 39 Steps’ is also the title of a previously published volume by one Johannes Buchanus? In German, of course, but nevertheless a thrilling read.”

I could barely contain my astonishment. “Sorry Holmes – are you saying you’ve read a book? A piece of fiction? A collection of what you yourself have often termed mindless drivel?”

His features twisted into what I’ve come to recognize as his ‘innocent’ face. (The one he wears when I’ve inadvertently touched on one of his many contradictory habits). “I do occasionally read, Watson.”

I huffed. “Never read anything of mine, expect to criticize, point out its inadequacies, its…”

He held up a hand. “I’ve no wish to upset you Watson. I’m simply pointing out that the book as Hannay relates it has already been written by someone else, and it is in fact that very story you and I, and indeed Hannay himself, are playing out here for the benefit of Professor Moriarty.”


“Except of course, Moriarty has not yet realized it.”


Holmes sighed noisily. “For God’s sake, Watson!” He pointed the stem of his Meerschaum at me in a badgering way. “In actual fact, I was not certain of his treachery until a moment ago, when our former colleague disappeared through that hole – carrying out, as it happens, the events described in Chapter Six. You see, Watson, I don’t believe Hannay has written down one word of this so-called novel. He is in fact a victim of subliminally-acquired literature: having read Buchanus’ book some years ago, he has unconsciously assimilated the text as if it were his own work and in an effort to test its authenticity as a piece of literature, he is, also unconsciously, acting out the whole thing before our eyes.” He shrugged. “You and I are simply playing our parts.”

I stared at him. “Really?”

He nodded. “Afraid so.”

“So what do we do now?”

Holmes gazed up at the ceiling. “Now, Watson? We move onto Chapter Seven. Escape.”

To be continued.


Posted by on March 14, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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