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Tag Archives: Lord Blackwood

Nursie in the Cellar

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

While Holmes and Lestrade set the bomb to blow off the front door, Mary and I went about finding Maudie Ratched. If she were indeed in the building, we wouldn’t have time to search everywhere. As a starting point, we ran back to the kitchens and discovered the staff we’d met earlier had all gone.

‘Maybe they were Blackwood’s men,’ suggested Mary.

‘Perhaps, but then why did that waiter help us?’

Mary gave me a look. ‘Right—he helped us waste valuable minutes when we should’ve been searching for Blackwood.’

‘Ah. So he did.’

We did a quick assessment of the built-in gas freezer and larder, then hurried back into the main corridor.

‘There must be a cellar here,’ I said. ‘That’d be the obvious place to hide Ratched.’

Taking the stairs two at a time, we made our way through the downstairs lounge bars and library, but there were no obvious hiding places. Heading to the rear of the building, we found steps leading to the cellar. I pushed open the door.

‘There’s a light down here.’

‘Could be a trap,’ said Mary.

‘Let’s find out.’

The steps led into the wine cellar, where row upon row of vintage wines and champagnes filled every available space. It seemed a shame to leave them all to be blown to Hell, but I pushed the idea out of my head. Besides, I’d only be able to fit one bottle in each of my jacket pockets.

At the end of one of the wine racks, the room turned into an L-shape and the source of light became obvious.

Maudie Ratched lay strapped onto a workbench, stark naked and with a pair of hurricane lamps placed at either side of her head. A bandage encased her right wrist, while her upper body showed signs of having been badly beaten. Despite all her nastiness, I couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor villain.

‘Doctor Watson,’ she sobbed, tears coursing down the sides of her face and into her ears. ‘You’ve come to save me.’

I coughed at the sight of her womanhood—on show for all the world to see. Or at least, me and Mary. ‘Actually, Maudie, we’re here for the antidote.’

She let out a howling laugh. ‘Of course. I should have known my life would be meaningless to you.’

‘All life is precious, Miss Ratched,’ I said, my doctor’s sensibilities rising to the fore. ‘Now, am I right in thinking the antidote is hidden up your…ahm…’

‘Up my front bottom. Yes.’

I noticed a sink nearby and began to wash my hands.

‘Johnny,’ said Mary. ‘I don’t think we have time for the niceties of your bedside manner.’

‘Just habit, dear,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you do something about those straps?’

As Mary began to unfasten Maudie’s bonds, I began my internal investigation. Though this sort of procedure would not normally affect me, I found myself becoming strangely aroused. Forcing myself to think of good wholesome things like cricket, Wedgewood pottery and summer meadows, I felt heartened when my unwanted stiffy began to subside. When my fingers came into contact with the base of a small glass bottle, I gave it a gentle tug. Extracting the object from Ratched’s orifice, I felt my face flush scarlet as the object provoked a loud slurp.

Giving the bottle a wipe, I cast my eyes over the label:

H. Blackwood’s All-healing Antidote

For use by Dr J. Watson

(Should he be clever enough to find it).

Mary unfastened the last of the straps holding the prisoner to the bench and located a dusty bedsheet to wrap around her.

As we reached the foot of the stone steps, I heard a loud boom followed by the kind of rumblings I’d become all too familiar with in Afghanistan. Holmes had succeeded in blowing off the front doors. At least we’d be able to escape.

Glancing at my pocket watch, I said, ‘Only a few minutes left. Mary, you take Ratched outside, I’ll get to work with the antidote.’

Mary grabbed my arms and pulled me to her bosom. ‘I don’t care about those old fogies, Johnny. Save Mycroft and the ambassadors, but please don’t get yourself killed.’

I nodded, feeling jolly uncertain about what I had to do.

While Mary and Ratched made their escape, I ran up the stairs to the dining room and crossed to where Mycroft still sat, staring ahead like a stuffed antelope.

Unscrewing the dropper from the bottle, I pulled Mycroft’s head back and dripped four drops into his mouth. By the time I’d done the same with the ambassadors, Mycroft had jumped to his feet.

‘Where’s Sherlock? Did he catch Blackwood? Has he located the bombs and diffused them?’

‘Don’t know, no, and no.’ I moved to the next table and continued my anti-poisoning schedule.

While Mycroft led the ambassadors out of the room, I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of irritation that I’d been left to save the lives of approximately forty strangers while the Holmes boys were saving themselves. But that wasn’t fair. After all, Holmes had rescued Mary and me.

Glancing at my watch again, I noted I had perhaps seven minutes before the bombs were due to go off. A quick look at the remaining diners told me there wouldn’t be enough time to get to them all. Dripping the antidote into the mouths of three more grizzled old men, I helped them to their feet and led them to the newly-formed exit at the front of the Club.

Outside, the street lay strewn with debris from the explosion. Holmes and Mary were on the opposite pavement talking to Mycroft.

‘I’ve done as much as I can,’ I muttered, handing the antidote to Sherlock.

He nodded, his face pale and tired. ‘Thank you, John. You’re a brick.’

‘Don’t call me a prick, you tart,’ I quipped, prompting laughter all round.

But the seriousness of the situation soon regained its hold as a thunderous blast shook the ground. We all turned to watch as the shuttered windows of the Diogenes Club blew outwards and the walls began to crumble downwards, clouds of filthy dust filling the air.

As the dust began to clear, I saw crowds of onlookers at either end of the street, several police constables straining to hold them back.

‘Where’s Lestrade?’

‘He and that doorman chappie went to Scotland Yard,’ said Holmes. ‘Though even if he got there in time to evacuate the building, he wouldn’t be able to save anyone who ate the soup.’

‘Now look here, Sherlock,’ said Mary, poking his chest. ‘We’ve all done our damnedest to stop Blackwood. If even a fraction of his intended victims has survived that’s one up to us.’

‘You’re right, Mary,’ said Holmes. ‘Which reminds me, we have an appointment with Lord Blackwood.’ He glanced at his pocket watch. ‘He’ll be at his country residence by now with his collection of bent politicians. God knows what he’ll be telling them.’

‘Where is this country residence?’ said Mary.

‘Tossingly Park House. About ten miles from here.’

‘Then there’s no time to lose.’

‘I think you’d better stay here with Mycroft, Mary,’ said Holmes.

‘Don’t be a twat, Sherlock. I’m not missing this for anything.’

Holmes grinned and the three of us ran off, leaving Ratched in the care of Mycroft and a brace of constables.

Whatever Blackwood had in mind, I had no idea if we’d be able to stop him. Indeed, his villainous plan might already be in motion, in which case we might simply be giving him another opportunity to finish us off for good.

Commandeering a police carriage, Holmes whipped the horse into action, and we set off for what might be our last attempt to prevent the whole of Londen falling into the hands of a criminal mastermind.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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Blackwood to the Stage

Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Having searched the guest bedroom and a couple of nearby closets, Holmes and I decided to go back to the dining room.

Back at our table, we found the Watsons had not returned.

‘How long have they been gone?’ said Holmes to his brother.

Mycroft checked his Half Hunter. ‘It’s just after seven, so almost fifteen minutes. Hadn’t you better go and look for them?’

Holmes started to rise from his seat, then sat down again. I followed his gaze to the far end of the room where a woman had stepped onto the stage. Standing at the lectern, she stared at the audience.

‘It’s Klopp,’ muttered Holmes.

While she waited for the diners to fall silent, I picked up my spoon and was about to start on the pea soup when Holmes touched my hand. His eyes went from mine to the soup bowl and back again.

‘Don’t.’

I looked at Mycroft and the two ambassadors, who had all finished their soups. With my stomach grumbling, I was about to complain that I hadn’t eaten for hours, when Professor Klopp began to speak.

‘Gentlemen and gentlemen, I vould like to zank you all for coming here tonight to hear my thoughts about bringing economic equality to ze world. Unfortunately, zer vould be no point in telling you zat, because by eight o’clock tonight you vill all be dead.’

A murmur of disapproval ran around the room, but rather unexpectedly, no-one stood up to protest. I glanced at Holmes whose beady eyes were scanning the other diners. When I looked at Mycroft and the ambassadors, I saw they were all sitting very still, with only their eyes moving.

‘What’s happenin, Holmes?’ I whispered.

‘It’s the soup. They’ve all eaten it. Probably laced with a formula taken from that damned book of Ravenscroft’s, or perhaps a substance similar to the one Blackwood used to murder his father.’ He leaned over and poked Mycroft in the chest. Mycroft’s eyes widened but he did not move.

‘They’re bloody paralysed.’

‘But still able to hear,’ said Holmes.

‘Yes, Mr Holmes,’ said Lord Henry Blackwood, who had now arrived on the stage, a tall black hat and long cape giving him the appearance of some sort of posh wizard. ‘In fact, you and the inspector are the only individuals still able to move. Unfortunately, you are also unable to escape, as all the doors and shutters have been locked from the outside. Your friends Mr and Mrs Watson are,’ he laughed, ‘also unavoidably detained. Anyway, on with the show. I’d like to welcome the American and Russian ambassadors, gentlemen of the British government and various other industrialists and businessmen. You were all invited here in the belief that you would hear something to your advantage. Sadly, that is not the case. As you will have guessed by now, you have all been poisoned. Our good friend, the world’s first and only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, assisted me in locating a certain ancient book of spells. It is this book that has allowed me to develop a poison that would take effect approximately 30 minutes after imbibing it. However, the bombs we have planted above your heads will ensure that anyone who does not succumb, will be blown up.’

Holmes jumped to his feet. ‘You won’t get away with this, you fiend.’

‘Ah, Sherlock. Your rather stupid friend, Doctor Watson, said something along the same lines. Alas, he and his good lady are currently tied up in the company of one of my explosive devices and therefore won’t be with us for the rest of their lives. But I would not wish to kill everyone here without giving you, Sherlock, a small chance to save a few individuals, so I have hidden in this building, somewhere, a bottle of antidote. If you can locate it and give three or four drops to anyone still alive, you can save them. Of course, you still risk being blown to hell when the bombs go off, but you can’t have it all ways.’

‘Even if you kill us all,’ said Holmes, ‘you’ll still have half the government and the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force to contend with.’

Blackwood grinned. ‘The Government, yes, but not the dreaded fuzz. My men have also placed bombs at Scotland Yard and have utilised the services of a local soup kitchen to provide my special soup to any officers wishing to partake. So, you see, one way or the other, most of my current enemies will be dead by this time tomorrow.’

‘You’ve forgotten one thing, Blackwood,’ said Holmes. ‘You’re still here.’

‘For the moment, yes, but I have arranged an escape route for myself and my team.’ He glanced at his pocket watch. ‘In half an hour, I shall be dining at my country estate in the company of several elder politicians who share my beliefs on the future of Londen. Which gives me what I believe the gentlemen of the law would call a water-tight alibi.’

With that, he grabbed Klopp’s hand and hurried offstage.

‘What the bleedin hell are we goin ter do now, Holmes?’ said I.

‘Find that bleedin antidote, that’s what.’ He pushed his chair back. ‘And save John and Mary, and find the bombs and…’ He sighed. ‘Or at least give it a bloody good go.’

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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Flushed Away

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The two doors on the right side of the hallway were marked Kitchen and Gentlemen. A quick glance up and down the passage highlighted nothing we might use to defend ourselves. Just then, a waiter emerged from the kitchen bearing a large silver tray, three dinner plates and an assortment of cutlery.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, pointing my blank-filled revolver at him. ‘Is there anyone in the kitchen who isn’t familiar to you?’

The man blinked several times. ‘No, sir.’ He paused. ‘Apart from the new sous chef.’

‘Take us to him. Now.’

The waiter laid his tray on a side table and led us into the kitchen. The whole place rang with the clatter of knives on chopping boards and shouts of ‘Two soups, chef’ and ‘Deep fried swan for table six’. A few faces turned to look at us and I kept my revolver hidden so as not to alarm anyone. 

The waiter led us past a row of iron stoves bearing steaming pots, sizzling joints, and simmering vegetables. He came to a halt beside a young man in a toque engaged in berating another worker for some cooking-related blunder. The chef looked up as we approached.

‘What is it now?’

Yanking off the man’s hat, I pulled his hair while Mary ran her fingers around his face.

‘What the hell?’

‘Sorry, thought you might be in disguise,’ I said, replacing his hat.

‘Would you like to meet all the other members of staff, sir?’ said the waiter.

‘No, that’s fine, thanks.’

‘But aren’t you the famous Doctor Watson? The Doctor Watson who helps Sherlock Holmes solve all those mysterious murders?’

‘Well, sometimes,’ I muttered, glancing at Mary.

‘Then, I’m sure everyone would love to say hello to y—’

‘Come on, Johnny,’ said Mary, tugging my sleeve. ‘We’re wasting time.’

I thanked the waiter, and we retraced our steps into the hallway.

As the door swung shut behind us, I let out a breath. ‘One down.’

The waiter’s tray still lay on the table where he’d left it, so I removed two of the forks and gave one to Mary. ‘Not much, but marginally better than an unloaded gun.’

Taking care, we entered the gentlemen’s toilets, creeping across the shiny white tiles towards the inner door. Pushing it open, the hinges squeaked. Pausing, I listened. When no further sound arose, I pushed the door wider and peeked inside. Six sinks, six cubicles and one moustachioed attendant holding a tray of small hand towels.

He opened his mouth to speak, but I silenced him with a finger to my lips and a harsh look. The man’s eyes widened but he said nothing. Pointing at one of the two occupied cubicles, I mouthed, ‘Who’s in there?’ to which he mouthed back, ‘The Earl of Cardigan’.

I nodded, and pointed to the second cubicle, mouthing the same question.

This time, the attended shrugged and shook his head.

Signalling to Mary to wash her hands and thus create enough noise to cover my movements, I dropped to the floor and peered underneath the unknown cubicle. What I saw were a pair of high-heeled laced boots. Not the sort of thing a chap would be seen dead in, but exactly the sort of thing Professor Helga Klopp would choose.

As I lay there staring at the boots, it occurred to me that if a woman occupied the cubicle, the attendant must surely have noticed. Unless…

‘Johnny?’ Mary’s voice had an edge to it.

Getting to my feet, I turned and found myself staring at the wrong end of a pepper-box revolver—a multiple-barrel firearm, easily concealed in an average-size coat pocket.

The attendant, having discarded the (obviously) false moustache, uttered a harsh laugh. ‘I never cease to be amazed at how stupid you are, Doctor. Even Holmes acknowledges Mary Watson as the clever one.’

‘You fiend,’ I muttered. ‘You won’t get away with this.’

‘I beg to differ,’ said Blackwood, crossing to the nearest of the occupied cubicles. Unlocking the door, he pushed it open, revealing two henchmen standing on top of the toilet holding the legs of a third man, who had now begun to climb down from the hole in the roof space.

Before I could say anything, the other cubicle opened and Helga Klopp emerged, clutching a strange-looking device. Consisting of several sticks of gelignite, lots of wires and some sort of timing mechanism, it didn’t take a genius to understand its deadly purpose.

‘It’s a bomb,’ I said.

‘Ah,’ said Klopp, giving me her familiar villainous smile. ‘Vonce again you dizappoint me, Johnny. Stating ze bloody obvious.’

‘You won’t get away with this.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Blackwood, ‘we’ve done that bit. How about we get on with what you two nitwits are going to do now?’

‘Well,’ I said, stalling for time. ‘Since you clearly intend to blow us all to smithereens, why don’t you outline your fiendish plan?’

‘Oh, you’d love that, wouldn’t you, Watson? Give the arch-villain a chance to embark on a monologue, bragging about his exploits, therefore wasting time while your colleagues come to your rescue. No, I don’t think so.’

I glanced at Mary and noticed her hands were still wet. ‘Then at least allow my wife to dry her hands.’

Blackwood nodded and indicated the tray of hand towels. Mary took one and carefully wiped her fingers, one by one, keeping the towel close to her jacket pocket. As she handed the towel back, I glimpsed the fork in her right hand a second before she lunged at the villain’s unguarded stomach.

But Blackwood stepped aside, deftly avoiding the fork and grabbing Mary’s wrist. ‘Now, now, Mary.’

He threw the fork away and held out a hand to me. ‘And yours, Doctor.’

I sniffed and handed over my fork.

‘Now,’ said Blackwood. ‘As you noticed, we have a bomb. In fact, this is one of several, the others having been distributed above the roof of the dining room. I had intended this one to be placed on the stage as part of my presentation, but as you so rudely interrupted our arrangements, and given that I cannot allow you to disrupt my plans any further…’

He signalled to the thugs to tie us up and a moment later we were bound up in one of the cubicles, our feet balanced on top of the bomb which itself stood on top of the toilet seat. A loop around our necks led to a hook on the wall above me. Any but the smallest of movements would unbalance us, prompting a combined version of the Tyburn Jig. And if that didn’t kill us, the bomb definitely would.

Klopp adjusted the timing mechanism and leaned over to give my nether regions a squeeze. ‘Ah, Johnny—ve could hav made zuch beautiful muzic togezer.’

Before closing the cubicle door, Blackwood took a piece of wire attached to the bomb and wound it carefully around the handle of the door. ‘In the unlikely event some foolhardy detective attempts a rescue, a tug on this will trigger the timer.’ He smiled his most evil smile. ‘Sadly, you two won’t be able to witness my performance in the dining room, but you can at least take pleasure in the knowledge that, one way or another, you’re going to be well and truly fucked. Mwah, hah, hah.’

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Unmasking of a Master Criminal

Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

A collective gasp went around the room and the man with the face fungus took several steps backwards.

For a moment, I thought he’d continue to deny everything, but then he took a long breath and exhaled slowly, as if allowing his real self to emerge. Straightening up, his entire torso seemed to fill out. With one hand, he took hold of his whiskers and peeled them off, revealing the smooth and manly chin of Lord Henry Blackwood.

When he spoke again, his voice had dropped almost an octave, but its rich deep timbre had a far more menacing tone to it than Moran’s ever had.

‘Moriarty told me not to underestimate you, Holmes. Seems he was right.’ Blackwood rubbed the remaining bits of makeup from his face, took off the brown wig and pushed his fingers through his long black hair.

‘Right, matey,’ said Lestrade, striding forwards. ‘I’m arrestin you in the name of the law.’

Blackwood laughed. ‘I wouldn’t bank on it, Inspector.’ With a quick movement, he whipped out a pistol and aimed it at Sherlock’s heart. ‘Surprised you took so long to work it out, Holmesy. Just goes to show the deductive powers ain’t what they used to be. Never mind, I’ve other plans for your demise that’ll work just as well.’ Turning the gun on me, he smiled. ‘Would’ve been nice to see you skewered, Mary.’ Then with a wink, added, ‘Nice tits, though.’

‘You won’t get away with this,’ said Holmes.

The villain rolled his eyes at me, as if we shared a private joke. ‘Don’t think too badly of me, Mary—I’m a sucker for a stupid doctor and a wonky-eyed woman.’ Leaning closer, he lowered his voice. ‘The best is yet to come. I’ll see the Holmes later.’

Moving around the other side of the table, he nodded to his henchmen. ‘You chaps may have once been Moriarty’s men, but now you have the opportunity to join me in creating the largest criminal empire in England. Are you with me?’

The thugs nodded like the imbecilic morons they were. Opening the double doors, they followed Blackwood outside. The moment the doors clanged shut we heard bolts slammed into place on the other side.

Holmes sprang into action. ‘Get dressed, Mary. Watson, Lestrade—go after him.’

Lestrade reached the doors first. ‘No use, Holmes—we’ll never get through here. See if there’s an axe or a crowbar.’

At the other side of the workshop, Holmes searched for something to use but all the tools had been locked away. Spying a length of timber, he picked it up. ‘Stand aside, chaps.’

With a short burst of speed, he ran towards the doors and crashed into them, bouncing back into the room.

‘Humph,’ he said. ‘Stronger than they look.’

Johnny and Lestrade joined him with the makeshift battering ram and took another run at the doors. On their third try, the bolts gave way.

Outside, we found ourselves in a wide courtyard. The building we’d vacated turned out to be part of a country house. At the far side of the courtyard, a high wall ran down to the gates, opposite a stable block. Directly in front of us stood the main building—a country house of some considerable size.

Lestrade let out a yell and pointed to one of the ground floor windows of the house. ‘He’s in there.’

We ran across to the ornate front doors and Holmes gave the knocker a series of sharp raps.

After a moment, we heard footsteps and the door opened. A bald man in what I took to be a servant’s outfit gave us a bow.

‘Good day, sirs, madam. What can I do for you?’

‘Where’s Lord Blackwood?’ demanded Holmes.

‘Blackwood, sir? There’s no Lord Blackwood here.’

‘Then who was that lookin out of the window just now?’ said Lestrade.

‘Oh, that were just me, sir. Heard a commotion.’

‘Now look here my good man,’ said Holmes, adopting an authoritative tone. ‘Who lives in this house?’

The old man shrugged. ‘No-one, sir. Dene House Manor is owned by the National Trust. We’re open to visitors from August to December, but the place is empty just now. I’m the caretaker, see.’

Holmes frowned. ‘So, you don’t know Lord Blackwood?’

‘Never heard of him, sir.’

‘Then who’s been using the workshop over there?’

The man leaned forwards and muttered in a conspiratorial manner, ‘That be part of a secret Government project, sir. I ain’t supposed to say.’

Holmes clenched his jaw. I hoped he wasn’t about to get physical with the caretaker. ‘Look. If you don’t tell me who has been working in there, I shall—’

‘No, no, you’re alright. I ain’t no hero, sir. It’s just that it’s meant to be top secret, that’s all.’

‘Yes, yes, I understand that,’ said Holmes, his voice rising with each syllable. ‘Just tell me his name.’

The man leaned closer. ‘Sherlock Holmes.’

The big-nosed detective went a shade of purple, but his anger dissipated instantly, and he let out a gentle laugh. ‘Of course, of course, who else could it have been?’ He patted the old man on the shoulder. ‘Obliged for your assistance, sir. Now, where’s the nearest town or village?’

‘That’d be Richmond Hill. Follow the road for half a mile and it’ll take you down to the river. You’ll be able to get transport there, I expect.’

‘He must have had an escape plan,’ said Holmes, as we retreated across the courtyard. ‘Better check the stables.’

We hurried off towards the stable block, where a wide door had been left open. Inside, we found six box stalls but no horses. Holmes dropped to the ground and began crawling around on hands and knees.

‘What’s he doin?’ said Lestrade.

‘Looking for clues,’ I said.

‘Here we are,’ said Holmes. ‘Four horses, two carriages…no—make that one carriage and a Brougham. But they must have been brought outside some time earlier, otherwise we’d have heard them leaving.’ Getting to his feet, he brushed himself down. ‘Suppose we’d better start walking.’

‘Look on the bright side,’ said Johnny. ‘At least we’re still alive.’

The consulting detective dropped his chin to his chest. ‘Yes, yes, I suppose that is something.’

‘It certainly is,’ I said. ‘I’m much happier not having a steel phallus shoved up my—’

‘Thank you, Mary,’ said Holmes. ‘Though as my deductive powers were on top form, I don’t think you were ever in any real danger.’ He gave me a sardonic smile.

‘Oh, you don’t, do you?’ Curling my fingers into a fist, I made ready to smack him in the mouth.

‘Later, dear,’ said Johnny, holding me back. ‘I rather think we ought to save our energy for finding Blackwood, eh?’

We stood for a minute, looking at each other. Then I remembered something. ‘Holmes, what did he mean by seeing you later?’

Holmes scratched his chin. ‘I’m sorry to say I have no idea, Mary. After his criminal activities first came to light, he was banned from entering any public meeting place in Londen.’

He started to walk down the driveway to the gates, but I caught hold of his arm. ‘Wait. Blackwood isn’t known for his conversation. I got the feeling that when he says something, he says it for a reason. Could it be some sort of clue?’

He stopped and looked at me. ‘Blackwood was talking to you, at the time.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘If he meant it as a clue, why not say it directly to me?’

‘Because he was looking at my tits. Anyway, he said he’d see the Holmes later.’

‘D’yer fink he’s expectin ter see yer somewhere specific?’ said Lestrade. ‘Somewhere you’d know about.’

‘Oh, hell,’ I muttered. ‘What if he didn’t mean Holmes, but Holmes’s, as in both of you—Sherlock and Mycroft?’

Holmes swallowed hard. ‘The Diogenes Club.’ He slapped a hand against his forehead. ‘Of course. I’ve been so blind. Mycroft has been sending me dinner invitations for weeks. Something is going to happen at the Club and Blackwood’s expecting both of us to be there.’

Johnny butted in. ‘But if it’s just dinner…’

‘No, no, no,’ said Holmes. ‘It’s never just dinner with Mycroft—he’ll have some ulterior motive. Something he needs me to do, some vital mission for the Government—saving the world or something like that.’

‘Did Mycroft mention a date?’

‘He did, Mary, but as I only read the first part of the invitation, I took no notice of the details.’

‘We need to get a newspaper,’ said Johnny. ‘If something important is due to happen at the Club, it could be what Blackwood’s been waiting for.’

With that, we set off at a pace for Richmond Hill. As we hurried along, I couldn’t help wondering why Blackwood had walked away from his plan to kill us. Could it be that the whole thing had been a diversion to distract us from his real target? Whatever the reason, I knew he wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of creating stand-ins for the four of us if he meant to keep us alive.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

On hearing a key turn in the lock, the brace of thugs guarding the door pulled out their weapons and took up a readied stance. One of the men nodded to his mate, then pulled the door open. In the dim light beyond, three figures stumbled into the room.

“Johnny,” I murmured, jumping up. No-one tried to stop me as I ran over and flung my arms around him, kissing his mouth as if we’d not seen each other in months.

Picking a morsel of bread from his chin, I said, “Cheese sandwiches?”

“Dorset Blue Vinney, actually.” He squeezed my bottom, making me go all squidgy inside, then straightening up, he peered around the room.

“At least we’re all safe,” he said. “For now.”

Inspector Lestrade tipped his hat. “Mrs Watson.” He gave me a dopey grin. “Fraid we ain’t here ter save yer from certain death.”

Seeing Holmes by the fire, the pair hurried over to embrace him. As I turned to look at the third man, a gasp escaped my lips. Except for an oddly flattened nose, the person standing in front of me might have been Sherlock Holmes himself.

“So you’re the fake Holmes,” I said, barely supressing a laugh.

“Fake enough to fool your nitwit of a husband and that stupid copper,” he muttered, pushing past me.

Two more thugs came in, followed by Colonel Moran. For a moment, I stared at him, my mouth involuntarily sliding into a sneer.

Moran grinned. “How lovely you look tonight, Mary.” He glanced at the group by the fire, then leaning towards me, whispered, “Y’know, if things were different, you and I would make a damned attractive couple.” He licked his lips in what he no doubt imagined to be a seductive fashion.

“In your dreams, mate.”

Taking my hand in his, he raised it to his lips and for the first time, I noticed how finely manicured his fingernails were. Nevertheless, I pulled my hand away before he could slobber over it with his villainous mouth.

“Oh, Mary,” he murmured, “what a delight you are.”

The fake Sherlock disappeared into the back room with the two new thugs, leaving Moran to wander over and lean an elbow on the mantle, a satisfied smirk spreading across his features. Idly twirling his moustache, he addressed Holmes.

“Shame we weren’t able to drag out our little performance a little further, but I think the point has been made.”

Holmes smirked. “That a mere amateur can take my place, leaving you and Blackwood to run the biggest criminal empire in Londen, must be every master-criminal’s dream. But that’s all it is—a dream.” He sniffed. “Besides, you have yet to demonstrate your ability to replace Lestrade and the Watsons as well, which of course would be essential to allow you any chance of making this evil plan work.”

“Replacing you was my biggest problem, Sherlock,” said Moran. “Luckily, your biographer here provided plenty of background material in the form all those silly stories in The Strand Magazine and other periodicals.” He glanced at Johnny and gave him a big wink.

I fancied this disclosure may have unsettled Sherlock, but his face betrayed no emotion. It also hadn’t escaped my attention that Moran hadn’t denied the Blackwood connection.

Holmes sniffed. “Let’s wait and see, shall we?”

“No need,” said Moran, with a flourish. “Bring them in,” he called.

A moment later the back-room door opened, and three individuals marched into the room. They stood in a line next to Moran, as if their entrance had been rehearsed.

I felt my mouth drop open and perceived from the deathly silence around me that my companions were suffering the same sense of disbelief. The woman standing opposite me, sported my favourite blue dress and bonnet, the very one I’d worn at Roderick Usher’s house only a few short weeks earlier. But it was the woman’s face that took my breath away. Apart from the embroidered eyepatch, I might have been staring at a reflection of myself.

Moran coughed. “Obviously we couldn’t easily replicate your wonky eye, Mary, hence the patch, but aside from that, I’m sure you’ll agree, the likeliness is remarkable.”

I nodded dumbly, turning my head to look at the man next to the fake Mary. Again, it might have been an exact reflection of my own dear husband, from the bowler hat and checked waistcoat to the Windsor knot in his tie. Only the colour of his eyes differed from John’s.

“Nothing like me,” muttered Johnny, but his face had turned pale and the nervous rumbling in his stomach echoed around the room.

I glanced at Lestrade, whose attention focused on his own representation. The imposter’s weasel-like countenance replicated the real inspector from his tight-fitting suit to the scuff marks on his shoes.

Moran cleared his throat. “You were saying, Sherlock?”

Holmes let out a gruff laugh. “I suppose you intend to install your imposter at my lodgings in Baker Street, eh?”

“As I mentioned earlier,” said Moran, “I had hoped to drag this little charade out a bit longer. Purely for my own amusement, you understand, but yes—in fact my Sherlock Holmes will be moving into 221B tonight, while the Watsons make themselves comfortable in their little house in Marlborough Hill and Lestrade takes up residence with his good lady wife.”

“Good luck wiv my missus,” said Lestrade, nodding at his mirror image. “She’ll eat this fucker for breakfast.”

“You’re forgetting one thing,” said Holmes, to Moran. “While Mrs Lestrade sees little of her husband and may therefore remain unaware of the imposter while riding him like a Grand National jockey, no-one could fool my trusty housekeeper Mrs Hudson. She’ll see through this puppet of yours in a flash.”

Moran nodded sagely. “That may be so, in which case the newspapers will reveal how her sordid sexual adventures with a brace of barrow boys from Bow led to a case of autoerotic asphyxia. I’m sure Maudie would be happy to instruct you in the procedure, should you wish to try it for yourself.”

“You sadistic fiend,” spat Sherlock. “If you hurt one hair—”

“Pubic, or…?”

Holmes sprang forwards, hands outstretched, but the fake Watsons grabbed his arms before he could get close enough to ring the villain’s neck.

Sebastian Moran sniggered. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have evil plots to work on. I shall arrange food and drink for you, but you can be assured that all four of you will be dead within the next twenty-four hours.” He started towards the door, then turned to Mary. “Apart from you, my dear. Maudie has a yen to practice her fisting techniques. I dare say she’ll widen your horizons before you’re much older.”

The door closed and we heard a bolt slide into place on the other side.

Sherlock turned to me. “Fisting, Mary? What on earth’s that?”

Johnny and Lestrade looked at each other and muttered simultaneously, “Don’t ask.”

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2022 in Detective Fiction

 

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Where Art Thou, Mary Watson?

Diary of Doctor Watson

I arrived at the Olde Gin Shoppe on Drury Lane just as the gas lamps were coming on. A queue of punters had gathered outside the theatre next door, so creeping along the opposite side of the street, I took care to be sure of slipping into the shop unnoticed. Once inside, I looked around. Dusty shelves lined the gloomy interior, each boasting hundreds of bottles of the aforementioned beverage in sizes and colours enough to boggle the imagination. A noise caught my attention. Turning towards the counter, I saw a curtain sweep aside as the shopkeeper appeared, fat fingers clasped across his generous stomach.

“Doctor Watson, I presume?” he murmured.

A little put out that my costume hadn’t fooled him, I gave a brisk nod and followed his directions through a door in the corner and up a flight of stairs to the upper floor.

“Seems my disguise isn’t quite as good as I thought,” I said, closing the door behind me.

Holmes leaned an elbow on the mantelpiece, his meerschaum clamped between thin lips. He gave me a sardonic smile. “Not the fault of your disguise, Watson, simply a result of my having informed our host to look out for a man with a wooden leg and a twitch.”

“A twitch?” I said.

Holmes nodded. “Yes—every time you step on the false leg, your face performs an unintentional spasm, possibly due to the sharp pain exerted from the leather straps holding your appendage in place.”

“Huh. You’d have a bloody twitch too if your nuts had got caught up in this contraption.” Dropping my trousers, I unfastened the false leg, adjusted my marital equipment, and loosened the belt holding my right foot in place against my upper thigh.

It was only after I’d refastened my trousers and seated myself on a chair by the fire that I took stock of my surroundings.

“Where’s Mary? Shouldn’t she be here by now?”

Holmes and Lestrade exchanged a look.

“I know she meant ter take the shortest route,” said the inspector. “Ought to ‘ave been ere before all of us.”

I looked at Holmes.

He sniffed. “Mary’s a sensible woman. I can’t imagine she simply wandered off to do a bit of shopping.”

“What’re you saying, Holmes?”

“I’m saying, Doctor, that in all likelihood, Mary has been taken.”

My lower lip began to quiver. “You mean…you mean, she’s been taken by Blackwood?”

“It’s the only reasonable possibility.” Producing a small pocket-knife, he proceeded to clean out his pipe.

“My God, man, that’s unthinkable. Christ knows what he might do to her.”

Holmes held up a hand. “Until we have further news, I suggest we stay calm. There’s no use speculating.”

“And where might this further news come from?” I said, making no effort to conceal my anger.

The Great Detective cocked his head to one side and looked at the door. “Hark,” he muttered. “I hear the patter of urchin feet.”

A moment later, a knock came at the door and a ruddy face peered in.

“Scuse me Mr Olmes,” said the boy, stepping into the room. “Oi reckon Oi might ‘ave a bit of news for yer.”

“Come in, come in, dear boy.” He waved the lad into a seat by the fire. “Hopkins, isn’t it?”

The boy nodded. “It is, sir. Tommy Hopkins.”

“And pray what data morsels have you to impart to this anticipatory gathering?”

The boy frowned. “Yer what?”

Holmes laughed. “I’m asking you to tell us what you know.”

“Oh. Right.” He rubbed his mucky hands together, warming them at the fire. “Well, first off, we ain’t found anyfing about that Blackwood feller—seems like he must’ve disappeared inter thin air.”

Holmes nodded. “I see. And what else?”

“Well, I reckon yous are missing someone, ain’t yer?”

“We are, as if happens. Go on.” Turning, he stared at his own reflection in the mirror over the mantelpiece, then lit his pipe with a Swan Vesta and puffed blue-grey smoke into the room.

“Seems a certain gen’leman as been seen bundlin a lady answering Mrs Watson’s description into a Hackney cab not an hour since.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know who this gentleman might be?” said Holmes, leaning towards the boy.

The youngster grinned. “Course Oi would. Know that fucker anywhere. Oh, pardon my French, Mr Olmes. No, yer see, he has what you yourself, sir, would call a military bearing and wears this long coat to conceal his weapon.”

Holmes stared at the floor for a moment, brow furrowed in thought. “A military man, you say, and carrying a weapon beneath a long coat…” Then with a shout of annoyance, his head jerked up, his eyes bright. “Not an air rifle?”

“That’s the one, sir. The very one used in the murder of Ronald Adair…” The lad glanced at me with an admiring smile. “The one Dr Watson wrote about in the—”

“Yes, yes, we know all about that, said Holmes, waving a hand. “So Mary has been taken by our old friend Colonel Moran, who apparently, is no longer a prisoner at her majesty’s pleasure. Tell me—where did the cab go?”

The lad leaned forwards. “Oi instructed one of the boys to run after it, but he lorst sight of the cab approaching Russell Square.”

Holmes thanked the boy and sent him on his way with a shilling for his trouble.

I glanced at Lestrade. “Ring any bells, Inspector?”

The weasel-faced cop shook his head. “Not off ‘and. Ain’t the sort of area where your ordinary villain is likely ter ‘ang about.”

Holmes began to stuff his meerschaum with a bit of hard shag, his piggy little eyes staring into space. After a moment, he looked at me.

“Watson, where might a former soldier and big-game hunter go for a bite to eat following the execution of a successful plan?”

“A big-game hunter?” said I. “Well…” I blinked, and then it hit me. “Of course! The Tropical Café—the haunt of explorers, adventurers and not a few well-heeled villains.”
“Which is where?” said Holmes with a smile.

I held up a triumphant finger. “Russell Square.”

“Which means,” said Holmes, blowing a cloud of smoke at me, “that our quarry may well have stashed Mary in some nearby bolthole.”

“Then we must go,” I said, jumping to my feet.

Holmes went to the window and, keeping well behind the curtain, peered down into the street below. “It’s getting dark. Another hour or so and it should be safe to venture out.”

“But what about Mary?” I protested. “She could be—”

“Yes, yes, Watson. I’m aware of your concerns but there would be no merit in walking straight into the hands of our enemies.”

I sank down onto a chair, dropping my head into my hands.

Holmes crossed the room and patted my shoulder. “We have one thing in our favour, old friend.”

I looked up at him. “We have?”

“Colonel Moran was in the army with Lord Blackwood. As I recall, Blackwood had him horsewhipped for fornicating with Blackwood’s own mistress. The pair hate each other’s guts. Which means it’s unlikely the two are now working together.”

“What d’you mean, Holmes?”

“I mean, Doctor, that it may be, whether Moran knows it or not, that we and he are working towards the same conclusion—the downfall of Lord Blackwood.”

While this possibility did not exactly fill me with hope, it did give me pause to consider Mary’s situation might not be as perilous as I’d thought.

Naturally, I was wrong.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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Dressing Up, Dressing Down

Diary of Doctor Watson

The three Marks brothers proved to be attentive and quick-thinking. In the space of a couple of hours they had fed us, run up four new sets of clothes and sent off a lad to Fleet Street with various messages from Holmes detailing reports of our recent deaths.

“Look here,” I said pulling on my new outfit, “don’t you think Blackwood will be suspicious when no bodies are found in that house?”

Holmes shook his head. “I suspect the bomb he used was intended to quite literally blow us apart at the seams. The upstairs rooms were destroyed. Had we remained there, I think we really would be in bits. It’ll be several days before Lestrade’s colleagues realise there aren’t any actual body parts.”

Mary had finished doing up the buttons on her prostitute’s costume and had begun helping Lestrade into his corset. “That may be so, Sherl, but with all those fake coppers around, how do we know those investigating the scene will be the real thing?”

“Elementary, Mary,” said the Great Detective. “Blackwood thinks we’re dead, at least temporarily, so he’d never risk his men mixing with real coppers in case they’re spotted. Besides, I suspect he and his cronies are miles away by now, no doubt putting villainous plans into action.”  

“Mr ‘Olmes is right,” said Lestrade, adjusting his false bosoms. “Without me around they’ll likely put Bradstreet in charge, and he’s a complete dickhead.”

Holmes and I exchanged a look. Lestrade comparing himself to the likes of Inspector Bradstreet reminded me of that old adage about pots and black kettles. My companion gave me a wink, indicating I say nothing.

“Yes, Lestrade,” said he. “Luckily we have the cream of Scotland Yard at our service. And may I say, you make a magnificent lady.”

How Holmes managed to keep a straight face at this, is beyond me—his own costermonger costume at least represented him as a complete man, while mine involved a false leg, a wooden crutch, and a the application of some warty legions.

Lestrade pulled on his bonnet and looked at himself in the full-length mirror. “Suppose I do at that. In fact, my breasts are bigger than Mrs Lestrade’s.” Cradling the said bosoms in his hands, he fondled them for a moment. “Much bigger, actually.”

“Yes, yes, all right, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “Leave yourself alone and let’s have a look at you.”

We stood in front of the mirror one at a time and examined ourselves. Holmes had chosen a large moustache and beard, along with an eye patch, giving him a surly look that complemented his outfit. For my own part, I resembled a beggar who’d had a really bad day, while Mary portrayed a sluttier version of herself, with the addition of some garish makeup. Only Lestrade looked ridiculous in a red dress and black thigh boots but that was mainly because of his refusal to shave off his moustache.

“Don’t look bad,” said the inspector. “I’ve seen loads of girlies wiv taches.”

“Right,” said Holmes. “I suggest we leave this establishment separately and meet at the safe house.”

“Where’s that, again?” said Lestrade.

“The old gin shop on Drury Lane, next door to the Waldorf Theatre. The proprietor knows me well and will provide us with temporary lodgings while we work out what to do next.”

“Exactly what are we going to do next?” said Mary.

Holmes rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I think the Baker Street Urchins might prove useful. I’ve asked Groucho to get a message to them and report to me within the hour. It’s imperative we hear about every strange occurrence over the next twenty-four hours.”

I rubbed my chin, unconsciously mimicking Holmes. “You think Blackwood will make his move so soon?”

“I’m certain of it, Watson. In fact, we may already be too late.”

And with those words, Holmes strode out of the shop. A few minutes later, Mary, Lestrade and I took our own turns, setting off in different directions. Whatever we were heading into, I had the awful feeling I might not survive to write about it.

NB Clearly, I did survive as I’m writing about it now, but it’s important to keep the tension going.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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Murder in Soho Square

Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

Leaving 221B Baker Street, the three of us took a Hackney and set off for Soho Square. We’d only gone a few yards when I heard a piercing scream and the cab skidded to a halt.

Holmes leaped out of the vehicle to see what the matter might be, but immediately climbed back in.

“What is it, Mr ‘Olmes,” said I. “Been an accident?”

The big-nosed detective gave his companion a sidelong look and muttered, “Nothing so trivial. No, I believe another party wishes to join us.”

At this, Mrs Mary Watson clambered into the cab and squeezed herself between me and her husband.

“Hello, darling. Mr Holmes. Inspector. I thought I’d save you the trouble of picking me up on the way.”

“Look, Mary…” said Doctor Watson, “we would’ve—”

“No, you wouldn’t. But I’m here, now, so you can lump it or like it.”

“I think the phrase is like is—”

“Shut the fuck up, Sherlock, before I punch your face in.”

“I was merely about to point out, Mary,” he continued, “that this case is a particularly dangerous one. I had privately advised John to leave you out of things.” He took Mary’s hand in his and I observed a very serious look come over his features. “I have placed you in danger too many times, Mary, and I simply could not bear for anything to happen to you. I know Johnny would be utterly distraught without you.”

Mrs Watson blushed slightly. “I see. That’s unusually thoughtful of you, Sherl, but if I am to die a horrible death, I should rather it occurred while in the service of my country and with my darling Johnny at my side.”

Holmes sniffed and let go her hand. “Fine. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The rest of the journey passed in total silence, and I will admit to feeling a bit of gooseberry sitting there with a very definite atmosphere between Mary and Mr Big Nose. However, I took the opportunity to go over what I knew about the case in my head, so as not to look a complete fool when we arrived at the scene.

The house in Soho Square remained as I had left it, with two constables standing guard outside.

As we alighted from the Hackney, Holmes took me aside.

“The dead man at St Giles, Lestrade…”

“What about ‘im?”

“You are aware of his identity?”

“Course I am— Rev G Burnsbean.”

“Ah. Then you didn’t recognise him?”

“I ain’t never seen ‘im before.”

“Rev G Burnsbean is an anagram, Lestrade. An anagram of Ben Ravenscroft.”

“What? The museum bloke? But—”

“But me no buts, Inspector, I shall fill you in on the details later. For now, I should like to know exactly how he died.”

Feeling a bit miffed at this new information, I took a moment to compose myself. “Right. Well, I didn’t let the papers know cos of the brutal nature of the slayin. See, the poor feller were nailed to the floor of the church. Ye know? Like a sort of crucifixion.”

“Christ.”

“Exactly. And the killer also cut off his whasname.”

“Yes, so I heard. I suspect one of your subordinates has been leaking information to the Tittle Tattle Weekly.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Can’t trust nobody these days.”

We followed the Watsons up the steps to the front door, both of us deep in thought, though I admit my thoughts were more about how I might redeem myself in the eyes of the Great Detective, rather than the case itself.

Upstairs, I waved the other constables aside and waited at the bedroom door with the Watsons while Holmes examined the room.

The dead man had been laid out on the floor with his arms outstretched as if he too had been crucified, though without the addition of six-inch nails through his hands and feet and only a knotted rope around his neck.

Holmes crawled across the floor, avoiding the occasional spatters of white paint that specked the bare floorboards. Approaching the corpse, he slid one hand up the dead man’s trouser leg, withdrew it and smelled whatever substance his fingers had encountered. Then, jumping up, he strode back to the doorway.

“As I suspected, Lestrade, this is not Lord Blackwood.”

“What d’yer mean, it ain’t Lord Blackwood? I examined the body myself. It’s definitely ‘im.”

Holmes laid a calming hand on my shoulder and gave me what I suppose was a pitying look. “It may well have been Blackwood when you examined him, but at that time he wasn’t dead.”

“Yer mean he were alive?”

“Not only alive, but no doubt experiencing an inner thrill at your inability to recognise that fact.”

I blinked several times and waved a hand at the corpse. “But he’s right there—dead as a dodo.”

“No, Lestrade.” He turned and indicated the several white spots on the floor. “Not paint, as you probably assumed, but Plaster of Paris. What we have here is the perfect likeness of Blackwood dressed in his own clothes, painted up and placed in the same position on the floor immediately after your departure. But don’t take my word for it.” He turned to Doctor Watson. “Would you do the honours, John?”

Watson crossed to the body and carried out a quick examination. When he came back, he too gave me a pitying look. “Sorry, Lestrade. He’s right.”

At this point, Mary Watson broke into the discussion. “Is it just me, or does this not make any sense?”

Holmes nodded. “On the surface, Mary, no, no sense at all, but be assured Blackwood did not do this for no reason. It is unfortunate that at the moment we are unable to see that reason.”

Doctor Watson poked his companion’s chest with a finger. “Hang on Holmes, how could Blackwood have swapped himself for a Plaster of Paris dummy with all these police officers standing around?”

Holmes smiled and looked at the floor. A moment later he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a revolver. “Because, Watson, these are not police officers.”

With a sudden flurry of activity, the three cops standing by turned and fled down the stairs. Holmes rushed after them, firing warning shots over their heads, but a second later we heard the front door slam shut.

Hurrying downstairs, Mary, Lestrade and I found Holmes banging on the door.

“They’ve locked it. Damn it all, Watson, it was there right in front of me, and I didn’t see it.”

“To be fair, Holmes,” said Watson, “I didn’t see it either.”

“Thank you, old friend, but that is little comfort. Be a good fellow and break a window and fetch someone to open this bloody door.”

Watson scampered off and a moment later we heard the tinkle of broken glass and his voice calling to someone in the Square.

“I still don’t understand,” said Mary. “Why on earth would Blackwood leave a dummy lying on the floor?”

Holmes shrugged and shook his head. Then, with a low groan he muttered, “unless it isn’t just a dummy.” Grabbing mine and Mary’s hands he dragged us into the nearest room just as an explosion rocked through the building.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Murder at St Giles

Diary of Doctor Watson

It’s hard to believe that little more than a week has passed since Holmes, Mary and I returned from our adventure in Pokebottom-on-the-Moor. Since then, each day has felt like an eternity, and only the necessity of keeping my medical practice going has prevented my pestering Holmes for news of Ravensburg.

However, this afternoon I received a note from my companion on that very subject. Hand delivered by urchin, it read:

Watson

Interesting article in The Times. Suggest you come at once.

H.

I had of course regularly scanned the daily papers for clues to the whereabouts of either Ravensburg or Lord Blackwood (the latter having always proved to be a newsworthy subject) but nothing had caught my eye. I suspected Holmes of reading between the lines again. Whatever he’d noticed, I knew it must be important.

Cancelling the rest of my appointments, I made my excuses to Mary and set off for Baker Street.

“Ah, Watson,” murmured Holmes on my arrival. He nodded towards my usual seat by the fire. Sitting myself down, I waited somewhat impatiently while he spent several minutes stuffing his Meerschaum with hard shag. Finally, he lit the concoction and, puffing away, tossed me the day’s copy of The Times.

“Page four.”

I opened the newspaper and cast my eye along the various columns but could not immediately see what he might be referring to.

“Really Watson,” he said, when a full minute had passed without my having located the relevant article. “You see but you do not observe—Coroner’s Session Continues at St Giles.”

I ran a finger down the page and found the tiny headline.

Yesterday, Mr. Michael J Benedict, Coroner for the North-Eastern Division, resumed his inquiry at the Bakers and Muffin-Tasters Institute, Old Compton Street, in respect of the death of Rev G Burnsbean, a visiting clergyman, who was found brutally murdered in the Parish Church of St Giles-in-the-Fields, on the morning of Friday last.

Detective-Inspector Lestrade (Scotland-yard) watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department and Commissioners of Police. Inspector Lestrade commented afterwards that this was, ‘A very brutal slaying that will haunt my dreams for years to come.’

I laid the newspaper on my knee. “Terrible business, for sure, Holmes, but I can’t see—”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Watson,” sighed Holmes, leaning forwards. “Look at it. Read the words. Understand the significance.”

I peered at the article again. “A church chappy has been murdered…”

“And?”

“And Lestrade is involved…”

“And?”

I shook my head. “Sorry, old chap, I don’t get it.”

Holmes let out another sigh. “Who has been murdered?”

“Rev G Burnsbean.”

He raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

I looked again at the name and then it hit me. “An anagram?”

“Of?”

Peering at the letters, I struggled to rearrange them in my head. Eventually, I looked up. “Of course—Ben Ravenscroft.”

“Finally,” muttered Holmes, relighting his pipe. “Now, what’s the implication of the location?”

“St Giles?” I frowned and tried to look thoughtful. “It’s a church.”

“Yes, and it’s close to…”

 “Ahm, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road…” I blinked. “Soho Square.”

“And which of our evil genius contemporaries lived until recently in Soho Square?”

I felt a sudden lurch in my stomach. “Lord Blackwood.” Undoing two buttons on my waistcoat, I had another thought. “Christ, Holmes, d’you think he’s still there?”

“Absolutely—sitting in a comfy armchair awaiting our arrival.”

“Really?”

“No, Watson, not really.” He caressed his chin. “But I’m willing to bet he’s left a little something for us to find.”

I leaped out of my chair. “Then we must get over there before Lestrade tramples over the evidence.”

Holmes waved a hand at me to sit down. “Lestrade won’t have made the connection yet, though he may have useful information vis-à-vis the corpse.”

I stood up again. “To St Giles, then.”

“No, Watson. At this hour Lestrade will be on his way home via the nearest alehouse. I suggest we allow him time to partake of a few pints before he makes his appearance.”

“Makes his appearance where, Holmes?”

“Here, Watson.” He smiled sardonically.

We sat for a few moments, each of us contemplating the ramifications of a dead Ben Ravensburg, when Mrs Hudson bustled in with a tray of refreshments.

“Wish you two’d get off yer arses and solve some murders, stead of sittin round ‘ere munchin my muffins.”

“Really, Mrs Hudson,” said Holmes, helping himself to a mug of hot chocolate. “I sometimes think you must have an extraordinarily low opinion of my comrade and I. In fact, we have been pondering on a murder at St Giles.”

The old woman nodded solemnly. “Oh, yes—nasty affair. Apparently, someone cut off his paraphernalia.”

Holmes frowned. “His what?”

“His dick,” she said. “Don’t you lot read the bleedin papers?” She bustled out, leaving us both open mouthed.

I half-pointed to the door. “Mrs H doesn’t read The Times, does she?”

Holmes leaped out of his seat. “No, Watson, but she does read the Tittle-Tattle Weekly and I’ll wager one of their reporters has been talking to a certain interested party.”

“Lestrade wouldn’t give out that sort of information to a journalist.”

“Lestrade wouldn’t, but someone trying to attract our attention, might.”

“Blackwood,” I murmured.

A noise on the stair made us both sit up. Crossing the room, I yanked the door open to reveal Inspector Lestrade, sweating and pasty-faced.

Urging him to take a seat, we waited while he got his breath back.

“There’s been a bleedin murder, Mr ‘Olmes,” he panted.

“Yes, we know that, Lestrade,” said Holmes, rather irritably.

The police officer waved a hand. “Nah, not the one at the church. This is anovver one.”

Holmes and I exchanged glances.

Lestrade leaned towards us, his eyes wide. “It’s Lord Blackwood.”

“What?” said Holmes. “Again?”

He nodded, and reaching out, grabbed one of Mrs Hudson’s muffins. “Fink you’d better ‘ave a look at it,” he said, between mouthfuls.

“In the church, you didn’t find an old book, did you?”

Lestrade shook his head and took another mouthful.

I pushed myself back in my chair and let out a long breath. It had been difficult enough to come to terms with the idea that Blackwood might be alive, but for him to have somehow come back to life and then got himself murdered, seemed a little too much to bear.

After a moment, Holmes said, “I suppose Blackwood’s body is at his old house in Soho Square?”

Lestrade’s eyes went like saucers “Ow the fuckin ‘ell did yer know that?”

Ignoring him, Holmes went on. “I trust you did not leave the corpse unattended.”

“Course not—d’yer fink I’m stupid? I’ve got eight constables guarding it. There’s no fuckin way I’m letting that slippery sod do anovver vanishin trick.”

The feeling that something very bad lurked in our near future had begun to make itself known in the form of a tightening in my stomach. For a moment I thought I might have to excuse myself. But I clenched my buttocks and put on a brave face. Whatever we were about to encounter would take all our combined bravado as well as a large helping of ingenuity and guile. After all, Blackwood had already died twice and if, as we suspected, he had possession of Ravensburg’s book, we had no way of knowing what he might achieve.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2021 in Detective Fiction

 

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