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The Night Comes Down…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

On discovering Johnny had deserted us to accompany that reprobate Holmes on a mission of discovery, Doctor Hirsch and I took it upon ourselves to follow the rascally pair to wherever they were headed.

We’d learned of the deception via the maid who, on delivering a second round of teacakes and scones to our room, happened to mention she’d seen that ‘handsome Mister Holmes’ hurrying across the street with ‘that funny little Doctor bloke’.

Judith let out a low growl. “I knew it,” she muttered. “The stupid man doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’ll get the pair of them killed. Or worse.”

“We have to go after them,” I said, checking through my husband’s spare trousers.

“What’re you looking for?” asked Judith.

“His gun,” I said, holding up the actual weapon. “Wonderful – they don’t even have the means to protect themselves. Bloody men.”

Out in the street, we halted for a moment as a young lad emerged from the baker’s shop opposite. As there was little else in the thoroughfare to look at, we watched this lanky and apparently stupefied individual as he stood scratching his head and uttering obscenities. Hastening to where he stood, I looked at the boy and I noted two things: his trousers were tucked into his rough woollen socks and the laces of his boots had been double knotted as though to keep them from dangling. I then inspected the area immediately outside the baker’s shop that seemed to have caught the lad’s attention. The familiar imprint of a slim tyre had left a faint impression across the pavement in a diagonal line, presumably after being wheeled from the road to lean against a display board while its owner delivered his wares. I noted the specifics of the tread and calculated the likely distance between the two wheels. Then, clicking my fingers in a school ma’am sort of way, I addressed the lad directly.

“You’ve lost something? A method of transportation, perhaps?”

The dull-faced young man waved a hand as if attempting to grasp some unseen object. “Sum-uns nicked me fookin bike, missus.”

“A Velocipede twin-cogged machine with sprung rear forks, I believe.”

The lad’s mouth dropped open like a trapdoor. “Ow d’yer know that, luv?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” I said. “It’s called paying attention,” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

Judith stepped forward. “Quickly now – how long ago did this happen?”

The lad gazed at her, at me, and back again. “Couple o’ minutes, I reckon. Can’t ha’ been more. I were only in t’shop long enough ter count out five loaves and a dozen stottie cakes.”

Judith turned to me. “We’ll never catch them without a horse and trap.” We moved away and began to discuss the matter in low tones, when the delivery boy interrupted.

“Where is it yer’s are going?”

“Not that it makes any difference, but we must get to the Slaughtered Lamb as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Oh,” he said, with a dopey grin. “Yer’s are wanting a drink, eh?”

I sighed and was about to resume the discussion with Judith when the lad uttered the solution to our problem.

“So why don’t yer’s just do a slider?”

“A what?” said I.

“A slider,” said the lad again. “Get a couple of bits of cardboard and yous can slide down the hill all the way to the Lamb.”

“Down the hill?” said Judith. “But the Slaughtered Lamb is up on the moors.”

The lanky youth nodded. “Oh, aye, it is. If ye go by road. But if’n yous run over to the timber yard yonder, there’s a track that takes ye right down to the back of the inn. It’s where they used to haul up the stones from the quarry.” He shrugged. “I can show yer if yer like?”

I glanced at Judith. “In for a penny…”

And so it was that two minutes later, after hurrying along several lanes and narrow alleys, we arrived at the old timber yard. The delivery boy led us through to a gap in the fence at the far side of the yard and pointed.

“There. That’s the track. Just need ter sit on a bit o’ cardboard and yous can slide right down to the back door.” Crossing to one side, he rummaged in a pile of rubbish and pulled out two battered cardboard boxes. Flattening them out, he gave us one each. “Mind though,” he said, with what I took to be his ‘serious’ face, “don’t yous be stayin out after dark – it be a full moon tonight and yous don’t want ter be meetin with a werewolf.”

Adopting somewhat indelicate seating positions, Judith and I readied ourselves and on a count of three, pushed off from the top of the slope. In a matter of seconds, we were hurtling along at an alarming rate, our respective lady parts bouncing up and down like balls in a juggling contest. Risking a quick glance at Judith, I attempted to conceal my terror, but felt gratified to see that she too was absolutely petrified.

Moments later the slope had levelled out and I could see in the distance a gathering of stone buildings. The nearest of these seemed to be the target of our route and seconds later we glided to a bumpy but largely pain-free stop at the door to what I presumed was the ‘outhouse’ behind the Slaughtered Lamb.

Clambering to my feet, I helped my companion up and we rubbed each other’s bottoms to relieve the throbbing sensation that still reverberated throughout our feminine physiques.

“Come on,” I urged, grasping Judith’s hand. “There’s the back door to the inn.” Within seconds we had negotiated the trail of empty beer barrels that littered the inn yard and pushed through the door that led to the rear part of the public house. As the door swished to behind us, the sound of a heated conversation came to my ears.

“What the fu–”

I stared at Judith. “That was Johnny’s voice,” I hissed.

“Shh!” Doctor Hirsch put a finger to my lips and motioned to a wooden hatch in the wall. Giving the hatch a gentle push, we raised our heads to peer through the aperture into the main room.

As we looked, a strange and unnerving sensation swept over us, as if some kind of dark fog had dropped upon us, changing the scene before our very eyes. And as I watched the crowd of people in front of us, a crowd that included Holmes and my darling Johnny, I saw what Holmes had seen – that an eerie darkness had fallen over the inn and its surroundings.

“Oh my God…” I gasped.

Judith shushed me to be quiet.

Focusing on the scene before us, I shook my head to clear the mugginess in my brain. Then a voice broke through to my consciousness.

“You can’t let ‘em go.”

“They’re being forced back outside,” whispered Judith. “Quickly, we have to reach them before the–” She stopped and stared at me. “Quickly.” Taking my hand, she pulled me backwards and we ran to the door and out into the inn yard. Veering left, we hurried around the corner of the building, heading for the front door. I was all too aware that the night had properly fallen and we were now engulfed in an almost complete darkness. Only the meagre illuminations from the windows of the inn served to light our way.

Rounding the corner, I slid to a halt. In front of us stood my husband, Sherlock Holmes and an approaching stranger.

“Oh shit,” muttered Judith. “It’s him.”

“Who?” I whimpered, not really wanting to know the answer.

But it was Holmes who replied. “Caddy? Inspector Caddy, are you alright, man?”

The other man raised his head and stared at him. “Beware the moon…”

As if on cue, a low howl echoed from somewhere distant.

“Oh, crap,” said Holmes. “It’s coming back!”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Beware the Moon…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The following afternoon, along with my dear wife and Doctor Hirsch, Holmes and myself travelled by train to Yorkshire – the town of Thirsk, to be precise – and took rooms at The Golden Fleece, an old coaching inn. Most of our journey had been taken up with planning our ‘expedition’ to what my large-nosed companion referred to as the crime scene. Judith filled us in on the gory details of her own encounter on the moors and was keen to caution us to the dangers of wandering about on that place of rolling hills and upland fells after dark.

“I warn you, Mister Holmes, she said, “though it may be an area of supreme beauty and tranquillity during the hours of daylight, the night brings trepidation and terror.”

“Yes, yes,” muttered Holmes. “I expect it does. Luckily Watson and I are au fait with trepidation and terror.” He gave me a sly wink and I groaned inwardly, knowing what was coming next. “In the morning, my companion and I will make a provisional reconnaissance of the immediate area around East Proctor and report back by late afternoon.” He took out his meerschaum and began tapping out the dottle on the edge of the seat. “Or, early evening at the latest. Before dark, at any rate.” He gave me a questioning look. “Wouldn’t have an ounce of hard shag on you, by any chance, Watson?”

“I don’t smoke, Holmes. Haven’t for years.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? That explains it, then.”

“Explains what?” said I, with not a little irritation.

“Why you never carry any Swan Vestas.” He shook his head and peered out of the window.

Mary had been listening intensely to this exchange and I could tell from the way her wonky eye glared at Holmes, that she was about to erupt. I leaned forward with a view to patting her knee in a calming manner, but it was too late.

“Just who the bloody hell do you think you are?”

“What’s that, m’dear?” said Holmes distractedly.

“Haven’t you heard a word Judith has said? D’you imagine that everything she’s told us is utter drivel?”

“Well, I…” he began, but Mary was far from finished.

“Whether you believe in werewolves or not, there is clearly something very wrong here and you are not, I repeat not, going to drag my husband out on a fool’s errand when there’s a full moon. If anything happens to my Johnny, I will bite you myself!”

Holmes appeared taken aback (an unusual experience for him), and for a moment words escaped him.

Now it was Judith’s turn to take up the protest, but not before laying a hand on Mary’s thigh and rubbing it with a gently calming motion. The effect was quite extraordinary. I am accustomed to my wife’s anger subsiding gradually over several hours, but now it petered away as if she’d been injected with a some fast-acting tranquilising solution. Letting out a low sigh, she turned her head towards Judith and smiled shyly.

“Sherlock,” said Judith, turning her attention back to Holmes, “it would be altogether more sensible for all four of us to travel to East Protor, and that way, if anything does happen, I shall be on hand to advise you.”

Holmes coughed and looked at the floor. “As you wish.”

The following morning, Holmes and myself climbed aboard a pony and trap and began a journey that would become nothing less than a nightmare, though we little did know it. I had, of course objected to his plan to ‘outwit the ladies’ under the pretext of having a game of darts with the chaps in the bar, but Holmes can be very forceful, and he ably manoeuvred me through the Lounge Bar, into the Snug and out into the back lane via the kitchen, leaving Mary and Judith to discover our deception when we failed to return to our rooms for morning coffee.

“You really expect we can get back here before dark?” I asked him.

“Don’t see why not,” said he. Tapping the driver on the shoulder, he urged the
dour-faced man to hurry-it-along and within a few minutes we had reached the edge of the moors.

The way ahead was indeed one of beauty and tranquillity as Judith had described, but already the mist was descending over distant woodland and the familiar loosening sensation that often accompanies our many journeys into the unknown, began to make its presence felt in my lower quarters. I only hoped I’d be able to hold onto my dignity if we should encounter the individual – man or beast – who assaulted Judith.

As it happened, messing my pants was the least of my worries.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 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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Icebergs Away…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Our journey back to England was uneventful, save for the half-hour or so we spent pulling our fellow passengers out of the sea to the relative safety of the iceberg. Watching the SS Doncaster sink into the murky waters was a little disheartening, but at least no-one died. (This last observation came from Holmes when I happened to mention we’d be free of Moriarty and Co who, as they had not appeared among the survivors, must surely have drowned. He pointed a bony finger past the sinking wreck to a small rowing boat manned by four individuals. The vessel appeared to be heading towards France).

“I fear Moriarty is not so easy to get rid of,” said Holmes, stuffing a lump of hard shag into his pipe. “One of these days his murderous plots will run according to plan, and you and I shall be properly buggered.”

“And what about the Claw?” I said. “D’you think he’s teamed up with the Prof on a full-time basis?”

Holmes shook his head. “I doubt it – the man has his own axe to grind. I suspect we’ve annoyed him sufficiently to want to seek some degree of revenge.”

I nodded thoughtfully. The idea of having yet another villain to worry about didn’t sit easily with me. If it were merely my own silly neck on the line, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I fear I should never recover if anything happened to my poor defenceless Mary. As this thought swam around my brain, I glanced over at her and noticed Passepartout’s hand caressing my wife’s hindquarters. Whirling round, she jammed two fingers up his nostrils and wrestled him to the ground.

“Try that again, you little twerp and I’ll shove my hand where the sun never shines.”

The Frenchman grinned up at her and croaked, “Yes please.”

Mary shook her head in disgust and giving him a kick in the ribs, went off to join Holmes at the helm.

A few hours later we tied up a little downriver of East India Docks in an effort to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. The other passengers happily disembarked and paraded over to the Happy Fiddler public house, the proprietor of which, thanks to Holmes (who had helped him out with a delicate family matter), was happy to re-open his doors, despite the late hour. The Captain and his crew were less keen to leave us, but Holmes was able to persuade them to go by threatening charges of dereliction of duty and failure to apprehend a gang of villains.

The darkness aided our clandestine operations and we were able load a few provisions onto the iceberg and wave a hearty goodbye to Phogg and Passepartout shortly before dawn.

As the three of us stood on the dock, it occurred to me that we faced a long walk home. I mentioned this to the Great Detective, but he simply clicked his fingers and a whirring sound above our heads told me a steam-powered gyrocopter was about to land.

“How on earth…” I began. My companion smiled.

As the machine thumped gently to the ground, a familiar figure emerged from the cockpit. Mycroft Holmes waddled over to us, shook my hand and gave his brother a dig in the ribs before wrapping his arms around my wife.

“How bloody lovely to see you again, my dear,” he said, jiggling her up and down.

Mary blushed considerably and pushed him away, though I sensed she was happy to see him.

“I was just saying,” I said, taking Mycroft’s arm. “How on earth–”

“Did we know you were here?” he finished, giving me a cheeky wink. “Elementary my dear Motson. I took the liberty of installing a tracking device in your wife’s vagina.” He grinned.

My mouth hit the ground with a dull thud. “Wha…wha…wha..” I stammered.

Mycroft laughed heartily and punched my shoulder. “Relax, Kitson, I’m joshing with you. In fact, Mary’s clockwork lamp sends out a rather clever electronic signal when it is activated. It was picked up by one of our gyrocopters. We’ve been following your progress ever since the SS Mangochutney encountered the iceberg.”

“I see,” I said, feeling somewhat small and insignificant.

“So you’re going to take us all home, then?” said Mary, a wide smile lighting up her face.

“Not I,” said Mycroft. “But my chaps here will drop you off shortly.” And with that, he set off towards the Happy Fiddler, shouting, “Mine’s a G and T.”

Clambering into the machine, the three of us huddled together and settled down for the short flight to our respective homes. A few minutes later, Mary and I alighted at the corner of our street in Marlborough Hill, then watched as the craft lifted into the air again and disappeared into the dawn.

Walking across to the corner and down to our garden gate, I slipped an arm around Mary’s waist. “Happy to be home?”

She nodded. “Well, it’s been fun, but yes, I am happy to be home.” Then looking up at me, a frown furrowed her brow. “You know what, darling – we don’t have any keys.”

Automatically, I slipped my hand into my outside pocket. “Bugger. Lost with everything else, I suppose. Have to rely on the old key-under-the-plant-pot routine.” I moved towards the front door and for the first time realised that someone was sitting on our doorstep.

“Who the heck are you?”

The lad grinned up at me. “Telegraphical message for yer, Doctor.” He jumped up and handed me a slip of paper.

“Bit early for that sort of thing, isn’t it?” said I, opening the communication.

“Yes sir, but the feller insisted that you get it soon as possible, like.”

“And what man was that,” said Mary, stroking the lad’s arm.

“Oh, some Yankee feller. Said he’s staying at the Horse and Trollop down the road.”

And with that, he got up and ran off into the street.

“What’s it say, Johnny?” said Mary, peering down at the message.

I sighed. It was another case. One that would put our lives in danger yet again. But this time, the consequences of locating the perpetrator might be far worse than anything Moriarty or the Hooded Claw could dream up.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Between a Ship and Hard Place…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

I had been feeling rather pleased with myself after that last hand of poker with Mister Phogg and his funny little manservant – it’s not often I’m left holding several winning hands without the aid of the old Ace-down-the-knickers trick. The only disadvantage was that Phogg and his companion had already seen me naked, so it was small recompense to watch the pair of them dropping their trousers at the sight of my royal flush. As it turned out, seasoned travellers like Phogg always keep their cash in their underpants, (which is just as well, since the sight of two flaccid members only served to make me giggle).

My delight at pocketing a wodge of cash, however, was short-lived. On returning to the cabin Johnny told me of the threat that still hung over us. My dear darling positively trembled as he spoke and I realised the excitement of recent hours had taken its toll. Realising he needed to be kept busy, I urged him to assess the cabin for weapons while I pottered about making two mugs of Camp Coffee, a beverage that always helps calm his nerves.

Then it was simply a case of wait and see. But we didn’t have to wait long – when the chainsaw slashed through the roof of the cabin, I almost wet myself, but Johnny grabbed me and dragged me into the passage where a brace of villains and henchmen blocked our exit. Luckily, Big-Nose Holmes blew a hole in the wall and under cover of the smoke from a flare gun, hauled us through another cabin and into the corridor beyond. With Moriarty and his men close behind, we hurried up the next stairway to the upper deck and a moment later found ourselves outside.

In the distance, I could see the SS Mangochutney silhouetted against the dark sky, as it ploughed its way towards France. It was listing a little to one side, and I couldn’t help feel a pang of regret that we hadn’t been able to continue our journey as planned.

As we reached the stern of the ship (or the Big End, as I called it), we huddled together beside the railings, waiting for the inevitable attack. When Moriarty and his crew hove into view, Mister Phogg summed up our situation with a grim announcement: “Eeh Christ, we’re fucked now.”

“On the contrary,” said Holmes, with that irritatingly sardonic smile of his. “We’re exactly where we need to be.”

I was about to sigh heavily and point out the absolute shitiness of our circumstances, when the detective raised an arm. He pointed one slender finger at something looming into view on the starboard side (or it may have been the port, I’m not sure). We turned as one and saw a strange sight – a massive white object had risen up alongside the liner and a second later, a tremendous screeching noise prompted all four of us to cover our ears.

As the metallic grating sound eased off, I realised what had happened. “Oh, no, not again.”

Johnny nodded sagely. “That bloody iceberg’s come back. Now we’re sunk.”

Holmes made a tutting noise. “For God’s sake, Watson, yet again you see but you do not observe.”

My husband pouted. “Really, Holmes? So what am I missing this time? It’s a bloody great steam-powered iceberg torpedo-ship. Probably manned by hundreds of henchmen all ready to cut our throats. And once again we’re bloody sinking. Am I right, Holmes?”

Sensing Johnny’s ire was up, I slipped my hand into his. “Calm yourself, dear, you know what Sherl’s like when he’s worked something out.” I turned to Holmes. “Well?”

Holmes cast an eye towards Moriarty and co, who had already halved the distance between us and them, but were still a good hundred yards away. In that same instant, the villains saw the iceberg, understood the Great Detective’s intention and sped along the deck towards us.

In a sudden movement, Johnny pulled something out of his pocket and hurled it at the group of baddies. The miniature harpoon gun ornament struck Moriarty right on the nose, causing a torrent of blood to spurt out. His chums halted their pursuit, clamouring around their leader while The Claw waved his hook at us menacingly.

With a degree of urgency, Holmes muttered, “Well done, Watson, now follow me and don’t spare the horses.” He set off at a pace, the five of us scampering after him in the direction of the iceberg.

In an instant, I saw his idea and realised I should have known it all along – I’d witnessed the crew of the iceberg myself and seen that there were in fact only four crew members: Moriarty, The Claw and the two henchmen. There was no crew – the iceberg was adrift.

It took less than five seconds to jump over the railing and drop down onto the flat top of the vessel, where Holmes and Phogg found the main hatch, heaving it open so we could all climb inside.

Shouts of ‘Bugger’ and ‘Damnation’ echoed behind us but a moment later the hatch clanged shut and we stood on a platform containing a large ship’s wheel, a big chunky gear lever and a big green button.

Holmes banged his fist on the button and a low rumbling shook the iceberg as the machinery thrummed into life. Throwing the gear-lever into first, Holmes grabbed the wheel as the iceberg lurched forward and the rest of us grabbed whatever we could to steady ourselves as we pulled away from the ship.

Phogg and Passepartout found the periscope and sliding the small screen into place were able to give us a limited but adequate view of the outside of the vessel. By twisting the thing around, we could see the SS Doncaster disappearing into the distance, while out front, the sea stretched away before us.

“Set a course for England, Watson,” said Holmes as he took command of the helm.

“Aye, aye, sir,” said Johnny, grinning.

“Hold on a minute,” said Phogg. “What abaht our round t’world trip? Ow are we supposed ter make our connections from Blighty?”

Holmes gave him a sidelong look. “Don’t be an arse, Phogg. We both know this was never about going around the world – you did it for a bet and you lost.”

“But sir,” butted in Passepartout, “The Hooded Claw is still after Mister Phogg.”

Holmes nodded slowly. “More than likely. Though as you have now commandeered this vessel, I should imagine finding you again would be quite a task.”

“What?” said Phogg. “You mean…we should keep the iceberg?” He looked at Passepartout and the little Frenchman’s eyes lit up.

“I don’t see why not,” said Holmes. We certainly don’t want it.”

We all settled into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, then I slipped a hand around my husband’s waist and snuggling up to him, whispered, “Go on, then – you know you want to.”

“Want to what, darling?” he said with feigned innocence.

“You know what. The line.”

Johnny sighed. “Oh, alright.” He turned to Holmes. “But Holmes, what I still don’t understand is how–”

“How the iceberg came back up to the surface?” The big-nosed detective smirked. “Elementary Watson. It’s a simple matter of ballast and buoyancy. Like all secret underwater torpedo ships, a safety mechanism was built into the system to enable the vessel to re-float itself should a minor disaster – such as sinking – occur. I’m sure you’d have noticed it yourself if you’d bothered to study the Bruce Partridger blueprints during our Edinburgh adventure.” He smirked again.

Johnny nodded. “Of course. I remember now.” He glanced at me and his cheeks had the good grace to flush with embarrassment.

It occurred to me that Holmes had dismissed, with his usual nonchalance, the suggestion of Phogg still being in danger. Perhaps I was just being a silly woman again, but I couldn’t free myself of a feeling of trepidation. It haunted me all the way back to England, creeping through my bones like a disease. Somehow, somewhere, I knew the Hooded Claw would darken our particular doorsteps again very soon.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Slice of Watson…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As Holmes had predicted, it was a mere forty-five minutes later that the Evil Genius struck again.

I’d arrived back at my cabin just as Mary emerged from Phogg’s, a huge smile on her face. I waved an admonishing finger at her. “You did it again, didn’t you darling?”

She giggled girlishly. “Well, he’s got tons of cash, so why not?” Holding up a wodge of the aforementioned booty, she flapped the wad in my face. “Care for a game of Snap before bed? If you win, you can be on top…”

I shook my head and ushered her into the cabin. “Unfortunately, my dear, this game does not involve playing cards.”

“Very well,” she muttered with a sigh and began to undo her dress.

I closed the door and pulled over a chair to wedge beneath the handle. Turning back to my wife I noted she had stopped undressing.

“Oh, shit,” she said. “It’s not over, is it?”

I repeated what Holmes had told me.

Mary sat down heavily on the bed. “Better have some coffee, then.” She set about heating a kettle of water on our portable stove while I did a quick assessment of the cabin and its accessories.

Within a couple of minutes, I had ascertained that in terms of weapons we had very little at our disposal. Our meagre arsenal consisted of a camping stove, two mugs, a half-bottle of milk, a miniature harpoon gun ornament and a soap dish. Everything else had been abandoned on the SS Mangochutney.

“Where’s Holmes?” asked Mary.

“Back in his cabin by now.” I rubbed my chin the way the Great Detective often did. It didn’t help. “All we can do is sit tight and hope we’re up to the challenge when it comes.”

Mary nodded solemnly.

We sat together on the bed, ruminating on what our fate might be. We had hardly moved from the spot when the sawing began.

“What’s that?” said Mary, looking at the roof of our cabin.

I followed her gaze and a moment later the curved end of a chainsaw sliced through the ceiling. Jumping up, I dragged Mary over to the other side of the room, pulled the chair free and yanked open the cabin door. I’d half expected the Claw or the Professor to be waiting in the passage, but a quick glance up and down proved it was free of villains.

“This way, darling,” I said, taking Mary’s hand. Rushing to Phogg’s cabin door, I was about to knock rapidly in a manner that would indicate a sense of urgency, when the door opened and Phogg and Passepartout leaped out to join us.

“What the bloody ‘ell’s goin on, lad?” yelled Phogg.

“The Claw’s back,” I said, and indicated they should follow us.

Racing along the passage towards the stairs to the upper deck, it occurred to me that sawing through our cabin roof was an odd thing to do. If the Claw wanted to kill us all (which seemed probable), it’d have made more sense to lure us out of our cabin.

“Oh, bugger,” I said. At the same moment, I saw Moriarty’s two henchmen appear at the far end of the passage. Whirling round, I was greeted by the grinning visage of the Evil Genius himself.

“Going somewhere Doctor?” Moriarty laughed maniacally and swung his arm up as the chainsaw screamed into life again. “Slicing tonight,” he yelled, waving the murderous instrument up and down.

A sudden blast made us all jump in surprise and a second later the passageway had filled with coloured smoke.

“This way,” yelled a familiar voice, and a hand reached out and grabbed my sleeve. Pulling my companions along with me, I jumped through the hole that had appeared in the wall and was greeted with a not-totally-unexpected sardonic smile.

“Don’t hang about, Watson,” said Holmes, helping us through into the cabin beyond.

A shout of annoyance echoed behind us as we felt our way through the haze, across to the open door opposite and into a smoke-free passage.

“What now?” I gasped.

“Buggered if I know,” said Holmes. “That was our one and only flare gun – good idea, by the way – so I suggest we head upwards and hope for the best.”

Hurrying to the end of the corridor, we started up the stairs to the upper deck, the thumping of running feet and screaming chainsaws close behind.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Between the Devil and the Coast…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Standing on the deck of the SS Doncaster, Holmes and I watched silently as the burly chaps from the rescue boats hooked up the wreck of the Mangochutney and began to haul their listing cargo towards the French coast.

“Well,” said I. “Suppose that puts paid to Phogg’s round-the-world trip, eh?” After our recent escapade, Phogg and his Parisian companion had retired to their cabin with my wife for a few hands of poker before bed.

Holmes sniffed and stifled a yawn. “Apparently not. By his calculations he’s only lost twenty-four hours, and as he had already allowed two days for minor catastrophes, his rendezvous in Calais and subsequent connections are still valid. The only issue, as I see it, is that The Hooded Claw is still tracking him.”

“But surely,” I said, “the Claw has drowned?”

Holmes sniggered in that irritating way of his. “Don’t be a fool, Watson.” He turned his beady little eyes on me. “You don’t believe Moriarty is dead, do you?”

I considered this and let out a sigh. “No, I suppose not.”

“Precisely – the Evil Genius has evaded death on numerous occasions, therefore it follows that anyone associated with him will likewise avoid expiration.”

“Then our mission is not over.” I chewed my lower lip. “So, we follow him to Calais, by rail to Brindisi, Italy and steamer, then…”

Holmes shook his head. “I think not. Moriarty may be an malevolent mastermind, but he has one fatal flaw – he hates French food.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course – we simply serve him up a plate of L’Escargot and he’ll run a mile.”

“You really ought to avoid sarcasm, Watson, it is not your forte. No, in fact what I am talking about is that the Claw and or Moriarty will make another attempt to halt Phogg’s progress – before we reach Calais.”

“Oh, bugger.”

“Indeed.” Holmes checked his pocket watch, nodded to himself, then pulled out a small apparatus from his waistcoat, extended it several inches and held it to his eye.

I had to admire his preparation – it had never occurred to me to include a spyglass in my luggage, let alone my waistcoat pocket.

“Yes,” muttered my companion. “I estimate we have approximately three hours before another attack.”

“My God,” I said, “and we have no weapons. Better have a word with the Captain – he’s bound to have a set of flare guns at the very least.”

“No, Watson. We have already fallen into one trap. I suggest we retire to our cabins as if nothing at all were amiss.”

“What? Are you mad?”

Holmes smiled sardonically. “Quite possibly, old friend, but that is not the issue. We must endeavour to present an air of calm composure and make no move that might alert them.”

I glanced around quickly. Apart from a few couples taking the evening air, the deck was deserted. “You don’t think –”

“That they are already aboard? Of course, don’t you?” Holmes leaned closer. “I hardly need remind you to stay awake, Watson. I imagine our enemies will make their move shortly after midnight, so have a care.”

As I made my way to my cabin, an unhappy sinking feeling began to make itself known in my lower decks. Whatever was about to happen, I knew Moriarty and co would not take any chances this time – when the attack came, we would all be fighting for our lives.

Again.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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