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A Detective Inspector Calls


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)
Batley Cottage, Skipton

Having now spent two nights in what I can only describe as the dullest residence I’ve ever had the misfortune to inhabit, my desire to escape grows by the hour. Though Aunt Bob complains bitterly about her aches and pains, her general health has clearly improved, and I now suspect she summoned me here simply to have someone to run around after her. Only this morning, she demanded I read aloud from a book on herbal remedies of the East Indies.

“It is quite unbearable, my dear Mary,” she muttered, as I began the third chapter of the aforementioned tedious tome, “that I should spend my dotage unaccompanied.”

“Well,” I said, “if you hadn’t thrown Uncle Jeremy out of the house, you wouldn’t be unaccompanied.”

She slapped a hand on the side of the chair. “He was rogering that tart from the butcher’s on an almost daily basis.”

“No, Aunt,” I repeated for the umpteenth time, “the lady from the butcher’s is even older than you and has a wooden leg and a hair lip. I doubt she’s capable of any kind of…intimate…activity. And I’m certain Uncle Jeremy wouldn’t be unfaithful.”

“He might have been…” She pursed her lips and adopted the pained expression I’ve come to look upon as her ‘normal’ face.

I leaned forwards and patted her knee. “Why don’t I pop along to the hotel where he’s staying and tell him you’d like him to come back?”

She sniffed derisively, but I could tell she was coming around to the idea.

At that point, the maid appeared—a dull-witted girl with a penchant for snivelling.

“Beg pardon, ma’am,” she said, “but a gen’leman’s at the door an’ wantin’ to see you.”

“Oh, I can’t be bothered with visitors,” moaned Aunt Bob.

“Oh, sorry, ma’am, I was meanin’ Missus Watson, ‘ere.”

“Me?” said I, perking up. “Who is it?”

The girl handed me a white card. One glance at it brought a smile to my lips. This might be the excuse I’d been looking for.

“Send him in, Florence.”

A moment later, a ferret-faced little man in a raincoat popped his head around the door.

“Mornin’ Mrs Watson,” he said tipping his hat.

“Inspector Lestrade,” I murmured shaking his hand. “How lovely to see you.”

The policeman reddened at this unexpected compliment and seated himself on a pouffe in the corner. He glanced at Aunt Bob.

“Ahm, this is my Aunt Roberta,” I said.

“A police inspector, eh?” said the old woman. “What trouble has that fool of a husband got you into now, dear?”

“For your information, Aunt, my husband is not a fool and he does not get me into trouble.” I grinned at Lestrade and added, “though we’ve had some rare adventures together.”

Aunt Bob prattled on for a few minutes more, then excused herself and stomped off upstairs.

Is there trouble?” I said, when she’d gone.

“Well, it’s ‘ard ter say, really,” he began. “It might be nuffin, but I thought I’d better check it out wiv you anyway.”

He sat there for a moment, turning his hat over and over in his hands, until eventually he seemed to come to a decision. “Fing is, I knew that ‘olmes and your ‘usband had gorn over ter that place near Carlisle.”

“Clovenhoof? Yes, that’s right. To see that Mr Usher and his poorly sister.”

“That’s the one. Well, it’s a few years back now, but when Mr ‘olmes told me this feller’s name, it sort of rang a bell, l but I didn’t recall why until this mornin’.”

“You’ve had dealings with Mr Usher before, then?”

“Not exactly, no.” He chewed his lip, then said, “It were all to do wiv a black cat that this bloke owned. I don’t remember all the details, but it ended up with ‘im tryin’ to kill the cat wiv an axe, but accidentally killin’ his wife instead.”

“Oh, I say. That sounds a bit grim. And you think this chap and Mr Usher might be the same person?”

Lestrade shook his head. “All I know is that this bloke wiv the cat and this Usher feller was in business together.”

I thought about this for a moment. “It’s entirely possible, then, that Usher knows nothing about this alleged murder.”

He sniffed and wiped a sleeve across his face. “Like I say, it’s probably nuffin ter worry about, and I woudn’t ‘ave bovvered you wiv it, if it weren’t for what ‘appened yesterday.”

“Which was?”

“I sent a telegram to your ‘usband and Mr ‘olmes, just to warn ‘em, like. But an hour later, I got a message back to say no messages of any kind can be delivered to the Usher ‘ouse.”

“How strange. Why not?”

“Seems that no-one in the area will go near the place. They say it’s ‘aunted and spooky fings ‘appen there.”

“What sort of spooky things?”

He shrugged. “Ghosts.”

“Can’t you go there yourself?”

“Well, I would, Mary, but my boss is sendin’ me to Blackpool to ‘elp out on the Bodies in the Baths mystery, so I can’t get away. Came up ‘ere on me day off in the ‘ope of persuadin’ you to go instead.”

“I see.” Sitting back, I couldn’t resist smiling to myself. Though Holmes would in all likelihood feel a bit put out at my turning up out of the blue, if there were a sinister side to this Usher fellow, I’d rather be with my husband.

“Have yer got the address?” said Lestrade.

“Yes, Johnny gave me it—I think he hoped I’d be able to find an excuse to join him at some point. Now, it seems I can.”

After Lestrade had gone, I went upstairs to give my aunt the good news. She wouldn’t be happy about me leaving, but I could already smell an adventure and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

Clovenhoof here I come.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2020 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Invitation


Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Saturday 1st July 1893

Things being somewhat quiet of late, Mary and I planned to take a short holiday to the lake District. An overindulgence in sweetmeats and the like over these last few months has resulted in both of us adding a few inches to our waistlines. To be fair, I suspect it was the increase in my own girth that prompted Mary’s suggestion we ‘get a little exercise’ and try a spot of hillwalking.

However, having set the proverbial wheels in motion, an urgent telegraphical communication from Mary’s Great Aunt Bob (short for Roberta), scuppered our plans, and yesterday afternoon I somewhat huffily waved my wife off on the 2:45 to Skipton.

We did agree to try and meet up in a few days, though if the health of the aforementioned relative does not improve, it seems likely I’ll be left to my own devices.

This morning, after sorting out a few medical affairs and finding myself with no immediate plans, I determined to pop over to Baker Street and call on Holmes, when a message arrived from that very personage:

Watson,

Come at once, if convenient.
(If not convenient, come all the same).

H

I told the boy I’d leave immediately, collected my hat and overcoat, summoned a Hackney and set off to see my old friend and colleague. As we trotted along, it occurred to me that I’d not heard from Holmes since his return from Massachusetts, and I was keen to probe him on his adventures.

Mrs Hudson greeted me with a grunt, slamming the door sharply behind me. She proceeded to follow me up the stairs, muttering disgruntled remonstrations concerning the absence of her name from any of my stories in The Strand.

“Well,” I said, as she pressed her bosoms into my chest, “I always make a point of mentioning your lovely muffins…”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “And don’ you make a bloody fing of ‘em as well. You was a decent bloke afore you got all involved wiv ‘is ‘ighness in there. When you first moved in ‘ere, you was all nice and polite an’ that. Now all I get is snidey remarks about my minge and my boobies.”

I coughed and patted her shoulder. “I’m fairly certain I’ve never mentioned your minge, Mrs Hudson, but you’re quite right, and I will from henceforth rather be myself.” Expecting the quote to go over her head, her response surprised me.

“I should fink so, an’all. Always thought your presence was too bold and peremptory.” She gave me a sly smile, then turned and stomped back downstairs, her rear end wobbling from side to side like a sack of overinflated balloons. (Note to self—replace with a more appropriate description.)

“Ah, Watson,” said Holmes, pulling the door wide. “Jolly good to see you old chap. Take a pew.”

I settled into my usual armchair by the fire and waited while Holmes poured tea and offered me one of Mrs Hudson’s delightful muffins.

“Mary get off alright, eh?”

“Mary?” I said.

“Skipton, wasn’t it?” His eyes sparkled, and I could see I wouldn’t get away with ignoring him.

“That’s right, Holmes.” I paused, sighed and, striving to keep the irritation out of my voice, added, “but how could you possibly know?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson.” He leaned back, gazing upwards, as if searching for a tiny crack in the ceiling. “I recall Mary mentioned an ancient aunt in Yorkshire. Great Aunt Roberta, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “But the county covers a large geographical area. Hardly specific.”

He smiled sardonically. “I occasionally take The Yorkshire Post, you know, and last week’s issue reported an outbreak of influenza. In Skipton. And of course,” he added, stuffing his meerschaum with a generous helping of Hard Shag, “the elderly can be prone to such infections.” He struck a Swan Vesta and lit his pipe, puffing away for a moment. “Aside from such details, I did see Mary get on the train as I was booking our tickets yesterday afternoon.”

“You never fail to amaze me,” I said, with only a hint of sarcasm.

Holmes grinned and watched me for a moment. I realised he was waiting for me to ask another question.

“Er…”

“Really, Watson,” he muttered. “Sometimes I wonder about your faculties. I said, Although, to be fair…”

“Oh!” I laughed and slapped my leg as if chastising myself. “Of course. What tickets, Holmes?”

“Monday morning,” he said. “The 11:36 from Kings Cross. We’re off to Clovenhoof Vale.”

“Clovenhoof what?”

“Vale. You won’t have heard of it. The place is a small village a few dozen miles south of Carlisle. An old school pal of mine has written, asking me to visit.”

I nodded. “I see.”

Holmes chewed his lower lip in a manner that suggested there might be something he hadn’t told me.

“And?” I said.

“And I thought you might like to come along, that’s all.” He coughed and looked out of the window.

“Holmes…”

“Oh, very well.” He coughed again and made humphing noises for a moment. Eventually, he said, “Fact is, this chap’s sister is ill.”

“Ah. Like Mary’s Aunt.”

“Possibly. But…” He sighed. “You know me, Watson. Not at home to sickly folk. I thought…” he looked up, hopefully.

“You thought I might come along and take care of any…medical issues.”

“That’s it entirely.” He resumed puffing his pipe,

I had no reason to refuse his offer, and as Mary would be indisposed for a few days at least, the ministering to a lone patient would hardly tax my skills. “Very well,” I said. “So, this pal of yours—rich, is he?”

“Not short of a few bob,” said Holmes. “Never been to the family seat before, but I believe it’s a fairly impressive residence.”

“Well,” I said. “At least it won’t collapse around our ears.”

We shared a chuckle at this, recalling our adventure on Huge Island.

“By the way,” I said, helping myself to another muffin. “What’s this chap’s name?”

“Usher,” said Holmes. “Roderick Usher.”

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2020 in Detective Fiction

 

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Agatha Goes Down


From the Private Diary of A. Christie (Mrs)

Dear Diary,
I should have expected the noise of the descending floor to alert whoever waited below us, but even so, I experienced a wave of fear as we emerged into a vast arena and a crowd of expectant villains.

Maudie gave me a pitying smile and slunk away to join her comrades. Obviously, the threat of a Derringer held no sway. Nevertheless, I held onto my weapon, pointing it at the man in front of me.

‘Now then,’ I said. ‘Who’s in charge, here?’

‘That would be me, madam,’ said the man, smiling.

‘Ant me, of course,’ said the woman standing next to him.

I recognised her immediately, though of course her accent had reverted to her native German. ‘Ah yes,’ I said. ‘The kraut.’

‘I don’t zink zer’s any need for zat zort of talk,’ she said, looking as if I’d slapped her stupid face. ‘Zer name iz Klopp.’

‘Then I suggest you Klopp off.’ I walked forwards, keeping my eyes and my gun on the man next to her. ‘And you are …?’

‘Professor James Moriarty, Mrs Christie. At your service.’ He bowed. ‘I see you’ve already met our friend, Nurse Ratched …’ He laughed, mirthlessly. ‘Now, if you’d like to hand over your little pop gun …’

There seemed no point maintaining my stance as the vengeful warrior, so I passed it across to him. ‘So, what do you do here?’ I said, looking around intently.

The Professor laughed. ‘Oh, the usual—murder, mayhem, a little bit of intimidation, protection. You know the sort of thing.’

‘And these are …?’ I waved a hand at the assembled throng.

‘Comrades, minions, various arch villains—Doctor Fu Manchu, Colonel Sebastian Moran, etcetera, etcetera.’

Keeping a straight face, despite my surprise at the sheer quantity of rogues, villains and very bad people gathered in one place, I said, ‘And this moving floor business. What’s all that about?’

‘You’d like a demonstration?’ He seemed pleased at this, and I wondered if it might be possible to launch him into one of those fatal monologues that villains in trashy crime novels love so much, where they explain everything before killing the hero. If nothing else, it would fill in a bit of time.

Frau Klopp interrupted. ‘I don’t zink zis is necessary. Let’s just kill zem all now.’

Moriarty smiled at her. ‘If Mrs Christie wants a demonstration, let’s give her a demonstration.’

The way he said this gave me a start. I realised with growing horror that he meant something likely to prove extremely injurious—mainly to me.

‘Tie her up and place her beneath the library.’

A horde of white-coated henchmen surrounded me, and in a trice, they trussed me up like an out-of-season turkey. Hoisting me into the air, they carried me like a rolled-up carpet to an area at the far side of the hall where they laid me down. Far above me, I could make out the plan of the house—the rooms linked by iron struts leading to pulleys and gears and thence to a massive steam engine in the middle. The struts connected to the room above me stretched up to the sides of the library floor but were hinged in places to allow the whole thing to slide down on top of me without getting in the way. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be squashed flat. It wasn’t a scene I’d envisaged for any of my own characters, and I positively did not wish to see it played out for real.

Twisting my head, I could see Inspector Lestrade and an attractive, wonky-eyed woman, standing at the other side of the hall. Next to them stood Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (identifiable from the images used in The Times and Strand Magazine). Standing there and guarded by a white-coat with a gun, I stared hard, struggling to convey something of my fear in a way that might prompt them into one of their famous rescues.

But as Moriarty pressed a button on the steam engine, any hope I had of liberation slipped away like a lover in the night.

With a screech of gears, the floor began its descent.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mary and The Colonel


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

As we were tied up facing away from the end of the room, it was tricky to see what was going on, but I managed to shuffle my chair back and forth and twist around enough to watch the proceedings. The elevator-type floor descended, while Moriarty barked at his henchmen, their Lugers at the ready. He and Klopp stood side by side, with Fu Manchu and that forger chap next to them. I realised someone was missing from the group just as a hand touched my knee.

‘Mrs Watson,’ purred Colonel Moran, crouching next to me. ‘Feisty little thing, aren’t you?’ His hand slid around to my bottom.

‘Get off me, moron,’ I snapped.

‘You mean Moran,’ he said.

‘I know what I mean.’

He sniffed and sat back on his haunches, watching me. ‘You know, Mary, even with that wonky eye, you’re a startlingly attractive woman. If you and I were able to get to know one another a little, I could spare your life.’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I don’t drop my knickers for villains.’

‘But you already did,’ he said, sniggering.

I turned away from him and in doing so, caught sight of what Johnny and Lestrade were up to—Lestrade had a small pair of scissors in his fingers and had managed to snip through his own ropes. Now his attention was on my husband’s bonds.

Turning back to Moran, I smiled at him and put on my ‘coy’ face, determined to keep his focus on me. ‘Of course, you’re not any old villain, are you, Sebastian?’

He gazed into my eyes and began fondling my knee again. ‘I’m not?’

‘No,’ I murmured. ‘I mean, for one thing, you’ve got a really big gun, haven’t you?’

Amazingly, the man became embarrassed and dropped his head to look at the floor. Luckily, he faced away from Lestrade and Johnny. If I could keep him occupied for a few more precious seconds, we’d still have a chance.

At that moment, the descending floor thumped into place, and Moran jumped up and stalked off to join Moriarty.

‘Mary,’ hissed Holmes. I looked over and saw he’d wriggled one hand free of the ropes and clutched the box of Swan Vestas. ‘Can you get a match out?’

Shuffling my chair closer, I managed to get two fingers into the box and with a bit of fiddling around, picked out a single matchstick.

‘Strike it?’ I said, glancing over to the crowd at the far end of the room.

He nodded, holding the box as close as he could to my fingers and the single match. With a quick movement, I hit the thing against the course side of the matchbox. It burst into flame, and I leaned over, holding it under one of the ropes tying Sherlock to the chair.

A movement behind me told me our plan was discovered, and Colonel Moran leaned down and blew out the match.

‘Naughty, naughty,’ he said with a sneer. Looking across at my companions he saw that Johnny and Lestrade had almost succeeded in freeing themselves. ‘Don’t bother, chaps,’ he said. Pulling a long knife from a sheath tied to his shin, he held the blade in front of my face. ‘Time for slicing.’ With that, he cut through my ropes, then moving across to the others, freed them of their remaining bonds.

‘Get over there,’ he shouted, indicating an area away from the tables. One of the minions hurried over to guard us, his gun pointing straight at Holmes.

Free of the chairs, we could now see what was happening with the new arrivals. I recognised Agatha Christie immediately and saw that she had a small gun in her hand. Unfortunately, five guns were also pointing right back at her.

If this was the famous novelist’s attempt at a rescue, she’d better re-think the dénouement.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mary and the Professor


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

We stood in silence for a few moments while Moriarty and Klopp huddled together. Though I could hear nothing of their conversation, from Klopp’s puce-coloured upturned face and Moriarty’s scowling mouth, there could be no doubt they were arguing.

Holmes leaned towards me. ‘I don’t imagine you have a sgian-dubh down your trouser-leg, Watson?’

‘Alas, no,’ I muttered. Then something else occurred to me. ‘But I do still have that jar of chilli sauce in my pocket.’

Holmes closed his eyes and smiled beatifically, as if in the throes of an orgasmic dream. Then his features dropped back into their usual expressionless gaze and he whispered, ‘Excellent.’

Klopp barked an unintelligible order at the group of white-coated workers nearest her, prompting the minions to hurry away. They returned in a flash, carrying high-backed chairs much like those in the dining room.

Behind me, Lestrade leaned forward. ‘What’s a sgian-dubh?’

‘A small knife,’ I said. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got one?’

He shook his head. ‘Not a sgian-dubh, but I do ‘ave a pair of nail scissors and a needle and thread pinned under my lapel.’

‘Really? Why?’

He sniffed. ‘The missus makes me carry ‘em. She won’t sew on buttons, see, so I ‘ave ter do it meself.’

‘Think you could cut through my bonds?’

‘What bonds?’

‘The ones we’re about to be tied up with,’ I said, nodding towards the minions.

The white-coats lined us up, instructing us to sit. The expected ropes appeared. In a trice, they lashed all four of us to the chairs like pigs in blankets. Except with rope, instead of bacon. Obviously.

Holmes and I were close enough to speak in low tones. ‘I think I can reach the jar,’ I said.

‘See if you can conceal it in your hand and get the lid off.’

‘Of course,’ I said, wishing I’d done that earlier.

‘Good. I’ve got a plan.’ Turning to face Mary, who was next to him, Holmes said in a loud voice, ‘Is it true what they say about a woman scorned, my dear?’ I knew from his tone of voice that he had also imparted some secret message to my dear wife. Her answer confirmed it.

‘Scorned, Holmes? Fucking scorned? I tell you, if that Italian lothario came back in here now, I’d tear his bloody face off.’ Her voice had risen in pitch to a near scream. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was really pissed off.

‘What’s that?’ said Moriarty, looking over. ‘The little woman rising from her baby carriage, is she?’

‘It’s ‘getting out of her pram’, you imbecile,’ said Holmes. He turned to me, ‘These bloody Scandinavians. Tch.’

Moriarty erupted. ‘Scandinavian? You think I’m Scandinavian?’

‘Aren’t you?’ said Holmes.

‘I’m an Icelander, you dolt, which makes me Nordic, not Scandinavian.’

Mary turned to Holmes. With a voice dripping in pure condescension, she said, ‘See, I told you.’

Moriarty glared at her. ‘Told him what?’

‘Oh, nothing. Just that I always knew there was something wrong with that so-called ice-cream seller.’

‘Something wrong?’

‘Yes. A Scandinavian lover wouldn’t have had such a tiny–’

‘No!’ he screamed. ‘Do not tell them. Do not, do not, do not!’

‘A tiny willie,’ said Mary, sniggering.

‘Now!’ shouted Holmes.

‘Sorry, what?’ said I.

Holmes stared at me and hissed, ‘The Chilli sauce, Watson. Throw it.’

‘I can’t get it out of my pocket,’ I said, demonstrating my inability to move.

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake …’

‘You didn’t give me a bloody chance,’ I said. ‘I’m not fucking Houdini.’

‘That, my dear Watson, is patently obvious.’

A sudden grinding noise came from the area at the back of the vast space. Twisting round, I saw that the floor we had arrived on had begun to move back up. I glanced at Holmes. ‘D’you think that’s …?’

‘Our saviour?’ muttered Holmes. ‘I do, Watson, I do.’

‘What’s happening?’ barked Moriarty, pushing workers aside as he stormed across the floor. ‘Who is that?’

Klopp hurried across to join him, shouting orders at the white-coated underlings. The pair stood gazing upwards as the floor reached its meeting point with the stone steps above and a second later began to slide back down again.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Outmanoeuvred Detective


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

‘You’re forgetting something,’ I said, raising my revolver.

‘Ah,’ said Moriarty. ‘I did hope to avoid your typical English tit-for-tat behaviour.’

Holmes had also raised his weapon, but the villain showed no sign of having been outmanoeuvred.

‘Would you, my dear?’ said Moriarty, inclining his head to one side.

Klopp stepped forward and reached out to take our guns.

‘Hah,’ said Holmes, ‘you think I don’t have the nerve?’ And with that, he pulled the trigger.

For the second time that day, there was a dull click.

Holmes sighed. ‘Typical.’

‘Vot’s vrong, Holmes?’ said Klopp, grasping our weapons by the barrels. ‘Did you zeriously zink ve vould haf let you vander round wiz guns full of real bullets?’ She laughed and threw the revolvers on the floor behind her. ‘No, papier mâché, a wemarkably fwexible material.’

Moriarty made a gesture towards two of the white-coated workers and the pair stepped towards us, each one holding a German Luger.

‘Keep them covered,’ said the Evil Genius. ‘And if anyone moves before Mrs Christie gets here, kill them.’

‘Now, just wait a bleedin minute,’ said Lestrade, pushing past me. ‘I’ve met this Mrs Christie and she ain’t a bad old girl if yer ask me, so I’d like to know just what you fink she’s going ter do when she gets ‘ere.’

I nudged his arm. ‘It isn’t Mrs Christie we need to worry about,’ I said. ‘It’s the other one. Ratched.’

‘Oh, right. Sorry.’

‘Yes,’ said Moriarty. ‘So, to clarify, Maudie will aid Mrs Christie in locating us down here. She will escort the silly woman into the dining room which will then descend into our little departure lounge over yonder, where she and you will be … departed, forever. After that, our team here will make the final preparations to begin the takeover of Londen.’

‘Don’t think so,’ said Holmes. ‘I think you underestimate the cunning of our favourite lady novelist.’

‘I do not underestimate her cunning at all, Holmes,’ said the Evil Genius, ‘but I’m sure you’ll agree, real life is not one of her strong points. Take that eleven-day disappearance of hers—hardly the actions of a sound mind, eh?’ He laughed. ‘No, I don’t think we have anything to fear from that quarter.’

I had to admit, I could see Moriarty’s point—a middle-aged woman who spends her time drinking tea and writing novels is hardly likely to parachute in, all guns blazing, and save the day.

All in all, things were looking rather bleak.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Holmes Explains – Mostly…


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

‘I don’t bloody believe it,’ said Holmes. ‘Professor James Moriarty.’ The Great Detective shook his head. ‘But it makes no sense—why would you go to all this trouble just to kill me?’

‘As it happens,’ said Moriarty, rubbing the last traces of rubber from his face, ‘killing you would be an added bonus. Take a look around you—not everything is about Sherlock Holmes.’ With a sneer, he turned and nodded to a group of individuals who had so far remained hidden behind a screen further up the hall. As they moved forward, I recognised one of them immediately.

‘Klopp.’ Holmes laughed. ‘Still striving for that ultimate wewenge?’

‘Do not taunt me, Holmes,’ she said, scornfully. ‘You haf no more chances in your community chest.’

‘What’s she bleedin on about?’ said I.

‘Monopoly,’ whispered Mary.

‘Oh, right.’ I was none the wiser.

‘And now we are all here, perhaps you are acquainted wiz my colleagues?’ Klopp waved a hand and the four strangers moved closer.

Holmes let out a long, low groan.

‘I reckon I know who the Chinese bloke is,’ I muttered to Watson, ‘but what about the others?’

The doctor was about to reply when Holmes piped up, ‘The one with the drooping moustache, as you guessed, is Fu Manchu, apparently not in Burma. Next to him is the forger Austin Bidwell. Then there’s the Lambeth Garage Poisoner Reggie Stocks and of course, our old pal Colonel Sebastian Moran. A veritable bevvy of bunglers.’

‘Oh yes, Moran,’ I said. ‘Didn’t recognise ‘im wiv that beard.’

‘And you, Inspector Lestrade,’ said Moriarty, turning his attention to me. ‘So nice of you to join us. I feel we’ve left you out of our adventures of late.’

‘That’s all right,’ I said. ‘I ain’t bovvered.’ Despite my bravado, my face flushed and a horrible feeling of uncertainty swept over me.

‘But I’m happy that you can take part in this small … how must we say … conclusion?’

‘You mean murder,’ said Holmes.

‘Call it what you will, but as I told you, ending your miserable little lives was Professor Klopp’s aim, not mine. Unlike her, I rather enjoy your little interferences.’ He stepped to one side. ‘And now, if Doctor Watson would be so good as to ask his question …’

Watson coughed. ‘Sorry, what question?’

Moriarty sighed. ‘The one you always ask when Holmes solves a case.’

The Doc looked blank for a moment, then his face lit up. ‘Ah.’ He hesitated, glanced at Holmes, then said, ‘But what I still don’t understand is, why set up all these people to kill each other for no reason?’

Frau Klopp smiled. ‘You see, Holmes, at least your rather stupid friend has ze decency to ask ze question, vhich of course, you cannot answer.’ She shrugged.

‘Oh, but I know the answer,’ said Holmes, rather smugly.

Klopp’s face dropped. ‘No, you don’t. You cannot know. You haf no idea.’

‘Yes, I have, actually,’ Holmes continued, ‘and I’d be happy to share it with you.’

Klopp’s face turned beetroot with rage, her mouth twisting into a snarling grimace much like my Aunt Bertha’s pet bulldog. Finally, she nodded. ‘Fine. Haf it your vay.’

‘Well,’ said Holmes, taking out his meerschaum, ‘I must admit the whole thing did rather stump me for a while. You see, I couldn’t work out why you’d go to all the bother of having each guest kill another guest.’ He stuck the pipe in his mouth but didn’t take the trouble to light it.

‘Zat’s easy,’ said Klopp, ‘I zimply—’

‘Hold your fire, Frau Rent-a-mouth. I haven’t finished.’

Klopp growled, but said nothing.

‘You see,’ Holmes went on, ‘the thing made no sense at all, unless you looked at it from that precise point of view.’

‘And vot point of view is zat?’ said Klopp.

‘That it makes no sense. In which case the only sense one can make of it is that the whole thing intends to make the detective—me—think he cannot solve it.’

‘Vich is entirely correct,’ said Klopp, triumphantly. ‘It vas a game, a game designed to baffle and befuddle you and force you to admit that you are not ze greatest detectif in ze vorld after all. And so, because you haf not solved it, you vill haf to kill yourself.’ She clapped her hands together. ‘Tah-Dah!’

Holmes took out a box of Swan Vestas and lit a match. ‘And that’s where your plan falls apart, Klopp.’ Taking his time, he relit his pipe and puffed away. ‘Because, being Englishmen, my companions and I do not view failure as a reason to take our own lives.’

Klopp’s face had turned an even deeper shade of beetroot. ‘Yes, you vould! Zat is vot Englishmen do!’

‘Sorry, old thing,’ said Holmes. ‘But it isn’t.’

‘Told you it wouldn’t work,’ said Colonel Moran, striding forward. ‘Let me get my elephant gun. Blow them all to buggery.’

‘Perhaps I could shoot them all with poisoned darts?’ suggested Fu Manchu.

‘Or I could give ‘em a nice glass of cyanide,’ muttered the Lambeth Garage Poisoner.

‘What about a death sentence, signed by the Queen?’ said Bidwell the forger. ‘It’d be no bother to run one off the press. Easy as pie, actually.’

‘No, I don’t think so,’ said Moriarty. ‘The fact is, killing these pieces of garbage was only a means of ridding ourselves of the four people in Londen who cause each of us the most trouble.’

‘But if zey are not going to kill themselves, vot are we going to do wiz zem?’ demanded Klopp.

‘Simple,’ said Moriarty. ‘We’ll leave them in the capable hands of Agatha Christie.’

I glanced at Holmes and saw his face darken. This was something he hadn’t expected.

Moriarty pulled out a half hunter and glanced at it. ‘By my calculations, she will at this very moment be making the trip across to the island in a paddle steamer accompanied by her faithful maid, Maudie.’

Klopp’s face brightened. ‘Ah, Maudie. I vonder if she still does a bit of nursing on ze side.’ She cackled fiercely.

I looked at Holmes. ‘Nursing?’

Holmes gave a short, humourless laugh. ‘I see,’ he said. ‘Maudie. Also known as Mathilda. Mathilda Ratched, in fact, formerly of The Ullswater Institute for the Utterly Indisposed, where I spent a little time during a previous adventure.’

‘Yes,’ said Moriarty. ‘I believe she had a few difficulties finding work after your, ahm, meddling. I further believe she would like to settle your hash, if that’s the correct expression?’

‘Yes, Professor,’ said Holmes. ‘It is.’

‘Zen,’ said Klopp, ‘zer is only one more zing to zay.’ She looked at Moriarty.

The master villain smiled, and said, ‘Mwah, hah, hah!’

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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