RSS

Tag Archives: Mrs Watson

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.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 22, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 14, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 7, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 25, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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!’

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 20, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Into the Darkness


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

The route to the cellar took us towards the kitchens where a narrow staircase led to the wine cellar and then, presumably, to other areas below stairs. Pushing the door open, I was glad to see the owner of the house (whoever he or she turned out to be) had installed electric lighting in the cellar. Unfortunately, the wiring that ran along the wall didn’t seem to have a switch attached to it.

‘Hold on,’ said Holmes, barring the doorway. ‘Better take lanterns. I don’t relish total darkness.’

Back in the kitchen, we located the butler’s stock of hurricane lamps, and after lighting two and ensuring each had enough wick to keep burning for an hour or so, we headed back to the cellar door.

Holmes went first, followed by Johnny, me, and Lestrade. The stone stairs had no railing for support and with no sense of what we might find at the bottom, I began to wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

‘There’s another door down there,’ said Johnny, turning to look at me. He gave me a quick smile but couldn’t hide the dread in his eyes.

At the foot of the stairs, we gathered in the small space. Johnny and Holmes readied themselves, revolvers held high. Grasping the handle of the door, Holmes twisted it.

‘Locked, eh?’ said Lestrade.

‘No,’ said Holmes. ‘In fact, it’s not a door at all. Like the library books, it’s painted on, with a handle to make it look real.’

‘Look for a light switch,’ I said, feeling around on the wall beside me. Before I could locate anything useful, a familiar sensation began to make itself known.

As one, we looked at the floor. It had begun to vibrate, and I struggled to stay upright as the ground dropped slowly away.

‘Keep together,’ said Holmes, grabbing my hand and Johnny’s sleeve. ‘Lestrade—stay close.’

A spurt of steam shot up along the edges of the floor as the ground dropped steadily. I’d experienced modern elevators like the Americans have, but this was something different. The mechanism for moving the floor up and down would have to be immense. Gripping my husband’s hand, I waited as we sank below the level of the walls, leaving an open and indistinct space all around us. It felt as if we were standing on a sinking island in the middle of a dark and unfriendly ocean.

A sudden jerk as the floor thudded to a stop might have caused me to collapse in a heap had it not been for the support of my companions. For a moment, we stood there, the small pool of light from our lanterns illuminating our faces and little else, as we stared into the blackness that engulfed us.

‘Proceed?’ whispered Holmes. But the question remained unanswered, for at that moment there was a sharp report, like metal on metal, and the whole place lit up.

For a long moment, none of us could speak. The scene before us was one of such absurdity that I could scarcely take it in. The square stone floor we stood on had come to rest at one end of a vast arena. The height of the place must have been something close to sixty feet, with a ceiling crisscrossed by a pattern of steel girders, gears, pulleys, and ropes. Staring upwards, I could make out the layout of the rooms above us, the dining, library, and drawing rooms recognisable from their particular shapes. Attached to the floors of each of these were lengthy iron struts, each one connected to a massive steam engine located in the centre of the vast space. I realised the engine must enable the rise or fall of each room at the flick of a lever. Oddly, the engine seemed to have no link to the floor we stood on, meaning this one must be controlled separately.

‘How nice of you to join us,’ said a voice in the distance.

Only now, as I moved away from Johnny to see who had spoken, did I notice the six enormous square tables that took up the main area of the space before us. Covering each table were huge maps, dotted with models of buildings, landmarks, flags and other identifying features. Groups of men and women in white coats clutched clipboards and moved around the tables, shifting pieces on the maps as if it were some gigantic board game.

‘It’s Londen,’ gasped Holmes, gazing at each one in turn. ‘The whole bloody city, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Fleet Street, Londen Bridge …’

‘Well, I never,’ said Lestrade, ‘they’ve even got Scotland Yard. See that tobacco-stained window? That’s where my office is.’

Holmes gave him a withering look, and the inspector regained his composure.

‘Yes, yes, it’s all there,’ said the voice, moving closer. ‘City of delights and dossers, prostitutes and peasants, rich men, poor men … If only there were a network of devilishly devious individuals, wicked enough and clever enough to exert the right amount of pressure in those high government places, easing out the good, ushering in the bad, bringing pain and death where necessary.’ He laughed gaily, as if describing some grand and beneficial plan for the future of mankind. ‘It is a beautiful dream, is it not? A dream that can, and will, become a reality. As you can see,’ he waved a hand around the room, ‘The scene is set. All that remains is to take care of a certain group of do-gooders who repeatedly, continually, constantly get in our bloody way.’ He paused. ‘That’s you, in case you hadn’t guessed.’

The speaker had moved to within a few feet of our little group. Though his appearance was familiar, the voice didn’t match that of the man I’d expected.

‘Mister Lombardi?’ I said, staring at his face.

‘For a while, yes.’ He turned to Johnny. ‘I must admit to feeling a little disappointed, Doctor. I had begun to hope the infamous sidekick of Sherlock Holmes might have a bit more about him than playing the role of ‘rather stupid friend’ to a famous detective. I thought you of all people would have made the connection.’

‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ said Johnny, puffing his chest out. ‘Tell us who the hell you are.’

‘Ah, no, no, no,’ said the other, laughing. ‘Indulge me for a moment.’ He assumed a pose, one finger resting against the side of his face as if in pensive mood. ‘While you were stretched out on that table a little while ago, pretending to be dead, and you listened as three sets of footsteps approached the dining room door, did you not think to yourself that one of those sets of footsteps sounded familiar?’

Johnny hesitated, and I could tell he was momentarily stumped, then I heard a sharp intake of breath.

‘I did,’ he said, his voice low. ‘I thought one man’s step was light and quick. It reminded me of the confident, swaggering gait of …’ His eyes flared. ‘That infernal ice-cream seller, Mario.’

‘There now,’ said the other man, clapping his hands delightedly. ‘I knew you could do it.’

‘You utter bastard,’ I muttered. ‘Why, if I were a man, I’d …’

‘But you’re not, Mary, so shut the fuck up.’

His voice had changed again. This time it had a deep timbre to it and a hint of a Scandinavian inflection. Puzzled, I felt my anger slip away.

‘All those hours taking advantage of a silly little woman, who imagined a handsome and virile ice-cream seller would have nothing better to do than spend time giving pleasure to a wonky-eyed doctor’s wife …’ he laughed again. ‘No, my intentions were far simpler—to lay the groundwork of this little play of ours which has entertained us so much over the last few days. But now, let me enlighten you further …’ Reaching up, he grasped his left cheek, pulled, and the features we’d known as Lombardi’s peeled away. Underneath was the face of Mario Garganelli, his handlebar moustache (the one that had tickled me in places I daren’t even think about) twitching impertinently. But then the fellow began to pull at the other side of his neck, shedding a second layer of rubber, hair, and whiskers. A moment later, the man’s real face emerged.

‘Oh dear.’ I felt my legs go all wobbly.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , ,

Looking for Lombardi


Diary of Doctor J Watson

The mechanism forcing the floor of the library upwards, emitted a final metallic groan and juddered to a stop, leaving the four of us in a sudden and eerie silence.

‘That was too bloody near the bloody knuckle,’ said Lestrade, straightening his tie. ‘Thought my time ‘ad come, I did.’

‘Yes,’ said Holmes. ‘I admit an ascending floor was a long way down my list of possible scenarios.’

I pulled a face. ‘What? You mean it was something you’d considered?’

Holmes chuckled. ‘Bearing in mind what we’ve seen recently, Doctor, it’s not so surprising, is it?’

‘No, I suppose not.’

‘At least we know who screwed Miss Claymore’s chair to the floor,’ said Mary.

‘So we do,’ said Lestrade, setting off towards the conservatory where we’d left Mister Lombardi.

‘Wait a minute, Lestrade,’ called Holmes.

The inspector turned. ‘Yes?’

Holmes held up his hands in a gesture of disbelief. ‘You imagine he’s still there? Tied to his chair?’

Lestrade blinked. ‘Well, he might be.’

Holmes rolled his eyes and turned to me. ‘Tell him, Watson.’

I coughed. ‘If Lombardi screwed the chair to the floor, he could only have done it after we’d left him in there and gone back to the dining room to question General MacArthur and before we went into the library to question Miss Claymore. It’s unlikely he screwed the chair down and then went back to the conservatory, tied himself up again and is in there right now, sitting waiting for us.’

Lestrade waved a finger at me. ‘I still say he might be….’

‘He’s right,’ said Mary, stepping forward. ‘If Lombardi isn’t aware that we know about the chair, he could still be in there.’

Holmes pondered on this and gave a quick nod. ‘Mary’s right. Apologies, Lestrade – you’re not so stupid after all.’

‘Thanks,’ said Lestrade, grinning, then realising what Holmes had said, added, ‘Hang on, what d’yer mean, stupid?’ But we were already hurrying down the passage towards the conservatory.

Reaching the door, Holmes barrelled through into the oversized hothouse. Unlike the greenhouse in the garden, this was a masterpiece of modern engineering. A high-domed roof of shaped and ornate glass panels and supported by a low brick surround towered above us, the sunlight searing through the glass, its sudden glare causing us to shade our eyes.

Apart from a few tropical palms and tree ferns, the space was largely given over to an arrangement of wicker chairs, sofas and low rattan-style tables – it was a space for relaxation. Only one item of furniture did not fit in with the décor. A single dining room chair stood in the centre of the space, the ropes that had secured Lombardi to it lay strewn about the floor, having been cleanly sliced through.

‘Bugger,’ said Holmes.

‘We have to check Billy Blah,’ said Mary, tugging at my sleeve.

‘Right,’ said Holmes spinning round.

Hurrying back to the staircase, we followed him through into the drawing room. As expected, the chair we’d left next to the French windows that had previously supported Mister Blah’s bulk, stood empty. The ropes on the floor, like Lombardi’s, had been sliced through.

‘It’s Klopp,’ muttered Holmes. ‘She let them go in order to finish them off before we can get to them.’

‘Really?’ I said. ‘Why not cut their throats where they sat? Far easier.’

Holmes rubbed his chin. ‘Then perhaps she has a more important role for them to play,’ he said.

‘I don’t think so,’ said Mary in a low voice. ‘There’s something on the grass.’

We all turned to look. Sure enough, twenty yards or so across the lawn, lay what appeared to be a bundle of bloody clothing.

‘Watson,’ barked Holmes. ‘Check your weapon.’ So saying, he pulled out his revolver and a handful of shells, slotting them into their allotted places. ‘I’ve had enough of protecting the innocent,’ he muttered. ‘If anyone else thinks Sherlock Holmes is a softy, they’ll be disappointed.’

Reloading my own gun, I followed Holmes through the French windows. Adopting a pincer movement with Lestrade bringing up the rear, we fanned out, keeping our eyes wide open for signs of an ambush. But the lawn was deserted and the only item in sight was recognisable as the body of Billy Blah. The poor man was pegged out like a human tent, hands and feet skewered, his body spread-eagled in a macabre reproduction of Tony Marston’s grisly death. Across his chest, a deep red gash told me that no amount of bedside manner would be of use to him now.

‘He’s still alive,’ I said, crouching down. Leaning close, I felt his rasping breath against my cheek. For a moment, I could make out nothing, then with a final effort, he spat out his parting words.

‘I…fuckin…told…you…’

Looking up at Holmes, I shook my head.

‘Back inside,’ he said, eyes darting here and there.

Leaving the body to the birds, I ran back to the house. ‘Only Lombardi now,’ I said.

‘And Klopp,’ muttered Lestrade.

‘Is it just me,’ said Mary, ‘or have we failed horribly in this investigation?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘you’re right, we have failed horribly.’

‘Not so,’ said Holmes, shaking his gaunt features. ‘We may have proved unsuccessful in saving the lives of almost every one of our companions, but we four are still here and as long as I’m alive, I intend to fight this thing to the bitter end.’

‘Excellent,’ said Mary with only a hint of sarcasm. ‘So happy we’re all on the same page.’

Holmes glared at her. ‘Well, what do you suggest, Mrs Watson?’

‘I suggest we find out what makes the floors go up and down.’

‘Yes,’ said Holmes, avoiding her gaze, ‘that’s exactly what I was about to say.’

‘Takes a bloody sick mind to do that to a bloke,’ muttered Lestrade, staring at the body on the lawn. ‘Ere, you don’t fink Hannibal Lecter’s involved in this, do yer?’

‘If I’m right,’ said Holmes, ‘he’s probably the only one who isn’t. Now, to the cellar.’

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 5, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: