Diary of Doctor J. Watson
While Holmes and Lestrade set the bomb to blow off the front door, Mary and I went about finding Maudie Ratched. If she were indeed in the building, we wouldn’t have time to search everywhere. As a starting point, we ran back to the kitchens and discovered the staff we’d met earlier had all gone.
‘Maybe they were Blackwood’s men,’ suggested Mary.
‘Perhaps, but then why did that waiter help us?’
Mary gave me a look. ‘Right—he helped us waste valuable minutes when we should’ve been searching for Blackwood.’
‘Ah. So he did.’
We did a quick assessment of the built-in gas freezer and larder, then hurried back into the main corridor.
‘There must be a cellar here,’ I said. ‘That’d be the obvious place to hide Ratched.’
Taking the stairs two at a time, we made our way through the downstairs lounge bars and library, but there were no obvious hiding places. Heading to the rear of the building, we found steps leading to the cellar. I pushed open the door.
‘There’s a light down here.’
‘Could be a trap,’ said Mary.
‘Let’s find out.’
The steps led into the wine cellar, where row upon row of vintage wines and champagnes filled every available space. It seemed a shame to leave them all to be blown to Hell, but I pushed the idea out of my head. Besides, I’d only be able to fit one bottle in each of my jacket pockets.
At the end of one of the wine racks, the room turned into an L-shape and the source of light became obvious.
Maudie Ratched lay strapped onto a workbench, stark naked and with a pair of hurricane lamps placed at either side of her head. A bandage encased her right wrist, while her upper body showed signs of having been badly beaten. Despite all her nastiness, I couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor villain.
‘Doctor Watson,’ she sobbed, tears coursing down the sides of her face and into her ears. ‘You’ve come to save me.’
I coughed at the sight of her womanhood—on show for all the world to see. Or at least, me and Mary. ‘Actually, Maudie, we’re here for the antidote.’
She let out a howling laugh. ‘Of course. I should have known my life would be meaningless to you.’
‘All life is precious, Miss Ratched,’ I said, my doctor’s sensibilities rising to the fore. ‘Now, am I right in thinking the antidote is hidden up your…ahm…’
‘Up my front bottom. Yes.’
I noticed a sink nearby and began to wash my hands.
‘Johnny,’ said Mary. ‘I don’t think we have time for the niceties of your bedside manner.’
‘Just habit, dear,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you do something about those straps?’
As Mary began to unfasten Maudie’s bonds, I began my internal investigation. Though this sort of procedure would not normally affect me, I found myself becoming strangely aroused. Forcing myself to think of good wholesome things like cricket, Wedgewood pottery and summer meadows, I felt heartened when my unwanted stiffy began to subside. When my fingers came into contact with the base of a small glass bottle, I gave it a gentle tug. Extracting the object from Ratched’s orifice, I felt my face flush scarlet as the object provoked a loud slurp.
Giving the bottle a wipe, I cast my eyes over the label:
H. Blackwood’s All-healing Antidote
For use by Dr J. Watson
(Should he be clever enough to find it).
Mary unfastened the last of the straps holding the prisoner to the bench and located a dusty bedsheet to wrap around her.
As we reached the foot of the stone steps, I heard a loud boom followed by the kind of rumblings I’d become all too familiar with in Afghanistan. Holmes had succeeded in blowing off the front doors. At least we’d be able to escape.
Glancing at my pocket watch, I said, ‘Only a few minutes left. Mary, you take Ratched outside, I’ll get to work with the antidote.’
Mary grabbed my arms and pulled me to her bosom. ‘I don’t care about those old fogies, Johnny. Save Mycroft and the ambassadors, but please don’t get yourself killed.’
I nodded, feeling jolly uncertain about what I had to do.
While Mary and Ratched made their escape, I ran up the stairs to the dining room and crossed to where Mycroft still sat, staring ahead like a stuffed antelope.
Unscrewing the dropper from the bottle, I pulled Mycroft’s head back and dripped four drops into his mouth. By the time I’d done the same with the ambassadors, Mycroft had jumped to his feet.
‘Where’s Sherlock? Did he catch Blackwood? Has he located the bombs and diffused them?’
‘Don’t know, no, and no.’ I moved to the next table and continued my anti-poisoning schedule.
While Mycroft led the ambassadors out of the room, I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of irritation that I’d been left to save the lives of approximately forty strangers while the Holmes boys were saving themselves. But that wasn’t fair. After all, Holmes had rescued Mary and me.
Glancing at my watch again, I noted I had perhaps seven minutes before the bombs were due to go off. A quick look at the remaining diners told me there wouldn’t be enough time to get to them all. Dripping the antidote into the mouths of three more grizzled old men, I helped them to their feet and led them to the newly-formed exit at the front of the Club.
Outside, the street lay strewn with debris from the explosion. Holmes and Mary were on the opposite pavement talking to Mycroft.
‘I’ve done as much as I can,’ I muttered, handing the antidote to Sherlock.
He nodded, his face pale and tired. ‘Thank you, John. You’re a brick.’
‘Don’t call me a prick, you tart,’ I quipped, prompting laughter all round.
But the seriousness of the situation soon regained its hold as a thunderous blast shook the ground. We all turned to watch as the shuttered windows of the Diogenes Club blew outwards and the walls began to crumble downwards, clouds of filthy dust filling the air.
As the dust began to clear, I saw crowds of onlookers at either end of the street, several police constables straining to hold them back.
‘He and that doorman chappie went to Scotland Yard,’ said Holmes. ‘Though even if he got there in time to evacuate the building, he wouldn’t be able to save anyone who ate the soup.’
‘Now look here, Sherlock,’ said Mary, poking his chest. ‘We’ve all done our damnedest to stop Blackwood. If even a fraction of his intended victims has survived that’s one up to us.’
‘You’re right, Mary,’ said Holmes. ‘Which reminds me, we have an appointment with Lord Blackwood.’ He glanced at his pocket watch. ‘He’ll be at his country residence by now with his collection of bent politicians. God knows what he’ll be telling them.’
‘Where is this country residence?’ said Mary.
‘Tossingly Park House. About ten miles from here.’
‘Then there’s no time to lose.’
‘I think you’d better stay here with Mycroft, Mary,’ said Holmes.
‘Don’t be a twat, Sherlock. I’m not missing this for anything.’
Holmes grinned and the three of us ran off, leaving Ratched in the care of Mycroft and a brace of constables.
Whatever Blackwood had in mind, I had no idea if we’d be able to stop him. Indeed, his villainous plan might already be in motion, in which case we might simply be giving him another opportunity to finish us off for good.
Commandeering a police carriage, Holmes whipped the horse into action, and we set off for what might be our last attempt to prevent the whole of Londen falling into the hands of a criminal mastermind.