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.