Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)
Colonel Moran and his nursey sidekick stood there grinning at us for a moment, before slinking off into another room, leaving the two thugs guarding the door.
“Where did they pick you up?” I said, keeping my voice low.
“Literally seconds after I’d left the Marks Brothers shop,” said Holmes. “I turned a corner, and someone put a knife to my throat.” He nodded towards one of the thugs.
“They made no attempt to disguise themselves, then?”
He gave me a sad smile. “I know what you’re thinking, Mary—we’ve seen their faces, so they clearly have no intention of keeping us alive.”
“But why have they only taken you and I?”
Holmes made a face. “I can only surmise they’re holding your husband and Lestrade somewhere else.” He frowned. “Though that makes little sense—why use two hideouts when one would do just as well? And if they intend to kill us anyway…”
“Unless they haven’t been taken,” I said.
Holmes rubbed his chin. “But if that’s the case, Johnny and Lestrade would surely notice our absence.”
“Maybe that’s what they want—to create confusion.”
Pulling up a chair to the fire, I sat for a moment, contemplating our situation. “Could Moran be in league with Blackwood?”
Holmes shook his head. “As I recall, Blackwood had Moran horsewhipped for fornicating with Blackwood’s own mistress. The pair hate each other’s guts. Which means it’s unlikely the two are now working together.”
I felt my mouth drop open. “Sherlock, d’you realise you’ve just quoted from one of Johnny’s stories?”
He frowned. “Really? One of my famous explanations?”
I coughed. “Well, no, actually. It’s from a piece Johnny wrote a few years ago about the murder of Lady Campanula Tottington of Tottington Hall—you suspected Blackwood and Moran but couldn’t prove it.”
“So it is one of my famous explanations?”
I bit my lip. “No, Holmes. Johnny told me how you’d gone into this long monologue about the rivalry between Blackwood and Moran, but that it was far too longwinded to use in the story, so he…paraphrased it.”
Holmes made an ‘O’ shape with his mouth. “Oh, well. I suppose one’s biographer must exercise the editorial red pen at times. Yes… Blackwood had a solid alibi and Moran couldn’t be traced. But in any case, it seemed unlikely the pair would have been in cahoots.” He peered at me. “The story didn’t appear in The Strand Magazine, did it?”
I looked away. “It didn’t, but Johnny submitted it to a periodical in Ireland—The Irish Investigator Monthly. They published it with the proviso that the case couldn’t be proved.”
Holmes let out a long sigh. “Which doesn’t alter the fact that Moran and Blackwood are highly unlikely to be in this together.”
“Unless Moran is trying to get rid of both Blackwood and us at the same time. With Moriarty dead, that would leave Moran free to take over both criminal empires.”
“Who says Moriarty is dead?”
“Moran told me. In the cab.”
“And you believed him?”
I shrugged. “Why would he lie?”
At that point, Moran himself came back into the room. “So, Mr Sherlock-Cleverclogs-Holmes…have you worked it out, yet?”
Holmes stared at him. “Where are Watson and Lestrade?”
Moran smiled. “All in good time. I’ve arranged a little entertainment for them. It’ll be interesting to see how they react when they realise the Sherlock Holmes they’ve been conversing with at the Olde Gin Shoppe, isn’t their Sherlock Holmes.”
Holmes laughed quietly. “A stooge. You’ve put a stooge in my place? And you seriously expect they won’t notice?”
Moran ran a tongue along his lower lip. “They haven’t so far.”
“And what’s the point?” I said.
“The point, Mrs Watson, is to have a little fun before…” He sniggered. “Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?”
Still giggling away to himself, he went out, leaving us to ponder on his words.
We sat quietly for a few minutes, considering what we knew. Or rather, what we didn’t know. I couldn’t see any reason for carrying out the charade of replacing Holmes with a lookalike simply to entertain Moran. Then something occurred to me.
“Sherlock, d’you think it’s a test? A way of trying out their stooge to see if Johnny and the inspector notice?”
Holmes nodded slowly. “If this ‘stooge’ is good, he might fool them for a short while, or even fool them completely, and if he can deceive two individuals who know me well…”
“He could fool anyone.”
His mouth tightened into a hard line. “Because, Mary, if Londen’s only consulting detective and his closest friends could be replaced with an imposter, the entire city would be open to the worst cravings of the criminal underworld. And if one man controlled that underworld…”
“Shit indeed.” Holmes rubbed a hand over his face. “Our only hope is that Blackwood puts a stop to Moran’s plans before everything gets out of control.”
“But why would Blackwood do that?”
“That’s the problem, Mary—he wouldn’t.”