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The Colonel’s Choice


From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Holmes nudged me. ‘This is our chance, Watson.’

Keeping our eyes on the action in front of us, we began to edge our way towards the partially open double doors. Moriarty was screaming and together with the Claw’s maniacal laughter and the screeching saw blade, we could have broken into a hearty four-part harmony without anyone paying us the remotest attention.

As we slid out of the warehouse, I glanced back and saw that the Professor was only inches away from certain death.

‘Look here, Holmes,’ I whispered. ‘We can’t just leave him like this.’

‘Why not – he fully intended doing the same thing to us in Edinburgh.’

I sighed. ‘I suppose, but it seems…’ And then I noticed there was someone standing nearby. A man in dark clothing walked slowly toward us, a rifle in his hands. It was pointing straight at Holmes.

‘Sherl…’ I said, tapping my companion on the arm. ‘We’ve got company.’

Holmes turned to look and immediately broke into a broad grin. ‘Chief Bromide – what on earth are you doing here?’ He started forward, then stopped abruptly.

The newcomer had reached up and taken off his hat. Now, pulling at his hair, he removed the long black wig. Holding the hairpiece like a duster, he proceeded to wipe his face, removing whatever dark pigment he had used to disguise his true colouring.

Holmes let out a low sigh. ‘Ah. Well, this is unexpected. I thought you were dead?’ He twisted round and looked at me. ‘Watson, I don’t believe you’ve met – this is Sebastian Moran, Professor Moriarty’s left-hand man.’

The other man levelled the gun so it was now pointing at Sherlock’s head. ‘It’s right-hand man, actually,’ he said. ‘Now, Mister Holmes, it seems I got here just in time.’ He waggled the rifle toward the still-open doors. ‘Get back inside.’

Holmes shook his head. ‘I think not, Colonel, you see if you want to save your boss, you’re not going to have time to shoot all of us, and the Claw, and his henchmen before the Professor gets his testicles divided, so I suggest you focus on what your employer would wish you to focus on. I should think you’ve got about eight seconds left…’ He nodded towards the warehouse.

Keeping the rifle trained on us, Moran peered through the crack in between the doors. A look of irritation swept over his face and in an instant, he had burst through the gap. Seconds later a hail of bullets told us it was time to go, so still tied together, we hurried down to the rowing boats.

I won’t bore you with the details of our escape but suffice it to say that the gigantic metal fish (which Holmes has christened the Nautilus), is now safely back in dry dock at Burgen, where a team of Government experts are trying to work out how it got stolen in the first place. Colonel Moran did save Moriarty’s life, but killed several people in the process, one of which may have been the Hooded Claw, although reports of his death have not been confirmed.

Penelope Pitstop retained her title at Brooklands race track a few weeks ago and promised to visit us all the next time she’s in Londen.

Our old friend Inspector Buckingham Caddy was called in to investigate events at The Ullswater Institute for the Utterly Indisposed, where a certain Nurse Ratched is facing questions regarding her continued employment as Matron.

For myself, there are several points in the case that still puzzle me, not least of which is why and how Penelope came to be involved, since there appears to be no connection between her and the Hooded Claw (or Moriarty, for that matter), leaving me with the impression that Holmes and I missed some vital clue. However, as my dear Mary says, it’ll all come out in the wash.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Revenge of the Claw


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As we watched, a familiar figure emerged out of the shadows.

‘Here he is – your own, your very own, Professor James Moriarty!’ The Hooded Claw waved his hook enthusiastically and the two villains embraced.

‘Good evening,’ said the Professor, smiling benignly. ‘Lovely to see you Mister Holmes, and so nice that you’re here with your faithful assistant, Mister Peabrain Watson, his whore of a wife and her lesbian lover.’

I was about to let rip with a torrent of vitriol, when Holmes held up a warning finger. ‘Don’t do it, John,’ he murmured. Then, raising his voice, ‘Sticks and stones, Professor, sticks and stones.’

‘Yes indeed,’ said the Claw, patting Moriarty on the shoulder. ‘But to business. As I intimated earlier to Doctor Watson, I do intend to kill you all, but that is not to happen for some considerable time yet.’ He paused and glanced at Moriarty, whose smile wavered a little. ‘No, what I’d like to do is to cause all four of you, but especially you, Shirley, to be brought before your English courts and tried for murder, then thrown into jail for a period of months where you will all be buggered soundly every day by the biggest and ugliest inmates, and then finally, I shall infiltrate the prison and execute each of you myself in a truly horrifying and wonderfully painful manner.’

Moriarty’s smile had disappeared, and an expression of absolute rage took its place. He stared at his companion and said in a low and threatening voice, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’

The Claw grinned and clicked his fingers. In an instant his men had grabbed Moriarty and tied his arms and legs using some of the leather straps from either side of the circular saw.

‘Claw! Claw,’ What’s going on?’ yelled the villain, struggling helplessly against his bonds.

‘Now, Mister Holmes,’ said the Claw, ignoring Moriarty’s protestations. ‘I should like you to tell me which of us…’ he waggled his hook between himself and the Professor. ‘Which of us is the greater villain?’

‘Ah,’ said Holmes. ‘I see.’

‘Come on, come on,’ urged the Claw, waving his arms.

‘Let me see, now,’ said Holmes rubbing his chin with his free hand. ‘Which of you is the greater?’ He made a show of considering this, then shrugged. ‘Clearly the Hooded Claw is the greater villain.’

‘Hah!’ yelled the Claw triumphantly.

‘Although…’ continued Holmes, thoughtfully.

The Claw ceased his revelry and stared. ‘Although what?’

‘Well,’ said Holmes. ‘In an ideal world there would be three villains to choose from.’

Both the Claw and Moriarty fell silent, then in perfect unison said, ‘Three?’

‘Three,’ said Holmes. He held up a finger. ‘The Professor, of course.’ Another finger. ‘Yourself.’ A third finger. ‘And the Woman.’

‘Sorry, what?’ said the Claw, his lower lip trembling slightly.

‘Sorry, I meant to say, The Woman,’ repeated Holmes. ‘Irene Adler.’

‘Fine,’ said the Claw, ‘but she’s not here, so who do you choose?’

Holmes shrugged again. ‘Moriarty.’

‘What?’ exploded the Claw, jumping up and down.

‘After all, he is the Napoleon of crime, so…’ He smiled. ‘Don’t you agree, Mister Claw?’

At this, the Claw spun round, screaming at Moriarty. ‘The Napoleon of crime, the Napoleon of fucking crime? Well, I’ll tell you, Moriarty, you’re just like Napoleon – small, ineffectual and dead from the neck down. Come and work with me, you said. I’ll teach you how to be a proper arch-villain, you said. Oh yes, had me running around like a headless goat doing this, doing that, doing every bloody thing you told me just so I could benefit from your massive intellectual abilities. Well, it’s time someone showed you who’s boss and I can tell you – it’s me!’ He waved a hand at the four of us and continued, ‘This bunch of incompetent defectives foiled my plans once before, but this time I’ve got the upper hand. I’m going to carve you up and blame it on Sherlock Bloody Holmes and his pals, then we’ll see who’s laughing.’

He barked out a series of orders and watched as his men tied the Professor onto the conveyor belt, legs wide, in a position that would enable his body to be sliced perfectly up the middle.

‘Start the machine,’ yelled the Claw.

One of the henchmen pressed a button and the circular saw screamed into life, its shimmering silvery disc demanding everyone’s attention. Another button was pressed, and the conveyor belt began to trundle along, propelling Moriarty towards what would be a quick, but painful death.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Game of Two Halves


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was dark when, some twenty minutes later and accompanied by a bevy of villains, we arrived via two rowing boats at the shore. Looking back at the vessel we had recently been extricated from, I wondered how the Claw expected to keep the thing hidden from public view – after all, being in the shape of a gigantic metal fish, it did seem unlikely it would not attract attention. However, as I watched, the metallic beast closed her hatches and slowly disappeared beneath the waves.

‘You are wondering where I keep it, eh?’ said a surprisingly softly-spoken Claw from his seat beside me.

‘Yes, actually,’ I said. ‘An underground cave, perhaps?’

He nodded. ‘As an arch villain, I have to think of everything. It can be tedious being the boss sometimes.’

‘You could always surrender?’

He giggled girlishly, gave me a playful punch on the arm, then resumed his usual gruffness and barked a series of orders at the crew.

From the look of the buildings ahead of us, we were making for a large warehouse a few yards up from the wharf. I noticed several other buildings behind the main one, though these were not lit up and the only signs of life came from the crowd of henchmen who were engaged in getting us out of the boats and into the warehouse.

As we trudged up the shingled beach, I tried to make out the details of the various pieces of apparatus that had been arranged just inside the huge double doors of the warehouse. A feeling of déjà vu wafted over me as I stared at the long workbench, the conveyor belt on top and the scarily-familiar circular saw that slotted into it at one end. Beneath the bench and the saw, sat a small steam engine, and as if that wasn’t enough to cause me to fill my trousers several times over, the horrific picture was completed by a series of leather straps fastened on either side of the table.

Hustling us inside, the henchmen lined us up against the wall and tied our wrists together. Holmes was tethered to me, me to Mary, and Mary to Penny, so the only chance of absconding would demand that all four of us cooperate. Though, at that moment, the possibility of escape seemed like a remote and highly unlikely scenario.

Holmes leaned over and whispered in my ear. ‘It may be my imagination Johnny, but this scenario looks awfully familiar.’

I nodded. ‘Edinburgh.’

He sighed. ‘Ah. I’d hoped I was mistaken.’

‘Now then,’ said the Hooded Claw, tying a bloodstained apron around his waist. ‘See if you can guess what’s going to happen here?’

We all looked at each other, none of us wishing to state the obvious. Finally, Holmes spoke.

‘At a wild guess, I’d say we were slicing tonight.’

The Claw laughed heartily. ‘Very good, Holmes, very good. But no, that is not my intention.’ He paused, as if waiting for Holmes to make another suggestion, but the big-nosed detective said nothing more.

‘Very well, then,’ the villain continued. ‘As you have surmised, these items of equipment came from an auction house in Scotland. I learned of your involvement with them via a friend of mine. In fact, that same friend is here with me tonight.’ Holding up his good hand, he clicked his fingers. The various henchmen gathered around the edges of the warehouse burst into a round of applause, which only ceased when a man emerged out of the shadows and made his way to stand by the side of the Claw.

‘Oh, bugger,’ I said.

‘Seconded,’ murmured Holmes.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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In the Belly of the Beast


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Awakened by a dull clanking noise, I became aware of the soft thud, thud of something cold and unyielding against the back of my skull.

Opening my eyes, I found myself staring at a wall consisting of riveted metal panels. The rest of the room was decorated in much the same manner; therefore the obvious conclusion must be that I was seated on the floor of a giant sardine tin, the rather fishy smell assailing my nostrils doing nothing to dissuade me from this initial impression. It was also clear from the rough bindings that scratched against my bare skin that both wrists and ankles were securely bound – visual confirmation in this case was not required. More annoyingly, a dull ache in my neck and shoulders persuaded me sudden movements would cause pain – and I was right, for as I turned to look to my left, a stinging sensation ran through my upper body, as if someone had thrown me to the floor several times in order to ensure a generous selection of bruises.

‘Bloody Norah,’ I muttered.

‘Johnny, you’re awake. Thank God.’

I blinked. The room was dark, but I was able to make out my dear wife’s fluttering eyelids and winning smile. Even her wonky eye seemed brighter than usual. She was crouched beside me, her fingers busily sawing at my bonds with what looked like a small metal clasp.

‘Is that a hairpin?’ I said, already feeling a slight give as the outer strands of the ropes began to part.

‘It’s a mini-hacksaw blade disguised as a hairpin.’ She grinned. ‘Mycroft gave it to me.’

‘Mycroft,’ I muttered. ‘Of course. And what did you do for him this time?’

Mary stopped sawing. ‘Oh, come on, Johnny, you surely aren’t still harbouring suspicions of that sort, are you?’ Turning her attention back to freeing me, she continued the back and forth motion while I took in the rest of our surroundings. Next to Mary sat Penelope, whose bonds had also been cut, and next to her, to my utter amazement, sat Sherlock Holmes, clad in a dressing gown and slippers.

‘Ah, Watson, glad you could join us,’ he said, waving a hand in greeting. ‘No doubt you’ll be wondering where we are?’ He peered at me. ‘Care to hazard a guess?’

I sniffed and leaned back, taking a moment to listen to the sounds that had summoned me from my slumbers. The wall behind me shuddered rhythmically, and there was a definite mechanical quality to the regular pounding above our heads, one aspect of which was a kind of gentle swirling sensation, that buffeted the walls of our prison. Given that all four of us were inside a metal container, the answer seemed obvious.

‘We’re inside that bloody iceberg again.’

Holmes rolled his eyes. ‘No, no, no, Watson. Once again, you see but you do not observe.’

‘Of course not,’ I said, grumpily. ‘Unfortunately, I’m not really in the mood for guessing games, so why don’t you just tell me?’

Holmes grinned gleefully. ‘Very well. As you will see from the expert manner in which the metal plates are joined together, this is a professionally constructed craft, much more so than the iceberg, which is little more than a metallic shell surrounding the essential mechanicals of the steam-powered undersea torpedo-ship we are so familiar with. More specifically, if you look at the lower sections of each plate, you can just make out the S and F insignia. This vessel was not constructed in some underground base in the Outer Hebrides, where, by the way, Moriarty’s current headquarters are located, but by the Shurgen and Furgen shipyard in Burgen.’

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. ‘Shurgen and Furgen? You’re talking bollocks again, Sherlock.’

Holmes shook his head vigorously. ‘Not at all, though I shouldn’t be surprised you haven’t heard of them – Shurgen and Furgen specialise in building ships on government contracts where a high degree of secrecy is required.’

‘Even if that’s true,’ I countered, ‘any company carrying out government work wouldn’t get involved with a known villain.’

‘Quite,’ said the other,’ which is why the Hooded Claw stole this vessel from the Burgen shipyard six weeks ago.’ He glanced at me. ‘Close your mouth, Watson. You can do your guppy impression when the Claw throws us into the murky waters. No, in fact we are currently residing in a prototype intended for an armada of submarines to bolster the British fleet in the next war.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘Which I believe is scheduled to start just after the Oxford and Bainbridge Boat Race.’

I closed my mouth and considered this new information. Then something else occurred to me. ‘Hang on, Holmes, how can the Claw have stolen this thing from Burgen, when we’re in the middle of a lake? Answer that, if you can.’

Mary and Penelope both looked at me, then at Holmes.

‘Good point,’ said the Great Detective. ‘I imagine some form of flying machine, or overland apparatus was utilised, but for the moment, it is a question I am not currently in a position to answer.’

No-one said anything for a moment, then Penelope piped up, ‘So when are you boys goin ter get us out of this mess, then?’

Just then, a scuffling noise came from the wall opposite, and a second later, a door opened up and a familiar face peered through.

‘Ah-ha, ladies and gentlemen,’ said the Hooded Claw. ‘So you have managed to free yourselves? Excellent. Please follow me.’ He disappeared back through the doorway and in case we had any ideas of escape, two henchmen brandishing rifles appeared either side of the hatch.

‘Time to do my guppy impression, I think,’ said I, with a nervous laugh.

‘Oh no,’ said Holmes. ‘The Claw’s hardly likely to have bothered to bring us this far only to throw us overboard. No, I’m sure he has something much more painful in store.’

‘Thanks for that, Holmes,’ I said, with only a hint of sarcasm. ‘You always know just what to say.’ And with that, I followed him through the door and up the steps to the deck.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Icebergs Away…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

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.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Between a Ship and Hard Place…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

I had been feeling rather pleased with myself after that last hand of poker with Mister Phogg and his funny little manservant – it’s not often I’m left holding several winning hands without the aid of the old Ace-down-the-knickers trick. The only disadvantage was that Phogg and his companion had already seen me naked, so it was small recompense to watch the pair of them dropping their trousers at the sight of my royal flush. As it turned out, seasoned travellers like Phogg always keep their cash in their underpants, (which is just as well, since the sight of two flaccid members only served to make me giggle).

My delight at pocketing a wodge of cash, however, was short-lived. On returning to the cabin Johnny told me of the threat that still hung over us. My dear darling positively trembled as he spoke and I realised the excitement of recent hours had taken its toll. Realising he needed to be kept busy, I urged him to assess the cabin for weapons while I pottered about making two mugs of Camp Coffee, a beverage that always helps calm his nerves.

Then it was simply a case of wait and see. But we didn’t have to wait long – when the chainsaw slashed through the roof of the cabin, I almost wet myself, but Johnny grabbed me and dragged me into the passage where a brace of villains and henchmen blocked our exit. Luckily, Big-Nose Holmes blew a hole in the wall and under cover of the smoke from a flare gun, hauled us through another cabin and into the corridor beyond. With Moriarty and his men close behind, we hurried up the next stairway to the upper deck and a moment later found ourselves outside.

In the distance, I could see the SS Mangochutney silhouetted against the dark sky, as it ploughed its way towards France. It was listing a little to one side, and I couldn’t help feel a pang of regret that we hadn’t been able to continue our journey as planned.

As we reached the stern of the ship (or the Big End, as I called it), we huddled together beside the railings, waiting for the inevitable attack. When Moriarty and his crew hove into view, Mister Phogg summed up our situation with a grim announcement: “Eeh Christ, we’re fucked now.”

“On the contrary,” said Holmes, with that irritatingly sardonic smile of his. “We’re exactly where we need to be.”

I was about to sigh heavily and point out the absolute shitiness of our circumstances, when the detective raised an arm. He pointed one slender finger at something looming into view on the starboard side (or it may have been the port, I’m not sure). We turned as one and saw a strange sight – a massive white object had risen up alongside the liner and a second later, a tremendous screeching noise prompted all four of us to cover our ears.

As the metallic grating sound eased off, I realised what had happened. “Oh, no, not again.”

Johnny nodded sagely. “That bloody iceberg’s come back. Now we’re sunk.”

Holmes made a tutting noise. “For God’s sake, Watson, yet again you see but you do not observe.”

My husband pouted. “Really, Holmes? So what am I missing this time? It’s a bloody great steam-powered iceberg torpedo-ship. Probably manned by hundreds of henchmen all ready to cut our throats. And once again we’re bloody sinking. Am I right, Holmes?”

Sensing Johnny’s ire was up, I slipped my hand into his. “Calm yourself, dear, you know what Sherl’s like when he’s worked something out.” I turned to Holmes. “Well?”

Holmes cast an eye towards Moriarty and co, who had already halved the distance between us and them, but were still a good hundred yards away. In that same instant, the villains saw the iceberg, understood the Great Detective’s intention and sped along the deck towards us.

In a sudden movement, Johnny pulled something out of his pocket and hurled it at the group of baddies. The miniature harpoon gun ornament struck Moriarty right on the nose, causing a torrent of blood to spurt out. His chums halted their pursuit, clamouring around their leader while The Claw waved his hook at us menacingly.

With a degree of urgency, Holmes muttered, “Well done, Watson, now follow me and don’t spare the horses.” He set off at a pace, the five of us scampering after him in the direction of the iceberg.

In an instant, I saw his idea and realised I should have known it all along – I’d witnessed the crew of the iceberg myself and seen that there were in fact only four crew members: Moriarty, The Claw and the two henchmen. There was no crew – the iceberg was adrift.

It took less than five seconds to jump over the railing and drop down onto the flat top of the vessel, where Holmes and Phogg found the main hatch, heaving it open so we could all climb inside.

Shouts of ‘Bugger’ and ‘Damnation’ echoed behind us but a moment later the hatch clanged shut and we stood on a platform containing a large ship’s wheel, a big chunky gear lever and a big green button.

Holmes banged his fist on the button and a low rumbling shook the iceberg as the machinery thrummed into life. Throwing the gear-lever into first, Holmes grabbed the wheel as the iceberg lurched forward and the rest of us grabbed whatever we could to steady ourselves as we pulled away from the ship.

Phogg and Passepartout found the periscope and sliding the small screen into place were able to give us a limited but adequate view of the outside of the vessel. By twisting the thing around, we could see the SS Doncaster disappearing into the distance, while out front, the sea stretched away before us.

“Set a course for England, Watson,” said Holmes as he took command of the helm.

“Aye, aye, sir,” said Johnny, grinning.

“Hold on a minute,” said Phogg. “What abaht our round t’world trip? Ow are we supposed ter make our connections from Blighty?”

Holmes gave him a sidelong look. “Don’t be an arse, Phogg. We both know this was never about going around the world – you did it for a bet and you lost.”

“But sir,” butted in Passepartout, “The Hooded Claw is still after Mister Phogg.”

Holmes nodded slowly. “More than likely. Though as you have now commandeered this vessel, I should imagine finding you again would be quite a task.”

“What?” said Phogg. “You mean…we should keep the iceberg?” He looked at Passepartout and the little Frenchman’s eyes lit up.

“I don’t see why not,” said Holmes. We certainly don’t want it.”

We all settled into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, then I slipped a hand around my husband’s waist and snuggling up to him, whispered, “Go on, then – you know you want to.”

“Want to what, darling?” he said with feigned innocence.

“You know what. The line.”

Johnny sighed. “Oh, alright.” He turned to Holmes. “But Holmes, what I still don’t understand is how–”

“How the iceberg came back up to the surface?” The big-nosed detective smirked. “Elementary Watson. It’s a simple matter of ballast and buoyancy. Like all secret underwater torpedo ships, a safety mechanism was built into the system to enable the vessel to re-float itself should a minor disaster – such as sinking – occur. I’m sure you’d have noticed it yourself if you’d bothered to study the Bruce Partridger blueprints during our Edinburgh adventure.” He smirked again.

Johnny nodded. “Of course. I remember now.” He glanced at me and his cheeks had the good grace to flush with embarrassment.

It occurred to me that Holmes had dismissed, with his usual nonchalance, the suggestion of Phogg still being in danger. Perhaps I was just being a silly woman again, but I couldn’t free myself of a feeling of trepidation. It haunted me all the way back to England, creeping through my bones like a disease. Somehow, somewhere, I knew the Hooded Claw would darken our particular doorsteps again very soon.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Slice of Watson…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As Holmes had predicted, it was a mere forty-five minutes later that the Evil Genius struck again.

I’d arrived back at my cabin just as Mary emerged from Phogg’s, a huge smile on her face. I waved an admonishing finger at her. “You did it again, didn’t you darling?”

She giggled girlishly. “Well, he’s got tons of cash, so why not?” Holding up a wodge of the aforementioned booty, she flapped the wad in my face. “Care for a game of Snap before bed? If you win, you can be on top…”

I shook my head and ushered her into the cabin. “Unfortunately, my dear, this game does not involve playing cards.”

“Very well,” she muttered with a sigh and began to undo her dress.

I closed the door and pulled over a chair to wedge beneath the handle. Turning back to my wife I noted she had stopped undressing.

“Oh, shit,” she said. “It’s not over, is it?”

I repeated what Holmes had told me.

Mary sat down heavily on the bed. “Better have some coffee, then.” She set about heating a kettle of water on our portable stove while I did a quick assessment of the cabin and its accessories.

Within a couple of minutes, I had ascertained that in terms of weapons we had very little at our disposal. Our meagre arsenal consisted of a camping stove, two mugs, a half-bottle of milk, a miniature harpoon gun ornament and a soap dish. Everything else had been abandoned on the SS Mangochutney.

“Where’s Holmes?” asked Mary.

“Back in his cabin by now.” I rubbed my chin the way the Great Detective often did. It didn’t help. “All we can do is sit tight and hope we’re up to the challenge when it comes.”

Mary nodded solemnly.

We sat together on the bed, ruminating on what our fate might be. We had hardly moved from the spot when the sawing began.

“What’s that?” said Mary, looking at the roof of our cabin.

I followed her gaze and a moment later the curved end of a chainsaw sliced through the ceiling. Jumping up, I dragged Mary over to the other side of the room, pulled the chair free and yanked open the cabin door. I’d half expected the Claw or the Professor to be waiting in the passage, but a quick glance up and down proved it was free of villains.

“This way, darling,” I said, taking Mary’s hand. Rushing to Phogg’s cabin door, I was about to knock rapidly in a manner that would indicate a sense of urgency, when the door opened and Phogg and Passepartout leaped out to join us.

“What the bloody ‘ell’s goin on, lad?” yelled Phogg.

“The Claw’s back,” I said, and indicated they should follow us.

Racing along the passage towards the stairs to the upper deck, it occurred to me that sawing through our cabin roof was an odd thing to do. If the Claw wanted to kill us all (which seemed probable), it’d have made more sense to lure us out of our cabin.

“Oh, bugger,” I said. At the same moment, I saw Moriarty’s two henchmen appear at the far end of the passage. Whirling round, I was greeted by the grinning visage of the Evil Genius himself.

“Going somewhere Doctor?” Moriarty laughed maniacally and swung his arm up as the chainsaw screamed into life again. “Slicing tonight,” he yelled, waving the murderous instrument up and down.

A sudden blast made us all jump in surprise and a second later the passageway had filled with coloured smoke.

“This way,” yelled a familiar voice, and a hand reached out and grabbed my sleeve. Pulling my companions along with me, I jumped through the hole that had appeared in the wall and was greeted with a not-totally-unexpected sardonic smile.

“Don’t hang about, Watson,” said Holmes, helping us through into the cabin beyond.

A shout of annoyance echoed behind us as we felt our way through the haze, across to the open door opposite and into a smoke-free passage.

“What now?” I gasped.

“Buggered if I know,” said Holmes. “That was our one and only flare gun – good idea, by the way – so I suggest we head upwards and hope for the best.”

Hurrying to the end of the corridor, we started up the stairs to the upper deck, the thumping of running feet and screaming chainsaws close behind.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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