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The Villain Revealed

From the Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

“I know that voice,” I said, stepping forwards. Grasping the hood, I yanked it off.

“Inspector Lestrade.” I held my lamp up to his face. “What are you doing here?”

The ferret-faced little man shrugged off his robe. “Responding to the telegram from Mr Holmes, of course.”

“Telegram?” said the big-nosed detective. “What telegram?”

Lestrade peered at each of us. “The one yer sent me.”

Holmes rolled his eyes.

“Oh. So you didn’t send a telegram?”

“No, but I suspect someone else required your presence here,” said Holmes, rubbing his chin.

“Hold on,” I said, picking up Lestrade’s discarded robe. “Why were you wearing this?”

Lestrade looked uncomfortable. “It said in the telegram—the one Holmes didn’t send—that I ought ter dress as a monk for the fancy dress party.”

“Ah.” Holmes strode around the room, muttering to himself. “Then you were given instructions about what to do upon arrival here, yes?”

Lestrade nodded.

Holmes continued. “Told to follow a certain route around the side of the house and into a certain bush and thence down into this room.”

“That’s right,” said the inspector. “Sorry if I’ve mucked fings up for yous.”

“Not all at all,” said Holmes. He asked to see the aforementioned message and when Lestrade produced it, whipped it out of the man’s hand and proceeded to examine it closely.

“A bit long for a telegram, eh?” said Johnny, peering over Sherlock’s shoulder. “Must’ve cost a few bob.”

“I rather think the cost would not be a major concern to its creator,” said Holmes, sniffing the paper.

Tossing the robe aside, I said, “Why on earth would anyone want Inspector Lestrade here? He doesn’t even know Roderick Usher.”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “I think I may be able to answer that. This whole masquerade has not been about Roderick Usher at all, but about us—Doctor and Mrs Watson, myself and, unfortunately, the inspector here.” He touched Lestrade’s shoulder. “Sorry old chap, but I believe you may have been lured here to your death.”

“Oh,” said Lestrade. “Bugger.”

I let out a long sigh. “If that’s true, Holmes, this can only be the work of one man.”

The detective shook his head. “No, Mary. This scheme does not bear Moriarty’s modus operandi. No, it is overly complex and utterly ridiculous.”

“Then who the hell is behind it?” said Johnny, stamping his foot.

“I suggest we get out of here and return to the library. If I’m right, our enemy will make themselves known to us shortly.”

We followed Holmes back up the steps, through the bush and back round to the house. The front door stood open as we’d left it and the library too, appeared unchanged.

Holmes held up a hand. “Have a care, my friends.” Stepping into the library, he pushed the door back, checked behind it then motioned for us to come in.

We stood there in a cluster, our eyes everywhere.

Holmes made a sign that we should stay silent, then pointed a slender finger at the bookcase on the far wall. He mouthed, Watch, and turned his own gaze towards the cluttered shelves.

Standing next to Johnny, I stared at the books but whatever had caught the detective’s eye, passed me by completely.

Suddenly, Sherlock’s arm shot out, indicating a section of shelving in the corner.

“I see it,” murmured Lestrade, taking out his revolver.

Holmes strode over to the fireplace, reached up and removed one of the ornamental sabres from where it hung over the mantle. Then, holding the weapon lightly, he leaped forwards and stabbed an area of leather-bound books.

A yelp of surprise came from the bookcase. “Ow, ow, ow!” And as we watched, the books themselves seemed to shift sideways. And then I saw it—the outline of a man, moving away from the shelves, and a moment later the ‘books’ dropped to the floor, revealing the criminal behind the disguise.

“Ah-ha,” said Holmes. “And the villain is revealed.”

“Who on earth is that?” I said, peering at the skinny little man.

Holmes gave me a sardonic smile. “I’m surprised you don’t remember him, Mary. Admittedly he’s cut off that give-away pigtail and shaved off the silly moustache, no doubt in order to take on the role of the French Cook, but you met him during our Ghost Train adventure.”

“My God,” I muttered, finally recognising the arch-criminal. “Then he didn’t meet his death when the ghost train plummeted into that ravine?”

“Apparently not,” said Holmes. “So we meet again, Doctor Fu Manchu—fiend, master criminal and the brains behind this ridiculous plot.”

Fu laughed. “Hah, and I almost had you Holmes. I even used your own invention—the bookcase disguise—against you.”

“Yes, but you forgot one important aspect of that particular camouflage, Fu. Instead of classic novels, you used the titles of books that no man in his right mind would ever read—regency romances.”

The villain rubbed his injured hand where the sabre had stabbed his finger. “They’re popular in my country,” he muttered.

“Tie him up,” barked Holmes, tearing down the bell-pull rope.

Within a few minutes Manchu was bound hand and foot. We sat him in an armchair and Lestrade kept watch while Johnny and I checked him for hidden weapons. The only thing we found was a pair of ladies’ knickers and a set of false breasts. Holmes took a moment to relight his meerschaum. Having done so, he settled himself on the sofa opposite the villain and puffed away.

“I suppose you’d like to know why?” said the evil doctor.

“Oh, I think I can guess,” said Holmes. He glanced at me. “But perhaps Mary can shed some light on the matter.”

“Me?” I said. “I haven’t got a clue.”

“On the contrary, Mary, you pointed me in the right direction when you stated that Roderick Usher must be the perpetrator.”

“Well, it seemed the obvious answer.”

“Precisely, and Doctor Manchu imagined that having identified the culprit I would then take deadly revenge on Roddy for the murder of my six chums. After which, Fu would murder Lestrade, Johnny, your good self and finally me, but not before revealing the truth. For only then could he guarantee that I would suffer the worst punishment imaginable for Londen’s greatest detective—the agony of being wrong.”

“You have to admit,” said Fu Manchu, “it was a good plan.”

“It would have been, yes. But for one simple mistake.”

“Mistake!” roared Fu. “I do not make mistakes.”

“Unfortunately, you do. You see, when you set up those six lookalike corpses to fool me into thinking you had murdered Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub, you forgot one vital thing. Pugh and Pugh were not brothers. They were brother and sister. Rebecca Pugh was, and is, a woman. Of course, I realised this straight away, but pretended not to notice in case we were under observation.”

“Hang on,” said Johnny. “What’s all this got to do with Roddy?”

“I think I know,” I said. “Roddy’s mental state only aided the villainous plan. Fu Manchu took advantage of Madelaine’s illness as well as her death.”

Johnny threw up his hands. “But she’s alive! We saw her!”

Holmes made a calming motion. “Watson, Watson, Watson. What we saw was Doctor Fu in disguise—a simple ruse to make us think she was either still alive or haunting poor Roddy.

“You mean she really is dead, then?”

Holmes nodded.

Johnny sat back down with a thump. “But who are those poor devils lying in the cellar?”

I looked at the evil doctor. He smiled an evil smile.

“As you pointed out earlier, “said Fu Manchu, “I did not die when that train fell into the ravine, but a great many of my employees did. I recovered the bodies of six of them and stored them in a freezer in a butcher’s shop in Huddersfield. I felt certain that one day they would be of use.”

“I see,” said Holmes. “And I suppose you also employed the services of a very expensive plasticine surgeon to make up their faces to look like my Bladderswick companions?”

“You think you are so clever, Mr Holmes,” muttered the arch-villain.

“Yes, actually I do.” He jumped up and tapped out his pipe on the mantlepiece. “Now, I think we’d better find Roddy and explain a few things.”

“Just wait a moment, old bean,” said Johnny getting to his feet. “There’ s a few things I still don’t understand…”

Holmes glanced at me. “As I’ve always said, Mary is the clever one…”

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Interesting Pair of Trousers


The Diary of Doctor J. Watson

‘We’ve got to do something, Holmes,’ I muttered. ‘In less than a minute poor Mrs Christie will get squashed like a–’

‘Yes, yes, I know that, Watson,’ hissed my companion. ‘But this is not the time for descriptive passages. This is a time for action. Where’s that jar of chilli sauce?’

‘It’s in my hand,’ I said, careful not to display the object, in case the man guarding us saw it.

‘Then do what you were going to do earlier,’ said Holmes, nodding towards the steam engine.

I could see no benefit from chucking a jar of chilli sauce into a steam engine, but as we had very little else in our store of retaliative weaponry, and as the floor of the library had already reached the halfway mark, we were out of options. Flinging my arm back, I hurled the jar towards the giant engine and watched as it flew up in a long arc and came down to land between two huge cogs.

I heard the jar shatter above the noise of the engine, then a jet of sauce spurted out and landed in Moriarty’s left eye.

For an Evil Genius, Moriarty screamed like a girl. Grasping at his injured eye, he waved a hand at Frau Klopp to help him. ‘My fucking … aaargh!’ he screeched.

As Klopp and the minions flocked around their leader, the man holding us at gunpoint glanced away for a second. That was all we needed. Leaping forwards, Holmes grasped the man by the neck. Lestrade knocked his gun to the ground and kicked it towards me. I picked it up and ran across to where Mrs Christie lay, now only a few feet from the descending floor and certain death. Keeping the gun raised in the direction of the villains, I grabbed one of the ropes holding the famous novelist and hauled her away from the danger area.

A moment later, Moriarty had pushed aside his workers and stood over us. ‘That’s it,’ he roared. ‘Kill them all!’

But the metal lid from the jar of chilli sauce had slipped into some vital part of the steam engine, and as the library floor hit the ground, the engine screamed as if in pain. The machine seemed to be attempting to force the library floor to continue its journey through the ground it now rested on. With a grinding of gears and a sudden lurch, the engine began to shake violently. The iron struts linked to the engine shuddered, and with a metallic whine, the first strut bent under the strain and collapsed, crashing down into the crowd of dumbstruck villains. A second strut followed and in a matter of seconds, the whole supporting structure of the vast hall buckled under the weight of the house above.

‘Quickly, Johnny,’ yelled Mary, cutting through Mrs Christie’s bonds with Lestrade’s nail scissors. ‘We have to get out before the whole place collapses.’

Moriarty’s men ran around the steam engine pulling levers and pushing buttons while the arch-villain himself stood in the middle, clutching his eye and screaming at Klopp.

Holmes grabbed my sleeve. ‘Back to where we came in,’ he said, pushing Mary and Mrs Christie towards the square of stone floor that led to the cellar steps.

‘D’you think it’ll still work?’ I yelled, above the roar of the collapsing engines.

‘If it doesn’t, we’re fucked,’ he said. ‘Come on.’

Racing to the end of the hall, I glanced over my shoulder and saw Moriarty still ranting at Klopp, with Fu Manchu and the forger struggling to separate their furious leaders. But two people were missing. Colonel Moran and Ratched had disappeared.

Gathering ourselves on the small square of floor, I looked at Holmes. ‘How do we make it go?’

‘Oh, I know,’ said Mrs Christie. ‘There should be a brick somewhere …’ She pressed her hands against various parts of the wall.

‘Quickly,’ said Holmes. ‘Try them all.’

The rest of us eagerly pushed and prodded the wall. At first it seemed that whatever Mrs Christie thought might be there, simply didn’t exist, but then one of the smaller bricks moved, and in a flash, the floor trembled and started its upward journey.

Below us, the noise level rose and the thumping and clanking of the steam engine hit a deafening pitch.

The floor re-connected with the cellar steps and clanked into place. Racing up the staircase, I crashed through the cellar door into the sudden glare of torchlight.

‘Who’s there?’ I demanded.

‘Oh, hello there,’ said a voice. ‘You must be Doctor Watson. And this would be your good lady wife, would it?’

Shading my eyes, I saw a plump constable holding a torch. Behind him were a crowd of other officers, all armed with torches and truncheons.

‘No, actually,’ I said, ‘this is the famous novelist Mrs Agatha Christie.’

‘Sergeant Radish,’ said Lestrade, stepping into the light. ‘Never thought I’d be ‘appy ter see your mutton chops.’

‘Never mind all that,’ said Holmes, pushing me out of the way. ‘Sergeant, the house is about to collapse. Get your men back outside with all speed.’

The big sergeant saluted smartly and shouted at his men. I grabbed Mary and Mrs Christie and escorted them through the drawing room and out through the French windows.

Once everyone had retreated to a safe distance, I looked back at the house. Holmes stood beside me.

‘There’s someone missing,’ I said.

Holmes nodded. ‘Yes,’ he murmured. ‘Moran and that awful former nurse. Keep your eyes open, Watson. I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’d found another way out.’

As we watched, the whole house shuddered violently, shaking roof tiles loose and rattling window frames in their housings. As tiles and glass crashed to the ground, the house gave a massive judder, and one by one, the walls fell inward, clouds of debris, glass and dust flying about in all directions.

‘Well,’ said Holmes, ‘anyone left under there won’t be coming out in one piece. A fitting end to that bunch of atrocious individuals.’

‘Not including me in that, I hope, Mister Holmes?’

I turned and saw the woman who had arrived with Mrs Christie. Naturally, she was holding a gun.

‘Ratched,’ said Holmes, smiling sardonically. ‘I’d rather hoped you’d be dead and buried by now.’

‘Sorry to disappoint. But my lover knew another way out, so …’ She jerked her head indicating someone next to her and I saw Colonel Moran standing there holding his famous elephant gun.

‘Ah,’ said Holmes. ‘Guns all round, then.’

By this time Sergeant Radish and his officers had realised we had company. ‘Now then, now then,’ he said. ‘We don’t want no trouble here.’

‘Oh, it’s no trouble,’ said Moran, lowering his rifle. ‘I’m just going to pop off a few rounds and get rid of all my concerns in one go.’ Cocking the weapon, he raised it to his shoulder.

‘Hold on a mo, would you?’ said Mrs Christie, pushing through the crowd. ‘I’d like a quick word with Maudie. I mean Nursie, or whatever she’s calling herself these days.’

‘I’ve got nothing to say to you, Aggie, apart from goodbye.’ Ratched laughed and gave Moran a nod. ‘Get on with it.’

But Mrs Christie was not to be outdone. With a quick step forwards, she stuck out a finger and pushed the buckle of Ratched’s jodhpurs. Incredibly, the johdpurs came alive, vibrating and emitting a whirring noise that appeared to be centred around the genital area.

Ratched looked down at herself and began to moan. ‘Oh, my God, oh my fuckin God.’

Moran lowered his gun. ‘What’s happening Nursie? What’s she done to you?’

‘I don’t know,’ she squealed clasping at her lady parts. ‘These bloody trousers are making me all squidgy. Oh, bloody hell …’

At this, Holmes leaped forward, snatched Moran’s gun, upended the weapon and brought it crashing down on the grass, smashing the stock and separating the barrel from its casing.

‘That’s better,’ he said, handing the broken pieces back to Moran. ‘Now, I think Sergeant Radish has something to say.’

The big policeman stepped forward. ‘Right, Mister whoever-you-are, I am arresting you in the name of all that is good and proper and will be handing you over to the relevant police station at the earliest opportunity.’ Unfastening a pair of handcuffs from his belt, he clamped them over Moran’s wrists, while another officer did the same to Ratched, who writhed about like a bag full of cats.

‘Well,’ I said, looking at Mrs Christie with a sense of wonder. ‘An interesting pair of trousers.’

‘Yes,’ said the famous lady novelist, ‘I had them made after my husband curtailed his interest in my womanly needs. They’ve a built-in device for giving pleasure to those parts that most require it. Sadly, the thing developed a fault and now it’ll keep going until Miss Ratched has experienced the maximum number of orgasms.’ She paused. ‘Thirty-seven, I think.’

As we walked down to the beach and the waiting police launch, I caught up with Holmes.

‘That’s not the end of him, you know,’ he said.

‘Moriarty? No, we wouldn’t be that lucky.’

Glancing back at the house, a sense of great loss washed over me. Not for the house, or even for Moriarty, but for those innocent and not-so-innocent fools who got caught up in a ridiculous game—a game that didn’t even have a point, other than to make Sherlock Holmes look like a failure. And that would never happen.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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!’

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Sherlock Sheds a Light

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we arrived back downstairs and exited the house via the French windows, Rogers had reached the shed. Sprinting across the lawn, I arrived a few seconds later and yanking the door open, found myself faced with an odd scene. Sherlock Holmes was sitting in a deck chair in the rear part of the shed, holding his Meerschaum pipe in one hand and a wine glass in the other.

“Ah, Watson,” said he, taking a sip from his drink. “Won’t you join me in a gin and tonic?” He nodded at a selection of spirit bottles atop an upturned crate at his side along with two large buckets of ice.

“It was you who took the ice?” I muttered, staring at his glass.

“Of course, old bean. Can’t have gin without the necessaries.”

It was only then that I remembered Rogers, and turning round, found the butler hovering in the corner behind me, still brandishing the knife. The man gave me a sharp look, his mouth a snarling grimace, then his features abruptly sagged into an expression of hopeless resignation and he let his arm, and the weapon, drop down to his side.

Noticing that Rogers still held an old sack in his other hand, I gestured towards it. “What’s that for?”

He shrugged. “I were going ter put it over his head before I did the deed.” He shrugged again. “Bit squeamish, yer see.”

“Hardly the attitude of a murderer,” murmured Holmes.

“I’m not sure I understand…” I said.

“Of course not, Watson,” said Holmes with a sardonic smile. “Rogers here thought I was up to something with his dear wife and no doubt having followed the trail of ice cubes I left across the lawn, he expected to confront the two of us.” He raised an eyebrow at the butler.

“Well, I dunno…” said Rogers, his anger having petered out completely.

“Let me see if I can help,” said Holmes, getting to his feet. “Mrs Rogers likes a drop of gin, does she not?”

The butler nodded meekly.

“And on hearing that all the ice had disappeared from the icehouse you naturally leapt to the conclusion that she had secreted it away somewhere in order to avail herself of a quiet drink, eh?”

“I did fink that, yes.”

“And when you noticed a few apparently stray ice cubes on the grass, you followed the trail here. Except,” here he wagged a finger at the butler. “You did not immediately come into the shed to confront what you imagined was occurring.”

Rogers shook his head solemnly.

“Because,” continued Holmes, “you heard my voice and assumed that your wife was in conversation and therefore collusion with me. You therefore decided to arm yourself and put an end to her shenanigans and the murders in one fell swoop.”

“I heard you saying there were going to be another murder. So I thought you was the killer…”

Holmes sighed and reaching down, pulled up a long metallic tube attached to a rectangular wooden box. “An invention of Mycroft’s, based on Moriarty’s Conical-Rite-a-Phone machine.” He smiled and poured himself another drink.

Turning to Rogers, I explained. “It’s a mechanical device that interprets his words and scribbles them down by means of a copper nib onto a wax cylinder. No doubt what you heard was Holmes recording the case for future reference, rather than him having a conversation with your wife. Or anyone else, for that matter.”

Holmes nodded. “Thank you, Watson. And as Mr Rogers was quite obviously employed for some considerable time tracking down his wife, returning to the kitchen to fetch a knife, then coming back here to wreak vengeance, I imagine he could not have been involved in the murder upstairs which you and your dear wife have just discovered.”

“How the hell did you know about that?”

I turned to see Mary in the doorway, her face a mixture of annoyance and confusion.

“Because, dear lady,” said Holmes in that irritating manner he adopts when in possession of more information than anyone else, “while you and the other guests were taken up with the demise of the unfortunate Miss Bent, I took the liberty of popping up to your bedroom to take delivery of the message that had recently arrived on your windowsill via Lestrade’s pigeon post. I won’t bore you with the details, but having visited Mrs Christie, Lestrade is of the opinion that the murderer is not following the sequence of deaths as they occur in the book, in which case the aforementioned lady novelist is unlikely herself to be connected with the killings. However, while I am of the opinion that our adversary intends to kill everyone on the island, I believe he or she has utilised the plot of the book as a means of drawing us off his or her real purpose.”

Mary looked at me, then back at Holmes. “And what would that be?”

“Before I tell you, please fill me in on the details of the most recent killing.”

Between us, Mary and myself related how we’d found Warmonger’s body but that I believed he was not actually dead and had merely injected himself with some form of sedative to slow down his heartrate and therefore give the impression he had shuffled off his proverbial coil.

“Ah,” said Holmes. “And he could then go about the business of killing the rest of us without casting suspicion in his direction, since a dead man could hardly be responsible for killing anyone.”

“Precisely,” said I.

“The problem,” said Holmes, with a frown, “is that Justice Warmonger is actually dead.”

“I’m fairly sure he isn’t, Holmes,” I said, a little put out to have my medical judgment questioned.

“Tish tish, Johnny,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I do not doubt your expertise, but I think I’m right when I say that while we have been engaged in this little catch-up session, our murderer has once more been at work.”

“But I thought you said Warmonger was the killer?”

He shook his head. “Never said any such thing, Watson. In fact, Warmonger was most likely persuaded by the real murderer to pretend to be dead.”

“Just like in the book,” said Mary.

“Except,” said Holmes, “that in the book Warmonger is the killer.”

“Well there’s one way to make sure,” I said.

“Exactly Watson,” said Holmes. “To the bedroom!” And with that, he pushed past us and began to run across the lawn towards the house.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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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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