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Not the 39 Steps…

Not the 39 Steps blogFrom the Diary of Doctor Watson

I’m happy to report that I’m writing this from the comfort of my favourite armchair beside a roaring fire at Baker Street. My companion is tentatively fingering another of Mrs Hudson’s tea-time delights and I’m ashamed to say I’ve just finished off her hot muffins. It seems unthinkable that only a few hours ago Holmes and I faced such peril as I have rarely imagined. Only this morning, as we struggled against our bonds, I remember thinking that perhaps this would be our last adventure. But I digress…

When that wizened old crone gurgled Moriarty’s name, I admit that my blood ran cold. I turned to Holmes but his attention was on the staircase. I barely had time to follow his gaze when the crunching of splintering wood caused me to jump backwards in fright. The staircase (or what was left of it) had split in two halves, each section moving up and to the sides revealing a secret chamber beneath.

“I say,” came a voice behind us. “What’s all the kafuffle about, chaps?” Hannay squeezed between us, saw what we saw and immediately gave way at the knees. Holmes grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet.

“Stiff upper lip, Hannay,” he barked. “Don’t let the side down.” Then switching his sharp eyes to me, muttered. “Don’t suppose that’s a gun in your pocket, Watson?”

I glanced down at myself and adjusted my stance. “Ahm, no, actually, Holmes. Just a little…excitement, don’t you know?”

My companion nodded. “Perfectly understandable, Watson, considering the gargantuan intellect that is now upon us.” And turning to the space where the staircase had been, he smiled and gave a short bow. “Ah. Professor. How lovely to see you again.”

Moriarty strode up the steps from the underground room, followed by a brace of disagreeable henchmen. “Shirley, Johnnie and Dickie. Glad you could join us.” He made a small gesture and the henchmen moved forward waving their weapons.

“Get dahn the stairs,” said one, pointing his gun at my head.

“An don’t try no funny stuff neither,” said the other.

Holmes groaned. “It’s Don’t try any funny stuff, you dullard.”

And so it was that we were ushered unceremoniously into the nerve centre of Moriarty’s villainous emporium. In a matter of minutes we were trust up on three chairs against the back wall. Moriarty advanced toward us waving a pointy knife.

“It never fails to amaze me how stupid you are, Holmesy. Even now, as you face certain death at the hands of your arch enemy – ”

“What? Again?” Holmes laughed contemptuously.

“Don’t bloody interrupt me!” Moriarty jumped up and down several times, rather like a small child might react to having their favourite toy confiscated. He took a deep breath. “As I was saying – even now you have no clue what is going on.”

“Hah!” said I. “Holmes knows exactly what’s going on, don’t you Holmes?” I turned to my companion but he merely shrugged.

“Actually I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps the Professor might care to enlighten us?”

Moriarty straightened up, preening himself. “Why, of course, I should take great delight in doing so…”

Over the next few hours Moriarty explained his elaborate plans for world domination and other mad ideas. He went into great detail regarding the subterranean passages that (apparently) ran under the city, connecting his various hideouts, arms depots and sundry meeting places. I was beginning to grow rather tired, but then I noticed Holmes was shuffling around in his chair. I suspected he’d managed to free himself using some clever device he’d had the foresight to secrete about his person in case of such an emergency. But then he let out a loud phart and I realised he was simply suffering from his usual stomach trouble. I also realised something else – if Holmes couldn’t get us out of this, nobody could.

Moriarty’s rambling continued. “…and that is why I sent a message to that fool Lestrade.” He glanced at his pocket watch. “Ah. We are to meet in a few minutes, after which I shall kill him and then all of you. Mwah, hah, hah.”

When the staircase had closed behind him and his henchmen, I turned to Holmes. “Well?”

“Well what?” said he.

I sighed loudly. “You do have a plan?”

“Of course, Watson.” And he smiled.

 

To be continued.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Some Murders are Announced…

By Carrier Pigeon to Inspector Lestrade

Best Beef
My Dear Lestrade

I am writing to advise you of the current situation vis a vis Messrs Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John (Big Boy) Watson. If you have been exercising your underemployed observational skills recently, you may be aware that the aforementioned pair evaded your constables and boarded a train to Edinburgh, and further, that the well-known novelist and misanthrope Richard (mine’s a pint) Hannay had engaged them in a bid to solve a mystery pertaining to yet another of his lacklustre tales of woe, ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’.

I am at this moment entertaining this trio of tiresome tricksters at one of my lodging houses near the Anatomical Museum – an unintentional, but rather fitting geographical location, considering the procedures I have in mind for the three unfortunates.

Naturally, I wouldn’t as a rule choose to enlighten ‘The Fuzz’ regarding my preparations for what I imagine you would term ‘a triple murder’, but my enjoyment of a good brawl has thus far remained unfulfilled (Holmes in particular is being somewhat droll in his attempts at retaliation, and Watson is a useless twat at the best of times). I should be obliged, therefore, if you would be good enough to hop on the next train. We could meet for a drink in a quaint little hostelry just off Fleshmarket Close known as The Stab Inn, where I shall take pleasure in availing you of my plans. This will allow you, should you so wish, to attempt a rescue, and that in turn, will add (I hope) the necessary modicum of excitement to the proceedings to make it worth my while.

Should you not wish to attend, I shall be happy to post the various body parts back to Baker Street for the delectation of that slattern Mrs Hudson, labelled, of course, as ‘Finest Scottish Beef’. It would tickle me to imagine the silly cow stuffing her favourite detective into one of her ghastly pies.

I look forward to killing you seeing you later,

Yours murderously
Professor Moriarty

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The House of Hell…

From the Diary of Doctor WatsonStaricase

Clattering through the dark streets to our proposed abode was not a journey I’d wish to repeat – Holmes had nabbed a seat next to the driver, leaving Hannay and myself to make the most of the meagre space in the back of the cart. Perched on a sack of coal with the night air stinging my face undoubtedly brought a new freshness to my cheeks, but otherwise did nothing to endear me to my companion.

“Come along Watson,” Holmes barked as we pulled up outside a drab-looking residence. “A hearty meal and a warm fire awaits!” Grasping my arm as I half-fell onto the wet cobblestones, Holmes turned away from the driver and gave me a hard stare. “Be vigilant Watson,” he muttered. “I fear we may be undone.”

Turning back to the driver, he resumed the hearty bonhomie and clapped a hand on the man’s back. “This way is it, old bean?”

The house was not what I expected. Or rather, it was (in some manner at least) exactly what I’d expected: the building resembled a collection of rotten timbers and crumbling stone that appeared to have been dropped between two rather more substantial structures on either side. The words ‘ramshackle’, ‘demolition-job’ and ‘shithouse’ loomed large as we entered the murky dwelling.

A small, wiry woman of indeterminate age sprang upon us on entering. She glared up at me and screeched “No room at the Inn!”

As I stared into her bloodshot eyes, her cackling laughter sent more than a chill up my spine and I swear one of her bony hands found its way into the crevice between my buttocks (though I may have imagined it). However, I was rescued from the woman’s mad gaze and probing digits by the Driver, who, pulling her aside, whispered in her ear, after which the woman’s expression changed to one of quiet expectancy.

We were shown into the parlour – a room whose only advantage was a roaring fire. The three us pulled up chairs and warmed ourselves in front of the blaze while our harridan-like host scuttled off to fetch food.

As soon as she’d gone. I leaned across to Holmes. “What’s afoot, Sherl?”

His sharp eyes flicked between myself and Hannay. “You haven’t worked it out yet, Watson?”

The man was infuriating. “No, I haven’t.”

He chuckled and began playing with his Meerschaum.

“You know, Holmes,” I muttered with some pique, “You could just tell us.”

“Actually, that’s quite true Mr Holmes,” said Hannay, coming to my assistance. “You are being a bit of an arse.”

My companion grinned and shook his head. “No. I shall share my theories only if the perceived menace threatens to overcome us.”

Half an hour later, having consumed large quantities of mince-and-something pies, Holmes and Hannay had dozed off in their chairs. I decided to go upstairs to our rooms (intending to take advantage of choosing the least appealing one of the three for myself). At the foot of the stairs, a familiar hand caught the back of my trousers.

“Mr Holmes…”

I whirled round to find myself staring into that face again, her brown teeth smiling up at me like a Cheshire cat whose face has died, been buried, and dug up again.

“Fancy a bit of the other?” She purred.

I stepped back to remove myself from her fetid breath. “Ahm, no, actually. I’m rather tired.” I feigned a yawn. “Really must get to bed.”

“That’s what I were thinkin’ too, my dear.” And she grasped my hand. “Let us ascend the thirty-nine steps to heaven.”

She started up the stairs dragging me behind her, but I pulled her back sharply. “What? The thirty-nine steps? What do you know about the thirty-nine steps?”

 

To be continued.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Train Now Standing…

 

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

It was late when we chugged into Edinburgh Waverly and I was doubtful of us being able to secure suitable transport, however, Holmes set off at a gallop, leaping from the train and grasping the lapel of the nearest porter.

“Ah, my good man,” said he. “Be so good as to arrange transport for myself and my colleagues and I shall compensate you to the tune of one new penny.” So saying, he produced that very item and waved it in front of the man’s face.

“Och, get tae fuck, ye great ninny.”

“Now, now, there’s no need for that sort of talk.” He pulled the surly fellow aside and whispered a few words to him. As he did so, I noticed he pointed me out to the porter as if I were of some significance. A moment later, the man had thrown aside his clipboard and advanced towards the exit, a broad grin across his features.

I clambered down from the carriage and helped Hannay step down (he was feeling a little queasy from the trip). “I say old man, what on earth did you say to that chap?”

Holmes grinned. “I merely told him he was in the presence of the eminent consulting detective Mr Sherlock Holmes.”

“But you were pointing at me!2928243489_0359c8309b

He nodded. “Indeed. I believe the fellow will expect some recompense for his efforts – ah! Here he comes now.” He stepped forward and spoke in low tones amid the throngs of travellers that were now pouring from the train.

I pushed my way through the crowds and reached Holmes just as the porter turned to greet me.

“Och, I’m fair chuffed to dae a service fer the famous Mr Holmes. I hope yous gentl’min enjoy your stay at the but an ben.” And with that he handed Holmes a piece of paper, and disappeared into the crowd

“What was all that about?” Hannay was clinging to my arm.

“Come along, now,” said Holmes. “We’ve a cabbie waiting.” He turned to go but I caught his arm.

“To Newton Stewart?”

“Of course not, Watson, are you mad?” He clipped me playfully round the ear. “It’s past ten o’clock and the place is over a hundred miles away! No, I’ve arranged for us to stay with Effie McThick at her private hotel for prominent gentlemen. The porter is her husband.”

And he was off. I hurried along behind him, Hannay clinging to me like a drunken limpet. As I caught sight of the ‘cab’ (in reality, a ramshackle horse and cart) my heart sank and I had the awful feeling that whatever payment was due for the coming night, was going to involve me and some indescribably sordid act…

To be continued…

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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To Bonnie Scotland (Again…)

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

At the sight of Lestrade’s grinning visage, it was clear there was only one course of action open to me – I smacked him in the mouth.

Lestrade barely flinched. He reached up and touched his lower lip. “That right hook of yours is improving, Watty.” His voice had dropped an octave and the familiar Baker Street drawl took me completely by surprise.
Book Illustration Depicting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a Train Cabin
“Holmes!” I cried. “What on earth…?”

My old pal peeled the rubber mask from his face and rolled it up carefully. “Only way I could evade Lestrade and his poncy peelers – they’re all over the station like a dose of clap.”

“But, but, but…” I tried.

“Don’t but me no buts, Watson.” Holmes held onto the luggage rack as the train began to pull away. “Now, tell me what you know…”

Hannay and I sketched out the details of our adventure so far. When the sketch was finished, we added cartoon-type balloons containing the text. I could tell Holmes was, on the whole, fascinated, but after an hour, his attention began to wander.

“Might I ask what you are currently working on, Mr Hannay?”

“Oh, well, as you can see from the sketch here…”

“No, no, no, just tell me in your own words.”

Hannay was clearly overawed by the presence of the great detective, but he managed to explain the basic plot of ‘The 39 Steps’, its barely-concealed subtext and the underlying themes.

“Very interesting,” said Holmes, adopting that ‘yes-but-you’re-hiding-something’ tone I knew so well. “I wonder if I might expand on a theory of my own…?” He smiled winsomely and touched Hannay’s knee, making the other man visibly tremble with excitement.

“Of course, Mr Holmes, of course,” gushed Hannay like a simpering girl. “I’m all ears.” He shuffled forward in his seat, so his knees were almost touching those of my companion.

I began to feel a little put out. I tapped Hannay on the leg. “I say, old man, would you mind swapping seats with me – travel sickness, you know?” He acquiesced at once and I was again able to command the full attention of my detecting friend.

“On second thoughts,”said Holmes, giving me a sly wink. “I’d prefer to keep my theory close to my chest for the moment, if you don’t mind? However, I am looking forward to visiting Newton Stewart.”

“You think we’re right to go there, Holmes?” said I.

He nodded. “I do, Watson, and I think within a few minutes or arriving, we shall know all there is to know about this affair.”

And with that, he curled up and went to sleep.

To be continued.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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To Bonnie Scotland (or Not…)

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

Kins Cross Station Postcard newIt wasn’t until Hannay and myself had boarded the 18:47 to Edinburgh (having avoided the usual ticket-buying process) and squeezed ourselves into the toilet compartment on the Flying Scotsman, that it occurred to me we’d neglected to do anything about the body.

“Bugger.”

“What’s wrong,” whispered my companion. “You eager to get moving?”

“Not that – we forgot Scudder.”

He blinked several times. “You think we ought to have brought him with us?”

“No, of course not,” I chided, slapping his stupid face. “But we should have bundled him into the laundry chute or something.” I cursed my own stupidity and idly wondered how Holmes would phrase his chastisement on my lack of forethought. “Never mind, I don’t suppose the body’ll be discovered for several days.”Engaged 200x

At that point I became aware of a newsvendor touting his wares on the platform. At first I couldn’t make out what he was saying – it sounded like ‘Cliff Richard’s Stash of Meth in Bed on the Escarpment’, but that didn’t make sense. I leaned past Hannay, pulled down the window and the vendor’s chilling message rang out clearly above the noise of the station: ‘Stiff Found Stabbed to Death in Famous Author’s Apartment’.

I looked at Hannay. “That’s torn it.”

“Oh God – you don’t think the police will board the train suspecting we’re headed for a sleepy Scottish village?”

I considered this for a moment. “No, but I think they might board the train suspecting that you’re headed for a sleepy Scottish village.” I chuckled. “They’re hardly likely to suspect me, are they?”

His face fell floorwards faster than Mrs Watson’s underwear on a Friday night.

“Don’t worry, old chap,” said I. “I’ll put them right.”

He pouted like a spoilt child, then began to smile as the newsvendor’s next words came to our ears:

“Police search for Missing Murderer Doctor Watson. Sherlock Holmes Outraged.”

I said nothing and spent a few minutes in quiet contemplation, assessing the viability of my plan. Just then, the train began to move and I dared to think we might have escaped any police intrusion, at least for the time being.

But our safe haven was destined not to last – as the train lurched forward, the toilet door thudded open and a familiar face hove into view.

“Ah, Doctor Watson,” murmured Inspector Lestrade. “Sorry, old bean, but you’re under arrest.”

To be continued.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Deadman’s Pockets…

From the Diary of Doctor WatsonPostcard

There was little need to check the man’s vital signs, but I went through the motions nevertheless. Given my companion’s somewhat heightened sense of terror, I decided to break the news to him as gently as possible:

“He’s snuffed it.”

“My God! I’m next!” Hannay’s hands flew to his face, cupping those rosy cheeks in a girlish manner that put me in mind of my own dear wife and the ‘swooning maiden’ act she sometimes adopts when I show her my rhododendrons.

“We must fetch Sherlock Holmes,” he cried, tugging at my lapel. “Only he can save us.”

I brushed him aside. “Don’t be such a nancy-boy, Hannay. Pull yourself together.” I checked through the dead man’s pockets and found two items: a picture postcard of some obscure Scottish village and a small white card displaying a silhouette of a man and the slogan ‘Scudder’s Marital Aids’. Slipping both articles into my pocket I stood up. “His name’s Scudder and judging from his business card I don’t believe him to be involved in creative writing. Now, Hannay, this is very important – the word he uttered before he fell…”

Hannay rubbed his chin. “I thought he was asking for the Post Office.”

I shook my head. “No, that’s meaningless. I thought he said ‘Ostovich’, which is obviously Russian. This man is a secret agent.”

“But what’s that got to do with Scudder Card copyme?”

I walked over to the window and retrieved my cup of tea. “I think this has something to do with your writing, Hannay, but it’s also got something to do with spies.”

“But I don’t know anything about spying,” he wailed.

“Ah,” said I. “But in your recent novel ‘The Forty-Seven Arsewipes’ you went into great detail about the process of creating false passports.”

“Oh, you read my books?” His manner changed abruptly and he began pawing at my chest like a lovesick pig.

“Indeed,” I muttered, moving out range. “I didn’t like to say so before, but I’m rather fond of a good story and the depth of research that goes into your work might easily prompt a less intelligent casual reader to think you were involved in spying yourself.”

He shrugged. “Actually, I make it all up, but I suppose it’s possible…”

“Not only possible, but highly likely. You said yourself that someone was trying to steal your new novel.” I rubbed my chin the way I’ve seen Holmes do in such situations. “I believe that the men who have been following you are enemy agents. Scudder here was obviously involved – perhaps he was a double agent. A triple agent, even.” I peeked through the curtains and noted with a grim nod that the two men at the phone box where still there. “We have to leave.”

“And go where?”

At that precise moment in time I had no idea, but then a thought occurred to me. Pulling the postcard out of my pocket I studied the picture closely – it depicted a traditional Scottish village and the slogan ‘Frae Bonnie Scotland’. “We need time to consider our next move,” I said, waving the card. “We’ll catch the next train to Edinburgh and head for Newton Stewart – no-one will think of looking for us there.”

To be continued

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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