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?”
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?”
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…”