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Into the Darkness


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

The route to the cellar took us towards the kitchens where a narrow staircase led to the wine cellar and then, presumably, to other areas below stairs. Pushing the door open, I was glad to see the owner of the house (whoever he or she turned out to be) had installed electric lighting in the cellar. Unfortunately, the wiring that ran along the wall didn’t seem to have a switch attached to it.

‘Hold on,’ said Holmes, barring the doorway. ‘Better take lanterns. I don’t relish total darkness.’

Back in the kitchen, we located the butler’s stock of hurricane lamps, and after lighting two and ensuring each had enough wick to keep burning for an hour or so, we headed back to the cellar door.

Holmes went first, followed by Johnny, me, and Lestrade. The stone stairs had no railing for support and with no sense of what we might find at the bottom, I began to wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

‘There’s another door down there,’ said Johnny, turning to look at me. He gave me a quick smile but couldn’t hide the dread in his eyes.

At the foot of the stairs, we gathered in the small space. Johnny and Holmes readied themselves, revolvers held high. Grasping the handle of the door, Holmes twisted it.

‘Locked, eh?’ said Lestrade.

‘No,’ said Holmes. ‘In fact, it’s not a door at all. Like the library books, it’s painted on, with a handle to make it look real.’

‘Look for a light switch,’ I said, feeling around on the wall beside me. Before I could locate anything useful, a familiar sensation began to make itself known.

As one, we looked at the floor. It had begun to vibrate, and I struggled to stay upright as the ground dropped slowly away.

‘Keep together,’ said Holmes, grabbing my hand and Johnny’s sleeve. ‘Lestrade—stay close.’

A spurt of steam shot up along the edges of the floor as the ground dropped steadily. I’d experienced modern elevators like the Americans have, but this was something different. The mechanism for moving the floor up and down would have to be immense. Gripping my husband’s hand, I waited as we sank below the level of the walls, leaving an open and indistinct space all around us. It felt as if we were standing on a sinking island in the middle of a dark and unfriendly ocean.

A sudden jerk as the floor thudded to a stop might have caused me to collapse in a heap had it not been for the support of my companions. For a moment, we stood there, the small pool of light from our lanterns illuminating our faces and little else, as we stared into the blackness that engulfed us.

‘Proceed?’ whispered Holmes. But the question remained unanswered, for at that moment there was a sharp report, like metal on metal, and the whole place lit up.

For a long moment, none of us could speak. The scene before us was one of such absurdity that I could scarcely take it in. The square stone floor we stood on had come to rest at one end of a vast arena. The height of the place must have been something close to sixty feet, with a ceiling crisscrossed by a pattern of steel girders, gears, pulleys, and ropes. Staring upwards, I could make out the layout of the rooms above us, the dining, library, and drawing rooms recognisable from their particular shapes. Attached to the floors of each of these were lengthy iron struts, each one connected to a massive steam engine located in the centre of the vast space. I realised the engine must enable the rise or fall of each room at the flick of a lever. Oddly, the engine seemed to have no link to the floor we stood on, meaning this one must be controlled separately.

‘How nice of you to join us,’ said a voice in the distance.

Only now, as I moved away from Johnny to see who had spoken, did I notice the six enormous square tables that took up the main area of the space before us. Covering each table were huge maps, dotted with models of buildings, landmarks, flags and other identifying features. Groups of men and women in white coats clutched clipboards and moved around the tables, shifting pieces on the maps as if it were some gigantic board game.

‘It’s Londen,’ gasped Holmes, gazing at each one in turn. ‘The whole bloody city, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Fleet Street, Londen Bridge …’

‘Well, I never,’ said Lestrade, ‘they’ve even got Scotland Yard. See that tobacco-stained window? That’s where my office is.’

Holmes gave him a withering look, and the inspector regained his composure.

‘Yes, yes, it’s all there,’ said the voice, moving closer. ‘City of delights and dossers, prostitutes and peasants, rich men, poor men … If only there were a network of devilishly devious individuals, wicked enough and clever enough to exert the right amount of pressure in those high government places, easing out the good, ushering in the bad, bringing pain and death where necessary.’ He laughed gaily, as if describing some grand and beneficial plan for the future of mankind. ‘It is a beautiful dream, is it not? A dream that can, and will, become a reality. As you can see,’ he waved a hand around the room, ‘The scene is set. All that remains is to take care of a certain group of do-gooders who repeatedly, continually, constantly get in our bloody way.’ He paused. ‘That’s you, in case you hadn’t guessed.’

The speaker had moved to within a few feet of our little group. Though his appearance was familiar, the voice didn’t match that of the man I’d expected.

‘Mister Lombardi?’ I said, staring at his face.

‘For a while, yes.’ He turned to Johnny. ‘I must admit to feeling a little disappointed, Doctor. I had begun to hope the infamous sidekick of Sherlock Holmes might have a bit more about him than playing the role of ‘rather stupid friend’ to a famous detective. I thought you of all people would have made the connection.’

‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ said Johnny, puffing his chest out. ‘Tell us who the hell you are.’

‘Ah, no, no, no,’ said the other, laughing. ‘Indulge me for a moment.’ He assumed a pose, one finger resting against the side of his face as if in pensive mood. ‘While you were stretched out on that table a little while ago, pretending to be dead, and you listened as three sets of footsteps approached the dining room door, did you not think to yourself that one of those sets of footsteps sounded familiar?’

Johnny hesitated, and I could tell he was momentarily stumped, then I heard a sharp intake of breath.

‘I did,’ he said, his voice low. ‘I thought one man’s step was light and quick. It reminded me of the confident, swaggering gait of …’ His eyes flared. ‘That infernal ice-cream seller, Mario.’

‘There now,’ said the other man, clapping his hands delightedly. ‘I knew you could do it.’

‘You utter bastard,’ I muttered. ‘Why, if I were a man, I’d …’

‘But you’re not, Mary, so shut the fuck up.’

His voice had changed again. This time it had a deep timbre to it and a hint of a Scandinavian inflection. Puzzled, I felt my anger slip away.

‘All those hours taking advantage of a silly little woman, who imagined a handsome and virile ice-cream seller would have nothing better to do than spend time giving pleasure to a wonky-eyed doctor’s wife …’ he laughed again. ‘No, my intentions were far simpler—to lay the groundwork of this little play of ours which has entertained us so much over the last few days. But now, let me enlighten you further …’ Reaching up, he grasped his left cheek, pulled, and the features we’d known as Lombardi’s peeled away. Underneath was the face of Mario Garganelli, his handlebar moustache (the one that had tickled me in places I daren’t even think about) twitching impertinently. But then the fellow began to pull at the other side of his neck, shedding a second layer of rubber, hair, and whiskers. A moment later, the man’s real face emerged.

‘Oh dear.’ I felt my legs go all wobbly.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Looking for Lombardi


Diary of Doctor J Watson

The mechanism forcing the floor of the library upwards, emitted a final metallic groan and juddered to a stop, leaving the four of us in a sudden and eerie silence.

‘That was too bloody near the bloody knuckle,’ said Lestrade, straightening his tie. ‘Thought my time ‘ad come, I did.’

‘Yes,’ said Holmes. ‘I admit an ascending floor was a long way down my list of possible scenarios.’

I pulled a face. ‘What? You mean it was something you’d considered?’

Holmes chuckled. ‘Bearing in mind what we’ve seen recently, Doctor, it’s not so surprising, is it?’

‘No, I suppose not.’

‘At least we know who screwed Miss Claymore’s chair to the floor,’ said Mary.

‘So we do,’ said Lestrade, setting off towards the conservatory where we’d left Mister Lombardi.

‘Wait a minute, Lestrade,’ called Holmes.

The inspector turned. ‘Yes?’

Holmes held up his hands in a gesture of disbelief. ‘You imagine he’s still there? Tied to his chair?’

Lestrade blinked. ‘Well, he might be.’

Holmes rolled his eyes and turned to me. ‘Tell him, Watson.’

I coughed. ‘If Lombardi screwed the chair to the floor, he could only have done it after we’d left him in there and gone back to the dining room to question General MacArthur and before we went into the library to question Miss Claymore. It’s unlikely he screwed the chair down and then went back to the conservatory, tied himself up again and is in there right now, sitting waiting for us.’

Lestrade waved a finger at me. ‘I still say he might be….’

‘He’s right,’ said Mary, stepping forward. ‘If Lombardi isn’t aware that we know about the chair, he could still be in there.’

Holmes pondered on this and gave a quick nod. ‘Mary’s right. Apologies, Lestrade – you’re not so stupid after all.’

‘Thanks,’ said Lestrade, grinning, then realising what Holmes had said, added, ‘Hang on, what d’yer mean, stupid?’ But we were already hurrying down the passage towards the conservatory.

Reaching the door, Holmes barrelled through into the oversized hothouse. Unlike the greenhouse in the garden, this was a masterpiece of modern engineering. A high-domed roof of shaped and ornate glass panels and supported by a low brick surround towered above us, the sunlight searing through the glass, its sudden glare causing us to shade our eyes.

Apart from a few tropical palms and tree ferns, the space was largely given over to an arrangement of wicker chairs, sofas and low rattan-style tables – it was a space for relaxation. Only one item of furniture did not fit in with the décor. A single dining room chair stood in the centre of the space, the ropes that had secured Lombardi to it lay strewn about the floor, having been cleanly sliced through.

‘Bugger,’ said Holmes.

‘We have to check Billy Blah,’ said Mary, tugging at my sleeve.

‘Right,’ said Holmes spinning round.

Hurrying back to the staircase, we followed him through into the drawing room. As expected, the chair we’d left next to the French windows that had previously supported Mister Blah’s bulk, stood empty. The ropes on the floor, like Lombardi’s, had been sliced through.

‘It’s Klopp,’ muttered Holmes. ‘She let them go in order to finish them off before we can get to them.’

‘Really?’ I said. ‘Why not cut their throats where they sat? Far easier.’

Holmes rubbed his chin. ‘Then perhaps she has a more important role for them to play,’ he said.

‘I don’t think so,’ said Mary in a low voice. ‘There’s something on the grass.’

We all turned to look. Sure enough, twenty yards or so across the lawn, lay what appeared to be a bundle of bloody clothing.

‘Watson,’ barked Holmes. ‘Check your weapon.’ So saying, he pulled out his revolver and a handful of shells, slotting them into their allotted places. ‘I’ve had enough of protecting the innocent,’ he muttered. ‘If anyone else thinks Sherlock Holmes is a softy, they’ll be disappointed.’

Reloading my own gun, I followed Holmes through the French windows. Adopting a pincer movement with Lestrade bringing up the rear, we fanned out, keeping our eyes wide open for signs of an ambush. But the lawn was deserted and the only item in sight was recognisable as the body of Billy Blah. The poor man was pegged out like a human tent, hands and feet skewered, his body spread-eagled in a macabre reproduction of Tony Marston’s grisly death. Across his chest, a deep red gash told me that no amount of bedside manner would be of use to him now.

‘He’s still alive,’ I said, crouching down. Leaning close, I felt his rasping breath against my cheek. For a moment, I could make out nothing, then with a final effort, he spat out his parting words.

‘I…fuckin…told…you…’

Looking up at Holmes, I shook my head.

‘Back inside,’ he said, eyes darting here and there.

Leaving the body to the birds, I ran back to the house. ‘Only Lombardi now,’ I said.

‘And Klopp,’ muttered Lestrade.

‘Is it just me,’ said Mary, ‘or have we failed horribly in this investigation?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘you’re right, we have failed horribly.’

‘Not so,’ said Holmes, shaking his gaunt features. ‘We may have proved unsuccessful in saving the lives of almost every one of our companions, but we four are still here and as long as I’m alive, I intend to fight this thing to the bitter end.’

‘Excellent,’ said Mary with only a hint of sarcasm. ‘So happy we’re all on the same page.’

Holmes glared at her. ‘Well, what do you suggest, Mrs Watson?’

‘I suggest we find out what makes the floors go up and down.’

‘Yes,’ said Holmes, avoiding her gaze, ‘that’s exactly what I was about to say.’

‘Takes a bloody sick mind to do that to a bloke,’ muttered Lestrade, staring at the body on the lawn. ‘Ere, you don’t fink Hannibal Lecter’s involved in this, do yer?’

‘If I’m right,’ said Holmes, ‘he’s probably the only one who isn’t. Now, to the cellar.’

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Claymore Speaks


Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade

In my excitement at being first to escape the dining room, I made the schoolboy error of hesitating for a moment due to uncertainty on the direction in which I should proceed. Given that circumstance, I should not have been surprised when Doctor and Mrs Watson careered into me, resulting in the three of us sprawling across the floor like a bunch of ill-mannered yobs.

‘No time for shenanigans,’ chided Holmes, slamming the door shut behind himself. ‘Into the library.’

He set off at a pace and we picked ourselves up and followed as swiftly as we were able.

Piling through the library door after the others, I pushed it shut and jammed a chair under the handle.

‘Got you on the run, has she?’

Still seated on the chair where we’d left her, Vera Claymore’s bonds held her arms and legs in place, allowing little room for movement. Even so, she seemed unconcerned at her situation and smiled as if we were all guests at some boring middle-class soiree.

Gazing around with my detective eye, I observed the shallow, ceiling-height bookshelves that lined each wall of the room and noted the usual fittings found in such apartments (desks, standard lamps, armchairs etcetera) were absent. Instead, the room had been furnished with three cheap-looking wooden chairs. One of these supported Miss Claymore, another stood in a corner, while the third was the one I’d used to jam under the door handle.

‘She’s right, you know, Holmes,’ said Doctor Watson. ‘We should’ve taken advantage and tied the mad bitch up while we had the chance.’

Holmes shook his head. ‘That is exactly what she wants us to do.’

‘Then why didn’t we do it?’ said Mary.

‘Because, my dear,’ said Holmes in that condescending manner of his, ‘there are still too many unanswered questions.’

‘Tch,’ said Watson. ‘What’s it matter? Klopp’s not going to tell us anything, is she?’

‘Precisely,’ said Holmes. ‘Which is why we must do our utmost to obtain that information from those members of our little party who remain, for the moment, alive.’ He turned to stare at Miss Claymore.

‘Huh,’ said our prisoner. ‘Don’t look at me. I ain’t tellin yer nothin.’

Holmes knelt in front of her and patted her leg. ‘Oh, you little fool. Don’t you know you never can win?’

The woman sneered, but I could see it troubled her.

‘You did hear those two shots, didn’t you?’ continued Holmes.

‘What if I did?’

‘Well,’ he said. ‘Take a look around you. Can you see anyone missing?’

She looked at me, at the Watsons and then back at Holmes. Her mouth opened, but she said nothing.

Holmes sat cross-legged on the floor, took out his meerschaum and after running his fingernail around the bowl, emptied the blackened contents onto the carpet. Then, taking his time, stuffed the pipe with a generous amount of Rough Shag, lit it and puffed away for a few moments. Finally, he looked up. ‘Tell me, who do you imagine was shot?’

The woman was not gifted with the ability to conceal her thoughts and even an occasionally dull-headed copper such as myself could see the cogs whirring round in her head as she worked through the possibilities. Eventually, she mumbled, ‘General MacArthur.’

‘Quite,’ said Holmes. ‘And who d’you think shot him?’

Vera Claymore bit her lip and blinked rapidly, as if striving to hold back tears. ‘She did.’

‘And why would she shoot him?’ said Holmes, his voice unexpectedly gentle.

‘Ter stop ‘im tellin you lot what he knows?’

‘Exactly.’

She sniffed, made odd little shapes with her mouth, her eyes darting around the room like mad darty things. Then she appeared to make a connection and her face froze, her eyes wide.

‘Oh, bugger. Ye think she’s going ter kill me.’

Holmes nodded. ‘It’s a strong possibility.’ He took a moment to puff on his pipe. ‘Unless you tell us what you know, in which case there’d be no need to.’

‘And what if I tell yer and she kills me anyway?’ wailed Miss Claymore, her true colours finally coming to the fore.

‘Then you have nothing to lose, eh?’ said Holmes, brightly. Standing, he strolled across to the window and leaned against the wall. I saw a quick nod pass between him and Doctor Watson, and the latter pulled up the only spare chair and sat down opposite the prisoner. (I gathered from this exchange that the Doc and Holmesy had some pre-arranged interrogation technique.)

‘So,’ said Watson. ‘Who did you kill?’

‘What d’yer mean?’ said the other, avoiding his gaze.

‘Come along, Vera, if that’s your name. We know Klopp demanded that each of you kill one of the others. Who did you kill?’

‘Well…’

Before she could say another word, I discerned a strange vibrating sensation in my shoes. Looking down, I saw that my feet appeared to be pulsating. ‘What the bloody hell…’

‘The floor,’ muttered Holmes. ‘Quickly, everyone…’

The thrumming noise increased in volume and the very ground we stood on began to shudder beneath us. A second later the whole floor started to move upwards.

‘Get to the door!’ yelled Holmes, striding across the room.

The chair I had jammed under the handle snapped in half as the pressure of the rising floor and the strength of the chair legs proved incompatible. Mary kicked the remains of the splintered item out the way and tried to yank the door open, but the rising floor was now a good twelve inches up the walls, prohibiting the aperture moving through its normal inward arc.

‘We’ll have to break it down,’ said Watson, picking up the chair he’d been sitting on and preparing to ram the door with it.

‘Here, let me help,’ said I, grasping the other side of the makeshift battering ram. On a count of three, we rushed forward and crashed into the door. The wood panels creaked but the hinges held fast.

‘Again,’ yelled Watson.

Once more we launched ourselves against the door and this time one of the upper panels split in half.

‘And again.’

Holmes had picked up pieces of the broken chair and strived to jam them between the floor and the wall, preventing further movement, but each time the wood shattered, eaten up by the ever-rising platform.

The grinding noise below us had grown to a thunderous level and the floor had reached halfway up the length of the door. If it got much further, we’d be trapped, with no alternative but to be squashed flat against the ceiling like grapes in a sort of giant winepress.

I glanced at Watson and we swung the remains of the chair against the upper section of the door, the only part of it still visible. This time, it gave way and Watson gamely kicked out the remaining panels, allowing enough room for us to climb through into the passageway.

‘Mary,’ he bellowed. ‘You first.’

Mrs Watson looked for a moment as if she might refuse on the grounds of feminine equality or some such bollocks, but she saw there was no time to argue the point, so allowing herself to be lifted up between her husband and myself, she slithered through the broken panels to the other side.

‘What about me?’ wailed Miss Claymore.

I looked back at her. Holmes and Watson crossed to where she sat and began to pull at the ropes that held her to the chair.

‘Wait,’ said Watson. ‘There’s too many knots. We’ll never have time to undo them. Have to chuck her through the hole, chair and all.’

‘Right,’ said Holmes and they both leaned down to grasp the chair by its back and legs.

‘Dammit,’ yelled Holmes. ‘It’s screwed to the floor.’ Looking up, he scanned the room. ‘Watson, Lestrade. The books. Pile them up around her – they’ll act as a barrier against the ceiling.

By this time, only fifteen inches or so of the smashed door was still visible. Whatever happened next, it had to happen fast.

Running to the nearest of the bookshelves, I reached out to grasp a pile of crime novels, but my fingers slid along the spines as if the shelves were covered in glass. ‘What’s going on?’ I muttered.

Holmes grabbed my arm. ‘They’re not real. Painted on.’ He looked at Miss Claymore, who, for the first time, wore an expression of sheer terror across her pale face. Crossing to where she sat, he knelt beside her.

‘Who screwed the chair to the floor?’

Vera’s lower lip quivered like a jelly on a plate. ‘Lombardi.’

‘Come on!’ It was Mary’s voice and as I turned to look, I saw only seven or eight inches left before the door disappeared from view.

‘Sorry, m’dear,’ said Holmes to Miss Claymore. ‘But you brought this on yourself.’

With that, he pushed Watson and me across the room and all three of us squirmed through the narrowing gap and fell through onto the carpet on the other side.

Twisting round, I caught a last glimpse of Vera Claymore’s horror-stricken face as her head made contact with the ceiling. The rising floor rose beyond the hole in the door and a crunching of wood and bones resounded from the room that had almost become a graveyard for all of us.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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Suspicions at the Window


From the Private Diary of A. Christie (Mrs)

Dear Diary

This morning I experienced an epiphany, or more truthfully, the germ of an idea that forced me to stop banging away at my Remington Victor T and sit back from my desk. I’d wasted several hours chewing pencils, staring at my typewriter, and mulling over the characteristics of the killer in my new book, ‘An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced’. I’d even spent half an hour tying to work up a sweat on my other current work-in-progress, ‘Humping Miss Daisy’ (though I suspect Bodley Head won’t touch that one with even the longest of barge poles, due to its working-class connotations).

It was something Inspector Lestrade mentioned, as we sauntered across the golf course the other day, that gave me cause to ponder. He talked about the use of masks (utilising my very own visage) and wondering why on earth anyone would place such an item on their victim’s faces. We had come to the joint conclusion the perpetrator must either be completely bonkers or simply endeavouring to throw Mister Holmes off the scent, vis a vis the murders.

And then it hit me – Lestrade is not the only person to put the idea of mask-wearing in my mind recently. A fan of mine (whose name I forget) appeared at my window one morning a few months ago, having somehow evaded the chaps at the main gate, and tapped her fat fingers on my windowpane until I gave up trying to ignore her and lifted the sash.

“Arr,” she began, climbing through the opening, “never thought Oi’d see the day when Oi might come face ter face wi’ the famous writer Missus Christie.” Sitting on the open sill, she clumped her boots onto the floor and grinned up at me.

I forced myself to suppress a sigh and held out my hand. “Very well, then, where is it?”

“Where’s what, moi luv?” said the dull-witted woman.

“The book you wish me to sign.”

“Oh-arr,” she said, gurgling like a drain. “This ‘ere.” And with that, she pulled out a paperback copy of ‘The Merder of Bodger Ackrood’ by Egetha Chroosty.

This time, I did not attempt to supress a sigh, and instead let out what I can only describe as a very definite grunt of irritation. “This is not one of mine,” I said, tapping the cover with my forefinger. “As you can see from the title, it is by one of those copycat writers who steal the manuscripts of famous authors like myself and put them out with a slightly different title in order to sell them to stupid people. Like you.”

The woman scarcely reacted to this put-down (almost as if she’d expected it), and with a shrug, stuffed the book back into her overcoat.

“If you’d care to buy a genuine copy of one my books, I’d be happy to sign it,” I said, adopting an air of pretended bonhomie. “Until then, goodbye.”

“Oh, oh,” she muttered, “can’t Oi jest take a picture of you for moi scrapbook, please?”

I sniffed and gave a curt nod. “If you must.”

The woman produced one of those cheap cameras that are all the rage these days and began snapping away.

“Happy now?” I said, my natural churlishness beginning to get the better of me.

“Thank ye muchly,” said the fool, clambering back through the window. “Oi’ll get it printed life size so Oi can wear it and look just like what you do.”

“Why on earth should you wish to do that?” I said.

“Oh, no partic’lar reason.” So saying, she hurried away across the lawn, just as one of my chaps came into view, brandishing a shotgun.

“And stay out, you fuckin bitch!” he shouted. Then making his way over to the still-open window, he lifted his hat. “Excuse the language, Aggie, but that bloody cow put something in me tea. I been out cold for the last twenty minutes.” He peered into the room. “Didn’t cause you no trouble, did she?”

I glanced around the room in case I had somehow missed something. “No, I don’t think so. She wanted a photo, that’s all.”

“I see,” he said. “Well if she shows her face again, I’ll stick my boot up her fat arschfotze.”

“Excuse me?” I said, a little taken aback.

“Oh, sorry, Aggie. Something she said as she was running off just now. German, I believe. It means–”

“Yes, I know what it means, thank you Brian. Look here, I don’t know what that silly woman put in your drink, but I suggest you pop round to the kitchen and ask cook for some tea and Battenberg. I think you deserve it.”

“Thanks very much,” he said, raising his hat again.

“You’re welcome. And if you fancy a quick one later, you know where I am.” I gave him a wink and he reddened slightly, but giggled, nevertheless. Then he was off round the side of the house in search of cake.

The memory of this incident suddenly seemed vitally important, and after pondering on it for a while longer, it occurred to me that the strange woman and her Deutschlandish colloquialisms might well have something to do with the goings-on at Huge Island.

Striding over to the mantelpiece, I tugged on the bell, drumming my fingers on the shelf as I waited.

Maudie popped her head around the door a few seconds later. “Yes ma’am?”

“Ask my chauffeur to pop up here, will you? I’m going on a little trip.”

“Sorry ma’am, William’s got a dose of the clap. He’s gone to the doctors.”

“Really? Well, I suppose that’s what he gets for hanging around with those tarts in the village.” I hesitated for moment, unsure what to do.

Then Maudie piped up, “Oi can drive, ma’am, if you like?”

“Oh, jolly good.” I looked her up and down. “Can’t have you going out in that skimpy skirt though, Maudie. Come up to my bedroom and you can try on a pair of my jodhpurs.”

And so half an hour later we were speeding towards Devon and the small village of Dolphin Cove. I could only pray we’d get there in time.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Point of the Game


Diary of Doctor J Watson

General MacArthur’s bound hands flew up in front of his face, as if he might somehow possess the ability to stop a bullet merely by waving it away, but there was no need. I heard a dull ‘click’ as the revolver’s hammer hit the firing pin, revealing that the weapon was not actually loaded.

The old man dropped his hands. “Nearly shat myself there,” he muttered. Then letting out a loud guffaw, added, “Knew you wouldn’t have the nerve, Holmes. Ha!”

“Nerves don’t come into it, General,” murmured Holmes, sliding the gun back into his pocket. “However, bluffing can work miracles.” He glanced at me, “Eh, Watson?”

I nodded, though I too had been convinced in those few short seconds that he fully intended to commit murder right there in front of us. I let out a long sigh. “Probably best not to shoot the prisoners, though.”

Holmes sniffed and said nothing.

“Well then,” said MacArthur, his bravado returning in spades. “Like I told you, won’t get anything out of me. Old soldier. Sworn to secrecy.” He jerked his head forward defiantly, sticking his chin out at Holmes. “And you can’t shoot me, so you’re buggered.” He chuckled and settled back in his chair, his face a portrait of arrogant self-satisfaction.

“I zink zat you are right, Herr General,” said a quiet voice behind me, “Holmes cannot shoot you, but I can, and I vill.”

Whirling round, my gaze met the deep-set dark green eyes and stark white face of Professor Helga Klopp, her stout, leather-clad body framed in the doorway. I observed her raised arm, the German luger grasped in her right hand. But before I could move, the gun went off with an ear-splitting roar.

For a moment, my senses were filled with a high-pitched whine and the stench of cordite, then turning back to look at the general, I saw the neat round hole in his temple, the glazed look in his eyes and the splatter of blood and brains across the far wall.

“Oh, fuck,” gasped Mary. “She’s killed him.”

The Professor stuck a hand down her knickers and pulled out another gun, aiming it directly at me. “Vell, Doctor Vatson, ve meet again, you handsome man.” She gave me a saucy wink, then looked at Mary. “And you? His slut of a vife, ay?” She turned back to me. “Vonce again you dizappoint me, Johnny. We could have made zuch beautiful muzak togezer.”

“You fiend,” said Holmes, spitting out the words. “You’ll never get away with this.”

“Vell, I might.”

Mary tugged at my sleeve. “What does she mean – making beautiful music together?”

“Tell you later,” I whispered. I was intent on sliding a finger into the trigger guard of my own revolver, but as I’d been silly enough to put it in my rear trouser pocket, I’d have to be careful. At best, I might easily shoot my arse off, at worst I might get in a couple of rounds before Klopp killed us all. I decided to bide my time. Holmes would have something up his sleeve for sure.

Lestrade had remained dumbstruck through all of this but now he stepped forward. “Alright, alright, Miss Plopp, this ‘as gone far enough. I’m arresting you for murder and several other incidences of bad behaviour that I’ll detail later. Get yer hands up.”

“It’s Klopp, dummkopf, and no, I don’t zink I vill get my hands up.” She turned the luger on him and after a moment’s hesitation, Lestrade did the sensible thing and stepped back, leaning against the dining table.

We all stood there staring at her, unable to say anything. Then Holmes sniffed and clicked his teeth. Recognising this secret signal, I glanced at him and he gave a small nod. I saw his eyes flick up to the ceiling and grasped his meaning immediately. Such a dangerous move could get us all killed. Even so, I reached up and scratched my nose to let him know I was willing to try.

“So, Professor,” said Holmes, sliding his hands into his trouser pockets, casually. “What now? Going to shoot us all?”

“Eventually.” She looked at me, her tongue sliding seductively around her wicked mouth. “But first we haff to finish ze game.”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “The game.” He ambled slowly across the carpet to a point just shy of the exact centre of the room. “And what is the point of this game?”

“Ze point, Mister Holmes is wewenge.”

“It’s what?” said Holmes.

“Wewenge,” she said again.

“Revenge, you mean?” said Holmes, mockingly.

“Off course zat’s vot I mean, you imbecile. Do not play me for ze fool, Holmes.”

“Why not,” said he, “you’re rather good at it.”

Klopp strode right up to Holmes and pointed both guns in his face. “Do not push your luck Mister Holmes…”

Whatever she intended to say next will remain a mystery, for it was at that precise moment that I made my move. Stepping quickly to one side, I pulled out my gun, took aim, and fired. The chain holding up the chandelier parted company with its housing and the whole thing crashed to the floor. Or more specifically, it crashed on top of Professor Klopp.

“Run!” yelled Holmes, waving his hands frantically.

We ran.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Scent of a Woman


The Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

“Quickly, Mary,” yelled Johnny, looking up. “Smelling salts.”

“Smelling salts?” I said. “Why on earth would I possess smelling salts?”

He waved a hand at Holmes. “For emergencies, of course – we have to jolt him out of this oblivion.”

I glanced at Lestrade, but his startled expression told me he’d be of no use. “Right, then,” I muttered. “Have to resort to my womanly wiles.” With that, I hoisted up my skirts, pushed Johnny out of the way and placed my feet on either side of Sherlock’s head. With a quick movement, I squatted down and plopped my womanly parts onto the detective’s face.

“Mary,” gasped Johnny, “what the hell–?”

“Count to ten, dear,” I said, praying that my unusual response to the crisis would prompt some sign of life from Holmes. For a long, long moment nothing happened, then a sudden lurch beneath me followed by a sucking sensation (which was actually rather pleasant), told me I hadn’t made the wrong decision and I found myself hurled aside with some force.

“Jesus Fucking Christ, woman!” gasped Holmes, sitting up, his mouth gulping air like an irate haddock. “You trying to suffocate me?”

I had landed with my skirts around my waist, displaying my personal assets to the world, but Lestrade, taking the gentlemanly initiative for once, stepped forward and helped me to my feet. After making myself respectable, I looked at Holmes.

“Not dead, then?”

He blinked, sniffed and frowned. Then, presumably recalling what had occurred only a few moments before, shook his head. “No, it seems not, but please, Mary, never do that again.”

Johnny took his friend’s arm and pulled him upright, seating him back on the chair he’d so recently vacated. “Think we’d better give you a dose of something to make you sick,” he said, examining his companion’s eyes, mouth and ears.

Holmes batted him away. “No, no, leave me be, all I need is a glass of water to get this awful…” he glanced at me and coughed. “To get that interesting and unusual piquancy out of my system.”

“No need to be polite, Holmes,” I said. “The plumbing in this house is atrocious – I haven’t had a bath in ages. If this had been a week later, my lady parts might well have finished you off.”

“Thank heaven for small mercies,” he said, a smile playing around his mouth. “Now,” he continued, surveying our four captives who had watched the whole scene with a mixture of amusement and abject horror. “Let’s split this lot up.”

We spent the next few minutes transporting three of the villains to other rooms nearby, leaving only General MacArthur in the dining room.

“Won’t do you any good, you know?” said the old man, when the four of us had returned. “Won’t get anything out of me. Old soldier, you know. Sworn to secrecy.”

“I might remind you,” said Holmes, “that only a short while ago you did tell us one of those secrets.”

“I did?” He grunted. “Bugger.”

“We’re not much wiser for it, though,” said Johnny.

“Perhaps not,” I said, “but at least we know what Professor Klopp’s plan is.”

Holmes leaned forward, hands on his knees, peering into MacArthur’s grizzled face. “Indeed, Watsons. Both quite correct. In fact…” Reaching into his inside pocket he pulled out his revolver. “So much so that we no longer need these pitiful acolytes.”

Stepping back, he held up the gun, aiming at a spot between General MacArthur’s eyes.

“Now, just a bally minute,” blustered the old man. “Shooting me won’t do you a jot of good, you know?”

“It’ll make me feel better,” quipped Holmes.

Seeing Sherlock’s idea, I joined in. “Yes, you’re right, Holmes, blow his bloody head off. One less for breakfast, if nothing else.”

MacArthur’s eyes widened and his mouth opened so far, I though his jaw might fall off. “But…but…but…” he spluttered.

“But me no buts, General. Your time has come.” And with that, Holmes pulled the trigger.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Pigeon Poisoner


Diary of Doctor J Watson

Glancing at the faces of my colleagues, I could see I was not the only one to feel somewhat out of my depth. Knowing it would take a little while for Billy Blah’s sobering revelation to sink into our respective intellects and produce a solution (if indeed there was one), it seemed logical to proceed with those tasks we were able to deal with.

“Tie him up, eh?” I said, looking at Holmes for approval.

The Great Detective nodded. “Yes. In fact, I suggest we tie them all up, stick them in separate rooms and boil their toes till they squawk.”

“Boil their toes?” said Mary, her face tinged with alarm.

“Metaphorically speaking,” said Holmes, giving her a wink.

“Lestrade,” I said, crossing the room, “let’s you and I round up the others. Mary, would you fetch my emergency villain-apprehending kit from our room, please?”

Mary acquiesced and followed us up the stairs.

“Seems ter me, Doctor,” said Lestrade as we walked along to General MacArthur’s room, “that it mightn’t be a completely stupid idea to get a team of constables over ‘ere ter lend a hand.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” said I, “but that would simply scare away our nemesis, and we don’t want to risk her fleeing the scene, as it were. At least, not before we’ve had the chance to run her to ground.”

“Or before she kills us all,” muttered Lestrade, solemnly.

We’d reached the General’s room and giving a quick knock, I went in. The man himself was sitting on his bed, with Dilip Lombardi lounging on an easy chair nearby. The pair had a guilty look about them and I suspected they’d been in the midst of plotting some devious scheme.

“Oh, er…” said MacArthur, spluttering over his words. “Just ahm…just discussing the funeral, etcetera.”

“No need to continue the charade, General,” I said, as disdainfully as possible. “As you both know, Holmes is alive and well and looking forward to applying a little pressure to your villainous brains.”

The General laughed. “Ah, game’s up, eh?” He glanced at Lombardi and I caught the quick exchange between them that could well have been some secret message. But what that message might be, I had no clue.

“Just get yerselves dahn the stairs,” said Lestrade, coming over all authoritarian. He moved back to the door and waved a hand. “Out.”

I followed the pair back down to the dining room while Lestrade went to fetch Miss Claymore, whose intermittent moaning had lapsed into occasional grunts of annoyance.

Mary emerged from our room carrying the emergency kit and holding a note.

“Look – a pigeon was waiting on our windowsill.”

I took the piece of paper and glanced at the tiny writing, but it was far too small to make out the words.

Back in the dining room, I took a length of rope from the emergency villain-apprehending kit and cut it into lengths to tie up the three men. Lestrade appeared, dragging a grouchy Vera Claymore behind him.

Holmes had arranged four chairs in a line. The first was occupied by Mister Blah, and now General MacArthur and Mister Lombardi were pushed onto the second and third chairs. Miss Claymore’s injury appeared to have improved for, though she still walked rather bowleggedly, she’d given up trying to elicit sympathy from us.

We spent a few minutes securing the four captives to their respective chairs, and ensured they were free of weapons. Rather oddly, all four sat quietly, watching the four of us, as if expecting something interesting to occur.

“Mary found this on our windowsill,” I said to Holmes, handing him the pigeon’s note.

He took it carefully, glanced at the writing then pulled a magnifying glass from his inside jacket pocket. Seating himself at the table, he ran a hand over the paper, flattening it out, then holding the glass over it, leaned down, his eyes only inches away from the tiny lettering.

“Why on earth would anyone pen a letter in such…” He sniffed a few times, coughed and dropped the magnifying glass, then sitting bolt upright, looked pointedly at me and murmured, “Oh, dear…” And with that, Holmes fell off his chair.

As I leaped to his side, I was aware of a merry chuckling from the quartet of villains behind me. Ignoring them, I dragged Sherlock away from the chair, so he now lay flat on his back. I unfastened my companion’s collar and slipped a hand under his neck, titling his head back slightly to ease his breathing.

“Holmes? What is it, Holmes?”

Already his lips were turning a deep blue and his eyelids flickered, wanly. Leaning over him, I lowered my ear to catch his words.

“Pij…pij…pigeon…post…” And with that he lapsed into unconsciousness.

“My God,” I gasped, looking up at Mary. “He’s been poisoned – by pigeons!”

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2019 in Detective Fiction

 

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