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Icebergs Away…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Our journey back to England was uneventful, save for the half-hour or so we spent pulling our fellow passengers out of the sea to the relative safety of the iceberg. Watching the SS Doncaster sink into the murky waters was a little disheartening, but at least no-one died. (This last observation came from Holmes when I happened to mention we’d be free of Moriarty and Co who, as they had not appeared among the survivors, must surely have drowned. He pointed a bony finger past the sinking wreck to a small rowing boat manned by four individuals. The vessel appeared to be heading towards France).

“I fear Moriarty is not so easy to get rid of,” said Holmes, stuffing a lump of hard shag into his pipe. “One of these days his murderous plots will run according to plan, and you and I shall be properly buggered.”

“And what about the Claw?” I said. “D’you think he’s teamed up with the Prof on a full-time basis?”

Holmes shook his head. “I doubt it – the man has his own axe to grind. I suspect we’ve annoyed him sufficiently to want to seek some degree of revenge.”

I nodded thoughtfully. The idea of having yet another villain to worry about didn’t sit easily with me. If it were merely my own silly neck on the line, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I fear I should never recover if anything happened to my poor defenceless Mary. As this thought swam around my brain, I glanced over at her and noticed Passepartout’s hand caressing my wife’s hindquarters. Whirling round, she jammed two fingers up his nostrils and wrestled him to the ground.

“Try that again, you little twerp and I’ll shove my hand where the sun never shines.”

The Frenchman grinned up at her and croaked, “Yes please.”

Mary shook her head in disgust and giving him a kick in the ribs, went off to join Holmes at the helm.

A few hours later we tied up a little downriver of East India Docks in an effort to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. The other passengers happily disembarked and paraded over to the Happy Fiddler public house, the proprietor of which, thanks to Holmes (who had helped him out with a delicate family matter), was happy to re-open his doors, despite the late hour. The Captain and his crew were less keen to leave us, but Holmes was able to persuade them to go by threatening charges of dereliction of duty and failure to apprehend a gang of villains.

The darkness aided our clandestine operations and we were able load a few provisions onto the iceberg and wave a hearty goodbye to Phogg and Passepartout shortly before dawn.

As the three of us stood on the dock, it occurred to me that we faced a long walk home. I mentioned this to the Great Detective, but he simply clicked his fingers and a whirring sound above our heads told me a steam-powered gyrocopter was about to land.

“How on earth…” I began. My companion smiled.

As the machine thumped gently to the ground, a familiar figure emerged from the cockpit. Mycroft Holmes waddled over to us, shook my hand and gave his brother a dig in the ribs before wrapping his arms around my wife.

“How bloody lovely to see you again, my dear,” he said, jiggling her up and down.

Mary blushed considerably and pushed him away, though I sensed she was happy to see him.

“I was just saying,” I said, taking Mycroft’s arm. “How on earth–”

“Did we know you were here?” he finished, giving me a cheeky wink. “Elementary my dear Motson. I took the liberty of installing a tracking device in your wife’s vagina.” He grinned.

My mouth hit the ground with a dull thud. “Wha…wha…wha..” I stammered.

Mycroft laughed heartily and punched my shoulder. “Relax, Kitson, I’m joshing with you. In fact, Mary’s clockwork lamp sends out a rather clever electronic signal when it is activated. It was picked up by one of our gyrocopters. We’ve been following your progress ever since the SS Mangochutney encountered the iceberg.”

“I see,” I said, feeling somewhat small and insignificant.

“So you’re going to take us all home, then?” said Mary, a wide smile lighting up her face.

“Not I,” said Mycroft. “But my chaps here will drop you off shortly.” And with that, he set off towards the Happy Fiddler, shouting, “Mine’s a G and T.”

Clambering into the machine, the three of us huddled together and settled down for the short flight to our respective homes. A few minutes later, Mary and I alighted at the corner of our street in Marlborough Hill, then watched as the craft lifted into the air again and disappeared into the dawn.

Walking across to the corner and down to our garden gate, I slipped an arm around Mary’s waist. “Happy to be home?”

She nodded. “Well, it’s been fun, but yes, I am happy to be home.” Then looking up at me, a frown furrowed her brow. “You know what, darling – we don’t have any keys.”

Automatically, I slipped my hand into my outside pocket. “Bugger. Lost with everything else, I suppose. Have to rely on the old key-under-the-plant-pot routine.” I moved towards the front door and for the first time realised that someone was sitting on our doorstep.

“Who the heck are you?”

The lad grinned up at me. “Telegraphical message for yer, Doctor.” He jumped up and handed me a slip of paper.

“Bit early for that sort of thing, isn’t it?” said I, opening the communication.

“Yes sir, but the feller insisted that you get it soon as possible, like.”

“And what man was that,” said Mary, stroking the lad’s arm.

“Oh, some Yankee feller. Said he’s staying at the Horse and Trollop down the road.”

And with that, he got up and ran off into the street.

“What’s it say, Johnny?” said Mary, peering down at the message.

I sighed. It was another case. One that would put our lives in danger yet again. But this time, the consequences of locating the perpetrator might be far worse than anything Moriarty or the Hooded Claw could dream up.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Between a Ship and Hard Place…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know what. The line.”

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Mrs Watson Drops in…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Whatever possessed me to disrobe in front of everyone, I cannot say. It must surely have been one of those moments when my mind was somewhere else entirely (though I have no desire to explain where, dear reader, so you shall have to use your own imaginations). Suffice it to say that had I been about my senses, my evening gown would not have dropped to the floor like a wet rag and my feminine articles might have remained unstared at.

Nevertheless, I could never have slid my lithesome body into that dark hole while fully dressed and since neither my husband nor that big-nosed detective could have taken on such a task with all their manly flab and muscle (though I should have enjoyed casting my eye over the naked forms of Passepartout or his hunky master), it was clear that any chance of escape was down to little old me.

No sooner had I slid into the vent and shuffled along a few yards, than I began to hear voices. Listening for a moment, I discerned they were coming from somewhere below me. Sliding over onto my back, I continued along the passage until I came to a sort of junction. One section seemed to slope downwards and the other veered off to the left. It was from the descending passage that the voices now grew louder, so squirming round, I heaved myself into the new section and shuffled along a few feet, my weight carrying me downwards rather more quickly than I’d have liked, due to the steep angle.

It was at this point that the section of vent I was lying on gave way and my hindquarters fell through the hole.

The first thing I noticed was that the voices had stopped. Then a gruff-sounding fellow shouted, “Bloody Norah, there’s a naked woman in the air vent.”

It didn’t take a genius to guess he was referring to me, so with as much decorum as I could muster, I turned myself around and dropped through the hole onto a piece of rough matting, which I instantly picked up and wrapped around myself.

“Mrs Watson,” said a voice behind me.

I turned and stared up into the dark hooded eyes of Professor Moriarty. I had to admit for an evil villain, he was a rather dashing sort of chap.

“Couldn’t resist, eh?” he said with a low chuckle. He turned to the Hooded Claw who was standing next to what I assumed must be the control desk – a big table with lots of knobs and levers sticking out of it. “See, Claw?” he said. “One look and they’re mine, mwah, hah, hah…”

Fluttering my eyelids, I let out a series of girlish giggles, but in reality I was taking in my surroundings: Two henchmen stood behind the professor, their dull faces reminding me of Inspector Lestrade after three bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale. The pair looked as if a brain cell between them would have been one too many. They were no match for me. Flicking my gaze from the men to the various dials and levers, I did a quick calculation as to which ones might earn me the most brownie points. Then, turning my attention back to Moriarty, I gushed, “Oh, please, it’s not you I want…” I swivelled my head towards the Claw and stretched out a hand, stroking his shoulder seductively.

“Oh,” he said, with a look of lecherous excitement. “You are trying to entice me with your womanly willies?”

Moriarty groaned. “It’s wiles, you stupid man.”

Claw’s mouth dropped open and he waved an accusing finger at the Professor. “Don’t call me stupid. I told you never to call me stupid.”

The other man sighed. “See what I have to put up with?”

Feeling that I’d lost my chance, I was about to remove my hand from the Claw’s shoulder when he looked at me and smiled. I made a sudden decision – I would go ahead with my plan. If it failed, at least I could say I’d tried.

Running my hand up the villain’s neck, I caressed his face, teasing his evil laughter-lines with my fingernail. “Oh, you’re just a big old softy, aren’t you Mister Claw. I bet all that evily-weevily stuff is just a show, isn’t it?” I let go of the rough matting, revealing my nakedness once more. As I’d hoped, the Claw’s eyes slid down to stare at what my husband likes to call my ‘box’. At the same moment, a sideways glance told me Moriarty’s gaze had followed that of his murderous friend. I had them. With a deft movement, I grabbed the nearest leaver and thrust it forward. The whole room, and therefore the iceberg, lurched drunkenly and a moment later the floor dropped away as the whole vessel pitched forward diagonally.

Though my choice of levers was a random one, I couldn’t have chosen better. Both Moriarty and the Claw, having nothing to hold on to, fell over and slid along the floor towards the doorway. Their two henchmen followed suit and the four of them toppled over and fell in a heap against the now sloping wall. Luckily, I was still hanging onto the lever and was able to stop myself from joining the motley crew. The only thing I had to do now, was work out how to save my companions…

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Claw in the Hand


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“What are you waiting for?” hissed our captor. “Get going.”

“You can’t fool me,” I said, with as much bravado as I could muster. “I know who you are – Claw.”

The villain merely laughed and nudged me with his pistol.

Having risen to his full height, I noticed the man’s black shoes had been strapped to his knees, leaving his stockinged feet on show. The fool must have been crawling around on his knees since boarding the ship in an effort to conceal his true stature and therefore, his identity. However, the ploy might still work in our favour – someone would be bound to notice the discrepancy: how many priests walk around with their shoes half-way up their legs?

Sadly, my hopes of intervention fell by the wayside as we were shoved roughly along the passage. The two ‘nuns’ pushed in close, hiding their leader’s lower extremities from view, and the gun in my side persuaded me any evasive action on my part would end in tragedy. Grasping Mary’s hand, I whispered to her to stay calm, though I could already feel a familiar loosening sensation in my bowels. Buggeration! As if it weren’t enough that we were about to be killed, but to be killed after kacking my breeches… Damn it all – it was more than an ordinary Englishman could bear. I had to do something.

It was only then that I remembered my trusty revolver. In their haste, the villains hadn’t searched us, perhaps thinking we were simply too stupid to consider arming ourselves. Well, they’d soon learn that John Watson MD was not to be trifled with. In one deft movement, I slid my hand into my pocket and whipped out my weapon. Unfortunately, my action was so quick I took myself by surprise and a second later the damn thing slipped out of my fingers and flew into the air.

The man in the priest’s outfit reacted startlingly fast – flinging out his hand, he grabbed the weapon and dropped it down his cassock as if it were the sort of manoeuvre he did on a daily basis.

“Now look here…” I started, “That’s mine…” but a fat fist smashed into my face, cutting off my objections and knocking me sideways.

Mary let out a yelp, but her protests were short-lived. The fist’s owner snarled and for the first time I realised that not only were the Claw’s side-kicks not women, but they weren’t even attractive. The brute snarled again and waved a knife in my face.

“Do that again, son, an’ I’ll slit your gizzards.”

I wasn’t sure what gizzards were, but the man’s intentions were clear. The priest smiled at me. I smiled back. Then, giving Mary’s hand a squeeze, we continued towards our fate.

The journey to the lower decks took some time, as we were forced to use those areas reserved for the crew, negotiating narrow doorways and stairways. All the while, at least one of us had a gun pressed to our sides, no doubt to ensure our continued cooperation. I surmised most of the passengers would still be at dinner, as we only passed three or four individuals on the way, and in any case they were all too engrossed in themselves to pay us any attention.

I began to wonder what Holmes would do. For the next few minutes I busied myself thinking of questions he would ask in this situation, but my befuddled brain refused to work and all I could come up with was a vague plan to somehow overpower the deadly trio and escape to the safety of the dining hall.

As we neared our destination, the noise of the ship’s engines grew louder and the air thick with steam and stale sweat. The priest pushed us through a hatchway into a small storeroom that I guessed from the metallic thumping must be adjacent to the engine room.

Stumbling into darkness, I was given a hard shove from behind and instinctively stuck out my hands. Something warm and wet came into contact with my fingers and I immediately shrank back, wiping my soiled digits down my shirt.

Mary yelped and fell against me, before a loud clang told us the door had been locked behind us. Rubbing a sleeve across my face, I blinked in the darkness. With a sudden flush of fear, I realised that someone or something was standing in front of me.

“Who’s there?” I demanded.

I heard a sharp rasping sound and a match sparked into life.

“Ah, Watson,” said a familiar voice. “About time you showed up.”

“Holmes!” I cried.

“Hold your enthusiasm, old friend,” said he, holding the match up so we could see his face. “This complication is not what I had intended.”

With a sudden flush of concern I saw that my friend’s face bore the marks of a fight – his nose was bloodied and a splash of red splattered his shirt. I was about to tender my sympathies when Mary butted in.

“Just a minute,” she said. “Why are you dressed as a waiter?”

Holmes gave her a sardonic smile. “My apologies, Mrs Watson, but when I was interviewed a few months ago for the periodical Amateur Detective Monthly, I referred to your husband as ‘my rather stupid friend.’ At the time I regretted making such a patronising remark as unworthy of me. However, I now see that my description of dear Johnny’s worth was quite accurate.” Turning to me, he added, “because he’s a total prick.”

“Damn it,” I said, “that’s below the belt, Holmes, even for you.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “but if you had correctly interpreted our earlier meeting in the lavatory, we would not now be in this situation.”

“But…but…” I tried.

“But me no buts, Watson. Your lack of attention has allowed the Hooded Claw the opportunity to carry out the mission he came on board to do – to kill Phileas Phogg.”

And with that, the match went out and we were plunged once more into darkness.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

At dinner, Phogg and his companion took their seats a few tables to the left of myself and Mary, who found ourselves in the company of three other couples, all of whom were dressed up to the nines. Mary snuggled up to Captain Smith, tickling his snowy-white beard and regaling him with stories of her husband’s adventures with the infamous Sherlock Holmes.

Given my wife’s usual low opinion of Holmes, I was a little surprised to overhear her lauding the man’s exploits as if he were a bosom friend. Feeling somewhat put out at this show of disloyalty, I fell into conversation with the couple closest to me – an Australian chap named Dundee and his blonde beauty of a wife, who he referred to as Sheila, though I gathered from her glowering countenance, that this was not her actual name.

While Mr Dundee entertained me with an account of some run-in with a cross-eyed alligator, I made the effort to respond positively, nodding and uttering occasional remarks. My attention, however, was entirely taken by three individuals over the Aussie’s left shoulder. I had noticed them shortly after taking our seats and endeavoured to keep the trio of so-called religious aficionados in view ever since. The brace of nuns sat on either side of the small Catholic priest, who occasionally returned my gaze with a polite bow of the head and a sycophantic smile. If he was trying to intimidate me, it wasn’t working.

Just then, a waiter serving our main course brushed up against me. He apologised and leaned down so that his mouth was close to my ear.

“A message for you, Doctor Watson.”

The man’s voice was low and could not have been overheard by my companions. I turned towards him, suddenly alert. “Yes?”

“The gentlemen’s cloakroom. Five minutes.”

And with that, the man was gone. I glanced at Mary who, as usual, had seen everything. Though still deep in conversation with the (clearly enthralled Captain Smith), she threw me a quick glance that told me she too, was on the alert.

A few moments later, I excused myself and strolled nonchalantly through the dining hall towards the cloakroom. On entering, I was relieved to note that apart from the waiter, I was alone. I coughed. “You have a message for me?”

The man approached and rested the palm of one hand on my chest. I looked down at his long, thin fingers, noting the clean fingernails and absence of a wedding ring. When I raised my eyes to his face, he smiled and slid his hand down my torso towards my nether regions.

“Now look here…” I started, casting his arm away. “What’s the meaning of this?”

The waiter pouted. “You want some, don’t you?” He patted my leg and rubbed his hand along the length of my weapon. “You can’t fool me…”

I sighed. “For fuck’s sake.” Reaching into my trouser pocket, I pulled out my revolver and stuck the barrel into his ear. The waiter yelped and fell to his knees.

“Gawd’s sake, I only wanted…” he whimpered.

“Yes, yes,” I muttered. “I can imagine what you wanted, but unfortunately for you, this is a gun, not an erection. Now fuck off before I lose my temper.”

He disappeared faster than a whippet up a drainpipe and I slipped the gun back into my pocket before taking the opportunity to relieve my bladder and wash my hands. When I emerged from the cloakroom, Mary was waiting for me.

“Well?” she said.

“False alarm.” I took her arm and began to head back towards the dining hall, but Mary pulled me to one side.

“The priest has gone.”

“And the nuns?”

She nodded. “They left shortly after you did.”

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. “Better liaise with Phogg.”

Something prodded me in the buttocks. For a moment, I though the waiter had come back to try his luck, but a familiar voice persuaded me otherwise.

“Don’t turn around Doctor, or I shall have to blow your cheeks apart. Now, take your dear wife’s hand and make you way to the boiler room.”

Mary’s face had drained of colour, telling me all I needed to know.

“You won’t get away with this, you cad,” I said, hoping the villain wouldn’t notice the tremor in my voice.

“Au contraire,” he said, nudging me with his pistol. “I already have.”

As we started off down the passageway, I could only hope Phogg would grow suspicious at our absence and investigate. But as I was soon to discover, Phogg and his companion were only too aware of the situation…

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Port Out, Starboard Home…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The following morning found me sitting by my fireside considering my next move. With Holmes still absent without leave, I had no sage companion to lean on (aside from Mary, who had already foisted her opinion upon me several times over breakfast that morning). In such circumstances, I called on my own expertise and began by running over the events of the previous day, focusing on four points:

1. Phileas Phogg and Passepartout would shortly leave our shores on what, even in normal
circumstances, could well prove to be a hazardous journey.
2. The Hooded Claw was clearly a dangerous individual, though as yet, I had no specific proof he intended to injure the aforementioned travellers.
3. Mister Claw, I deduced, may or may not interfere with said traveller’s arrangements in a manner that may or may not place all concerned in peril.
4. Mary wants a holiday.

Ruminating on the problem while chomping on one of my wife’s jammy doughnuts, I remained undecided, but as it turned out, my mind was made up via an external influence – a telegram:

Dr Watson

SS Mangochutney about to sail. Cabin booked in your name. Please come at once.

Passepartout

Without Holmes to guide my thinking otherwise, I settled on viewing the initial part of the trip as a vacation, therefore, should the whole thing turn out to be either beyond my comprehension, or simply a waste of time, my wife and I would at least gain some quality time together. If I was wrong, then the combined deductive powers of myself and my dear wife, would surely keep us from harm.

Breaking the news to Mary, I was rewarded with a gleaming smile and a twinkle in her wonky eye, along with the promise that she’d make me ‘shoot my luggage’ (whatever that means), as soon as we were on board.

We made haste to the docks and collected the tickets left for us by Passepartout (though how he knew I’d be bringing Mary, was a little puzzling). Once on board the liner, we were directed to our cabin, which I was pleased to see was of the first-class variety.

“Isn’t this lovely,” gushed Mary, unpacking her French knickers. “And look – we’re invited to the Captain’s table for dinner!”

I glanced at the invitation. “Captain Smith? Humph. I hope he’s recovered from that disastrous affair involving the world’s largest iceberg.”

“What’s that, dear?” said Mary.

“Oh, nothing. Just an insurance cock-up by the White Star Line. It was all covered up by Sherlock’s brother.”

Mary’s face brightened visibly and she patted her chest. “Mycroft’s a proper gentleman and very manly, don’t you think, darling. He has such a lovely smile and an absolutely enormous –”

“Yes, yes, I get the picture, thank you. Now, we’d better make contact with Passepartout and that fairy-fancier Phileas Phogg.”

Having located Phogg’s cabin on the deck above ours, I was a little disconcerted to find him the complete opposite to what I had imagined. Passepartout opened the door and bade us enter, serving cocktails before I’d even taken off my hat.

“Now then, Doctor Watson, how’s tha’ goin’ on, then, eh?” A tall, bearded fellow stepped out of the adjoining room and shook my hand warmly. “Rate glad ter see thee, lad. I ‘ope t’cabin’s up ter standard, an’ that?”

My arm positively trembled as Phogg’s vice-like grip brought tears to my eyes. “Er, yes, yes, of course,” I managed, extricating myself from his fat fingers. “We’re most grateful.”

As I smiled back at him, I glanced over Phogg’s shoulder and caught sight of Mary and Passepartout in what can only be described as a ‘clinch’. The pair broke free then and coughed loudly. Mary had the good manners to blush, and I made a mental note to put her over my knee and give her a jolly good spanking when we got back to the cabin.

“Now, look ‘ere, Doctor,” said Phogg. “My manservant ‘ere ‘as warned you about that bugger the Hooded Claw, so I just wanted ter let yer know that we believe him to be on board, in one of the third-class compartments.”

“Really?” said I. “Then he’s not in disguise?”

“Oh, he’s in disguise, alright,” said Phogg. “He’s dressed as two nuns and a small Catholic priest.”

“Two nuns and a…”

“Small Catholic priest, aye, that’s right.” He caressed his beard thoughtfully. “Though of course, he’ll be changing his appearance every few days, if not sooner.”

“D’you think he’ll try anything tonight?”

“Per’aps not tonight, but Ah wouldn’t be at all surprised if the bugger tried to throw one of us overboard.” He wagged a finger at me. “So watch out, or ye might wake up dead.”

By the time we returned to our cabin to dress for dinner, I was as nervous as a new bride and looking forward to an evening with Captain ‘Titanic’ Smith, with as much enthusiasm as a lobster in a pot. Nevertheless, I was sure the ‘Claw’ would hold off on his mission until we’d all had a good night’s sleep.

Naturally, I was wrong.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Avenues and Alleyways…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As I followed Sikes down the alley, the stench of the river assaulted my nostrils, warning me our route was now running perilously close to the banks of the Thames – one slip and either of us might disappear forever beneath those treacherous waters, sinking into the mud and slime of that deadly channel.

“Urry up, Docter,” urged Sikes, taking hold of my jacket. “I fink I just saw ‘im up ahead.”

We had reached the corner of the alley where the darkness was less all-encompassing. I could now make out the lights of the south bank glowing dully across the water in front of us. To our right, a dim figure was running towards a group of what I supposed to be warehouses by the water’s edge.

“That’s him,” I said, and we set off again along a solid, but slippery pathway.

The man vanished into a gap between the warehouses and, not wishing to play the hero, I allowed my companion to go first.

“Don’t you worry, Docter,” said he. “I’ll protect yer.” And with that, Sikes dashed into yet another dark alley.

Shading my eyes the better to see my way through the shadowy passage, I hastened along behind him, completely failing to notice a hand reaching out of the shadows as I passed a small doorway. A moment later, I was jerked roughly into one of the sheds and thrown to the floor.

“Now, look here…” I started, getting to my feet, but two burly figures pushed me back down, their filthy boots pinning my arms to the floor.

“No, Doctor Watson,” said a deep and gravelly voice. “You look here.”

Peering upwards, I could just make out the outline of my captor’s head and shoulders – the silhouette of his black Fedora telling me I had found my quarry.

“Ah-ha,” I shouted, hoping to sound a little less fearful than I felt. “So there you are, Mister Claw.”

The man bent down towards me and his fetid breath wafted over my face – garlic and stilton cheese, if I’m not much mistaken.

“Yes,” he muttered, holding up his right arm. “And you will feel the benefit of this specific part of my anatomy burrowing its way into that part of you where the sun does not shine, if you fail to heed my warning.”

Staring at the man’s arm, I gasped. On the end of his limb in place of a human hand, a glinting metallic shape glinted metallicly in the moonlight, via an appropriately located skylight above my head.

“Perhaps you’d care for a demonstration of my bottom-ripping tool? I’d be delighted to insert The Claw into your orifice, Doctor…” The moonlight glinted on his teeth and I noticed that they too had a metallic quality to them.

“Er, no, that’s alright, thanks,” I mumbled.

The Hooded Claw straightened up and stepped backwards into the doorway. “That’s what I thought. I trust our paths will not cross again?”

I was sorely tempted to utter some threat to the effect that myself and Holmes would track him down come hell or very high water, but the words melted in my mouth and I simply nodded.

A moment later he and his burly assistants were gone, and I was left staring up at the moon and wishing I was in quite a different location. It occurred to me I had made the silliest of mistakes and run directly into what should have been obvious as a trap. No doubt Holmes would not have succumbed to such a schoolboy error. I sniffed and would have taken a few moments to gather my dignity, but the thudding of footsteps in the alley warned me I was no longer alone.

“Oh, there yer are,” said Bill, popping his head round the doorway. “Fraid we lost him. Must ‘ave jumped on a barge or summat.”

“Yes,” I said. “He must.”

I got to my feet, but my usual steely resolve had petered out and I had no desire to do anything other than go home and hug my dear wife. “Right,” I said. “Which way out, Bill?”


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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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