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Into the Unknown…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Regaining his balance, Holmes began to make his way along the passageway. The ship was already listing badly to one side, and I could hear faint screaming coming from somewhere above us. Taking Mary’s arm, I followed my big-nosed companion, keeping one hand on the handrail to steady myself.

“What’s the plan, Sherlock?” I said.

“We have to get aboard that iceberg, Watson,” he said, glancing at me over his shoulder. “It’s our only hope.”

“But what about the Claw? Won’t he be heading there too?”

Holmes spun round. “Of course, which is precisely why must take control of the thing.”

We reached the first flight of steps to the next level and hurried upwards. Emerging into another passageway, we were pushed roughly aside as dozens of third-class passengers thudded past us, screaming and shoving each other out of the way in their haste. Two of the women were thrown to the floor, but their companions simply ran on, desperate to escape what would soon be a watery grave.

“Quickly,” said Holmes, helping one of the ladies to her feet.

“Oh my Christ,” said the woman, struggling to reclaim her poise. “We’re all goin ter drahn.”

The other female took hold of her friend’s collar and slapped her about the face. “Calm yerself, Doris, we ain’t dead yet, gal!” And with that, the pair hurried off towards the next staircase.

“It’s no good,” said Holmes, pulling Mary and me to one side. “We’ll never get past the crowds in time.” He looked around helplessly.

“Yes we will.”

I turned to look at Mary who was pulling at a hatchway in the wall.

“Here – see?”

Peering past her, I observed what looked like a dumb waiter, expect without the usual ropes or pulleys. “It looks like a dumb waiter,” I said. “Except without the usual ropes and pulleys.”

“My God, Watson, you’re right – it’s a laundry chute.” He clapped Mary on the back. “Well done Mrs Watson.” Then lifting his right leg, he clambered inside. “Quickly now, no time to waste.”

A moment later, he had shimmied up the pipe and was gone.

“Come on, darling,” I said, pushing Mary into the hole.” Women and detectives first.” She didn’t need to be told twice and a minute later I was climbing up after her.

Due to the ship’s ever-steepening angle, the climb was not as arduous as I might have otherwise expected. Already we were moving diagonally upwards and the going became easier as the liner tilted slowly downwards.

Above us, the wails and screams of the other passengers had grown considerably in volume and I must admit to feeling a little disappointed in my fellow man, wishing they would pull themselves together. After all, the English are renowned for our ability to keep a cool head in a crisis.

My thoughts of stiff upper lips and such like were pushed aside as we scrambled out onto what I took to be the upper deck. Hauling ourselves into another passage, I was heartened to see an open doorway opposite.

“Stick together,” said Holmes, latching onto my sleeve.

I grabbed Mary’s hand and the three of us half slid, half walked out onto the deck, which was by now sloping downwards at such a steep angle, I doubted we’d be able to stay upright for more than a minute or two. But then I saw it – beyond the railings and towering high above us, was the iceberg.

“How are we going to get aboard?” I shouted to Holmes.

The great detective gave me a sardonic smile. “Simple Watson – we shall jump over the side.”

“No, really, Holmes – how are we going to get aboard?”

He cocked his head and stared at me. “Don’t you trust me, Watson?”

I was about to say something when Mary butted in:

“Whether he does or not, is immaterial. I trust you.” And with that, she took his hand and looked at me. “Well, Johnny?”

Allowing that I might be doing something I’d live to regret, I grasped her little hand in mine. To Holmes I said, “I hope this isn’t one of your something’ll-turn-up ideas…”

Climbing over the rail, we stood there wobbling precariously for a few seconds, then Holmes counted to three and we stepped off the ship…

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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Good Vibrations…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Taking the lamp from Mary, I spent a few moments studying our metallic prison in the hope that we’d missed some possible escape route. But there was nothing. As sticky situations go, I had to admit to feeling the three of us had landed ourselves in a hole from which we could not possibly hope to escape. Even so, Holmes puffed contentedly on his pipe as if the problem was a minor irritation in an otherwise cheerful venture.

I sighed and patted Mary’s arm. “Never mind, darling, at least we’re together.”

She gave me a look that told me this was not what she wanted to hear. “Really Johnny, you do have a knack of stating the fucking obvious.”

“Oh, I’m bloody sorry,” I huffed. “But as I can’t very well say Don’t worry, Holmesy’ll get us out of this soon, I think we’d be better off facing facts – we’re going to die and it’s not going to be nice.”

“Come, come, Watson,” muttered Holmes. “All is not lost.” He turned his piggy little eyes on Mary. “I’ll wager your wife has something else up her sleeve that might entertain a little optimism.”

“Like what?” I said, staring at Mary.

Mary blinked. “For once Holmes, I think you’d have to agree my husband is right – there is no hope.” She gave herself a shake as if to demonstrate that her sleeves (or any other part of her attire), contained no surprises.

Holmes was not to be put off. “Really, Mary? And what about that…” he glanced at me, then back at her. “That other piece of apparatus my brother gave you?”

Mary frowned and shook her head. “What apparatus?”

Holmes gave her a sardonic smile. “Mary, we’re all adults here. Why don’t you…” He coughed. “Why don’t you extract the other device from your person?” His eyes slid down her body and focused on my wife’s private area.

“I say, Holmes,” I started. “What the hell are you insinuating?”

“Calm yourself, Johnny.” He turned back to Mary. “I’m aware your husband’s hearing is not what it was, but my own audio facilities are perfectly intact. When you were first ushered into this chamber, I distinctly heard a soft buzzing noise above the pounding of the ship’s engines. I expect you switched it off when you were fussing with your evening gown earlier.”

I have never witnessed such a change in my wife’s countenance. Her face flushed a shade of scarlet that could have ignited a small fire, if such a thing were necessary. Taking a long breath in, she focused on Holmes – even her wonky eye appeared to stare straight at him. When she spoke, her voice was a mere whisper but there was no mistaking the tone – she was very angry. “He told you?”

Holmes raised an eyebrow. “Mycroft and I don’t always agree, but he can never resist boasting about his latest inventions.” He glanced at me. “I suggest you and I give the lady a moment, John.” He turned his face to the wall and after giving my wife a sharp look, I did likewise.

Mary let out an irritated sigh, then I heard the rustle of her gown being lifted and sensed she must be bending down. There was a soft slurping noise and a grunt, before she sniffed and coughed.

“Here.”

We turned to face her, though both of us had the good grace to keep our attention toward the floor. I glanced at Holmes as he took the device from her and wiped it down with his handkerchief. The thing resembled a small torpedo and had a switch at one end. I raised my gaze to meet that of my wife’s but her face was turned away.

“Hold up the lamp, Watson,” muttered Holmes, running his fingers over the contraception. “As I thought. With one or two adjustments…” Taking a small screwdriver from his inside pocket, he undid one end of the phallic object and pulled free one of the wires from inside. Then, moving to the door, he fitted the loose end of the wire into the lock.

“What’re you trying to do, Holmes,” I said, trying to sound interested.

“There are certain locks, Johnny, that are susceptible to vibration. If I’m right…” He flicked the switch on the base of the device and I could just make out a low whine coming from the door.

Holmes nodded slowly. “Just a little more…”

As I watched, I discerned that the metal door had begun to amplify the buzzing and a moment later there was a sharp click.

“Hah!” exclaimed my companion. Tossing the device aside, he grasped the door handle and twisted it. Incredibly, the door opened.

“My God, Holmes,” I gushed. “You did it.”

“With Mary’s help,” he murmured, giving her a sly smile.

Stepping out into the corridor, all three of us blinked in the harsh light. I turned off the lamp and gave it back to Mary, who shrugged and mouthed a ‘sorry’ to me. I was about to say something magnanimous, but a sudden lurching sensation threw all three of us against the wall. An unearthly metallic screeching noise came from the starboard bow, as if a gigantic knife had gouged a hole in the side of the ship.

“Bugger,” said Holmes. “I think we’re too late.”

Before the words were out of his mouth, the vast liner tilted to one side, throwing us to the floor.

The ship was sinking.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Three’s a Crowd


From the Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Finding myself locked in a cramped cupboard below decks with my husband might be, in any other circumstances, an opportunity for a bout of adult fun, but squashed together with Mr Gooseberry himself, Johnny and I would have to forego that particular delight until later. Assuming, of course, the Hooded Claw didn’t kill us all in the meantime.

The darkness crowded in on us and I began to feel a little uneasy. “Come on, then, Holmsey,” I muttered, “light another one.”

Holmes let out a sigh. “Alas, dear lady that was my last Swan Vesta.”

I blinked in the darkness but could only make out the dim shapes of the fat-headed detective and the noble outline of my dear husband’s face. “Right then,” I went on. “Mary to the rescue. Again.” Undoing the buttons on my evening gown, I reached inside my corset and unzipped the secret pocket I’d sewn into the fabric for just such an occasion. Pulling out the emergency flashlight, I fastened myself up again before fitting the handle into its base.

“What’s that whirring noise?” said Johnny.

I didn’t bother replying, and instead began rotating the small handle. After a moment, the lamp flickered into life, illuminating our faces once more.

“Oh, I say, “said Holmes. “That’s rather clever.”

“It’s a clockwork lamp,” I said, unclipping the handle and sliding it into the small compartment in the base of the device. “Mycroft gave it to me.”

Johnny sniffed. “Did he, now? And what did you give him?”

I narrowed my eyes and showed him my don’t-you-fucking-dare face. He quickly changed the subject.

“At least we can see where we are,” he said, brightly. Turning around he tried the door but it was firmly locked from the outside.

Gazing at our surroundings, all three of us immediately understood the predicament we were in – the small compartment appeared to be a store cupboard of some description, with a stack of built-in metal shelves on one side and an area of about three-feet-square, just large enough to accommodate the three of us, on the other.

“Living in a box,” muttered Holmes. “Living in a cardboard box…”

“What’s that, Holmes?” said John.

“Just a music hall ditty I heard the other day.” Holmes slid his bony hands into his pockets and leaned against the wall behind him, humming a tune.

Crouching down, I examined the floor, but if I’d hoped for a handy escape hatch, I was disappointed. “Do you think they’ll come back?”

“Who?” said Holmes. “The baddies?” He shook his head. “No need – we’re out of harm’s way so they can safely continue with their evil plan.”

Johnny nodded solemnly. “To kill poor old Phogg.”

“Well…” the other man made a face. “Along with twelve hundred other people.”

I stood up and held the lamp to his face. “What d’you mean, Sherlock?”

“Simply this, Mary – after they bundled me in here, I heard two of the rogues discussing their strategy with the Claw. Apparently, they cannot risk killing Phogg by himself as it would be obvious, so they plan to crash the ship into an iceberg and blame our old friend Captain Smith.” He laughed gently. “After all, he does have a reputation for accidents at sea.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Johnny. “We’re in the English Channel. No icebergs for miles.”

“Ah,” said Holmes. “But this isn’t any old iceberg, Watson. This is an M21.”

“Oh, crap.”

I frowned. “What’s an M21?”

My husband took my hand. “You recall the details of Moriarty’s secret steam-powered undersea torpedo-ship?”

“Designed by the famous submarine boffin Bruce Partridger?” I nodded. “What’s that got to do with icebergs?”

Holmes interjected. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it, Mrs Watson, as you’re so well-in with my dear brother.” He gave a snort of derision before continuing. “Mycroft heard a rumour that Moriarty planned to use the Partridger blueprints to manufacture a series of gigantic sea-going icebergs that could destroy the British fleet.” He raised his head and gazed at a spot on the wall. “If I’m right, the Hooded Claw is in league with him and intends to sink this ship, making it look like a freak iceberg-type accident.”

“Oh my God,” I murmured. “And there are no lifeboats on board.”

“Indeed,” said Holmes. “Though even if there were, we wouldn’t be able to get to them.” He sighed. “No, Mr and Mrs Watson, I think we’re properly fucked this time.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his Meerschaum pipe. “Could I get a light please, Mary?”

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 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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