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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lying in the Arms of Mary…

Attached to its leg 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was while I was snuggled up with my dear wife on our last night at Cold Comfort, that I began to run over the events of the previous few days. I tried to recall the details of my arrival, my early suspicions and of course – the murders. It was then that I remembered Henri.

Detaching myself from my good lady, I slid off the straw mattress and rooted around in my rucksack. Even in the semi-darkness, it was not difficult to guess what the cold, feathery mess was in the side pocket of the bag – the poor creature must have got himself tangled in my spare long-johns and simply passed away. (Although I realised later it was probably because I forgot to feed him).

Call it soppy sentimentalism, but I felt a tear in my eye as I knelt by the window in the half-light and cradled yet another dead body in my hands. Christ knows what I would tell Holmes – he was devoted to that bird, and the Baker Street Pigeon-Fanciers and Whippet Snatchers Club won’t be happy either.

Gazing down at the empty farmyard, I noticed Judith Starkadder crossing to the house, a bottle of scotch in one hand and Seth in the other. She glanced in my direction for a moment and waved the bottle at me. Whether this was in gratitude at the way we had foiled Flora’s murderous plans, or acknowledgement that the family fortune could (for a while, at least) remain intact, I cannot say. She disappeared into the house and (romantic soul that I am), I imagined I could hear a sense of normality descending on the farm once again.

I turned to look at Mary and wondered if she was still pissed off at Holmes for solving the mystery. Given that she had brought to light facts about the knives which I myself had missed, prompted me to wonder how my dear wife might have utilised her deductive skills in catching the killer if Holmes had not turned up. Watching her sleeping form, I determined to involve her in whatever mystery we might be called upon to tackle next.

Fumbling around in my shoe, I found my pocket watch and checked the time: it was 2AM. Sherlock would be back in Londen by now, having departed in the paddy wagon with Lestrade and the prisoner. I yawned and was about to crawl back into bed, when a sound not unlike the fluttering of wings came to my ears.

Sitting on the windowsill was a bird wearing a miniature deerstalker. For a moment, I thought perhaps Henri had come back to life, but the size of the creature quickly discharged such thoughts. I pulled the window open and allowed the owl to hop onto my arm. Attached to its leg was a message:

Watson

Arrived baker Street 20 mins ago. Mrs Hudson v. Anxious. Urgent telegram requiring our services in Transylvania.

Meet me at the boat train 9.00AM sharp.

PS Bring Mary.
PPS And stakes.

H.

I smiled. We had another case.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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In the Mooood for Murder…

Moood for Murder 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Have to say, old bean,” I said, passing round the Peek Freans, “You couldn’t have left if much later.”

Holmes clasped the mug between his hooves and sipped his cocoa. “Would’ve been quicker off the mark, Watson, but my accessories kept catching on the stair rods.”

“Humph.” Mary put the kettle back on the stove and gave the famous consulting detective a fierce sideways glance. “That’ve sounded good in court – sorry m’lud, if I hadn’t caught my udders on the banister, I’d have been able to avert the stabbing to death of Flora, Doctor Watson and his beautiful wife.”

I coughed, nervously. “Alright my dear, Holmes has apologised.”

Flora helped herself to another biscuit and waved it at me like a baton. “No, Mary’s right. Another few seconds and it would have been curtains for the lot of us.”

I was about to apologise again for the general lack of appreciation, but Holmes shook his head.

“It’s fine, Watson. The ladies have every right to complain – after all, I was well aware of your plight. It took longer than I expected to curtail the killer’s movements.”

Mary thumped his arm. “Well aware, were you? Well aware? Fat lot of good that’d do us with a knife in our backs.”

Sherlock Holmes rubbed his bruised arm. “Perhaps it’s time I filled you in on the details, then.” He gave me a hopeful smile. “Mind taking notes, Johnny?”

“No, no, not at all.” I took another slurp of cocoa and pulled out my pocket diary. “Fire away.”

Holmes slipped off the remainder of his bovine costume and made himself more comfortable. “After your husband left me in the field to welcome you, Mary, I spent a few minutes with my animal friends before heading towards the barn. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I was masquerading as a cow, rather than a bull, and had not made provision for the consequences of milking time. I shan’t bore you with the details, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more surprised milkmaid.”

I leaned forward. “How did you manage to approach the house without being seen?”

“Ah-ha,” said Holmes, giving me a sardonic smile. “Being a cow has its advantages. I was able to make my way into the farmyard behind the gathering crowd without drawing attention to myself, simply by mooing occasionally. It was while I was watching the proceedings after the dastardly murder of the police officer, that I noticed Judith Starkadder counting the heads of the throng. I studied her features carefully, Watson, and I saw a strange expression slide across her hard, bony face. I therefore deduced that she had worked out who the killer was.”

At this, Holmes took out his Meerschaum pipe and began to stuff it with Hard Old Shag (one of his favourite tobaccos). I glanced at Mary and she rolled her eyes, while Flora affected a yawn.

“And then?” I said, hoping he would take the hint. But Holmes is never a man to be rushed and he took his time lighting the pipe, taking a few thoughtful puffs before continuing with his tale.

“It occurred to me,” he said, “that if another murder was going to be committed – and I believed it was – the killer would have not only had to be present when the police officer was stabbed, but would also have needed to be able to watch you three in Ada Doom’s bedroom.”

“Sorry.” Mary waved a hand dismissively at Holmes. “But we already know who the murderer is – Adam Shitebreath.”

“Yes,” put in Flora. “After he turned into a zombie.” She nodded enthusiastically.

Holmes sniggered in a way that seemed to suggest he believed himself to be the only individual in possession of all the facts. I myself have become almost immune to this annoying habit, but I could see temperatures were rising in the faces of the womenfolk.

“Actually, Holmes…” I began.

“Not zombies, in fact, Miss Starkadder, but a member of your own family.” He turned to look at the still-naked figure in the corner. The three of us followed his gaze.

Adam Shitebreath had been securely fastened to the chair, but his face was still a mass of silent rage. Holmes got up and crossed the room.

“You see, Mary, your theory about the knives was quite correct.”

Mary sniffed and allowed herself a smile. “Course it was.”

“However, the conclusion you had not reached was why Adam was strangled, and not stabbed.”

“Strangled?” Echoed all three of us.

Holmes puffed at his pipe. “The murderer is left-handed as you deduced, but there is another factor we must consider. It’s far easier to make believe you’ve been strangled than to have been stabbed, wouldn’t you agree, Doctor?”

I nodded. “Of course, Holmes. Goes without saying.”

The great detective turned to Mary. “Have you read any of those trashy crime novels by that Christie woman?”

Mary nodded warily. “Some, yes.”

Holmes glanced at me, gave a slight smile, then turned back to my wife. “What about ‘And Then There Were None’. Read that one?”

Mary nodded, a frown forming on her already wrinkled brow.

“Then you will know that the murderer is a man who pretends to be killed in order to draw suspicion away from himself. In order to do so, he enlists the help of one of the other suspects.”

“What are you getting at, Holmes?” I was beginning to feel I’d missed a vital clue.

“Adam could not have killed Sergeant Flange, because Adam at that very moment was lying on the table covered by a bed sheet, was he not”

“Well, yes he was, as a matter of fact,” said I.

“So the murderer must have been someone very close by. Close enough to use that old circus trick known as the ‘boomerang throw’.” Holmes smiled sardonically. “Isn’t that right, Flora? Or should I say – Dexterous Dixie the Knife-Throwing Queen?”

We all turned to look at Flora and for a moment, I thought she was going to burst into tears, then her face began to change and a low growl came from her lips.

“Think you’re so clever, don’t you, Mister Holmes?”

Holmes nodded. “Yes, actually, I do.”

“I say, Holmes, you can’t be serious – Flora was standing next to me when Flange was killed.”

Holmes raised an eyebrow. “Was she, or is that simply what she allowed you to believe?” His right hand flicked up suddenly and a pair of standard-issue handcuffs flew across the room. In a second, Flora’s left hand came up and caught them.

Holmes laughed. “Hoist by her own petard. Cuff her, friend Watson.”

Somewhat taken aback I nevertheless obeyed my companion and clasped Flora’s wrists together with the dreaded manacles.

“And so,” Holmes continued, moving back towards the silent figure of Adam. “Now we come to the unmasking.” And with a deft movement, he grabbed the back of Adam’s neck and pulled it sharply downwards. The man’s whole head seemed to give way and fell to the ground. Underneath was a familiar, but shocking face – Aunt Ada Doom.

“Bloody hell,” said I.

“Christ on a bike,” muttered my wife.

“Fuck,” said Flora Poste.

“You see,” said Holmes. “When Flora’s parents were killed, everyone assumed it was an accident, but – and I’m making one or two assumptions here – I believe Flora found something in her mother, Melanie Poste’s, effects that told her something that shook her world.” He waved a hand at Flora. “Would you mind?”

Flora shrugged. “Yes, alright, clever clogs. I did find something in my mother’s knicker drawer – a letter from Fig Poste, Ada Doom’s husband, declaring his undying love for my mother. The cheating bitch made my father’s life unbearable.”

Holmes nodded. “So you decided to get your own back on the family by killing them all and inheriting whatever fortune was left.”

Flora nodded solemnly.

“Sorry Holmes,” I said. “I still don’t understand.”

“Naturally,” said Holmes. “It turns out that Aunt Ada Doom did see something nasty in the woodshed all those years ago – she saw her husband banging the arse off Melanie Poste. And she knew when Flora turned up at Cold Comfort, she’d have to ‘cut a deal’ as they say in the flicks, in order to avoid ending up dead.”

“So where’s Adam?” asked Mary.

Holmes pointed upwards. “On the bed. They skinned him and used it as a costume. Much like my own disguise,” he said with a chuckle.

“Sorry Holmes,” I muttered, “But I’m still confused. Isn’t Ada Doom lying on the bed too?”

“No. That is in fact the body of Melanie. Flora’s mother.” He frowned and gave Flora a hard stare. “I expect she brought the body to the farm in the hope of scaring Ada to death. As it turned out, they simply substituted one body for another.”

“You mean..?” I said.

“Yes, Watson – the two women were twin sisters. Obvious, really. No doubt when Ada had outlived her usefulness as a killer, she herself would have been killed.” He stuck his pipe in his mouth and busied himself relighting it.

“But why on earth did Flora involve us?”

“Like all villains, she believed herself infallible. Knowing I was in France, she thought silly old Doctor Watson would toddle along, go through the motions but in time, give up, effectively clearing her of any blame.” He looked up at me. “But she was wrong.”

“Right, then,” I said. “Better call the police, eh Holmes?”

“No need, Watson, they’re already here. Inspector Lestrade is in the barn. He’s the Holstein Friesian.” Pulling out his pocket watch, he frowned. “Better be quick – he’s due for milking in five minutes.”

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Reflections of Doom…

Three Knives 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Having carried the body of the former police officer upstairs, Flora, Mary and myself laid him out next to the similarly lifeless corpses of Adam Shitebreath and Aunt Ada Doom. The double bed was getting a little crowded.

“If there’s any more murders, we’ll have to start putting them in the wardrobe!” Flora’s voice had a merry tone to it, but I could barley raise a smile.

I turned to my wife and grasped her bony fingers. “Mary, would you help me examine the murder weapons, please?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Delighted.”

I had taken the blade from the latest victim and placed it on the dressing table next to the other one. Mary crouched down and peered at the knives.

“These two have the same markings on the handles, Johnny.” Mary looked up at me with a grim expression. “They’ve been used by the same person. A left-handed person.”

I rolled my eyes round in my head, trying to focus on the problem. More specifically, I wondered what Holmes would make of it. No doubt he’d be able to see through the fog that clouded my deductive abilities. “Even so,” I ventured, “Anyone could have picked up either of these knives and committed murder.”

Mary shook her head. “To use a baking metaphor, these killings have a leftish whisk action to them – you see dear, the angle of entry in each case shows the stabbing action was made by a left-handed person.”

I cleared my throat noisily. “I hardly think whisking comes into it…”

But my wife was not to be outdone. “I’m not making this up, Johnny – there’s an obvious modus operandi in the killer’s method of attack. Actually, there was a lovely article on that very subject in The Police Gazette last week.” She gave me a rueful smile. “You should read more, dear.”

“Pshaw!” I muttered. “Police Gazette? Codswallop. I wouldn’t wipe my bottom on that piece of trash.”

“I’m afraid I agree with Mary, “ said Flora in a small voice. “It makes the most sense.”

“Oh, I see,” I rejoindered. “Makes sense does it? And the only left-handed person in the house is..?”

Flora pouted. “Well – Adam.”

“Exactly – so how in God’s name do you imagine the man not only killed himself, but then stabbed someone else after he himself was already dead, eh? And that’s assuming that he was the one who killed Ada Doom in the first place.” I waved my hands expansively. “Explain that if you can.”

The two women looked at each other.

I harrumphed and turned to look out the window. “See? You can’t, can you, and d’you know why?”

While I waited for their response, my eyes scanned the farmyard below, where the rest of the family and various workers were gathering in the gloom. As I watched, Judith Starkadder began pointing up at me, gesticulating at what I took to be my right shoulder. Only half-aware she might be trying to tell me something, I nevertheless continued with my train of thought.

“Well, Mary? Got an explanation, have you, dear?” I glared at her reflection in the bedroom window. But even as the words left my lips, I realised my mistake. As Sherlock Holmes himself would say – When you have eliminated the impossible, Watson, that which remains must be the truth. I stared at my wife’s reflection and took in the scene behind her: the naked body of Adam Shitebreath had heaved itself off the bed and was striding towards the unsuspecting women, it’s left hand raised high above its head. Clasped in its (apparently) undead grip, was a large kitchen knife.

I whirled round and opened my mouth to scream, but all that came out was “Oh, fu – ”

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Woman’s Touch…

They Shook Hands 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Sitting by my window overlooking the meadow, watching the gentle rise and fall of my wife’s chest as she gently snores in our makeshift bed, I cannot help but feel that her arrival has only complicated matters. Admittedly, I am now in possession of facts I had not previously been aware of, but those facts have not, so far, helped me identify the murderer.

To continue my narrative…

Having collected Mrs Watson and walked back at the farm, I introduced her to Flora:

“Flora, this is Mrs Watson.”

The two women shook hands rather solemnly and I noted my wife’s interest quickly moved from the young woman’s face to that of the dead man, whose head was still resting on the table.

“Ah-ha. So the killer’s left handed?” Mrs Watson fingered the knife protruding from the victim’s back.

Flora and I glanced at each other and though we both opened our mouths, no sound was produced.

My wife gave me a bemused look. “Am I mistaken?”

I shook my head. “Not at all, Mrs Watson, it’s just that I haven’t had a chance to examine the body yet – the murder occurred only a few minutes ago, for goodness sake!” I moved forward and peered at the knife. “Left handed, eh? And your deduction is based on what, exactly?”

The slap was quick and painful. “Don’t you dare quote Sherlock Holmes at me, Johnny. I’m not some simple-minded farm-hand, you know?” As she said this, she glanced at Flora and I prayed to God my dear wife wasn’t lumping Miss Poste in with the agricultural workers – a bout of female one-upmanship was a circumstance I could well do without.

As I rubbed my face huffily, I was glad to see Flora hadn’t noticed the slight. In fact, the young woman herself was smiling, and for a moment a fearful dread filled my entire being. However, her next comment was not what I expected.

“Why does he call you Mrs Watson?”

Mrs Watson rolled her eyes. “Unfortunately, my husband is the victim of an abnormally severe Victorian upbringing and the accompanying severity of manners.” She leaned towards Flora and whispered conspiratorially, “On our wedding night he kept moaning ‘Mrs Watson, Mrs Watson’ and I thought he must be talking about his fucking mother, until I realised he meant me!” This last provoked a burst of laughter from both my wife and Miss Poste. I could feel my temperature rising.

“Language, my dear…”

But my wife cut me off with a raised finger. “Don’t, Johnny. Just don’t.”

Flora took Mrs Watson’s arm. “So what is your name, then?”

“Magdalena. But my friends call me Mary.” She glared at me. “My husband can’t get past the biblical implications of being named after a so-called prostitute, so…”

Flora nodded as if she knew exactly what Mrs Watson was talking about and her face adopted a pitying expression. “Poor Johnny.” She patted my arm. No wonder you’re always so uptight.”

“I am NOT uptight,” I retorted sharply. “I am simply a well-mannered Englishman.”

At this, my wife effected a perfectly executed aside to Flora: “He’s Scottish, actually – but don’t tell him.”

I thumped my fist on the table, but once again missed my mark and slapped my thigh. This time however, I was able to refrain from shouting Hoorah! Instead, I coughed, gathered myself together and leaned forward to examine the corpse. “So. Left-handed you say?”

Mrs Watson – who I shall from here onwards refer to as Mary (anything for a quiet life), ran a finger along the handle of the knife. “See – the wood is marked on this side where the holder’s fingernails have dug into it. No doubt over a period of several years.”

“Really?” Said I.

“Yes, and look here – you can see where the blade was sharpened with a degree of pressure on the right side of the knife. The person who sharpened it could not help but draw the blade towards them. Therefore, left handed.”

I must admit I was seeing my Mary in a new light. Though I had of course invited her here to aid my investigation, I was a little stunned at the intelligence of her deductions. I turned to Flora. “Who in this household is left-handed?”

Flora took a deep breath. “You’re not going to like this.”

“Perhaps not, but the truth must be told.”

“There’s only one person in the household who is left-handed.” She blinked. “Adam Shitebreath.”

I closed my eyes. “Bugger.”

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Unusual Suspects…

Mrs Watson at the Fence 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Had my voice possessed an ounce of the gravitas of Sherlock Holmes, I am in no doubt the entire gathering would have suspended their movements entirely. Sadly, this did not happen, and instead every person in the room (save Flora and myself) began screaming and running around. However, in the instant before this travesty occurred, I caught a glimpse of Seth’s face and I could swear there was a gleam of vengeance in his dark eyes. Though it might have been shock, I suppose. Or dismay. In any case, I determined to advance his name to the top of my list of suspects, followed closely by Judith, Amos and Elfine (whose innocent, virgin-like charm is surely a front).

The sharp retort of my revolver brought the madness to a standstill, and every face turned towards me. I slipped my trusty weapon back into my trousers and allowed a very serious expression to take up residence on my ruddy features. “No-one must leave this room.” I narrowed my eyes for added effect.

“Aw, gorn zuk yer bollecks.” The voice came from a farm-hand in the corner. “Yorn thenk Oim gonner ang round ere time yer werk out oo mur’drer is, yer can gorn get fuck’d.” He nodded his fat head, lest there be any doubt vis a vis his intentions.

I glared at the man, then muttered, “That’s alright, you can go. But the rest of you stay right here!”

For a long moment no-one moved, then as one, the entire assemblage fled the scene via the stairs, window, dumb waiter and kitchen door. Three seconds later, only Flora, myself and the dead man were left in the room.

“That went well.” Flora patted my arm. “Never mind, you did your best.”

I grunted. “Best wasn’t good enough, though. Was it?” I sniffed and headed for the back door. “Just going to have a quick word with Ho…” I caught myself in time and coughed loudly.

Flora’s brow developed a frown. “Have a quick word with who?”

“Oh, er…H-Ho-Hossenfeffer. One of the bovine creatures.”

“Really? I don’t know that one.”

“Yes.” I nodded vigorously to hide my embarrassment. “I’ve developed a bit of a relationship with some of those lovely, er, cows.” Her frown increased, so I added, “There’s nothing sordid about it, Flora – I just talk to them.”

“Well, I’ll stay here and watch the er…” She pointed to the dead man.

“Yes. By the way, who is he?”

She cleared her throat. “You don’t want to know.”

It was my turn to frown. “Yes, I do, actually.”

She shook her head. “No, you don’t.”

“I most certainly do, Flora. Now spit it out – who is he?” I went to thump my hand on the table for emphasis, but missed and slapped my thigh instead. Unfortunately, my automatic reaction to that particular gesture, prompted me to shout ‘Hurrah!’ like a pantomime dame. I coughed again.

Flora graciously turned her gaze to at the floor. “You recall I told you the policeman who came up here was never seen again?”

I nodded, a sickening feeling growing in my loins.

She pointed to the corpse. “That was him. Undercover detective Sergeant Flange.”

My mouth dropped open. I closed it. “Flange? You mean like an outcrop or protuberance?”

“Don’t be a dick, Johnny. That’s just his name – Flange.”

“Oh. Right, well you stay here and I’ll just go and converse with my, ahm, bovine associates…” I headed for the door.

Outside it was already dark and I took a few gulps of fresh air – or rather, air tinged with cowshit and stale urine, but at least fresher than that of the room I’d vacated. Crossing the yard, I made my way down to the field where I’d seen Holmes, but it was so gloomy, I could barely make out the edge of the fence. Leaning over, I tried my best to effect a loud whisper. “Sherl! Sherlock! Where are you?”

A sudden noise behind me caused my to whirl round and pull out my gun, waving it in front of my face. “Don’t you bloody kill me too, you murdering bastard whoever you are…”

A figure slid out of the darkness towards me. “Well, that’s a nice way to greet your beloved.”

My wife stopped and smiled, and for once the sight of her gappy teeth and wonky eyes filled me only with relief, and dare I say it – love. “Thank the Lord,” I gushed. “My darling Mrs Watson – am I glad to see you!”

She handed me her bag and turned to wave at someone in the field. A gush of hot vapour and a pounding of Bakelite on rubber told me a steam-powered gyrocopter was in the throes of taking off. I frowned – only one man could have arranged such a mode of transport.

As the huge machine lifted into the night sky, my wife stepped forward and slipped a hand round my waist. “You don’t object to Mycroft dropping me off, do you, darling?”

I harrumphed. “I wasn’t aware you were acquainted with him. You’ve always given the impression you couldn’t stand to be near either of the Holmes’ boys.”

She rolled her eyes. “No, dear, it’s only Sherlock who gets on my tits – Mycroft and I frequently have tea together, in fact that’s what we were doing when your telegraph arrived. How else could I have got here so quickly?” She snuggled her nose into my shoulder and made that infernal purring noise that always gets me going.

“Well, you’re here now.” I lowered my voice. “Listen – there’s been another murder.”

Her eyes lit up. “Excellent! Lead me to it.” She paused, then “I’m doing this on the understanding you include me in your journals. And you’re to be truthful – I won’t be the butt of your smutty innuendos or those caustic comments about my womanly needs.” She raised an eyuebrow. “Clear?”

“Of course, dear.” Inwardly, I groaned. Outwardly, I smiled. “I shall write you as you are. For the most part…” As I pulled out my notebook, my wife set off up the track towards the farm.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Last Breath of Adam…

The Last Breath of Adam 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

On examining the corpse, I was gratified that at least he did not have a large pointy object sticking out of his chest – the sight of blood at that time of night was more than I could have borne. The marks around Mr. Shitebreath’s neck indicated he had been strangled (although I admit the presence of a length of rope in the vicinity of his collar, did help qualify this conclusion).

“Who could have done this,” muttered Flora, descending the stairs.

I looked at her. “More to the point – why is he naked?” I glanced down at Adam’s nether regions and wondered at nature’s methodology in awarding a small man such a large appendage. I’m only glad my dear wife was not present to witness such unnecessary cockage, since I could imagine how the conversation would run, come bedtime.

“Oh,” said Flora. “That’s easy – Adam always washed the dishes in the nude. He claimed it saved his clothes getting wet from waving his cletterin stick”

I walked across to the stone sink and studied the evidence. The cletterin stick was on the window sill as usual, while the dishes were all washed and draining at the side. I peered out the window. Four farm hands were standing idly in the yard, peering back at me. No doubt Flora’s screams had brought them running, though clearly their eagerness to discover the cause had not sustained their curiosity enough to prompt them to actually enter the house.

“I want to speak to everyone. Now.”

Flora waved a hand at Adam’s body. “Shouldn’t we move him first?”

I coughed. “Yes of course, I’ll cover him up, but it is imperative that I question everyone while their individual movements are still fresh in their minds.”

Flora nodded. “I’ll gather them together.” After she had departed, I covered Adam’s body with a bed sheet, but not before noticing that he had a quantity of cottage cheese between his fingers. Curiouser and curiouser.

Ten minutes later, I stood on the stairs gazing at the whole family and several of the workers. I studied the list of names Flora had kindly provided and tried to work out which was which. Since I’d had little contact with the Starkadders as a whole, I allowed myself a moment to put names to faces:

Judith and her son Seth stood by the fireplace, and noting their physical proximity to one another, I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with Flora and her implication that an ‘unhealthy relationship’ might be under way. Judith’s pouting mouth and wandering hands did little to dismiss this theory. Next to them stood Judith’s husband Amos, who busied himself with caressing the breasts of Mrs. Beatle, the cleaning lady. Only the waiflike Elfine (as rare a beauty as I’ve ever set eyes on) seemed not to have her hands full, or her bounties fondled. Arms folded across her ample chest, she stared back at me with eyes that could light a fire or two on a dark night.

Dragging my gaze away from hers, I took in the various half-brothers, cousins, half-cousins, third-cousins, second uncles, wayward aunts and other relations that stood around the room. It occurred to me that almost everyone in the house seemed to be romantically preoccupied with someone else to whom they were related, but not married. If the motive for killing Ada Doom had been money (understandable), there might be more than a dozen possible suspects, but in the case of Adam Shitebreath, I couldn’t see what possible reason there might be for his murder.

“Good evening,” I began when the general hubbub had subsided. “As you know, there has been another death…” I paused, allowing my eyes to skim across the assembled group in the hope the guilty party might give themselves away with an involuntary shudder or self-conscious twitch, but all faces were turned towards me, and even Judith Starkadder removed her busy hands from her son’s trousers to listen to what I had to say.

“I would like you all to line up and give me a few minutes of your time so that I may take details of your whereabouts during the last half an hour.” I waited for the expected growl of annoyance, but they simply nodded their heads and quietly formed into an orderly queue. For a moment, I wondered if there was some sort of mass conspiracy going on involving them all. Glancing at Flora, I saw from her expression that the same thought had occurred to her.

Moving to a small table at the other end of the kitchen I prepared myself to take the first statement.

The first to sit down opposite me was Judith herself, hanging on to her son’s hand. “I was upstairs.” She glanced at Seth.

“I see,” said I, making a note of this. “And were you alone?”

She shook her head and smirked. “Let’s just say I have an alibi.”

“Or an accomplice,” I suggested. Her smile fell away and she sniffed in a rather sniffy way.

“Anyway, I didn’t kill him. Why would I?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” I gave her a hard stare, but she merely stared back.

“Very well, I said. “That’s all for now.”

Judith stood up. “Appen you should be looking elsewhere for murderers.” And with that she walked off. I turned to my next interviewee.

“Oright Dotter Watton, what yer antin ter know, en?”

I took a deep breath and studied the man’s face. “And who might you be?”

“Oi be yer prime witness, that oo.” He grinned. “Cos Oi did saw oo did in owld Adam.”

I leaned forward. “Really? Go on.”

The man’s face seemed to freeze in an expression of smiling benevolence. Then it sagged, lost its grin and his eyes rolled back in his head. For a moment I wondered if he was having a seizure, but then his head dropped and he slumped across the table, emitting a low groan. I immediately discerned the probable cause of this change in his demeanour – there was a knife sticking out of his back.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake…” I leaped up and threw out my hands. “Nobody move!”

The Watson Letters Vol 1 5_25x8_Cream_110 NEW COVER copy
The Watson Letters – Volume 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Fifth Horseman…

The Fifth Horseman 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Following Flora’s directions to the telegraph office in the village, I was a little unnerved to push open the door and find the little woman behind the counter grinning at me like the proverbial feline. I doffed my hat and unfolded the note I’d prepared, but before I could proceed further, the Mistress of the Post leaned over the counter and announced:

“Yor be Dotter Watton, eh, boy?” She resumed her Cheshire-like expression.

I coughed, my eyes naturally dropping to the sight of her large bosoms, which jiggled on the countertop like over-ripe, gelatinous melons. “Indeed, madam.” I smiled. “I should like to – ”

“Yon Cherlick Oames not be a-comin up yer, then?”

I forced my gaze upwards and focused on the misshapen arrangement of lines and dents that was her unfortunate face. “Mister Holmes will be joining me at some point, I believe. Now, I wonder if – ”

“So he not be innerested in us untry okels en?”

I coughed again, adding a smidgen of annoyance to my tone, in the hope the old crone might recognize my impatience. But no, she simply smiled away, awaiting my reply. “On the contrary, madam, Mister Holmes is fascinated by all things rural. Now…” I thumped my piece of paper onto the counter, taking care to avoid contact with the woman’s cleavage. “I should like to send this telegraphical message to Londen.”

She straightened up and glared at me. “Sure we be at yor zervice, Dotter Watton.” Studying my note, she totted up the words and declared, “Thrupence ha-penny.”

I handed over the extortionate fee and watched as she fired up the steamographal telecommunicator, typed in my message and dialed the number. There was a moment of silence before the machine shuddered and emitted a loud squawk.

“That be it.”

I nodded my thanks and left the shop, grateful that at least my communication would shortly be with my dear wife.

Gazing up at the darkening sky, I headed back towards the farm. My short journey was uneventful, though I was vaguely aware of being watched as I tramped along the dusty road. As I turned into the track up to Cold Comfort, I glanced over the fence and saw four pairs of eyes staring back at me. I stopped for a moment and stared back at them. These, I supposed, would be the farm’s cows – Arseless, Chuffless, Lackless and Dickless – named (according to Adam Shitebreath), after the ‘Four Horsemen of the Abollockips’. I was about to move on when I noticed a fifth animal standing off to one side. And rather curiously, it appeared to be smiling at me.

I blinked and shook my head, but when I looked back, there was a definite hint of merriment about the old cow’s features. Thinking I’d perhaps been working too hard, I was about to take a swift swig from my flask when the cow spoke:

“Never underestimate the social life of our bovine friends, Watson. I’m thinking of publishing a monograph outlining the distinctive hierarchy and societal customs inherent in this particular breed.”

“Holmes!” I cried. “What on earth…?”

“Hush, old friend. You’ll alert the locals.”

I leaned over the fence, peering at my camouflaged companion. “If I’d known you were here, I wouldn’t have bothered sending for my wife.”

“Not at all, Watson, you were quite right to summon her – I fear only a common housewife will be able to aid us in this ghastly affair.”

“But..” I began.

“No, Watson. Continue with your investigation. I shall keep a watchful eye from the barn. I fear there will soon be another murder and I beg you to keep your wits and your trusty weapon about you at all times.”

“Of course, Holmes.”

As I walked up through the farmyard, I pondered on my companion’s actions . Admittedly, he was a master of disguise, though I couldn’t help wonder if he’d considered the implications of milking time. But that thought was cast from my mind as a piercing scream shattered the silence.

Racing up to the back door, I flung it open to find Flora standing on the stairs, staring at the naked body that lay face-up on the kitchen table. It was Adam Shitebreath – and he was dead.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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