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Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Warning…

The Warning 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Ten minutes later, we pulled alongside the platform at Milf on. Arthur and Dickie immediately went into a routine inspired by the oddly-named station, until Mary pointed out there were letters missing from the sign and we were actually at Milford Junction.

We alighted from the train, along with an obviously unmarried young couple and an older man in a raincoat. The platform appeared deserted, except for the dark figure of a man coming up the steps from the crossing. As our previous mode of transport chuffed out of the station, we all turned to watch the man’s progress as he lurched along towards us, his lantern waving cheerlessly in the gloom.

Drawing level, he peered at each of us in turn, then announced in a gruff voice, “Yonder’s way out.” He held the lantern up, pointing towards a gate at the other end of the platform. “You’d better get off, now.”

“What’re you on about, you silly tart,” quipped Arthur. “We’re waiting for our connection to Chichester.”

The stationmaster’s face was a picture of gloom and he’d a voice to match. “No yer ain’t. That ‘un went ten minutes past. Next ‘un’s not til seven o’clock tomorrow mornin’.”

“Oh for fu – ”

“Watch your language, Arthur,” said Dickie, “or I’ll cut off your allowance.”

“If you do, you’ll have to sew it back on!” Said the other, quick as a flash.

Dickie guffawed. “You’re so funny you should be on the stage – the next one out of town!”

They both chortled rather unnecessarily.

The stationmaster waved his lantern again. “Well, you can’t be staying ‘ere.” He turned and started off towards the gate, just as the heavens opened. Within seconds, the platform was awash.

The old man in the Mac stepped forward. “Yes, I think we should heed this gentleman’s advice,” and pulling his collar up, he started after the grumpy advice-giver.

“Tch. Well, I’m not going anywhere in this weather,” said Mary, heading for the waiting room. The young couple scurried after her, followed by the Twins. The stationmaster, however, had turned around.

“Not allowed in there, you ain’t. No, no, no.”

“I don’t see why not, not, not,” said I and went inside, closing the door firmly behind me.

The waiting room, unsurprisingly, was in darkness, but Arthur produced a box of Swan Vestas and lit a pair of oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. “There we are my lovelies, home from home.” He and his partner pulled up a few chairs and stowed their luggage.

A queer sort of silence fell on us then, but it was short-lived – the door slammed open with a crash and the stationmaster stood in the doorway, glaring at us. As if on cue, a flash of lightening lit up his stark features, highlighting his pale skin and granite-like expression. Raising his lantern, he repeated his earlier warning: “Not allowed in ‘ere, you ain’t. No, no, no.”

“Now come along,” said Arthur patting him on the head. “Play nice.”

“I’m tellin’ yous,” Mr Grumpy continued, stepping inside. “Yous can’t say ‘ere.” I noticed the old man in the Mac was hovering behind him, as if afraid to venture inside.

I decided to utilise my natural authority. “Now look here, my good man,” I said, in a sturdy voice. “I’m Doctor Watson and my wife and I and our friends here have missed our connection through no fault of our own. If we’ve to wait until the next one, we’re jolly well going to wait right here. So you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

“No!” said the other, with sudden vehemence. “Stay ‘ere you cannot, and I shall tell yous for why.” He moved forward and put his lantern on the table. The Mac man came in and closed the door, apparently deciding to stay put after all.

“Know what day this is?” Said the stationmaster, peering at us in a slightly creepy way.

We all variously shook our heads in the traditional negative response.

“It’s Sunday.” He let out a low moan, then paused, as if expecting us to recoil in fear. We didn’t, so he continued. “Every Sunday, at midnight, it comes in the dark.” He moaned again, his long face doing a fair impression of Munch’s ‘The Scream’.

Mary rolled her eyes. “For God’s sake man, spit it out. What is it that comes in the dark?”

Normally I would have been unable to resist a snigger at this, but I managed to contain myself. The station master continued:

“What is it? I’ll tell ye…” He looked away to one side, as if picturing the whatever-it-was emerging out of the darkness. “There it be, steamin’ and screamin’ towards us – a terrible sight that’ll strike blind any man as sees it.”

Mary raised an eyebrow. “What, exactly?”

His mouth dropped open and he shook his head as if to utter the actual words might strike him blind too. “The Ghost Train,” he said, “that’s what.”

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Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Unexpected Delay…

The Phantom 350 copy
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

I must admit I was feeling rather excited at the prospect of a holiday, albeit in the company of a couple of comedians, but my initial enthusiasm was short lived. Just after 7.00AM this morning, a knock came at the door and an urchin handed me a note:

Train cancelled due to leaves on line – have booked us on the next available locomotive. 3.00pm. Don’t be late!
Arthur L.

And so it was mid-afternoon when Mary and I arrived at the station to locate our compartment. Arthur and Dickie were already aboard and proceeded to spend several minutes bowing to Mary, reciting their catchphrase ‘I Thank Yew, I Thank Yew’ until the train pulled away, throwing the pair off balance.

“Lovely day for it,” said Arthur, stowing his generous hindquarters on the seat opposite mine.

“Ooh, don’t you start with that dirty talk in ‘ere,” retorted his partner, shaking a finger.

Arthur did a double-take. “Dirty talk? Dirty talk? Wash your mouth out, young man!” At which point I realized they were performing one of their routines.

I must admit their banter was entertaining, but by the time we’d left the city behind and were rattling through the Home Counties, it had begun to grow a little tiresome. Thankfully, Mary came to the rescue and asked if our companions knew how to calculate the speed of the train by counting telegraph posts. I was well aware of the computation necessary to affect this small feat, as Holmes had once chastised my lack of mathematical abilities and taken great delight in explaining it to me. However, I kept my mouth shut and was pleased to observe the simple sum had, at least for the time being, shut the pair up. While Dickie took notes, Arthur alternately counted on his fingers and ran out into the corridor to lean out of the window. I concentrated on the previous day’s Times crossword and Mary fetched out her knitting, giving me sly winks and touching my knee every so often.

We’d only been travelling an hour when the train began to slow down, and after a few minutes, came to a stop.

“I say, Dickie, we can’t be there just yet, eh?” said Arthur, pressing his nose up against the window “I do hope we’re not going to be late.”

As if on cue, the ticket collector appeared and popped his head into the carriage. “Fraid there’s a fault on the line up ahead, so we’ll be waiting til it’s fixed. Sorry for any inconvenience.” He closed the door and continued along.

“Didn’t look very sorry to me,” piped up Arthur. “I’ve a good mind to thrash him soundly and…”

“Oh, shut up,” said his partner, slapping him several times on top of his head. “Let’s go and get a cuppa while we’re waiting.”

Mary and I declined the offer of refreshment and took the opportunity to enjoy some ‘quiet time’ to ourselves.

I must have dozed off, for when I opened my eyes, the train was moving again and it was getting dark outside. Mary stood in the corridor trying to talk to the conductor, amid a flurry of questions from Arthur and Dickie. From her disapproving tone, it sounded as if the Twins were getting on her tits.

As I stepped into the corridor, the argument petered out. Everyone looked at me. I looked at the conductor.

The man gave me a fed-up sigh. “As I were just sayin’, sir, this train’s been diverted to Worthing, so you’ll all ‘ave to get orf at the next station to change for Chichester.” He gave a funny little laugh, then “Course, I wouldn’t want ter be stopping there myself…what with the phantom and that…”

I frowned in a way I hoped might convey that he was dealing with a serious individual. “Phantom? Tish tosh. We don’t believe in ghosts, do we chaps?” I looked at the twins, but they’d both gone rather pale.

“My husband’s right,” said Mary. “We don’t believe in ghosts. Anyway, how long will our connection be?”

The conductor shrugged. “Bout ten minutes.”

I clapped my hands. “There we are, then. We’ll be on our way before this ghost chappie’s even got his act together.”

Arthur nodded. “That’s alright then, cos we’ve to be on stage in the morning for a run-through, and if I don’t get a decent night’s sleep, I’ll be all at sevens and eights.”

His friend nodded solemnly. “He’s a martyr to his sleep patterns. He’ll be farting all night as it is.”

“Well yous can talk about it all yer like, but if you want to get to Chichester and yous are ‘appy ter take your chances, you’ll ‘ave to get orf.” And with that, the conductor ambled off down the corridor, muttering his bad news to other passengers.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Short Break from Adventure…

The Thankyew Twins 350
To Sherlock Holmes Esq from Doctor Watson

Holmes

Thank you again for supper last evening – it was a pleasant change for the two of us to spend a little ‘man’ time together after having been very much a threesome for the last few weeks. Mary has asked me to pass on her enthusiastic request that, should another suitable case come along, you might once again consider utilising her particular skills in some small way. (I realise the thought of including her in anything is likely to bring on another one of your asthma attacks, therefore I shall desist from speculating and simply inform her that nothing appropriate has come up thus far).

I had a visit from Lestrade this morning asking if either of us had seen his sibling. I assumed you’d already told him what transpired vis a vis your-brother-was-a-vampire-but-he’s-alright-now etc, so I naturally asked him if there were any side effects of the vampiric variety. His response left me in no doubt that he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, which placed me in a rather uncomfortable position. I tried to imagine what you would do and consequently strode about the room and rubbed my chin thoughtfully, pondering some excuse. However, as my account of the adventure has already appeared in The Strand Magazine, I thought it would only make things worse in the end, so I proceeded to tell him the whole story, to which he was, in the Victorian tradition, not amused.

However, to get to my point, Lestrade wasn’t talking about Brinsley. As it turns out, he has two brothers – the other one (the one we don’t know about) is currently employed in some sort of comedic enterprise and, with his partner, masquerades under the name of ‘The Thankyew Twins’. It appears that for some time, the duo have endeavoured to ‘break into’ serious drama, which prompted Lestrade to mention my name to them, thinking I might supply a few tips along the lines of writing a decent script.

I must say I was rather touched and offered to meet up with the ‘Twins’ to discuss the matter further. I did in fact have tea with them this afternoon and spent a pleasant hour being entertained, albeit in a mild way, by their chaotic shenanigans and knock-about humour. It transpires the act has been booked to appear at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods, near Chichester, and the chaps will be billeted in an old manor house for the duration. Arthur Lestrade, the smaller of the two, wondered if Mary and I might be interested in sharing their accommodation in return for a bit of script writing.

As you know. Mary and I lost our deposit on our previously planned sojourn, so I accepted their kind offer of sharing a holiday-let for a week. They will, of course, be performing every evening, leaving my dear wife and I to our own devices, so we should not find their company too demanding.

We’re catching the early train in the morning so I have enclosed the address of the manor house, should you feel inclined to write.

Watson.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Blood and Cheese…

Blood and Cheese 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

In that few seconds of darkness I fancied I could see some monstrous beast crawling from the coffin, clawing its way to where we stood and opening its vast vampire mouth ready to sink its…

‘Alright my loves?’ A light came on so suddenly, it blinded me, and it was another few seconds before I could focus on the man who was sitting up in the coffin.

‘Lestrade?’

‘Ow d’you know my name, son?’ The man who resembled Inspector Lestrade climbed out of the coffin and dusted himself down. Holding up a gas-powered torch, he waved it around. ‘Oo the ‘ell are you fellers, then?’

I looked at Holmes. ‘He looks like Lestrade,’ I said.

‘Of course he does, Watson, because he is Lestrade – Brinsley Lestrade, identical twin brother to our old friend Gordon.’

‘Grayson,’ I said.

‘Indeed,’ said Holmes. He turned back to the newcomer. ‘To answer your question sir, I am Sherlock Holmes and this is my associate Doctor Watson. You may speak freely.’

‘Never mind me speakin’ freely, ‘ow about you speak freely and tell me what the ‘ell’s going on?’

The conversation went on in this manner for some minutes until I suggested we all go upstairs. Lestrade acquiesced and climbed out of the coffin. Holmes and I turned towards the wooden staircase, but as I took a step forward, Holmes grabbed my arm. Giving me a sharp look, he pushed me backwards while at the same time, jumping sideways himself. The axe crashed to the floor, missing my big toe by inches, but the beast was already lifting it for another go.

‘Quickly Watson, the stakes, the stakes!’

‘I haven’t got the stakes! I thought you had them?’

The vampire prepared to strike again, his fangs glinting in the lamplight. But quick as a flash, Holmes pulled out his prized Meerschaum along with his second-best Large Half-bent Billiard pipe and formed the two smoking devices into a makeshift crucifix.

‘Aeeeooorgh!’ screamed the creature, covering his eyes and dropping the axe. ‘Not the Meerschaum pipe crucifix trick!’

He fell back against the empty coffin and I leaped forward, grabbed his legs and upended him, dropping him neatly back inside his box. Slamming the lid down, I sat on top of it.

‘Well done, Watson, quick thinking, old chum.’

‘Not as quick as you, Holmes. I’d never have thought your tobacco habit would save our lives.’

‘What’s all the noise about?’

Looking up, I saw the door at the top of the steps was open and my dear wife was standing there, a look of pure amusement on her face.

‘Oh, just sorting out a vampire, dear.’

‘You found Dracula then?’ She gave me an odd look.

I glanced at Holmes and he nodded slowly. Evidently, he too had seen the two red marks on Mary’s neck, but this time it wasn’t lipstick. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, I moved away under the pretext of picking up the axe. Mary started towards me. I waited until Holmes had quietly opened the lid of one of the other coffins, then jumping forward, I pushed her backwards. She fell smartly into the box as if it had been made for her, and Holmes slammed the lid shut and jumped on top of it.

I resumed my position on top of the other coffin and we sat for a moment in silence.

‘You know what this means, old friend?’

I nodded. ‘I do, Holmes – we’re going to have to kill my wife.’

‘What? No, don’t be bloody ridiculous. She’ll be fine as soon as we kill Dracula. No, I meant…’ He pointed to the ceiling.

I looked up. ‘Upstairs..?’

Holmes kept his voice low. ‘We don’t need to check the other coffin. Dracula is in the house. Probably knocking up a pan of blood soup.’

‘But…but it’s daylight,’ I stammered. ‘He should be in his coffin during the day. You said so yourself, Holmes.’

‘Indeed I did, Watson – a tactic to buy us some time.’

‘Sorry, old man, you’ve lost me.’

He smiled sardonically. ‘When we were in the cheese shop earlier, did you happen to notice a brand of Romanian origin? No, of course not – as usual Watson your powers of observation are somewhat ineffectual.’

‘That’s a bit mean, Holmes.’

‘Nevertheless, it’s true. I, as it happens, did notice a specific variety and it triggered some long-forgotten fact in my massive memory. You see Watson, Dracula is much like you and I – like us he enjoys a selection of fine cheeses. Admittedly, we would prefer a bottle of Chardonnay to go with it, rather than a glass of virgin’s blood, but there lies his undoing. While you were dealing with the cheese shop proprietor, I was perusing the fellow’s produce and I noticed rather large teeth marks in the Romanian Năsal Cheese. Had those teeth marks been in a lump of Wensleydale or Dutch Gouda, I might have dismissed them as meaningless, but as any cheese shop proprietor will tell you, customers may not take bites out of their wares. Therefore, the only way such a travesty could have occurred would be if the act of taking a bite out of that particular cheese was performed at great speed. And who do we know who has the ability to slow down time in the human world?’

I cast my mind back to the rotten food we saw at Castle Dracula. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I see.’

‘No, I don’t think you do, Watson. Let me explain – if the Count really had taken a bite of that cheese, he must surely have done so during the hours of daylight, which told me that not only is he immune to the rays of the sun, but he had already arrived in the village and had enough time to do a bit of shopping. Then, having completed his business with the agent, and knowing we would be hot on his tail, he simply waited for us to do something typically human, such as sending Mary to the front door. Leaving Lestrade to finish us off, he would then take Mary to be his vampire bride. He set a trap for us, Watson, and quite plainly, we have fallen into it.’

‘Bloody hell, Holmes.’

‘Quite.’

‘So what do we do now?’

But before my companion could answer, another voice interrupted our discussion. ‘Ah, ze great detective and his rather stupid friend. Velcome to my humble abode.’

Count Dracula began to descend the stairs, his arms moving outwards as he did so, causing his black cape to billow out like gigantic bat wings. ‘It appears I underestimated your enthusiasm, Holmes. I’d thought to outvit you with my clever lipstick-on-the-neck ruse, but you saw through it.’

‘Of course I saw through it, you fiend. That is because I am the world’s greatest detective and have the ability to outmanoeuvre even the most cunning of villains.’

I detected a tremor in my companion’s voice, but had to admire his nerve. Even as Dracula moved ever closer, Holmes stood his ground.

‘And it is precisely because of zat reason you vill make a superb vampire. Come to me and let us be one…mwah, hah, hah…’

As the evil creature moved to within a few feet of him, Holmes stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out a lump of what looked like green mould.

‘It seems you have the upper hand, Count,’ said Holmes. ‘But before you turn us into the undead, let me offer you a small token as a way of cementing our relationship.’ He held out the piece of mould. ‘Dutch Beaver cheese – one of my favourites.’

Dracula’s red eyes lit up and he licked his foul lips greedily. ‘Ah, how lovely! Zat is kind of you Holmes.’ And reaching out he took the cheese and prepared to bite into it.

The Count’s fangs closed around the comestible and he chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then, his eyes grew wide and he snarled, spitting out the remains of the cheese. ‘Vot is zis? You vile little man! You haf poisoned me…’ And he sank to the floor, his face turning a rather nice shade of yellow as blue bile erupted from his mouth. ‘Vot haf you done, you inconsiderate but nevertheless stunningly handsome detective?’

Holmes smiled and glanced at me. ‘My apologies Watson, I’m afraid I took a gamble with our lives, but I’m please to say it has paid off.’

‘What on earth was that stuff, Holmes? Some sort of toxin?’ I watched transfixed as Dracula’s body turned to mush, bubbling and frothing away like a bubbly, frothy mess. Within a few minutes, all that remained was a greenish, bluish, yellowish sort of gloop on the cellar floor.

‘Yes, in a way, Watson,’ said Holmes. ‘Though not in the least vexing to you or I, a small sample of Cornish Wild Garlic Yarg – a vegetarian, semi-hard cheese enfolded with pungent Ramson leaves – contained just enough of that extraordinary little bulb to put our toothy friend to sleep forever.’

‘Garlic? Amazing. Well done, Holmes.’

‘Yes.’ He gazed down at the mess before us. ‘Now, we’d better deal with those coffins…’

 

As Holmes had predicted, Mary and Lestrade were sleeping peacefully in their coffins and on waking them up, both expressed a sense of confusion as to the exact circumstances surrounding their boxy incarceration.

Brinsley was a little disappointed Dracula wouldn’t be going through with his rental on the property (and the associated agent fees), though he appreciated it was probably better to be a living human than an undead vampire.

While Holmes supervised the clean-up operation with the local constabulary, I walked with Mary back to the cheese shop to collect our belongings. As we stood waiting for the proprietor, I wondered aloud if our adventure had put her off accompanying me in future escapades.

She gave me a playful punch on the arm. ‘It rather depends on how you portray me in your journals, Johnny.’

I nodded, happy that at least someone would be interested in reading my accounts of our adventures…

 

 

The Watson Letters Vol 2 Not the 39 Steps JULY 2016 EBOOK VERSION

Not the 39 Steps – out now!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Vampire Lestrade…

The Vampire Lestrade 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was still only mid-morning when we landed in Purfleet. The pilot put us down in a field a mile or so west of Carfax, so as ‘Not to alert Mister Dracula to your presence.’ He took off again immediately, leaving us to hump our luggage to a nearby cheese shop where I gave the proprietor a few pennies to look after it until we returned. While Holmes was perusing the range of produce, I purchased a selection of cheesy comestibles including slices of Stilton, Wensleydale and Red Leicester.

Out on the street, Holmes and I put on our special false-beard sets as a precaution, but took them off again when Mary pointed out that Dracula would be in his coffin during the day. We headed towards the river, keeping an eye out for any odd-looking individuals, large coffin-shaped boxes and Romanian-style vehicles.

Within a few minutes, we had traversed the length of the village. Holmes stopped at a corner where the road veered round before looping back up to the main highway. He nodded towards a small wood across the road where a faux late-medieval-period-like structure could be seen through the trees. “That looks like the place, Watson.”

Taking care to stay out of sight, we crept through the wood and circled behind the grounds, making our way through a dense shrubbery between the house and the river. Finally in sight of the house itself, we crouched down, allowing ourselves a good five minutes to ‘case the joint’, as Holmes likes to put it. The building was of early Victorian design with several turrets and towers, much like those found in popular gothic novels. It occurred to me that Dracula may have desired a dwelling that at least partly resembled his own, though without the familiar surroundings of peasants and black forests.

There was no movement either outside the house or at any of the windows. In fact, many of the windows had been boarded up and the place appeared to be in a generally poor state of repair.

“We must get inside,” muttered Holmes.

“Why don’t I distract them?” suggested Mary.

“Distract who?” said I.

“Whoever’s in the house.”

“We don’t know there’s anyone in the house,” muttered Holmes disdainfully.

“Exactly.  But if there is, you don’t want them coming out and catching you trying to break in, do you? I’ll nip round the front and knock on the door while you two find a way in at the back.”

Holmes pouted a little but he had to admit it was a sensible idea. “Very well, but don’t get caught. If anyone answers tell them you’re looking for…I don’t know…Dr Seward.”

“Isn’t he a character in Mister Stoker’s book?” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “It doesn’t matter, Mary, it’s just something to say.”

So off she trotted round the side of the building while Holmes and I headed for what we assumed to be the coal chute. A large padlock secured the shutters, prompting my companion to vocalise a variety of swear words. Taking the initiative, I produced my set of Acme Skeleton Keys and got to work.

“You’re a dark horse, Watson,” whispered Holmes. “Where’d you learn to do that?”

“Mary’s been teaching me,” I said. Putting a little pressure on the tension wrench, I turned the short hook and the lock flew open. “Voila!”

Holmes gave me a sardonic smile. “Smart work, Doctor Cleverclogs, but don’t let it go to your head.” Heaving the doors open, he stepped inside and started down the steps. Closing the shutters behind me, I followed him to the door at the bottom. Lighting a match, Holmes tried the handle. It opened. Stepping through, we found ourselves in the cellar itself, a dark and foreboding place that reeked of bad things, much like its counterpart in Castle Dracula.  However, it was the three coffins on the floor that drew our attention.

“Just as I suspected,” said Holmes. “I suppose we’d better open them.” Stepping aside, he nodded at the first one. “Go ahead Watson, do your stuff.”

“Me? You’re bloody joking Holmes – you’re the expert. You do it.”

“Expert? Expert in what? Catching villains, yes, solving mysteries, yes, but this? No Doctor, this is more your field. After all, you deal with death all the time.”

“I’m not a bloody undertaker, Holmes, I know as much about vampires as you do, which isn’t a bloody lot, as it happens.”

We stood for a moment, both of us sighing indignantly. But our various resentments were brought up sharply by a muffled sound from one of the coffins.

“What was that?” I whispered, stepping back a few paces.

Holmes pointed to the nearest coffin. Just as he did so, the lid began to rise and at the very same instant, his match went out.

“Bugger.”

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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To Londen…

Flying over Parliament 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we reached the terminal, there was no sign of the Count and his carriage. Nevertheless, we could not afford to bask in our petites gloires. Hurrying down to street level, we took the bull by the proverbials and stepped out in front of a passing cart. The driver shouted something that sounded vaguely objectionable, but Holmes calmed the fellow’s temper with a handful of coins.

“Always useful to keep a supply of French francs, Watson. Money opens doors like no key I’ve ever known.” We climbed aboard the rickety vehicle and Holmes barked an address in the driver’s ear. We took off at a gallop and in a matter of minutes, the cart pulled into a narrow lane called Chemins des Dune and came to a standstill in front of what I took to be a garden shed, of the French variety.

“I hope you’re right about this, m’dear,” I muttered to Mary as we followed Holmes to the door of the run-down structure. However, on stepping inside, we found ourselves in a small room facing a desk, behind which was seated a dapper little man wearing a monocle.

“Ah, Mishter Holmsh – we’ve been exshpecting you.”

Holmes raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Yesh indeed,” said the little man, getting to his feet. “Mycroft alerted us to your shituashion at Cashtle Dracula and hinted that you may be in need of ashistansh in travelling back to Londen.”

Holmes glanced at Mary and pouted a little. “Seems I owe you an apology, Mrs Watson.”

At these words, the clerk stepped forward. “Mishesh Watshon? The Mishesh Watshon?” He grasped Mary’s hand and shook it vigorously, wiping away a morsel of spit as he did so. “We weren’t exshpecting you. Come in, come in…” And he led us through a door in the back wall of the shed, down a flight of stone steps and into a large underground chamber, chattering away mindlessly to my wife the entire time.

A dozen or more individuals hurried here and there among the desks and workbenches located on either side. Our guide pattered along gaily towards what looked like a large wardrobe in the middle of the room, at which point Holmes pulled me sideways. “I suggest you keep an eye on your wife, Watson, it seems she possesses womanly wiles that are more womanly and indeed more wily than either of us expected.”

I put on my best smug expression. “Speak for yourself, Holmes. Speak for yourself.”

The chatty little man finally stopped gossiping about Whitehall shenanigans and held open the wardrobe door. “Through the fur coatsh, then shtraight down to the shtationhoush and it’sh directly in front of you. The engineer will send you off as shoon as shteam’sh up.” He smiled and wiggled his fingers at Mary. “Bye then.”

And so it was that ten minutes later our LubeTube carriage was hurtling through a well-greased tunnel at several dozen miles per hour. As Mary promised, it took a mere nine minutes to reach Londen and as we alighted, a familiar face advanced down the platform towards us.

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” muttered Holmes. “What the fucking hell does he want?” Adopting an expression of pure condescension, Sherlock greeted his brother with his usual decorous charm. “Mycroft, how are you? You’re looking well – been working out?”

Mycroft Holmes nodded at me, winked at Mary and patted Sherlock on the head. “Don’t trouble yourself to feign pleasure, Shirley, I’m only here to give you this.” And reaching into his inside pocket he took out a sheet of paper. Passing it to Holmes, he bowed to Mary and I, turned on his heel and walked off.

Holmes studied the document and stuffed it into his pocket without speaking.

“Anything important, old boy?” I asked.

“I’ll let you know.” Picking up his bag, he headed off towards the exit.

“Scuse me, govnor,” called one of the engineers. “It’s this way, mate.”

Holmes did an about-turn. “Yes, of course it is. I knew that.”

We emerged into the cold dawn of a new day onto a well-kept rooftop garden. From the spectacular view of the Thames, I quickly realised we were on top of the Houses of Parliament and on the lawn in front of us, a steam-powered gyrocopter was already powered up and waiting.

“Hmph,” said Holmes. “At least he’s good for something.” We climbed aboard the machine and stuffed our bags in the back, while Holmes discussed our destination with the pilot.

Settling into his seat, the great detective turned to us and took a deep breath. “Now, it seems that friend Lestrade has a brother, and – ”

“Really?” I interjected. “I always thought Grayson was an only child.”

Holmes looked perplexed. “Grayson? Who’s Grayson?”

“Lestrade. That’s his name – Grayson Lestrade. You didn’t know, Holmes?” I couldn’t resist a smile and feigned a cough in order to hide my joy at discovering (for once) something my illustrious colleague did not know.

He sniffed. “In any case, it is Lestrade’s brother not our dear inspector, who has been communicating with the Count. Apparently he’s an estate agent.”

“D’you think he’ll be at Carfax?”

“Whether he is or not, we must get there A. S. A. B. P. – As Soon As Bloody Possible.” He leaned forward and tapped the pilot on the shoulder. “Anytime you’re ready, my good man.” And seconds later we were flying over Londen towards Purfleet, Carfax House and, inevitably, Count Dracula.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Night Visitor…

Bat Attack 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Our journey to the first interchange was a short one, but from there onwards, each cable car covered three or four miles, allowing us to make good time. We continued our passage unabated until noon the next day when we stopped for lunch at a quaint little eatery on the outskirts of Prague, before crossing the Vltava River. The rate of our chosen mode of transport speeded up considerably at the Großer Staufenberg interchange, when the brakes failed and we made the downhill trip over Baden Baden in a mere seventeen seconds!

As we neared Paris, I totted up our travelling time and reckoned we must be close on the heels of the Count, though as we had no idea how he was travelling, he might still have the upper hand. Mary slept for a while and I took the opportunity of updating my journal, as well as penning a few rude rhymes of the Doctor Foster variety.

Night was falling on the second day as we boarded our final connection destined for Calais. I felt heartened as the cable car carried us over a wooded area approaching the town, though there was little to see with the naked eye. It was then that Holmes, who had spent the last several hours with one eye to his Pocket Steam-driven Night-time Observational Scope, began to take greater interest in the landscape below. Mary and I had kept our conversation to a low murmur so as not to disturb him, and we both visibly started when our companion cried out:

“I have him!”

I opened the small window next to the one Holmes was occupying and peered into the darkness. “Can’t see a damn thing.”

“Here,” said he, grabbing my arm. “Take a look for yourself.”

Pressing my eye to the Scope, I saw a long, narrow carriage below us, its eight-horse team charging along at an incredible rate. Two hooded men were perched in the driving seat. Stacked up on the back of the vehicle as clear as day, were a pile of wooden boxes – coffins.

As I watched, one of the hooded figures looked directly up at me and I jumped back in surprise. “Bloody hell,” I said, passing the Scope back to Holmes. “Can we stay ahead of him, d’you think?”

“I doubt it, Watson – we shall have to hire a cab when we get to Calais to take us to the docks. That could slow us down considerably. Damn the man!” He slapped his thigh in irritation and I almost shouted out ‘Hurrah!’ but managed to hold myself in check.

“I’ll wager he has a boat waiting for him.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Our only chance is to find a fast ship with a cheap crew.”

Just then, Mary came up behind us. “Why don’t we use the Underground?”

Holmes laughed harshly. “This isn’t Londen, Mary, there’s no such thing as an Underground.”

“He’s right you know, m’dear.” I added. “No such thing.”

Mary shook her head and smiled kindly, as if she were addressing two particularly stupid chaps who were having a spectacularly dull day. “No, silly, I mean the Secret Underground – you know, the one that goes from Calais to the Houses of Parliament?”

Holmes blinked. “You know, Watson, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that a certain person had been conversing with my brother Mycroft. It’s exactly the sort of ridiculous notion he’d come up with.”

Mary patted Sherlock’s arm. “You two should talk to each other sometime – you might learn something. According to Mycroft, the Secret Underground will get us to Londen in about nine minutes.” She feigned a yawn. “But if you’re not interested…”

A low grumbling noise came from somewhere deep in the belly of the great detective. He took a moment to take on board Mary’s suggestion and spent another moment adjusting his complexion accordingly. “Oh course, Mary – a splendid idea. Now, do you happen to know where this Secret Underground thingy might be found?”

As Mary gave Holmes directions, I had to admit to being rather surprised at my wife’s sudden acquisition of knowledge. While I still wasn’t convinced her relationship with Mycroft was entirely above board with no buggering about in between, I couldn’t help but feel the throb of pride in my nether regions.

Packing away his Scope, Holmes stopped abruptly and stared at the floor. His hand flew up smartly warning us to stay quiet. “Quickly Watson, I think we may have a visitor.” Dropping to his knees, he bade me do the same, and we removed the proggy mat that covered the escape hatch. Pulling the lever upwards, the sudden inrush of air made me gasp and I grabbed hold of Mary’s leg for support.

“Oh, Johnny, this is hardly the time…”

“Hang onto to something, Mary,” I said. “This could be dangerous.” With my free hand, I took hold of my companion’s coat as he slid his manly torso through the hatch. Watching him dangle there in the cold night air, I wondered if this might be the end, but my wondering was short-lived.

“He’s crawling up towards you, Watson.” Holmes stuck his hand back through the hatch and pointed to one of the windows. “There, Watson, there!”

Jumping up, I stared through the window and to my utter horror, a gigantic vampire bat was clinging to the frame of the cable car. For several seconds I could do nothing but stand and stare at the evil creature. Then Holmes shouted at me, stirring me into action:

“For God’s sake, Watson, show him your cross!”

“Bugger off, batface!” I screamed in a rather more girlish voice than I’d have liked.

“No, no, Watson,” shouted Holmes. “Show him your crucifix.”

“Oh, of course.” Taking out the small cross I’d fashioned from used Swan Vestas, I held it up in front of me and leaned over the sill. “Sod off, bat.”

What happened next shook me to my very soul. The demonic creature reached out a batty claw and sank its hooks into me, hauling me off my feet and out through the window.

“Arrggh,” I uttered, with some consternation.

Grabbing at anything I could, I managed to get a foothold on the rim of the cable car and held onto the windowsill with one hand, allowing me to at least not fall to my death. The creature pulled at me, trying to dislodge my hold, but I clung on with all my might, all too aware that the cool night air would quickly make my poor fingers numb. It could only be a matter of seconds before I was forced to let go and plummet to a painful demise on the road below.

Count Dracula (for it was he), clawed and scratched at my chest, his massive leathery wings beating in my face. I struck out with my free hand and caught him a good smack in what I supposed was his armpit, but my right hand was losing its grip and I knew there was not much time.

In those frantic, discombobulated panic-filled moments, I became aware of movement beside me. Glancing up, I saw Mary climb through the window and slide down to where I perched on the all-too slender ledge. With one hand on the windowsill, she reached under her skirts and pulled out a kitchen knife.

“Take that you Count!” And she plunged the blade into the creature’s chest. Immediately the fiend dropped out of the sky, screeching like a beast that had been stabbed in the chest by a doctor’s wife.

“Come along, Johnny,” she said, helping me back into the carriage. “That’s enough excitement for one day.”

Struggling through the window, I collapsed onto my seat. Opposite, Holmes puffed at his Meerschaum.

“Ah, there you are, Watson.”

I stared at him, but could not summon up an ounce of sarcasm to hurtle back in his direction. Instead, I simply said, “Have you met my wife – Mary the Vampire Hunter?”

Mrs Watson sat down beside me and pulled up her skirt, revealing a rather fetching leather holster fastened to her leg. “Good thing I’ve a set of those knives in my luggage, eh?” She grinned and rubbed my thigh. “Now, how long til we reach Calais..?”

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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