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Monthly Archives: September 2016

A Bridge Too Far…

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From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Holmes and I stood on the platform gazing down at the tracks.

“Wonder how long we’ll have to wait,” said I rubbing my hands together.

“If your account of events so far is accurate old friend, I suspect we shall hear the patter of ghostly train wheels any moment now.”

“Really? How so?”

“Elementary, Watson. As you yourself observed the return of the locomotive shortly after it first passed through the station at 11:15, whatever evil scheme they’re hatching doesn’t require much time.”

“Ah.”

A low rumble began to make itself felt. “Sorry Holmes,” I said, patting my tummy.”Haven’t eaten for a while.”

The great detective raised a finger. “Hold, Watson, on this occasion that familiar abdominal growl is not your innards but is in fact – look!”

I followed his pointing digit and saw a whirl of smoke in the distance. “Oh, my…”

“Quickly, Watson.” Holmes jumped down onto the track and I hurried after him, hoping we weren’t about to do something dangerous.

Leaping over the rails, we headed for a large bush. “Here,” Holmes crouched down behind the shrubbery and proceeded to pull a length of rope from his pocket.

“Odd item to be carrying around with you, Sherl,” I muttered as his clever fingers deftly fashioned the twine into a loop.

“Confiscated from Mrs Hudson this morning. She was using it to tie up the new lodger.”

“What new lodger?”

“Shh! I’ll tell you later. I shall endeavour to throw this lasso at an appropriate moment and with any luck it will give me enough purchase to scramble aboard the vehicle as it passes. I suggest you hang onto my coat tails.”

I did as he asked and grasped the ends of his greatcoat. We half-stood as the locomotive approached, smoke billowing and whistle screaming. I caught a glimpse of my Mary standing on the platform, her face pale in the moonlight. I imagined she must be thinking we were launching ourselves into yet another nest of metaphorical vipers. But my gaze was interrupted as the train thundered past.

Holmes straightened up and we hurried towards it, my companion hurling the rope with a quick flick of the wrist. Amazingly, the loop fell over some rail or bar on the vehicle and we were yanked forward. Holmes jumped and grabbed hold of the top of what appeared to be a trailer of some sort. He scrambled on board while I ran alongside, one hand still holding onto his coat, the other scrabbling to catch hold of anything that might allow me to heave myself up.

The smoke was thick and I could barely see a yard in front of me. My poor legs pounded like pistons in a pudding factory and had almost given way when Holmes leaned down and hoisted me up onto the platform, pulling me aboard in a rather ungainly fashion. I fell on top of him and for a moment our eyes met.

“Now, now, Watson,” he muttered. “Let’s keep our attention on the ball, eh?”

I scrambled to my feet, my arms spread wide to keep my balance as the truck bed juddered beneath us. The smoke was less of a hindrance from up here and I could see that we were standing on a low wagon with a rail around the edge. Ahead of us was another wagon with a familiar wooden crate strapped to its centre. Beyond that, the smoke obscured the exact means by which we were being conveyed forward.

Holmes took my arm. “Did you see the wheels, Watson?”

I shook my head. “Can’t say I did, old bean. Too busy trying not to get run over.”

“They bore an uncanny resemblance to those horseless carriage machineries we experienced in Edinburgh a little while back.”

“What are you saying Holmes – that this isn’t a train after all?”

“Of course it isn’t a train, you dimwit – if it weren’t for this damned smoke, we’d be able to see the slideshow from the projection device on the next carriage. It provides the lights that give the impression of a locomotive passing by. No doubt a similar device supplies the necessary sound effects.”

“But why on earth would anyone run a road vehicle on rails?”

Holmes steadied himself enough to give me one of his sardonic smiles. “If, like me, you had walked the last few hundred yards to the station, you’d have observed that the rail track ends half a mile before the platform. Clearly our Nazi friends have adapted their vehicle to travel on both road and rail.”

“But why, Holmes, why?”

Holmes grimaced. “I’m not certain yet, but I suspect we shall find out very soon. See…” He pointed ahead of us and through the smoke I discerned the outline of the swing bridge.

As we thundered towards it, I couldn’t help wonder what fate awaited us…

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Posted by on September 17, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Watching the Detective…

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From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Have to say, old bean,” I muttered as I ushered Holmes into the kitchen. “I’m a bit confused.”

My companion smiled sardonically. “I was a little confused myself, Watson, until a few hours ago, but tell me what you know, old friend.”

He closed the door and while I lit the gas and boiled the kettle again, I recounted our recent activities.

When I’d finished, he nodded grimly. “It is as I feared. Now, Watson, I see from your stupefied expression that you are wondering what brought me here?” He stuffed a batch of hard grimy shag into his Meerschaum, lit the stinking weed and puffed away intermittently as he talked. “When I received your message detailing your holiday plans, I determined to make the most of my leisure time. Since I had no outstanding cases, I embarked on that monograph I’ve been meaning to write concerning the distinctive hierarchy and societal customs inherent in the particular breed of bovine cowdungius we encountered at Cold Comfort Farm.”

“Ah,” said I. “So you were in the moood for it, eh?” I giggled.

Holmes raised an eyebrow reprovingly.

“Sorry. Continue please.”

He nodded. “I had previously ordered several cow-related periodicals in preparation for my research. However, as I flicked through them, I came across a magazine which I had definitely not requested. Jackboots Monthly is a journal which my dear brother Mycroft brought to my attention some months ago – he suspected there may be some need for my services vis-à-vis the usual world-domination mad-bastard type evil plot. However, nothing came of it. Until now…”

Mary popped her head round the door. “You two playing nicely? The natives are getting restless.”

“Thank you Mrs Watson. We shall be out directly.”

When Mary had closed the door, he continued. “I was about to put the filthy rag aside when I noticed something strange. Part of an article entitled Stormtrooper in Stilettos, on the subject of planning invasions, had been circled in green ink. A note scribbled in the margin read: Milford Junction, perhaps???

“But Holmes!” I shrieked, “This is Milford Junction!”

“Really Watson, you have an unenviable talent for the fucking obvious. Yes, this is the aforementioned intersection, and having perused your letter I realised you and your dear wife would be in its vicinity and might well be in a position to comment on the situation.”

“But Holmes…” I said, filling the teapot.

“But me no buts, Watson, I know what you’re thinking, which is why my next action was to telegraph the station from which you departed this morning. I received a speedy reply confirming my suspicions.”

“You mean..?”

“Yes, old friend – your journey was deliberately interrupted by a person or persons unknown. And I suspect the intention was to ensure that you, a respected medical man, would observe a certain phenomenon.”

“The ghost train?”

He nodded solemnly. “The very same. Someone requires an independent witness.”

“But what has that…”

“…Got to do with Nazis? No idea, but I took the liberty of borrowing one of Mycroft’s Steam-powered hydro-lifty-plane devices and arrived here in what I suspect is the nick of time.” He opened the door and looked out at our companions. “Show me the box.”

I led Holmes out onto the platform and started towards the place we’d left the crate, but it had mysteriously disappeared. “My God, Holmes,” I cried. “It’s mysteriously disappeared!”

The great detective rubbed his chin. “Hmm. I wonder what time the next train’s due?”

“I’ll ask the stationmaster,” I said, heading back to the waiting room.

“No!” Holmes grabbed my arm. “He’ll no doubt tell us what he wants us to hear.”

“You think he’s in on it?”

“Of course.” He gave me a slightly pitying look. “You were brought here to observe, Watson. However, you and I shall be observing something very different. Tell me, were you standing on the platform when the train last went through?”

“That’s right Holmes. Just about here, in fact.”

“And the train went that way, away from the bridge?”

“Right again, old bean. What are you getting at?”

“When it comes through here again, you and I are going to hitch a ride…”

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Trains of the Unexpected…

Trains of the Unexpected 350
From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

I burst into the waiting room expecting to find God knows what, but instead, there was the stationmaster sitting up at the table drinking a cup of tea.

“What’s going on here?” I said glaring at the young couple and the old man in the Mac. “You said he was dead.”

“Well…I…you see…” he stammered.

“Nar, it be my fault,” muttered the stationmaster. “I told ’em to get you back in here.”

I stared at him. “And exactly why would you do that?”

He put down his teacup and pointed at the clock. “It be quarter past.”
I raised an eyebrow. “And?”

“The Ghost Train.” He leaned forward and said in a slightly scary voice, “It be coming back.”

“Pshaw!” I shook my head. “Nonsense. Your silly ghost train is nothing more than a story to distract people from…well, from…” I waved my hand in a what’s-the-word sort of way.

“Smugglers,” put in Mary.

“Thank you darling. Yes, to distract people from the smugglers.”

But the gnarly-faced old man simply shook his head.

Arthur poked me in the ribs. “Tell ‘im about the whatsit.”

“The what?”

“The whatsit. You know, the thingummy.”

“Oh.” I nodded. “That’s right. We know about the box. With the slide show.”

The stationmaster put a hand to his ear. “It’s a-comin.” He pointed to the windows.

I turned slowly as the vibration in my feet told me that the thing that clearly couldn’t be happening, did in fact appear to be happening again.

Mary grasped my arm. Arthur grasped Dickie’s leg. The young couple grasped each other.

The lights came from the left, and just as before, a flash of yellow lit up the windows, and the ghost train thundered into the station.

“Don’t ye be lookin at it, mind,” screamed the stationmaster. “Or it’ll take your eyes…”

“I’ve had enough of this,” I yelled above the roar, and ran out onto the platform. The stink of sulphur hit my nostrils and choking smoke swirled around me, blocking any chance I might have of seeing the train (if there was one).

“Johnny, oh Johnny,” squealed Mary, grabbing hold of me.

We stood there, transfixed by the noise and stench of the apparition, the vision passing swiftly through the station, its ghostly roar diminishing as clouds of billowing smoke shifted and drifted away, leaving us standing in a murky haze, and gazing once again down the track and an empty line.

“Did you see it?”

I prised my wife’s fingers away from my groin and looked at her. “Mary. For fuck’s sake, open your eyes.”

She did so. “Sorry, darling. Did you see it?”

“Why’d you close your eyes?”

She shrugged. “In case the villains were using some evil device that would blind me.”

“Oh, I see – so it’d be fine for me to be blinded?”

“But you’re a doctor.”

“Of course.” Once again, I clambered down onto the track and walked along in the direction the ‘train’ had gone. But there was nothing to see. Back on the platform, I was brushing myself down, when Mary touched my arm. I followed her gaze. Coming along the platform towards us was a dark figure, trudging through the gloom as if in pain. “Who the bloody hell’s that?” I said.

“Arrgh!” Said a voice beside me. It was the stationmaster. “It be old Ted Holmes, dead and gone, comin back ter haunt us…”

I stared at the oncoming figure and must admit to talking several steps backwards, just in case. “I say – you there!” I waved a finger at the ghostly shape. “Who are you and what d’you want, damn you?”

“I must say, that’s a nice way to welcome an old friend, Watson. Any chance of a cup of tea?” Sherlock Holmes lifted his hat. “Ah, Mary. Solved the mystery yet, have you?”

I heard a noisy exhalation emanate from my wife’s ruby lips, followed by a less-than-complimentary phrase, which I shall not soil these pages by repeating. “I’ll put the kettle on,” she muttered, and disappeared into the waiting room.

“Holmes!” I gushed, shaking his hand warmly. “I’m jolly glad to see you, old chap. Listen, you’ll never believe what’s been happening.”

“First things first, Watson,” he said ushering our companions inside. Then, tugging my sleeve, he leant down and muttered, “Have a care, old friend. There’s trouble afoot.”

“You mean the smugglers?”

“Smugglers my arse. Nazis, Watson. Bloody Nazis.”

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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