As the three of us hurtled downwards, I closed my eyes in the firm belief that Holmes was a complete chump and we would shortly perish in the icy waters. But then, knowing that my companion often made apparently foolhardy decisions only to prove a theory he already knew to be true, I opened my eyes again – just in case. And then something amazing happened:
A giant spoon-shaped object appeared out of nowhere and we fell into its ladle-like cavity with a thud. Or, three thuds, to be precise.
“Oh, my arse!” exclaimed Mary, rubbing her hindquarters.
Looking up, I saw that the giant spoon-shaped object was in fact a giant spoon and had emerged from the side of the iceberg like a mechanical arm. With a metallic grinding of gears and a juddering shudder, the thing began to retract itself and we disappeared through a hatchway into the darkness of the iceberg.
“See, Watson,” said Holmes, giving me a sardonic smile. “Something always turns up.”
I was about to reply, but as the hatch clanged shut, we found ourselves in total darkness. “Wish we’d brought Mary’s lamp,” I muttered.
“I dare say all will be revealed shortly,” said Holmes. And a moment later, a light came on above us.
Blinking in the sudden glare, we stared at our surroundings.
We were in a kind of workshop with a planked wooden floor beneath us and work benches around the walls. There was a door in the wall opposite the hatchway and as the giant ladle lowered us to the ground, the door swung open and a familiar figure hove into view, followed by another familiar figure.
“Ah, said Holmes. “The Grin Twins.”
Beside me, I heard Mary gasp and realised she had never met the Claw’s companion before. “My dear, this is Professor Moriarty.” I nodded to the evil genius. “Professor, this is my wife, Mary Watson.”
Moriarty moved towards us, his eyes focused on Mary. “My dear lady,” he gushed, proffering his hand. “How lovely to meet you at last.”
Taking her fingers in his, he gave her hand a gentle shake and I noticed a smile slide across Mary’s face.
“Delighted, I’m sure,” she said, though I was pleased to observe her tone was one of pure condescension.
“Ah, me,” said the Professor, giving a short laugh. “I should not have expected anything but disdain from the wife of a man who can barely dress himself without help. However, I’m glad to have met you, if only to have the pleasure of saying goodbye.”
Mary’s mouth dropped open. “Goodbye? But you just saved our lives.”
Holmes snorted. “Of course he did, because he wanted to be sure of our deaths. Isn’t that right Professor?”
“Alas, yes,” said the villain, with an evil grin. “And while I should be thrilled to spend a little time exploring your delicacies, dear lady, we do have to kill you all, and I promised Claw I’d let him do the honours.”
“What?” I spouted. “You scooped us into this ridiculous contraption only to commit murder?”
At this point, the Hooded Claw stepped forward. “Actually, that was my idea. You see, knowing the ineptitude of the lovely Captain Smith, we couldn’t rely on the ship sinking and the three of you, along with Mr Phogg, slipping into a watery grave. There was always the possibility of your being inexplicably rescued at the eleventh hour, so we took the precaution of making sure we could finish you off ourselves.”
“Really,” said I, my temperature rising. “And what about the twelve hundred other people on the liner? Are you going to kill them too?”
The Claw looked aghast. “Oh, no, we’d never do anything as meanspirited as that. No, some of them are bound to survive. The strong ones. The good swimmers. Of the others, well, freezing to death in the icy waters of the English Channel isn’t such a bad way to go, is it?”
“You absolute rotter,” I muttered. “I’ve a good mind to…”
But whatever I’d been about to say was lost, when a man was thrown into the room by the two would-be-nuns we’d met earlier.
“Phileas Phogg, I believe,” said Holmes, giving him a cheery wave. “My name is Holmes, this is my assistant Doctor Watson and his wife. You’re safe now.”
Moriarty guffawed. “Oh, Mr Holmes, you do make me laugh.” He nodded to one of the henchmen and another man was thrown into the room.
“And you must be Passepartout,” said Holmes. “I’d offer you tea, but as you can see, we’re somewhat indisposed.”
Passepartout and Phogg stumbled across the floor towards us as the entire room began to tilt to one side.
“Ah-ha,” said Moriarty, looking upwards. “We’re casting off.” He lifted his hat and smiled. “Duty calls, I’m afraid, but I promise to see you before you die. Adieu.” The Professor and his Hooded companion slipped out, slamming the door behind them, leaving the five of us looking at each other.
“Eeh, well,” said Phogg. “Ah’m rate glad to see thee, Mr Holmes, but Ah reckon us lot’re up Shite Street wi’ nowhere to go.”
“We may well be in the location of that particular avenue, Mr Phogg, but all is not lost.”
“You have a plan?” I said.
“I do,” said Holmes, “and it involves a small tube of lubricant and your wife.” Turning to Mary, he said, “So, if you could pop your clothes off…”