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The Rope Trick…


From the Diary of Doctor Watson

Holmes gave a stifled shriek, his hands flailing as he struggled against his tormentor. Summoning up a burst of energy, I leaped up the final few steps to grasp my companion’s legs, taking some of the strain off his neck.

As the great detective fell forward onto the landing, Lecter dropped the rope and picked up a second noose. Before I could even blink an eye, he’d popped it over my head and begun to tighten the knot. Scrambling up through the trapdoor, I slipped my fingers into the loop, in an effort to lessen my predicament, but the rope was already taut and I felt my face bulge in a particularly disagreeable way.

“Put him down, you fiend!” screamed Mary, clambering up into the room. But Lecter merely laughed at her.

“In another life, Mrs Watson, you and I might have become lovers.” His lip curled into a hideous pout, then he uttered his infamous call sign: “Th-th-th-th…” And with that, pushed her back down the steps. Turning to me, he whispered, “Dying tonight!”

The next thing I knew, Holmes and I were being hauled upright by our respective lariats, our legs kicking out like the proverbial hanged man, in a ghastly exhibition of collective anguish. As my last breath escaped my lips, I twisted round to see Holmes. His feet had left the ground and I could see his manly features caught in a horrifying death-like stare. Even so, in his final moments, my bosom friend managed to throw me one last sardonic smile.

In that moment, something flashed before my eyes – my life! The whole gamut of our adventures from the ridiculous to the bizarre, plunged through my brain. Every second of our lives was there in all its heroic magnificence, and instantly I knew I could not allow this monster to take away everything Holmes and I had achieved. From somewhere deep within the bowels of my very soul, I summoned up a final burst of energy and a second later, out it came – a wonderfully loud and effervescent fart.

By some amazing quirk of fate, Lecter had at that precise moment heaved on the ropes and in doing so, leaned back so far that his face was only inches from my back-trouser department, allowing my ejection of hot air to explode right in his face.

“Blurgh!” he yelled, letting go the ropes.

It was all I needed. Falling to the ground in a heap next to Holmes, I tugged the noose free of my neck, gulping in lungfuls of air. Stumbling across to my companion, I released him and in the same movement, swung my right leg across the floor, kicking Lecter’s feet from under him. In yet another quirk of fate, Lecter tripped, fell backwards and tumbled soundlessly over the open parapet.

After helping Holmes to his feet, I crossed to the balcony. Below us on the lawn in a mangled heap, lay Hannibal Lecter.

“Ah, how the mighty have fallen,” croaked Holmes. “Literally, in this case.”

A noise behind prompted me to look round. Mary was helping Lord Lambton up the ladder into the tower.

For a few moments, the four of us stood looking at each other, silently congratulating ourselves on our continued existence. Then Mary pointed to the other occupants of the tower: four corpses lay side by side in the corner of the room.

I gazed at the bodies, my eyes sliding over each one in turn. There was Reginald, (Lord Lambton’s brother), then that poor man’s wife, Pricilla. Next to her lay Arnold the grocer’s boy and finally…

“Wait a minute,” I muttered, staring at the last body. “Who the fuck’s that?”

Lambton himself had stepped forward, pointing a shaking finger. “That isn’t Lucy…”

“Of course it isn’t,” said Holmes, nonchalantly. Taking out his Meerschaum pipe, he slid it into the side of his mouth in that very British way of his. “Can’t be, can it? She’s still in the bedroom where we observed her only a few short hours ago.”

I stared at him, then looked back at the corpse. “So…”

Holmes sauntered across to the balcony and leaned over. He sniffed, nodded to himself and looked at Mary. “Mrs Watson?”

Mary glanced at me, then a crease began to form between her wonky eyes. “Oh, I think I know.” To Holmes, she said, “So you were right all along.” She gave a little laugh. “Of course you were right, you clever bastard.”

Holmes grinned and pulled out his Swan Vestas. “Elementary, my dear.”

“Well, excuse me if I appear to be missing something, here,” I said, slightly put out. “A bit of explanation wouldn’t go amiss, if you don’t mind.” I glared at Holmes, glared at Mary and glared at Lambton. Then I remembered Lambton was as much in the dark as I was.

Mary patted my arm. “Remember darling? Didn’t you tell me Sherlock thought it was the boy?”

I cleared my throat noisily. “Perhaps.”

“Then, this…” she said, pointing at the unidentified corpse, “must be…”

It was my turn to frown. “Veronica?”

Holmes groaned. “Don’t be an arse, Watty. Tell him, Mary.”

I gave my wife my best I’m-fucking-annoyed look.

“Why don’t you examine the body, dear?”

I humphed, but stepped towards the corpse and peered down. “Well, it appears to be the body of a woman…face down…about average height, hands nondescript. The clothes are rather bloody and would seem to be of the sort of attire a well-to-do woman might wear…”

“And?” prompted Mary.

“And…” I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. “D’you know, if I didn’t know better I’d say that if we turned her over, there’ll be a quite plain-looking face, thinning hair and startlingly blue eyes.” I blinked. “But it can’t be.” I turned my gaze back to the other three corpses. As Lord Lambton had told us, the other victims had been posed as if they had dressed for dinner. This fourth body, however, was not. For a long moment I could almost hear the cogs falling into place inside my head. “Ah.”

“Hurrah,” said Holmes. “I think he’s got it.”

At that moment, the fourth body began to move. At first, it was just a twitch in the fingers of the left hand, then the arm pushed upwards. Turning sideways, the corpse sat up and looked at us.

“Argh!” I shouted. “I mean – oh.”

Hannibal Lecter rubbed his head and looked down at himself. “Hmm, nice dress.”

It was a few minutes later, after Mary had brought up a tray of hot chocolate, that I was made aware of the details which still eluded me.

“You see, Watson, said Holmes, sitting on the balcony sipping his drink. “Doctor Lecter here didn’t believe my theory about young Veronica.”

“Until,” put in Lecter, “your good lady wife bonked me on the head. It must have knocked some sense into me. I sneaked away while you two were canoodling and found the boy up here putting on his Doctor Lecter mask. Apparently you can buy them in Woolworths for one and sixpence.” He glanced at Lambton. “I expect your son’s been impersonating me for some time?” Lambton nodded sadly.

I took a minute to digest this new information. “So Veronica disguised himself as you in order to kill the rest of us?”

“Not at first,” said Mary. “He used the legend of the Lambton Worm to kill the grocer’s boy – probably as an experiment, then decided to murder his relatives so he could inherit. But when we turned up he realised he’d have to kill us too.”

“And blaming Doctor Lecter would have been a perfect Plan B?” I said.

“Precisely,” said Holmes.

“Hang on,” I said, glaring at Lecter. “Only a little while ago you were trying to eat us.”

Lecter shook his head. “Not at all, Johnnie. I simply amused myself until you three worked out what was going on. Besides, the world is more interesting with you in it.” He gave me a salacious wink and I felt myself blush.

Holmes leaned over the parapet, taking care to hang onto the rail. “It seems poor Veronica won’t be inheriting anything.”

The rest of us joined him, looking down at the mangled corpse below.

“Out of interest, Lambton,” said Holmes, “what was your son’s real name?”

“That was his real name,” said the old man with a shake of the head. “We wanted a girl.”

Glancing at Mary, I saw her close her eyes for a moment. Reaching over, I took her hand and gave it a squeeze. From now on, I was going to be a better husband.

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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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To the Tower…


From the Diary of Doctor Watson

Once more fully dressed, the three of us hurried up the stairs to the tower – Holmes out in front, with Mary and I close behind. Lord Lambton brought up the rear, though I harboured no illusions he’d be of the slightest use to us. Above, I could hear the clanging of the bell growing ever louder as we headed towards God knows what.

“What did Holmes mean about Bexhill-on-Sea?” gasped Mary as we struggled to keep up with the Great Detective.

“I’ll tell you later,” I muttered, hoping she would forget all about it. For the sake of my own sanity, I had endeavoured to push the details of the episode out of my own mind, though with little success. The official version of the story appeared under the headline ‘National Express Massacre’ in Detective Monthly, but Holmes insisted on divulging the sordid details to me one evening after a drinking bout at Filthy McSnardle’s Liquor Emporium.

“You’ve heard of the case, of course?” He’d said, lowering his voice. “Or at least, the official version?”

I avowed that I had, but clearly Holmes was acquainted with additional details. “Go on,” I said, eager to hear more.

My companion revealed that the story of the ‘busload of tourists,’ supposedly eaten by Doctor Lecter, had been deliberately manufactured by that scummy periodical The Daily Shite. Sherlock’s own investigations had uncovered another, more sinister tale, that showed Lecter in a quite different light.

“You see, Watson,” he said, “Lecter’s antics had come to the attention of an FBI agent – one Clarice Starling – who had been following him for several months. She had tailed him to a small village on the outskirts of Bexhill’s Old Town, where Lecter was holed up in the church. It seems another individual had also discovered the doctor’s whereabouts. Antonio De Bonio was a member of the Carabinieri and planned to blackmail Lecter over his involvement in a gold bullion heist.” He gave me a sidelong glance. “A robbery you and I know as ‘The Italian Job’.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Yes, but unfortunately for the Italian stallion, Lecter knew all about De Bonio’s plan and lured him to the bell tower of the church one night. Agent Starling appeared at the precise moment Lecter threw De Bonio off the parapet, allowing her to view the policeman’s demise in all its gory glory. Lecter had tied the poor chap by the ankles, slit open his gullet and pushed him over the edge. Quite literally…”

“Spilling his guts,” I added.

We were silent for a moment, then I asked, “But why the story of the busload of tourists?”

“Ah,” said Holmes, stuffing his Meerschaum with hard shag. “My brother Mycroft, who as you know represents the British Government, had the whole thing hushed up due to an unfortunate genealogical fact which came out in the initial investigation.”

“Which was…?”

“De Bonio was the rightful heir to the British throne.”

“But Holmes,” I gasped, “an Italian on the British throne is unthinkable. Why, that’s almost as bad as a bloody German married to the Old Queen.”

“Indeed, Watson. Lecter, it seems, had done us a right royal favour. So Mycroft and his pals put pressure on The Daily Shite to publish a story that would draw attention away from the regrettable incident in the church.” He struck a Swan Vesta and puffed away for a moment. “Doctor Chilton at the asylum used to say Lecter is, and always will be, a monster.” He sniffed. “I’d like to think I’ve proved him wrong on that count.”

I had mulled over this for some weeks afterwards, particularly Sherlock’s impression of having somehow got one over on the medical world. But now, as we hurtled up the stairs to the bell tower, it occurred to me that if Hannibal the Cannibal really was a reformed character, his recent behaviour was a bit of a slap in the face.

As we reached the top landing, I paused for a moment watching Holmes scale the final ladder into the bell tower. Dash it all, I said to myself, Lecter couldn’t possibly repeat his Bexhill performance, as he had only dead bodies at his disposal. So what on earth was he planning to do with them?

As Holmes poked his head through the hatch that led into the bell tower itself, a horrible thought flew into my head. “Holmes!” I cried. “Don’t –”

But the noose had already dropped around his neck and above him I saw Lecter’s grinning visage cackling furiously. He began to haul on the rope…

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Cannibal Rising…


From the Diary of Doctor Watson

As I stared into the mad eyes of Doctor Lecter, my thoughts were only of my dear wife – that I would never again be able to rest my gaze on her beautiful, if misaligned features. I was filled with bitter resentment. If only I had treated her a little better, praised her exertions, looked upon her kindly, appreciated her meagre efforts in the kitchen, then perhaps –

A dull thwack came to my ears and I blinked. Lecter had disappeared. I turned my head and saw his crumpled form on the ground, a large dent in his forehead.

“That’s better, said Mary, leaning over me.

“Oh. My. God,” I gasped.” My sweet and lovely darling – how on earth…?”

“Don’t thank me, Johnny,” she said, putting down the broom shank. “Thank your own snorting slumbers.”

“Sorry, what?” I said, as she undid my bonds.

“Forgive me darling, but your performance in the marital bed has simply grown too raucous lately.”

“Well, I must say, dearest, that’s a bit below the conjugal belt.”

“No, not that!” She giggled mischievously. “I mean your snoring. I wasn’t going to tell you as I didn’t wish to hurt your poor feelings, but the last few weeks I’ve been using Doctor Feinstein’s marital aids.” She opened the palm of her hand and I stared at two small rubber grommets.

I must have looked puzzled, for she continued. “Ear plugs – they’re the only way I can get any sleep.”

I frowned. “Still don’t see how that explains your miraculous escape.”

“It’s obvious, darling. When I realised we were to view the dead bodies, I wished to appear staunch and supportive at your side, and knew I couldn’t do that if I detected the merest whiff of a decaying corpse, so I stuffed the ear plugs up my nose. When Lecter tried to chloroform me, I simply pretended to be overcome. Then it was an easy matter to utilise Mr Houdini’s open-hand technique so I had enough wiggle-room to undo the straps around my hands.”

“Houdini?”

“Yes, there was an interesting article about him in Female Emancipation Monthly.” She gave me a reproachful look. “You should read more, darling.”

I had to admit to being a little overawed at my wife’s ingenuity. Jumping up, I hugged her closely, my hands ranging over her soft warm body. “You clever little thing,” I gushed.

Mary slapped my hands away. “Don’t fucking patronise me, Johnny, I simply utilised my feminine intellect. Now, help me with Sherlock.”

We spent the next few minutes untying my companion and reviving him and Lord Lambton with another of Mary’s emergency items – smelling salts. Holmes sat up on the table, rubbing his eyes.

“Watson – what on earth?”

“No time to explain, Holmesy, we have to tie up Lecter before -”

As we all turned to look at the unconscious doctor, the colour drained from our collective faces.

“He’s gone!” cried Mary.

Holmes jumped up and grabbed Lambton by the lapels. “Quick – where are the other bodies?”

The old man trembled and shrugged helplessly. “They were down here – but Lecter sent me a telegram yesterday telling me to move them up to the bell tower.”

“What the hell for?” said I.

Lambton shook his head, his lower lip quivering. “He made me do it. Said if I didn’t he’d eat my son – Veronica.”

“Quickly Watson, and Mrs Watson,” said Holmes. “The game’s afoot.” And with that he hurried towards the cellar steps.

The three of us watched as he reached the steps, paused and looked down at himself. He turned around. “Perhaps we ought to get dressed first?”

Mary raised a hand to her mouth and I saw the glint in her eyes as she averted her gaze from Sherlock’s limp appendage.

As Holmes and I pulled on our clothes, a sickening cry echoed from somewhere above us, followed by the slow clang, clang, clang of a bell.

“Oh my God,” muttered Holmes. “He’s in the tower – it’s Bexhill-on-Sea all over again…”

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Racked and Pinioned…


From the Personal notes of Doctor Hannibal Lecter

Despite my assurance to Mrs Watson that she’d be no match for me, I nevertheless took the precaution of whipping out my emergency-knock-out kit, and before she’d moved another inch, I’d applied a swab of chloroform to her nose. Clasped in my warm embrace, I held her close while she jiggled about like a child’s puppet. The thrashing of her buttocks against my strong serge trousers was amusing, though my lack of testicles (and their related characteristics), ensured that I remained true to my purpose.

“Now look here, Lecter,” muttered Lambton. “This sort of behaviour simply isn’t cricket.”

Dropping my charge to the ground, I took a step towards His Lordship and issued a sharp right hook. He fell to the floor like one of those sacks of tuberous crops that make up the dreary diets of the working classes.

The next few minutes were taken up manoeuvring the limp bodies of Holmes and Watson onto the trestle tables. After stripping them of their outer garments, I allowed myself the pleasure of gazing upon their naked forms (ruminating on the particular ‘cuts’ I might utilise), before securing their arms and legs.

All this had been executed with my usual swiftness and professional etiquette. It was particularly satisfying to note that at no point during the procedure had my pulse risen above 82. It was time to turn my attention back to the female of the species.

Being a gentleman (of sorts), I chose to leave her fully clothed. Quite what I shall do with this cross-eyed Mary, I have yet to decide. I may wish to strip her of everything later, including her skin, but I am presently undecided on how she should meet her death.

As my ‘clients’ would be asleep for a while longer, I took the opportunity to pop upstairs to the kitchen where I entertained the cook, the housekeeper and the parlour maid in a jolly game of run-away-before-I-kill-you. They all enjoyed it immensely, though sadly, I was unable to persuade any of them to remain on the premises. I am in no doubt they will hurry to the village and inform the authorities, but this should still give me a good forty minutes to complete my ‘tasting’ session with the good doctor and his detective friend before the cavalry arrive.

Back in the cellar, I wound up the gramophone and selected a suitable recording to accompany my endeavours. Just as the music started, I heard a moan from one of the tables.

“Ah, you’re awake. How lovely.”

Watson struggled against his bonds for a moment, then turned to glare at me.

“You fiend!”

“That’s Doctor Fiend, if you don’t mind.” I waved a hand at the gramophone. “Music while we work?”

The doctor frowned. “Is that the Goldberg Variations?”

I nodded. “Indeed. I always like to have a little Bach in my bite.”

“Is that meant to be funny?”

“Yes, though I naturally would not expect you to be amused.” I went to the knife rack and selected a suitable chopper.

“Do one thing for me,” he whined, as I approached the table. “Make it quick.”

I smiled. “Sorry, I’ll have to pass on that one. I like to eat slowly, you see.” I heard him gulp as I leaned over him. “Ready when you are, Doctor Watson…”

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Knife and Easy Does it…


From the Diary of Doctor John Watson

In any other situation Holmes and myself would have leaped on the fiend and disabled him in an instant, but as Lecter raised his arms, we saw the massive choppers he held in each hand.

“Knife to see you, to see you knife,” he murmured.

I took a step back, the better to distance myself from the glinting blades, but Holmes did exactly the opposite: stepping forward, he held up his hands in a placatory gesture.

“Come come, Hannie, as a scholar of human behaviour, I’m certain this is not what you intended…”

Lecter laughed. “On the contrary Holmesy, it’s exactly what I intended.” He pointed one blade towards the trestle tables. “Doctor Watson, perhaps you and your wife would be good enough to assemble the tables?” He glanced at me. “I’m keen to prepare my next meal – kidney surprise.”

Sticking my chest out, I summoned my most manly voice. “I shall do nothing of the sort, you fiend!”

Now it was Mary’s turn to step forward. Adopting a hands-on-hips stance (which I knew from experience meant trouble), she addressed the flesh-hungry doctor. “I think you’re forgetting something, aren’t you? There are still four of us and only one of you. We shall have you tied up and helpless in a trice.” She snarled in that saucy way of hers, sending a shiver up my inner thigh.

“Ah, would that it were so,” said Lecter. “You see, the particular brand of Camp Coffee Messers Holmes and Watson enjoyed on the train, contained a little something that should be taking effect…” He pulled a rather handsome Half-Hunter from his waistcoat pocket, and gave a satisfied smile. “Just about now.”

Whether as a consequence of his suggestion or that there really had been something in our coffee, I began to feel decidedly odd. Glancing at Holmes, I perceived a trace of doubt edging across his masculine features. Perhaps it was true – we had been poisoned and at any moment we’d be the ones lying tied up and helpless while the evil brute carried out his depraved plan.

“It may have escaped your attention Doctor,” said Mary, waving a reproving finger, “but neither myself nor Lord Lambton have touched a drop of coffee, Camp or otherwise.”

Lecter grinned. “Quite so, my dear, however, I hardly think a mere woman is capable of standing in my way. If you read of my exploits in Bexhill-on-Sea, you’ll recall how I trashed that so-called investigator Clarice Starling. Poor girl’s singing a tune of quite a different sort now.”

“Then clearly she wasn’t a Grammar-school girl. If you come near me, I’ll kick you in the testicles.”

“Alas,” said the doctor, an expression of regret on his face. “I have no testicles – I ate them several years ago with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

“Nevertheless,” continued Mary, “there’s still Lord Lambton to consider. I’s sure he has testicles.”

Lecter flashed the old man a girlish grin. “As it happens, I have considered him…” And with that he swung his left hand downwards, embedding one of the knives in Lord Lambton’s leg.

I gave a little start, as did my companions, but Lambton simply stared at the knife and let out a faint sigh.

His attacker pulled the blade free and waved it at Mary. “Wooden legs – a consequence of the Boer War, if I recall. As they don’t say in the movies – he can hide, but he can’t run.”

By now, my vision had begun to blur and my head was spinning. I was further dismayed to see Holmes had already sunk to his knees. Gathering what little strength I had left, I directed my words at the notorious psychiatrist and part-time cannibal. “If you touch one hair of her head…”

But my words trailed away to nothing as darkness overcame me. The last sound I heard was my dear wife screaming…

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Body in the Cellar…


From the Diary of Doctor John Watson:

Reaching the door to the cellar, Holmes held out a hand, holding me back. “Something else, Watson,” he said, keeping his voice low. “I wonder if you noticed?”

“Noticed what,” said I.

“The grocer’s boy, of course.”

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. “He’s not family, if that’s what you mean?”

Holmes slapped me on the arm. “Precisely, Watson, so why was he set up as a sacrifice?”

I shrugged. “Perhaps Lambton thought it didn’t matter.”

The Great Detective shook his head solemnly. “You are forgetting this is very much a family affair.”

“Oh, good heavens,” I said. “You mean…?”

“Yes Watson, I’ll wager the grocer’s boy was the illegitimate son of one of the Lambton brothers. And what’s more, the whole family must have known it.” With that, he began to descend the steps into the cellar, following the sound of voices.

As I hurried along behind him, I couldn’t help feeling there was another vital clue we were missing in this mystery. Something that had so far eluded even Sherlock Holmes.

At the foot of the stairs, we found ourselves in a small room lit by a paraffin lamp. Well-stocked wine cabinets filled half the space, along with several shelves of English cheeses. A half-empty knife rack stood next to these and I made a mental note to cut myself a slice of Double Gloucester on my way out. A door to our left led through into the next chamber. Picking up the lamp, Holmes pushed it open.

“Ah,” said Doctor Lecter. “Good of you to join us.” His smile was as enigmatic as ever, but there was nothing else in the room to grin about. A trestle table had been set up in the centre and on this lay the mangled body of the grocer’s boy, partially covered by a bed sheet. Mary and Lord Lambton stood to one side, staring at the body. Glancing around the room, I wondered why three new trestle tables had been stacked in the corner. However, any thoughts I might have had on the matter were interrupted when Holmes stepped towards the corpse.

Pulling the sheet away from the body, he leaned over, peering at the wounds, nodding and muttering away to himself. Then, straightening up, he addressed Lecter.

“I suppose you’ve worked this out already, Hannibal?”

Lecter offered a smug grin. “Once you dismiss the notion of an actual worm…” he said, casting a spiteful glance at Lambton, “it all falls into place.”

“Humph,” said Mary. “Well it doesn’t fall into place for me.”

Lecter raised an eyebrow. “Strange, I imagined you of all people would have put the pieces together.”

[At this point, my dear wife uttered an unfeminine phrase, which I shall not reproduce here]

“After all,” continued Lecter, “you witnessed my interrogation of the three guards on the train, did you not?”

Mary frowned. “Didn’t sound much like an interrogation to me, Doctor.”

“Of course it didn’t, but then, being locked in Doctor Watson’s trunk, you weren’t in a position to view the results of my technique.”

“Oh, God,” muttered Holmes, rolling his eyes. “He’s talking about psycho-optical pre-cognitive suggestion. An American idea I believe, and in reality about as useful as a wire-mesh pisspot.” He glanced at me. “I’m writing a short monogram on the subject. You might find it of interest, Johnny.”

“Actually Holmes,” I said, adopting a sermonising tone, “I was reading up on that very subject the other day. Apparently, they’re making great strides with similar techniques in the study of the criminally insane.”

“Really?” said Holmes, with only a smidgen of sarcasm.

“Really,” said I.

“Will you two shut up?” said Mary, looking a little vexed. “I want to hear about this. Please continue, Doctor.”

Lecter winked at her. “Certainly, my dear. The methodology utilises a connected series of statements designed to appear to be on one subject, while the subliminal messages, passed on as subtext, are on another. To the layman, my interrogation was of a teasing nature, but in fact the underlying questions related exclusively to the recent murders here at Lambton Hall.”

Holmes folded his arms and tapped his foot. “So?”

“So,” said Lecter, “by observing the eye movement of the three guards, I was able to interpret their apparently meaningless answers to my questions.” He turned to Lambton. “It seems all three have lived in the village for the entirety of their lives and thus are well-versed in local gossip, which naturally includes events…” he paused and glanced at Holmes, “…such as murder.”

Lord Lambton swallowed hard. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Nothing,” said Lecter. “Which, as it happens, is the sum total of local knowledge in this affair.”

“What?” cried Holmes. “Are you saying no-one else knows about these killings?”

“About the killings and indeed, about worms – Lambtonite, or otherwise.”

“What the deuce does this mean?” I demanded, glaring at our host.

Holmes held up a hand. “Calm yourself, Watson. Leave this to me. “Now look here, Lambton, what the deuce does this mean?”

The old man’s face drained of colour. His arm slowly rose, one solitary finger extended towards Doctor Lecter. “It was him.”

Even before I turned to look at Lecter’s face, I heard the ‘th-th-th…’ sucking noise coming from the fiend’s mouth, and I remember thinking ‘Oh, fuck…’

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

Second volume in this madcap adventure series.

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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Legends of the Hall…


From the Diary of Doctor John Watson:

Lord Lambton wandered over to the window and stood there for a moment, no doubt gathering his thoughts. Then seating himself on a small pouffe, he swung one leg over the other and began his tale…

“It was a dark and stormy night,” he said gazing off into the far distance.

“You’ve said that already,” I muttered. “And anyway, this is not some theatrical entertainment. I suggest you confine yourself to the facts.”

Lambton swore under his breath, then began again:

“It was raining that night and the annual gathering of the Lambtons began with the arrival of my brother and his wife, followed by the grocer’s boy, Arnold. I had arranged for a local hostelry – the Slaughtered Lamb – to provide dinner, as our cook had come down with a bug, but unfortunately a tornado happened by and the place was razed to the ground. So I decided to do the cooking myself and sent telegrams to Mr Haddock the butcher and Mr Trout the grocer.”

“Sounds a bit fishy to me,” murmured Holmes.

Lambton ignored him and continued: “I should explain that my brother and I do not get on.” He coughed. “Did not get on. Therefore it was my intention to endure the company of my sibling and his whore of a wife only as long as was necessary to carry out my plan.”

“To kill them all?” suggested Holmes with a smirk.

“No, rather, to simply inform them of their respective duties regarding the legend of The Lambton Worm. Every year, as the legend goes, the beast erupts from the well in the village and worms its way to the Hall. Traditionally, this happens on a dark and stormy night. Then, a member of my family is supposed to offer themselves up to the creature as a sort of sacrifice. Naturally we’ve always ignored such claptrap, however, a few days earlier, I had received a letter from a firm of solicitors – Messrs Blood and Co – informing me that they were acting on behalf of the Creature.” He paused and looked at Holmes, but the Great Detective said nothing.

“It seems that a Society has been set up to protect the legend’s intellectual property rights, or some such nonsense, as it has, apparently, become something of a tourist attraction.”

“But you knew that already,” said Lecter, giving him a sly wink.

Lambton nodded. “In recent years our family has become something of a laughing stock among the local peasantry, not that one cares about such trivialities, but the legend was seen as nothing more than just that – a legend.”

“Sorry,” I said, but why is that a problem?”

“Ah…” said Lecter, his eyes glazing over. “Those of a simple disposition – the peasants and the like – look to the gentry to provide inspiration, set an example etcetera etcetera. They require something to covet and one cannot covet that which one does not see every day.”

I leaned towards Mary and whispered, “What’s he one about?”

“What I am talking about, Doctor,” said Lecter, is that simply because the creature cannot, in all seriousness, actually exist, someone…” He glanced at Lambton. “Someone may have taken it into their heads to create a monster of their own.”

“To attract tourists?” said Holmes.

“Indeed. And I suspect that while Lord Lambton wanted to honour the tradition to keep the locals happy, he was less enthusiastic about providing a sacrifice for the Worm to, shall we say, eat.” He let out a long sigh, then giving my dear wife a sidelong glance, licked his lips.

“So,” said Holmes, studying Lambton, “you thought to persuade one of your family to take on the mantle of performing in this charade and presumably hoped to satisfy the peasants with a kind of demonstration of the legend in action, as it were?”

“Precisely,” said Lambton.

“Except, “said Lecter,” that your chosen sacrifice – Arnold the grocer’s boy – was murdered?”

Lord Lambton nodded. “The poor lad went out into the garden as arranged and we tied him to a tree. Then the rest of us hurried back to the Hall and waited for the ‘creature’ to arrive. The rest of us watched from this very window.”

Holmes moved to the window and gazed out. “And what happened next?”

Lambton cleared his throat. “It was too dark to see clearly. My brother imagined he saw a shape approaching through the darkness, though I saw nothing myself. A moment later there was a scream, the like of which I would prefer never to hear again. It was a horrible, blood-curdling, screeching, wailing –”

“Yes yes,” said Mary. “I think we get the picture.”

“Then there was silence.” Lambton rubbed a hand over his craggy features. “We went outside, but of course the lad was dead – his neck bitten clean through, his torso torn and shredded as if by some gigantic claw.”

“Sorry,” I said. “But that doesn’t sound much like the murders of the other victims.” I indicated the torso on the floor.

Holmes nodded. “Quite right, Watson, in fact…” He gave me a sideways glance. “More like the work of some gigantic hound.”

“The Case of the Curse of the Hound of the Hall of the Baskervilles…” I muttered.

“Are you suggesting I’m making this up?” said Lambton.

“Not at all, old chap,” said Holmes congenially. “I’m merely pointing out that the modus operandi of this first murder differs considerably from that of the others.” He pointed the stem of his Meerschaum at Lambton. “As you said yourself – the other victims were dressed in their best clothes and posed as if they had dressed for dinner.”

Lambton sniffed. “That’s right.”

“And why,” continued Holmes, “do you think that might be?”

“I rather thought the task of solving the case was in your hands, Mr Holmes,” said Lambton with a smirk.

“Indeed, which is why I should like to continue our little tour and view the other bodies. Presumably they were all left in situ, as it were?”

“All except the boy,” said Lambton. “Obviously we couldn’t leave him outside.”

“So where is he now?”

“In the cellar.” Lambton set off for the door. “This way.”

As we followed the others, I grabbed Holmes by the arm. “Look here, Holmes, there’s something odd about all this.”

Holmes paused at the door and gave me his full attention. “Go on…”

“I thought all these murders had already been investigated by the police?”

“So they have,” said Holmes.

“Then why are the bodies still here? Shouldn’t they be in the morgue?”

A crease worked its way across his forehead and his piggy little eyes flitted around as if searching for an answer. A moment later, his eyes widened and he groaned. “Shit. I’ve been a fool, Watson. We’ve been had. Keep your wits about you, old friend. The game is afoot.”

As we hurried off down the stairs to the cellar, I became aware of a familiar loosening sensation in my bowels. Please God let me hang on to my dignity…

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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