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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.

Available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Createspace eStore.

 
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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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Front Page Nudes…


From the Personal notes of Doctor Hannibal Lecter

I cannot say that the trappings of wealth ever impressed me – no, it is the living article that engages my curiosity: bone, flesh, blood. However, with one hand caressing the silky fingers of Doctor Watson’s dear wifelet, I allowed my interest in the house and its dreary furnishings to be piqued. As we entered what that bamboozler Lambton laughingly refers to as ‘the Morning Room’, I felt Mary’s grip loosen.

Naturally, I had already suspected something of this sort (the dead heads and antler-ish decorations in the foyer had forewarned me). Taking in the essence of the paintings in an instant, I saw too, how Holmes and Watson allowed their floppy jaws to drop open. While my companions studied the artwork, I focused my attention on the reaction of the female member of our happy band.

“My God,” she muttered, her eyes wide. “They’re naked.”

I was pleased to note her feeble attempt to appear shocked, but the tell-tale glint in her wonky eyes spoke volumes more. This was a woman who relished the debauched and the depraved, the pleasures of the body with all the trimmings, albeit within the quiet confines of the Good Doctor’s modest little house.

Dragging my eyes away from her face, I affected interest in the paintings and their somewhat salacious subject matter. “Not modelled from life, I think.” I glanced at Lambton and took delight in seeing his stupid face fall.

“Of course it’s from life,” he exclaimed, with some annoyance.

I shook my head. “No, even Doctor Watson here, with his tiny brain and petty prejudices, would imagine that the cut of your trousers could in a year of Sundays conceal a monster like that.”

“Tshaw!” he said, puffing out his chest. “I’ll have you know I’ve got a good twelve inches down there.”

But his protestations made no difference. My cohorts, the big-nosed detective and his dull-witted sidekick, were already nodding.

“And that bevy of beauties masquerading as servant girls…” I chuckled. “Reminiscent of Titian, wouldn’t you agree, Holmes?”

“Absolutely,” said Holmes, gazing up at the mass orgy displayed before us. “Though, as you say, with some exaggeration of the genitalia.”

Lambton continued to pout. “I thought the point of bringing you in here was for you chaps to observe the deceased?”

I nodded, turning my attention to the corpse-shaped tarpaulin in the middle of the room. “Exactly, which is why you intended distracting us with these scenes of sexual fantasy in the hope of throwing us off the scent.”

“Rubbish,” said Lambton. “This is what Mr Holmes here would call a ‘murder scene’, so naturally the body has not been moved. Neither has anything else in the room.”

“I beg to differ,” said Holmes, glancing at me. “Anyone can see that the largest of the paintings, the one depicting yourself and a bunch of wanton wenches, does not normally reside in its present position. Give me a hand, Watson.”

The two men stepped forward and grasped the painting’s decorative frame. Then, lifting it upwards, unhooked it from the wall and lowered it to the ground.

“You were saying..?” I looked at Lambton, then back at the wall. Underneath the space the painting had occupied we observed a clearly defined outline of another, smaller frame. “You swapped this for a less incriminating one, didn’t you?”

Lambton let out a long sigh and gave a curt nod.

Watson looked at me. “Sorry, what?”

I rolled my eyes. “Explain, Holmes.”

“The other painting,” said the big-nosed detective, “that is, the one not currently displayed here, depicts a scene, or more likely, a person, Lord Lambton would prefer us not to see.” He swivelled his piggy little eyes to the older man. “Am I right?”

“Yes, very well. The other one, like these, is a nude, and shows my brother Reginald’s wife in a rather compromising position with a number of…ahm…farm animals.”

“But,” said Holmes, “it is not the subject matter you did not wish us to see, is it? What you had hoped to conceal were the markings on Pricilla’s wrists and ankles. Markings, which I suspect, are clearly visibly in the other painting.”

Lambton made a face, but said nothing.

“Which suggests,” I said, addressing Watson, “that the Lambton clan had, at least on one occasion, tied the victim to some object in order that she might tempt the legendary beast known as the Lambton Worm.”

Doctor Watson laughed. “Oh, come on! You surely don’t believe that load of shite?”

“Not shite, in fact, but fact, in fact.” I walked over to the tarpaulin and pulled it back, revealing the body of Pricilla Lambton, dressed in a silken gown, and made up as if attending some regal event.

“Note,” I said, pointing to the woman’s bare wrists and ankles. “No markings.”

The fool Watson shook his head. “No, still don’t get it.”

Mary gave him a sharp dig in the ribs. “For fuck’s sake, Johnny, it’s obvious – Mr Lambton didn’t want us to see evidence of whatever terrible ordeal poor Pricilla had been forced to endure.”

I turned to Lord Lambton. “Perhaps you’d like to tell us exactly what it was you subjected your sister-in-law to?”

Lambton walked over to the window. “Very well, I’ll tell you. It all started one dark and stormy night…”

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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There Be Dragons…

there-be-dragons-copy
From the Diary of Doctor Watson

I hurried down the stairs to where we’d left our luggage. The surly butler was leaning against a doorpost, smoking a cheroot. He straightened up smartly when he saw me.

“Owt Ah can get ye, sir?” he muttered.

“Yes, my good man,” I said. “You can direct me to my room and give me a hand with this.” I grasped one end of my trunk while the old chap picked up the other.

“Up ‘ere,” he said, and we set off up the stairs.

My room was located at the back of the house in the east wing. We placed the trunk in the centre of the room and I allowed the butler to turn down the bed before dismissing him. When I heard his footsteps echoing back down the stairs, I heaved the chest upright and unfastened the straps. As I pulled open the lid, my wife collapsed onto the floor in an unruly heap.

“Mary!” I gasped. “Are you alright, dearest?”

For one long unhappy moment, I thought she had suffocated and passed on, but then, with a sharp intake of breath and a short coughing fit, she sat up.

“Christ sake, Johnny, anyone’d think you were trying to get rid of me. I could’ve died in there.” She gave me a stern look, then sighed and shook her head reprovingly.

“Sorry m’dear,” I said, helping her up. “There’s been another murder.”

“Another one? I’m not surprised with that psycho killer Lecter on the loose. I still can’t believe you agreed to bring him along.”

“Must say,” I said, “the idea that he might be responsible had crossed my mind, but he was locked away on the train at the time of the last murder.” I frowned. “At least I hope he was…”

Mary nodded, pouring herself a large glass of water from the jug on the dresser. “Oh, he was there alright – I had to listen to him taunting those poor guards all the way from King’s Cross. Kept saying he was going to eat their livers with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” She glugged the water down quickly and poured another glass. “Where’s BigNose?”

“Sherl? Oh he thinks the killer is Lord Lambton’s son, Veronica. I expect he’d tracking the lad down at this very moment.” I filled her in on recent events then suggested we go and find Holmes.

We located the Great Detective in the library, along with Lecter and Lord Lambton. The three of them were perusing a map of the Hall. Holmes looked up and a scowl slid across his manly features. I prepared myself for a verbal thrashing of monumental proportions.

“Mrs Watson,” said Holmes. “How luvverley to see you.” He glared at me and added, “we’ll talk about this later, Doctor. In the meantime, I should welcome your opinion on this map.”

As we crossed to the table, Lecter winked lasciviously at Mary. I ignored him and leaned forward to study the chart. It showed the ground and upper floors of the Hall, as well as the gardens and stables at the rear of the house.

“Here,” said Holmes, indicating the library, “is where we are at present. The crosses in these rooms show where each of the bodies was found, including the most recent one, Lord Lambton’s wife.”

“Estranged wife,” put in Lambton.

“Really? What was strange about her?” said Holmes.

I stifled a laugh. Sherlock gave me one of those looks that told me I was about to witness his massive intellect at work.

“Actually,” said Lambton, “she was a bit strange now you mention it. The old legend, you know? Silly moo got it into her head the curse would be the death of us all.” He sniffed. “Doesn’t seem so silly now, what?”

“Of course,” said Holmes. “You’re referring to the curse mentioned in Legend of the Lambton Worm.”

“That’s the one,” said Lambton.

“And, according to that legend,” added Holmes, “the worm was slain by your father – the third Earl of Lambton, bringing into effect the so-called curse, yes?”

The other man nodded. “And since then no Lambton has died peacefully in his bed. Or hers, for that matter.”

“Then we’d better put that particular curse to bed, eh?” said Holmes with a chuckle.

I thought this was quite funny, but no-one else did, so I stepped forward in defence of my friend. “Absolutely, the curse is nothing to do with the murders. I suggest we examine the other bodies.”

“On the contrary, Watson,” said Holmes. “I believe the worm is central to this mystery.”

I couldn’t prevent a loud sigh escaping my lips, but Holmes was already rolling up the map.

As Lambton led the way across the entrance hall to the Morning Room, I saw Doctor Lecter take my wife’s arm. To my annoyance, she giggled like a damned school girl. Lecter glanced at me as if to say ‘ner ner ner-ner ner!’

I ignored him and pulled Holmes aside. “Look here, Sherl, I thought you were convinced Veronica was the culprit?”

“I am, and he is.” Then he dropped his voice and whispered, “but he’s only responsible for the most recent murder.” He held up a finger warning me to keep quiet. “Have a care, old friend, the game is afoot…”

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Murder is Announced…

a-murder-is-announced
From the Diary of Doctor Watson

The three of us stood in the gloomy hall, while the butler shuffled off to ‘Get t’ master’.

Catching Lecter’s eye (and the cunning grin that played around his lips), a shiver ran up and down my spine. Though Holmes was convinced the man posed no danger to us, Hannibal the Cannibal still gave me the heebiejeebies. I turned away, pretending to study our surroundings: before us a pair of tiger skin rugs lay across the stone-flagged floor. Beyond these stood a grand staircase that curved upwards, its banister decorated with hideous gargoyle-like carvings, giving the place an oddly medieval feel. The ceiling and walls were panelled with a dark wood that played host to a curious mixture of landscape paintings in the classical and the Dutch styles, along with a bizarre selection of animal heads (the sort one sees in British museums of the dull-and-dusty variety).

“Colonial keepsakes,” muttered Holmes, running his fingers along the length of a protruding rhino’s horn. “An example of the worst kind of Englishman, don’t you think, Watson?”

“Absolutely,” said I, a little surprised at the animosity in my companion’s voice.

“Ah-ha,” said a voice behind me. The three of us turned to see a middle-aged man of about middle age, whose hair appeared to be fashioned from a piece of yellow sponge cake. “I see you’re admiring our collection.”

Holmes gave the man a sardonic smile. “Not so much admiring, as abhorring. Lord Lambton, I presume?”

The man’s mouth dropped open, revealing a veritable graveyard of broken and missing teeth. “The very same.” Regaining his composure, he indicated the long-dead decorations. “Not a fan of big game, then?”

“It’s only a game if the participants begin on an equal footing,” said Holmes.

Lambton’s face reddened. He glanced at me and Lecter, then gave a shrug. “Never mind, can’t please ‘em all, what?” He leaned forward and shook each of our hands. When he reached for Sherlock’s the great detective sniffed and stuck both hands in his pockets.

“I believe there’s been another murder? Perhaps we could see the body?”

Lambton coughed. “Of course. Follow me, what?”

As we followed him upstairs, Holmes whispered in my ear. “Curious.”

I looked at him. “What is?”

“Considering a member of his family has just been brutally murdered, the man seems unusually calm.”

“It’s the way these people are, Holmes – arrogant and superior.”

My companion nodded. “How uncommonly perceptive of you, Watson.”

I allowed myself a smile.

Lambton led us into a large bedroom, then stood to one side as the three of us studied the scene: sprawled across a large four-poster bed, was the naked body of a middle-aged woman in early middle age. She had been badly mutilated with several stab wounds and what looked like teeth marks around the neck and shoulders. If I hadn’t known better, my suspicions would have been directed towards one of my travelling companions.

“I know what you’re thinking, Doctor,” murmured Lecter. “Fortunately, I have an alibi.”

“Yes,” I quipped. “That’s what you said last time.”

Holmes punched my arm. “Behave. Doctor Lecter is here to assist, not to be tarred with suspicion.”

“Don’t think you can tar someone with suspicion…” I said to myself.

Holmes had approached the corpse and was peering at her breasts. “Look here, Watson.”

I crossed the room and looked down at the dead woman. “What am I looking at Holmes?”

“A fine pair of tits.”

“For God’s sake, man, the woman’s dead!”

Lecter tapped me on the shoulder. “I believe your colleague is referring to her earrings – they’re in the shape of Cyanistes caeruleus, commonly known as blue tits.”

“Oh,” said I, leaning forward for a closer look. “So I see.”

Holmes turned his beady eyes on me. “So what does that tell us, Watson?”

I stood up, my gaze flitting between him and Lecter. “Well, it tells us…that…er…”

Holmes sighed. “It tells us the murderer was interrupted.”

I blinked. “It does?”

“Certainly.” Holmes began pacing the room. “Note the earrings, the application of rouge to the woman’s cheeks, the further application of lipstick. And note also the lack of clothing, and the open door of the wardrobe.”

“Sorry, Holmes, you’ve lost me.”

Lecter laid a hand on my shoulder. “It’s quite simple my little starling, the killer was in the process of beautifying his victim. However, he, or she, was disturbed before completing the presentation of the body.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Both Lecter and Holmes turned towards Lord Lambton, who was still standing by the door.

“Absolutely right, old boy. The other victims were dressed in their best clothes and posed as if they had dressed for dinner.”

Holmes rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps you could remind us exactly who the other victims were?”

Holding up four fingers, Lambton ticked them off one by one. “This one is Lucy, my estranged wife. Before that there was my brother Reginald, before him it was Reginald’s wife Pricilla and before her Arnold the grocer’s boy.”

Holmes rubbed his chin more vigorously. “It’s as I suspected. Apart from the first victim who was clearly a slip-up, it would appear someone is knocking off members of your family. If something happens to you, who inherits?”

Lambton frowned. “My son – Veronica.”

Just then, a bell rang downstairs and Lambton strode off, leaving us staring at one another.

The great detective shrugged. “Then it’s obvious. The son is the killer.” He took out his trusty Meerschaum and began stuffing hard shag into its bowl.

“Holmes,” said I. “You do know Veronica is a girl’s name?”

“I think we’ll find the young man has a penchant for dressing in ladies clothes. His father detests the boy and calls him Veronica in the hope that a little humiliation might push the lad towards a more manly attitude. After all, he is now the heir to the family fortune.” He lit his pipe and took a few puffs. “Or he will be if Lambton is next in line for the chop.”

“Makes sense to me,” I said.

“You’re forgetting one thing, boys,” said Lecter, gazing at the body on the bed.

“Really?”

“Really. Answer me this,” Lecter continued. “What does he do, this man you seek?”

“He kills people,” I said.

“No, that is incidental. Read Marcus Aurelius – what is it in itself?”

Holmes groaned. “For fuck’s sake, Hannibal, don’t start all that again.”

“All what?” said Lecter, looking a little hurt.

“That serial killer profiling shit,” said Holmes. “This is a straight forward murder and as soon as we find the boy we’ll have our killer.” With that, he strode off down the stairs.

I looked at Lecter. “Holmes is usually right, you know.”

The doctor gazed off into the distance. “Usually, but not today.” Then turning to me, he murmured. “Mrs Watson must be getting a little thirsty, don’t you think? Tick tock, tick tock…”

“Oh, fuck…” I heard him laughing as I hurried downstairs to fetch my trunk.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Arrival…

arrival-350
From the Diary of Doctor Watson

It was late afternoon and the light was fading as our train pulled into the station at Netherly Stratton. Sliding the window down, I peered out onto the deserted platform.

“Come along, Watson,” said Holmes cheerily, hauling his bag down from the luggage rack.

“Looks pretty grim to me,” I said, gathering my things together. “I only hope this doesn’t turn out to be one of those Ides of March things.”

“Now look here, Watson,” said my companion, pausing at the carriage door. “I shan’t put up with any of your doom-and-gloom pessimism on this trip. It was bad enough having to listen to your whingeing all the way from King’s Cross. In case you’d forgotten, we’re about to meet a family whose lives have been decimated. The last thing they want to see is your miserable visage. If in doubt – smile!”

“I’m not sure decimated is the correct terminology, actually…”

Holmes shot me a hard stare. “I know what this is about, Watson. You’ve been in a foul mood ever since I suggested you leave Mary at home. And quite frankly, I’m growing a little tired of it.”

I glared at him but thought better of saying anything more on the matter, since I knew he’d have plenty to say when he discovered what I’d done.

We collected Doctor Lecter from the luggage compartment, along with our trunks. Lecter stepped out of the cage and stretched himself. I noticed the look of relief on the faces of the three guards who’d been assigned to watch our companion during the trip.

“Thankyou, gentlemen,” said Lecter, bowing to the trio of pale faces. “I hope to have you for lunch again sometime.”

The youngest of the men nodded solemnly. “Th-th-thanks fer not eatin’ us, Mr Lecter, sir.”

“The pleasure, I’m sure, would have been all mine,” said Lecter, licking his lips.

“Come on Hannibal,” said Holmes. “Don’t tease the natives.” He grabbed the end of his travelling trunk and dragged it onto the platform.

Lecter moved to the door. “How lovely,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Fresh northern air, a light drizzle and a modicum of Brylcreem.”

“That’ll be me,” said Holmes, running a hand over his flaxen locks. “I never use anything else.”

“Right,” I said. “Better get my things.”

Lecter turned and looked me up and down, a sly smile creeping over his face. “That’s a rather large package you’ve got there, Doctor.”

“Oh, er yes, I suppose it is,” I mumbled, grasping the end of my strongbox. “Would you mind?”

Lecter bent to pick up the other end and as he did so, sniffed several times. “Interesting aroma.” He glanced up at me. “Eau de Vieille Femme, I think.”

I coughed. “This is the way out.”

As we made our way up the platform, I hoped there wouldn’t be something nasty waiting for me when I unpacked my luggage.

Lambton Hall turned out to be a huge, rambling estate on the edge of the village. The coachman who’d been sent to pick us up, seemed keen to divest himself of his passengers. The minute our luggage was on the ground, he leaped back onto the coach and took off at great speed.

“Late for his dinner, I expect,” quipped Holmes.

It was almost dark as we dragged our bags up to the great front door. The lowly lantern hanging above the doors gave me an awful feeling of trepidation, as if this might be the last vestige of humanity that the four of us, I mean, the three of us, would encounter for some time.

The old man who opened the door was tall and gangly, with a variety of warty legions peppering his skin. His general demeanour reminded me of that tale by Mary Shelley, and not in a good way. The man leaned forward and croaked, “Arr, ye be here, then?”

“Indeed we be,” said Holmes, mimicking the man’s accent. I was beginning to wish he’d revert to his more usual sombre self.

“Good thing ye be here,” the old fart continued. “Been another murder, so there has.”

“Excellent,” said Holmes. “Body’ll still be warm, then?”

As we carried our baggage into the vast entrance hall, the great door slammed shut behind us and I wondered if we’d ever see daylight again.

The Watson Letters Vol 2 Not the 39 Steps JULY 2016 EBOOK VERSION
Available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Createspace eStore.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Doctor in the House…

doctor-in-the-house-350
From the Diary of Doctor Watson

It was several weeks before I saw Holmes again; following our rather drawn-out adventure at Milford Junction, my dear wife put her foot down, demanding that she and I spend some ‘quality’ time together.

Leaving the Thankyew Twins to bask in the success of their performance at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods, we boarded the Midnight Express to York and booked into the Grand Hotel and Spa for a week. Indulging in a series of water sports (or ‘treatments’ as the locals call them), we allowed ourselves free rein in the pursuit of relaxation. (I shan’t go into details due to the intimate nature of some of the procedures, but suffice it to say the sessions did wonders for our connubial activities).

So it wasn’t until the following weekend on returning to Londen, that I called on Holmes at 221B Baker Street. Settling myself into my usual chair by the fire, I helped myself to a copy of The Times and one of Mrs Hudson’s jammy muffins. As is his wont, Holmes had his head buried in Amateur Detective Weekly, while puffing away on his Meerschaum and muttering the occasionally derisive comment relating to this or that article. It was therefore a good half hour before he finally addressed me:

“He’s in the other room.”

I looked up. “Sorry, what’s that, Holmes?”

My companion rolled his eyes. “I said, Watson, he’s in the other room.”

I frowned. “How did you –”

“How did I know you were going to ask about our new lodger? Elementary, my friend.” He lowered the periodical and removed the pipe from his mouth. “When you opened the door twenty seven minutes ago, you paused for a moment. I noted your left eyebrow was raised a fraction above its usual position, indicating something had irked you a little. You then blinked rapidly as your gaze fell on the plate of muffins.”

I coughed. “That may be so, but I don’t see how it relates to the lodger.”

“On the contrary, Watson. I think you understand very well. You are merely a little slow in reaching the obvious conclusions.” He paused and let out an irritatingly self-satisfied sigh. “The raised eyebrow was my first clue – having mentioned to you the news of our new tenant some weeks ago, you had naturally expected him to be present this morning. Secondly, you observed that the plate bearing the muffins was not our usual willow patterned one, and therefore you correctly surmised Mrs Hudson must have utilized that very item for our guest, leaving us with the second-best china, yes?”

“Well, yes, possibly,” I agreed, with not a little annoyance.

“And since you have not,” he went on, “posed the question of where the aforementioned individual might be, you supposed I might be keeping that vital piece of information from you.”

I shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time, Holmes.”

He gave me a sardonic smile. “Indeed.” Then, leaping to his feet he strode over and pulled back the partition revealing the kitchen beyond. Seated on a chair in the centre of the room, was a man. He was of about average height, quite plain-looking face and with thinning hair. His face seemed familiar, though I could not at that moment recall where I’d seen it. Scattered around the legs of the chair were several lengths of rope and a sort of face-mask, the likes of which I had previously only observed in institutions such as the Londen Asylum for the Really Rather Mad.

The stranger rose to his feet and turned his face towards me. I noted his eyes were startlingly blue and his gaze as piercing as any I have yet witnessed. An involuntary chill ran up and down my spine.

“Dr Watson, your reputation precedes you.” He held out a hand towards me and without thinking, I grasped it firmly. His fingers were icy cold and his grip unbelievably strong. I must have winced, for he gave me a half-smile and winked in an unexpectedly sensual manner.

“Oh dear,” said Holmes with a chuckle. “He’s got you now.”

I glanced at my companion, then back at the stranger. It was then I realised I was unable to remove my hand from his grip. “I say, “ said I, a tremor in my voice. “What’s this – some sort of game?”

The man held onto me for a few seconds longer, before letting go. It was then I remembered where I’d seen him before. “Oh. My. God.” I stared at Holmes. “You know who this is?”

Sherlock nodded sagely. “John Watson, meet Doctor Hannibal Lecter.”

“Hannibal the Cannibal,” I whispered.

Lecter nodded slowly. “I see my reputation too, has preceded me.” He smiled then turned to Holmes: “Be a love and tie me up again, won’t you?”

“Of course. Give me a hand, Watson.” He opened a cupboard and extracted two lengths of rope. We then spent the next few minutes tying our guest to his chair. When we’d finished, I had the curious feeling that these ropes would not hold this particular man for long.

Holmes and I stepped back into the study and my companion closed the partition. When we had seated ourselves again, he gave me an enquiring look.

“Well, I’m absolutely at a loss, Holmes,” I said, struggling to contain my anger. “What on earth are you doing with a murderer in your rooms? And more to the bloody point, why did we tie him up?”

“Doctor Lecter enjoys a challenge.”

When he said nothing more by way of explanation, I banged my fist on the arm of my chair. “Dash it all, Holmes, he’s a killer!”

“Most probably, Watson, but he’s also a psychiatrist – a very clever one.”

“Humph,” I muttered. “That’s a matter of opinion.”

“Nevertheless, Watson, Lecter was acquitted of killing and eating that busload of tourists in Bexhill-on-Sea last summer and has instead dedicated himself and his considerable talents to helping the police crack a particularly vexing case.”

“Has he? Well fucking good for him!” I slapped my hand on the chair again. “And what case might that be, or is it a secret?”

“Calm yourself, Johnny, calm yourself. You’ve heard of the Lambton Killings, I imagine?”

I had, and a particularly gruesome one it was – three members of one family had been brutally slaughtered, leaving the police baffled. “What has it to do with us?” I jerked my thumb towards the room behind us. “And that monster.”

Holmes pulled out his pipe again and rubbed the shaft thoughtfully. “I fancy we might solve it. With the good Doctor’s help, of course.”

I allowed myself a moment to digest this, then, “So we’ll be catching the train to the North?”

“Tomorrow morning, Watson.” He paused for a moment. “I’ve also come up with a rather witty title for the case.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” said I, feeling miffed that Holmes considered it perfectly normal to tread on my literary skills as well as everything else. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll choose my own titles.”

“Very well,” declared Holmes. “Better go and pack, then, eh?”

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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