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. 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.


Posted by on February 18, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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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…

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?”


Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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This Train Ain’t Bound for Glory…

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

There wasn’t a minute to lose – if the bridge remained open, Holmes (along with several hundred villains) would be hurled from the train and plummet to a painful death in the ravine below. Even though I was dying for a wee, I was certain I could still save the day and get to the toilet on time. Grasping Mary’s hand, I sprinted down the platform towards the bridge control wheel. As I reached up to pull the leaver back, something hard and fist-shaped hit me in the jaw and a moment later I was flat out on the ground.

“What the fuck was that for?” I croaked at Harry.

“I’ll tell you what it was for,” said the famous actor. “It’s for all those innocent people who’ll die if that train is allowed to reach its destination.”

“But…but…” I started.

“But me no buts, as your Baker Street buddy would say if he were here now. It’s a matter of principal, Doctor, and in this case the principal is to sacrifice a few lives for the greater good.”

Mary knelt down beside me. “He’s right, Johnny – Holmes would say the same if he were here now…”

“He fucking wouldn’t, you know.”

All three of us looked up at the newcomer and before I could stop myself, my bladder gave up the ghost and I wet my pants. “Holmes! You’re alive!”

“Course I’m alive,” he said taking out his trusty Meerschaum. “D’you think I learned nothing from that fateful day at Reichenbach?” Striking a Swan Vesta, he lit his pipe and placed it between his thin, bloodless lips. Then looking up, he nodded towards the bridge. “Hark – the sound of screaming villains, methinks…”

I scrambled to my feet and followed his gaze. A sudden screeching of brakes shattered the night and a terrible thundering roar echoed all around. All we could see was a thick cloud of fiery smoke curling upwards from where the bridge had been, then an almighty crash as the locomotive smashed into the ravine.

For a long while, all we could do was stand there, stunned. Finally Mary broke the silence:

“Darling, did you have a little accident?” She pointed to my trousers.

“Oh, just a touch of over-enthusiasm on my part, I think,” I murmured. I glanced at Holmes and noticed he was wearing some sort of harness around his waist. “I suppose that Grimshaw woman in her Steam-powered hydro-lifty-plane thingy came to your rescue, eh, Holmes?”

He gave me a sardonic smile. “Naturally, my Plan B included an additional, and rather important, objective.”

“To stop the train?” I said.

“That’s right Watson. After all,” he went on, turning his piggy little eyes on Harry, “We can’t let the bloody Americans have all the fun, can we?”

Harry coughed. “Yeah, well, we had a Plan B too.”

“Really?” said Holmes. “You’ll have to tell me about it someday. In the meantime, a fleet of zeppylyns are hovering above the tunnel entrance, parachuting British troops in to clear up the mess. You can join them if you like.” Then turning his back on the actor, he took Mary’s arm. “However, the Watsons and I have a prior engagement.”

“We do?” said I.

“We do, Watson. The Thankyew Twins are at this very moment being conveyed by hydro-lifty-plane to their original destination. If we’re lucky we can still get tickets for tonight’s performance at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods.”

“By Jove, Holmes,” I said. “I do believe your cultural education has taken a turn for the worse – a week ago you’d have crook’d your nose at the thought of a music hall extravaganza.”

He raised a querying eyebrow. “My apologies, Watson. I did not mean to imply that I would be joining you for the entertainment. I have no desire to watch a pair of slack-chinned tossers perform a series of hackneyed and no doubt ludicrous routines to an audience of equally slack-chinned commoners. You and your good lady can do as you please, but I shall be joining the Prime Minister in Westminster Hall for a meeting with the Chinese Emperor.”

I nodded happily and allowed myself a metaphorical pat on the back. I was glad my companion’s brush with death hadn’t altered his personality, though I’d’ve been happy to see the back of his sardonic smile. It occurred to me too, that I still owed him a good hard smack in the face, but I reasoned the great detective had endured enough excitement for one day.

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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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Ghost Train Coming…

From the Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Dear Diary

All three of us whirled round at the sound of the voice. The man in front of us was wearing a dress. My dress, in fact. I felt a rather sickly sort of rumbling in my tummy.

“You!” He said, pointing directly at me. “Vot are you doingk vearingk my clothes?”

I smoothed a hand down my stolen overcoat and was in the midst of forming a witty riposte when Harry stepped in front of me and addressed the interloper:

“Keep your voice down, man. If Lord Manchu hears of your desultory behaviour, you’ll be on a court martial.” He glanced around then took the man’s arm. “Tell you what, come in here and I’ll bring you up to speed.”

And with that, he led the poor fool into our former prison and closed the door. Johnny and I looked at each other, but a moment later there was a dull thud and Harry emerged from the cell wiping his hands.

“That’ll keep him quiet for a while. Now, we’d better get moving.”

Continuing towards our destination, we marched in single file to the open end of the tunnel. A few soldiers busied themselves unloading hand grenades and other dangerous objects, placing them at intervals along a line of trestle tables.

“Probably intending to hand those bally things out when the troops come in,” muttered my husband as we passed by.

Harry shushed us with a sturdy finger and we hurried out into the cold night air.

Once outside, all three of us were startled by a shrill whistle from the train above us. Extra carriages had been added to the locomotive and even as we watched, the steaming beast began its return journey across the bridge.

“Damn them,” said Harry. “We’d better get up there.”

No-one took any notice of us as we climbed back up the steps to the track. A handful of overall-clad men were on their way down, but thankfully, were in too much of a hurry to pay us any attention.

Up on the bridge once more, we retraced our route along the line, the train building up speed ahead of us. The walk was longer than I remembered, but we made good time and the locomotive was just disappearing out of sight as we drew level with the station platform.

Harry leapt up onto the darkened platform and pulled Johnny and I up in one easy movement.

“Is there anyone else around here I should know about?” said Harry, keeping his voice low.

“Yes,” said Johnny. “There’s a young married couple and an old chap in a raincoat.”

“And the stationmaster,” I added.

Harry nodded. “Oh yeah, we know about that guy – we think he’s one of them.”

Johnny shook his head. “Surely not – I’m sure he said he was married.”

“Not one of them – one of them!”

“Oh.” My husband adopted his silly-me look.

Heading for the waiting room, Harry pushed through the door. Inside, the young couple were sitting at the table eating chocolate and Mac Man was standing by the window watching them.

“I say,” said Mr Raincoat. “Who the devil are you?”

Harry flashed an ID card at him. “Hollywoodland Secret Service, that’s who. Now sit down and shut up.”

The man did as he was told, apparently too shocked to object.

“Is the train coming, then?” the young woman asked, looking at me as she popped the last bit of chocolate into her mouth.

“You could say that,” I said.

“Ooh eck,” she went on, gazing at Harry. “Is he that famous actor bloke?”

“Yes he is,” I said, “and he’s not interested in you.”

Harry had pulled a length of twine from his pocket and handed it to the young man. “If the Stationmaster comes back, tie him up.”

“Really,” said the young man, waving a chocolate-stained finger. “That’s not very sportsmanlike.”

Harry nodded. “You’re damn right it ain’t, son, and if you don’t do as I say, you’ll get the same treatment.” He glanced at me and Johnny. “Come on you two, we’ve got a train to catch.”

We followed him back out onto the platform where he stood rubbing his chin.

“What now?” I said.

“Now? Well, I reckon we’ve got about five damn minutes before that choo-choo comes screaming back through here. And if we three can’t bring it to a standstill, Manchu will carry out his dastardly plan and the world as we know it is gonna change forever. And not in a good way.”

“Holmes would know what to do,” muttered Johnny, giving Harry a doubtful look.

“Oh he would, would he? Well he ain’t here right now so if you’ll put your stiff upper lip away for a moment I suggest we come up with a plan.”

My husband glared at him, but nodded in agreement.

Harry was gazing along the track in the direction the train would be coming from. “Christ, I don’t know…” He glanced at me. “Maybe if you could lie down on the track…?”

Johnnie strode forward, his hand covering my womanly bits in a protective attitude. “She bloody well will not! If you want to lay down your life, that’s fine with me, Harry, but you can leave my Mary out of it, thank you very much.”

I gave him a hug and murmured a thank you. “Actually, I did wonder about something…” Beckoning to them both to follow me, I hurried off along the platform.

Reaching my objective, I delved inside my knickers and produced a bunch of skeleton keys.

Johnny nodded approvingly. “What else have you got hidden in there?”

I gave him a mischievous grin. “Nothing you’re going to get tonight, Johnny. Now, let’s see if we can move this.”

A minute later, I had the padlock open and the three of us heaved the great iron wheel towards the Open side, tensing as the mechanism clicked into place.

“That should do it,” I said.

Harry looked up. “Sounds like just the nick of time.” We turned to look down the track and could just make out the dull glow of the engine as it thundered towards us, steam and smoke billowing upwards.

We could do nothing but stand there as the mighty beast thundered past, the additional dozen or so coaches packed with uniformed men, all gazing dumfoundedly at us from the carriage windows. As the last carriage drew level with us, a familiar face came into view. Sherlock Holmes was clinging gamely to the roof of the locomotive, a knife between his teeth. When his eyes met mine, a puzzled expression slid over his face. Then, as we watched, the Stationmaster emerged above Holmes. Struggling to keep his balance on the juddering vehicle, he rose to his full height and reached out his hands towards the bared neck of the great detective.

“Fuck,” said Johnny.

“Crap,” said Harry.

“Heavens,” said I. Then, turning to my husband, I grasped his sleeve. “He’ll be able to jump off, won’t he? I mean, before the train…?”

Johnny’s face was ghostly. “Before it plunges into the river and kills everyone onboard?” He bit his lip. “Bloody hope so, otherwise it’ll be the Reichenbach Falls all over again…”

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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in Detective Fiction


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The Theme From…

From the Diary of Doctor Watson

The man standing in the doorway smiled at my wife in a way I might’ve thought a little suspicious if it were not for the fact of him being a total stranger.

“And who are you?” I said, pulling the door wide. “Some Nazi fiend sent to torture us til we reveal our plans?”

“Don’t be silly, darling,” Mary chided. “We don’t have any plans.”

“Of course we don’t,” said I, clearing my throat. “It was a trick question.”

The man nodded. “Clearly Doctor Watson, your reputation as a man of guile and cunning is a worthy one.” His accent had a faint American twang to it, and his turn of phrase reminded me of someone. “But there’s no time to waste – I’m here to get you guys out.”

I sniffed. “Really? Well, that’s very noble of you but I think we can manage, thank you.” Stepping forward, I peeked into the tunnel and noted that although several of Fu Manchu’s men were standing close by, none of them seemed to have noticed the man standing in the doorway of our prison-like chamber.

Taking my arm, the newcomer led me back inside and closed the door quietly. Stepping to one side, he undid the collar of his overalls and unzipped himself, letting the apparent disguise fall to the ground, revealing a dark herringbone-style overcoat underneath. Then sliding a finger around his neckline, he tugged on a piece of what I initially thought to be a flap of loose skin. But as he pulled the thing off his face, I realised it was another of those silly masks Holmes is so fond of.

Dropping the rubber facade to the floor, our evident saviour pulled a black Fedora from his pocket and placed it on his head at a jaunty angle. He raised an eyebrow and smiled at me.

“My God!” I turned to Mary. “Darling – look who it is: the Hollywoodland actor Harry Lime.” I turned to shake his hand, but my wife was already hugging him, her hands around his neck, her chest pressed perhaps a little too eagerly against his substantial torso.

“I’d recognise your silhouette anywhere, Harry,” she gushed. “That manly upper body, those impressive shoulders, that massive –”

“Darling! D’you mind?” Taking a firm hold of her, I pulled my dear wife away from our guest. “Sorry Mr Lime, I don’t what’s got into her lately.”

“It’s quite alright Doctor.” He gave Mary a curious look and murmured, “Remember Vienna?”

“How could I forget?” She murmured back.

I coughed loudly. “Sorry, but excuse me just one moment Mr Lime.” Grabbing Mary’s arm, I led her to the other side of the chamber. Keeping my voice low so as not to appear rude in the presence of a famous actor, I muttered, “Vienna? What?”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head in a dismissive way that signalled quite plainly she had no intention of explaining herself. “It was a long time ago, Johnny. Before I met you.”

“Oh.” I let go her arm. “I see. Another one of your…” I tried to think of an appropriate phrase, but Mary held up a finger to my lips.

“Darling, you know I love only you, so there’s no reason to be jealous of Harry just because he’s incredibly good looking, is charming and witty and has a massive –”

“Yes! Alright, I get the picture, but I shall require a full explanation of this…whatever it is, when we get out of here.”

She nodded meekly, though I caught the quick glance of delight she cast in our companion’s direction. Nevertheless, more important matters were at hand so I determined to put aside my suspicions and take the proverbial by the whatsits.

Harry was pacing back and forth, frowning. “I take it Sherlock Holmes has already escaped?”

I pointed upwards. “Yes, just now.”

He nodded. “Then we must complete the mission ourselves.”

I glanced at Mary. “Mission? What mission?”

“Why, the mission to stop Fu Manchu from committing murder.”

My mouth dropped open. “What?”

Harry gave me a smile that could only be described as sardonic. I made a mental note to slap Sherlock’s face next time we met.

“Don’t you realise what he’s been doing here?” He waved a hand in a way I assumed was meant to encompass the tunnel, the chimney and the whole Ghost train scenario.

“Of course, we do,” I said.

Harry looked at me. “Go ahead then, tell me.” He folded his arms and waited.

“Well, he’s made this tunnel to er…to tunnel under the English countryside from Milford Junction to the Houses of Parliament.”

“That’s right. But what for?”

I chewed my lip thoughtfully. “Well, to break into the houses of Parliament. I suppose.”

Harry shook his head. “You know, Doctor, I sometimes think if we Americans had got involved in your little war with Germany, the whole thing would’ve been straightened out in four years instead of twenty-seven. Anyhow, the point is, your head honcho is meeting with the Chinese Emperor Wing Wang in Westminster Hall in less than an hour from now. Manchu plans to break through into the Hall and kill the Emperor.”

“My God!” said I. “But the Chinese people will think the British government are responsible and…”

“And war will break out between your two countries, leaving the way open for Manchu and his troops to take over whatever’s left when everyone else is dead.”

“But if that’s true, why would he bother to construct this ridiculous tunnel?”

“Because, Doctor, Manchu is at this very moment flying in more troops via a secret squadron of hydro-lifty-planes. I’ve just watched his engineers fitting an extra thirty carriages to the Ghost Train. When it comes back over the bridge, those troops will scuttle in here like thousands of tiny ants. Except, not tiny. Fu Manchu will have the equivalent of a small army down here.”

“Egad!” I exclaimed. “And that very same small army will emerge from underneath the Houses of Parliament like…well, like a small army.”

“Precisely. So if you don’t mind..?” He leaned out of the doorway and looked around. “Fall in behind me. With any luck, the villains will be too stunned by my boyish good looks to stop us and won’t see you two for my massive shoulders.”

As we stepped into the tunnel once more, Harry set off at a brisk pace, but we’d only gone a few yards when a shout came from behind us:

“Stop right there!”


Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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Chim-Chimney, Chim Chimney…

From the Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

Dear Diary

Having been thrust by our captors into a circular room off the main tunnel, we gathered in the small space to take stock of our new surroundings. I took the opportunity to jot down a few thoughts while languishing in what appeared to be the base of an air vent – that is, a sort of chimney reaching up to an opening some fifty feet above our heads. Holmes thought we might climb up to safety, though did not at once come up with a means of our doing so.

Johnny paced back and forth while the Thankyew Twins ran through their act (this latter I believe to be a coping mechanism for the somewhat perilous situation we found ourselves in – there was an interesting article about it in Psychotherapy for the Middle Classes last month).

“To me,” said Arthur.

“To you,” said Dickie.

“To me, said Arthur.

The sketch ran on in this fashion for some considerable time.

Holmes, meanwhile, appeared totally unruffled by our predicament and spent ten minutes stuffing his Meerschaum with what smelled like a mixture of sheep shit and heather.

“Dash it all, Holmes,” said Johnny, curtailing his pacing activities. “If we stay here that bally villain’s going to get away with it.”

“Yes, I’m well aware of that small fact, Watson, which is why I have spent the last ten minutes stuffing my pipe with a special blend of Canadian Ring-tailed Beaver tobacco.”

I watched as my husband’s face turned purple. “Really! And that’s going to help us how?” He threw his hands in the air in a gesture of exasperation.

“Would’ve thought that was obvious,” muttered Holmes.

“Well it’s bloody not, alright?”

I stood up and gave Johnny a hug. “It’s fine, darling,” I soothed. “I’m sure Holmes has a plan.” I turned to the man with the Meerschaum and gave him a hard stare. “You do have a plan, don’t you Holmes?”

He nodded. “Of course, Mary.” At that, he walked to the centre of the circular chamber we were ensconced in. Looking upwards, he placed his pipe between those thin, bloodless lips and proceeded to light the foul mixture.

Arthur and Dickie ceased their tiresome routine and watched Holmes.

For a moment, nothing happened, then a trace of blue smoke began to curl upwards. As Holmes puffed away, the whorls of smoke increased, sending small clouds towards the faint shaft of light at the top of the chimney.

Johnny sighed loudly. “For God’s sake Sherl, can’t you leave that sodding thing alone for five bloody minutes and do something useful?”

Holmes gave him a sideways glance. “But I am doing something useful, John.” He looked upwards. “Tell me what you see.”

We all raised our eyes to the series of bluish clouds floating aloft.

“Sorry,” said Johnny. “Am I missing something here, or what?”

“As usual, Watson, you fail to observe the obvious. Perhaps you remember your own account of a case of ours from a few years back. If I recall, you titled it The Manchester Message Man, or some such.”

“Oh, you mean, The Strange Case of the Salford Signaller, yes – an odd business concerning a chap who sent secret documents from the Ministry of Bags, Mags and Fags to a Russian agent on the Scottish border. But what’s that got to do with this?”

“What form did his messages take?” I saw Sherlock’s eyes narrow and sensed another bout of one-upmanship on the horizon.

My husband frowned and a look of frustration slid over his face. He pursed his lips. “Ah.” He turned away and I heard him mutter, ‘Bugger’ under his breath. Facing us again, he nodded. “Smoke signals.”

Holmes nodded in that self-satisfied way of his. “Precisely. Now, you will recall also, Watson, that my arrival at Milford Junction was via one of Mycroft’s Steam-powered hydro-lifty-plane devices. What I neglected to mention was that the pilot of that same contraption has been circling above us ever since.”

“And you’ve just sent him a message?”

Her, Watson – Elvira Grimshaw, the famed war veteran. She’s also a dab hand at deciphering messages in a variety of codes, including the one I have just utilised.”

I stepped forward. “That’s very clever, Sherlock. What did your message say?”

“Simply this,” said the detective. “Plan B. Vicinity of Chimney. Immediate effect.”

And at that exact moment, a rope ladder dropped down in front of us. I gazed upwards and saw the rotating blades of the hydro-lifty-plane hovering far above us. “Cripes, that was quick.”

“Indeed,” said Holmes grabbing the end of the ladder. “Up you go Mary, then Arthur, Dickie and myself.”

“What about me,” said Johnnie in a slightly whiny voice.

“Sorry, old bean, only enough room for five up top. Including the pilot. You stay here and hold the fort, eh?”

I already had a foot on the bottom rung, but on hearing this, I passed the ladder to Arthur. “You go first, I’ll stay with my husband.”

Holmes sighed. “Don’t be an arse, Mary, you’re the woman, so you have to go first.” He shook Arthur’s hand free of the ladder and passed it back to me. “Go.”

I swivelled my head from side to side. “In case you’d forgotten Mr Holmes, I’m no ordinary woman.”

“And don’t we know it,” he muttered, with a grimace. “Nevertheless, Mary, I must insist.”

“Insist all you like, I’m not going.”

“Fine, be like that.” And taking the ladder, he proceeded to climb up.

I gestured to Arthur and Dickie. “No arguments, you two. Up you go.”

Arthur bit his lip. “I want to say I’ll be the hero, but I’m not, so I won’t.” Followed closely by Dickie (who, out of the three of them, was the only one who had the decency to look upset). He clambered up the ladder after Holmes.

Gazing upwards, Johnnie and I watched them disappear into the flying machine, before the contraption moved away, pulling the rope ladder up and out of sight.

“Right, then,” I said, taking Johnnie’s hands in mine. “Just you and me, again.”

He smiled. “Well, at least we can make use of that sexy leather coat now.” His gaze travelled up and down my recently-acquired garb. “I take it you’re not wearing anything under there?”

I sighed and began unfastening my greatcoat. “Come on, then, but I’m on top…”

At that moment, the door to our prison slammed open, revealing the silhouette of a man I knew all too well…


Posted by on November 27, 2016 in Detective Fiction


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