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Doctor in the House…

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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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This Train Ain’t Bound for Glory…

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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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Lying in the Arms of Mary…

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From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was while I was snuggled up with my dear wife on our last night at Cold Comfort, that I began to run over the events of the previous few days. I tried to recall the details of my arrival, my early suspicions and of course – the murders. It was then that I remembered Henri.

Detaching myself from my good lady, I slid off the straw mattress and rooted around in my rucksack. Even in the semi-darkness, it was not difficult to guess what the cold, feathery mess was in the side pocket of the bag – the poor creature must have got himself tangled in my spare long-johns and simply passed away. (Although I realised later it was probably because I forgot to feed him).

Call it soppy sentimentalism, but I felt a tear in my eye as I knelt by the window in the half-light and cradled yet another dead body in my hands. Christ knows what I would tell Holmes – he was devoted to that bird, and the Baker Street Pigeon-Fanciers and Whippet Snatchers Club won’t be happy either.

Gazing down at the empty farmyard, I noticed Judith Starkadder crossing to the house, a bottle of scotch in one hand and Seth in the other. She glanced in my direction for a moment and waved the bottle at me. Whether this was in gratitude at the way we had foiled Flora’s murderous plans, or acknowledgement that the family fortune could (for a while, at least) remain intact, I cannot say. She disappeared into the house and (romantic soul that I am), I imagined I could hear a sense of normality descending on the farm once again.

I turned to look at Mary and wondered if she was still pissed off at Holmes for solving the mystery. Given that she had brought to light facts about the knives which I myself had missed, prompted me to wonder how my dear wife might have utilised her deductive skills in catching the killer if Holmes had not turned up. Watching her sleeping form, I determined to involve her in whatever mystery we might be called upon to tackle next.

Fumbling around in my shoe, I found my pocket watch and checked the time: it was 2AM. Sherlock would be back in Londen by now, having departed in the paddy wagon with Lestrade and the prisoner. I yawned and was about to crawl back into bed, when a sound not unlike the fluttering of wings came to my ears.

Sitting on the windowsill was a bird wearing a miniature deerstalker. For a moment, I thought perhaps Henri had come back to life, but the size of the creature quickly discharged such thoughts. I pulled the window open and allowed the owl to hop onto my arm. Attached to its leg was a message:

Watson

Arrived baker Street 20 mins ago. Mrs Hudson v. Anxious. Urgent telegram requiring our services in Transylvania.

Meet me at the boat train 9.00AM sharp.

PS Bring Mary.
PPS And stakes.

H.

I smiled. We had another case.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Call for Help (Again)…

To Sherlock Holmes Esq from Doctor Watson
(By Carrier Pigeon)

Holmes!!!

Forgive the overindulgence of exclamatory marks, but I am in gravest peril. Your telegram arrived the other morning as I was setting out to meet with Mister Humanfuc as agreed, but I regret to say I stuffed the message in my pocket thinking I could peruse it later.

What a fool I was, Holmes – what a fool!Victoian streets

Mister Humanfuc is an imposter. Or rather, he is pretending to be something he definitely is not. On my arrival at No 1A, Hangman’s Lane, I was struck by the odd way the street sign appeared to be written on a piece cardboard and attached to the wall by a nail. The cabbie who dropped me at the end of a row of derelict houses, told me I was at the right place, but then he gave a rather bizarre cackle that sent an absolute chill up my spine.

No doubt you, Holmes, would have registered some alarm at this juncture, but allowing that Mrs Watson and I indulged in a larger-than-usual helping of sexual shenanigans the evening before, I was perhaps a little ‘giddy’ as a result and consequently ignored what should have been an obvious warning.

Mister Humanfuc (or Fu Manchu, as you have presumably guessed) welcomed me into his ‘humble’ abode and immediately pushed me down a flight of steps into what I can only describe as a particularly hideous shithole. I must have banged my head, for I have only in this last hour awoken to find myself in this dire circumstance. Luckily, after I had (finally) got around to reading your note and recognising (at last!) what a total prick I’ve been, I happened to notice the small barred window high up on the wall of this vile place. And there to my surprise, was Billy – your much-loved pigeon. I could hardly believe it and did wonder if you yourself had sent him to my aid (though I could not imagine how he could have found me).

There is of course no glass in the window and so it was with great happiness (relatively speaking) that I began to entice the bird into my prison and scribbled this note on a piece of rag. I trust Billy will make it back to Baker Street without incident.

(I noticed there was a small camera attached to Billy’s neck so I hope he has been able to photograph the area around my prison).

Yours
With some concern

Watson

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Detective Fiction

 

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Flute Notes on a Mel and Patsy Pond…

from Sherlock Holmes Esq to Dr J Watson:

Watson – I should like to express my thanks for the Hamper of Delights, having sampled a selection, with Mrs Hudson this forenoon; she expressed her satisfaction with the Tessellated Twists, stating that they brought back memories of afternoons spent on Brighton’s sands, canoodling with her Johnny on his infrequent visits to Blighty, preferring, as he did, to wend his way through the Fleshpots of Europe, hawking his wares. I believe Hudson is still seeking treatment for conditions transferred to her person on those halcyon days long-gone.

As to Byron’s catchy ditty – I have transcribed the lyrics, including those in the vernacular dialect, in to my catch-all Notebook, which also includes the verbatim reports of your Night Terrors, captured occasionally on my nocturnal travels round 221B. I give you my word that they will never be used for purposes of Blackmail while breath inhabits my body.

On a different note, I could not believe the ruckus created in Geneva by the arrival of the warbler Jim Kerr and his good lady Patsy Kensit – trust that fool Byron to stir the pot, bringing up the subject of Patsy’s latest Burlesque Performance in the Lethal Weapon franchise, pay-rolled by our friend Dickens, and his business-partner Collins. Why did he have to egg Kerr on, fuelling his already bubbling suspicions as to her relationship with Mr Gibson, our friend from The Colonies, who had a leading role in this Family-Friendly production? To infer that Mr Gibson was offering more than professional encouragement was unnecessary and inflammatory – I am rather irked at having to part-fund the replacement chandelier, broken in the fray which ensued. I wonder whether the couple will weather the storm created by that nincompoop?

To return to more important matters, I should be most keen to embark on Dickens’ conundrum with your good self; call round at your soonest convenience – Hudson may not hear you ring, as she has indulged in some of Mrs Watson’s Elixirs of The Orient. I trust they do not contain that new fashionable flavouring, purchased from Mr Chang’s Emporium – I believe it has been the downfall of several local worthies.

Awaiting your arrival, SH.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Detective Fiction

 

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Diaries of a Madman…

from Sherlock Holmes Esq to Dr J Watson:
Watson
I can assure you that Douglas is currently in fine form and in fact says you should take things easy and avoid anything which could cause the flashbacks to occur from our London Bridge episode. He has assured me that the intermittent juddering and catatonic trances will pass…he is not quite so confident that the sudden high-pitched keening and low sobbing episodes will subside altogether, but I on the other hand feel strongly that you will be back to the Watson I respect and admire before another Season finds us cogitating over another Case – you have done it before, and will do it again, as  our many spine-chilling and blood-curdling forays  to the Dark Side have demonstrated.

Unfortunately, Douglas is not quite as sanguine where Gere’s prognosis is concerned – the fellow seems to be causing him no end of worry and consternation; I have not seen young Michael so flustered since he was being pursued by that awful woman with the Rabbit Complex…you recall how he turned up at 221B many a night, with several flasks of strong spirits and a paper poke of fried potatoes, rambling incoherently and interminably about The Woman…and no, it was Not That Woman, Watson…before you start…Hudson was worn ragged fetching and carrying as his next maudlin tale demanded a concomitant Pasty or Cream Horn to aid its execution…Therefore we Must ensure this state of affairs never happens again – I could not cope with being kept awake by his thunderous and bellowing snores, like an old bull elephant trumpeting to its mate at the other end of the jungle.

As to ‘a spell in the asylum’ that particular action has already been taken with reference to our actor friend: I have been told that Gere is disturbing the other inmates with his constant Prophecies and high-pitched screeching, rocking in his straitjacket, sending darting glances up at the barred windows, talking to unseen entities and snacking on any passing insect he can find…he has managed to recruit certain of the more damaged inmates in to retrieving said creatures, and feeding them to him, much to the amusement of these poor, sorry casualties of Society’s Pressures and Individual  Blows; we do not appreciate our good Fortune enough at times, I fear, and need episodes like this to remind us of the things that really matter.

Anyway, Watson, I hear Mrs Hudson’s dulcet tones…reminding me of some inconsequential matter…therefore I bid you Good Day, and trust you are recovering apace.

Your friend SH.

PS. One of Gere’s more outrageous Prophecies is that London Bridge is to be sold to the Americas…can you believe it?! and that one day people will flock to see him in what he termed “Movie Theatres”…he Is a Hopeless Case, indeed…

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Detective Fiction

 

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Don’t Go into the Light…

From Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:

Holmes,
Many thanks for the cakes, countless glasses of Madeira and your many entertaining anecdotes the other day – I wish I’d jotted a few of them down (I’ve to give a talk to the Sisters of Many-a-Muckle-Mission in Legless Lane on Tuesday week and your tale about Brother Gorilla and the Convent Girls would have given them a few titters).

However, the reason for this missive is to let you let you know about a letter I received this morning: The famous American theatrical actor Richard Gere has apparently been involved in a stage play about something called The Mothman. The play, he tells me, is based on some fantastical idea about a fictional character who takes the form of (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) a giant moth that, on numerous occasions, appears to various individuals shortly before some major calamity or disaster. Gere himself is currently in London and is at this moment performing the aforementioned farce at Drury Lane twice nightly to apparently rapturous applause. More worryingly, he claims to have ‘seen’ the ‘real’ Mothman several times on his way back to his lodgings each evening and is somewhat alarmed that a real disaster may be imminent.

Obviously, I would not care to put too much store in the ravings of a slack-jawed thespian, but Gere has offered us a large sum of money if we will merely take the time to look into these sightings. More interestingly though, our very own Inspector Lestrade visited me just now – he is investigating the collapse of a church roof on seventy God-botherers near where Mr Gere is lodging and seems to think the actor’s ravings may have more substance to them than might otherwise be the case. Curious or what?

I shall pop round to Baker Street later to discuss your thoughts on the matter.

Be good
Watson

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Detective Fiction

 

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