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Conversations on a Train…


From the Diary of Doctor Watson

It was late the following afternoon when we arrived at the little station at Netherly Stratton. Lambton had his man drop us off and we spent a pleasant half hour enjoying tea and scones from the little kiosk. The platform itself was otherwise free of home comforts and with the nights drawing in, it was already dark when our train pulled into the station.

Our journey back to Londen was, initially, uneventful. Doctor Lecter acquiesced to being locked in the wooden crate in the baggage car again. Public opinion is not likely to turn in his favour until my account of our latest adventure appears in The Strand Magazine. Even then, the marque of ‘cannibal’ will, I fear be hard to shake off.

Sitting opposite Holmes, my dear wife at my side, I considered the details of the last few days and occasionally glanced at my illustrious companion. He busied himself scribbling notes in the margin of his copy of Potter’s Toxins and Murderous Mixtures – his current choice of bedtime reading. As the locomotive rocked gently from side to side, I detected the beginnings of a smirk on Sherlock’s manly features, though he kept his piggy little eyes on the book.

I was tempted to question Holmes on a few points, but I knew very well how he’d delight in showing off his powers of deduction, so I chose to keep my thoughts to myself. Holmes, however, was not to be robbed of victory. A short while later, the great detective closed his book and laid it in his lap. “Well, Watson?”

“What’s that, Holmes?” said I, feigning indifference.

He raised an eyebrow. “Your questions, dear fellow.”

I half-turned to Mary with the intention of starting up a conversation and thus ignoring the expected jibes, but she too raised an eyebrow.

“What?” I said, with more than a little venom.

“Go on, Johnny,” said my wife. “You know you want to…”

I sighed. “You know, Holmes, it would be nice if for once, you could explain your observations at the time they occurred, instead of keeping your horrid little secrets to yourself.”

Holmes sniffed. “Hardly little secrets, John. Merely details which, I presume, have thus far eluded your observations.”

Mary coughed loudly and gave Holmes a hard stare.

“Very well,” he said. “First of all, as you know, the young man known as Veronica was responsible for the murders of the grocer’s boy, his own aunt and uncle, and of course his step mother, Lucy.”

“And would have killed his father too, if he’d had the chance,” I said.

“Quite,” said Holmes. “However, such deadly intentions did not simply pop into his head, did they?”

I shrugged. “Might have.”

He shook his head. “No, Watson, they were planted there – planted and nurtured, given encouragement, nourishment, love.”

“Oh God…” Mary’s hand grasped my arm. Her face had turned pale. “You mean…?”

“Once again, Mrs Watson, your intellect surpasses that of your husband.” Holmes nodded solemnly. “Yes, Veronica’s murderous journey was no accident of nature. The idea was deposited in his brain by his doctor – the psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.”

“You’re fucking joking!” I exclaimed.

“I’m fucking not,” said he. “If only I’d realised it sooner. In fact, it was you yourself who sparked my suspicions. When you reminded Lecter he had tried to eat you, it occurred to me that once again we’d been had. The canny criminal played us like a string quartet – a cheap one at that.”

I let out a groan. “If you knew that, why the hell didn’t you say anything?”

“Had I told you, Watson, Lecter would’ve seen it in your eyes in an instant. You too, Mary. I couldn’t take the risk – Christ knows what he might have done.”

I jumped up and reached for the emergency cord. “Then we must stop the train right now. Alert the authorities. The media…the…”

“Yes, yes,” said Holmes, flapping his hand at me as if I were a truculent child. “It’s all in hand, Watson. While you and Mary were supervising the crate, I took the liberty of sending a telegram to our friend Lestrade. He and his men will be waiting at the station when we arrive. If all goes to plan the crate will be unloaded and Lecter will be none the wiser until he’s safely locked up in the Londen Asylum for the Really Rather Mad.

I let out a long breath and sat down. “That’s a relief.”

Holmes nodded, then added, “Unless he escapes, of course…”

A shiver went up my spine and I grasped Mary’s hand. A second later, the lights went out and the train screeched to a halt.

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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Short Break from Adventure…

The Thankyew Twins 350
To Sherlock Holmes Esq from Doctor Watson

Holmes

Thank you again for supper last evening – it was a pleasant change for the two of us to spend a little ‘man’ time together after having been very much a threesome for the last few weeks. Mary has asked me to pass on her enthusiastic request that, should another suitable case come along, you might once again consider utilising her particular skills in some small way. (I realise the thought of including her in anything is likely to bring on another one of your asthma attacks, therefore I shall desist from speculating and simply inform her that nothing appropriate has come up thus far).

I had a visit from Lestrade this morning asking if either of us had seen his sibling. I assumed you’d already told him what transpired vis a vis your-brother-was-a-vampire-but-he’s-alright-now etc, so I naturally asked him if there were any side effects of the vampiric variety. His response left me in no doubt that he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, which placed me in a rather uncomfortable position. I tried to imagine what you would do and consequently strode about the room and rubbed my chin thoughtfully, pondering some excuse. However, as my account of the adventure has already appeared in The Strand Magazine, I thought it would only make things worse in the end, so I proceeded to tell him the whole story, to which he was, in the Victorian tradition, not amused.

However, to get to my point, Lestrade wasn’t talking about Brinsley. As it turns out, he has two brothers – the other one (the one we don’t know about) is currently employed in some sort of comedic enterprise and, with his partner, masquerades under the name of ‘The Thankyew Twins’. It appears that for some time, the duo have endeavoured to ‘break into’ serious drama, which prompted Lestrade to mention my name to them, thinking I might supply a few tips along the lines of writing a decent script.

I must say I was rather touched and offered to meet up with the ‘Twins’ to discuss the matter further. I did in fact have tea with them this afternoon and spent a pleasant hour being entertained, albeit in a mild way, by their chaotic shenanigans and knock-about humour. It transpires the act has been booked to appear at The Community Hall, Much-Banter-in-the-Woods, near Chichester, and the chaps will be billeted in an old manor house for the duration. Arthur Lestrade, the smaller of the two, wondered if Mary and I might be interested in sharing their accommodation in return for a bit of script writing.

As you know. Mary and I lost our deposit on our previously planned sojourn, so I accepted their kind offer of sharing a holiday-let for a week. They will, of course, be performing every evening, leaving my dear wife and I to our own devices, so we should not find their company too demanding.

We’re catching the early train in the morning so I have enclosed the address of the manor house, should you feel inclined to write.

Watson.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Blood and Cheese…

Blood and Cheese 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

In that few seconds of darkness I fancied I could see some monstrous beast crawling from the coffin, clawing its way to where we stood and opening its vast vampire mouth ready to sink its…

‘Alright my loves?’ A light came on so suddenly, it blinded me, and it was another few seconds before I could focus on the man who was sitting up in the coffin.

‘Lestrade?’

‘Ow d’you know my name, son?’ The man who resembled Inspector Lestrade climbed out of the coffin and dusted himself down. Holding up a gas-powered torch, he waved it around. ‘Oo the ‘ell are you fellers, then?’

I looked at Holmes. ‘He looks like Lestrade,’ I said.

‘Of course he does, Watson, because he is Lestrade – Brinsley Lestrade, identical twin brother to our old friend Gordon.’

‘Grayson,’ I said.

‘Indeed,’ said Holmes. He turned back to the newcomer. ‘To answer your question sir, I am Sherlock Holmes and this is my associate Doctor Watson. You may speak freely.’

‘Never mind me speakin’ freely, ‘ow about you speak freely and tell me what the ‘ell’s going on?’

The conversation went on in this manner for some minutes until I suggested we all go upstairs. Lestrade acquiesced and climbed out of the coffin. Holmes and I turned towards the wooden staircase, but as I took a step forward, Holmes grabbed my arm. Giving me a sharp look, he pushed me backwards while at the same time, jumping sideways himself. The axe crashed to the floor, missing my big toe by inches, but the beast was already lifting it for another go.

‘Quickly Watson, the stakes, the stakes!’

‘I haven’t got the stakes! I thought you had them?’

The vampire prepared to strike again, his fangs glinting in the lamplight. But quick as a flash, Holmes pulled out his prized Meerschaum along with his second-best Large Half-bent Billiard pipe and formed the two smoking devices into a makeshift crucifix.

‘Aeeeooorgh!’ screamed the creature, covering his eyes and dropping the axe. ‘Not the Meerschaum pipe crucifix trick!’

He fell back against the empty coffin and I leaped forward, grabbed his legs and upended him, dropping him neatly back inside his box. Slamming the lid down, I sat on top of it.

‘Well done, Watson, quick thinking, old chum.’

‘Not as quick as you, Holmes. I’d never have thought your tobacco habit would save our lives.’

‘What’s all the noise about?’

Looking up, I saw the door at the top of the steps was open and my dear wife was standing there, a look of pure amusement on her face.

‘Oh, just sorting out a vampire, dear.’

‘You found Dracula then?’ She gave me an odd look.

I glanced at Holmes and he nodded slowly. Evidently, he too had seen the two red marks on Mary’s neck, but this time it wasn’t lipstick. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, I moved away under the pretext of picking up the axe. Mary started towards me. I waited until Holmes had quietly opened the lid of one of the other coffins, then jumping forward, I pushed her backwards. She fell smartly into the box as if it had been made for her, and Holmes slammed the lid shut and jumped on top of it.

I resumed my position on top of the other coffin and we sat for a moment in silence.

‘You know what this means, old friend?’

I nodded. ‘I do, Holmes – we’re going to have to kill my wife.’

‘What? No, don’t be bloody ridiculous. She’ll be fine as soon as we kill Dracula. No, I meant…’ He pointed to the ceiling.

I looked up. ‘Upstairs..?’

Holmes kept his voice low. ‘We don’t need to check the other coffin. Dracula is in the house. Probably knocking up a pan of blood soup.’

‘But…but it’s daylight,’ I stammered. ‘He should be in his coffin during the day. You said so yourself, Holmes.’

‘Indeed I did, Watson – a tactic to buy us some time.’

‘Sorry, old man, you’ve lost me.’

He smiled sardonically. ‘When we were in the cheese shop earlier, did you happen to notice a brand of Romanian origin? No, of course not – as usual Watson your powers of observation are somewhat ineffectual.’

‘That’s a bit mean, Holmes.’

‘Nevertheless, it’s true. I, as it happens, did notice a specific variety and it triggered some long-forgotten fact in my massive memory. You see Watson, Dracula is much like you and I – like us he enjoys a selection of fine cheeses. Admittedly, we would prefer a bottle of Chardonnay to go with it, rather than a glass of virgin’s blood, but there lies his undoing. While you were dealing with the cheese shop proprietor, I was perusing the fellow’s produce and I noticed rather large teeth marks in the Romanian Năsal Cheese. Had those teeth marks been in a lump of Wensleydale or Dutch Gouda, I might have dismissed them as meaningless, but as any cheese shop proprietor will tell you, customers may not take bites out of their wares. Therefore, the only way such a travesty could have occurred would be if the act of taking a bite out of that particular cheese was performed at great speed. And who do we know who has the ability to slow down time in the human world?’

I cast my mind back to the rotten food we saw at Castle Dracula. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I see.’

‘No, I don’t think you do, Watson. Let me explain – if the Count really had taken a bite of that cheese, he must surely have done so during the hours of daylight, which told me that not only is he immune to the rays of the sun, but he had already arrived in the village and had enough time to do a bit of shopping. Then, having completed his business with the agent, and knowing we would be hot on his tail, he simply waited for us to do something typically human, such as sending Mary to the front door. Leaving Lestrade to finish us off, he would then take Mary to be his vampire bride. He set a trap for us, Watson, and quite plainly, we have fallen into it.’

‘Bloody hell, Holmes.’

‘Quite.’

‘So what do we do now?’

But before my companion could answer, another voice interrupted our discussion. ‘Ah, ze great detective and his rather stupid friend. Velcome to my humble abode.’

Count Dracula began to descend the stairs, his arms moving outwards as he did so, causing his black cape to billow out like gigantic bat wings. ‘It appears I underestimated your enthusiasm, Holmes. I’d thought to outvit you with my clever lipstick-on-the-neck ruse, but you saw through it.’

‘Of course I saw through it, you fiend. That is because I am the world’s greatest detective and have the ability to outmanoeuvre even the most cunning of villains.’

I detected a tremor in my companion’s voice, but had to admire his nerve. Even as Dracula moved ever closer, Holmes stood his ground.

‘And it is precisely because of zat reason you vill make a superb vampire. Come to me and let us be one…mwah, hah, hah…’

As the evil creature moved to within a few feet of him, Holmes stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out a lump of what looked like green mould.

‘It seems you have the upper hand, Count,’ said Holmes. ‘But before you turn us into the undead, let me offer you a small token as a way of cementing our relationship.’ He held out the piece of mould. ‘Dutch Beaver cheese – one of my favourites.’

Dracula’s red eyes lit up and he licked his foul lips greedily. ‘Ah, how lovely! Zat is kind of you Holmes.’ And reaching out he took the cheese and prepared to bite into it.

The Count’s fangs closed around the comestible and he chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then, his eyes grew wide and he snarled, spitting out the remains of the cheese. ‘Vot is zis? You vile little man! You haf poisoned me…’ And he sank to the floor, his face turning a rather nice shade of yellow as blue bile erupted from his mouth. ‘Vot haf you done, you inconsiderate but nevertheless stunningly handsome detective?’

Holmes smiled and glanced at me. ‘My apologies Watson, I’m afraid I took a gamble with our lives, but I’m please to say it has paid off.’

‘What on earth was that stuff, Holmes? Some sort of toxin?’ I watched transfixed as Dracula’s body turned to mush, bubbling and frothing away like a bubbly, frothy mess. Within a few minutes, all that remained was a greenish, bluish, yellowish sort of gloop on the cellar floor.

‘Yes, in a way, Watson,’ said Holmes. ‘Though not in the least vexing to you or I, a small sample of Cornish Wild Garlic Yarg – a vegetarian, semi-hard cheese enfolded with pungent Ramson leaves – contained just enough of that extraordinary little bulb to put our toothy friend to sleep forever.’

‘Garlic? Amazing. Well done, Holmes.’

‘Yes.’ He gazed down at the mess before us. ‘Now, we’d better deal with those coffins…’

 

As Holmes had predicted, Mary and Lestrade were sleeping peacefully in their coffins and on waking them up, both expressed a sense of confusion as to the exact circumstances surrounding their boxy incarceration.

Brinsley was a little disappointed Dracula wouldn’t be going through with his rental on the property (and the associated agent fees), though he appreciated it was probably better to be a living human than an undead vampire.

While Holmes supervised the clean-up operation with the local constabulary, I walked with Mary back to the cheese shop to collect our belongings. As we stood waiting for the proprietor, I wondered aloud if our adventure had put her off accompanying me in future escapades.

She gave me a playful punch on the arm. ‘It rather depends on how you portray me in your journals, Johnny.’

I nodded, happy that at least someone would be interested in reading my accounts of our adventures…

 

 

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

Not the 39 Steps – out now!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Vampire Lestrade…

The Vampire Lestrade 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

It was still only mid-morning when we landed in Purfleet. The pilot put us down in a field a mile or so west of Carfax, so as ‘Not to alert Mister Dracula to your presence.’ He took off again immediately, leaving us to hump our luggage to a nearby cheese shop where I gave the proprietor a few pennies to look after it until we returned. While Holmes was perusing the range of produce, I purchased a selection of cheesy comestibles including slices of Stilton, Wensleydale and Red Leicester.

Out on the street, Holmes and I put on our special false-beard sets as a precaution, but took them off again when Mary pointed out that Dracula would be in his coffin during the day. We headed towards the river, keeping an eye out for any odd-looking individuals, large coffin-shaped boxes and Romanian-style vehicles.

Within a few minutes, we had traversed the length of the village. Holmes stopped at a corner where the road veered round before looping back up to the main highway. He nodded towards a small wood across the road where a faux late-medieval-period-like structure could be seen through the trees. “That looks like the place, Watson.”

Taking care to stay out of sight, we crept through the wood and circled behind the grounds, making our way through a dense shrubbery between the house and the river. Finally in sight of the house itself, we crouched down, allowing ourselves a good five minutes to ‘case the joint’, as Holmes likes to put it. The building was of early Victorian design with several turrets and towers, much like those found in popular gothic novels. It occurred to me that Dracula may have desired a dwelling that at least partly resembled his own, though without the familiar surroundings of peasants and black forests.

There was no movement either outside the house or at any of the windows. In fact, many of the windows had been boarded up and the place appeared to be in a generally poor state of repair.

“We must get inside,” muttered Holmes.

“Why don’t I distract them?” suggested Mary.

“Distract who?” said I.

“Whoever’s in the house.”

“We don’t know there’s anyone in the house,” muttered Holmes disdainfully.

“Exactly.  But if there is, you don’t want them coming out and catching you trying to break in, do you? I’ll nip round the front and knock on the door while you two find a way in at the back.”

Holmes pouted a little but he had to admit it was a sensible idea. “Very well, but don’t get caught. If anyone answers tell them you’re looking for…I don’t know…Dr Seward.”

“Isn’t he a character in Mister Stoker’s book?” said Mary.

Holmes sighed. “It doesn’t matter, Mary, it’s just something to say.”

So off she trotted round the side of the building while Holmes and I headed for what we assumed to be the coal chute. A large padlock secured the shutters, prompting my companion to vocalise a variety of swear words. Taking the initiative, I produced my set of Acme Skeleton Keys and got to work.

“You’re a dark horse, Watson,” whispered Holmes. “Where’d you learn to do that?”

“Mary’s been teaching me,” I said. Putting a little pressure on the tension wrench, I turned the short hook and the lock flew open. “Voila!”

Holmes gave me a sardonic smile. “Smart work, Doctor Cleverclogs, but don’t let it go to your head.” Heaving the doors open, he stepped inside and started down the steps. Closing the shutters behind me, I followed him to the door at the bottom. Lighting a match, Holmes tried the handle. It opened. Stepping through, we found ourselves in the cellar itself, a dark and foreboding place that reeked of bad things, much like its counterpart in Castle Dracula.  However, it was the three coffins on the floor that drew our attention.

“Just as I suspected,” said Holmes. “I suppose we’d better open them.” Stepping aside, he nodded at the first one. “Go ahead Watson, do your stuff.”

“Me? You’re bloody joking Holmes – you’re the expert. You do it.”

“Expert? Expert in what? Catching villains, yes, solving mysteries, yes, but this? No Doctor, this is more your field. After all, you deal with death all the time.”

“I’m not a bloody undertaker, Holmes, I know as much about vampires as you do, which isn’t a bloody lot, as it happens.”

We stood for a moment, both of us sighing indignantly. But our various resentments were brought up sharply by a muffled sound from one of the coffins.

“What was that?” I whispered, stepping back a few paces.

Holmes pointed to the nearest coffin. Just as he did so, the lid began to rise and at the very same instant, his match went out.

“Bugger.”

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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To Londen…

Flying over Parliament 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

By the time we reached the terminal, there was no sign of the Count and his carriage. Nevertheless, we could not afford to bask in our petites gloires. Hurrying down to street level, we took the bull by the proverbials and stepped out in front of a passing cart. The driver shouted something that sounded vaguely objectionable, but Holmes calmed the fellow’s temper with a handful of coins.

“Always useful to keep a supply of French francs, Watson. Money opens doors like no key I’ve ever known.” We climbed aboard the rickety vehicle and Holmes barked an address in the driver’s ear. We took off at a gallop and in a matter of minutes, the cart pulled into a narrow lane called Chemins des Dune and came to a standstill in front of what I took to be a garden shed, of the French variety.

“I hope you’re right about this, m’dear,” I muttered to Mary as we followed Holmes to the door of the run-down structure. However, on stepping inside, we found ourselves in a small room facing a desk, behind which was seated a dapper little man wearing a monocle.

“Ah, Mishter Holmsh – we’ve been exshpecting you.”

Holmes raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Yesh indeed,” said the little man, getting to his feet. “Mycroft alerted us to your shituashion at Cashtle Dracula and hinted that you may be in need of ashistansh in travelling back to Londen.”

Holmes glanced at Mary and pouted a little. “Seems I owe you an apology, Mrs Watson.”

At these words, the clerk stepped forward. “Mishesh Watshon? The Mishesh Watshon?” He grasped Mary’s hand and shook it vigorously, wiping away a morsel of spit as he did so. “We weren’t exshpecting you. Come in, come in…” And he led us through a door in the back wall of the shed, down a flight of stone steps and into a large underground chamber, chattering away mindlessly to my wife the entire time.

A dozen or more individuals hurried here and there among the desks and workbenches located on either side. Our guide pattered along gaily towards what looked like a large wardrobe in the middle of the room, at which point Holmes pulled me sideways. “I suggest you keep an eye on your wife, Watson, it seems she possesses womanly wiles that are more womanly and indeed more wily than either of us expected.”

I put on my best smug expression. “Speak for yourself, Holmes. Speak for yourself.”

The chatty little man finally stopped gossiping about Whitehall shenanigans and held open the wardrobe door. “Through the fur coatsh, then shtraight down to the shtationhoush and it’sh directly in front of you. The engineer will send you off as shoon as shteam’sh up.” He smiled and wiggled his fingers at Mary. “Bye then.”

And so it was that ten minutes later our LubeTube carriage was hurtling through a well-greased tunnel at several dozen miles per hour. As Mary promised, it took a mere nine minutes to reach Londen and as we alighted, a familiar face advanced down the platform towards us.

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” muttered Holmes. “What the fucking hell does he want?” Adopting an expression of pure condescension, Sherlock greeted his brother with his usual decorous charm. “Mycroft, how are you? You’re looking well – been working out?”

Mycroft Holmes nodded at me, winked at Mary and patted Sherlock on the head. “Don’t trouble yourself to feign pleasure, Shirley, I’m only here to give you this.” And reaching into his inside pocket he took out a sheet of paper. Passing it to Holmes, he bowed to Mary and I, turned on his heel and walked off.

Holmes studied the document and stuffed it into his pocket without speaking.

“Anything important, old boy?” I asked.

“I’ll let you know.” Picking up his bag, he headed off towards the exit.

“Scuse me, govnor,” called one of the engineers. “It’s this way, mate.”

Holmes did an about-turn. “Yes, of course it is. I knew that.”

We emerged into the cold dawn of a new day onto a well-kept rooftop garden. From the spectacular view of the Thames, I quickly realised we were on top of the Houses of Parliament and on the lawn in front of us, a steam-powered gyrocopter was already powered up and waiting.

“Hmph,” said Holmes. “At least he’s good for something.” We climbed aboard the machine and stuffed our bags in the back, while Holmes discussed our destination with the pilot.

Settling into his seat, the great detective turned to us and took a deep breath. “Now, it seems that friend Lestrade has a brother, and – ”

“Really?” I interjected. “I always thought Grayson was an only child.”

Holmes looked perplexed. “Grayson? Who’s Grayson?”

“Lestrade. That’s his name – Grayson Lestrade. You didn’t know, Holmes?” I couldn’t resist a smile and feigned a cough in order to hide my joy at discovering (for once) something my illustrious colleague did not know.

He sniffed. “In any case, it is Lestrade’s brother not our dear inspector, who has been communicating with the Count. Apparently he’s an estate agent.”

“D’you think he’ll be at Carfax?”

“Whether he is or not, we must get there A. S. A. B. P. – As Soon As Bloody Possible.” He leaned forward and tapped the pilot on the shoulder. “Anytime you’re ready, my good man.” And seconds later we were flying over Londen towards Purfleet, Carfax House and, inevitably, Count Dracula.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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Flying Tonight…

Flying Tonight 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“Quickly, Watson, there’s not a moment to lose.” Holmes ran to the window, then turned and ran to the door, then turned and ran to the big comfy chair by the fire and sat down.

I stared at him. “Holmes? You alright, old boy?” I said, noting the unusual lack of expression on his features.

“No, actually. I don’t think I am.” He looked up at me. “Watson, for the first time in my life I don’t know what to do.”

“Oh,” said I. “Well, we’d better…er…”

“Go after the Count?” Suggested Mary, slipping on her shoes.

Holmes glanced at her. “Yes, I suppose so…”

I pulled up a chair opposite and crossed my legs. “Perhaps we ought to talk it through, eh Holmes?”

He nodded absentmindedly. “Yes. Talk it through.”

Mary went to the wardrobe and fished around among her clothes. “Maybe this’ll help?” She produced a bottle of French Brandy and three glasses.

“Oh, I say, good show old thing.” I held the glasses while she poured. “Righto, Holmes, what’re the options?”

The effect of the brandy was immediate – my companion seemed to rise up a little in his chair and his face took on its more usual hue. “We must pursue the Count. In addition we must ensure he cannot return to his coffin, and we should probably all start wearing crucifixes.”

Mary frowned. “If he’s already gone, why would he come back to his coffin?”

Holmes leaned forward. “Good point. In which case he must already have made provision for a coffin on board whatever mode of transport he’s using.”

“Can’t he just turn into a bat and fly to Londen?”

“Are you suggesting he carry his own coffin and whatever else he may need en route? No, Watson, he must have prepared for this. I think he planned to take Mary with him and join forces with Lestrade…” He held up a finger. “At Carfax.”

“What’s Carfax,” asked Mary.

“The Count’s Londen residence,” I said. “Probably heading there now.”

“But if he intended going there all along, why did he invite you and Sherl here?”

“Ah. She’s got a point, Holmes.” I looked at my wife. “Though if he was planning to take you with him as one of his…vampy brood…”

Holmes sat up straight. “No, no, Watson – oh, what a fool I’ve been!” He beamed broadly. “He couldn’t have known Mary was coming so she cannot have been part of his plan. In which case, he must have…” He drummed his slender fingers on the arm of the chair.

“…wanted us out the way perhaps?” I finished.

“Precisely. Especially if Lestrade is involved.”

I shook my head. “Must admit I’m surprised – never took Lestrade for a vampire.”

Holmes rolled his eyes. “He’s not a vampire, you nitwit. At least, not yet.”

“Then what’s the Count want with him?” I knocked back my drink and poured myself another. “All sounds a bit silly to me…”

“It may sound silly, Watson, but you can be assured there’ll be a perfectly valid reason for his actions. We just have to find out what they are.”

The activities of the next hour began with Holmes and I hauling the three coffins up into the courtyard and setting fire to them. Then we gathered our belongings together, found an old handcart and headed down the hill to the village. If we were to get ahead of the Count, we’d have to move fast.

Back at the Skream Inn, we roused the landlord and his wife who, given the circumstances, seemed completely unsurprised at our sudden appearance.

“You are still alife, zen?” said the old man.

“For the moment, yes,” muttered Holmes. “Now, my good man, is there any way at all of getting us back to England very, very quickly.”

He shook his head and scratched his nether regions. “Zer is a cart zat you take get in ze morning when Yumpin Yimminy brings ze milk. Or you could walk…” He shrugged.

“For God’s sake, man is there no means of getting out of this damn country that’s faster than walking pace?” Holmes let out a low groan.

The landlord’s wife nudged her husband and pointed skywards. The old man looked up and a smile lit his features. “Vell, zer is ze cable car?”

I let out a low groan, similar to the one Holmes had let out. “Unfortunately, we need to go a bit further than half a mile down the hill.”

The old man nodded his head. “Ya. You vould need to change at ze bottom and get ze next one, then change again and so on.”

I peered at him. “What? You mean there’s a cable car system that goes to…where?”

He shrugged again. “Vell, only as far as ze French coast.”

I looked at Holmes. Holmes looked at Mary. Mary looked at me.

“Well, buggering hell,” I said. “So how come no-one knows about it?”

He gave a wry smile. “Because all ze English think cable cars are crap.”

And so it was that half an hour later, having ascended the incredibly long ladder to the cable car station, the three of us loaded our bags into the car, grabbed a selection of  German sausages for the journey from our ever-faithful landlord and let off the brake. As the carriage shuddered out from the safety of the station recess, it gave a sudden lurch and I recalled why I never travelled by cable car.

“It’s exciting, isn’t it?” said Mary gazing out of the window at the approaching dawn. “Just like in that silent movie – what’s it called?”

“You mean Where Eagles Dare?” I ventured.

“No – The Man Who Fell To Earth From A Cable Car. Very messy as I recall.” She grinned. “But it’s just a movie.”

I glanced at Holmes. “Fancy a sausage?”

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Rush of Blood…

The Bed Room 350

From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As I took in the sight before us, I realised that a supreme effort would be required in order to drag my eyes away from the bizarre scene. Holmes , naturally, was the first to leap into action (he always is where supreme efforts are concerned), and grabbing me by the lapels, he slapped me seventeen times across the face.

“Quickly Watson, there’s no time to lose.” And pausing only for a short while to light his Meerschaum, he bade me follow him through the trapdoor he had discovered while examining the floorboards only minutes before. As the hatch slammed shut behind us, I couldn’t help wonder if Holmes knew what the fuck he was doing.

“Language, Watson!” he barked over his shoulder.

“I didn’t say a word,” I spluttered indignantly.

“Ah, but I’ll wager you were thinking it.” He reached the bottom of the steps and lit a candle. “We must find Mary before something even more terrible than the most terrible murder you can imagine happens to her.”

“What? More terrible than Jack the Ripper?”

He gripped my arm and looked me in the eye. “Prepare yourself for the most evil of evils, old friend. This case may prove to be our final problem.”

“I bloody hope not – I’ve just put a deposit down on a holiday cottage in the Cotswolds.”

Ducking down to avoid the low beams, we hurried down a passageway to a door at the end. In the dim light, I could see a sign that read ‘Bed Room’, except with ‘Bed’ crossed out and ‘Dead’ written in blood above it.

The door squealed as Holmes pushed it open, revealing a dank cellar with moss growing up the walls and water dripping from the high vaulted ceiling. Even in the gloom, I could see the three coffins propped up on trestles. Holmes moved forward, holding the candle in front.

“It’s as I feared, Watson,” he said, moving from one box to another. “They’re all empty.”

“But what does it mean, Holmes?” I waved my arms helplessly. “Who are they for?”

Holmes held up three fingers. “One for the Count, two for the money…no, wait, that’s not right.” He looked at the floor and puffed on his pipe for a moment, then “One for the Count, one for Mary and one for…”

“The butler?” I ventured.

He shook his head. “If only it were so, Watson. The ‘butler’ as you call him is none other than the Count himself. How else could the fellow come and go so easily? No, the other one is for a person not yet identified.” He peered at the empty coffins. “What time is it?”

I checked my Half Hunter. “Almost one.”

He nodded slowly. “Then he still has several hours before dawn. If he has achieved his despicable intentions, we must find your wife before she wakes and give her a blood transfusion.”

“But shouldn’t we wait here and stake him through the heart when he comes back?”

Holmes turned and gave me that sardonic smile of his. “Firstly, Watson, the stakes and mallet are upstairs in your bedroom, but more importantly, do you seriously imagine Dracula is going to stand still and allow us to bang a piece of wood through his black heart?”

“Oh, I suppose not, now you come to mention it.”

Back upstairs, we made haste to my bedroom. What we found there, however, was not what we’d expected: my dear Mary lay in bed, fast asleep, a smile of pure contentment across her pale face.

“My God.” I ran to her side and got to work with my fingers.

Holmes slapped me across the head. “There’s no time for that sort of thing, Watson, examine her neck – quickly, now!”

“I was feeling for a pulse actually, but you’re right. Look here – two red marks on her neck. There’s no time to lose, Holmes. We must give her a transfusion now.”

The great detective coughed. “Right. I’ll leave you to it.” And with that he made for the door.

“Hang fire, old bean, I need your help.”

“Ah, well, terribly sorry old chap, but you know I can’t abide watching medical procedures.”

“Of course, but that’s not what I meant. I need your blood.” I took his arm and began to roll up his sleeve.

“My blood? What on earth for? What’s wrong with yours?” I discerned the beginnings of a tremor in my companion’s voice. “It’s all the same stuff, isn’t it?”

I snorted. “You know damn well it’s not, Holmes. I can’t give her mine, can I  – I’m O positive. Mary’s AB negative, same as you.” I led him over to the chair beside the bed. “You’re going to save my wife’s life Holmes. Like it or not.” I allowed myself a gentle chuckle as I gathered the equipment I needed for the process.

Using two rubberised hot water bottles, a length of tubing from my personal colonic irrigation kit and a set of good sharp needles from my old army field apparatus, I hooked up my companion and watched his blood flow.

Half an hour later, I handed Holmes a cup of tea and a couple of Custard Creams from my private supply. “There you are, old chap. Wasn’t so bad, was it?”

He sniffed and chomped on a biscuit. “Suppose not.” He glanced at Mary. “How is she?”

I leaned over and turned her face to the light. As I did so, I noticed the two red marks appeared to have smudged. Licking my handkerchief, I rubbed a portion of my wife’s neck and to my surprise, the marks came off. “Well, there’s a turn-up for the books, Holmes. Looks like it was only lipstick.”

“What? You’re fu – ” he began, but at that moment, Mary’s eyes flickered open.

“Oh, hello dear,” she murmured sleepily. “Everything alright?”

I patted her head. “Of course, my love.” I surreptitiously pushed the rubber tubing under the mattress out of sight. “We thought the Count had bitten you, that’s all.”

Mary sat up and rubbed her eyes. “No,” she said with a wistful sigh. “Apparently the crucifix around my neck put him off slightly.”

“Oh,” I said, glancing at Holmes.

“Yes, we were just wondering,” he said, giving me a fierce look. “Just wondering how you got two red marks on your neck.”

Mary’s hand went involuntarily to the place where the spots had been. “Oh, those.” She nodded. “Dracula was a little miffed at not being able to gobble my blood so I used my lipstick to make it look as if he had. It seemed to cheer him up.”

“I see.” Holmes turned to me. “Just as well we didn’t go to all the trouble of giving her a blood transfusion then, isn’t it, Johnnie?” He scowled rather more than I thought appropriate for a detective of his standing.

“I don’t suppose you know where he is now?” I said.

She yawned. “I think he said he was flying to Londen tonight. Said he’d some business with a man called…” She yawned again. “Lestat?”

I looked at Holmes and we both came to the same conclusion – Lestrade!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Detective Fiction

 

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