Finding myself locked in a cramped cupboard below decks with my husband might be, in any other circumstances, an opportunity for a bout of adult fun, but squashed together with Mr Gooseberry himself, Johnny and I would have to forego that particular delight until later. Assuming, of course, the Hooded Claw didn’t kill us all in the meantime.
The darkness crowded in on us and I began to feel a little uneasy. “Come on, then, Holmsey,” I muttered, “light another one.”
Holmes let out a sigh. “Alas, dear lady that was my last Swan Vesta.”
I blinked in the darkness but could only make out the dim shapes of the fat-headed detective and the noble outline of my dear husband’s face. “Right then,” I went on. “Mary to the rescue. Again.” Undoing the buttons on my evening gown, I reached inside my corset and unzipped the secret pocket I’d sewn into the fabric for just such an occasion. Pulling out the emergency flashlight, I fastened myself up again before fitting the handle into its base.
“What’s that whirring noise?” said Johnny.
I didn’t bother replying, and instead began rotating the small handle. After a moment, the lamp flickered into life, illuminating our faces once more.
“Oh, I say, “said Holmes. “That’s rather clever.”
“It’s a clockwork lamp,” I said, unclipping the handle and sliding it into the small compartment in the base of the device. “Mycroft gave it to me.”
Johnny sniffed. “Did he, now? And what did you give him?”
I narrowed my eyes and showed him my don’t-you-fucking-dare face. He quickly changed the subject.
“At least we can see where we are,” he said, brightly. Turning around he tried the door but it was firmly locked from the outside.
Gazing at our surroundings, all three of us immediately understood the predicament we were in – the small compartment appeared to be a store cupboard of some description, with a stack of built-in metal shelves on one side and an area of about three-feet-square, just large enough to accommodate the three of us, on the other.
“Living in a box,” muttered Holmes. “Living in a cardboard box…”
“What’s that, Holmes?” said John.
“Just a music hall ditty I heard the other day.” Holmes slid his bony hands into his pockets and leaned against the wall behind him, humming a tune.
Crouching down, I examined the floor, but if I’d hoped for a handy escape hatch, I was disappointed. “Do you think they’ll come back?”
“Who?” said Holmes. “The baddies?” He shook his head. “No need – we’re out of harm’s way so they can safely continue with their evil plan.”
Johnny nodded solemnly. “To kill poor old Phogg.”
“Well…” the other man made a face. “Along with twelve hundred other people.”
I stood up and held the lamp to his face. “What d’you mean, Sherlock?”
“Simply this, Mary – after they bundled me in here, I heard two of the rogues discussing their strategy with the Claw. Apparently, they cannot risk killing Phogg by himself as it would be obvious, so they plan to crash the ship into an iceberg and blame our old friend Captain Smith.” He laughed gently. “After all, he does have a reputation for accidents at sea.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Johnny. “We’re in the English Channel. No icebergs for miles.”
“Ah,” said Holmes. “But this isn’t any old iceberg, Watson. This is an M21.”
I frowned. “What’s an M21?”
My husband took my hand. “You recall the details of Moriarty’s secret steam-powered undersea torpedo-ship?”
“Designed by the famous submarine boffin Bruce Partridger?” I nodded. “What’s that got to do with icebergs?”
Holmes interjected. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it, Mrs Watson, as you’re so well-in with my dear brother.” He gave a snort of derision before continuing. “Mycroft heard a rumour that Moriarty planned to use the Partridger blueprints to manufacture a series of gigantic sea-going icebergs that could destroy the British fleet.” He raised his head and gazed at a spot on the wall. “If I’m right, the Hooded Claw is in league with him and intends to sink this ship, making it look like a freak iceberg-type accident.”
“Oh my God,” I murmured. “And there are no lifeboats on board.”
“Indeed,” said Holmes. “Though even if there were, we wouldn’t be able to get to them.” He sighed. “No, Mr and Mrs Watson, I think we’re properly fucked this time.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his Meerschaum pipe. “Could I get a light please, Mary?”