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Port Out, Starboard Home…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The following morning found me sitting by my fireside considering my next move. With Holmes still absent without leave, I had no sage companion to lean on (aside from Mary, who had already foisted her opinion upon me several times over breakfast that morning). In such circumstances, I called on my own expertise and began by running over the events of the previous day, focusing on four points:

1. Phileas Phogg and Passepartout would shortly leave our shores on what, even in normal
circumstances, could well prove to be a hazardous journey.
2. The Hooded Claw was clearly a dangerous individual, though as yet, I had no specific proof he intended to injure the aforementioned travellers.
3. Mister Claw, I deduced, may or may not interfere with said traveller’s arrangements in a manner that may or may not place all concerned in peril.
4. Mary wants a holiday.

Ruminating on the problem while chomping on one of my wife’s jammy doughnuts, I remained undecided, but as it turned out, my mind was made up via an external influence – a telegram:

Dr Watson

SS Mangochutney about to sail. Cabin booked in your name. Please come at once.

Passepartout

Without Holmes to guide my thinking otherwise, I settled on viewing the initial part of the trip as a vacation, therefore, should the whole thing turn out to be either beyond my comprehension, or simply a waste of time, my wife and I would at least gain some quality time together. If I was wrong, then the combined deductive powers of myself and my dear wife, would surely keep us from harm.

Breaking the news to Mary, I was rewarded with a gleaming smile and a twinkle in her wonky eye, along with the promise that she’d make me ‘shoot my luggage’ (whatever that means), as soon as we were on board.

We made haste to the docks and collected the tickets left for us by Passepartout (though how he knew I’d be bringing Mary, was a little puzzling). Once on board the liner, we were directed to our cabin, which I was pleased to see was of the first-class variety.

“Isn’t this lovely,” gushed Mary, unpacking her French knickers. “And look – we’re invited to the Captain’s table for dinner!”

I glanced at the invitation. “Captain Smith? Humph. I hope he’s recovered from that disastrous affair involving the world’s largest iceberg.”

“What’s that, dear?” said Mary.

“Oh, nothing. Just an insurance cock-up by the White Star Line. It was all covered up by Sherlock’s brother.”

Mary’s face brightened visibly and she patted her chest. “Mycroft’s a proper gentleman and very manly, don’t you think, darling. He has such a lovely smile and an absolutely enormous –”

“Yes, yes, I get the picture, thank you. Now, we’d better make contact with Passepartout and that fairy-fancier Phileas Phogg.”

Having located Phogg’s cabin on the deck above ours, I was a little disconcerted to find him the complete opposite to what I had imagined. Passepartout opened the door and bade us enter, serving cocktails before I’d even taken off my hat.

“Now then, Doctor Watson, how’s tha’ goin’ on, then, eh?” A tall, bearded fellow stepped out of the adjoining room and shook my hand warmly. “Rate glad ter see thee, lad. I ‘ope t’cabin’s up ter standard, an’ that?”

My arm positively trembled as Phogg’s vice-like grip brought tears to my eyes. “Er, yes, yes, of course,” I managed, extricating myself from his fat fingers. “We’re most grateful.”

As I smiled back at him, I glanced over Phogg’s shoulder and caught sight of Mary and Passepartout in what can only be described as a ‘clinch’. The pair broke free then and coughed loudly. Mary had the good manners to blush, and I made a mental note to put her over my knee and give her a jolly good spanking when we got back to the cabin.

“Now, look ‘ere, Doctor,” said Phogg. “My manservant ‘ere ‘as warned you about that bugger the Hooded Claw, so I just wanted ter let yer know that we believe him to be on board, in one of the third-class compartments.”

“Really?” said I. “Then he’s not in disguise?”

“Oh, he’s in disguise, alright,” said Phogg. “He’s dressed as two nuns and a small Catholic priest.”

“Two nuns and a…”

“Small Catholic priest, aye, that’s right.” He caressed his beard thoughtfully. “Though of course, he’ll be changing his appearance every few days, if not sooner.”

“D’you think he’ll try anything tonight?”

“Per’aps not tonight, but Ah wouldn’t be at all surprised if the bugger tried to throw one of us overboard.” He wagged a finger at me. “So watch out, or ye might wake up dead.”

By the time we returned to our cabin to dress for dinner, I was as nervous as a new bride and looking forward to an evening with Captain ‘Titanic’ Smith, with as much enthusiasm as a lobster in a pot. Nevertheless, I was sure the ‘Claw’ would hold off on his mission until we’d all had a good night’s sleep.

Naturally, I was wrong.

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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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Avenues and Alleyways…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

As I followed Sikes down the alley, the stench of the river assaulted my nostrils, warning me our route was now running perilously close to the banks of the Thames – one slip and either of us might disappear forever beneath those treacherous waters, sinking into the mud and slime of that deadly channel.

“Urry up, Docter,” urged Sikes, taking hold of my jacket. “I fink I just saw ‘im up ahead.”

We had reached the corner of the alley where the darkness was less all-encompassing. I could now make out the lights of the south bank glowing dully across the water in front of us. To our right, a dim figure was running towards a group of what I supposed to be warehouses by the water’s edge.

“That’s him,” I said, and we set off again along a solid, but slippery pathway.

The man vanished into a gap between the warehouses and, not wishing to play the hero, I allowed my companion to go first.

“Don’t you worry, Docter,” said he. “I’ll protect yer.” And with that, Sikes dashed into yet another dark alley.

Shading my eyes the better to see my way through the shadowy passage, I hastened along behind him, completely failing to notice a hand reaching out of the shadows as I passed a small doorway. A moment later, I was jerked roughly into one of the sheds and thrown to the floor.

“Now, look here…” I started, getting to my feet, but two burly figures pushed me back down, their filthy boots pinning my arms to the floor.

“No, Doctor Watson,” said a deep and gravelly voice. “You look here.”

Peering upwards, I could just make out the outline of my captor’s head and shoulders – the silhouette of his black Fedora telling me I had found my quarry.

“Ah-ha,” I shouted, hoping to sound a little less fearful than I felt. “So there you are, Mister Claw.”

The man bent down towards me and his fetid breath wafted over my face – garlic and stilton cheese, if I’m not much mistaken.

“Yes,” he muttered, holding up his right arm. “And you will feel the benefit of this specific part of my anatomy burrowing its way into that part of you where the sun does not shine, if you fail to heed my warning.”

Staring at the man’s arm, I gasped. On the end of his limb in place of a human hand, a glinting metallic shape glinted metallicly in the moonlight, via an appropriately located skylight above my head.

“Perhaps you’d care for a demonstration of my bottom-ripping tool? I’d be delighted to insert The Claw into your orifice, Doctor…” The moonlight glinted on his teeth and I noticed that they too had a metallic quality to them.

“Er, no, that’s alright, thanks,” I mumbled.

The Hooded Claw straightened up and stepped backwards into the doorway. “That’s what I thought. I trust our paths will not cross again?”

I was sorely tempted to utter some threat to the effect that myself and Holmes would track him down come hell or very high water, but the words melted in my mouth and I simply nodded.

A moment later he and his burly assistants were gone, and I was left staring up at the moon and wishing I was in quite a different location. It occurred to me I had made the silliest of mistakes and run directly into what should have been obvious as a trap. No doubt Holmes would not have succumbed to such a schoolboy error. I sniffed and would have taken a few moments to gather my dignity, but the thudding of footsteps in the alley warned me I was no longer alone.

“Oh, there yer are,” said Bill, popping his head round the doorway. “Fraid we lost him. Must ‘ave jumped on a barge or summat.”

“Yes,” I said. “He must.”

I got to my feet, but my usual steely resolve had petered out and I had no desire to do anything other than go home and hug my dear wife. “Right,” I said. “Which way out, Bill?”


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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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To the Dark Side…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

I am thankful to be once more in the bosom of my dear wife this morning, after a lengthy, albeit fascinating, overnight visit to the slums of Londen Towne. Following my plan to ply our old friend Bill Sikes with a few shillings in exchange for an insight into the slovenly ways of the lower classes (and in particular, begging his assistance in locating the individual known as The Hooded Claw), I called on Sikes at his lodgings at 14A Nobfiddler’s Lane. I found that same fellow imbibing a pot of what he likes to call ‘Charlie’.

“Docter Watson, my old pal,” said he, stumbling back from the door. “I ain’t never been so ‘appy ter see yer.”

Inviting me in, he offered me a mug of the aforementioned drink, which I sensibly declined. After we’d settled ourselves in front of the fire and warmed our hands (for it was truly a disagreeably cold evening), I told him what I wanted.

Sikes frowned and gazed into his pint pot. Finally, he looked up. “Well, Docter, I ‘ave ‘eard of this feller what yous talkin’ about, but I’m powerful certain you won’t be wantin’ ter track him down.”

“Why ever not?” said I.

“Cos where he be found, ain’t a place as I’d be ‘appy ter be takin’ you, on account of you being a gen’leman, an’ that.”

I assured him that I was more than up to the task of dealing with a little ‘working class dirt,’ and that I should be happy to accompany him to wherever he was inclined to take me.

Back on the street, the fog was rolling in from the Thames and there was a sharp nip in the air. I began to wonder if I should heed Bill’s advice. However, I was also curious to explore ‘The Dark Side’ of Londen, as my companion called it, and we thus set out towards the docks.

A short while later, we found ourselves at Cutter’s Corner, an area frequented by pickpockets, murderers and limerick-writers. Bill urged me to stay close and held onto my jacket, guiding me towards a particularly dilapidated building.

“In there,” he muttered, pointing to a rickety doorway.

We crossed the street and I gave the outer door a gentle push. It creaked open, revealing a dark passage beyond. At the far end, was the faint glimmer of candlelight. Taking my courage in both hands, I strode forward and knocked on the door.

After a moment, a head appeared, followed by a scrawny neck and shoulders. “Whatcha want?”

I raised my hat. “Ah, good evening sir, I wonder if…”

The door slammed shut.

Bill sighed and pushed past me. With a single kick, he caved in the door and bounded into the room.

The owner of the scrawny neck was an old man who was now cowering behind a table, hands trembling, and eyes as round and bloodshot as any I have yet seen.

Grabbing the man by the neck, Bill slammed him against the wall. “What you know abaht this geezer they call the ‘Ooded Claw’, eh?”

The man shook his head so vigorously, I thought it might fall off. Gazing past me, he pointed a feeble finger.

Turning to look back along the passage, I caught sight of a familiar figure silhouetted in the doorway, the gas lamp outside casting an eerie glow around his features.

“That’s him!” I cried.

Bill shoved the old man aside and the two of us hurried back to the street, but The Hooded Claw (for I am certain it was he), had disappeared.

We stood in the street, our eyes searching every nook and corner for our quarry, but there was nothing to see but darkness and creeping fog all around.

“I know where he’s gone,” said Bill, hurrying past me. “Come on, Doc.”

I ran down the cobbled lane after him, unsure of my surroundings and feeling more than a little afraid. If I lost sight of Sikes, I’d have a jolly hard time finding my way home again.

As we ran into a dark alley, I felt that familiar loosening sensation in my nether regions…

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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The French Connection…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Holmes
I’m writing this missive in the expectation that you will shortly return from whatever den of immorality you’re currently residing in and give me a little guidance on what sounds like an interesting case.

I called at Baker Street in the hope of a late breakfast and a tête-à-tête of the manly kind with your good self (and also to escape my dear wife’s carnal demands). However, all I found was a confused housekeeper and a noticeably absent detective. Mrs Hudson let me in and with her usual exuberance pressed her steaming muffins upon me along with a pot of Earl Grey. It seems she too is mystified by your non-appearance. Following a long explanation of exactly how much you have disrupted her routine with your ‘constant comings-in and goings-outs’, she revealed that a ‘saucy bint wiv a lopsided face’ called early yesterday morning and ‘whisked Mister ‘olmes away wiv neither a by-your-leave nor nothin’.

However, to the point of my visit: I received a letter by second post yesterday from a person named Passepartout (who I surmise is of the French variety), regaling me of his latest position as a manservant with that well-known philanthropist and inveterate shirtlifter, Phileas Phogg. It seems that Mister Phogg is to embark on a round-the-world trip as part of some ridiculous bet and Passepartout is concerned the trip may be in peril due to the machinations of one of Phogg’s associates.

I made a few inquiries at my club and discovered (via Bert the porter), that a certain person has been engaged to trail Phogg and sabotage his journey by whatever means necessary. It all sounded a bit far fetched to me, though Bert was adamant that whoever has employed the aforementioned saboteur is determined to win the bet.

On leaving my club I was in half a mind to put the whole thing down to rumour and innuendo, when I noticed a strange-looking chap watching me from the corner of the street. On realising I’d seen him, the fellow took off with some haste. Needless to say, I followed at close quarters and tracked him to a dingy boarding house of poor repute. Further probing of the landlady (and a few shillings to slacken her wanton mouth), I obtained a business card bearing the name The Hooded Claw. The card bore an address in East Londen, and while I have no desire to visit the place, it put me in mind of an old friend of ours, Bill Sikes.

In your absence I shall have a quiet word with friend Sikes and see if he can shed any light on the matter.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2017 in Detective Fiction

 

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