As promised, in honour of the return of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ brilliant SHERLOCK, here is my cheeky Sherlock Holmes story… with a supernatural twist (Sherlockians, see if you can spot all the references to the Conan Doyle stories, and check out my previous post on Holmes and the supernatural below…)
Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the article our visitor had left behind the night before. Embossed in deepest crimson upon the calling card was a gothic letter ‘D’.
“Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”
Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation.
“I believe you have eyes in the back of your head,” I remarked.
“I have at least a well-polished, silver-plated coffee pot in front of me,” said he, and touching the lid he let out a sharp hiss as if the scalding metal had burned his elegant fingers.
As my eyes shifted to the pot itself, Holmes reacted with lightning speed and threw his napkin over it. Still, I had a fancy that I had glimpsed something curious before the linen descended. I had the strange idea that, although the chair in which he sat had been reflected, the face and form of Sherlock Holmes was missing.
“Watson,” he said, dragging me from my reverie, “would you have any objection to drawing the blinds?”
“None at all.” I crossed the room, all the while keeping a concerned eye on my old friend. “Tell me, Holmes, are you afraid of something?”
“Well, I am.”
“Of what?” said I, shutting out the morning glare. “Not air-guns again!”
“No. I no longer fear… air-guns.”
The detective gave a dry chuckle and curled up in his chair, knees drawn to his jutting chin. Despite his good humour he was even more gaunt and pale than usual. I approached, took hold of his wrist and attempted to gauge his pulse. I could find none. Similar difficulties had frustrated me when examining him after one of his cocaine binges, the soporific effect of his customary seven-per-cent solution having depressed the rigour of his circulatory system. He did not protest as I rolled up his sleeve and checked for the telltale signs that his miserable addiction had been indulged. Again, I could find nothing. And then I noticed something very strange: there were two puncture wounds, but not upon his arm.
“What have you been doing to yourself, old fellow?” I exclaimed.
“Peace, Watson,” Holmes muttered. “You will be pleased to hear I have no further use for the cocaine bottle.”
“Hmn. Well, something very odd has happened since I saw you last. Perhaps it is all to do with your visitor of last night. I am sorry I could not be at your side, my practice is rather busy of late. But come, tell me about him.”
Holmes stretched his long legs towards the fire and a great shiver ran the course of his body.
“Can’t get warm for the life of me,” he said. “As to my client, he was a nobleman of eastern extraction. A Count, no less.”
“Indeed? Well, I suppose we have hosted hereditary kings of Bohemia in Baker Street before, but what did this illustrious client want with you?”
“A trifling, if puzzling, business of persecution. He arrived in the town of Whitby on the Yorkshire coast some weeks back and was immediately set upon by a ragtag band made up of a wild frontiersman, an asylum physician and the eldest son of one of our noble families.”
“Good God, what had the man done to attract the hostility of such an unlikely crew?”
“That is somewhat unclear,” said the detective. “He is a foreigner, of course, and that may have been against him from the first. The Count is of the opinion that, as dangerous as these men are, their leader poses a far greater threat to his safety.”
“Who is this other man?”
“A Dutch professor with a very particular idée fixe that borders upon insanity. He is, however, a brilliant fellow with half the letters in the alphabet after his name. This obsession with the Count and his ‘kind’, as the Professor in his narrow-mindedness might term them, has diverted him from his true calling as an expert in obscure diseases.”
“Prejudice is a horrid thing,” I said shortly.
“Indeed. There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop some unsightly eccentricity. You will often see it in humans.” At that last word an uncharacteristic expression of condescension passed across my friend’s features; a certain aloof inhumanity which chilled me strangely. “Whatever the cause,” he continued, “the man has begun to go wrong.”
“Well, it seems a most interesting case,” I ventured.
Holmes smiled, and in that instant I had the uncanny impression that his teeth, particularly the canines, were of a peculiarly pointed, I might even say feral, appearance. In all the chronicles I had made of our adventures together, of all the sketches of his person contained therein, I had not remarked upon, for I did not remember ever observing, this singular feature before.
“Interesting indeed,” Holmes nodded, “though I remain sanguine as to the problems the mystery presents.”
“Well then,” said I, “shall I leave you to ruminate upon it?”
“No, Watson. I should like you to stay and give me your assistance in certain matters.”
Holmes’ eyes glowed with a sudden fire and he rose and slipped across the hearthrug. Within three steps he was at the door of our Baker Street sitting room, turning the key in the lock. Then he spun round and, fixing me with that peculiar smile, he said:
“Indeed, I fully expect this to be a three pint problem…”
With sincere apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Bram Stoker!