Read The Curse Of The Diogenes Club Online

Authors: Anna Lord

Tags: #murder, #london, #bomb, #sherlock, #turkish bath, #pall mall, #matryoshka, #mycroft

The Curse Of The Diogenes Club (8 page)

BOOK: The Curse Of The Diogenes Club
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With no thought for their own
safety, Nash and Moriarty, rushed inside the pavilion and began
clearing away heavy timbers, mostly from the shattered staircase,
and chunks of ceiling plaster that blocked the exit. Captain
Thompson, having raced across from the stable block, joined them.
He began directing his men to assist the injured, the elderly, and
those in shock.

It was a credit to the Prince
of Wales that, suffering only minor abrasions, he refused to be
whisked away to safety. His natural warmth and bonhomie went a long
way to calming nerves and restoring order.

The Princess of Wales, who had
been in the cloak room, and suffered only a few scratches, likewise
refused to leave without her husband. She organized a line of older
ladies to make bandages out of torn petticoats, and a younger group
to bandage wounds and staunch bleeding. Miss de Merville was among
this second group, her indomitable spirit acting as an example to
others who might have been squeamish at the sight of so much
blood.

Mrs Klein, looking fiercely
magnificent in her Valkyrie costume, rallied any man who might
otherwise have given into fear. Before long she had a conga line of
men relaying buckets of water from the lake up to the pavilion to
help put out spot fires.

Fireworks continued to boom and
blaze luridly across the cold black sky and most people didn’t know
whether the glorious unreality of it all was a dream or a
nightmare.

Nash and Moriarty began the
search for the Countess. She wasn’t among the injured on the lawn.
The serious casualties had been taken to the guardroom. The dead
had been taken to the stable block. Moriarty checked the former;
Nash the latter. Fearing the worst, they met up ten minutes later
at the front of the pavilion.

Nash’s voice crackled with
indignation. “She’s not in the stable. The tack room is empty – was
the pirate one of your so-called friends?”

Moriarty summoned all his
willpower and ignored the accusation; his tone was tense and
strained and hanging by a thread. “She’s not in the guardroom
either and I swear I have no idea who that pirate was. I saw him
earlier and tried to follow him but he gave me the slip. Do you
think he’s our bomb man?”

With his mind now splintering
off in a hundred different directions like those fireworks, Major
Nash was about to reply when he remembered he hadn’t seen Mycroft
Holmes all night and that the first bomb had taken off the roof of
a dome near to where he was holed up. “I have to check something,”
he said urgently, berating himself for getting sucked into a duel
with Jim when he had more important things to do. “Find that
fucking pirate!”

Major Nash ran back inside the
pavilion, crossed the foyer, hurdled chunks of plaster and
fragments of wood, crunched broken glass in the ballroom, and raced
straight up the staircase at the far end of the dance floor.

Moriarty wondered where to
start looking. If the pirate was the bomb man he would be long gone
by now unless he was setting off a second round of bombs inside the
pavilion. He raced back inside in time to see the major mounting
the stairs like a man on a mission and decided to follow.

Major Nash reached the top of
the stairs and disappeared behind a red velvet curtain. Moriarty
presumed the curtain hid a broom cupboard. He hadn’t seen anyone
going that way all night. Behind the curtain was a narrow, dimly
lit passage. At the end of the passage was a door that appeared to
be locked from the inside.

Moriarty watched the major draw
his weapon, shoot the lock off and use his boot to kick the door
in. The action had been bold and deft. Moriarty had clearly
underestimated his rival; all those apocryphal stories about
Khartoum and the Suez came back to him. Nash was no paper-shuffler
in the War Office.

What the major expected to find
inside the room intrigued Moriarty no end. He crept down the
passage, pressed himself against the wall in order to listen, and
got the shock of his life when he heard the voice of the
Countess.

5
The Holmes
Boys

 

“Major Nash!” she gasped when
he burst into the room.

Ready to blow someone’s head
off, the major didn’t really know what to expect when he kicked the
door in – so many different and dangerous scenarios had flitted
through his head as he bolted up the stairs - but the sight that
greeted him left him feeling punch-drunk.

Mycroft Holmes was seated in a
wing chair, a cigar in one hand and a glass of port in the other,
acting as if nothing untoward had happened, yet shards of glass
littered the floor. Discounting the broken windows and the smashed
door, the room was otherwise intact.

Seated opposite him in a
matching wing chair was Dr Watson wearing a Musketeer outfit; the
same one that had adorned Moriarty at the start of the ball. The
doctor appeared a little groggy, most likely from the after-effects
of the sedative.

Standing behind Dr Watson’s
chair was the Countess. Her kokoshnik was in place but her hair was
mussed and her snow-white gown was blood splattered, but she was in
one piece. Thank heaven! She was holding a muff pistol which was
aimed straight at his heart.

But it was the sight of the
fourth person in the room that disturbed him the greatest. It was
the nefarious pirate with the
queer
weapons. With both
firearms trained his way, the man was a frightening sight to
behold.

“Does your ADC always enter a
room with such bravado? Really, Mycroft, you should teach him to
knock?”

Mycroft rolled his eyes. “Come
in Nash. Ignore my brother. What took you so long? I was expecting
you half an hour ago.”

Major Nash was still gathering
his wits about him and it was impossible to tear his eyes away from
the bizarre-looking pirate, though the man had thankfully lowered
the twin flintlock firearms. So that was the famous Mr Sherlock
Holmes in one of his masterful disguises. The major would have
laughed but he still wasn’t sure what was going on.

“How did you get away from the
tack room?” he asked straight up.

“Child’s play!” said the
younger Mr Holmes. “Once the first bomb went off and the guards ran
to see what was happening I was able to loosen the bonds they used
to secure me to a post. They don’t teach men to tie proper knots
any more. And a hook is not a hand but a very handy tool.” He
demonstrated how the hook resting on the table simply sat inside
his sleeve. “It was easy to slip off the hook and loosen the knots.
Child’s play, as I said!”

“May I look at your
firearms?”

“No, you may not. You might
hurt yourself. They have been modified to fire darts. Some are
quite lethal. Curare. Others will simply put you to sleep for a
while.”

“Stop showing off, Sherlock,”
reprimanded Mycroft. “I want to hear what Nash has to say. Has the
bomb man been apprehended?”

“No, sir, I suspected the other
Mr Holmes.”

Sherlock laughed richly before
switching to serious. “What was happening in the Copper Beech wood?
As I was being escorted to the stable I saw you and several others
heading that way. I believe it was Damery and Moriarty. Who else
was there?”

“General de Merville, Prince
Sergei and Mr Blague.”

“What were the six of you doing
by the lake?” pursued Mycroft tetchily.

“Having a duel, sir.”

“A duel!” laughed Sherlock,
clearly enjoying himself. “This is turning into a night to
remember! Last Night Forever, indeed! And who were the duellists,
Major Nash?”

Major Nash winced. “Colonel
Moriarty and myself.”

A tremolando in the Countess’s
normally confident tone betrayed how much she cared for the
Irishman. “Since you are here and in one piece, Major Nash, are we
to assume that Colonel Moriarty has been fatally wounded?”

“No, the first bomb went off
just as we were preparing to fire. The colonel is currently
searching for the pirate.” He decided to change the subject lest
his emotions betray him. “How are you feeling, Dr Watson?”

“Recovering slowly.”

“Can you recall what caused you
to tumble down the stairs?”

“Yes, I believe someone
deliberately tripped me. I was searching for you, Major Nash. I
thought the pirate looked fishy and I noticed Colonel Moriarty
rushing about as if he was up to no good. I wanted to report them
to you at once.”

“You didn’t see who tripped
you?”

Dr Watson shook his head
glumly. “I thought I recognized a face but the vision is hazy. It
may come back to me as the sedative wears off. I believe I have you
to thank for the medical attention and care I received whilst
recovering.”

Nash grimaced at the undue
praise. He looked squarely at Mycroft. “I shirked my duty tonight,
sir. I ignored my orders. I abandoned my post. All I can say in my
defence is that at least the Prince of Wales is uninjured and the
casualties appear to be at a minimum.”

Sherlock scratched an itch
behind the piratical eye-patch before replacing it. “Of course the
Prince of Wales is uninjured and the casualties minimal. The
intended target was my brother.”

Shock was still coursing
through everyone’s veins and now here came a fresh wave. All eyes
turned to Sherlock.

“Explain yourself,” said
Mycroft sternly.

“It is elementary. The first
bomb in the dome at the far end of the pavilion was intended to
create a spectacle. Nothing more. The second bomb at the opposite
end likewise. They were intended to make sure everyone ran for
their lives out of the building as fast as they could go through
the dozens of French doors leading from the ballroom and the
banqueting rooms.

The bomb in the foyer was a
little more serious but the bomb went off under the stairs. It
demolished the staircase but the timbers actually served to smother
what could have been far worse destruction. The solid marble
columns that underpin the dome room easily withstood the blast.
Ceiling plaster caved in and the studio being used by the
photographer was mildly destroyed by the upward force of the blast
but the photographer was fortunately not in his studio.

Most of the injuries tonight
are due to fragments of broken glass; an unavoidable hazard of
bombs. The third bomb was the serious one and yet few people were
killed. The only people killed outright were those on the stairs;
an unavoidable consequence of bad timing. Had my brother chosen to
occupy the larger sitting room above the foyer which he chose to
make available to the photographer at the last minute because of
its proximity to the stairs he would now be plastered to the top of
a Mughal dome. The last minute decision to take the smaller sitting
room, the room we currently occupy, saved his life.

Now, what sort of bomb man
plants three bombs at a royal ball-cum-banquet and omits the
ballrooms and the banqueting rooms? And why place the third bomb
under the stairs where it will do the least damage? Either he is
the clumsiest and stupidest bomb man in existence or the intended
target was my brother and the third bomb, intended to destroy the
studio, was moved at the last minute.

I believe this to be the case
because I recall seeing the folding Kodak camera sitting on the
hall table that centred the foyer where a large urn was filled with
Christmas lilies. I think it probable that someone inadvertently
picked up that camera and moved it to the cupboard under the stairs
just prior to the fireworks. It may have been the studio
photographer who was on his way to the veranda and decided to do
his fellow photographer a favour – saving the camera from being
tampered with, damaged, or even stolen.

We may never know who moved
that camera but if it had remained on the table I feel certain it
would have blown a massive hole in the ceiling and destroyed the
studio above - the room my brother was intending to occupy.”

The Countess replaced her muff
pistol in a hidden pocket of her gown. “I recall seeing the Kodak
camera on the table as I was preparing to collect my cloak prior to
the fireworks, but are you saying the bomb man wanted to injure the
fewest number of the guests possible?”

“Yes, and what does that tell
you?”

She didn’t need to think for
long. “The bomb man was the photographer, but the man behind the
bomb man was not a saboteur, not a foreign agent, no an
anti-monarchist, not a Fenian. He was probably a guest.”

Sherlock smiled proudly at her
reasoning as he moved to the door. “Excellent deduction, my dear.”
He raised his voice several decibels. “You may come in now Colonel
Moriarty. Please feel free to join us.”

The colonel entered looking as
stunned as the others, and not a little sheepish. How the hell Mr
Sherlock Holmes knew he was in the corridor was one of those
mysteries that were never likely to be explained.

“No need for the gun,” said
Sherlock pleasantly. “You are among friends.”

Reluctantly, Colonel Moriarty
rehoused his weapon, daring Major Nash to do likewise with a
fiercely challenging look. With equal reluctance, the latter
followed suit.

Irish eyes scanned the room,
sizing things up – there was the brother of Mr Sherlock Holmes,
presiding in a wing chair. He was clearly the man whom Nash worked
for, but it made no sense. Mycroft Holmes was the President of the
Diogenes Club. He was highly respected, but he was no high
government official. Oh, hang on! Bloody good cover for the Secret
Service! No wonder the club was impossible to get into and
membership restricted to one or two men per annum.

There was Dr Watson looking
battered and bruised. He wanted to apologise for stealing the
doctor’s kilt but he couldn’t find the right words. He would make
it up to him later.

His eyes met the Countess and
one look told him everything he needed to know. She was relieved he
wasn’t dead. That meant she hadn’t betrayed him to Nash. But even
if she had – it was the reason he was still breathing. If he had
stayed in the dome room they would have been scraping him off the
Mughal roof.

BOOK: The Curse Of The Diogenes Club
7.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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