Dinner and Death at the Club |
The Journal of Sherlock Holmes Esq.
Inspector Lestrade flashed his warrant card at a passing Hackney and pressured the cabbie into taking us to the Diogenes Club. Spurred on by the promise of a mention in The Police Gazette, the man completed the journey in less than five minutes.
‘What are we going to do when we get inside?’ said Mary, as I assisted her onto the pavement.
‘Haven’t the foggiest,’ I said. We ran up the steps to the front doors, where the doorman seemed about to bar our way. On recognising my distinguished features, he grinned.
‘Evening, Mr Holmes. Will you be joining your brother for dinner?’
‘That’s right, Clacker.’
He blinked and muttered, ‘It’s Clackett, sir.’
‘Of course it is. Now, I suppose there won’t be any trouble signing in my friends, here?’
The doorman cast an eye at Mary as I pushed her through the doorway.
‘You do know ladies aren’t allowed in the Diogenes, don’t you, sir?’
I coughed. ‘Course I do, but as we are attempting to prevent a master criminal from taking over Londen, I’m sure you can make an exception.’
His eyes widened and he leaned closer. ‘Who is it, sir, Moriarty of Moran?’
‘Oh, fuck. He’s a proper bad ‘un, that one. Tell you what—I did a bit of time in Wormwood Scrubs before landing this job, so if you need a good bloke with a cosh, just tip me the wink.’
‘I’m obliged, Clackett, but I think we’ll need more than a cosh on this occasion.’
‘You’d better have this for the lady,’ he said, dipping a hand into his outer pocket.
Taking the necktie from him, I nodded my thanks and followed the others into the foyer. Lifting Mary’s collar, I fashioned a quick Half-Windsor knot. ‘Remember, talking isn’t allowed in the Club except in the dining room.’
Hurrying up the stairs, I wrote a note for the attendant that we were guests of Mycroft Holmes. While he scribbled a reply, I took the opportunity to whisper a final instruction to my companions.
‘Whatever Blackwood’s got planned, he’ll expect us to try to stop him, so keep a sharp eye out for anything suspicious.’
‘Would help if we had weapons, Holmes,’ whispered Lestrade.
‘We do have weapons,’ I whispered back. ‘They’re just not loaded.’
As soon as I opened the door to the dining room, my heart sank. The place was packed to the rafters. All eyes turned towards us as we made our way into the centre of the room, where I spied Mycroft sitting with the American and Russian ambassadors. My brother gave me one of his For-Fuck’s-Sake looks and stood up as we approached. The table had been set for four, so I clicked my fingers at one of the waiters and indicated our need for three more chairs.
‘Sherlock, how good of you to come,’ said the elder Holmes, glancing at Watson and Lestrade. When he caught sight of Mary, however, his mouth dropped open. ‘Ahm, yes. Inspector Lestrade, Doctor and…Mr Watson. May I introduce Ambassador Slobinov of Moscow, and Ambassador Diddlysqit of Washington.
The two representatives stood and bowed, and we all shook hands, apart from Mary, who curtsied, blushed and then looked at her feet.
Two waiters brought the additional chairs and managed to squeeze all seven of us into spaces around a table meant for four.
As the general hum of conversation returned to the room, I scanned the faces of our fellow diners. Most were not members and had likely come along in the hope of insinuating themselves into the good books of one of the ambassadorial guests, while the others were the usual bunch of indolent politicians and greedy industrialists—in other words, the cream of the upper classes. At one end of the room, I noticed a small stage.
‘Are there to be speeches?’ I said to Mycroft.
‘Indeed.’ He nodded to the ambassadors. ‘Following our meeting, I’ve arranged an after-dinner speaker. To lighten the mood.’
‘Anyone we know?’
Mycroft gave a little shrug. ‘Just some chappie from the Londen School of Economics. Professor…’ He frowned, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small card. ‘Professor H. Ppolk. With two ‘p’s.’ He paused. ‘Are you all right, Sherlock? You’ve gone rather pale.’
Leaning towards him, I whispered in his ear. ‘It’s Klopp, you cretin. Professor Helga Klopp.’
He laughed. ‘I don’t think so, Sherlock. As you told me yourself, she died on Huge Island. Besides, women aren’t allowed in the Diogenes Club.’ Glancing at Mary, he coughed. ‘Usually.’
John tapped my leg. ‘Holmes, I think we ought to check out the backstage area.’
‘Good idea, Watson, except there isn’t a backstage area. Only toilets, the kitchens and a guest bedroom.’
‘In that case I suggest we check out the toilets, the kitchens and the guest bedroom.’
Mycroft sighed loudly. ‘Sherlock, I realise it’s a lot to ask, but d’you think you could possibly pay attention while I outline our government’s proposals with our guests?’ He indicated the two ambassadors, who by now were becoming restless.
‘Is it a matter of life or death?’
‘No, little brother, but it is a matter of national security and I’d appreciate your input.’
I smiled politely at the ambassadors, then turned back to Mycroft. ‘Lord Henry Blackwood is alive and well and almost certainly planning to kill everyone here. If we don’t stop him, national security will be the least of your problems.’
‘Ah. I see. In that case, is there anything I can do to help?’
‘Keep the ambassadors talking. If they’re seen leaving, Blackwood may do something drastic. Nevertheless, if anything untoward occurs before I return, I suggest you exit the building with all speed.’
I signalled to the Watsons and Lestrade and we removed ourselves from the table and made our way to a door at the far end of the room. Closing it behind me, I glanced around. We were in a hallway with several doors leading to the aforementioned toilets, kitchens and guest bedroom.
‘What’s the plan, Holmes?’ said Watson.
‘The guest speaker is Helga Klopp. I expect her speech will be used as a distraction while Blackwood carries out his evil deeds.’
‘And do we know what those evil deeds involve?’ said Mary.
‘No, which is why we need to find him. Lestrade, you come with me. Watsons, check the toilets and kitchens. Meet back here in five minutes.’
Quite what we would do when we located the criminal mastermind and his villainous gang, I had no idea, but I did know we had no choice but to try.