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Mark One

The Heeled Jackal

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Mark One

John had gained a few hours rest after reading the letter that he had found inside of the poor quality envelope. It still seemed rather odd though, even for Holmes it was a first – a clear and concise note with instructions! Was Holmes toying with him in his absence?, he thought to himself as he finished his shave and then headed downstairs to prepare a meal. Within less than a hour John was sat in his kitchen eating an afternoon meal that consisted of boiled potatoes and three sausages with a generous helping of mustard by their side. With each fork full of food Johns mood slowly lifted and began to overcome the minor shivers and occasional sneeze that hounded him. Feeling refreshed and better in himself after his meal led him back to his drawing office where he poured himself a glass of sherry. He sat in his favourite chair, lit a cigar and then produced the note from his trouser pocket. He studied its meaning and still wondered what Holmes was up to this time.

Within a highly crafted room that was as large as an house in its own right sat a middle aged man of high class. A man of great wealth who was dressed in a charcoal grey three piece suit with a emerald green tie and matching pocket square. He was sat by a grand looking hexagonal ivory table that was adorned with one elegant looking royal blue vase that contained Red Dog roses. The gentleman was obviously waiting for something as he took in the rich oil paintings of his ancestors that filled the tall wooden walls around him. A loud chime filled the room as the grandfather clock struck 5pm. Lord Mundford caressed his greying, bushy side burns and produced a slight smile as a knocking sound came from two distant white doors. Lord Mundford produced a small bell from his breast pocket and gave it a slight ring. From behind him was a single door that opened by the side of his grand marble fireplace. Out came the Lords butler Simmons, a slim looking fellow in crisp black clothing who was then followed out by two tall and muscular looking men dressed in a slate grey style uniform. Each headed towards their Lord and took up position behind him as Simmons continued onwards towards the two white doors. Once he had arrived before the doors he paused and waited. His master then rang the bell one more time before Simmons was allowed to open the doors. A usher who was stood to attention introduced the Lords visitor to Simmons who then in turn returned to his Master and informed him who was here. Mundford nodded and Simmons walked back to the usher and his lords visitor.

Mundfords two guards stood tall and to attention as they revealed grey coloured crossbows from under their cloaks. Both men held their lightweight weapons with both hands against their chests and were ready to them if needed. The two white doors closed and Simmons led his masters visitor towards the ivory table. The lord and gestured with a smile for his visitor to be seated, “Ah, Mr Sebastian Barnabas Ruins I hear good things about you sir, please take a seat.” Ruiner, who had earlier scrubbed himself up and been given a new and expensive set of clothing to wear hastily obliged the Lord who was now ringing his bell again. “Simmons, I feel now is the time for some afternoon refreshments.”, as he glanced over to his guest with a warm smile. Ruiner forced a slight smile and a nod before eyeing up the two men behind his Lordship – both of whom eyed the guest with cruel intention. Mundford leaned towards Ruiner as they waited, “You collected our booty dear fellow, every single piece indeed. Good show Ruins, I see greater things for a man like you.” Ruiner cleared his throat, “Thank you my lord. It is always a tremendous honour to serve under you.” Mundford seemed pleased by these words, “Indeed, indeed. A man with your skills is a rare thing indeed...Ah, Simmons at last. Fill a plate for our most welcome of guests.” Simmons placed two triangular sandwiches, some grapes and various cheeses on a plate that Ruiner assumed was worth more than a month of his wages. The Lord waited until his guests plate was in front of him before instructing Simmons on what he preferred for his meal. This was something that always worried Ruiner about his Lordship. For there had been stories of poisonings and other so called accidents in this room. He began to wonder if something on his plate was intended to do him harm. “Now my dear fellow, please eat your meal. Simmons bring us both tea and some of my fine sherry man!” Ruiner tucked into one of the sandwiches which carried the tastes of butter mixed with salmon. “Freshly caught from my own Salmon Farm. Please do tell me how they taste.”, came Munfords intriguing question.

After a meal that seemed to have lasted forever Mundford ordered Simmons to take the leftovers away and more sherry was poured into both glasses. “Now, our bellies be full sir and our heads merrier I hope.”, joked Mundford as Ruiner forced a humoured smile. Mundford produced a cigarette from his gold case and offered one to his guest who knew not to refuse. Simmons returned with haste and just in time to light his masters cigarette. He then moved towards Ruiner and lit his too. “Thank you Simmons. That shall be all.” came Munfords stern instruction as the butler quickly left them alone. The lord then returned his vison back on Ruiner who kept glancing at the armed guard with disdain. “Oh of course! My men Ruins. I totally forgot about them both.” Mundford turned his head slightly to his right and with a dark,cruel tone ordered, “Leave us!” Both men gave Ruiner one last look before departing via the single door next to the fire. Mundford looked pleased as he clapped his long and pointed hands, “Good. Now I wish to discuss a new assignment with you Ruins. One that shall require you and only two of your best men. A job that will see you and your two accomplices placed in good lodgings, wearing the best clothes and living the life of a upper class gentleman.” Ruiner replied, “But of course my Lord for I shall always obey your command.” Mundford smiled and nodded, “Your to go to Wales Ruins and assassinate a man for me... an irritating swine called Mr Sherlock Holmes. His meddling in several of my affairs must be stopped.”

Edited by Mark One
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Mark One

John was reading his slightly damp, copy of the Daily Herald. On its front cover came the headline which read; Moor Street Massacre. The news didnt reveal much more than John had witnessed himself but the reports of figures and lights I the air and on roofs caught his interest. After reading this and debating in his head what this all meant he poured himself a brandy and turned his attention to the 3rd page crossword. Within a hour John was snoring, asleep in his chair.

Ruiner was more alert and interested now as he took in another sip from his brandy glass,. His demeanour began glow with welcome interest. The lord was discussing with him someone who had interfered with his own plans and missions many times in the past. Ruiner thought to himself just how close Mr Holmes had been to a bullet or the knife, but alas – without permission you cannot kill, the Order has to sanction this first. So naturally Ruiner was now tingling inside with excitement. To finally have the go ahead...to kill the world famous detective...I would soon become even more feared amongst the ranks and gain promotion, he thought to himself. Mundford was stood by a window, taking in the snowy vista outdoors with a content look upon his face. “Ruins, there are of course conditions.” Ruiner leaned forward in his seat like a eager puppy to his master and softly asked, “My Lord?” Mundford touched the cold window glass and drew shapes as he continued, “I suspect that Mr Holmes has upon his person one of the artefacts we are so eager to collect Ruins. Claim this for me and then hold Mr Holmes in a dark and dire place. Keep him alive and await my further instructions. Is this understood Ruins?” Mundford turned from his window etchings and gave Ruiner a serious stare as he awaited an answer. “Yes my Lord”, came Ruiners abrupt and sincere reply. With this the Lord produced his signalling bell and gave Ruiner a look – the type in which one expected you to stand. Ruiner looked away and stood as a solemn looking Simmons emerged from his hideaway flanked by the two armed guards. In is hands he carried a highly polished redwood case which he passed to Ruiner with a hand gesture that suggested to Ruiner that he should follow the butler. As Ruiner passed through the white, oak doors Mundofrds voice warned, “Dont fail me Ruins! Capture him, follow my instructions and then I`ll leave his terminal fate in your hands!” Ruiner turned with an intention to nod but was met with the two doors closing in his face.

The light had all but gone, there was now no hope on this night. Everywhere was now conquered with wind given mists of ice cold snow. Only the need for drink or vengeance could lure the foolish into its freezing grip. One lonesome figure coughed and moaned his way through the blizzards, his destination was home after a long day doing errands. The small and stout figure known locally as Wilf the Wanderer, looked both in shape and his weathered appearance like an undersized troll. His rough sounding voice only added to this impression as did his thick set of drab coloured clothes. He scared local children with his appearance but folk in these parts knew he was an harmless soul at heart. He was a man who had spent most of his life out at sea aboard his outdated Blackwell Frigate, The Mary Lee. His beloved frigate had been lost one morning under suspicious circumstances involving a ball of light and fire. Having survived the disaster he was left with little choice but to return to his routes in London. Here he lived and survived upon what he could get, often carrying out errands for others – hence his nick-name. The snow continued its onslaught as wandering Wilf made his way and at some points, ploughed his way through the deepening snow. His mind raced ahead of him in the direction of his narrow-boat which was moored nearby, along the snow and ice covered waters of Paddington Canal. His thoughts returned to his flock of tame budgerigars, caged near to the boiler inside his boat. Images of his chattery companions filled his mind and warmed his heart Wilf also thought about the man who had called very early this morning. A tall man in fine winter dress who held tightly onto his elegant looking cane. A well spoken gentleman who had kindness in his eyes and trust in his smile. He had offered Wilf a job and an easy one at that, to deliver a letter. As Wilf considered the offer a small pouch that contained coins was passed to him with the gentleman's promise that he would double the payment in 6 days time. Wilf was confused by this but quickly accepted the simple task. The unexpected and out of place visitor spoke little of his business but he had mentioned Raffles Circus being linked to his business plans. The said Circus was indeed in town but was soon to head west – the weather allowing. As Wilf boarded his stone cold boat and looked worriedly for slippery ice, he did wonder if he would see the man again and more specifically the extra payment. Its then that he found what looked like a small note folded in two. It had been shoved partially under the entrance to Wilfs warm and snug living quarters.

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Mark One

As distant church bells rang in eight-o-clock the purple clad coachman sighed with relief. He had made his destination on time, even if his team of four bay horses were on the brink of exhaustion. Their warn chestnut coats gleamed in the moon light as their muzzles oozed warm breath into the cold nights air. The half red and half blue coloured coach raced along Victoria's Bridge whilst the waters below remained still with ice and the settling snow. After what seemed like hours of endless snow covered tracks and hedgerows was the warm and inviting night life of Windsor. As the coachman looked onwards with delight he spied an endless array of lit windows that signalled the arrival of warmth, food and ale. The five passengers inside the coach looked more lively now in seeing the inviting sights around them. Mr Prince, a small build of a man who was dressed in a a mix of well worn unmatching colours cleared the condensation away from his door window. “By heck were here, and about bloody time to!”, he expressed with a pleasant look upon his face. Prince turned to his fellow passenger, a tall man dressed in fine, dark clothing and a top hat. From hisfingers came a spent cigarette that bellowed out the last of its fill. Prince had observed through his profession as a journalist that this elegant and private fellow next to him reminded him of someone. He had spent the journey trying to recall who this man may be and had on several occasions tried to coax information out of his target. Yet all of his skills had failed on this man who had an almost spooky way of knowing what Prince was going to ask next. Even now the quiet man sat next to him seemed to pay no attention to his excitement, and continued to read his copy of the Times. The couple sat across from Prince who he had learned were visiting relations in Windsor gathered their belongings and also ignored the undercover journalist. The final passenger who was sat directly across from Prince was also dressed in expensive looking clothing. The hooked nose and moustached features of his face gave Prince an uninterested nod before his eyes returned to Princes companion. Prince observed this gentleman's cane and its attractive solid silver mount that one leather gloved hand caressed with devotion. Soon the sights outside included fine looking buildings, lit lampposts and the occasional pedestrian or policeman. The aromas of roasted chestnuts and cooked pies filtered its way inside the coach, something that made Prince hungry. “So! Whose off first then?”, came his interested enquiry. To his surprise came a soft reply, from Mr Chalks wife, “We are to depart shortly Mr Prince, along Monstrose Row.” “Caw blimey, Mrs Chalk Ive heard of that gaff. Never had enough doh to visit its delights mind...very nice, yeh very delitefall indeed madam” Mr Chalk gave his wife a slight nudge and coughed to silence her as he looked towards Prince and let out a strained smile.

Soon after the Chalks departure Prince was amused by what had occurred, A situation that involved snow and early departures. Mr Chalk had been most enraged by the premature drop off, but little could have been done for the weather had produced its own problems. Mr Prince smiled to himself and took in the other two passengers who were now strangely aware of one another. The intrigued nosey parker took this opportunity to open up his last two targets. What he got by their silence was a sinister feeling that left him uneasy and made him long for his bunk this night. As he turned his attention toward the window his fellow passenger infront of him took a quick drink from a hip flask. Prince then saw this quiet and mysterious man pass it to him, he took it without question. Prince took a generous swig of the offering, a most potent brand of bourbon that tingled in his mouth with a mysterious after taste that puzzled him. He held his chest with one outstretched palm as the heat inducing drink went down his throat and then produced a violent cough which embarrassed him. He rubbed his lips and forced a smile as his outstretched arm passed back the hip flask which was quickly snatched from his grasp. “Well...thanks, that hit the...”, he paused, the lights outdoors began to vibrate as his ankles and knees tingled. He firmly rested his palms over his knees in an attempt to remain seated as the floor buckled and bumped, the sensation in his legs felt like pins and needles. Princes appearance looked confused, he began to blush, his heart rate increased as he felt sweat forming along his back and forehead. The image of the man sat across from him became blurred, Prince blinked as he felt compelled to lean forward. He turned to his seated companion and tried to utter words. Prince suddenly felt numb, his sight was lost, sounds made no sense and his mind nolonger cared. His world then moved around him with soft puzzled thuds that echoed inside his head. He wondered where he was now as he struggled to see what appeared like shoes in front of him and raised voices. As his glazed stare took this in his head and mind tingled itself into darkness.

Prince came around from his confused dream state outdoors and in the arms of the coachman and his aid. They coaxed him awake with his luggage in the cold open air as he struggled to regain his stance. “Mr Prince you have arrived. Mr Prince? Wake up....”, came the coachman's sarcastic words. Prince stood with support and spoke of his last memories as his head spun in the open air, “Are they fine?....Where are they...the coach hit summit....” The reply that came puzzled his mangled mind, “The two gentleman departed some 15 minutes before you Mr Prince, its the snow see, we had to take diversions. Lets get you into your lodgings sir.” Prince was held and dragged into the Bullman Inn, a place that suited his appearance.

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Mark One

The gentleman who owned the top hat was now dressed in more formal clothing as he tucked into a late meal within the bar area of his hotel. His supper comprised of pork pie, wholemeal bread with butter and a selection of fruits and cheeses. He took out his handkerchief and carefully rubbed his lips as his suspicious eyes glanced around the room. He knew that the crooked nosed man had followed him in and booked a room, but who was he? Around him were the expected clientele. A giggling young woman dressed in fine looking silks who was glued to a stout looking man almost twice her age. A slim man dressed in well worn clothes, even his boots looked old as he leaned against the bar with a glass of gin, shaking in his weathered hands. Sat not far from him was an elderly man who wore clothing associated with people of scientific professions, in his grasp was a thick tome of some importance. After a sip of his fine sherry the man who had signed in under the name Harding, spied a new comer approaching the bar. It was the same man sat inside the coach, he thought to himself as he worriedly bit into a slice of the bread. The suspicious man at the bar was indeed the same man, dressed now in a brown pin striped suit – his cane seemed absent. Harding turned his attention back to his meal and wondered where the man was who had made this appointment to meet him here – so far from his home.

Raffles Circus was always a popular distraction for the folk of London, especially at Christmas. It offered affordable entertainment, good food and eye catching gifts that kept many a child in their place. Another reason for its popularity was the temporary employment on offer. Locals could if they so wished join the circus and get payed good money in exchange for litter picking, supplying grain, forming patrols, applying their trades and if you were skilled – become part of an act on show to the public. The latter was a rare thing indeed, if this was your goal then your act or profession would have to be extraordinarily unique. The latest applicant looked untidy and lacked the outward appeal expected of a show person. Iris Trotter saw the Circus as an escape, a new mask for her to hide behind. The pay on offer wasn't great for she was on trial after all, not that this bothered her. A warm bunk, fresh cleaning facilities and three square meals a day seemed like paradise compared to her previous living conditions. It was getting late, but such times are usually the only opportunity one as to practice their act. She had been instantly drawn to the trapeze act and similar performances that required a good head for heights. For the last hour she had been easily making impressive use of what onlookers used daily. Indeed, a small group had formed that included the Capataines, the family who took part in and over saw such acts. Celina Capataine applauded with heightened emotion as her husband Alfredo simply stood, nodded and smiled with respect. He turned towards a man who approached from the shaded area of the canvass. The stranger approached the small gathering with a care for the shadows and gestured for them to leave, which they did with pleased looks upon their faces. Once the ring was empty the man in his woven evening coat clapped with leather gloved hands. Iris had of course noticed the recent departure and found her way to a post were she now stood high above, spying this solitary figure who looked up towards her. This made her feel nervous, never before had she been noticed from below but here she kept her composure and was ready to flee if needed. The small,ant sized man below here raised his voice, “Fine Lady...from which Circus did you spawn?...bravo,bravo...I wish to discuss your talents...” Iris blushed and looked away with a warmed smile. The charming ant below her introduced himself, “Forgive me madam! For where are my manners! I am Mr Mordecai Sherwin Shacklock, Senior shareholder. I am at your service and wish to welcome you to Raffles Circus.” Upon hearing this Iris wriggled with blushes and for once in her life actually felt amazing,

Harding had finished his meal and lacked drink with which to bide his time. His shadow was still sat by the bar in mid conversation with a newcomer who dressed less pleasing to the eye. Harding looked for an exit to evade his worries and one that would get him to his room with safety. Alas, the only one way to his sanctuary led past those two men. He stood and adjusted his dress before moving away from his problem. He wandered to a nearby mirror and acted with stupidity, deeply taking in the reflection around him. As he adjusted his shirt collar with worry pangs as his eyes tried to catch that not shown. He stopped and stared at his reflection. For a few seconds he stood with relief, the two men had left. He stepped back palmed his clothing and then looked around before briskly heading towards his exit. A servant he passed bid him a good night as he ignored all around him. Harding raced up the curbed stairs and with breath found the third landing. Here he met various suspects that became blurred to his worried vision as he paced to his door. Finally he pressed his sweaty palms against his door. He glanced around with suspicion before wiping his brow and took in deep breath as his heart pounded from his chest. With deep breathing he found his key and forced it into its keep. Once inside with a locked door behind him he fell to the ground with a mix of relief and tension. He suddenly thought of his belongings and stood with haste before rushing to observe all he had brought. All was still there as he got his breath and found himself now sat on his bed for the night. He glanced around and caught the time on a small uninteresting clock that ticked away by his bedside. As his blurred vision motioned along the room he saw a white envelope near the door.

After regaining his sanity, Harding picked up the letter and opened it. The letter read...

Samuel Harding, Meet me upon Victoria Bridge at 6pm.

Yours

Mordecai Sherwin Shacklock

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Mark One

John had awoke to darkness in his arm chair last night and then hurried to his bed where he slept more comfortably. It was 10am, the snow outdoors had ceased sometime in the middle of the night which in turn had left a calmer and brighter sunlit day in its wake. But even the uplifting sun light didn't improve Johns mood. He was stood, half dressed in front of his bedroom mirror with the words of Holmes message ringing in his mind.

Find Raffles Circus tomorrow

The circus in general wasn't something John sought as a form of entertainment. Mixed with the unappealing weather and his cold just made matter worse for him.

Ask for a Mr Mordecai Shacklock at noon

A name John had never heard before just added even more mystery to the matter. What the blast does Sherlock require of me that entails a meeting with a stranger?, he thought to himself as he picked out a deep green patterned tie.

Pay Wilf with a one pound note

This instruction hurt the worst, to give that amount of money to someone who seemed by their name to be a suspicious character. Amidst Johns inner grumblings though came the acknowledgment that there was a method behind his friends peculiar demands. He straightened his tie and turned his attention to a coat, some gloves, a cane and his revolver.

Two deep red coaches that bore the emblem of Lord Mundford pushed their way through the arduous conditions along Londons roads and streets. The one infront was effectively a snow or people plough, for there was no time to waste when carrying out the Lords wishes. The coach that followed it was packed heavily with suit cases and supplies. The coachman had three fierce looking assistants who sat above with him, every part of their bodies accept for their suspicious eyes, covered in thick winter clothing. The three passengers inside sat in far more comfort than they had a couple of nights before. Ruiner now dressed in a middle class suit with a fitting bowler hat was lost in deep thought. From the intelligence given to him by that listless butler was a more fitting image of Holmes. Both Ruiner and his two accomplices now knew a lot about their targets life, his habits/routines, his favorite foods, the preferred choice of clothing and even his middle name plus the address of his parents. Ruiner was eager to get started as another imagined encounter with Holmes filled his thoughts with pleasing ideas.

Harding had rose early and taken a breakfast of two cold boiled eggs from his belongings near dawn. He had quickly left The Hearte And Garter Hotel with haste after last nights confusion and its concerns. He held on tightly to the mid toned sienna leather satchel as he moved along through the morning mists with suspicion in his eyes. The snow made him nervous as its slippery under coating disrupted his intended pace. At times he found himself propelled into the path of others as he, Thankfully, the endless flow of lampposts served as the perfect assistant in keeping him steady. Harding, a man in his mid 50s wasn't a nervous chap by nature, but his reasons for being so far from home had been forced upon him. A favor that was owed had finally been called in. Two days ago a horrid looking, small and untidy man had delivered him a most grubby looking letter. Even more alarming was the question of how that ruffian had made it past Hardings high and chained up iron gates. This was all soon forgotten of cause after he had opened and read the brief instructions folded neatly inside the envelope. A sleuth named Sherlock Holmes demanded a meeting in Windsor, Samuel was to bring with him his sacred copy of the Grimorium Verum. The book itself was one of only 8 hidden originals, that had been patiently written by scribe several centuries ago. The many, expensive copies on offer to the public were an elaborate work of disinformation. The old tome kept hidden inside Hardings satchel was a most potent book of instruction that could achieve wonders, miracles and also horrid, unthinkable things too. Only Sherlock Holmes could part Harding from such a source of unimaginable power – but he was glad to pass it on and wash his hands of it. Harding gingerly continued onwards through the busy and active community of shoppers and opportunists as his memory brought back a depressing memory. A frightful scene formed in his minds eye that was smothered with dense smoke, intense heat and the smells of burning wood. His vision from the past fizzled away as a passing carriage disturbed his focus. Ahead of him he realized that he was now in a place that displayed the very opposite of what he had experienced in the past. A cool mist, cold air and a population that was far from afraid and infact quite content with their unrestricted surroundings. Harding liked this and actually felt relieved as he now made his way amongst and through the busy world that was Windsor.

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Mark One

John peered through the frost covered window as his carriage finally approached Chester Road that was situated within Regents Park. Although his destination was not that far from his house along Chester Gardens, the foul weather had indeed caused problems and made for a most unresting experience. Endless bouts of forced shuffling which in turn led to readjusting ones self added ever increasing annoyance. Then there were the delays along routes where snow, frozen stalls, carts and in some cases dead animals which had resulted in blocked roads and gathering crowds. John Shivered under his thick woolen outer jacket as he reached inside for his cigar case and matches as he waited for the lackluster journey to end. Along Chester road where small pockets of caravans, each releasing small plumes of warm smoke into the misty, cold air. They all had their own unique look and styling, every single one coated with eye catching colours. The ground surrounding them was well trodden with upturned earth and discoloured snow. John caught sight of the occasional donkey or shire horse in the gloomy mist as he moved along. To him it seemed likely that the circus was planning a move and who could blame them after last nights weather and the previous upsets and troubles. His mind struggled even more now with the need to be here as he sneezed and then wiped his nose. The carriage began to slow and slide to its left as the driver scoffed that this was as far as he could go. John grumbled to himself and stepped out into the cold uninviting air. The doubting voice continued, “May I ask yer squire how long yer t be? See its the charring crosses and the flush, sends em brass monkeys if they left idle.” John turned towards the driver with a long deep look of scorn before replying, “I cannot say. May I enquire as to the limit of your stay here?” The stubble ridden face above him paused before answering him, “Maybe quarter of a hour squire, I have some feed to keep em steady. Any longer and Im off.” John looked away and sneezed before returning to face the driver, “I`ll try to be as swift as I can then with my business here. Tell me driver, how do I arrange for another carriage if I return here and find you gone?” The over tired man sat in his wooden seat picked his nose and went into deep thought. “Porters Alley is yer best bet squire, only two streets away near Multan road.” John shrugged his shoulders and shook his head with surrender as he turned away and began his completion of the sodden path that led to his destination.

The air was full of mist and the last desires of many spent fires as wandering figures came and went. It created a most unwelcome look that soured the overall view many accepted when thinking of such places. John took his moss coloured scarf to his mouth as he made his way through this with annoying sensations of both dampness and the cold, clinging air. Ahead he saw the main attraction, its height and its red and white stripes. As John got closer it was obvious no one would expect his arrival so he called out Shacklocks name. He wandered closer and closer to an opening that seemed to be well used with people coming and going. Everyone ignored him, even when he had tapped someone's shoulder they stopped, looked at him with uninterested eyes before moving on. John was beginning to fear this unnatural place and thanked the heavens that it was daylight when he had come. He felt invisible as he stood and watched the `final` performance around him. A most unusual women ventured from the canvas entrance and observed him with question before moving on. John turned to ask her for help but then gave in to such methods, she was soon another phantom that faded into the mists. The circus after all, had a code that related to strangers and it was something that he was quickly realizing. They know your here and like the weather can change and turn upon you...John retreated into the opening and to his surprise found an uplifting temperature that soothed his bothersome cold. As his mind formed images of wolves that lay in wait he saw a well structured collection of bizarre looking men and women who were dismantling equipment and moving items along. John lowered the scarf from his chin and forced out a loud cough before asking for Mr Shacklock. Only one person turned and took an interest in John. A women stopped what she was doing, said something to her colleagues which included several hand gestures and then turned to approach John. He took in her most chilling appearance. She wore a scarlet red corset dress that clung tightly around her slim waist and held her breasts tightly in place. The dress covered her thighs with a mix of red and charcoal pleats that stopped just above her knees. As she got closer, John could tell she was a very attractive looking women. John suddenly lost the grip of his scarf, which then fell down his side. His eyes couldn't believe what he was now seeing – the womens long plats of ginger hair rested gently along her eager looking breasts which cunningly led the eye. Johns mood was picking up or it was until he saw her face – she had a beard!!

John coughed to hide his mix of shock and surprise, wishing he had not drawn attention to himself, he half muttered, "Holmes! What have you got me into this time?". He decided to speak quickly to mask his confused feelings as the lady? met him. “Good day to you mada...my name is Doctor John Watson. I am here to meet with a Mr Mordecai Shacklock!” The soft spoken women before him stood still, eyed him up and then asked, ”Who sent you dear?” The look of surprise in Johns eyes was priceless before he adjusted his facial expression and replied, “Mr Sherlock Holmes has arranged it.” Without saying a word the bearded lady smiled, made a gesture with her forefinger - for John to follow her outside into the gloomy mists. “Your expected Doctor but in the wrong place, follow me sir.” John nodded with a embarrassed smile as his pale cheeks began to change glow, “May I ask you your name?” The slender and most attractive looking figure that led him along chuckled, “Lady Emmaleen, but you can call me Emmy, Doctor.” John muttered some hurried words as they both came across a large and impressive looking caravan. Emmy, turned to John and flicked back her hair before her ginger moustache and beard formed a smile, “Now you wait here dear whilst I announce your arrival.” John nodded with a slight smile. He then glanced around into the gloom with an uneasy smile,prodded his cane into the snowy earth and thought out loud, “The things I do for Queen, country and blasted Sherlock Holmes!”

Edited by Mark One
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Still Waters

The bearded lady - Doctor Watson's reaction when he noticed she had a beard... :lol:

Your story is going well :)

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Mark One

I enjoyed making John feel foolish - he needed it to snap himself out of his moody, sulky outlook :D I almost fancied her myself, that is until like John we got to see the beard- yikes!

He will feel better though soon when he learns about his friend.

Thanks again Still Waters and dont forget to watch The Abominable Bride on new years day.

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Mark One

I spent so much time focusing my energy on Ruiners face that I knew his painting would take months to look perfect. I left it for a week and then returned to it. Well,yes its incomplete, but whats important is this - your drawn to his face behind the newspaper, the eyes - who are they following?

This is my original minds eye impression of him without his cunning, By cunning I refer to how he changes his dialect or appearance when dealing with or obeying superiors. In many ways, Ruiner is the hands on Sherlock that relies on numbers and power behind him before he acts.

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...his newspaper so gently and knew that now was the opportunity he had long foreseen in his calculated mind...

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Mark One

John jumped in his skin as a unseen fed up voice shouted boo before scarpering onwards into the gloom with a much relieved giggle. He composed himself and looked around to make sure no one had seen him, “Bloody clowns... why am I talking to myself?” His distracted concerns were quickly forgotten as he heard a sweet and warm voice softly call out to him. It was the bearded one, he thought to himself as he shuddered inside and openly forced a smile. He nodded to her and ventured over to the doorway where she stood with warm glances. She was leaning towards him, her body revealing all it could as her facial hair displayed a praising smile. John cleared his throat, “Is he ready to meet me...Emmaleen?” She tutted and placed a figure across her hidden smirking lips, “Call me Emmy doctor. Mr Shacklock awaits your arrival, this way kind sir.” John smiled, nodded and ventured inside Shacklocks Caravan. The first thing he noticed was the temperature – most warm and deeply inviting. Following this was the smell of coffee and some kind of stew which made it through his blocked nostrils without a fight. Beef stew, he thought to himself as his belly started to give him signals and suggestions. Images of dumplings, carrots and onions swam together in his minds eye as his natural vision found the old cooking pot that hid its simmering fill of hot broth. “Doctor Watson! Mordecai Shacklock, welcome to my humble abode.”, came voice that then presented an hand. John turned to shake it and replied with similar pleasantries and introductions. The man in-front of John was taller, a youngster in his mid to late twenties and one who clearly didn't originate from the smog filled land of London. He clearly looked after his health and clearly kept himself fit. He wore expressive colours that to John revealed a man with high taste and deep pockets. There was an hint of Italian to his face, his clear green eyes made a perfect marriage with the blemish-less chiselled looks that shaped his face. Even his jet black hair was neatly styled and gave Shacklock the look of a winner.

“I see that you are drawn to my lunch doctor. Come, I shall prepare us both a plate. Please take off your coat and take a seat.” Before John could reply he found his feet leading him towards a finely polished table. Upon it were scatterings of fruit, biscuits, crackers and fine cheeses. He removed his damp coat and to his surprise, found Emmaleen- who he forgotten about – take it away with a crafty wink. To Johns relief she did not return as his host brought a large,thick loaf of bread to the table. “Oh, that carries the smells of freshly baked loaf sir.”, came Johns pleased looking words as it was laid before him and joined with a healthy looking butter dish. Mordecai returned to the stove, “Doctor, please. Mordecai is my name and whilst you are my guest sir, treat all that you see around you as your own. I will have it no other way and will be at peace sir if I can refer to you as, Mr Watson...for you are not my doctor sir.” John admired this young mans spirit and complied as the aspiring chef behind him ladled food onto two plates , “Certainly Mordecai, and you may address me by my christian name, for any acquaintance of Mr Holmes...” Johns words were cut short, “Forgive my interruption Mr Watson but my father taught me to respect my elders.”, a plate of steaming broth was presented in front of him. John shook his head with a smile of respect, “As you wish Mordecai and after all, it seems a shame to waste such time when an appealing meal as this one waits for you.”

“Mr Holmes was correct when he told me to prepare a meal for us both, he even specified the menu and promised me that you would enjoy it Mr Watson.”, came Mordecais hidden look of amazement. John was using the last of his bread to mop up the gravy and one elusive carrot thats days were now finally numbered. “Tell me Mordecai, how long have you been in acquaintance with Mr Holmes?” His host stood and headed towards his compact kitchen, “Mainly from my childhood Mr Watson I suppose. He knew my father, a master Magician who saw people in half and made doves appear within a bloom of smoke. Have you heard of him sir?” John quickly chewed and then swallowed his last mouthful of bread and stew, “Yes, but vaguely Im afraid. His stage name was Darius the,,,,?” Mordecai returned with fresh,dusty bottle of wine which he opened and then poured into Johns empty glass. “Darius the Deceiver. He was also skilled in the art of disguises sir. Im quite sure that Mr Holmes was shown many of my fathers secrets in such acts of deception.” John smiled and thanked Mordecai as he took a small sip from his wine glass before replying, “That does not surprise me, Holmes has indeed fooled me on many occasions whilst utilizing similar methods to those that your father once employed.” John dragged his chair back a few inches and took a napkin to his mouth and chin. “Now I must ask why I was sent here to meet with you Mordecai.” Mordecai smiled and held his wine glass which he then studied before replying, “Mr Holmes wrote to me over a week ago and explained that he may need our assistance. He expressed an interest in Spring Heeled Jack, a fiend we have had our own fair share of Mr Watson.” John was surprised by this and leaned forward, “You have met this creature too? Please tell me of the damage it did to...” Mordecai stood and interrupted John with slight anger in his voice, “Cattle, livestock and on some rare occasions the brave men and women trying to defend what we have here. Its a beast that has no fear Mr Watson and one that wont stop until it gets what it desires.” John seeing the sadness in his hosts face also stood, “Mordecai take your seat for there must be a solution to ridding us all of this creature and if Holmes is involved I dare say, it will be found!” Upon hearing these words Mordecais temperament cooled, he took back to is seat and smiled, “My apologies Mr Watson, I lost myself just then with painful memories.” “That is to be expected, but surely Holmes presence has offered some glimmer of hope.” His host found such words reassuring and looked towards John with faith, “Yes, you are quite right sir. When he told me of his encounter with the beast and how he outwitted it I finally realised that Mr Holmes could give me vengeance. He spoke of needing safe passage towards the West and also the services of my older brother,who by chance was to move ahead of the circus with his duties. Both Mr Holmes and my brother left here a few days ago after dark. The most strange thing though...” John asked with heightened interest, “By how do you mean – strange, Mordecai?” With a bewildered look upon his face Mordecai simply added, “He sat on top of the coach in a couch mans outfit!”

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Mark One

Mordecai took away the empty plates and returned with an fine carved cigar box with he opened and presented to John. The inside of the boxes lid was a colourful image that depicted a pleased looking upper class gentleman. The words above this fine dressed man read, La Sciencia. John new of this brand of cigar but had never tried one due to their expense. He took one, nodded with gratitude and began reaching for his matches as Mordecai sat and lit his own, “Mr Holmes left me in possession of a letter.” He reached deep inside his clothing and produced a wax sealed envelope, which he passed to John. John looked at the envelope with an interested smile as he fanned it in the air, “Hmm, things become even more interesting. I only pray that the contents of this correspondence are not as brief as my friends previous one.” Mordecai poured some wine into Johns glass before adding, “I cannot speculate on that Mr Watson. But Mr Holmes did stipulate that you should read it here and then burn it within these premises afterwards.” John wasnt surprised to hear this as he placed the envelope on the table infront of him and then returned to his cigar and the sensations associated with the fine wine that he now drank. Well fed and now feeling heavily pleasant, John placed his attention on his host and with a pleased smile asked, “So...tell me more about Raffles Circus Mordecai. This is indeed a most satisfactory cigar Mordecai...”

Along the smog ridden, bitter shores of the river Thames within Windsor walked a man who was clearly not acclimatized to such terrain and its conditions in such wintry months. He didnt look like the regulars who used this route for trade and his footwear was now becoming a concern as it slowly filled with sludge and ice. He was searching for a small, moored boat called Nicodemus. Its beaten outer hull was supposed to display green stripes, something that its wary visitor hoped to spot sooner rather than later. The problem he had not expected was the array of boats and ships that sat surrounded by ice. His journey was quickly becoming a problem. With all the various vessels, the mists and the distracting scowls and suspicious moans from those who worked here it was fast becoming impossible and indeed daunting. He had tried asking those who existed here for assistance to only be given unwelcome looks and garbled warnings. Onlookers laughed, others pointed towards him, some looked angry. An small, old man who was sat on a sea weather barrel came into his view. The wrinkled old man scratched deep into his white mattered beard and then called out to him, “Yay, tis not ye place stranger. Be gone or be lost to the seas!” The old sea dog then erupted into laughter as saliva sailed from his mouth. The traveler stood and realized that even day light did not warrant safety here. He then noticed that the old mans words had drawn the attention of some very unwelcome looking observers who stopped what they were doing and began creeping towards him with disdain in their eyes. Soon, a disordered crescent of men surrounded and trapped him by the frozen shore. Behind him, stranded shipping creaked as their forms walled him in. Sailors dropped what they were doing to take in the entertainment on land. The targeted man tried calling out to the mob and this fell upon laughs and drunken ears.

John and Mordecai spent a good hour talking about the circus and it inhabitants – especially the bearded lady. Which with shock revealed that she was married to Mordecai himself! Time past and matters came that needed his hosts attention. John was now alone,surrounded with warmth, a good cigar and another glass of wine. His attention turned to the letter, which he carefully opened.

Watson, I hope I find you with these words in good health. A satisfactory fill of succulent food and a palette seasoned with fine wine from your generous host, Mordecai. Old friend I will explain as best I may what has transpired since we last met You are right now the guest of an accountant, the son of a very talented man and one who I hold in high regard. Stay where you are and forget about routine matters for now Watson, for what I am to share is of greater importance and time is short as I pen this letter.

When you previously visited me and found Mycrofts presence testing my inner yield, a great deal had already been revealed to me. The details of our private conversation involved Mansfield and a Lord whose estate lies deep within Wales. My testing brother had also learnt from the whispers that eventually find his ears - an assassination attempt on my life at 221b. I therefore had no choice but to retreat for the details of my proposed despise involved burning down my residence as well. The world would indeed be a very empty place without my dearest housekeepers annoyance and deluded attempts at mothering me. John, it is indeed bad tidings to lose ones house to the flame,but to lose Mrs Hudson as well – the women is now part of my fabric. I would never be-able to function again without her most delightful scolding intrusions filling my day.

I was to be murdered John and then all evidence of the killers presence cleansed with flame. I knew instinctively that the lack of a victim would save Mrs Hudson and her house. There was no time to formulate a disguise and I knew that my destination relied heavily upon me being recognized. My first problem was therefore this: I do I leave with haste and not be seen? The main door to 221b was quickly dismissed for I knew Baker Street was still under surveillance. This left me with 6 other possible ways of escape that all relied upon timing and in some cases chance. The solution my dear Watson was something that even a child could have performed. Needless to say old friend, within 9 minutes of executing this plan I was walking along Baker Street with our fan none the wiser.

Now to current matters. I await the arrival of a librarian in Windsor who is crucial in my investigations. From there I will travel to a further destination that offers solitude. I shall send a message with news of travel of payment to you within a week Watson. Be ready and packed for a long journey and a worthwhile one that shall at its end answer the mystery of the Heeled Jackal.

SH

P.S. Ask Mordecai for directions to Wilf, go to him and pay what was promised.

Edited by Still Waters
Text edited at OP's request
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Mark One

One of the gathering audience, a well built cocky looking, soil ridden dock worker stepped forward with a healthy length of rusty chain. His sweat ridden shirt contained many rips and holes that revealed scars – a sign that this man had fought many people in his past. He rubbed his nose , “Sah wat der we av here lads? One of those toffs wi dotty ones an twos!“, came his mocking words as the onlookers sniggered. “Wat yer upter? Got yee self lost av yer? Let me shoh yer the way!” He lifted his chain and dangled it infrontof his newest victim, “Gimmee all yur gold an silver or I`ll giv yer dis chain!” The condemned man stood with an worried look upon his face. His alarmed faded blue eyes counted the number of men ahead as he prepared to defend himself. “I mean no harm nor insult to you. I have a prearranged meeting with a gentleman somewhere along this way. Theres a guinea for the man who can direct me. I dont seek trouble, just assistance.” The onlookers cheered with sarcastic amusement. Eager shouts came from the small crowd, “I want his hat!”, “Gimmee his coat.”, “His wallet.” The ring leader spat out words for silence to his gang before turning back to his victim, ”Well lets see nah, empty yer pockets fost an then I`ll take me chain ter yer! Cos as I see it yur stuffed.” He spat into the icey slurry below him, lifted the chain and moved towards his victim with a crooked smile upon his greasy face. The chain came fast, Shacklock just managed to dodge its length and backed away as cheers came from the excited audience. The thug dragged his sludge embedded weapon back into the air and began swinging it above his head. Shacklock used his hands as a form of defence as the next lash of metal came which in turn forced him to the ground – missing him by inches and separating him from his top hat. He noted the raged excitement in the thugs drunken eyes and with this came a method to fight back. Shacklock gathered a generous amount of sludge and snow into his gloved hand and hurled it into his assailants face. The thugs intentions were no lost forever as he dropped the chain and growled with pain, his fists desperately rubbing the fine gravel deeper into his smarting eyes. Shacklock rushed to his feet and with a right hook landed a bone crunching punch into the thugs nose which really did make his hand throb with escalating pain. The crunch preceded a sudden explosion of mucus ridden blood that saw the thug drop to the floor like a stone. Rocks and the occasional empty bottle began flying with angry roars as Shacklock now turned quickly to defend himself from the enraged gang. He again found himself backing off towards the moored ships. He sank to his knees with fear as several projectiles found their mark along his exposed arm and leg. The gang tightened their ranks as they got closer, the air was full of vile and anger driven drunken words. Shacklock quickly feared for his face and head, he sank closer to the ground as the vile mens words became louder and closer. The from out of nowhere came a sudden gun shot which in turn brought a sudden end to the assault upon him and saw several Gulls leaping into the safety of the air. The despised sound of police officers and their pesky whistles arriving brought with it a change of heart in the drunken mob who began to think of their trades and their livelihoods. The gang fell into terror filled chaos which in turn gave Shacklock back his freedom and a chance to flee. Four police officers with truncheons raced towards him down the banking and lashed out at any who got in their way. “Mr Watson sir, police constable Rickers! Are you injured?”, came the old officers breathless words. Shacklock got to his feet with a confused smile and shook his head as two of his rescuers assisted him and then led him with great haste to quickly produced stretcher. He was encouraged to lay down even though he protested this, his words were ignored. Rickers looked down at Shacklock and tried to calm him, “It looks better this way Doctor...you friend Mr Holmes advises you to comply with our safety towards your person.” The aged mans eyes narrowed and then blinked with amusement as he did as he was told. He was then carried away along a path formed by several policemen. His smirked lips told a hidden story as he was carried back onto solid land. Has he played his part he caught brief sightings of panic further down the smoke ridden, iced sands where men met arrest along the shore; their belongings taken or exposed. The police escorted patient was soon lifted into the back of a sealed cart that had two sentries guarding it. The rear entrance parted to reveal a a tired looking and aged man in his mid fifties dressed in a moth eaten, hazel coloured jacket. This man gestured to the emergency team who in turn lifted their patient with lack of concern for his comfort quickly inside the cart. With this the old man gave Shacklock a quick glance and a blank faced wink from his left eye before his face turned to the exit and then departed. Mordecai now found himself alone, laid under a high and dull looking canvass roof that carried the lingering smells of long use and age. Several arched bars rose from the sides of the cart above him which joined together high above him. The bemused patient now felt a slight doubt within his cold and damp bones as above and around him he clearly observed a prison cell. But as his mind processed all of this he heard the sound of a horse, somewhere ahead of him which brought with it a familiar sensation. The unrestrained outer coating of his cell began to ripple and flap as his transport rumbled and rocked its way into life. He sat up and adjusted his position to a more comfortable pose and listened to the noises outside. He heard men shouting, swearing and many whistles being blown with good intention. Soon such disturbances became quiet and less distracting as the ground his emergency cart rode upon made a familiar sound – cobble stones. He turned is attention to his grey top hat and carefully removed the sand and damp stains as best he could. His mind returned back to the fight and the fears it had brought. Shacklock knew he was getting too old for such pursuits and Mr Holmes materialized in the centre of his mind. “Why did he convince the police that they are looking after his friend, the doctor? Just what is Mr Holmes upto?” One thing was for sure, he knew that his destination was to meet Mr Holmes. A journey that he hoped would not take any much longer.

After checking his pocket watch and with alarm John had gathered his belongings and ventured back out into the early afternoon smog. His bearings of London were all but lost amidst this fog of various aromas. Thankfully, he discerned the great tent has its presence gradually bled through the freezing mists and he headed back towards it. Just as before he passed figures who in the ill light looked daunting and acted ignorant to his presence. John felt sure that their eyes spied him with suspicion but the mists may have been deceiving him. He found no pleasure being here, his mind was beginning to swell with fears of attack from some unknown source. As he got closer to the main entrance he bumped into a women who was leaving. She was dressed in a dark clinging outfit and wore some form of lace cloth that covered her head and most of her face. Although John had almost run into her she appeared quite calm and simply stared at him with inquisitive eyes. John stood back, “Forgive me madam, may I apologize and pray that I caused you no fright.” The women simply nodded before adding with a crisp voice, “Your new here! Are you lost or in need of assistance?” Surprised to hear a voice again, John explained, “I seek Mordecai...Mr Shacklock before I depart on other business. Could you direct me in his direction?” The slender women looked to her left, paused and then added, “Well sir, I do believe that the gentleman in question may be found in this direction.” She then headed off and left John for a few moments before he hurried along behind her. John was puzzled by his leads manner, “Madam are you sure you know where I may find him. I do not wish to waste your time and I am a very busy man.” She didnt reply but eventually pointed to some smaller tents ahead of them, within the mists. John caught up with her and she stopped as passing music filled their ears, “Venture to the middle tent. If he isnt there now he will be shortly.” John moved forward and used his hands to clear away the chilling smog. Ahead of him where three moderately size tents that looked green in colour. Several mules stood nearby with a figure who seemed to be tending to them. “The middle one you say? Well, thank you for your....” The women who was now walking back into the misted oblivion spoke, “You are most welcome. My name isnt madam, its Iris sir...a good day to you.” John found all of this most peculiar but soon came to the conclusion that his cold and current environment was effecting his mental capabilities. He straightened his coat and then turned and made his way towards the central tent with thoughts of Holmes enjoying this horrid place and its mysteries. His arrival was noticed and greeted by Mordecai himself who came out and took his hand with warm appreciation, “Mr Watson you have found me and without to much annoyance I hope. My departure from you led me here and to the money owed to a gang who care for our mules. I detect that you now need to leave and return to the comforts of your home. Ive arranged a transport for you sir...if you will follow me.” John smiled and nodded as he was led back into the gloom, “Mordecai how does one acclimatize ones self to such harsh weather conditions and maintain order?” Mordecai laughed as he answered, “Sir, such is the life here. Us circus folk live by the dark, its in our blood.” The two men walked past a parade of half dressed performers with several followers who carried long looking, wooden chests. “This somewhat foreboding atmosphere is infact a welcome change to my staffs normally exposed career.” John looked amazed by what he had just heard, “Well I dare say that Im beginning to understand matters better now Mordecai.” The two men eventually came to a clearing that contained carts and their tracks embedded deep into the discolored snow. Mordecai led John to a fine looking carriage that was small in size, its driver sat ready at the rear. John boarded and then made himself comfortable, “And what do I owe you Mortician for this pleasing transport back to my home?” His host waved his gloved hand, “Nothing sir. The journey provided and the assistance we have give to Mr Holmes will be payment in itself. My wife is to take you home Doctor.” With this Mordecai Shacklock shook Johns hand and sincerely bid him a safe journey home. As Johns cab home was dragged through the snow his mind developed visions - a bearded women who was in plain view to the public directing him home. He naturally slumped in his seat and hid his face with one hand. His mind was full of chatter that cursed Holmes for leaving him alone and a sincere warning that John would scold him soon. With thoughts of Holmes came the name Wilf. John sat up with panic and then inwardly punished himself. “Ive failed to complete my friends instructions.”, he half spoke into the cold with heart sank regret. John looked above with the intention of alerting the bearded lady and then was struck by a need to remain aloof. The unhappy passenger was lead back along and into the active veins of life that criss-crossed London. He didnt feel pleased and worried that he had effected his dear friends plans. Johns focus now worried about his absent friend and he longed to be with him, where ever he was..

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Mark One

Much to his relief, the bumpy and mildly uncomfortable journey came to a sudden and shaky halt. He heard the familiar footsteps of the old man but they didn't return to him, instead they seemed to venture off into the distance. Now all was silent and quickly becoming chilling both in mind and body as he sat there and awaited his fate. He got onto his feet and carefully made his way to the rear. Suddenly the flap was ripped open and a familiar looking face who currently owned a teasing smile glanced at his arrival. Mordecai had fallen with fright back onto his stretcher and was currently deciding whether to be angry or feel relieved as Mr Sherlock Holmes reached towards him with gloved hand. “Mordecai Sherwin Shacklock Senior, I trust that I find you in good health sir?”, came Holmes cheerful words. Mordecai took the invitation of Holmes hand, “Slightly ruffed up but still useful with my right hook. Sadly though, such theatrics are best suited to my younger relative for my bones are not what they once were.” With some help from Holmes Mordecai was back on Terra firmer for the second time in one day. He found that his destination was not a hospital but the trades mans entrance to some lavish hotel. Holmes who was dressed in a matching grey suit guided his companion towards a uninviting, paint peeled door,”This way Mordecai, my lodgings are far superior to their entrance. This I can guarantee my dear friend and you need comfort after your unexpected journey...and so many questions you carry in your eyes that beg for answers...”

John was still troubled by his blunder with Mordecai on the circus grounds as his nose began to run. He sat there feeling a failure and sincerely hoped for a solution to his current predicament. Yet nothing came to him as the Hanson Cabriolet was pulled towards the blustery road of Blake Street. Suddenly something far more immediate struck Johns mind – he knew that this was not the route to his home but instead lead to the Thames river. He turned in his seat and tapped with his cane along the trap door, “I say! I say, where are you taking me Mrs Shacklock? This isn't the route to my house!” John quickly received an unconcerned reply, “Taking you to your friend who is owed some money Doctor.” John wasn't having any of this, “Friend? In this part of London! Owed money! Indeed I feel you are mist...Ahh, Wilf, of course. Please carry on.” Johns mood lifted and he thanked the heavens for such a stroke of luck. His delighted face was observed by many who he past. He was then observed covering his face again with a mumbled, “Blast!”, as his driver giggled to herself. What John knew of this road wasn't desirable knowledge. One end carried the look middle class society with the other end resembling a slum that was full of questionable types who didn't seek attention. To Johns horror his cab was leading him ever closer to the latter. He instinctively felt for his revolver and then had concerns about his bearded companion who was sat outside,behind him in her springed chair. He had thoughts of asking her if they were close now but decided against this to avoid drawing attention. As Johns heart began to race with a mix of anxiety and his illness he noticed the cab slowing. He took in a deep breath with welcome relief and then quickly sneezed it back out again with annoyance. Emmaleen removed the scarf that hid her lower face and announced to John that his `man` was slowly approaching him. John looked with eager eyes and saw some up to no good children rushing across the road, a nights watchman who appeared drunk and a odd looking figure that was both small and wide. Johns mouth opened with realization, he had seen and met this rogue once before – the deliverer of Holmes letter. “I say! You there. Mr Wilf? Over here man!”, came Johns desperate words as his right hand fumbled inside his clothing and found a wallet. The target of Johns attention stopped and simply stared towards him in his long and battered overcoat. John leaned forward waving a one pound note, “My name is Doctor John Watson. I was sent to pay you for the services you gave a Mr Sherlock Holmes.” Wilf rubbed and then picked his nose with interest, “Shahlok who? Ah wah in service to ah Mr Shaklock! Do yer av me pownd?” John was surprised by what he had just learnt, even if it did take him a few seconds to translate, “Mr Shacklock, yes that is correct and its also my mistake.” He moved to leave his cab and was stopped by the locked doors which frustrated him “Emmy! Please!” A humoured giggle proceeded a clicking noise that freed the doors and set John free with a unplanned leap into the snow covered pavement. After composing his stance and modesty John offered Wilf the money, “Here you are, one pound mister and a pleasant evening to you.” Wilfs filthy hand slowly moved towards the bank note in Johns fingers and then quickly snatched it free like a starved animal craving food. John nodded and then quickly turned to re board his transport when he heard the horrid man speak, “Wayt guvnor yur fohgettin this.” Wilf clicked his soiled fingers three times and out of the shadows sprang two lean looking men carrying a long wooden chest. Wilf directed them with authority, “Chuck it in tha cab lads”, John just stood there, his heart sank as the large chest filled the seating area of his cab. “Wait...Mr...Wilf there's been some mistake...what is this?” Wilf who was busy sending his cohorts back into their shadows paused and then turned back to John, “Nah mis-take guv. Deelivar ter S H. G`nite guv.” With that Wilf the Wanderer joined his questionable colleagues and was soon lost in the shadows of some dire and damp alleyway. John shivered to himself as he stared with a lost lost in the same direction before turning back to his now filled seating. A familiar and excited voice drew his attention, “Doctor dear.” He looked up at his unusual driver who had by now recovered her uniqueness. Her gloved hand was patting the seating beside her which revealed enough room for one more. John turned and looked towards the far end of Blake Street and begged, “Oh my god, please take me now!”

Holmes brought a plate that contained a mix of cheeses, breads and biscuits and placed it on the small table next to his guests chair. Mordecai was sat in a lavish armchair which placed him close to a freshly built fire, he took another refreshing sip from his brandy glass before inquiring, “Mr Holmes I knew our meeting would include some adventure but what took place out there...But why sir?” Holmes joined his guest and leaned against the ornate wooden fireplace, “My dear fellow such measures were needed to ensure our secrecy for there are eyes within this fine city who watch but do not wish to be seen. Potential whispers may have found the wrong ears Mordecai, just like they did for Samuel Harding, long before he ever set foot here. No sir, your contact with the folk of oil, fish and foul weathers was required to give a false outer impression to those who observe in silence. You my dear sir are currently signed in at Saints Marys General Hospital with serious blows to your head and person. And thus, any connection between yourself and I is now not possible nor plausible.” Mordecai smiled upon hearing this, “But the officers addressed me as your friend and acquaintance, Doctor John Watson?” Holmes had just lit his pipe but did manage a wry smile before continuing, “A double lie to add further confusion to the matter. Our respectable police force believe Watson is recovering at St Marys whilst our covert followers believe it is actually you Mordecai. Any who saw you carried from the scene will be monitoring the hospital now. Something that shall make your assignment far easier and reassuringly safer.” Holmes checked his pocket watch and then turned his attention back to his companion with a more serious look upon his face, “Now sir, if you are fully refreshed and free of questions we must prepare for our meeting with Mr Harding. We go together via a pre-booked carriage and arrive at 5.50pm. Once we arrive at Victoria Bridge you shall depart and walk towards Harding. He will easily be identified by the weather conditions that he doest avoid. You are to calmly approach him and ask for a match. Once you have the match in your fingers light it and then extinguish it. Do you understand Mordecai?” After his guest nodded with agreement Holmes went for his coat and jacket, “You are to then whisper my name in his ear. Is this clear?” Without turning to see if Mordecai complied Holmes continued, “You shall then receive a leather bag and then bring it back to me.” Holmes tossed Mordecai his jacket, “Come friend for time is both short and against us if we linger here a minute more!”

Harding who had spent a day in the open air was ignoring the bitter cold that did its best to deter him. He had eaten well earlier and had recently drank two measures of Brandy to heighten his mood. He had been sat on park bench as the grim sunlight began to fade with his mind deep and far away. His gloved hands firmly rested heavily upon his satchel. His mind was reciting mantras and mental rituals for safety and protection – many of which had originated from the contents of his bag that he was soon to pass on. The time was fast approaching in which he would be risking danger by merely meeting a stranger He stood, took a deep breath composed himself in the harsh evening air and then turned towards the path ahead of him that led in a straight line directly to a bridge that was approximately 2 miles away. Harding felt alone and separated from the world as he went off to meet his fate. The few pedestrians he did pass took little interest in him but did detect a mysterious strangeness about him. For the first time in many years he actually felt relief within his being. The book that had both protected him and also blighted him was soon to depart from his possession. He only hoped that by passing it on he would actually do some good that would help the world. To know that Sherlock Holmes was to take charge of it was a blessing to him. He knew it would be safe and far from evil minds who obsess themselves in owning it. And yet, as he walked his way to a destined moment in his life it seemed as if the book did not want to leave his side. Like a spectre it clung and pulled at his inner being and whispered horrid things into his ears. His stone cold face revealed a tear that wasn't sadness but simply one of joy, for such imps and devils would soon no-longer have him nor own him anymore.

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Mark One

With sincere intention, the grey coloured carriage was pulled by its two freshly fed bay horses. Potters Square was soon in sight and was already swelling with various clientele who sought its evening entertainment and refreshments. The pavements surrounding the busy square were lined with highly ornate lampposts that seemed to glitter as the fine snow gently fell around their illumination. The well payed coachman was thankful for such delightful displays as he gave his horses several verbal commands. His hands were constantly busy as he tugged at the horses reins and steered then safely through. Holmes and Shacklock sat facing one another inside their unsteady transport. Shacklock was questioning his companions reasons and needs, “Although I admire your methods Mr Holmes, this need to remain aloof still troubles me sir. Surely a man of your reputation could easily sneak up upon Harding and take it yourself, without he nor anyone else noticing.” Holmes nodded in agreement before adding, “Our mission here is akin to a game of chess that is almost at an end. Mordecai if you will, imagine a game between myself and another who hides their identity. All but one of my opponents Pawns are scattered along the board using their eyes to sight my King.” Shacklock interrupted, “All but one. What of this other?” Holmes released a small smile and raised a single finger to silence his companion, “This last Pawn is what confuses my opponents game, a defector who secretly works against the master, his King.” Shacklock nodded, “This man Harding?” As Holmes peered out of his window he knew they where both now close to their destination, “When one is surrounded by his opponents army the only choice left is to move your King to an advantageous location or...draw your opponents into a bottleneck. This in turn strains the sight of the Pawns and forces my opponents Knights into action. Such pieces lack brains and heavily rely upon brawn. Again I shall retreat my King and draw them into a trap – my intellect against their reliance on fear and brutality.” Holmes paused the conversation as he took in the outside view with a knowing that they were now close. Shacklock leaned forward with an eagerness to learn more, “But what of Harding once we have completed what we came for?” Holmes nudged Shacklock with a look to be prepared, “The Pawn that defects carries a just sacrifice within its heart. Now, Mordecai be ready! I shall be watching.”

As the carriage ground to an halt out climbed Shacklock, a well seasoned man who took in the evening air and then checked that all of his buttons were fastened. He soon found a comfortable stride to his steps within the falling snow and ventured towards a distant solitary figure upon the stone bridge. A man who was glancing outwards towards the Thames River that flowed far beneath him with frozen difficulty. Victoria Bridge was more or less deserted but this didnt mean it would remain empty for it was part of the main trades routes that came and went from Windsor. Shacklock examined the fallen snow ahead of him and he noticed something - the pavements remained footstep free. This led him to believe that Harding had crossed the bridge earlier in the day and then rejoined it from the far side. He took intent notice of the length of his route, just in case something went wrong and he was required to retreat but overall felt confident with the task at hand. He spied the man ahead and felt a heart felt sorrow for the poor fellow. He also began to wonder why Holmes didnt offer Harding a safe trip away from here as part of the bargain. Shacklocks thoughts and mood were quickly forgotten as he observed Harding turn his head to look at him. Shacklock stopped in his tracks as Hardings listless stare seemed to pass right through him. The elderly member of a family associated with a famous circus suddenly felt something within his blood that puzzled and alarmed him! His intention to approach Harding was now confused by some unidentifiable sensation that affected his mood. The air around him suddenly began to carry bizarre sounds that formed into fleeting, broken words. He glanced around with surprise, expecting to see some passers by in muffled conversation but he saw none. His overall stance began to degenerate into that of a child who was scared of the dark and the unknown. His heart began to race, his gloved hands began to shake and his mouth opened with worried moans. Mordecai Sherwin Shacklock Senior, a man of much honor and bravery trembled with sweated concern as he woodenly stepped away with sincere fear from his intended destination. Holmes who had been observing the sudden failure of his mission leaped from his carriage and ran towards his companion. The elderly gentleman was engulfed with heart threatening panic as he found himself sat upright in the snow. His body was now frozen not by the cold but with fear. His hands shook violently before his eyes as he tried to compose himself. Far behind him he discerned throbbing sounds within the stone road that both felt and sounded like a giant approaching with anger. And yet he couldnt react any-more, his entire nervous system seemed tangled with mind numbing terror. The voices and whispers continued to swim around his head. As they swirled around him with endless moans his legs tingled and then his world went dark and silent.

Harding was giggling like a child as he turned his head to face the eager approaching visitor. His sudden, high pitched voice spoke “And soath cometh thath Lamb.” Harding began laughing and tapping his gloved hands with excitement upon the now wall mounted satchel. Holmes was not fazed by this bizarre act and continued his approach with fascination. As Holmes got closer he observed the possessed mans eyes and asked, “Mr Harding do you have a match?” For a brief microsecond Holmes noticed a flicker in the crazed mans eyelids before they surrendered back to their unblinking stare. Harding who had been staring at his light baggage suddenly turned face Holmes again. The crazed mans face looked devoid of warmth, his overall impression looked soured and sunken but his eyes were widely stretched and alive. From his forced open mouth came strong words with a very low tone, “Thee Jack in thy skys shall devour yee. Twill claim back thee treasure thy hold!” Holmes slowed his approach, he was less then eleven feet away from Harding. “Tell me sir, do your own a spare match that I may use?” came Holmes deliberate words. The figure before him scowled him, “Does thy not hear me mortal? Dire forms of ill will shall before thee, puny son of Adam!” Holmes was not effected by Hardings animated face and the voice was something he simply had no time for. He decided to toy with the madness in Harding, “To whom do I speak?” Harding groaned and swayed his head as Holmes got closer and closer, “Tell me about thee Jack in thy skys, for I doubt your words and believe you to be a liar.” Harding turned with difficulty to again face the man and with one unsteady finger pointed towards the dark cold skies above, “Va...rlllfyy” Hardings balance was taken away as Holmes raced to his side. His left hand quickly grasped the back of Hardings neck and then pulled him backwards whilst his right hand pressed into his chest. Holmes right leg tripped his preys legs from under him and soon Harding was layed in the snow. The disfigured look to his face was gone, his eyes and mouth shut and relaxed. After checking for a pulse Holmes returned to Mordecai who was now awaking in a confused state.

Edited by Mark One
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Mark One

There was now a definite breeze in the air that seemed to be building in strength. Even the snow was now becoming heavier as Holmes knelt beside Shacklock. The confused man who was now half covered with snow turned to Holmes, “What happened there? My mind is a blank.” Shacklock leaned back alittle so that he could look past Holmes into the direction of Harding, “Did I collect it Holmes?...I don't see it near me.” Holmes helped his friend back to his feet, “You slipped in the snow covered ice old friend, as did Mr Harding when he saw you approach. I may have miscalculated this plan of mine. Sir I apologise Come, lets get you back into the questionable warmth and definite shelter of our carriage.” the seasoned gentleman protested as he was helped back onto his feet and reminded Holmes of the package, “I shall deal with that myself sir.” The two men then made there way down towards the awaiting carriage and soon became silhouettes against the white of their snowed surroundings. Far behind them the sleeping man jumped awake with a jerking motion and then sat up with a look of fright upon his face.

Much to the relief of a shivering and sulking side passenger the cab finally joined with the road that John had longed for since departing from Blake Street. The snow had ceased for now but the conditions of the roads still presented a challenge for the opposites that were unwittingly attracted or seated together. Emmy had be trying her best to lighten Johns mood along the slippery journey but he wasn't having any of it. “Oh goodness! We are finally here Mrs Shacklock and now I have a casket to transport into my house too!”, came Johns unimpressed moanings. His amused cab driver continued in her attempts to cheer him up, “John dear, maybe you should visit our circus sometime for it will delight and amaze you. The Lions and Elephants may surprise you. Before I joined the circus I never knew that their...were so large!”, she giggled. John felt a hand softly touch his leg which then fled and joined its other . The colour in his cheeks suddenly improved and left him struggling for words as he pointed towards the pavements, “Here...erm, yes. Mrs Emmy...Shacklock, this is close enough .” Emmys excited voice disagreed, No, no you silly sausage! We are close now John and after-all I do know your address.” John reluctantly surrendered to her words with a loud sneeze into his handkerchief. With cheekiness in her voice she continued, “John I hope you have a house keeper, someone to tuck you into your bed at night.” John didnt pick up on what she actually meant until he was half way through a reply that made it quite clear that he lived alone. His mind produced a beard by his bed adorned in womens clothing. He shuddered and fumbled together some useless words which got another giggled response. In the distance John spied two shifty looking men who were stood outside his address. With a muffled intake of breath he thanked the heavens for giving him the opportunity to change to subject as they approached the two strangers.

Holmes had left his acquaintance inside the carriage, with a much needed glass of whiskey and a woolen cover to keep out the chill. The falling snow now seemed thicker with an icy breeze that could almost cut through the skin. He held on tightly to his hat as he retraced Shacklocks foot prints in the snow. Ahead of him stood Harding who did his best to hide the dire effects of the cold as he awaited Holmes arrival. Behind him in the distance came lights or carriage torches which flickered in the nights air. Holmes new that the fresh coverage of snow would hinder their approach but as he spied them he realised that they had stopped moving anyway. His mind assessed the situation and came to the following conclusions: a) The vehicle had been there all along, B) Its passengers didnt wish to encounter Hardings previous “counter measures” c) They were now fascinated with Holmes – although his identity wasn't known and also carefully camouflaged by the thick snow fall.

Holmes made his way towards the aged, shivering man who now appeared empty with nothing more to do. Bitterness surrounded him with many shadows from his past that now haunted his spirit as Holmes asked, “Do you have a spare match?” Harding twitched with the cold as he glanced at Holmes with uninterested eyes and offered a few mumbled words in response. His aged hands reached for the satchel, his fingers struggled to obtain it. The collector observed a deep decline in Hardings overall health, it seemed that his body had given up. The ignorance was gone and with it came the figure of a well over due,spent man who awaited his fate. A man who had surrendered to his conscience with hope that his soul could be saved. A gloved hand rested over Hardings bone cold, struggling digits and with this he removed his trembling touch from the satchel. Holmes lifted the bag and shook it free of the falling snow before placing its strap firmly over his shoulder. He was amazed by the look on the face of its previous owner. Hardings once sunken face now carried joy within its sunken eyes as he realised his curse was now lifted away from him forever. Holmes wished to take Harding away with him but knew instinctively that such a scholar of forbidden knowledge was now facing his last journey or passage. A path that required both courage and conviction, a realisation of what one had done with their life. Harding nodded towards Holmes with a weak and uncontrolled smile before he turned away from him. He then dragged his feet onwards into the distance towards flickering lights. Before Holmes fled back down towards his escape he called out to Harding with intent, “Samuel you take with you courage that will settle all of your debts and give you freedom in your judgement.” Holmes briefly watched the man as he went to his end and smiled with admiration before his mind intervened and told him to run!

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Mark One

Chapter 8

The old man had stopped, his weary body rested against the ice cold stones that formed the wall and he awaited them. The lit carriage eventually reached him, its jet black horses unhappy with both the weather and their terrain. A familiar looking man stepped out into the heavy snow with a look of scorn upon is enflamed face. Behind him came two younger looking men wearing bowler hats, heartless brutes who looked sinister. Hardings memory revealed the identity of their leader. It was the same man who had followed him to Windsor and also the very same one who had drugged the chattering man. Harding briefly recalled how the annoying and inquisitive man had fallen from his seat and landed on to his side. Both Harding and this man now facing him had simply ignored the matter and had took the remainder of their journey in heightened silence. Hardings attention was brought back to current matters as the hooked nose and moustached man before him spoke, “And so it has all come to this Mr Harding! My name though of little importance to you and your lot is Mr Brighton sir. I was sent to watch over and protect you if necessary from outward influences.” Brighton waved the silver handle of his cane infront of Hardings chin, “The Book sir! What has come of it? And I pray that your meeting with that man,”, Brighton pointed with his cane into the direction of where Holmes had been, “did not conclude with it exchanging hands?” As Brightons two thugs took up position either side, Harding answered with a an uninterested reply, “The book is safe...” Brightons stern look softened as he then asked, “And so, where is the book?” Harding stared deep into his inquisitors eyes before he smiled and answered, “Gone forever...taken by another.” Harding then spat into Brightons face which took him by surprise and forced him away. Brightons men responded and began inflicting blows upon Hardings ribs and stomach. Their `free` prisoner fell to his knees coughing and choking as he held onto his body. Brighton shouted a command to his men, “ENOUGH! I still need to know who now owns it.” With some temper he pushed the thugs away with his cane before ordering them to lift him back onto his feet. A gloved hand twisted the handle of the cane and with a click came its release which also revealed a fine blade. Brighton ordered his men to hold Harding fast and grasp his head as he placed the blade close to the trapped mans neck. “Now Harding, the name of this man who has fled with the book.” Hardings scalp was burning, his hair and ears were being pulled and twisted as tears swelled in his eyes, “I will tell you but it will not help nor aid you....in reclaiming it” Brightons impatience could be seen in is now reddened face as he shouted, “THE NAME!” Harding squealed out his painful answer, “Sherlock Holmes.” Brighton was silent for a few moments with a look of disbelief written across his startled face as he stared away from Harding, “impossible....he was kil...hes dea...” His face erupted with anger as he turned to look Harding in the eye, “You god damn fool!” Brighton drew the blade into the air and turned to face his carriage as he wiped its blade. His two accomplices let go of Harding who was trying to say something with words that made no sounds. He fell to his knees and then onto his side. The front of his coat now covered with a ever expanding crimson stain. Brighton who was not pleased with what he had just learnt was now barking at his two men when suddenly he stopped and turned his head. “What did you just say?” One of the two men shrugged his shoulders, “I didnt speak sir Im not...” Brighton interrupted, “There, again I just heard a whispering voice!?” The other thug spoke, “Yes I can hear something too, laughter?” As all three men quickly retreated to the safety of there carriage so did something else too. There were soon worried cries coming from the carriages interior that sounded like very frightened men. Then something disturbed the horses who in turn tried to make a bolt for it. The dragged carriage now became unstable with its coach driver falling into a bone crunching death under their hooves as they ran with fear, pulling the soon to be ruined carriage with them.

Watson was now stood in the semi warmth of his hallway with a pleased looking Emmy by his side as the two suspicious looking rogues carried the casket into his house. The taller of this duo, an untidy looking man simply known as Burt asked John, “Wah ter guvnor?” John who wished to see the back of them as quickly possible suggested with a pointed hand, “Well, beyond my kitchen there's a wash room that I seldom use. That will suffice.” Burt nodded, “Rate you are guv. This way George!” As the two men carried the heavy casket away Emmy turned to face John, her eyes the only part of her face visible under the scarf she wore, “John, may I rest and be seated for a moment. The journey has taken its toll.” John understood what she meant and agreed before leading her to his lounge. “Please help yourself to a drink and make yourself comfortable whilst I light the fire. John soon had the beginnings of a roaring fire dancing before him as he heard Burt and his questionable companion approaching via the hallway. John made his polite excuses towards Emmy and then headed to meet the two men. Upon seeing the doctor waiting for them, Burt stood straight and turned his attention to his well worn clothing, “All done guv, its resting bah the window sir.”, his right hand seemed restless. Burt pointed back to his partner and mentioned the washroom as John offered his hand to thank them both. As Burt shook Johns hand he seemed a tad jumpy which the doctor discerned as meaning a man in dire need of the toilet, “If you or your friend needs to use the washroom, please help yourself.” Burt shook his head, ”No thanks guv. Boff me un George went down a nearby alley before we met you sir.” Johns forced smile turned to one of mild disgust, his hand recoiled to the safety of his back. Burt turned to his friend and continued, “Sorry guv buh Wilf toad us ter expect readies dint he George”. George let out a grunt that was followed by flavorsome choke. John took a step back and didnt seemed surprised to hear this, “Let me understand this gentle...men, a Mr Shacklock promised you a payment of one pound for the safe delivery of the casket. Am I correct...Burt?” “Dunno a shacklock sir we got instruction frum a Mr Holmes. He toad us a pound each and one fer Wilf.” As John debated the authenticity of such claims he heard Emmy call out to him with words that suggested he should hurry up. With the thought of her presence in his hallway with her beard on show he reluctantly complied and gave Burt three pound notes. Once the men had gone John muttered under his breath, “Holmes Im going to kill you one of these days!” When he returned to his guest he found her by his wall mounted mirror, she seemed to be checking her hair. “So John they are finally gone.” she offered as he made his way towards his decanter of Brandy, “Yes with god speed I hope. Have you warmed up Mrs Shacklock and taken a drink before you depart back to the Circus?” He had deliberately turned his back towards her as he took in a good mouthful of brandy...dutch courage before the beard he thought. Emmy with a even softer voice replied to him, “John you dont have to be afraid of me for I do not bite.” John turned to face her as he took in another slug of his drink and nearly choked on it.

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Mark One

Holmes was now alone in his carriage. After taking a relieved Mordecai Shacklock senior back to the welcome sight of his own, snow covered lodgings, Holmes was now meditating. He was sat upright as his transported rocked and shuddered, eyes closed with the palms of both hands resting firmly on the satchel that rested on his lap. Within the endless void, before his minds eye formed a pattern of swirling mists that seemed to dance together in perfect harmony. Like happy emotions these dancing patterns released brief flashes of intense colour that suggested joy and intelligence. These sparks of energy began to multiply and become fainter at the same time. Multicolor images began to bleed through the dull mists that went as quick as they came. A horses hoofs could be seen as they pressed deep into ice cold earth along some unknown path. The mists reclaimed this. A mans panic ridden face – Hardings, a scene from the past where Holmes had saved him formed but then quickly dissipated into nothingness. A very familiar face formed over this, it was Watson! He was sat by his desk in deep thought as his lips tasted his pencils nib. Now that Holmes was fully connected to what his friend had once referred to as his brain attic, his thoughts turned their focus to more important needs. He had a ritual to perform first though and one that Holmes termed his `future end`. A bright white dot appeared dead centre within the mists, which Holmes encouraged to grow. Its expanding shape resembled that of a rectangle which was white in colour, its rounded edges always fizzled into black. As the blank scene filled his mind vision, shapes and colours bled their way into it. Much to his satisfaction Holmes saw the same place again. A white washed cottage with a high thatched roof. Coal smoke was bellowing from its single centre placed chimney that sailed its way high into the pleasant blue skies. High above saw a flock of Starlings whose animated joy reminded Holmes of the mind mists as they flew and danced together. On the ground Holmes was shown a grassy back garden with yellow painted fencing. He spied an old man dressed in white overalls who was busily tending to his bee hives. Holmes felt pleased by this scene and knew that this vision of his final years proved to him that he was still on the correct life path. With satisfaction he willed the scene away as unseen and unheard gusts blew the image into millions of pieces as they flew out of sight to his left. The dormant mists now danced again and Holmes threw images at them, the gemstone, the Jackal and the satchel.

John was now stood with his back towards the soothing warmth that came from his fireplace. The back of his legs and lower back basked within its warm and relaxing heat. He was now considerably calmer and more confident in his manner towards Emmalene Shacklock who was sat with comfort upon his Chesterfield sofa. She was dressed as he had seen her before minus her outdoor travelling winter ware. She held within her right slender hand a fine glass of claret, her eyes eagerly fixed upon her host with adoring admiration as he continued the pleasing conversation, “But why? I for one would not have guessed, but perhaps my colleague Holmes would have.” She took a deep sip and then smiled, “When I met your friend he saw what you did not realise John. It was by pure chance that when we met you saw my act.” She looked away with amusement and giggled before returning her masked interest towards John back into her glass. A look of relived amazement filled his face, “Your face piece! Blast I should have known after all of my adventures with Holmes who may I add, is an expert in the art of disguise. I fell for it! Just like your audiences would have." She turned her loving eyes to meet his, "But John you can never tell a soul of my secret dear." John sipped his drink and quickly replied with, "Of course not. I would never do anything to upset you. Your secret is safe with me Mrs Shacklock, after all confidentiality is part of my life. I am a doctor madam" He nodded his head with a soft smile as Emmy stood, "Now I must leave you John and get back before my horses freeze and the weather worsens." She walked over to him and kissed his left cheek before staring deep into his eyes with a longing for love, "Im not married yet John, its merely a tradition with the circus folk..." John was surprised to here this as his cheeks blushed, "Not married! But Mr Shacklock told me..." Emmy placed a single finger over his lips and then smiled into his eyes, "Not now John, visit me soon and I shall explain what time prevents me from explaining here." She gathered her belongings and after wishing John a good night, she fled out into the open air. John got to his door and called out to her but she was already sat in her seat , her horses trotting themselves back into life. She blew him a single kiss from her gloved hand and then was gone. John closed and then locked his door, his mind swimming with thoughts and emotions as he returned to his fire and his drink. He removed his jacket and placed it over a chair before sitting down with a surprised smile upon his face. As he finished his drink he intended to pour another when the casket came to mind. He stood with haste, "Holmes! What the devil have you left me with this time?" He rushed out of the room and went to inspect the large chest and also check that nothing had been stolen!

Roughly over one mile away from Johns residence was a small crowd of beer drinkers who had been drawn out of the Kings Arms public house. Police were pushing them away from a side alley that was now busy with men of the law. As the merry onlookers watched it was certain some horrid crime had taken place. Two police constables had to be carried away, their faces white with shock. Alot of shouting could be heard echoing its way out of that narrow passage as an inspector and three officers made there way through the crowds towards it. Inspector Nathaniel, a man in his mid forties with a distinct thick mustache that narrowed into fine curls took a lit stake that was offered to him and then made his way down the blood splattered passage. "Does the body have any connection to the severed hand and wrist found along Dawn Road?", came his first question. A nearby officer who was holding a torch over some of the remains answered, "We cannot confirm that yet sir. All we have here on the ground is the head and part a arm." Nathaniel took in the scene before him and began filling out his note book.

One dismembered head, face down in the snow.

No neck, just the head-blonde hair-bloodied

Head seems crushed

Clothed arm several feet away - missing hand, bend in passage, back yard

Clothing check with those found with Dawn Rd hand & wrist

Blood everywhere, on snow and walls.

Nathaniel stopped and turned to the officer with a puzzled look, "What do you mean on the ground lad?" The constable pointed upwards, "There sir, look. The remainder of the corpse is rested on the roof by the guttering." The figure slumped by the edge of the roof appeared to have slid head first down the tiled slope. Its shoulders had become caught in the cast iron guttering and a down pipes terminal. No head nor neck were visible, both legs appeared to have been snapped and broken at the knees. Nothing much could be discerned about its arms but the chest area displayed the signs of something digging or clawing its way deep inside. The corpse dripped blood and other bodily fluids, some of which gathered into thick goo before they eventually fell into the snow deep below. Nathaniel's eyes widened with shock, "On the roof! How on earth is that possible...." "Appears he fell or was dropped sir.", came the officers hesitant but concerned reply. Nathaniel gave the man a childish look, "Really sir! Is that your conclusion sir! Have you checked the back yard for signs of escape.." "Both the walls and fencing at that location are untouched sir. The snow hasnt been disturbed nor is there any blood there." Nathaniel stroked is finely sculptured moustache with deep thought before adding, "Then the assailant must have fled into the open road. Round up and question every frequenter of this dire public house at once. Oh and I want both ends of this road sealed! Nobody gets in and nobody gets out!" The small crowd began shout warnings, "Spring-Heeled-Jack. Spring-heeled-Jack. Lock your latch or he will be back!" This outburst disgusted Nathaniel as he left the alleyway, "Foolish, lower class swines...this murder is the act of organ traders and grave diggers...tsk,tsk, Where is the damn police surgeon?"

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Mark One

The first sign that presented itself back to Holmes was the glow of the gemstone as it shone like a star before him. The mists of his mind were propelled away from its brilliance and formed streams of magnificent patterns around it. The star erupted and left a white circle in its wake. With it came the voices of women who sang in some unknown language towards him. Holmes found their voices enticing, they seemed to be calling out to him with beckoning desires. From the centre of this circle came a sudden and nerve shattering, monstrous roar which drowned the voices away. In its wake came a sinister face that Holmes knew of. A pointy chinned thing of horror, its coal like eyes forever searching for and then burning its glance deep into the souls of both men and beast. The foreboding presence got closer, its red lips parting to reveal its foul looking disfigured teeth. Deep from out of its darkened throat came a book surrounded by fire at one edge and ice at its other. Holmes understood the meaning of this and with his will dismissed the scene before him. An unseen gust of wind blew the monster away from him towards his left,, it broke into a million pieces of light before fading . As the grey mists of his matter reformed before him he asked a question, “Am I correct in my belief that the stone has another use that shall aid me?” Holmes awaited for the expected reaction as his mind reflected on his breakthrough back at 221b when he had first discovered something unique. Again, the swirling grey mists began to depart as a small shining star began to manifest before him. Holmes outward face smiled and then his eyes opened. He grabbed the satchel and with no care for its contents he threw it away onto the adjoining seating. His cane was then used to tap against the speaking hatch above him, “Driver how long before we arrive?” The reply he got warmed both his heart and his excited mind.

The wash room was never designed for comfort but instead for simple needs in times of emergency. John had spent several minutes studying the wooden box via candle light as the occasional sneeze interfered with his curious inspection. The wooden contraption laid out on the floor before him reminded him of a coffin by its shape and its length which John estimated to be at least four feet long. Its outer shell comprised of pale wood that had regularly been varnished. Its surface did carry the signs of its use and age, in places the wood seemed distressed and beaten. There were four evenly spaced iron clad Dowels along its curved top that displayed some well worn pattern or design as they fell down each side. Covering all of its edges was more clamped ironwork. John carefully lowered his candle down the side of the box and found three locks spaced around ten inches apart. He stood back up to catch another sneeze and decided to tap the box with his foot. His sniffles returned as he gave to box a slight kick to judge its weight. After this revealed nothing he gave it another, much heavier kick which in turn sent him skipping back into his kitchen with a muffed moan. He limped his way back in the direction of his warm fire, muttering cruel words under his muffled breath as he did so. After placing the candle back on his mantelpiece, John sat by the hearth and removed his shoe. As he rubbed his throbbing toes his vision was directed to his soaked jacket hanging from a chair. In one of the pockets he noticed a piece of paper which had slid partially out of its pocket. John puzzled over this, for he never allowed anything made of paper to risk becoming damp in such a place. He stood with fascination and walked in a unusual manner towards his jacket. As he bent over his hand reached for what turned out to be another letter – if a tad crinkled.

Nathaniel's plans had been overruled,much to his annoyance. A higher ranking member of the police force, a Commander named Ashton, had took a sudden interest in this evenings criminal activities. He had given strict instruction that no further investigations were allowed. As Nathaniel sat impatiently inside his carriage under special police guard, the crowds were being led away. All findings, all recordings in notebooks and any formulated conclusions were now illegal. Agents from the MOD were now taking charge and silencing anyone with warnings who had been witness to the crime or its aftermath. The pub was closed early and guarded by the police, its landlord and his wife arrested and taken away. All evidence was carried away via a stretcher, all traces of blood washed away with hot water from the public house. All police findings, written accounts and even lamps and torches where placed in wooden boxes that were then nailed shut before being taken away. As Inspector Nathaniel observed this from his carriage window a figure approached. A special police guard opened the door to Nathaniel's police carriage and the figure – a man in expensive clothing joined him inside. The smiling man who introduced himself simply as Manning removed his bowler hat before sitting next to the Inspector. He produced a paper document that was bound by a royal blue ribbon – which he quickly cut loose with a pen knife, “Robert Cyril Nathaniel of 72 Elder Gardens. You are hereby sworn to secrecy under the official secrets act of 1878.. Please sign this document.” A shocked inspector took the paper and quill pen without thought and quickly began placing his name at the bottom document. Manning smiled and then nodded, “Your Commissioner has been informed of tonight's incident Robert and only he shall keep record of it. You are forbidden by law to discuss anything that you saw or heard this evening. If you value your title, you home, your freedom and your pension Robert then I advise you to forget and never talk of tonight's findings to anyone. We have eyes and ears everywhere Robert.” Manning who maintained his smile throughout took back his pen and the document as Nathaniel asked, “This is serious sir!...A most sickening crime has token place sir!...Surely someone would be charged with investigating it...” Manning replaced his bowler hat whilst retaining his intimidating smile, “At your level Robert?. Good evening Robert.” Manning departed the carriage and commanded the two guards to accompany Inspector Nathaniel on his journey back to Scotland Yard. As the carriage moved on, Manning walked his way towards his own transport. The road and the scene of the crime was now quiet, infact the entire area seemed more like a ghost town. Manning was now sat in the comfort of his own carriage as its other passenger began a conversation, “Well another one mopped up what! I often wonder how much longer us chaps can keep the lid on this caper sir.” Manning produced a uninterested reply , “Theres been no news of NIMROD for over a week. I doubt NIMROD has been terminated...hmm, we require a meeting with this areas operatives. A report.” His passenger brisked his way through some official headed papers, “There is not much left to investigate, all of NIMRODS known addresses, contacts and hideaways have been under surviellence sir...Agent Foxtrot did suggest the local Circus as a possible route for investigation...” Mannings forefinger touched his lips as he mind went into deep thought, “We already have someone in place there...have the agent brought back in Meadows. If NIMROD as indeed gone awol matters may take a disastrous turn for the worse.”

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Mark One

It had been three long hazardous days and nights of bone aching travel. The cold weather and all that came with it hadn't eased the journey either. Then there were the stop off points where new horses replaced the exhausted. The passengers looked forward to this and took quick advantage of it to stretch their tired bodies and often find a private place that acted as a open air toilet. After a couple of days of this routine they soon hated their living conditions and missed their creature comforts. But on the third night much to their surprised relief they found themselves parked inside the keep of a farm estate. Here they learned that travel would re continue after dawn. They were all taken to what turned out to be a dirty looking barn that was lit with oil burners . Inside this warmer enclosure they found ample straw, comfortable seating and a table that was laden with food, milk, water and ale. They were all soon digging with excitement into a mouth watering meal of roasted lamb and boiled potatoes. Some of the men used their own personal knifes to tear deep into the roasted joints which brought laughter from others enjoying the meal. This was all washed down afterwards with a home brew that carried the strange taste of a bitter sweet ale. It wasn't long before many of the diners fell into an exhausted sleep, slumped over their plates. Ruiner, who had been drinking the water provided shook his head as he observed his foolish men. He grabbed a lamb joint that still carried ample flesh and stood with one last glance at his men before he made his way towards a comfy looking pile of straw located near to the closed barn door. He settled himself, checked his weapons and then bit away at the joint as his mind focused on what tomorrow would bring.

Shortly after dawn as the sun began to blanket its soothing light over a much more mild mannered morning, came a carriage which eagerly headed towards Windsors Postal Railway Service. The Royal Mail was a priority in all weathers! Railway workers knew this and dreaded harsher weather conditions for it meant longer hours and no overtime, nor rest. The carriage soon joined other transports as they moved and parked along the busy crescent roadway that led into the Postal Railways inner sanctum. Along either side of this curved route were high piles of freshly slung snow. The air was full with the sounds of shouting, whistles and young men busy with shovels as others pushed trolleys full of mail and packages along the busy cobbles. Sherlock Holmes departed into the open air as ground staff tended to his belongings, which were all cleverly wrapped with brown paper. Each package had the word `Correspondence` written in big bold letters. Holmes was now fashioning thick white side burns that fell from under a tight fitting, brown bowler hat. His clothing seemed loose but well made. In front of his slightly creased white shirt hung a dark red tie that contained white speckles. His extra large waist held on tight to his grey, tweed trousers as he walked with a weight related limp towards the high arched entrance. Inside was as cold and just as noisy at it was outside. The stone paved flooring gave off a multitude of echoes and thumps as squeaky trolleys and busy staff hurried along to complete their tasks on time. As Holmes navigated his way through all of this organized chaos a keen eyed assistant station manager spotted him with suspicion. The concerned employee alerted two nearby station guards who were then directed towards Holmes location. Holmes knew what was transpiring as he continued his limped walk towards the station offices. He suddenly felt a tug on the back of his coats collar which was followed by a firm demand, “Whats yurr bisness ere den?. Yurr not allowed on Royal Mail grounds without a pass!” Holmes spun around displaying the pretense of surprise, “Ah, a station guard, just the fellow I was hoping to meet.” The second guard moved to stand behind Holmes and then gave him a forceful shove on the shoulder, “That way sir. You need to answer some questions. We wont keep you too long.” Holmes was led to what appeared to be some form of detention center as he tried to plead his innocence to the two men. As he did this he deliberately turned his head to glance back to where he had been stopped. His eagle like vision picked out the man who had reported him, among the flurry of porters. An unhappy looking man who was now putting on his coat, to no doubt come over at any minute to question his newest detainee. Holmes let out a brief but pleased smile as the first guard unlocked the door to the detention room. The second guard placed his hand on Holmes shoulder, shoved him forward and then demanded, “In there sir.”

To Holmes surprise his dwellings consisted of a small, unappealing but warm room. It contained two wooden chairs and a desk. He was sat at the empty desk with one of the guards stood closely behind him. The squeak in the boots of the other guard and another set of softer footsteps were soon heard approaching the room. Holmes let out a slight cough with amusement as the assistant manager paced into the room. The other guard then closed the door and waited outside. The newcomer passed Holmes with a deep stare as he sat in the other chair and faced him. In front of Holmes sat a small but plump looking man in his mid fifties. His clothing consisted of a well worn suit that was black for the most part with faded areas along the sleeves, knees and elbows. The only hint of colour on his otherwise drab person was an inscribed pocket watch that appeared to be made from brass. His face carried a clean and trustworthy look that didn't seem to suit his overgrown chin beard whose general appearance was matted and unkempt. His graying, receding hair looked tired as what was left of it fell close to his scalp and down over his ears. Holmes had already cracked the character of this man before him and began formulating the next step of his plan around this. The interrogator looked deep into Holmes eyes , “And to whom do I find on private property sir? Speak up sir and be quick sir! For I have little time to waste on troublemakers like yourself sir!” Holmes smiled, his fingers touched the dust on the desks surface before his hands clasped together, “And to whom do I answer sir? I too have limited time whilst I am here on business! Your name SIR if you please.” The old man leaned back in his chair with a look of amazement smoldering on his face before shouting with what reminded Holmes of a school headmaster, “MY NAME SIR!!!!” He stood and gave Holmes a look of disbelief, as his cheeks went red with rage “Address me as Herring sir!!!”, he pointed a shaking finger towards Holmes. But before Herring could continue Holmes stood and interrupted him by offering him his hand to shake, “You may address me by my title sir. Sir Henry Cannon, appointed Royal Mail Inspector for .” Herring ignored Holmes Hand and fell back into his seat, “Poppy-c*** sir! You are a confidence trickster...and a foolish one at that who is soon to be met by the police sir.” Holmes sat and looked unfazed by these words as he replied with enthusiasm, “You are certainly everything that I expected to witness Stanley Herring.” Holmes stood again and offered his hand once more to the confused and surprised assistant.

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Mark One

“So you know my name do you sir!”, came Herrings unimpressed reaction as he refused Holmes hand. Holmes remained stood and determined, he smiled briefly before his eyes fell onto his outstretched hand which slowly formed into a fist. “I can assure you Mr Herring that my presence within your grounds brings with it no threat to the security of the Royal Mail. I only remain stationed within Windsor because of the black weather sir.” Herrings line of sight studied the fist and his uninterested eyes soon began to widen. His bold persona began to pale and drain away as he saw before him a gold ring that held on tight to a ruby gem stone. His now alarmed eyes studied the gleaming stone and they found a crafted gold plated quarter moon and star sat within its face. “Sir Henry Cannon...you say...”, came Herrings muddled reaction. He stood with flushed red cheeks and barked the guard back to his duties as he tried to hide his embarrassment. “Sir Cannon, forgive my approach....” Holmes interrupted his now belittled inquisitor, “Nether assume anything without question sir. I am impressed by your competence and also by how swift you were in detaining me. I shall take great pleasure in completing my report sir but right now I need your assistance.” As Herring, now in a far more welcoming mood led Holmes outdoors, both men were met with the baggage that had been detained. Herring gingerly smiled and gestured towards the boxes and packages that were guarded by two porters and one, armed guard. “May I intrude upon your business Sir and ask why you are transporting such correspondence without postage via the Royal Mail?” Holmes turned towards Herring and took a hand to his mouth as he coughed, “I had hoped to counter the black weather sir by using your well oiled system to deliver Christmas gifts to my dear mother who has spent in a remote part Wales known as Risco. My rather rash aim is to make it to Monmouth and from there, with the good tidings of the gods make my way to Risco.” He pointed towards the small burnt-in stamp on each package; a quarter moon and star impression. Herring glanced and saw something only certain men would recognize. He paused and nervously scratched his hairy nose before quietly replying, “Shall not be a problem sir.” He produced a thick looking whistle that had seen at least a decade of use and gingerly blew it. Soon, those who knew its sound and its meaning came running as Herring issued orders for transportation. Holmes followed the baggage and reminded Herring that his own seal went with his belongings, no matter how dire the conditions of the carriage.

A man from the highest annals of the secret service was sat at his desk as the grandfather clock to his near left struck 10 a.m.. As his left forefinger and thumb gripped a silver spoon which stirred his porcelain cup of fresh tea, his eyes remained fixed upon a report that he had read many times over the years. He paused in deep thought before removing his reading glasses to take a sip from his cup. “Sherlock Holmes, Meadows!”, came Mannings query. Meadows who was sat at his own desk situated near the door looked up from his work and asked, “Holmes...the...eccentric, slippery heel whose current residence is to be found on Baker Street. Number 221b, to be more precise sir.” Manning was toying with his reading glasses as he looked towards his assistant, “Yes, the sleuth with a remarkable reputation for deduction. Why does his name always show up in the most sensitive of our cases? And remind me again why we have never been able to dissuade him from trampling upon our tracks in the sands?” Meadows mood looked more encouraging as he answered his Chief of Operations query, “Well sir, for one hes held in high regard by many with links and ancestry within royal circles both here and abroad. And then there is his brother who carries high influence...” Manning ended Meadows recount and questioned, “Do we now know what Holmes need was at the Circus?” Meadows shook his head with a frustrated thrown, “Im afraid not sir. Our operative saw little of him. Mr Holmes spent most of his brief stay their with the current owner; Mordecia Sherwin Shacklock Jnr, 28years of age,studied social mechanics and finance at Oxford before taking the reigns of his late fathers business. Holmes left in the direction of Windsor and our operative alerted our agents in that city to expect his arrival. I`m afraid sir that were still awaiting confirmation of his presence there and his current activity...the blasted weather what!” Manning finished his tea with gentle grace that revealed a hidden, softer side to his nature, that very few saw. He placed the empty cup with great care back onto its circular cradle, his fingers releasing their gentle grip as they departed. The deceptive smile upon his face suddenly barked out stern and indeed, angry orders that shattered the calm air for his assistant to go and check for updates. As Meadows dropped everything to obey his superior, Manning gave one additional order, “NIMROD!”

As the eager trail of carriages and now coaches too, raced through the freezing temperatures, many of the passengers felt ill. Their late supper had indeed been laced with a mixture that was tasteless but brutally effective. Many awoke with awkward aches within their bodies as they reclaimed awareness and found themselves back inside those horrid and mind numbing carriages. Ruiner was sweating and had unbuttoned his clothing. He had only eaten the lamb from last nights banquet and had fared far better than his men. Ruiner knew the drugging technique was often employed to deter men from going awol or quitting their jobs. The journey so far had offered nothing but boredom and Ruiner knew that such conditions can give men fresh feelings of doubt that build into a compulsive desire. He reached for his flask of water and took in another welcome need as he studied a `eyes only` letter that had been placed on his person in the night. He pondered upon its overall message as his carriage slid and rocked its way through the snow. His thoughts returned back to the sick men around him with concerns about the harsh climate ahead of them. The Brecon Beacons to his knowledge was a desolate place that offered no hope to the unprepared. He was also puzzled by the Holmes aspect to all of this. Ruiner had high doubts that Mr Sherlock Holmes would venture to such a place, and why would he? His assignment was surely to be found in more comfortable conditions, within a welsh town or maybe even a remote village. He rubbed his nose and took in another swig as his mind settled with the conclusion that their destination represented a hide away. A wolfs lair from where he and his men could await further intelligence on the terminal location of Mr Sherlock Holmes.

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Mark One

Thanks folks for the 3000+ views. I never expected that!

The tale is fast approaching the 60% mark and for anyone wondering if Holmes and Watson will spend christmas day together - its a yes :)

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John had spent the early morning moaning and groaning to himself as he packed his belongings after re-reading the instructions given to him by Holmes in his latest `discreet` letter. He had paid great attention to the clothing he was taking with him, the type of wear best suited for harsh and extreme weather was needed. He soon had two large suitcases packed with clothing, shoes and boots. It was now 11.08am and John had almost an hour to spare before his journey to the station. So, after he had prepared a packed lunch of potted meat sandwiches he sat in his preferred chair, took an apple to hand and then re-read Holmes letter again.

My dear friend Watson,

Upon reading this letter I will have concluded my business in Windsor old friend and be off on my travels again. The next part of my journey shall eventually take me to my intended final destination, after a brief spell of winter shopping. The circus owners more seasoned and experienced brother owns a small property deep within the Welsh boundaries that will suit our needs in bringing to conclusion the mystery at hand. Cancel all of your plans and appointments for the next 14 days Watson, for I now require your presence at my side again. I have booked you a seat on the Western Express that departs from Kings Cross Station tomorrow at 2.15 p.m. You will have found that the first class ticket that came with this letter. The rail journey will see you arrive at 4 major stations; Windsor, Reading, Wallingford and finally at Swindon. In Swindon you shall disembark and then await the arrival of the Engine named Blue-Beard which shall take you towards Cheltenham via the Great western Union Line. Upon arriving at Cheltenham disembark and pay a visit to the mail office. There you shall find another letter that is addressed to you. Remember to bring suitable clothing for a stay of up to 2 weeks. We have much exploring and investigating to do my friend, excitement and adventure await us both!

By now you shall be in the possession of an extremely large chest. Its contents must remain unseen and kept safely hidden within the walls of your property for now. Once we have solved the mystery of the Heeled Jackal and returned home, the chest will be beneficial in concluding another problem that will arise and one that will carry with it many risks.

I await your arrival dear friend and promise to have a finely cooked banquet in place for you to savour and enjoy.

SH

John folded the letter back into its original shape and took it to his fireplace with no further use for it. Its colour soon turned black and became brittle as the eager flames licked its lot into oblivion. After a deep cough and a tissue to his nostrils, John turned his attention to the apple in his right hand. He began to devour it as his concerned but excited mind focused upon the coming days ahead.

Holmes was sat inside a cold, small and poky carriage that was usually assigned to rail staff. Its interior consisted of 3 small cabins that ran along its left hand side– each containing a small table, a tight looking wardrobe, a tired looking mattress with an equally off putting deep grey blanket and a tiny wooden armchair. Holmes was situated in cabin number 2, the first was already in use by one of the Stokers and the third, full of sacks that contained mail. The view from Holmes window was mostly obscured by the endless flow of smoke that came from the engine ahead. This was also a noisy journey too. The insulation under the flooring seemed old and put up no fight in keeping the busy sounds of wheels and cogs at bay. Then there was the constant smell of oil, coal, sweat and flame that made this method of accommodation only suitable to hardened men. There was a small wash room to the rear of this carriage that Holmes had considered using to assist in the removal his disguise. He had decided against this after quickly observing the dirt and coal dust that covered every surface. He was also suspicious of a rail hand named Tompkins who had taken a sudden interest in him. Holmes had also noticed that Tompkins smooth, un-weathered hands did not fit those of a man whose work revolved around the heat of a red hot engine and skin drying dusts. His fingers displayed the signs of several ring prints. The other workers on-board wore such jewelry with no care for the dirt that tarnished them. Then there were his finger tips that displayed the signs of a cigar smoker who was never far away from an ink blotter. Tompkins hair was also peculiar if he was indeed a Stoker. It was short, well brushed and well cleansed. To Holmes, this revealed a man whose work included sitting behind a desk in some high position of responsibility. Holmes had also spotted one key detail on Tompkins person that had given the entire game away. But for now, Holmes was more interested in changing his clothing and removing the disguise. As he removed the excess padding from around his waist and took in a pleasing breath he knew that Tompkins was waiting in the corridor. Holmes was unfazed by this outlook and looked forward to introducing his true self to him soon.

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Mark One

ablast_zpsjwk7vbyu.png

As the blast erupted and sent both man and beast fleeing with terror, one observer could not believe what he was witnessing.

The fireball was rising, with intelligence, slowly into the sky.

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Holmes had found the last few days far more tiresome than he had anticipated. As he had redressed into his own choice of winter comfort he had, to his surprise found a wave of tiredness overcome him. His inner conclusion to this intrusion upon his thought processors was simple – sincere cold and harsh environments. He had surrounded to his bodies needs and made his bed upon the flat mattress by laying on his back and covering himself with a fleece drape from his residence. It was the property of Mrs Hudson and something that he had stumbled across when he escaped 221b in plain sight to those he was evading. Its covering soon trapped in the warmth and took him far away into a deep rest. His rest brought with it no dreams for his body demanded this, not his mind. Several hours passed in which Sherlock Holmes was absent, asleep within a recharge that left his inner vision dark and meaningless. In this inner environment Holmes found the uniqueness of his mind useless and gave no care for it. As the time passed, his mind would occasionally light up a faint glow of encouragement. Its brief flash of distant color was always drowned into nothingness again as his body took charge and told it to `shush` He was used to this experience and had, over the years realized that such a state also freed one from bodily pain. He also knew that when his body had met its fill of recycled energy the mind would gradually be given back its freedom. Flashes of violet became more apparent, ahead of him, far in the distant of his minds eye. In turn he witnessed further displays that changed in their colour. Holmes knew from experience In such matters that when witness to this it was only a matter of seconds before his mind gained priority and yearned for the bodies awakening.

.

“Beg your pardon Mr Cannon sir! But I took the liberty of lighting the two candles in your quarters sir. The evening is well on its way into night sir and I didn't wish for your peaceful rest to be hampered by such unfair illumination.” Tompkins cleared his throat with a clear cough and stood uneasily erect among Holmes scattered belongings as he awaited a reply. Holmes remained as he was, upon the questionable comfort of the bedding provided and offered a mild reply as his eyes studied the belongings around him, “A most decisive act of kindness Tompkins. I was never aware that men of your trade gave such caring concern to their work colleagues and the occasional, unexpected passenger.” Tompkins did his best to hide his confused reaction to those words for he was relying and hoping for a different response to his presence. He nodded with a sly smile and hid the foxed feeling of surprise and confusion as the man ahead of him sat up with no signs of surprise. “We have vermin problems Mr Cannon sir and one of the little blighters was spotted along the passage...I felt sure that I detected its presence among your personal possessions sir...hence the reason for my intrusion into your personal privacy sir.” Holmes hands stroked each other under the warm fleece cover as his mind returned and reminded him about the ring – it was in his pocket and not where it should be. Holmes knew Tompkins could not be allowed to see this and so, turned his attention to the mess and interference around him that had been halted by his rousing body. With a sudden and most unexpected rage, Holmes let rip with with harsh words that blamed Tompkins for the untidy look to his cabin. As his red faced target carefully back himself towards the doorway with gestures of apology Holmes grilled him as to their current location. “Erm, several miles past Wallingford, Mr Cannon sir! My sincere apologies sir and may Mr Tompkin bring you a warm mug of hot tea sir?” Holmes maintained his stern look nodded and then asked, “Tompkins! How long do you think it will take us to arrive in Swindon?” The eager to please stoker wasted no time in answering, “Well Mr Cannon Sir, if the lines and the weather remain as they are...under 2 hours sir.” Holmes ordered him to leave and close the door behind him. As Tompkins complied, Holmes halted the stupid man and gave him some quick advice, “And be careful Tompkins not to dirty your perfectly polished, ghillie shoes. A most incorrect choice of foot ware for work by the furnace! Do all engine workers wear elegant and highly expensive looking foot ware?” His cabin door closed, Holmes listened as the intruder made hi way along the corridor and then leaped from his bed and bolted the door. Clearly,Tompkins had only been in the room for less than one minute and Holmes unique way of storing his clothing – along the floor – had indeed slowed the mans progress. Holmes analysed what had been disturbed and wished that the idiot had actually been wearing coal dusted shoes as he scanned the cabin.

Up the dimly lit spiral stone stairway came the ever increasing echo of eerie footsteps. A figure adorned in a hooded brown robe of excellent weave led the way upwards as his hands held on tight to a small, silver glaze covered book. Behind this figure followed black robed individuals who like the leader, remained deadly silent. As the leader made it to the top of the staircase he was met by two armed guards who stood in front of a couple plain looking iron doors. The robe figure gracefully nodded a signal which resulted with one of the armed men in front him unlocking the fortified doors. They hinges creaked with an ear pinching wine as they opened and flooded the entrance with unwanted light. The lead figure led his followers out into a well lit stone corridor, its path laden with a lilac felt carpet. He soon met a t-junction where he stopped,turned and awaited his followers. Each person that approached him stopped, bowed, touched the booklet and then removed their hood. Each persons head and face was hidden behind a leather mask that concealed their identity from the other members. After shaking the leaders hand in silence, each one in turn then made their way down the left hand passage towards their own private quarters where they could undress and then put back on their own clothing. Simmons approached his Lord from the right hand passage carrying a silver tray that held a gold plated goblet. Lord Mundford removed his hood which revealed a stern look upon his ageing face as he took the goblet and drank its fill. He passed Simmons the book which his butlers gloved hands carefully placed upon the tray. As Simmons then departed his master who had been lost in his thoughts suddenly turned to follow him. Lord Mundford, an aristocrat who held on tight to the reigns of Norfolk with an ironed fist now entered a room he called `The Room Of Cleansing & Purity`. Mundford was left alone inside this stone room as Simmons closed the doors behind him. The room itself looked more like a poor mans chapel. Its high walls displayed finely crafted depictions of cherubs and gargoyles that all looked bizarrely sad. At the centre of this circular room was a plain looking wooden bench and a marble font. On the floor around the fonts base were 8 lit candles that looked rose in colour. Ahead of this, fixed into the outer wall was a large stained glass window that bled a mix of green and natural light into the bare looking place and gave it some much needed colour. Mundford released his robe which fell quickly onto the cold stone and revealed his very expensive looking, mauve coloured suit. He then headed towards the cleansing waters of the font. As his hands gently splashed his rosy cheeks and white whiskers with cool water a sincere voice from behind, startled him. “My dearest, youve are moast deeplay saddened. Let me ask vhy?” Mundford turned around with surprise to find his mistress present. She was walking towards the bench in her fine clothing that was mostly black in colour and unique in its visual style. She sat before him and looked dotingly into his eyes as her long black hair settled over her tightly held form. Mundford was long used to her unexplained intrusions and was always led by her magnetic beauty into forgiving her presence. He stared at her with distant, worried thoughts which she seemed to sense. “My darling come to my breast and vrest with me.” Her enticing look did the rest and he was soon knelt before her as she held on tight to him. “Now my darling you must remain firm for me. Together we shall soon achieve our dream.” Mundford smiled and moved his tightly held head to look up towards the women he knew only as – Sheila. He tried to speak but her finger touched his lips, “The nights here are far too short my darling.” She stroked his aged hair and continued, “Where I shall take you one day offers far longer nights my darling lover that ve shall enjoy together endlessly.” Mundford closed his eyes with thoughts of safety as his mistress groomed him deeper into her devotion – her finger pressing deeply over his closed lips. As he knelt there in her arms he became relaxed as she offered more and more encouraging words. Her finger released its pressure and in turn he released a lot of tension with a much needed expel of air. “My mistress Sheila....the pet is still alive, I have missed the ideal opportunity to complete our intention...the meddler is also at large too...” Sheila replaced her finger with more force over his lips and her soothing tone was replaced with a stern command, “Silence!” The mysterious women who held him tight became lost in thought as her other hand continued to stroke his hair. After what seemed like an age to Mundford she finally spoke again, “My dearest darling, the meddlers destination is known is it not?” Mundford felt the pressure over his dry lips release and replied with obedience, “Yes my beloved Sheila and he is prey to my most accomplished assassins.” The forefinger retook its hold over his lips as her smiling voice praised this, “Very good, my handsome darling.” She glanced upwards as ideas filled her old and deeply wicked mind, “Thee pet must be...dead or...” Her fingers hold lifted as she reached an astounding possibility. Mundford took this to mean he could reply but a sharp slap to his face silenced this as he winced with pain and felt the prod back over his now trembling lips. “The pet has seen through all of its thought forms!” Sheila pushed the Lord away from her as she stood, “If the pet has indeed broken the spell it will soon remember...I must depart you my darling.” Sheila stepped over the silent but terrified man who was still knelt by the bench. Her black, high heels left a thud in the stone floor as she walked towards the window. There was a sudden knock at the door which broke the rooms current atmosphere and brushed it quickly away into nothing. Both doors opened slowly, Simmons stood holding a well kept evening jacket by its hanger and watched as his master got back on to his feet. Mundford turned to face Sheila who was now stood with her back to him and saw her gesture him away with her hand. He turned back to Simmons with a bewildered look upon his face and approached him as his loyal butler spoke, “My Lord, your guests await you at the banquet.” Mundford took in a deep breath, shook his head and then was helped into his jacket. As the doors closed again with a slight click Mundford was then led by his servant towards a distant chamber where his guests waited. His mind began to began to shudder with worry. For every time Sheila dismissed him away, he knew problems would soon manifest that placed pressure upon his position. The candle flames in Mundfords private room soon began to wave, flicker and dance, his mistress was now nowhere to be seen..

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As Holmes collected the scattered clothing of his other` identity from off of the floor he discerned nothing that concerned him with Tompkins intrusion. The buffoon had clearly been interrupted Holmes thought to himself. The speed of the train though did catch his eyes as he glanced out of the small, blemished window. The speed of travel was reducing which left Holmes knowing that a station was nearby. As the smoke filled scene outside was joined by the occasional passing signal post, Holmes noticed a strange sound that on further investigation seemed to originate from cabin number 1. Holmes pulled the drawer, that was fitted under the small table, wide open and found what he needed. Taking the filthy looking whiskey glass to hand he carefully placed it against the wafer thin, ply wood partition and rested his right ear against its base. Holmes listened and took in everything from that hidden room. Firstly, someone was using Morse code to transmit a message...an urgent one by the sound of his breath and the way it slowed and then increased after certain words had been entered. Secondly, the man sending the message was stood and not sat – the minor squeak that often comes with brand new shoes suggested he was leaning towards the transmitter and having to adjust his position as he worked away. Holmes mind joined the letters into words.

...P A R T S W I N D O N C F R M D stop

...R E Q U E S R E P L A C E M N T stop

...I D S U S P I C I O U S stop

...A W A I T F U R T H E R I N S stop

Holmes listened as the man he knew was in fact Tompkins stood erect again. The sounds of boiled vapours began to seep into air as the squeaking shoes moved. Holmes heard something open – a cabinet – and this was followed by the sound of a lid being unscrewed in the mans hands – tin lid, glass jar with contents that rattled. The next sound to be heard by Holmes was the noise associated with someone emptying some of the glass jars content into the mans open palm. The jar was then placed on solid ground – over varnished fir wood - as its content re-found its natural level. The man then reached for a spoon that hit other cutlery inside a tin container – a mug. Holmes knew that the man held the spoon in his free hand because of the way he placed weight on one of his feet as he turned slightly. Then came the sound of two pings that suggested pellets – tablets – which rattled inside a new mug. As the man took in a deep breath – which suggested a large kettle full of boiling water - Holmes listened as some of its volume was poured over a tea strainer into the second tin mug. Holmes carried a sly smirk upon his face as he carefully replaced the drinking glass into the drawer and took the ring back to his finger. He gathered his belongings and placed them by his side on the appalling mattress as he sat and awaited Tompkins return. As he waited, he glanced back towards the window and was pleased by what he observed. He lit a cigarette and then smiled as the brand new shoes came to his cabins door. Tompkins knocked, “Mr Cannon sir? I have you tea sir. Do I have permission to enter?” Holmes stood with amusement and paused before barking, “Wait man!” After a few seconds in which he took one final study of the windows frame and catch, he went to his door and unlocked it. A pleased looking Tompkins was stood with a off white mug that was filled with what was hoped could be tea. “Here you are, Mr Cannon sir.” Holmes took the hot drink with a pretense of disdain and was about to close the door on Tompkins when he interrupted this with a cheeky smile. “Forgive me Mr Cannon sir but may I offer you something to warm up your hot drink?”, he produced a well worn, silver plated hip flask. Holmes, aiming to play his part complied with annoyance as Tompkins poured a healthy measure of scotch into his drink. “There you go sir! That will warm you up no doubt!” Holmes looked uninterested as he nodded and then asked, “Tompkins. We seem to be slowing down man.” Tompkins, whose eager eyes kept watching the mug that Holmes held onto , added, “A routine delivery stop Mr Cannon sir and nothing for you to be concerned with sir. Stay in your cabin and enjoy your drink sir. I shall return soon with hot grub and butties.” Holmes pushed the door shut and listened as the brand new shoes in the corridor headed off.

After braving the chilled air and a most uncomfortable cab journey, John had made it on time to his next form of travel. Even though the station had been busy, it consisted mainly of rail staff who moved like minions under the arched, wrought iron girders that held high the curbed roof. It seemed that the harsh weather had put the regular commuters off which in turn made Johns journey a far less irritating one. But there was still the annoying aromas, the passing pockets of engine smoke, high pitched screams that came from stationary engines and irritating whistles. After boarding his carriage which to his dismay turned out to be a second class car John found his compartment. It was surprisingly encouraging with its varnished wooden paneling that carried an amber like hue in its gleam. The seating, which comprised of two turtle green coloured lengthy seats, looked clean and comfortable to the eye. John lifted his luggage upwards and pushed it onto the baggage shelves before removing his coat. As he sat with relief within the communal cabin he detected the warmth of central heating which lifted his mood as he sat there with only himself for company. He sneezed and then felt the runny sensation one gets inside their nose. He tendered to this as the all clear was given outdoors with the sounds of whistles being blown. As the locomotive began to accelerate along the Great Western rail line John turned his attention to his copy of the Weekly Herald. Ever since Holmes had vanished he was always checking the newspapers for anything related to his friends current adventure. But thankfully for John, he had never found anything even minuscule about Holmes – no news is good news, he thought to himself as he turned the page. What John did find was more and more tales and questionable sightings of this Spring Heeled Jack fellow including rumors of cover-ups and conspiracies. As he read through these half baked reports he paused to consider just how much of this was intentional miss direction. As he and Holmes had learnt previously, there were at least two secret agencies actively involved and also interested in the Heeled Jackal affair. Like the opposing poles of a magnet that repulsed one another, secret men desired to own and utilize this mysterious terror. It was a depressing thought that left John doubting the claimed current level of mans so-called evolution. He discarded the newspaper back to his lap and reached inside his coat. With his rail ticket at hand he awaited the ticket inspector with plans to take several healthy swigs from his hip flask afterwards.

As the locomotive ground to an halt Holmes was busy fashioning a deliberate distraction within his cabin. He knew that the rightfully astute and competent Herring would simply not let matters lie after allowing Sir Cannon to travel by such pitiful means. Herring had hastily slipped Tompkins aboard to watch over Cannons safety and to also observe and report back. The station master would have also contacted the relevant channels to clarify and confirm the true whereabouts of Sir Cannon. From Tompkins most recent communication via morse code and the hot toddy mix of drugs and alcohol Holmes was in no doubt that his current `public performance` was at an end. To these ends Holmes decided that he had three possible solutions. The first solution entailed taking Tompkins by surprise and then drugging him with his own special brew. But this plan spilled out further concerns that would had increased risk to Holmes original intentions. The second solution involved Holmes introducing his true self to the postal agent, but this would also aad problems to his plans. Even if Tompkins went along with Holmes scheme and covered up his presence – his tongue would one day talk and give hidden ears the intelligence they required to capture him. So, with no other solution than the third, Holmes continued to place Cannons clothing and body padding onto the dire mattress. The master detective took great care in fashioning – with speed - a shape that when covered would resemble a severely drugged and intoxicated Sir Henry Cannon. Holmes took the snow white hair piece and placed it merrily over the mangled mauve socks and gray vest that formed the illusions head. Finally, he took one of the Sirs ivory colored evening gloves and filled it with fresh tobacco until its touch and shape looked correct. After placing it carefully, so that gloves palm rested over the side of the wigged oval of clothes he took his own personal scarf and fashioned a wrist. With this complete, Holmes draped the fleece cloth carefully over the dummy, adjusted it and then clapped with amused satisfaction. He then turned his attention to the next step, the only one that would conceal his true identity and allow him to travel unseen.

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