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Mark One

The Heeled Jackal

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Mark One

Not soon after seeing Mr Holmes leave his establishment, he himself had left the drunkards in the bar area and made his way along the empty and narrow corridor. At its end he had climbed the worn stone steps which ran upwards to his right. From that landing he had soon found himself within the confides of his own personal sleeping chamber where he began quickly picking out more suitable clothing for the outdoors. As he undressed, his mind began to drift with excitement. The capture and future auction of Sherlock Holmes would give his name fame throughout Europe, he thought to himself. The old man was also theorising about new and better trade, wealth, respect and higher protection from a sponsor who he only knew of as a private Guild based somewhere deep beyond the Severn. The pleased look along his wrinkle cracked face admired the dusty reflection from the wooden framed mirror that stood tall to one side of the rooms only window. Brittle hands had carefully patted down the dust ridden piped long frock with pride. It had once been a moss green coloured, single breasted coat with thread bare cotton lining that had now lost its shine. In places the tired wool bore the signs of stiffness and elsewhere revealed creases and the tell tale signs of spoilage and dampness. But the old man's weak eyes could only see its reflection with clouded memories which applauded his appearance.

 

But now with regret he was stood inside the appalling Guesting Room which was cold and filled with a dire mood that surrounded his form like a unseen mist of sourness. His foot kicked away the cracked and broken frame before he adjusted his balance and then moved towards the stale rooms sleeping arrangements. The bed had clearly been moved from its original position within the room as a tall and long crack could now be seen that raced up the wall where it had originally be positioned. Sat on the beds untrustworthy and stained surface was a top hat and his prized walking stick. The woven Victorian silk coating that covered his hat had clearly lost its sheen due to age and neglect. His walking stick however looked far better and had clearly been cleaned on a regular basis. Krystian grabbed his hat with frustration and sat it upon his head without thought for its position. He then lifted his black hardwood walking stick upwards by its shank before titling its elevation. His lean hand then released a little of its grip as its length fell downwards until his grasp felt the coldness of its discoloured brass collar which was situated within the mouth area just shy of the sticks heel. His hand then took full control as it quickly found the crown before gripping its arched handle which was then squeezed until it shook his hand. .

 

 

 

His boots then slowly took him towards the side wall where the bed had originally stood. He raised his stick and used it to prod the disgusting surface of the wall in a gap between two of his Silenced Portraits. And with a shy click, the crack began to grow wider and reveal s stream of dimly lit light. A very narrow doorway became visible, a secret door that had been fashioned to look just like the stone bricks which surrounded it. Krystians slight form encountered no trouble as he entered its tight opening, sideways. Inside the hidden passage his boots bumped into a small bundle of cloths and at least one book which were all kicked out of his way as he turned himself around. Something else then bothered his attention as he looked down and to his left. As his face began to screw up with impatience he reached down and picked up something unseen. A well looked after, opened suit case was then passed back into the small room and dropped to the floor. Krystians tired eyes keenly studied its form with disdainful thoughts about Holmes as his free hand pulled the narrow doorway shut. Another soft click was then heard and everything went silent again. The sounds of a slowly moving chain could be heard as the bed began moving back towards its original location. This was clearly a slow process as the bed crawled along like a tired snail. But when it was back against the wall something else in the room fell with a crash, not far from the bed. One of the frames which had hung from the wall across from the bed was now back, face down on the dirty floor.

 

Not too far away outside, Sherlock Holmes was currently making plans to head back towards the Arms. After all, the unseen route which was obviously well used was now his only safe way out of here. It was also obvious to him that it would take him along a direct route, quickly and safely towards another well populated area. The climate around him was also something not to chance your bets with and any other potential direction of escape would only lead him into the extremes of the great outdoors. He knew it would be hazardous under foot but it wasn't impossible. The only fly which spoilt the ointment of his intentions was the scarfed figure and his horridly keen canine, who was still sat awaiting a command from its master. As Holmes considered these two problems he was painfully aware that he no-longer possessed a sack with which to defend himself from the claws and jaws of the bloodthirsty beast. The best solution he had for the moment was to keep maintaining a distance between both the assassin and his trained animal. And with each step he inched his way upwards as his eyes took note of his predators free hand. This did not please the scarfed figure though, who sternly demanded, “I am not following...you up there...Mister. Stay...where you are...and deliver to me what...you hide.” The prey meanwhile was having non of this as he was clambering, almost on all fours over steep and slopy mounds of snow covered earth

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tcgram

Another great entry, I had been waiting for the next installment in your story.  Thank you for sharing.  :)   

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Mark One
4 minutes ago, tcgram said:

Another great entry, I had been waiting for the next installment in your story.  Thank you for sharing.  :)   

Thanks tc, such praise makes it all worth it.

I am currently typing up the conclusion to this part of the story (Holmes & Mallens Poke).  Should be posted within the next few days. (After nearly two years of having this part of the adventure constantly in my imagination - just itching to get out)

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tcgram
8 minutes ago, Mark One said:

Thanks tc, such praise makes it all worth it.

I am currently typing up the conclusion to this part of the story (Holmes & Mallens Poke).  Should be posted within the next few days. (After nearly two years of having this part of the adventure constantly in my imagination - just itching to get out)

I look forward to reading it.  

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Mark One
Posted (edited)

With great determination and ample ignorance towards the impatient burden below him, Holmes eventually made it onto flatter ground that led him once again, very close to the Mallen Arms. He had no concerns for now about the lone survivors intentions. For after all he knew that even that fool would not chance harming him and risk the loss of the stone to the snows. Holmes did however expect the assassins loyal hound to grace him with its malicious presence at some point soon. He had already calculated a solution to that problem and it was a method that required very careful timing if he was to survive its teeth. But right now he had to focus and carefully scope his surroundings. For even though he was now close to freedom, he equally close to defeat. His mouth and stomach now craved nourishment, his body tired and his mind was beginning to buckle under the unfair conditions that bombarded it almost endlessly. He took in several deep breaths of cold air and regained his optimum focus. After shaking himself free of any snow which had clung to his wrists and thighs he soon noticed several distant and surprised looking regulars of the Arms. They stood in unsure groups not too far from the building as their intoxicated forms shivered back at him. He knew that such men had no fight in them but there was still the risk of keen, calculating eyes that could easily report anything that Holmes did. But between both them and himself, Holmes saw something familiar, a thing of horror that stood high and alone in the unforgiving snow. It was the souvenir that had been taken with force way back when Patryk Krystian had been a capable and very fierce pirate of the seven seas. Holmes wondered how Joseph-Ignace Guillotin would have reacted if he had known that one day his humane method of dispatching the convicted would end up in the unfair hands of such criminal classes. It was a sickening thought which only added further baring to the repulsive atmosphere that its almost deadly silent form emanated as it creaked in the wind. Holmes was apprehensive, for he did not wish to be near it nor even touch its dreadful edges. But right now he had no other choice. Holmes mood quickly became freakish in nature as he studied its horrid appearance and realised something. Its frost ridden and heavily corroded construction could soon be the only thing keeping him free from clutches of death itself. His thoughts then turned back to the scarfed assassin. Holmes knew time was now short and the assassin had in many ways slowed down his planned escape. He also took note of the scarlet glow which flicked and shimmered from that uninviting small window – which was clearly a beacon. A very effective method employed by Krystian to alert is distant and remote pockets of men . A fresh and unwelcome breeze blew around him which brought with it fresh flakes of snow as he turned around. Holmes eyes narrowed slightly as he spied past the mine entrance and deep into the distance. As expected, he picked out a series of figures and several smaller forms which could only mean more of the four legged variety. He suspected mercenaries, trackers and money grabbing opportunists who would do anything to secure his capture. Holmes swallowed hard, knowing that soon he would be surrounded and out numbered. The clock was now indeed ticking away and to add insult to injury – the mysterious cleansing and rejuvenating side-effects of the glowing stone were now wearing off. Once again, the malicious cold air seemed to creep up and grip his vulnerable body with a sensation that wished to lower his spirit into hopelessness. As his brow began to ache with watered vision that clouded his view, he decided to act. Swiftly turning in the snow led him facing a much closer annoyance who still hid his face behind a scarf. The lone survivor had crept his way closer and was now at least 20 feet away from him. Holmes rubbed his eyes to clear his vision and then reached inside his coat. The scarfed assassin mocked him with laughter as Holmes pointed the gun directly at him.

 

Take yer chance squire...thats a wrong-un...hardly ever fires a single slug”, came his menacing and gargled words. Holmes determined focus faltered as he recalled his own concerns about the weapon. His eyes briefly monitored the fingers of his opponents right hand and they thankfully recognised the signs of idleness. This allowed him to lower the gun and then hold it in both hands. As his own fingers traced its every surface he took another quick glance into the distance and saw a gang of men and beasts getting ever closer. His opponent sensed Holmes concerns and offered him a deal filled with amusement, “Hand it over, son...and I`ll call em off.” Holmes ignored this as his eyes remained fixed on the ever approaching party of further problems. His face was a calm mask of concentration as he took the revolver to his left ear. Its barrel was spun several times and the guns hammer gently pressed frequently. A slight curl formed along the left side of his closed lips as an amazing realisation joined his wisdom. The mask of his face lessened and then warmly displayed a look of sincere confidence as he redirected the weapon back at him and took aim. The assassins fingers began to dance again as his own eyes narrowed with unsure curiosity. After a few seconds of silence his own eyes awoke with a worried realisation that weakened his voice, “Kill me sir, will you?...You carnt kill...me...with that chancer.” Holmes looked him sternly in the eye, “Murder is your bag, master assassin and mine is the preservation of life.” He then glanced towards the scarfed figures hound and then gave its master a nod of encouragement. Those determined fingers that Holmes had been mindful of began to curl and dance with determination again as the tell tale signs of a risky stand off was about to take place. Holmes watched as the scarfed assassins curling fingers quickly joined one another and formed an angry fist that trembled with mild rage. The masked assassin then took a long moment to stare at Holmes before he warned him with, “You are a dying candle...in the wind...Mr Holmes.”, he paused to take in breath, “A fool, sir, who does...not realise...the word has been put about.” Holmes smiled, “But this fool has your undivided attention with a loaded gun, master assassin.” His opponent coughed into laughter , “I am one...of many, Mr Holmes...who will pursue you...and hurt you...” His fist then relaxed and opened as keen fingers fell into idleness. He turned his head slightly to his right, clicked those fingers 4 times, spat into his scarf and then dryly concluded his conversation with, “So be it.” The obedient distant hound plunged itself into life as it sprang forward with determination. Its masters right arm began to slowly pull backwards with a slight bend. Holmes was prepared for this and kept his aim straight and true as the heavy breathing menace got ever closer. “Go on then, shoot it, Mr Holmes.”, came the cocksure expectations of his opponent. Holmes replied, “And allow you to dip into your deceptive apparel for another one of those carefully hidden sheafs of razor sharpened steel? I dare say that you are mistaken on many matters of importance , master assassin.”

 

The scarfed menaces eyes darted down towards the curling fingers of his free hand as they reluctantly went limp. His seething vision then raced back to glare at Holmes as the devilish dog came close to racing past its master. Holmes now knew this was the moment that he had to utilise perfectly. He visually measured and calculated the canines position, speed and direction of approach. And then without any warning, Holmes adjusted his aim and pulled the trigger. The sound was almost deafening as the bullet left the gun and travelled directly into the assassins right shoulder which in turn sent him spinning into a groaning fall as he let out a short, sharp shriek. He met his own dog full on as it crashed just underneath his trembling torso. With the dog unconscious and its master unable to deliver his deadly skills, With some relief he now had no need for the decapitation device either as he wasted no more time on the assassin. Holmes threw the gun into the distant snows, turned and then ran in the general direction of the guillotine. As his cold feet took on the burden of the deep and uncaring snows he raced with heavy breath in the direction of one more sloped mound of ground, and this is when he slid to an alarming halt. Ahead of him he spotted Patryk Krystian, his face appeared flushed and his expression seemed frenzied. The small gatherings of men who had watched Holmes earlier were now backing away as two more, familiar and daunting figures came forward to support the old man. Either side of the aged figure were the dog handlers that Holmes had only met briefly before his previous departure from the Arms. Krystian lifted his stick and directed it towards Holmes before letting out a loud cry that was fused with strong emotion. “Thee Mister Holmes has cost me too much”, he shook his trembling head before concluding with, “I wash mine hands of thee!” Holmes watched with horror as both hounds, who now clearly seemed more alert after a possible short nap began to sniff the air and pick out his familiar scent again. He swallowed hard as both hounds were released, their chilling heads held high as they took in the mixed air and carefully trod down the slope to meet his level . Holmes began to back away as sudden sounds from behind now caught his ears. Those who had seen the scarlet beacon were also closer now than Holmes had expected. Hope began to fade and abandon him as an image in his mind brought forth the chess board, his king cornered by knights and pawns. The chess board began to shake as the vision cleared and a worried Sherlock Holmes whispered that which now brought fear, “Mastiffs!”

Edited by Mark One
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Mark One

Sorry readers but the conclusion to Mallens Poke is underway :)  Expect it within the next few days.

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Mark One

Apologies for the delay.  Ive been under the weather with a flu virus.

The returning sight of Brutus and his more seasoned companion was enough to halt all of Holmes current plans. Their presence was unexpected and it made no sense to him apart from a potential painful and deadly liaison. He had always judged their addition to his nightmare at the Mallens Arms as a needed show of fear but nothing more too involving. But such assumptions were currently useless as the youngest of the two hounds ran at him with a casual pace. Time was now short and Holmes had nowhere to run as the one called Brutus came closer and then slowed its pace. Its large nose sniffed in the air and then ran into his side. The heavy thud which hit his thigh hurt him badly and sent numbing sensations up and down his leg. The weight of mastiffs claws then mauled the lower part of his coat and forced him into a spin which nearly dropped him into the snow. Part of his coat was ripped and then pulled away with force by moist, foamy fangs as he frantically struggled to free his arm from his left sleeve. This was made even worse by the deep and heavy growls that the monster known by the name of Brutus released from the gaps in its protruding fangs. Its horrific jaw was moist and dripping with thick droplets of saliva – something worrying which told Holmes the beast was furiously hungry. It had clearly napped well after he had left the Arms and had then later been awoken and led outdoors. He could also tell that the dogs empty stomach had also quickly picked up on the scents and aromas that Patryk Krystian had cunningly laced into his clothing. The look in its soured, watery eyes however was terrifying as they bulged and juddered out their inner rage towards him. That life draining stare gave Holmes confirmation that dear old Brutus had attacked and probably killed people before and thus, developed a taste for human flesh. As the struggle with his coat continued, he frantically glanced around in search of the other, older dog and thankfully found it stood, not far behind the guillotine where it patiently monitored its companions progress whilst sniffing the snow. Holmes knew that the older dog was waiting for its younger friend to bring him down – before joining in to share in the spoils of his soon to be mutilated body. And then this is when he felt and then heard the fabric of his coat begin to rip and tear as the sleeve gave way. Returning full attention back on Brutus allowed him with a frantic motion to free his arm. With this questionable success he then felt the full force of the dogs strength pull against him from his other arm as it dragged and shook against what remained. The strain he felt was almost unbearable and he was quite sure that the mastiff was trying to pull him into the snow were it could then easily maul him. His only solution was to free himself of that now ruined outer clothing but the mastiffs pull upon him began to dig deep under his right arm and this in turn brought pain and held the remaining sleeve in place. The same arm inside the sleeve shook under the strain as it reached desperately outwards, pointing its reach towards the guillotine which was so close but so desperately far. And again the struggle began to reach into his tired knees as they defiantly refused to buckle and surrender. And then without warning, Brutus made a lunge for Holmes legs which he just managed to evade with a swing to one side. With little time think, Holmes did the only thing possible right now. He turned and fell onto his knees, freed the arm, sprung himself back and flipped the coat with his boot, into the mastiffs face. This distraction gave Holmes vital seconds to both distance himself and also reach for the higher elevation of the guillotines bench. With kicking legs that sent snow airborne all around him he added frantic inches of distance away from the frustrated beast which had by now freed itself for the fabrics coating. Both of his hands desperately compacted snow as hard as was possible into a solid mass as he scampered back onto his feet and backed even further away. He quickly turned his head to monitor the other hound and thankfully found it sat and panting quite heavily, seemingly quite content to sit this one out. The terror inducing sounds however that he now heard in front of him though forced his focus back upon Brutus. The enraged beast had finished with or rather shredded the coat and was now creeping towards him. Its stance was low as each carefully placed claw reached ever closer. Its growls became a softer form of menace as its closed mouth prepared to strike at its prey. Holmes trembled as he concealed the ball of snow within the cup of his right hand. He then gently pressed it into his shirt and then moved it upwards along his shivering torso. When it reached his shivering shoulder he took several steps backwards and then did the only thing he knew of to temporarily stun the hound. He lifted both arms with force above his shoulders, bent his arms and then growled with a fierce rage, back at the mastiff. As the mastiff froze with the flaps of its ears faltering, Holmes took aim and threw the ball of snow with an aim that matched that of a cricket bowler. It hit the dog along the short spread of its muzzle and the resulting painful reaction was all that Holmes needed to turn and hastily head for the bench.

 

He half slipped a small jump that thankfully still brought him safely onto the board with an uncomfortable knock which hurt his knees and shins. Both hands instantly grabbed the adjoining uprights which held him back, just free of the hanging blades drop, high above him. The life draining chill however, under his knees quickly brought discomfort to him as he strained and adjusted himself to remain in a safe upright position. As he did this he then saw the first members of the approaching party come into view as they travelled up the same slope which he had used only minutes earlier. Those who appeared first wore drab and plain coloured coats that on many of them fell below well their knees. Their faces where generally obscured with uplifted collars, heavy wrappings of ripped cloths and various forms of well worn headwear. At least two of these depressed inducing visitors which came into view carried sacks over their shoulders. Holmes felt assured in his deductions that such contents consisted mainly of rations and equipment best suited to their task. All of the men in question then stopped with surprise, making amusing gestures to one another as they pointed out Holmes unusual use of the guillotine. Not far behind them and somewhere further down the slope of snow, Holmes heard the moans and cursing of the lone survivor, who was clearly being helped and brought back onto his feet. Something surprising then caught Holmes attention when he first heard and then saw Brutus move lightly ahead of the guillotine and then display a stance of warning teeth and heavy growls towards the unwelcome audience of curious travellers. Behind Holmes, the distant and familiar sound of Krystians unique voice called out and then thanked them for coming before praying for them to politely remain distant. This was then met with the handler of Brutus shouting commands in some local tongue to his loyal pet. As Holmes heard this his knees began to slide into one another as the unforgiving ice brought ever constant pain and put strain upon his wrists as he struggled to maintain his hold. The sudden and unwelcome sound of the other mastiff then caught his ears and it was very close behind him. The older Mastiff began to mount the far end of the board with low, sinister growls that sounded both deep and heavily stewed with menace. The creaking noises that Holmes then heard from behind him told a worrying story about the condition of the weathered contraption. He quickly began to suspect that the board was a customised piece that had been fashioned into place long after the guillotines erection. The weight of the angry beast then pressed heavily into the boards surface as both of its thickly set front legs propped it comfortably into a position where its claws could begin reaching out to maul its prey. All of this forced Holmes into pulling his knees forward and closer to the peril of the restraining neck brace. And as he did this he felt the board begin to give way behind him as the horrid beast there clawed itself closer. He suddenly felt a claw scratch into the heel of his right boot just as he fearfully heard the dogs jaw snap shut, not far from his boot. The frustrated beast then bitterly growled again as it prepared to take another chance at claiming his boot. As Holmes shook with the cold and desperately turned to glance at the beast, his alarmed ears suddenly recognised the panting sounds of the other one. His agitated posture quickly turned back to look ahead and this is when he saw its stalking form ahead of him. As Holmes nervous eyes and the confident hounds vision stared at one another, he knew it was preparing to pounce its ample size into the air. Brutus slowly crawled closer, still low to the ground, its underside pressing deep into the snow as it calculated every inch of journey towards him. The expression upon its face was calm but determined as it paced and slowed with precise precision. Its moist nostrils soaked up every last drop of fear from its prey with delight. A sudden sharp stabbing pain however erupted around the heel area of his right boot which shook and unhinged Holmes into almost loosing his grip. He gritted his teeth with pain and pulled his foot free of the claw just in time to see Brutus in front of him rise in the snow and then pounce. The devious hound propelled itself into the air, its solemn looking face now cruelly replaced with wicked exposed fangs that were held in place by its darkened gums.

 

Holmes shuddered with shock and did the only thing he could. He released his grip around the guillotines uprights and pushed himself free to his left and away from the unstable board. But as he did this, both hands fell free of their gloves which were now stuck to the icy, metal surface. To his horror he then saw the illuminated stone drop into the open air and with one last desperate reach, he tried to save it as the hungry jaw of Brutus took aimed its interest in his wrist. Luck was not on Holmes side though as only his finger tips managed to stroke its descending surface before his plummeting posture led him away and into the deep snows. As he crashed into its crusted surface and then rolled over he turned back quickly with hope of still saving the tiny stone and this is when he saw something totally unexpected. The two hounds who now found themselves facing one another at either end of the guillotine were almost silent apart from some occasional whining. Their angered and frustrated moods were now long gone as both became enchanted by the tiny star which was now seemed firmly fixed into the side of the upright, only a few inches above the board. Its beautiful shine caught the attention and surprise of those who stood with Patryk Krystian and all reacted to it with silent grunts and groans of a stunned nature. But Holmes had no concerns for them as his own fascination began to watch with interest the fluctuations in the stones colour and its volatile sheen. It appeared to be losing its abundant glow as Holmes watched and guessed that the iron construct was in some-way purging its light. Both hounds then became distressed as their large heads shook with heavy discomfort. A strange and peculiar hum began to gather in volume in the snowy air around everyone as the iron post appeared to shiver. The vibration which Holmes was now witnessing seemed to fluctuate in tune with the flashing pulse of the stones light source. Holmes was fascinated by its strange reaction to metals and was also relieved by the way in which it had temporarily subdued the two mastiffs. After pulling himself up in the chilling snow he was soon back on his feet. He rubbed his cold hands together vigorously with a hidden excitement and took a few steps back with caution as he watched the bizarre event unfold in front of him. The iron upright which was not far from him was now revealing feint glows along its outer surface. Tiny sparks of pinks and greens erupted and then danced into nothingness and as Holmes carefully noted – many of them earthed whilst others reached out into the open air. The irons content of steel, aluminium and other foreign bodies quickly suggested to Holmes a possible explanation for the bizarre coloured reaction. But his ears where then drawn to the moaning sounds of the animals around him. It was clear to him that something high pitched in vibration was troubling their ears and this suddenly brought back his own memories of the Jackal and its own unique viral infection. The connection between rabies and the suffering dogs around him brought forth a break through as he discerned something that had for now been cleverly hidden. As the mastiff called Brutus fell away from the bracing and down into the snow, Holmes began to reflect upon his experience by the mine entrance. New and exciting realisations then began presenting themselves, which in turn began to fill in the missing gaps and thus explain the horrific reasons for many of the deaths within London.

 

 

Far behind him, one of the dog handlers who by the husky sound of his troubled voice clearly owned Brutus, shouted out with worried concerns and instructions. The Mastiff which was now upright in the snow looked lost as its whimpers reluctantly replied with docile glances of compliance. The animal dragged itself into an unsteady upright position and then walked its way gingerly around the front of the guillotine and then along its side. All of its natural aggressive instincts seemed lost or beaten as it lumbered its way past Holmes with ignorance. And as its old friend followed suit with a carefree drop away from the now crippled bench, both of them briefly reunited with comforting sniffs and licks of encouragement. An astonished Holmes remained fixed were he was in the snow and wilfully shivered as he watched them depart. His ever constant, calculating mind was of course storing such experiences and encounters with great interest. Part of him now felt thankful for the horrid and testing conditions around him. He looked back towards the Mallen Arms weathered and crooked display and reluctantly thought of the disgusting inn keeper and his minions. It was now obvious to him that without Mallens Poke, it would have taken him far longer to work out and then clearly understand some of the many secrets which those within London wished to bury deeply under the mass hysteria of misty spectres, nightly terrors and murders. Holmes had been deliberately lax with his usual methods soon after locating that stone. For his past findings within those stinking haunts of Stable Street had quickly revealed a story that wished to remained hidden. Sherlock Holmes had easily realised on that night and clearly discerned that the attacker had been seeking something which the now deceased Tom Mellows had been trying his best to hide. But what had eluded Holmes until now was just how the Jackal knew where to look when seeking its prey. The disturbed guillotine was now offering him the stones secrets and this was matter that was best explored later, in more safer and favourable conditions.  Soon both hounds were heading back towards their masters, along the higher slope with depressing sounding moans wrestling within their breath. And he soon noticed that everyone else around him were still stood in stunned silence. A vast series of open mouths and widened eyes staring at the guillotine with confused wonder left Holmes feeling invisible. But he knew that this wasn't permanent and could quickly change at any moment. The temporal relief which this brought him allowed him to return his attention back towards the quickly dimming light show nearby. The iron upright was now releasing vapours as the ingrained ice and snow began to melt away. Its shaking reach, high into the open air was soon moist with droplets of fresh water and this soon released the now lifeless stone and also the moist gloves higher above it. The tiny stone now fell downwards into its end along the crippled slant of the wooden board. Its fall was broken with a slight thud as the mix of damp wood and slushes of wet ice caught and then captured it. Without thinking, Holmes dashed towards it and claimed both it and his gloves. The unexpected warmth that radiated inside his gloves was welcome as it soothed the numbness in his hands. He then placed the lifeless stone back inside his glove as the impossible situation around him slowly crept back into his awareness. Many of the men folk present were now moving in.

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