The Case of the Orient Express Murder. Part One: Riddle Me Dead. A Baker Street Universe Adventure by John Pirillo. "Life is precious in more ways than we might like."
The Case of the Orient Express Murder.
Part One: Riddle Me Dead.
A Baker Street Universe Adventure.
By John Pirillo.
It was hard times for Henry. And an even harder death as he stepped onto the evening train to the Swiss Alps. He was a down and out businessman looking for that magical sale that would lift not only his spirits, but his depleted bank account as well.
Henry was the son of a banker and his father was still alive and watching his every failure with great interest. "I always knew you would be a failure, son. Even when you were born it was a struggle to get your miserable little body out of your mother, thus causing her premature death."
Henry had bridled at the suggestion he had killed his own mother, but facts were facts, his birth had brought about her demise. He had never got to know the rose of her cheeks, the gentle of her touch, and the soft terms of endearment that children are nourished with and schooled in as they grow through the failures of child hood into the failures of adulthood.
Yes, he was a negative person. Little he had experienced in this life had taught him otherwise, but perhaps if he had glimpsed the shadowy form that was paralleling his steps to climb onto the train; he might have rethought some of his longings for death. The shadowy from leapt from car to car, not making a single sound as it alighted on the next, and even in the dark as sense of emptiness radiating from where the face should have been.
But none noticed it, for all were busy, and quite tired and only wanted to climb aboard, have the conductor take their tickets, then snuggle up happily into their first, second and third class berths. Henry was third class, which while not meaning he had to sleep in the passenger cars with the hard chairs, did mean he had to sleep in what the upper class called the "Cattle Cars." Those places where there was no heat, no light, and no fresh air, unless you stood by the exits.
Henry had lucked out for once and been ticketed to the adjoining car, which had two exits. One for passengers and one for the horses that were also passengered in the car. Yes, third class also included animals. That alone would not have bothered him, he found animals far better company than most Londoners, who looked down upon this small man and his snively ways of talking, his perpetual runny nose, and his chatter that sounded more like a mouse's complaint than a man's.
He settled his briefcase under the bench that was to be his bed for that night and set his candled sconce...his only means of seeing...into the upper alcove recessed in the wall above the bench. His car had eight benches. All on the same side and with stall walls rising to give some sense of separation and privacy. A latrine bucket was supplied on both ends of the car. The horses were the only companions that night and he was glad of it. He loved the smell of their sweat and their gentle natures. He had actually brought a pocket of sugar cubes just in case such an event might occur and it did, so he fed each of the four fellows in the car, gently stroking their noses as they nickered in pleasure from the treats he offered.
Finally, he sighed with fatigue, slipped into his cubicle and slung down the single blanket that was there. He didn't bother putting it over him, but rather under him. It alleviated the hardness of the bench somewhat. He was used to sleeping in uncomfortable beds, so this one made little impression on him, as the one he slept upon in his father's house, the one under the stairwell, was made of concrete and had tiny little spiders nestled above it, which he had to constantly fend off, which left him little true sleeping time, which might explain his running nose and saggy eyes with bloodshot eyes.
Yes, he had much to complain about as to how his life had turned out...a father who reviled him, but tolerated him for society's sake; a job that paid next to nothing, and was usually nothing with little hope of ever allowing him to rise above his station or lack thereof; and finally a thorough lack of female companionship. With no money he was a poor prospect for a proper relationship and the Midnight Angels required more remuneration than he received in a month's time for o ne night of pleasure, so he dared not even go there.
He sighed as his thoughts collapsed into a heap of self loathing, kicked off his third hand shoes with the nicks on their toes, then curled up in a fetal position on his bench. He was so exhausted that he fell into a dark abyss of sleep even as he closed his eyes. Therefore he didn't notice at first when the stallions in their cubicles began to make disturbed sounds. Something had entered the passenger car. It paused before the first cubicle, noted the passenger there, hovered over it a moment, then backed out and went to the next. It raised its dark head, sniffed the air, and then struck to the end of the car, just as the train struck something large on the rails, causing it to teeter dangerously for a moment.
But the shadowy form never lost its balance for a moment. It edged on until it found poor Henry's cubicle. It looked down at the pathetic creature curled up in to a ball and for a brief moment actually felt a tinge of sympathy. But only for the fraction of a second it took for it to descend into the cubicle and attend to its own needs.
Henry woke up only briefly. It was near his last breath. He saw nothing but darkness, but felt this fetid breath upon his cheeks. He heard but two words before he expired. "Dear One!"
Even the Lords and Ladies of first class were entranced by the grand entrance of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The sky above the town of Lucerne was brightened by the shining golden ship, "Master of the World," a vessel built by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells that could fly through space and time, and even underwater if need be. But in this case it was merely the rough weather enroute to the Swiss Alps which usually plagued the area in the fall, with its bleary, whining winds that many Swiss found intolerable and shut out of their hearing as best they could, while others feared it as the banshee of death.
On this one occasion they could very well have been correct and rightly so. For one had died that night and was found the next morning. On the Orient Express, the most famous train of the recent ages, powered by its strong Tesla engines and capable of speeds up to a grand sixty miles per hour, even up hills and steep inclines, of which there were many enroute to Lucerne.
As Sherlock stepped into the exit from the hull of the Master of the World he sniffed the air and made a face. Rare for him. Watson came out to his right, noticed his companion's discomfort. "Allergies?"
Sherlock shook his head. "Death."
Watson's eyebrow arched in an imitation of Sherlock's demeanor. "This is rare for you to discover, Holmes? Really?"
Sherlock turned to Watson. "I have smelled this before. In my world."
For a brief moment both men were lost in memories as brief, flitting images of past partners surfaced, only to be doused in the warmth of their current friendships. Watson took a deep breath. "Well, I smell nothing but Swiss Chocolate, of which I intend to heartily avail myself of."
Sherlock gave his friend a broad smile; rare for him.
"Can you at least wait until we've seen the victim?"
Watson made a mock sigh of discontent. "Oh, how shall I ever live a normal life again?"
Several of the Lords and Ladies at the base of the now unfolding ramp, stepped back and pointed as Jules and Wells followed Sherlock and Wells down the ramp. "It's them. Them! Look there, will you!"
Jules and Wells cringed from the unwanted attention. Their celebrity while rightfully earned, still caused them no end of discontent when they coursed through known streets in efforts to spend quiet times with their families in public arenas, but forced for the most part to just visit each other because of the endless needs for attention of the public when they appeared. While the two men could fight monsters from Mars, and aliens from other times and spaces, facing a crowd of admirers was horrifying to them.
"Have no fear Jules. Watson and I will distract them while you two head off for the chocolate factory."
Watson gave his friend a scowl. "What, am I to be an object of conversation while they plunder the most famous chocolate factory in all of the Europes."
"Quite so, dear Watson. Quite so." Sherlock answered drily.
Inspector Bloodstone stood at the entrance to the passenger car, while Constable Evans and a trained squad of Forensics Marines scoured the area for any clues to the mysterious death about the train. Constable Evans shivered. Did this craziness ever end?
He turned his eyes to the car where the passenger had died, and shook his head. Was this part of the Dark Wars? Another pawn on the chess board? Or something worse? He didn't know. He just hoped that for once a reasonable solution could be discovered, even though he feared it would not.
Jules and Wells exited the passenger car and stepped to Constable Evans.
"Anything?" Constable Evans asked, fearing their answer.
Jules looked paler than usual and Wells seemed, for once, even more inward than usual. Both men seemed reluctant to discuss the case. Finally, Jules spoke up.
"Constable Evans, this is clearly the work of some dark force."
Wells nodded, also speaking up finally. "This doesn't mean that the Dark Wars have anything to do with it."
Constable Evans frowned in disbelief.
Jules put a warm hand on his shoulder. "Mon Ami, circumstances dictate that we hope and pray for the best, even when it seems more dark and dreary than we hope."
Constable Evans nodded.
Almost like a cork popping from a champagne bottle, Sherlock Holmes shot forth from the passenger car and ran to the site where a Forensics Marine had planted a red flag. Watson chugged along behind him, huffing and puffing.
"I really got to stop eating...so...many scones." He panted.
They reached the site and Watson knelt before the item found, opening his black bag for the closer examination that Sherlock was sure to want. He handed over a vial and tweezers.
Sherlock dropped to a knee and plucked a hair from what was a desiccated face, parchment dry and wrinkled like that of an Egyptian Mummy. He placed it in the vial, stoppered it, and then reached his hand out. Watson took it, and planted another in his palm.
Sherlock next scraped the chin of the face, and ushered that paper like substance into the second vial. Watson took it and then handed a third.
Sherlock's eyes widened as he noted two puncture marks on the forehead, right over the third eye. "Most interesting, Watson."
"Jolly well not." Watson countered.
Sherlock gave a brief scowl of a grin, and then proceeded to fill the third vial with saliva from the mouth, which was thick like pus and an odd black and green color. Finished, he rose to his feet, just as Inspector Bloodstone came into speaking distance.
"Watson, I'd like you to make sure this finds its way back to London. Would you mind helping the Forensics Marines safely store it for us?"
Watson nodded and hurriedly began giving instructions to the Marine standing next to him. The man's eyes widened a bit, but he nodded and ran off to begin gathering the other Marines.
"I suppose this is just another mystery as inside." Inspector Bloodstone commented sarcastically.
"All life is a mystery, Inspector. But whether it opens its petals of knowledge to us as a proper flower of education should...that is the greater mystery." Sherlock stated, and then headed for the Master of the World.
Jules and Wells, who had overheard and joined the Inspector along with his son, Constable Evans looked warily at the remains.
Jules and Wells exchanged veiled glances, and then quickly looked away.
Not lost on Constable Evans who filed the event for further investigation.
"Uh, Inspector." Constable Evans corrected himself upon the scowl from his father. "It would appear that this is not the same person as was found inside the passenger car."
"Brilliant deduction. And what made you decide that?" Fumed his father, instantly regretting his sarcasm at the hurt look in his son's eyes. "I mean, please explain."
Constable Evans shrugged and walked away.
"Children!" The Inspector sighed, and then followed after his son, hoping to catch him and remedy his stupid remarks before it went too much further and created a rift between them. Of late they had both been getting on each other's nerves, neither one having totally adjusted to their new fatherhood and son status.
Jules looked at Wells. "It has begun again."
"I'm afraid so, Jules. But I suspect this is only the opening volley. We must hurry back to the ship to prepare to take our friends to London and then..."
"And then what?"
"That remains to be seen." Wells said mysteriously.
The two hurried to the ship.
Watson huffed and puffed and caught up to them as they reached the boarding ramp. "We need to get to London at once!"
Jules turned back and saw the Forensics Marines marching swiftly to the ship with a heavy crate between them.
"Both?" Jules inquired.
Jules shivered, then crossed himself and entered the ship.
Wells waited until the Marines arrived, then gestured them to enter the ship, which they did, bearing the crate as carefully as if it were a bomb. For it was, in some sense, a bomb. A time bomb.
Professor Langdon ran his forensics test for the fiftieth time on the saliva that Holmes had given him. Both Sherlock and Watson stood at his windows overlooking the Thames, their thoughts very remote from what was going on behind them. He sighed. Those two have been through so much. But then again, who hasn't? He thought to himself with a smile, and then checked the results of his test. Finally, he could not bear to do another and cleared his throat.
Watson and Sherlock hurried over as he showed them a rough sketch he had made showing the results. He tapped a picture of a simple solar system. "This is matter as we know it. It is constructed basically on carbon. As you know all life forms on our earth are carbon based."
"Yes. Yes." Watson urged impatiently.
"But this one..." He pointed to two overlapping solar systems. "This one ignores all laws of nature as we know it."
Sherlock looked into Professor Langdon's face. "You know it?"
"Yes, as does Tesla and Einstein. Before you came over I made sure to send them copies of the work and my theory."
"On what?" Watson demanded, totally unconscious about what they were alluding to.
"That our face that was found was not of our earth." Sherlock stated simply.
"You mean we are being invaded?"
"It would appear so, Watson."
Watson shook his head and sat down on a tall work bench and shook his head again. "My brain is aching from all the monsters, demons, Dark Druids and now...aliens?"
"Perhaps not so alien after all." Sherlock suggested.
Constable Evans entered from Professor Langdon's office. He looked worn out and beat down, but still had a bright smile on his face as usual. "Jules and Wells are onto something as well."
Sherlock gave him a surprised look.
Constable Evans nodded. "I saw the way they looked at each other once they'd seen the artifact. It was not surprise I saw on their faces, but recognition."
Sherlock's face tightened in a short grimace, and then he nodded. He took out his pipe, then his tobacco pouch and tamped fresh tobacco into his pipe. He lit it from a Bunsen burner in the Professor's lab, and then took a draft. He blew out some smoke and then headed for the exit.
"Where are you going, Holmes?" Watson demanded.
"To do that which I do best."
"And what is that?"
"Why to think, my dear Watson, to think."
He turned around briefly and waved his pipe at Professor Langdon and Watson. "I'm afraid that Jules and Wells are not the only ones who have seen this before. Now I must ask why it has reached this world from mine."
"The Missing Death." Sherlock replied mysteriously.
And they started to exit again, and then turned back. "As to things getting worse, Watson, I'm afraid it is far worse than you could ever imagine."
"I can imagine a lot these days." Watson grumbled.
Sherlock smiled. "And that's why I love you so much, my dear friend. Now come, Watson, we have much to plan and I'm sure Mrs. Hudson has a warm plate of scones at the ready as well."
Watson lit up. "Right."
He turned to Constable Evans and the Professor. "Duty calls."
They both laughed as Watson and Holmes departed.
Constable Evans looked at the Professor, whose eyes were black from loss of sleep. "Will we be able to stop this...this new threat?"
"I don't know Constable Evans, but with God's help and a lot of clever moves and anticipation. Maybe, just maybe we will have a tiny chance of surviving."
Constable Evans went to the windows that overlooked the Thames as the Professor began putting equipment away and cleaning it. What was their world coming to when death and destruction were a daily meal? And what was the Missing Death?