Despite his usual reticence for publicity and his antipathy towards those accounts of our adventures which I have already published, Holmes has actively encouraged me to put down for the historical record the details of this particularly grisly case. As he pointed out, in these turbid days of ‘faux news’ and media baron excess, there is a need for clarity and to establish the baseline facts, before hysteria and conspiracy theory distort the general public’s understanding of the matter.
It all started out on one cold miserable evening in November, a blend of drizzle and fog so typical of London in that season. I had been laid low with a bout of influenza, and confined to quarters, forced to miss a rare lecture by the erudite Professor Chomsky, which Holmes and I had been so looking forward to. As I recall, Holmes had just returned from the lecture, and was warming his bones by the fire with a large whiskey and soda, when shortly we heard a kerfuffle at the front door. We could hear raised voices, including that of Mrs Hudson our housekeeper, what sounded like bestial growls, and a certain amount of rudeness coming from the front hallway.
“That’ll be them now,” muttered Holmes, gravely, reaching for one of his favourite pipes from the mantelpiece.
“Sorry?” I quipped, somewhat startled, alarmed by this apparent attack on our peaceful evening. “That’ll be who, Holmes? What in the blazes is happening?”
“I’ve been expecting these two… gentlemen,” explained Holmes, cautiously, “and perhaps I should have warned you of their imminent arrival, Watson. I’m afraid you and I will have to deal with a certain amount of unpleasantness this evening. You’d best brace yourself.”
Just at that point, two men burst into the room, followed by a disturbed and disheveled Mrs Hudson. One of them, a heavy-jowled, thick-set man in a expensively tailored overcoat, and a pair of ostentatiously garish kid boots, held a growling, slobbering, and distinctively ugly looking bulldog.
“I’m so sorry sir,” panted Mrs Hudson, “but these two men just pushed right past me. They manhandled me out of the way, they did.”
The man with the bulldog strode forward, brusquely, and as he did so, the bulldog snarled ominously.
“I’m afraid we have no time to stand on ceremony,” he blustered. “The empire is in peril and we have no time to waste. Holmes, allow me to introduce myself… I am…”
Holmes put out his hand sharply in gesture of silence.
“Stop. Not another word. I was already aware of your plans to involve me in your schemes. First, can we please turn our attention to our dear Mrs Hudson. I do hope these two and their brute have not inflicted any lasting damage upon your person, Mrs Hudson?”
“Me too,” tutted Mrs Hudson, severely. “No lasting damage though, I think, sir. Very inappropriate behaviour, however… Now, this here person has identified himself as young Mister Churchill, a member of Her Majesty’s Government, Minister for Backstop and Border Security, sir. And I believe you and Doctor Watson already know this other gent.”
The burly chap who Mrs Hudson had identified as Churchill moved further into our quarters in a manner which I considered rather forward. He puffed ostentatiously on a cigar of vulgar dimensions, and promptly made himself at home in one of our armchairs. Meanwhile, his companion moved into the light and identified himself. It was our old acquaintance Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard.
“Mister Holmes, Doctor Watson, now if you’ll excuse the young Mister Churchill’s rather hasty manner for a moment, we have urgent business to attend to…” Lestrade moved towards my chair and offered his hand in a gesture of greeting.
“Best not, old chap,” I replied, waving him away. “I have the most beastly cold and I wouldn’t want you to catch it.”
“There’s little danger of Lestrade catching your cold, Watson,” smirked Holmes, “or anything else for that matter.”
“Now, Mister Holmes, I won’t have you casting any more aspersions on my good name… All that business about me and the Giant Bribe of Sumatra. I could have done you for slander. But that’s for another day, perhaps. Mister Churchill and I are here in good faith to ask for your help.”
Holmes rolled his eyes and poked at his pipe.
“Do go on then,” he gestured to Churchill, wearily, “get it off your chest.”
“The empire is in danger, Holmes, it’s as simple as that!” boomed Churchill. “We expect an attack at any moment and our forces are stretched right to the limit. We know who some of the ruffians are, but we have no idea where they’re likely to strike! Will you help us, Holmes? The integrity of the empire depends upon it! I beseech you to assist us as a patriotic duty!”
“Hmnn,” snorted Holmes derisively. “What exactly is the nature of this threat? What evil forces are at play that should provoke such panic?”
“We’ve ‘ad advance warning, Mister Holmes, from our American friends…” replied Lestrade, his dark little eyes moving furtively, in that cunning rat-like face. “We’ve been told that a caravan of fiends is planning to attack some of our most cherished and best-loved institutions.”
“They want to destroy our vital organs,” blustered Churchill, interrupting his companion rudely, “and tear asunder the very fabric of the realm. They want to force us to adopt beastly and frankly unfair legislation that will not only have us labeling our farmhouse sausages as donkey-meat, but will open up our shores, our upstanding towns and idyllic village squares to an invasion of garlic-stinking, carp-eating, bidet-using, bolshie fundamentalists…”
“By jingo!,” I gasped.
“Jingo, indeed,” muttered Holmes, shaking his head sadly.
“Terrorist outrages are afoot,” thundered Churchill, his features becoming ever more ruddy by the minute. “We simply can’t stand by and let the country fall apart! We need strong measures, Holmes, and we need your help to take control!”
“I think not,” replied Holmes, firmly. He reached over to the umbrella stand at the side of the fireplace and withdrew a stout blackthorn walking stick. Holmes then approached the bulldog brute, who at that very moment was having the impertinence to lift its leg and have a widdle over one of Mrs Hudson’s very best rugs. With a full swing and a practiced aim he cracked the stout rod straight over the brute’s head.
With a jolt, the dog groaned and keeled over; but what happened next was even more remarkable. The creature’s skin began to crack from nose to tail, and with a shower of splinters and dust, it shook itself into another form entirely!
“My word,” began Lestrade, “Mister Holmes what has you done?”
“Steady now,” countered Holmes. “Don’t move a muscle.”
As the dust cleared we could see that the bulldog was, in fact, a poodle. Coiffured and dandied, dressed in a ridiculous Union Jack waistcoat of some sort, it now began a pathetic yelping.
Churchill, who had been watching these proceedings with increased alarm, rose fluidly from his chair and made a dash for the doorway. In his haste to get away, he tripped over his own expensive boots, collided with Lestrade and tumbled heavily to the floor. There was a crash, a horridly sickening, cracking sound, and Churchill’s bulky form splintered into shards. From the dust emerged a completely different figure.
“Why, upon my word!” gasped Inspector Lestrade, “if it isn’t that Bollix Cakehole, the blonde, hugely ambitious and bitterly repugnant political backslider. What are you doing here, Mister Cakehole, sir, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Something not entirely disconnected, I’m afraid, from Brother Mycroft’s underhand manipulations with that Cambridge Analytica mob,” pondered Holmes. “I wonder what they’re up to…”
With that, Holmes reached into the inside pocket of the scowling Cakehole’s jacket and pulled out two packets of crisps and a pale brown envelope. From within the envelope he produced a note and what looked like a large cheque, which after examining in the light, he passed to me. It was indeed a cheque, made out to Bollix Cakehole for the sum of two million dollars, five shillings and sixpence. The accompanying note, read:
Good luck with your disinformation campaign, Bollix. Hoping this will help you pull one over on the suckers. Rule for the 1% by the 1% that’s what we want!
Best regards, your friend and social media mogul,
Somewhat shocked, I rocked back in my chair, as Cakehole skulked and sulked, a petulant lip trembling.
“Doh! If it wasn’t for these pesky kids!,” he grumbled, scowling. “I’ll get you for this, Holmes, just see if I don’t! I have friends in high places, you know…”
“Yes, indeed,” grinned Holmes, nonchalantly, as he bound and gagged the blonde ruffian.
“You’d best let me have that cheque, Doctor Watson,” pleaded Lestrade, “it’s evidence, it is.”
“Best not,” countered Holmes, calmly. “We don’t want it going missing, do we… Like that gold Napoleon, eh?”
“And I had better warn you, Lestrade, that I had already alerted Inspector Corbyn that I was expecting guests, and he has had his men stationed outside. There will be no more missing prisoners, not this time.”
Indeed, within minutes, Inspector Corbyn had arrived and had efficiently escorted Cakehole and a very cantankerous Lestrade off to the station.
Later, Holmes brought tea and toasted crumpets to myself and Mrs Hudson, whom he had insisted rest on the couch in front of the fire. We mused on how the affair might have turned out if Holmes had not been quite so accurate with his stick.
“Well, I wouldn’t have had little Backstop here, sir,” grinned Mrs Hudson, “him and his little butcher’s apron. He is such a cheeky little thing…”
Kind-hearted Inspector Corbyn had let Mrs Hudson keep the poodle, as he said the police pound was no place for such an animal.
“Well, at least, that’s turned out in your favour, Mrs Hudson, but things could have turned out a darn sight worse,” said Holmes, his face, drawn in the firelight, becoming altogether more serious. “There’s a wicked wind blowing in from the East, and I’m afraid that we will have much work ahead of us in the coming months. There’s a titanic battle ahead, between truth and lies, between freedom and slavery, between ultimate greed and the liberation of our brothers and sisters all over the globe. There are those who would attempt to destroy the very planet that we live on, and we must all work to stop them.”
“Oh sir!” exclaimed Mrs Hudson, “what with all the fuss and bother I completely forgot to tell you! There were two Russian gentlemen round to see you, sir, just when you was entertaining those other gents. They wanted to deliver a package to you, sir. Said it was very important. But I did exactly what you told me to do, sir. I used that protective suit you gave me when I went to answer the door. And I told them you weren’t in. I told them that you had gone round to Mr Farage’s house and I gave them the address. I told them that they was to deliver the package there… And that’s what they said they would do, sir. Did I do the right thing, sir?”
“I jolly well think you did, Mrs Hudson,” laughed Holmes, uproariously, pouring himself another stiff whiskey and soda, as we settled in with little Backstop for a comfortable evening.