We were enjoying an average morning. Holmes puffing on his first pipe, a blend of his own design with the faintest odor of burning rope, I was having my second cup of tea with toast and marmalade.
"The bell’s about to ring," Holmes announced.
“I'll never know how you do it Holmes," I replied. I always say this.
"Well this time he texted me as he turned onto Baker Street."
At that moment the bell rang. I went to the wall phone to let in our guest. Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, was a mere mortal and died over a century ago leaving the house to the Baker Street Trust for the perpetual use of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes as shown by the TV, movie, book and serial rights is immortal, and I as a trusted sidekick enjoy the same status, though we receive no personal gains from the exploitation of our names and images. But pardon my digression. I went to the door to call down to our guest that we were in the upstairs parlor. Even I could tell by the quick way he took the stairs that our guest was young and by the noise of his shoes, male.
A casually dressed twenty something young man presented himself at our parlor door.
“Mr. Tobias Thisbee I presume."
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. I'm so glad you agreed to see me. I so desperately hope you can aid me." Mr. Thisbee stammered. I would describe his pleading, as hat in hand, but this generation neither owns nor wears hats. The last decent haberdashery went out of business a quarter-century ago. I bought up a stock of hats, only to lose them to an infestation of moths.
"I assume you are here about your impending nuptials."
"Why yes Mr. Holmes. How did you know?" He asked.
"When you called I Googled your name and found your fiancés wedding website, accepting contributions for a honeymoon on the Spanish coast. That is very optimistic on your part."
I thought this a rude remark even for Holmes. Did he think they would have insufficient funds or did he think the wedding would be called off? I thought I would try to make amends. "I say Holmes, congratulations are in order. Tobias, I may call you Tobias? Tell us about your lady."
Before he could speak Holmes was addressing me. "You see Dr. Watson the lady is the issue."
I replied, "What do you mean Holmes?"
"Our young guest is engaged to the Widow of Watford, right Tobias?"
"I'm afraid you are right sir. I am desperately in love with her. I cannot help myself. My family and friends say I'm mad, but I can't help myself. I love her." Our young guest was obviously infatuated and overwhelmed.
I asked, "Is it true all seven of her previous husband died before dawn on their wedding night and no one has been charged with the murders?"
Holmes jumped in, "That is absolutely true. What’s even more amazing is that up until now no one has even asked for my help. Now young man here is what I want you to do. I want you to collect five stones from the churchyard at Gravesend. Then go to the fishmonger of Folkstone and buy the largest intact fish they have. Watson will be with you. He will remove the gall, liver, and heart. Then have the fishmonger fillet the fish. Pack the fillets, gall, heart, and liver on ice and bring them with you. Then through a search of abandoned bank accounts I discovered that your father had a windfall at the track twenty years ago to this day and opened an account in your name with the Bank of Brighton, if you present your ID to the banker you will be handsomely rewarded."
Since Holmes had seen fit to send me on a tour of southeast England it seemed only fair I ask of his plans. "And you, what will you be doing?"
"My good Watson, I plan to enjoy the rest of a quiet morning with my pipe, then a rather large lunch. I'm famished. Then I will walk through London longing for the days when there were nice corner opium dens, then I plan to head to Watford for the wedding. Now you two be off, you must be in Brighton before close of business today or your right to claim the money expires.”
I headed off with Tobias. He drove one of those minicars. Though quite clean and comfortable I long for the days of coaches and coachman. Now before our journey I must alert you that Holmes replaced his opium habit with caffeine. He will travel to Watford by walking from one barrista to another arriving there in the most agitated state. The barristas of Baker Street know he is over served when he plays Mendelsohn on an ‘air Stradivarius’ while waiting to order and they cut him off.
We left Baker Street at half past eleven so I proposed we undertake our journey in reverse order to ensure we arrive at the Brighton Bank before close of business at three thirty. Tobias was reluctant to go against Holmes instructions for fear there was some mystical power to the order. I assured him there was not. As it was, what should have been an hour drive took three hours because when we stopped for petrol I needed to use the facilities. Unfortunately an American choir was in line at the WC and they insisted on singing us chants from the C of E evensong service.
We arrived at the Bank of Brighton at 2 PM. Tobias presented his identification and after some hemming and hawing on the part of the banker he received a sizable sum. There being a nice café next to the bank I suggested we sit for a late lunch. Considering our time constraints Tobias suggested we get fish and chips at a take away as we left town. When I asked where we would eat our food after we received it. He informed me we would eat in the car as we drove along. Altogether this was a most unsatisfying experience.
The drive to Folkstone would be two hours. A phone search revealed three fishmongers serving Folkstone; Romney's, Chummys and Griggs, but only Chummys was actually in Folkstone's. Unfortunately their webpage said they closed at five. He pushed his tiny car for all the speed possible considering the twists and turns of the coast road.
We arrived at Chummys just before five. I wanted to ask for Chummy and introduce myself. As a new customer this seemed only appropriate, but Tobias said we would work with 17-year-old Ryan who was behind the counter. When we explained our need for intact fish, Ryan pointed out that this late in the day all the fish had been cleaned.
“It’s a matter of life and death." Tobias cried out in frustration.
"Okay, look we do have fish rejects. They have like tumors or four eyes; they get ground up for fertilizer. If Chummy was here he wouldn’t let me sell you one, but I guess if it is really that important I can go look." Ryan disappeared into the back. He returned with a repulsive victim of the Industrial Revolution, a tumor covered fish with three eyes. I stopped him as he began to wrap the fish. I pulled out my surgery kit and went to work to remove the heart, gall and liver.
Ryan protested, "Hey guys it’s already after closing and I have places to be and surgery on a fish is creepy."
Tobias assured him he would be rewarded for his patience.
Our task completed I asked for the fillets, tumors and all. Ryan wrapped them and the organs and placed them in an ice carton. We were done at Chummys by five thirty and were off to Gravesend.
I had no doubt we were meant to head to the churchyard of St. George's, Gravesend. Tradition holds that the Native American princess Pocahontas is buried in an unmarked grave in St. George's churchyard.
We arrived at dusk. Retrieving stones from a churchyard might seem like an easy task but this was a rather well cared for city churchyard. The only stones were tombstones or landscape work. After some searching we found five stones we could make off with.
We set off for Watford, about an hour and half drive. In Watford I had Tobias drop me at the Jury Inn where I expected to find Holmes. There are ten coffee shops within walking distance of the hotel. I was correct. I assured Tobias the stones and fish were safe with him for the night.
I found Holmes, as I expected, pacing to and fro in a caffeine driven frenzy playing his air Stradivarius. I went on to bed knowing he would eventually crash, retreating into his tortured realm of dreams.
The next day we went to the bride's home where the wedding would be held and the bridal couple would spend their first night together. (Whereas, I doubt this is actually their first night together I choose for the sake of the decorum to believe it.)
The estate consisted of several acres of lawns and gardens, a significant turn of the century home and the carriage house apartment that would serve, for the eighth time, as the bridal chamber. Holmes inspected every bit of the property and especially the bridal chamber. Once all his curiosities had been satisfied we went to lunch. After lunch Holmes texted Tobias with instructions to place the five stones from the graveyard at the points of a pentagram beneath the bed, then make a paste of the gall, liver and heart. Then with the paste anoint the bedpost. Holmes assured him that once this had been completed he would remain safe as long as he remained on the bed.
Holmes and I spent the rest of day touring the sites and coffee shops of Watford. There would be no need for us to attend the wedding or other festivities. We returned to our hotel at the end of the evening. We set our alarm for 4:30 AM, two and half hours before sunrise. Holmes was certain whatever was to happen would happen in the hour before sunrise. (If wrong we could always try again with husband number nine.)
We walked to the estate and quietly slipped into the dark corners of the bridal chamber. Judging by the disarray of the bed sheets the couple seemed to have thoroughly known each other and were now sound asleep. As expected a fifth person joined shortly moving directly to Tobias’ side of the bed.
Holmes stepped swiftly and silently from his corner. Spun the intruder around and plunged his wooden walking stick through the creature's heart. I stepped from behind and remove its head with a piano wire garrote. The couple did not stir. All that was left was to wait for dawn when the morning sun would turn the vampire carcass to dust erasing all the evidence of the evening.
You see Holmes and I are, and always have been, vampire hunters. All those stories about hounds and snakes and other things were a cover, a need to protect the populace from the true knowledge of the vampire threat. The fish heart, gall, and liver paste and the pentagram with stones from Gravesend were to convince Tobias he was safe and to allow him and others to believe the curse of the widow Watford had been broken by some mystical remedy. I have no idea why we brought back the fillets.
Holmes and I left after sweeping up the ashes of the vampire carcass. We rode the tube back to Baker Street. Tobias sent us a check for a thousand pounds and a postcard from the coast of Spain.