Monday, March 25, 2013


In celebration of the 74th anniversary of its theatrical release (March 31st), I dedicate this blog to, "THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES," (1939).  It was the first (best) of the Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce,  fourteen movie-series, based on the Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  For the purposes of my story, please try to imagine those actors in the starring roles, in the specific time period from Wednesday September 28, 1938 until Sunday October 2, 1938.

Sherlock Holmes leaves his bedroom at 221-B, Baker Street and enters the living room.  He finds Dr. Watson with one knee on the settee, craning his neck around the half-drawn drapery as he spies on the late-morning street scene below.  "Well old man," starts Holmes, "I see you decided to wait for the postman up here."  Watson stammers, "W-w-whatever left you that impression?"  "Here, here my good man, your motives are as obvious as the origins of Stonehenge are mysterious."  "Out with it Holmes, if you have something say...just say it."  "Very well, you are timing a rendezvous."  "What?"  "Yes Watson, autumn is upon us but spring is in the air.  And this awkward position you struck...resembling a Norwegian Blue pining for the fjords...can only mean that you are hatching an intricate web of intrigue designed to procure the company of the opposite sex."  "Holmes you are daft?"  "But before I complete my thought on the subject, one other thing.  Why after all these years do pretend to be an British subject.  What do you have to gain by turning your back on your native Brooklyn?  Just because your mother dropped you on your head several times..." "Holmes, you are unmistakably, an insignificant heap of parrot droppings."  "Once again doctor, you've tickled my fancy with your acumen.  But let's not digress, why do you insist on hiding that perfectly lovely accent that was ever so ingrained in you from the hamlet, you so eloquently call, Greenpernt?" 

The doctor scoffed, "Greenpernt?  Of all the impertinence..."  "No really Watson, tell me again how you address local inquisitors who question where this so-called English accent of yours is from?"  "I tell them I'm Welsh...from the north end of Cardiff..."  "No, no, no Watson, I know that part, please delight me and tell me where exactly?"  "Does it really make you feel better about yourself, to embarrass me every chance you get?"  "So sorry but anytime I need a belly laugh, I imagine you telling people that you're twang is specific to the tiny section in North Cardiff, on or about a Hundred-Twenty-Fifth Street and Broadway."

Watson opened his pocket watch before sneaking another peek out the window.  Holmes said, "Don't think I forgot our original topic..."  Watson squashed tobacco into the bowl of his pipe and barked, "If you must make a fool of your self..."  "On the contrary, what you have is a healthy appetite for female companionship..."  "Holmes..."  "No, no Watson, let me continue because I specifically know the object of your affection...our landlady, Mrs. Hudson."  "You have crossed the line sir!  This wild assertion challenges your worth as my friend, confidant and shudders the very fabric of what it means to be a gentlemen."  "Doctor you may find it convenient to deny my revelation...but can you look me in the eye and tell me why you are suddenly sending your shoes out to be shined and using a musky fragrance that masks your perfectly normal body odor?  More importantly, can you tell me why you waited in the downstairs foyer yesterday, as well as last Tuesday to meet the postman?"  When Watson groaned Holmes plowed on, "You did that you would have an ideal vantage point to gape at Mrs. Hudson's undulating posterior as she scrubbed the marble vestibule on her hands and knees." 

Watson shook his head, "The residual affect of all that cocaine has increased your already acute repression and now has left you delusional as well as ..."  "This isn't about me or my voluntary abstinence...not everyone wants to avoid having their clarity distracted, corrupted or challenged.  What you are experiencing is, a common case of vanity that has manifested itself, in the form of a mid-life crisis or as you Americans like to say, if you don't use it, you'll lose it." 

"Well," Watson countered, "I'm neither a priest nor a germophobe hence I've never taken the utterly unnecessary vow of celibacy that seems to have invaded your psyche.  And, and, and!  Let me make this perfectly clear, I have no problem with close inter-personal contact."  "Ah, you are playing into my hands.  So you do pride your self in being a skoit-chaser?"  The doctor's eyes bulged out of his head, "No shit Sherlock!" "Elementary my dear Watson, so why don't you just admit that you have a thing for Mrs. Hudson."  "You are a loathsome boor and an absurd...little man."  "Trust me, I do not revel in discomforting you but all right then, I will prove my point.  A mere moment ago, you were looking out the window because you know that the postman arrives about now...within a ten-minute grace period.  You also know that the newspaper is coincidentally delivered in its own ten-minute interval that is slightly later than the mail."  Watson was nervously pulling at his mustache as Holmes continued, "And occasionally an over-lap occurs when the postal delivery runs late and the newspaper is ahead of schedule.  Ergo, before you developed your scheme to woo Mrs. Hudson, you'd wait downstairs for both the mail and the kill two birds with one stone, as it were.  Now, except on vestibule scrubbing Tuesday, you anxiously press your face...starting promptly at 10:10 in the morning, against the glass in the anticipation of the post man.  But do you race downstairs to meet our reliable postal carrier, Mr. Caleb Jennings and relieve him of our daily correspondences.  I say NO!  And that Watson is the crux of the matter.  You idly remain up here.  Thus, causing Mrs. Hudson to interrupt her other responsibilities, to trudge up to hand our communiques to you might have a private moment with her..."  "Holmes, despite your earned reputation for an astute gift of discernment, you have the mind of a hamster."  A wry smile came over Holmes face, "I've never seen such piety turned towards oneself...but nevertheless I will persevere to make my point. I became cowardly in this private have devised a fail-safe procedure that would provide you a second opportunity 'to get somewhere' when she trudged up again, approximately ten minutes later with the newspaper."

The two men simultaneously stopping talking when the bell over the front door downstairs jingled.  Seconds after it jingled again, Watson scurried to their flat's entrance and put his ear to the door. When he heard Mrs. Hudson's familiar footsteps getting near, he jumped back to the settee and feigned innocence by tapping the raw tobacco he never smoked...out of his pipe.

In an unnatural, cross-legged pose, Watson coyly remained seated as his comrade responded to the gentle but rhythmic rap on the door.  Mrs.  Hudson appeared in the door jamb, extended a collection of envelopes and a small parcel towards Holmes and said in a sweet Irish brogue, "Good morning gentlemen."  Holmes took on the role of wingman when he asked her inside.  "Mrs.  Hudson, Watson and I were just discussing the possibility that you have added new ingredients to your even more delicious Yorkshire Pudding..."  He stopped in mid-sentence when the jingle of the downstairs bell signaled the arrival of the LONDON TIMES.  Holmes was gallant as he bowed to the woman and said, "While you are chatting, I'll retrieve the newspaper."

For three minutes, Mrs. Hudson pleasantly explained the new subtleties in her recipe as Watson twitched in anticipation of divulging his social invitation.  During a pause in Mrs. Hudson's report, the doctor cleared his throat as his voice faltered, "M-m-my dear Mrs. Hudson, I was wondering..."  At that precise time, Holmes returned holding the newspaper.  Without looking up from his reading, he crossed the living room and said, "The cricket matches in Ceylon were postponed due to a typhoon," before he disappeared into his room.

The kindly woman waited for the door to close before saying, "Dr. Watson, you were wondering..."  "I was er-uh-umm...w-w-wondering, why after all these years, you never call me John."  Mrs. Hudson adjusted her apron and puffed up her hair before saying, "That would be fine...John.  Is there anything else you might be wondering about?"  The shrill, amateurish sound of Beethoven's, "ODE TO JOY," in the form of violin music from Holmes' room filled the air as Watson nestled a bit closer.  In a hushed tone he stiffly stated, "I would like to get to know you better Mrs. Hudson."  She smiled, "What did you have in mind?  And me Margaret."  "Yes of course...I thought perhaps Mrs...I mean Margaret...that we could stroll through Hyde Park this Sunday afternoon.  If all goes well...we could also go punting on the Thames.  In the early evening, we could sup together in the restaurant at the Savoy.  Then if I could be so bold, it would be my esteemed priviledge to have your accompaniment, to the crackerjack show they have at the Odeon."  "Why John..."  "If it isn't too late, we can end our lovely evening with a nice glass of sherry."

Margaret Hudson's nodded in approval before bursting out in a screeching laugh, "Funny, I've had my eye on you for years.  I hoped this day would come but I gave up because I should I say it...kept to yourselves."  Watson harrumphed, "Madame, really?" Mrs.  Hudson apologized, "Please excuse honestly, I didn't mean to imply anything sordid. Let me start over. I accept your suggestion, it would be wonderful to get to know you better, this Sunday."

Watson was still confounded by her squeal of delight and queer assertion so he changed the subject, "What sorts of things do you like?"  "Aye," she started, "Travel for certain but I haven't left the district in quite some time.  In my youth, I was told that I was quite a lively dancer.  Alas, I'm not as spry as I used to be so these days, I enjoy doing macrame...but I'd  rather dance."  "I've seen you twisting those coarse fibers into interesting patterns."  "Nae John, macrame may look like twisting but it's actually knotting lacy chords into designs...but I'm glad you like it."

"Margaret," Watson said louder as Holmes' violin butchery of Beethoven continued, "I would also like you to know, that I'm really from Brooklyn, in the USA.  Also, I don't gamble, rarely smoke my pipe and only drink socially."  "Well Johnny boy, I don't care where you're from.  And if being from Brooklyn is supposed to suggest you're tough....remember this, I was right in the middle of Belfast's Bloody Sunday and the only reason I survived all those other riots into 1922 was, I'm a scrapper.  That means, I knew how to handle my self...and still do.  But more importantly,  if you think you're going to lure a woman of my high-standing up here after hours using sherry as bait, you are sadly mistaken...I like gin!"

Watson was smiling as he tried to compose himself.  Mrs. Hudson looked towards Holmes' room and added, "Don't you think 'what's-his-name' might object to you having a landlady with benefits?"  Watson robustly said, "Old 'what's-his-name' might know everything about the human spirit but he doesn't know how to enjoy it.  Besides, after he has his nightly glass of warm buttermilk and a scone or two, his sleep is so deep that any hibernating bear would envy him.  Believe me, after he dons his ridiculous night mask, an orchestra playing the crescendo from the "1812 OVERTURE" next to his bed, wouldn't stir him."
The giggling couple ended their frivolity after the downstairs bell rang. When the music from the other room stopped, Holmes came out with the paper under his arm and said, "Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will be taking a big chance signing the Munich Agreement with the Huns." Mrs.  Hudson winked at her Johnny, switched back to her Spartan facade and matter-of-factly said, "Will you require anything more Dr. Watson?"  Watson beamed as he discretely said, "No thank you."

Moments later, Watson answered a stern knock at the door.  A man handed Watson a card, introduced himself as Dr.  James Mortimer and said, "Sherlock Holmes I presume?"  Holmes approached the door, ushered the man in and said, "I'm Sherlock Holmes."  Mortimer said, "I represent Sir Henry Baskerville of Devonshire.  In honor of his son Edgar's fourth birthday, Sir Henry is putting together a rather large party...pony rides, a magician and so forth"  Watson interjected, "Why in blazes would you need us at a kiddie party?"  "Banshees," cried Mortimer.  "Banshees," Watson cried, "what's that!"  Mortimer said, "Banshees are female spirits whose wailings warn of impending death."  Watson said, "I knew that, I was just surprised that anyone believed in that sort of rot." Mortimer said, "It's the Baskerville family curse and I've been dispatched here to secure your services, to assure that the proceedings go smoothly." Mortimer removed two, twenty pound notes from his pocket and added, "To cover your time at Baskerville Hall and expenses, here's a good faith retainer." 

Holmes scratched his head in disbelief, "My colleague is right.  There is no supernatural evil.  Certainly a man of you stature should realize such apparitions don't exist."  Mortimer said, "It's not a superstition, the estate has a long history of heinous, unexplained deaths.  The unfortunate placement of the grounds are along the desolate, foggy, swampy moor, between Grimpen Mire and Dartmoor Prison.  Many a man has lost his way in the moor and with one missed step was never seen again.  Plus, death shrouds the entire area. A mere hundred meters from the property line, archaeologists have unearthed Neolithic ruins and an altar in which countless souls were sacrificed to appease the Gods.  Not to mention the real and perpetual threat from escaped convicts.  Even back to the first world war when the property was used as an allied aerodrome, death surrounded the hall. So when I state that I am not an ethereal man please realize that after being repeatedly exposed to the bedeviling Banshee's wail, all I can say is that I'm glad to be out of the house."

"I will take your case," Holmes said.  But I have an appointment with Inspector Lestrade and this pressing business will keep me from returning with you and Watson.  So until I catch up to you on Saturday, keep your money till we get results." 

Holmes informed Mortimer of the finer details.  Only he and the Baskervilles would know Watson's true identity. The men made travel arrangements for Friday night and Mortimer left.  Holmes said, "Watson, remember make no mention of your association with me.  While you are there you will simply be called Uncle John.  When you get off the train, telephone me here. Then report your findings at noon, before bed or on a needs basis."  "Right Holmes."  "And one more thing Johnny boy...where did you come up with calling me, 'what's his name'?"  "Confound it man, how can you play that infernal fiddle, read the newspaper and simultaneously eavesdrop on personal whisperings?'  Holmes shrugged, "A wise man never reveals his sources or his secrets..."

On the tedious train journey, a strain developed between the doctors when Mortimer asked, "Where is your accent from?"  "It's Welsh."  "I spent a bit of my youth in Wales...but I can't place..." I'm from North Cardiff..."  When Watson added the non-existent cross streets, Mortimer who was familiar with Cardiff became acutely suspicious.  When Watson sensed the distrust, he became weary of Mortimer.

On Saturday morning, birds were chirping and the sun was shining brightly when they stepped off the train.  Mortimer seemed confused when he was approached by an antique coach driver.  "Tuffle, where is Wethbee?  And where is the Bentley?" 

Tuffle said, "Sir, it seems Wethbee (the chauffeur) was so frightened by the Banshees last night that he disappeared...and took the car.  Mrs.  Baskerville suggested I take the brougham and meet you."

Before they left the station Mortimer said, "John..."  When Watson realized that they hadn't rehearsed a surname he spat, "Hudson, John Hudson...I mean John Hudson Baskerville."  Mortimer continued, "Uncle John, this is Tuffle, the new butler.  He has been with us since Mitchell resigned last week, due the Banshees."  He turned to Tuffle, "Is the staff still intact?"  "I'm afraid not sir.  The last of the charwomen left last night and the laundress was packing as I left."  "How about Mrs. McKegney?"  "I can't put myself in her mind, sir. I've never had the opportunity of speaking with her.  So as far as I know, she's still with us."  Mortimer said, "She's a recent replacement herself..." 

Tuffle was loading the baggage as he said, "Honestly gentlemen, the agency didn't say anything about me being the chauffeur or gardening but these Banshees...if I get scared half way to kingdom come again, I'm afraid I too will resign."  Watson forgot to contact Holmes as he stepped into the carriage and said, "Come now, you look like a reasonable chap, you shouldn't be intimidated by something you can't see."  "Begging the gentleman's pardon, but decent people have been dying at the Banshee's behest at Baskerville Hall for hundreds of years."  "Come, come that's merely a legend...a veritable fairy tale."  "Gentlemen, I saw the beast."  The two doctors were frozen by the pure fear that throttled Tuffle's voice.  "That's right and as God is my witness, this vicious, spectral she-demon burned my skin with her fiery eyes and chomped at my face with its razor-sharp teeth.  I'm ashamed to say that only someone with a weaker resolve such as myself would hesitate from fleeing."
Two hours later, the weather had made a dramatic turn for the worse when Mortimer announced, "That's the moor on the left."  Watson peered through the fog as Mortimer continued, "Don't let the beauty of the heather tempt you. Even natives get disoriented going through and fall to an excruciating death off steep cliffs.  Plus there are landslides, cavernous sink holes and the menace of getting sucked into quicksand."

Up a slight grade in the topography, medieval Baskerville Hall was placed on a beautifully manicured, long and narrow plot of ground.  Mortimer pointed into the moor and said, "In the distance, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the ancient ruins I mentioned."

At the main entrance to the great hall, Watson noticed that other than the occasional whistle of the wind, there wasn't a natural sound to be heard. Inside, the two doctors were met by the Baskervilles, Sir Henry and his wife Lucille as well as the housekeeper, Mrs. McKegney...who was now pressed into service as a cook.

McKegney was a gaunt and austere woman who looked fifty but was probably younger than forty.  Her constant pained expression was associated with some sort of permanent neck injury. Therefore she had a limited range so anything beyond normal peripheral vision, required her to move her feet or contort her torso.

Doctor Mortimer was told that the governess had resigned.  He was shaking his head as he got the Baskervilles up to speed on Holmes later arrival. Mrs. McKegney then escorted undercover Watson to his second floor room.  Along the way he asked the dull hag, "Aren't you afraid of the Banshees?" "It is my understanding that all the servants have deserted the Baskervilles at their hour of need except for that Mr. Tuffle and myself." "That Tuffle fellow said he was chased by the Banshee last night."  "If he says so...well then you should take him at his word.  But I've never spoken to the man so I can't attest to the quality of his character."

She handed him a skeleton key for his grand oak door and asked, "How shall I address you sir."  "John Baskerville."  "Very well Mr. Baskerville, can I be of any further service now?"  "Yes please, do you have a copy of today's London newspapers and where might I place a long distance call?"

Watson wanted to open up the lines of communication with Holmes but the telephone seemed as bedazzled by Banshees as everyone else.  Watson spent the day touring the property with Sir Henry and Mortimer.  Later during dinner, Watson unsuccessfully tried to get the Baskervilles to consider postponing their child's party.

Both Baskervilles, Mortimer and Watson adjourned to the library. An hour later a night cap was served.  Watson took a small swig.  Rather than complain about the acrid taste, he camouflaged his activity and dumped the remainder into his tobacco pouch.  When Tuffle returned, Watson extended his glass towards the butler and said, "Truly excellent."  He stood up, proposed a toast to the Baskerville's toddler and added, "May tomorrow's festivities go untainted by otherworldly nonsense."  The others said, "Here, here."  Watson took the refill to his lips, pretended to drink and said, "And here's to the end of the Baskerville curse."  He then secretly emptied his glass into a flower pot.

In his room, Watson started drinking water from the pitcher next to the basin. Due to his failure to contact Holmes, to avoid forgetting minute details, he wanted to chronicle both mundane and extraordinary events with an exact timeline.  Towards the end of his documentation, he was gulping down water at a feverish pace.  His last entry was a description of the aperitif he was served after dinner as having a lilting scent of burnt almonds.  He worried that the aroma might be associated with poison.

Watson intended to force himself to stay awake all night.  He turned his attention to the newspaper. He finished the LONDON TIMES article on the big anti-war summit in Munich between Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. He was taking pride in Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's talent for diplomacy as it was laid out in the DAILY MIRROR. 

Halfway through the article, Watson heard a heavy, metallic thud.  He struggled to his feet in anticipation of the Banshee...when no other noise followed, he woozily looked out the window.  In the distant blackness of the moor, he saw a small light turn off, back on and off again. Seconds later, the light began a code-like cadence of discordant blinks.  He put on his coat, checked to see that his revolver was loaded, stumbled downstairs and around to the back of the hall...where the party was to be.

Watson crossed the croquette pitch and stopped at the edge of the moor.  He dared not venture into the wilderness but upon closer examination, he concluded that a flashlight, in the area of the Neolithic ruins was signaling the house.  Watson squinted back at the house and from the last window on the second floor...he saw similar blinks.

Dr. Watson held his pistol at his side as he tip-toed back up to his room.  He left the door open just a crack and started a vigil to see who or what would come out of the farthest room.  Then it started, the wail of the banshee.  At first, Watson was thunderstruck until he realized that the sounds were coming in through the vents.  More importantly, he discerned the background scratchiness of a phonograph record.  From his post at the door, Watson watched the corridor for twenty minutes, until the faux-fright show ended.  His patience paid off when the so-called strangers, Mrs. McKegney and Tuffle came out of the last room. The diabolical duo were passing Watson's lair as Tuffle reached under his waistcoat and adjusted what looked like the hilt of a dagger inside his pants.

Watson scribbled some entries into his notebook including that the metallic thud might have been the dagger falling on the parquet floor, three doors down.

The morning of the party, Sunday October 2nd, was breezy, sunless and drab.  At 6:45, Watson awoke in desperate need of the toilet. While clambering out of bed, he recalled the fear of being poisoned and was surprised to be alive. He was so roused that he ventured downstairs.  He was relieved to see Mrs.  Baskerville.  She greeted him with a tiresome sigh, "Aye, the Banshees were running last night."  He said, "Did you see them?"  She shook her head, "But they were in our bed chambers.  Mr. Baskerville heard them too as well as my little boy."  Watson was scratching his head as she handed him an envelope and added, "A special messenger just brought this for you."

The note was from Holmes, "I understand that the telephone is not working...I wanted you to tell the Baskervilles that I regrettably can not cut away to assist them."  Dr. Mortimer was coming downstairs as Watson informed Mrs. Baskerville.  When she shared the disappointing information with Mortimer, he became angry at Watson, "Sir, I am the advocate of this family.  I demand to know why we wasted all this time and energy to have the incredible Sherlock Holmes get to the bottom of this insidious mystery only to wind-up with a do-nothing like you."

Watson was perturbed.  He shushed the other doctor, guided him outside and said, "Be that as it may, we ought not contradict his strategy.  Now sir, did you see the Banshee last night?"  "No!"  Watson lost his temper, "What else...come, come now, answer the friggin' question!"  "I have never seen the Banshee but it was in my room last night."  "How many night caps did you have last night?"  "Are you implying that I was incapacitated by liquor...or are insulting me by calling me a liar?"  Before Watson could respond Mortimer said, "I never trusted you.  Your occasional unsophisticated choice of words suggest that your pedigree is not of an English gentleman.  And I wouldn't give a lead farthing for that phony accent of yours either.  I say it's from nowhere in Wales." Before Watson could make a rebuttal, he was cut-off.  "And far worse, you stand before me and accuse me of being intoxicated."  Watson tried again but Mortimer continued, "And sir...and I cringe at the thought of calling you a gentleman...where did you go this morning?"  "I came downstairs minutes before you."  "If that's the case, where did you go last night after we went to bed?" Mortimer could tell he was lying when Watson said, "I never left my room."  Mortimer pointed down, "I see.  I'm no detective, but why are the perfectly shined shoes you wore to dinner, so muddy now?"

Watson whispered, "I'm forced to confide in you because I am desperately in need of an ally. Sir, we were all drugged last night.  I would have liked to analyze the after dinner drinks because initially, I feared we were being poisoned.  But now it's fair to assume that an hallucinogen laced our night caps.  Therefore I conclude that Banshee was merely a piped-in sound-effect.  You can imagine that with our perceptions altered, the threat gained more validity."  Watson referred to Tuffle and McKegney as the primary culprits and added, "Moreover, I suspect that they are acting in collusion with a malevolent third party."  Watson explained the signaling in the night and said, "Somewhere near the ruins, I would expect to find hard evidence of a conspiracy against the Baskervilles."  Mortimer exclaimed, "We must contact the constables in town."  "Under normal circumstances, I would say yes.  But the telephone has been cut off, the car was stolen and its too far to go on horseback...and the party will be starting in two hours."

Watson flashed his gun and said, "The time for now." Mortimer said, "I haven't been in that part of the moor in years, but I'm certain I remember the way." The men set out on the treacherous half-mile route through swampy territory as well as the hazardous narrow, chalky inclines that seemed to disintegrate under foot.

They avoided one last mud puddle as they approached their destination. In front of a cave that faced away from Baskerville Hall, the only thing out of order in Mortimer's mind were the charred remains of a fresh fire.  In the cold residue, the tiny edge from a piece of paper was found.  Both men agreed that the three discernible words were in German.

They were anxious to warn the Baskerville's of the peril they projected.  Despite the dangers, the two doctors hurried back. They were emerging from the wasteland as early arriving vendors set up for the party.  Amid the growing festive clamor, they were accosted by a panic-filled Henry Baskerville, "Where were you...?"  Watson cut him off, "Sir you must postpone the party!  Tell all your guests and vendors to leave immediately and alert the authorities."  Baskerville read them a note, "Your wife and child will be returned to you unharmed after the party.  Tell anyone who asks that the boy is sick and is being tended to my his mother..."

Watson said, "Have you any handguns?"  "Yes I have two."  "Perfect, get one for yourself and one for Mortimer...and don't forget the ammunition."

Mortimer looked around and said, "I don't know any of these blokes."  A man in bib overalls was unloading two ponies from his lorrie. A short man in a roly-poly clown costume was stretching balloons as his tall, gray-bearded cohort, in a tattered tuxedo assembled a booth labeled; ARBUCKLE'S BALLOON ANIMALS.


In the shade of Baskerville Hall, a pudgy chef with a gigantic mustache that obscured his face was singing Italian opera as he rattled pots, pans, dishes, cups and silverware.  At the gazebo, a ten-piece musical band was arranging their chairs and warming up.

A spattering of neighbors, family, friends and business associates were arriving as Watson whispered, "We may have already been infiltrated by the Huns.  Mortimer said, "I don't many of the guests and all the vendors could be impostors."  Watson said, "This is quite a sticky situation.  I'll feel better when we are armed and we see what these pricks...I mean black'earts really want." Mortimer reflected, "Now that I think about it, I'm certain Mrs. Baskerville didn't hire musicians."

Mr. Baskerville returned empty handed, "My guns are all missing!  Even my hunting rifles.  I also did a quick search and my family does not seem to be in the house."  Watson said, "It seems they have the upper hand." Mortimer asked, "How many guests did you invite?"  "Thirty or so kids, we told the caterer to prepare for a hundred people."  Watson said, "Can you account for the validity of everyone here?"  He was shaking his head when a passerby with two youngsters said, "In the village, they said your estate was haunted...a lot of folks are afraid to come...but we wouldn't miss a Baskerville party for the world."

At eleven, the band started playing silly songs. Arbuckle the Clown twisted the first balloon animal into a pig and used a scissor to curl a piece of ribbon into a tail. At the same time, his partner posted a schedule of games that included, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Simon Says, Musical Chairs and a scavenger hunt. Far away from the food station, the ponies took their riders on an elongated oval path as the chef started doling out generous portions of spaghetti.

At ten minutes till noon, the band was playing, "LONDON BRIDGES FALLING DOWN," as a dot appeared over the farthest eastern horizon.  The gray-bearded man interrupted Pin the Tail on the Donkey and called out to the children, "SCAVENGER HUNT!"  As rehearsed, the kids dispersed in every direction.

This unidentified flying object was incredibly high in the sky and seemed headed directly at Baskerville Hall.  When Watson  realized that it was an airplane he muttered, "This is bad ju-ju."   Henry Baskerville quizzically arched a brow before responding, "Might be a bomber." In that instant, Tuffle appeared from out of nowhere, locked Baskerville's neck in the crook of his left arm and threatened his back with the dagger in his right hand. As a part of the synchronized assault, suddenly several armed men emerged from the moor.  Arbuckle made a screeching laugh that was familiar to Watson as shots rang out.  A guest fell. The band dropped their instruments, picked up their own weapons and fired back at the incoming marauders.

Bullets were flying everywhere as the Italian chef brandished a machine gun and ordered the nearby guests against the wall. At the balloon line, Mrs. McKegney wrung a little girl's wrist and pushed the other children towards the chef.  The previously mute Arbuckle, pounced on McKegney from her blind side and in a female voice shouted, "Kids, run away!"

The plane flying over head, bearing Nazi markings began dropping paratroopers. Watson drew his pistol on Tuffle but in the ensuing struggle, dropped it.  Watson was pinned down as Tuffle cocked the dagger over head.  It was coming down at Watson when the doctor smashed his skeleton key into Tuffle's eye.  The two wrestled for control. Tuffle was futility flailing the blade at Watson.  Watson shifted his body to the left and then lunged back at his attacker. Tuffle yelped in terrible agony as the key tore off a section of ear skin.  In his full-blown Brooklyn accent Watson cried, "Drop da fuckin' knife yuh fuckin' asshole or I'll drill a fuckin' hole tru yuh eardrum wider dan duh Holland fuckin' tunnel!"

From afar, most of the parachutists were firing machine guns before they set down because a crosswind caused them to drift into the moor.   At the same time, four civilian cars roared up the road from the village.  Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade leaped out of the first vehicle and led the charge of local police.

Hand-to-hand combat was breaking out in several places.  Dead and injured bodies littered the ground as the scavenger hunt organizer, from behind the wall of the balloon animal hut shot at the paratroopers.  He looked back towards the house and saw the Italian chef crack the butt of his machine gun against an adolescent boy's skull and then shoot the victim's protesting father.  The games man exposed himself to enemy fire by standing erect.  He took careful aim and shot the chef in the upper arm.  He chased down the fleeing yellow-belly.  When he grabbed the mustachioed cook's injured shoulder, Sherlock Holmes threw off his disguise and exclaimed, "Ah, we meet again Moriarty...I see you have now stooped to the depths of treason..."
Moriarty and Holmes

Mrs. McKegney was trying to strangle Arbuckle but her pre-existing neck injury prevented her from getting enough leverage to finish the job. In the skirmish, the clown spotted a croquette ball, momentarily wiggled free and grabbed it.  With a last gasp of energy, it was smashed into McKegney's temple.  Arbuckle got on top of the housekeeper and pulled the scissors from a compartment in the costume. The clown screamed, "I'm going to slice you deep, wide and, where's Mrs. Baskerville and little Edgar."  The femme fatale was in excruciating pain but wouldn't give in. She tore at the top part of Arbuckle's costume and ripped it partially off as she spat at her assailant and barked profanity in German.  The clown's under shirt revealed that she was a woman.  With heightened inspiration, the she-clown went for the jugular by shoving the shears up against McKegney's throat.  The fake housekeeper strained her neck away from the points until the torturous neck pain was too much to endure.  Suddenly she screamed, "STOP, STOP! A cave in the moors, they're in a cave near the ruins."

Arbuckle called out in an Irish accent to Dr.  Mortimer and a police officer.  The three of them stepped around Henry Baskerville's bloodied body as they hurried into the moor.

The gun-fire had died-down significantly. Lestrade's brigade shot most of the paratroopers before they could free them self of their chutes. Several surviving Nazis surrendered while others fled in all directions.  The shooting vseemed over until only an occasional shot rang out.  One of the last, felled Sherlock Holmes.  Moriarty took the opportunity to limp around the far side of the house and commandeer a car that the local police came in.

Watson borrowed handcuffs from Lestrade to restrain Tuffle.  Under the promise of leniency, Tuffle confessed to being a German spy.  Further, in coordination with the invasion of Czechoslovakia (that was happening simultaneous with this attack), he admitted that the Luftwaffe, under the guise of a supernatural curse, wanted to vilify Baskerville Hall.  Once they controlled the property, young Edgar was to be held hostage as the Baskerville's were extorted to act in the Nazi's behalf. Then the German's would have free reign to take advantage of the hall's rural setting and use this forgotten outpost as a secret air base.

Watson was called to Holmes' side.  Blood was dripping from the corner of his mouth as he uttered, "You did it.  This time you're the hero."  "No old boy, we figured it out but we still needed you to rescue us. But how did you know?"  Holmes spit-up bloody gauze and bellowed, "Where's Moriarty?"  "The professor was here?"  "Yes, he was the Nazi's inside man..."  "Sorry, there's no sight of the blighter now...but how did you figure out this attack?"  "Elementary my dear Watson, when Mortimer..."  A coughing spasm stopped Holmes.  In a weaker voice he said, "I deduced that this estate was used in the first world war as an aerodrome, I put it together with the heightened foreign spy activity all over Britain and that twit Chamberlain negotiating peace with that warmonger Hitler.  Luckily for all of us, Lestrade had faith in my instincts and was able to muster enough brave men, on short notice, to stem the tide."  Watson shook his head in amazement, "Once again your intuitive mind is correct, the spy posing as the butler just said that the Germans are invading Czechoslovakia, right now." 

One of the remaining unmarked cars drove through the croquette pitch and stopped near Holmes. A squad of plainclothesmen brought a makeshift stretcher and lifted Holmes on it. Watson joked, "Before they take you to the hospital, don't you have a snappy colloquialism that questions my mother's virtue?"  "You're a saint Johnny boy...hence your mother was a saint as well." "One last thing Holmes..."  "I know Watson, you want to know how Mrs. Hudson got involved..."  "Precisely..."  "Well, you know I never reveal my sources...or my secrets."  "Your a pip Holmes, a fuckin' pip."  A spasm of pain tore through Holmes' innards as he huffed, "If the mood strikes me, I'll tell you later."  "Very well then Holmes.  But you lost a lot of blood.  But I gather that after an extended convalescence, you will make a full recovery.  I'll be along post haste to give you a transfusion...if the mood strikes me." 

At the same time, Arbuckle, Dr.  Mortimer and the constable emerged from the moor...with Lucille Baskerville and little Edgar.  They were happily re-united with Henry Baskerville as his wounds were being attended to. Suddenly a sniper's random shot rang out and killed Dr. Mortimer! 

Watson turned from Holmes and ran to Mortimer's aid as Lestrade's men raced into the moor.  A short volley of shots ended abruptly. Watson looked down at Mortimer and shook his head.  The clown embraced Watson and cried, "Oh John."  Watson pulled back focused on Arbuckle and smiled, "Mrs. Hudson? I mean Margaret."  He returned her hug with several hard kisses on her mouth as the band struck up, "RULE BRITANNIA."

                                                # # #    THE END   # # #


"RULE, BRITANNIA," often confused by Americans as the English national anthem was a patriotic poem, written to music in 1740, by Thomas Arne. If you want to sing along, here's the first stanza.

When Britain first, at Heaven's command

Arose azure main;

This was the charter of the land,

And guardian angels sang this strain:

"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:

"Britons never will be slaves."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll never look at Mrs. Hudson the same way...a landlord with benefits...hysterical. A solid story, full of great humor and enough history to make it educational. But dude, it was a tad on the long side. Shorten it up or make it into a 6-CD box set. --- GMan The Devils Fan.