By Abhishek Dhol
Hitler was dead. The war was over. Scot and I were living in our drab home at Piccadilly Circus. It was just another boring day. It was raining. It was cold and everybody was indoors. Scot was immersed in Sherlock Holmes. He had told me after the Mystery of the Haunted House, “Louis, Holmes is the guru of all detectives, especially me.” I agreed with him. I had read the book myself.
Scot said, “Louis, haven’t we been stuck up here long enough? Shouldn’t we go out once in a while?”
“Yeah, I suppose so”, I said. We decided to go camping. We wanted to go to Scotland. We packed up in early May. Our journey to Scotland was uneventful. We went towards the high hills. We camped there. On our first day, we went for a walk as we wanted to explore the whole area. We wanted to climb Ben Nevis. A girl came up to us. She addressed Scot, “Sir, please help me!”
“How may I help you?” asked Scot. “Oh Sir, if only you knew! If you knew what lived there and what goes on these days!” She seemed on the verge of tears. Scot put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Calm down now. There’s no reason to cry. Tell me what goes on there. What lived there?” The girl sniffed a few times and then began, “When William the Conqueror ruled over England, he built a castle north of Ben Nevis. During the Wars of the Roses it became a resting place for the king’s troops. But before that an old man lived in the castle. If anyone visited him they were never seen again. The old man died. The place has been deserted ever since. But Sir, people have been disappearing again! Lights have been seen in the castle. There is a factory that manufactures aircrafts. In World War II, it made Spitfires. People from the factory have disappeared, Sir. People living nearby have heard screaming in the night. The people are probably killed. Sir, even in these parts we have heard of your greatness. My father has disappeared. Will you save him? Our family is poor and I love him so!”
At this, she broke down. My heart was full of sympathy. Scot considered for a moment and then ruffled the girl’s hair. “Do not worry. You have done the greatest part of the job of saving your father by coming to me. I will find out who is doing this and I will save your father and all the other factory workers who have disappeared.”
“Oh thank you, Sir!” The girl walked away. Scot said, “Well, now there’s some interesting goings on here. World War II factory workers disappearing.”
We returned to our tent. Scot said, “Wait here Louis, I’ll just come back. You rest. We’ve probably got some important business tonight.” He returned in about 20 minutes. “We can go and see the manager of the factory at 4 pm.”
“My dear fellow, isn’t it obvious? We will have to ask him if the people in the factory are making any new type of aircraft that a country like Germany might be interested in.”
“Of course. We have 2 hours to go.” I observed.
“Then let us go and have a look at the castle.” said Scot. We walked along the same route that we’d taken in the morning. When we were almost past Ben Nevis, I saw a rock thrown at us at the last moment, “Scot! Look out!” I pulled him down. The rock sailed over the place where Scot’s head had been just a fraction of a second earlier. We stood up, “That was a close one.” I said. Scot picked up the rock and examined it with interest, “Louis, do you know what I think?”
“That rock didn’t just fall off the mountain. Someone threw it. Ah. My suspicion is confirmed.” He held up the rock. A peace of paper was stuck to it. I read what it said, “Dear Scot, it is an honor to have you and your sidekick on my trail. But I’ll tell you that it’s of no use. It will only result in the loss of many innocent lives. If you are not back at Piccadilly Circus within a week, I shall have no choice but to blast you, the factory and your sidekick into smithereens.”
There was no signature on the note. Scot and I walked on and he constantly glanced around for signs of danger. We reached the old castle in half an hour. It was a very gloomy and unwelcoming sight. It looked more like Dracula’s castle than something built by the English. It was old and crumbling. The courtyard was large and built of stone. There were cobwebs everywhere. We stood looking at the castle when I heard a grinding noise from above. I looked up just in time. A whole section of a wall on the third floor came crashing down. We were directly below the falling mass. As Scot and I leapt out of the way, the stones fell with a heart stopping crash. A few seconds later we heard, of all things, dogs barking. Scot pulled me out of the way as a bloodhound leapt at us. Then the dogs began to cluster around us forming a ring. One snapped at Scot’s trouser leg. I kicked out. A German Sheppard came bounding and snarling at me. Scot and I rose, turned tail and ran. I kicked one small dog into the air. We ran towards the mountain. The dogs ran after us constantly howling. We began ascending. The dogs followed. After a few minutes, we were at a ridge at a height of almost a thousand feet. We continued to run. Scot didn’t see that there was a sheer drop on the right. I shouted to him to look out but it was too late. There was a river which was hundreds of feet below. I could see its rushing waters below where I stood. Scot slipped and fell over the edge directly into the river. I saw what I thought would be the last glimpse that I ever had of my old friend as his body hit the water and he was swept away by the river. Then I heard a voice in my ear, “Well, so you are Stoner’s biographer. I’ve got you. There is no hope for you in this world. Your superman is gone. You will rejoin him in a day or two.” I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head and I lost consciousness.
I had heard Louis’ cry a second too late. My foot slipped and then the river was flying up towards me. My face stung as it hit the water. Before I could do anything, I was swept away. I began to swim but it was a hard task. After what seemed like hours of hard work, I finally reached the edge.
I came to my senses. I was in some sort of chamber. I looked down. I was bound to a chair. Looking around, I saw some sort of a subterranean chamber. There was a door. Two hoodlums with guns stood at the door. They were talking in low voices but I could hear. One of them said, “Look here, the boss told us to tell him when Stoner’s lackey came to his senses, but he ain’t coming round.”
“Come on Chatfield, look around.” roared the other. “His eyes are open. Go and tell the boss or I’ll cut your liver open.”
“Fine”, said the first. He opened the door and went out. I knew that there was no way to escape. I was tied-up and there was an armed man standing close by. The first man, Chatfield reappeared accompanied by a tall thin man who was clean shaven. He walked up to me briskly and said, “You are about to die.”
“Am I?” I said with as much contempt as I could muster. “Yes. I meant to get rid of Scot but you are of no importance but I don’t think you should live. I may be wrong in my assumption about you being of no importance so you shall die too. That is my final word.” He turned to the two men. “Go and get David and his lot. Get the dynamite and let us blast the factory apart.” All the men in the room had a German accent. So they must be from that power hungry country. The man gave his orders in German.
I called Scotland Yard from a near-by telephone to tell them that Louis was in the hands of criminals. After that I returned to the campsite where I was met two hours later by several local inspectors and some of the London fellows. “Ah, Mr. Stoner so wonderful to see you again!”
“Hello Inspector Forbs.” I said. I briefed them and then we set off for the castle. We stopped at the courtyard. “What do you think, Sir?” asked Forbs, “I think they have a tunnel leading into the factory.”
“Let’s go in” said the inspector. The doors were heavy. Finally, we threw our weight against them and forced them open. As we entered I saw something in the shadows. “What’s that?” I asked. “It’s a man.” said one of the constables. We charged forward. I had a gun. I held it in front of the man’s eyes, “No funny business”, I muttered. Forbs produced a pair of handcuffs and put them round the man’s wrists. “Now,” said he, “Who are you and what have you got to do with this case?”
“I am Simon Baker. I was just told to stay here and wait until we were told to kill Louis, that army general bloke.” His eyes fell on me and his mouth gaped in horror, “Oh my God! You! You fell into the river! I was following the dogs at a distance and I saw you! You are alive!” The inspector said, “So, you were the one who set the dogs on the two gentlemen?”
“Yap, I was. I heard them, dislodged a partly crumbling wall and then released the dogs. The dogs were supposed to bring the two gentlemen back top the castle. I told the boss and we went after the dogs. We went up the mountain and we followed you two. Then, of course, this gentleman here fell off the ridge. I can’t imagine how he managed to stay alive!”
“Why have you been making attempts on our lives?” I asked. “We didn’t want you to find out what we are doing”, he said.
We heard a noise. One of the stone slabs at the far corner of the room had moved, “Someone’s coming”, said Forbs. A man immerged. “Halt”, commanded Forbs. “Why?” asked the man seeming to notice us for the first time. “You are under arrest.” And with that the manacles were clamped onto his hands too.
“Is it ready, David?” asked Baker. “Yeah, the dynamite has been placed at various places in the factory. Came to call you so that we could escape”, said David.
“What is going to explode?” asked Forbs.
“Nothing”, said the man.
“Answer me or you’ll get the worst flogging of your life”, threatened Forbs.
“We’ve got dynamite down there”, said David. He pointed to the open slab. “It’ll explode in two minutes.” Without a second thought, we rushed towards the slab. We crouched down and squeezed in. There was an open passage before us. Abandoning all caution, we pounded down it. We could hear noises in front of us. We turned a corner and flew into a subterranean chamber. There were two men standing at the open door. Forbs and I overpowered one and two constables subdued the other. What I saw made my heart stop for a second. Louis bound to a chair.
After the constable had freed me, Scot said, “Louis can you stand?”
“Sure,” I said. The constable pulled me to my feet and we rushed out of the room. Scot said, “I think we don’t have much time.” We ran down a tunnel and right at the end were more than half of the gang and the leader. The dynamite was just beside them. The leader saw us and tried to make a break for it but Scot was too quick for him. He grasped the man’s wrist, “That thing will explode in thirty seconds, Scot Stoner!” cried the leader. The two men grappled with each other. “Let me, Mr. Stoner!” cried Forbs. “Its okay”, answered Scot. Finally, the leader cried, “One second!” And he pushed Scot right in front of the dynamite. The dynamite exploded and the last thing I saw was the whole place crashing down.
I opened my eyes and found myself lying on a very warm comfortable bed. I tried to sit up but someone pushed me back down, “Lie down. You need rest.” said a voice. “Who are you?” I croaked. “Doctor Edward Finch”, he said.
“Where are we?” asked I.
“Piccadilly Circus. Your rooms.”
“Scot?” asked I.
“Your friend is alive.” I went back to sleep. After a while I heard a voice. “Louis, wake up. We have a visitor. I opened my eyes to see Scot’s familiar face. I got out of bed. “My dear fellow! How are you?”
“Look”, said Scot. He held up his left hand. The last two fingers were burnt away. It was blackened and charred like burnt newspapers. I recoiled.
“Who were those people?” I asked.
“Oh them!” cried Scot. “They were just distant relations of Rommel.” I followed Scot into the living room. A short, watery eyed man was sitting in one of the easy chairs. Scot and I seated ourselves across from him and Scot said, “Pray tell us your business.”
“I’ve come to thank you” said the man. “You saved my life. It was my little girl who gave the alarm, I hear?”
“So you are her father?” asked Scot. “Yes. It was my little Clara who caused you so much trouble” replied he.
“She is a very charming and emotional young lady”, said Scot.
“Anyway, Sir I am much indebted to you for bringing in the police at the right time. Otherwise others and I might have died. The police saved us. That’s all Sir and thank you ten-thousand times.” He rose, took his hat and left the room.
“Well, Louis, another case comes to an end. I think I will take a much need break for a few days.”