“Will you no’ take the last éclair Doctor? They’re as light as a feather.” asked the genial landlady clearing the crockery.
“I couldn’t Mrs Hudson, once more you have excelled. No one sets as generous an afternoon table as you.” I replied
“I’ll have it.” said Ayres.
“Ye’ll be stayin’ for dinner, it’s ma special tonight wi’ dumpling’s! My other gentlemen, them across the way, swear by them. Doctor Watson says my dumplings are the finest he’s ever come acro…”
The last words were lost as the kindly Scotch housekeeper shut the door.
Filling his pipe, Gorilla Bananas, his seat pushed back, held me for some moments with his honest stare as if weighing my quality in the assayist’s balance of his intellect.
Reaching a decision, he glanced over at Ayres, nodded in my direction and raised his brow in an unspoken question. For his part, Ayres sighed with resignation and shrugged his shoulders in reluctant agreement.
“Well now, Maroon. What we are about to impart may come as a shock, but fell deeds are afoot in this great land. Deeds that would not look out of place in the Inferno itself.
What we have yet, are only the outer threads of a complex web. A web far-reaching, that has at it’s evil centre, and I chose the word carefully, none other than our enemy of old,- Doctor E. Scientist. And this much we do know:
The Redheaded League has been revived!
But enough for now, for unless I’m mistaken, that tread upon the stair announces our first visitor of the day.”
As you will be aware, two hundred miles to the west, upon the blasted heaths and mires of Dartmoor, stands Castle Alucard. The family seat of the Von Redheads, and taken for the season by their American cousin Dr Evil.
As Ayres was ushering in the visitor in London, at the same time, the Lord of that manor had just stepped out his tradesman’s entrance into the dusk to discuss preparations with his butler newly returned with supplies in a covered ice wagon.
We cannot know their conversation that day but we may surmise:
“Take two blocks into the pantry, then take the rest and that “other stuff” up to the laboratory. Did you get the limes?”
“They only had lemons.”
“Damn your eyes Eater! I told you limes!”
“It’s only a small village shop Massster, perhapss when I’m in town tomorrow…”
Well, see you do. Damn you to Hell! I don‘t suppose they had the grenadine either?”
“No Masster, my Lord, em..”
“Well, I don’t know what our guests will think, I really don’t. Peasants! That’s what I’m surrounded by, peasants. If it’s not a pitchfork or a scythe, they don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the Pits! an’ no mistake!”
In Baker Street, the door had opened to admit a man most striking in his appearance. His ruddy complexion suggested more than the evening nip in the air, or his exertions on the stair. His shock of wild red hair was barely contained beneath a Scotch bonnet sporting two tall grouse feathers. A dark tartan plaid over his hairy tweed suit was fastened by a huge cairngorm at the shoulder. In his right hand a cudgel-like walking stick as twisted as a corkscrew, was counter weighted by a well travelled valise in his left. Nine league boots finished his attire.
“McShae’s the name, which wan oh ye is Sherlock Holmes?”
“Neither,” replied my friend, not the least put out. “They are across the landing, but now that providence has brought you here, will you not stay and tell us how we may help? These gentlemen are my associates, you may speak freely. I am Gorilla Bananas!”
“Och it was really them I was after” he lied, in a vain attempt to strike a bargain “but maybe you’ll do jist as well. You’d likely be cheaper too, I’m thinking.”
He received no answer to this, so continued.
“It’s like this..”
“Wait!” said Gorilla Bananas holding up his leather palm, “Am I right in my deduction that you are a Scotsman, recently arrived in the city, and that a great burden weighs upon you? Moreover, you arrived today from the Orient, and that shortly after your arrival, you partook of a refreshment in a public house, where you were approached by a stranger who offered you inducements to travel to a country house in Devon on Tuesday?”
“Michty me, that’s incredible! How did ye ken?” ejaculated McShae.
“Well even I could see…” muttered the saturnine Ayres.
But the explanation was interrupted by a sudden knocking on the door announcing the arrival of the most beautiful Redheaded woman in London. None other than the singer Ms Lilly Redhead, star of West End stage, sweetheart to a million men, and well publicised consort to HRH Prince Edward.
As Ayres fussed over her, plumping cushions, pouring lemonade, and generally ingratiating himself in a sycophantic fashion, I pulled Gorilla Bananas aside.
“How DID you know all that stuff? I asked.
“Simple Maroon, I sent Barbudo out with instructions to find just such a man. We’re going to need as many decoys as possible.”