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The Darlington Substitution (Chapter 11)

13th May 2018
(Short Story)

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Holmes, the vicar and myself walked through Borrowby to where we had left the taxicab and Holmes drove us back along the A19 to Leake Church. We parked the taxi out of sight, inside the gates of the adjacent farm and made our way down the footpath leading to the church. Being in a churchyard full of old graves in the middle of the night was a bit spooky to say the least. As if it were scripted, a tawny owl hooted.Holmes: The Darlington Substitution by Melvyn Small

“That’s Eligius Chapel there,” said the vicar, pointing at a small door in the side of the church. “The key is inside.”

We entered the church and the vicar disappeared behind a purple floor to ceiling curtain that hung behind the alter. As the vicar rummaged around out of our view, I took a seat in one of the pews. Holmes stood motionless in the middle of the aisle staring up at the large silver crucifix suspended in the air. I didn’t think much about it at the time, however, given what was to occur not long into the future, I like to think he was making his peace. It gives me some comfort to assume even the logic engine that was Sherlock Holmes was open to the thought that we’re not orphans in the universe.

“I can’t seem to find where I put the key,” called the vicar from behind the curtain.

“It doesn’t matter, mate,” called Holmes. “I’ll be able to open it.”

The vicar reappeared carrying three hardhats, the type a miner might wear with a lamp fixed to the front. “We’ll be needing these,” he said. “There’s no lighting in there and the ceiling is a bit low. Apparently, the Knights Templar weren’t the tallest of men.”

The vicar handed Holmes a hat and he put it on.

“It goes with your jacket,” I remarked.

 “I feel like I’m in a Pet Shop Boys video,” replied Holmes.

 

Once we were all suitably attired, we stepped back out into the churchyard and around to the door of Eligius Chapel. Holmes made short work of the lock and we switched on our lights and ducked inside. When the vicar said the chapel was used as a storage room, he wasn’t kidding. The place was cluttered with all manner of items from church paraphernalia to gardening equipment.

From his stoop, Holmes knelt down on the floor.

“Are you kneeling to pray?” I asked.

“I thought I might as well,” he replied with little conviction.

Holmes’ eyes darted around the room. The vicar and I followed the progress of his survey by tracking the spot of light made by the lamp on his hat. As I’d observed previously, there was no apparent structure to his search with the light darting from one area of the room to another. Occasionally, he would dwell on a particular area, then his view would fly to the other side of the room. Sometimes, he appeared to return to an area he’d already studied before heading off on a new staccato traverse of the room. The vicar was perplexed. He made no comment, but occasionally glanced in my direction for some sort of indication as to what Holmes was doing.

After about ten minutes, Holmes’ investigation was curtailed by the sound of a car pulling up on the gravel drive outside.

“Lights out,” said Holmes.

We clicked off our lamps and shuffled to the far wall of the room in the dark.

“We forgot to lock the door,” I whispered.

“It’s too late to worry about that,” replied Holmes.

As we stood there in nearly complete blackness, we could hear the metallic scraping of someone trying to unlock the unlocked chapel door. There was then the complaining squeal of the hinges as the door swung cautiously open and the sound of footsteps coming towards us.

 

Synchronously, Holmes and I switched on our lamps. A second after, the vicar followed.

“Caught in the headlights,” I remarked as we illuminated the figure of Charles Darlington.

Holmes laughed. “Nice one, Doc.”

Darlington was rooted. His arms spread, he swayed from side to side as if he was considering whether to fight or fly. He chose fly. He spun around and darted back towards the door. In his haste, he neglected to duck low enough and his head hit the top of the doorway. The collision knocked him unconscious and he dropped to the floor in stages to lay flat on his back.

Holmes puffed out a breath and walked across the room to where Darlington lay. He leaned over him to shine his lamp in his face. Pulling his finger down Darlington’s cheek, he opened his eye.

“Doc, whisky,” he said, looking back over his shoulder to where I was standing a short distance behind him.

I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out my flask of Lagavulin and handed it to Holmes. Holmes took a swig and slapped Darlington in the face. By this time the vicar had joined us. Holmes took another drink and handed the flask to the vicar.

“Thank you, my son,” replied his new friend.

“I think we should call an ambulance,” I said.

“I’m not wasting my call minutes on him,” replied Holmes. “I’m pay as you go.”

I pulled my phone from my pocket and started to dial. There was no signal so I stepped over Darlington to move outside. As I did, Darlington started to groan.

Holmes stooped back over Darlington to shine the light into his face again. “Move towards the light,” he said. “Move into the light.”

To be continued ...

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Mel Small
Mel Small
(United Kingdom)

The founder of Indipenned and the writer of some books. I also write under the pen name of Michael RN Jones. Dislikes turnip and beetroot (the Devil's fruit).


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