Readers Gazette Short Stories


Short Story A Matter of Taste

A Matter of Taste by John Pirillo Fantasy short story

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“Merely a matter of proper observation, Watson” Sherlock said, as he lowered his binoculars to look at his best friend and companion. They had left Baker Street before dawn, heavy overcoats, mufflers and caps. Watson wore a more stylish Slavic style, which was the rage of Her Majesty Good Queen May's court at the time. It started quite high at the back of the head and raked forward over the eyebrows, drooping like a kitten sleeping at rest over a counter. Sherlock hated it, but wouldn't comment directly for fear of hurting his friend's feelings. He had been quite testy lately since Mrs. Hudson had departed to the Whiteshores to visit some relative.
“Indubitably” Watson agreed, taking the binoculars and fixing his own eyes on the eyrie that's roost was high above the raging sea waters below.
“I suspect our man hasn't the least idea that we are on his trail”
Watson nodded. “I agree. Look”
He handed back the binoculars and Sherlock looked at the eyrie again, but this time focused on the right edge of it where an older man sat with his legs perched over the drop below. He seemed to be peeling something.
“An apple”
“What”
Sherlock turned to Watson, lowering the binoculars. “He is peeling an apple”
“How can you tell at this at this distance”
“For one thing, he needs only one hand to hold the fruit, or object if you will. Two, it is round, as he is easily able to rotate it in the one hand, and three it is small enough to fit in one hand”
“That describes a potato, a tomato and a round of cheese equally well”
Sherlock took it with a grain of salt. “A potato would be unlikely, as the man is from Dublin and is known to hate potatoes because of their symbol of slavery to the Britains. The tomato is out of season and unavailable and a round of cheese would be too soft and cling to his hand, therefore not rotating easily, nor peeling so effortlessly”
Sherlock looked to Watson to come up with a counter argument. But instead he said. “That's brilliant, Holmes”
Sherlock didn't honor the compliment with a reply. In fact he was pretty sure it wasn't an apple at all, for he had seen the clump of scalp the man had discarded before he began carving the head of the baby dog.
It was a foul deed. Eating babies of anything. Sherlock grimaced. And this man had eaten the babies of far worse. Which brought him and Watson to why they were observing the man.
“There appears to be a path” Watson noted, making a series of quick notes in his notebook, before carefully inserting it back into his black bag, which he was never without.
A sudden surge of brisk, freezing sea wind blew across their hiding place and Watson's teeth began to chatter.
Sherlock began sliding away from the sparse shrubbery and log they had been peering from behind. “Come. A warm fire awaits us”
“But we haven't caught the bugger yet” Protested Watson.
“Ah, but we have”
No sooner did the words exit his mouth than Inspector Bloodstone and his son, Constable Evans showed up along with about twenty Constables.
Sherlock stood up, brushing off his overcoat, and replacing his deerstalker cap on his head, adjusting it slightly so it wouldn't catch the surging wind. “Good to see you, Inspector”
“And you, Holmes. And our guest”
“Comfortable” Sherlock answered with the hint of a smile.
The Inspector nodded and his men spread out.
Watson looked back at the cliff again and saw a horde of dark cloaked men descending the side of the cliff where the eyrie was, rappelling down knotted ropes. “Our men should have him in no time”
They heard a man's scream and turned to see the old man, arms akimbo, swinging like windmill blades as he tumbled from his hiding place towards the sea far below. They couldn't see him land.
Inspector Bloodstone crossed himself, then turned to Sherlock. “It would appear our guest h as refused our offer of companionship”
“Indeed” Sherlock acknowledged. “But do not call your men off just yet”
He rushed for the edge of the drop they had been near and as he did so, he and the others saw a very strange thing occur. The old man was not laying on the rocks below, but instead was soaring away on a strange device that hung from his back and that he clung to and guided with his arms and hands.
“The DaVinci” Inspector Bloodstone cursed.
“The bloody cannibal has escaped us again, father”
Inspector Bloodstone eyed his son thoughtfully a moment.
“I mean, Inspector” Constable Evans hurriedly corrected himself.
“Yes” The Inspector finally replied, then folding his hands behind his back, headed back down the rise where the Constable wagons awaited. It had been a long dreary drive to the God-forsaken stretch of cliff and rock, and now it would be an even longer one home. He would order his men to search the area, but he knew well enough the range of the blasted DaVinci and considered the matter no longer in his hands to control.
Watson and Sherlock watched the sullen Inspector march off.
“I gather he's having a worse day than I” Watson remarked, gripping his muffler and tightening it about his throat more as an even stronger gust of wind blew in from the sea.
“Our man appears to know the routes of the air currents, as well as the sea” Sherlock observed, turning to eye Constable Evans, who looked a bit strained.
“Constable, I would suggest you return with your...uh...the Inspector dutifully. He will need as much support as possible”
Constable Evans nodded and started to follow his father, then stopped and looked back. “Sherlock”
“Yes, Constable”
“What if that wasn't the old man on the DaVinci”
Sherlock's right eyebrow cocked upwards at a peculiar anger.
“By Jove, Holmes, he's got you”
Sherlock didn't answer. He ran for the Constable Wagons.
He leaped in beside the Inspector, who was signaling his driver to leave. “The game's still afoot, Inspector”
Constable Evans and Watson barely leaped into the back, before the wagon leaped into action. It lit up its lights, and sirens and blasted towards the only road that led to the cliff eyrie.
It took them a bit over an hour to reach the overhang where the Constable's men had rappelled down and the ropes still hung over the cliff's edge. Sherlock went to the edge, and immediately took hold of a rope and began scrambling down, hand over hand, but Watson backed off, shaking his head.
Constable Evans had a rope in his hand and eyed Watson questioningly. “Go ahead, Constable, I'll bring up the rear...from here” He said with an embarrassed cough.
Inspector Bloodstone gave Watson a sly smile. “Still afraid of heights, Doctor”
“I am not...afraid of heights, sir” Watson argued, his face turning a bright red. “Merely respectful of them”'
Inspector Bloodstone laughed, and then hurled himself over the edge like a professional mountain climber, gripping the rope between his gloved hands and sliding down, intermittently slowing himself. Constable Evans looked to Watson. “I can stay here, sir, if you like”
Watson exploded. “Do I look like a blasted child to you who needs someone to hold their hands because they're afraid of the dark”
“No sir” Constable Evans exclaimed, shocked at the response.
Watson brushed him aside, then grabbed a rope and lowered himself over the edge. “Afraid of heights, really”
He lowered himself down, but as soon as Constable Evans was safe from view, he said. “Mother Mary protect me”
Sherlock reached the overhang and dropped lightly to his feet. Inspector Bloodstone came next and dropped effortlessly beside him. He eyed Sherlock questioningly. “This spot is well known. No known exit exists from it. Except..” He indicated the drop to the sea.
Sherlock didn't reply. Instead he stepped into the cave's mouth. The Inspector followed. They went into the depths of the shadows, light vanishing behind them, until Sherlock struck a match and lit it. He held it up, lighting their way. He walked several paces until a dead-end wall appeared before them.
“I was right, was I not” The Inspector noted, with a bit too much glee. “Now we can go home and get a decent rest”
“I'm afraid not, Inspector” Sherlock replied. He dropped the match which had just burnt to his gloves, then lit a new one. He stood there with the match held high. As he did so the flames began to draw to the left. He slowly turned and the flames drew straight forward. He continued in that direction about five yards, then stopped.
“Here” He said. Stopping abruptly.
The Inspector gave Sherlock a look like he'd gone mad. “Here? Here! Have you gone mad, Holmes. This is nothing but a blank wall of rock”
“See” He pounded on it. “Nothing but..” The rock began to move aside. As it did so an older man stood revealed. He held an odd pipe shaped device to his right ear, which he quickly tossed aside and reached for a weapon on a small shelf on the inside wall of the small compartment that had been revealed.
Behind him was a man's corpse strung up on the wall by his palms. He was naked and dripping blood. Chunks of his flesh were missing around the ribs.
He held the gun aimed at the Inspector and Holmes, who did not move, thinking that might trigger a hasty firing of the hand gun.
“Very clever, Holmes”
“Your reign of terror is at an end, Sir Guiles”
The nobleman gave Holmes the briefest of smiles. “Does the Queen know”
“She has her suspicions”
Inspector Bloodstone suddenly moved. Sir Guiles fired.
Inspector Bloodstone fell to the right and collapsed, clutching at his stomach.
Sir Guiles smiled. “The worst shot. Gut shot is the choice of men at war who wish to punish their captives as much as possible without actually killing them. It can be healed effortlessly enough, and then repeated again to greater effect, thus also making it a great tool of torture as well”
“Which you certainly are a master of” Sherlock noted casually, not moving an inch, except to glance at the fallen Inspector, who groaned on the floor, clutching at his stomach.
“I suppose you shall now elude us with the second DaVinci I see in the corner of your secret room”
Sir Guiles smiled broadly this time. “Brilliant deduction. Except you're wrong”
He aimed his pistol at Sherlock's chest. “The heart, many foolish people believe, is on the left side of the chest, but we know, don't we, Mister Holmes, that the heart is in the center of the chest, not to the right or the left”
“So you intend to kill me”
“No. I intend to eat you”
His finger tightened on the trigger and the sound of two pistols firing came at the same time.
Sir Guiles face registered shock a long time, before he fell. He had a bullet hole between his eyes and one directly in his chest. Before he collapsed, his weapon fell to the floor and lay there unmoving, then his eyes looked past Sherlock to where Doctor Watson and Constable Evans both had smoking weapons in their hands, their eyes filled with dreadful purpose.
Sir Guiles in a huge surge of will, even though dead on his feet, laughed. He plunged past Sherlock, who stepped aside from his path, and towards Watson and Constable Evans, who also stepped from his path.
They watched as he reached the edge of the hangover and lifted his arms to the skies, then fell from view.
Constable Evans ran into the room and dropped to his father's side. “Father”
The Inspector looked up at his son. “Remind me to stop saying you upset my stomach. This gunshot hurts like bloody hell warmed over! Bollocks” He cursed.
Watson and Sherlock went to the edge of the drop and looked down. Below lay the figure of Sir Guiles.
“Well, I guess that solves this spot of soiled humanity”
“Yes. But what of the other”
“What other”
“The one who got away”
Then Watson remembered the vision of the dead man hanging by his palms from the inside cave compartment. He was missing chunks of both sides of his body. Watson felt the blood drain from his face. “Dear God, Holmes, that man on the wall...the teeth marks were different on both sides”
“Yes. I'm afraid so, dear Watson. I'm afraid so”
“Then the other man who escaped”
“His twin brother”
“I didn't know he had a twin brother”
“You wouldn't, Watson, he kept the secret close to his chest, just like his...um..unusual tastes. If not for the Queen, I would never have known myself”
But that means we haven't stopped the killings at all. “Which is precisely why Sir Guiles laughed at his own death. He knew precisely that”
Sherlock looked off into the distance as Doctor Watson rushed back inside to tend to the Inspector. It meant more horrible deaths. And yet another monster loose on the innocent of London.
He shook his head, then returned inside to assist his friends in carrying the Inspector out of the cave. He helped rig a carry for him, and then he and Constable Evans climbed to the top, where other Constables were just arriving. They hauled the Inspector up and then Watson, who, when he reached the top, fell to the ground and kissed it.
“Watson, whatever are you doing” Sherlock asked him.
“I lost my spyglass” Watson hurriedly said, getting back to his feet.
“But..”
Watson turned on Sherlock. Sternly. “I...lost...my...spyglass”
Like a spurned lover he walked stiffly to the nearest Constable wagon and climbed inside. Constable Evans passed Sherlock, his father stretched on a length of wood carried by two Constables. “He and my father have much in common”
“Indeed, they do, Constable Evans. Indeed they do” Sherlock answered with the slightest hint of a smile.

To see more of John Pirillo's work, click the link to his website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view his member details Visit John Pirillo's Website.

Images used for the story are from John Pirillo

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