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“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizable characters in Western literature. Conan Doyle’s inimitable detective has been the subject of literally thousands of books, movies, television shows, plays and even songs. With the rise of the BBC series and the release of most copyrights, the beloved character has found a new life among modern audiences.
In An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 14 authors of horror and mystery have come together to create a unique anthology that sets Holmes on some of his most terrifying adventures. A pair of sisters willing to sacrifice young girls to an ancient demon for a taste of success, a sinister device that can manipulate time itself, and a madman that can raise corpses from the dead are just a few among the grisly tales that can be found within these pages.
Curl up with a warm cuppa and leave all the lights on. This is not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes.
From “The Fairy Pool” by Lucy Blue
“Watson, where are you going?” The ambush came as he’d expected from the dim recesses of Holmes’ library, a shout through the open door.
“I told you.” He placed his case by the door and went calmly to the cupboard for his overcoat and hat. “Mary and I are going to visit an old school chum of hers in the country.”
Sherlock popped out of the library like a jack from a box. “It’s a lie.”
“It is not.” Watson smiled the mild smile of the righteous man. “Why should I lie?”
“Well done, John.” His friend’s color was high and dramatic. Either he had already imbibed some chemical stimulant at nine in the morning, or the mere fact of John’s leaving had sent him into the first stages of frenzy on its own. “For once, you’ve hit upon the crux of the question without prompting. Why indeed?” John removed the train tickets from his pocket, and Sherlock snatched them from his hand. “Ravenglass,” he read.
“In the Lake District,” John said, taking them back. “Mary’s friend Seraphima grew up there. It’s meant to be quite lovely.”
“In summer perhaps.” The great detective was obviously unconvinced. “In October it will be a miserable bog. And really, John, Seraphima? Is that the limit of your invention? Seraphima is the name of an Italian carnival dancer, not the school chum of one’s respectable fiancée.”
John was inclined to agree. “Nevertheless, that is her name. Her aunts are the novelists Nora and Mirabel May. Perhaps one of them chose her name.”
Sherlock frowned. “That does seem plausible.” He took the tickets again and sniffed them. “As spinsters and the most prominent and financially successful members of the family, they would no doubt exert a certain influence over the naming of offspring, particularly those from poorer branches of the clan.”
“Seraphima was orphaned at an early age and brought up by the aunts,” John said. “So I’m sure you must be right.”
“One hardly follows the other, but yes, I must be.” He sniffed the tickets again. “When did you purchase these?”
John took them back. “Yesterday afternoon.” He put them back in his pocket. “I had just returned from the station when I told you about our trip.”
Sherlock’s smile was positively demonic. “That is a lie.”
“Those tickets rested for no small time in close proximity to the bare skin of your fiancée—next to her bosom, unless I miss my guess.”
John’s eyes popped. “I do beg your pardon!”
“They reek of her perfume—an ordinarily subtle scent intensified precipitously by abundance, heat, moisture, or some combination of the three. Since Mary is an extremely hygienic young woman not given to bathing herself in perfume or acts of great physical exertion, I deduce that she carried the tickets next to her skin while in a state of anxiety which resulted in greater than usual perspiration.”
“Have you been sniffing my fiancée?!?”
“Don’t be absurd.”
“No, but really!” Ordinarily Holmes’ deductions were a source of wonder and no small delight to his friend, but this seemed not only improper but highly perilous. “Who are you to recognize her scent?”
“I recognize the presence of Mrs. Hudson’s favorite hack driver by the lingering aroma of horse shit on my hall rug,” Holmes said. “This in no way represents a symbolic romantic attraction.” Now that he had the upper hand, his smile was almost warm. “Tell me the truth, John. Why are you going to the Lake District? What has Mary so frightened?”
“She isn’t frightened, Holmes; don’t be so dramatic.” He handed over the newspaper clipping Seraphima had enclosed with her frantic letter. “Merely concerned.”
“Search continues for missing child,” Holmes read the headline. “Hope fast slipping away—good lord, who writes this drivel?”
“The missing girl apparently has some connection to Seraphima and her family,” John explained. “She’s only seven years old, and Seraphima feels responsible for her in some way. She wrote Mary to ask if I might come and offer my assistance to the police.”
“You?” He handed back the clipping. “She asked for you?”
‘Why not?” John said, trying to remain unruffled. “She has read my accounts of your exploits, so she is aware of my expertise in such matters.”
“Your accounts, my exploits.” Holmes was heading for his bedroom. “Expertise indeed—do they want a nicely typed story for the newspapers, or do they want the girl found?”
“Perhaps they don’t want their lives turned upside down by a raving madman whose methods of investigation require the emotional ruin of everyone even remotely involved.” John followed and found him throwing a seemingly random collection of personal belongings into a case of his own. “Holmes, you are specifically not invited.”
“Nevertheless, I shall go.
From “The Adventure of the Slow Death: From the Scourge Diaries of Emily Watson” by Harding McFadden
It was some time after the Case of the Crestfallen Corsair that the great detective allowed me to fill my late father’s shoes as his biographer. This would have been after the Great Scourge left half the globe a charred mass, the other half a sweltering, desiccated nightmare. Those of us in what was left of Great Britain looked fearfully to the dawn, constantly on alert for our own time. Nine months with no Heavenly fire, and still we shook in our shoes.
“It was hardly a Divine fire from Heaven,” he told me over tea one melancholy evening. I had made the error of reporting to him the judgment of many papers of the time, that the sky of fire had been the Judgment of God. “Nothing more than a particularly large ejection from our sun. One with devastating effect, but a natural occurrence, nevertheless.”
In my minds-eye I could hear him saying these words around the stem of his pipe. Now, however, there were no ‘Three Pipe Problems.’ Inquiring as to why one particular day, I was informed that the smoke did nothing to focus his mind of late. I couldn’t help but assume that it was the constant barrage of ash flowing over the world that put him off of his pipe. How does a man willingly spark a match when the charred reminders of half of mankind float by his window on every breeze?
A small charcoal of my late parents adorned a place of honor upon the stone fireplace around which we sat. We both looked upon it through the silence that evening, and many others. No fire burned, nor embers glowed. Even through the deepest winter past, the heat of day was nearly intolerable. It was through habit and emotional necessity that we persisted there. The past may be lost to us, but should never be forgotten.
With a tip of his cup, he said to me, “I find that I miss them more often of late. Never let you think that those friends around you are but passing fancies. They are the spice of life. Without them, our outlooks are simply… Bland.”
Listing of Stories and Authors:
The Fairy Pool by Lucy Blue
Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost by Katie Magnusson
The Diamond Carter Ghost by Matthew Wilson
The Haunted Branch Line by Tally Johnson
The Arendall Horror by Thomas Olbert
Worlds Collide by S. H. Roddey
Time is Running Out, Watson by Adrian Cross
A Voice in the Blood by Dan Shaurette
The Hunt of the Red Boar by Thomas Fortenberry
The Canaries of Clee Hills Mine by Robert Perret
The Chase by Melissa McArthur
The Adventure of the Missing Trophy by Mark W. Coulter
The Case of the Rising Dead by Trenton Mabey
The Adventure of the Slow Death: From the Scourge Diaries of Emily Watson by Harding McFadden