The Angry Corrie 17: Feb-Mar 1994
The Curious Affair of the Grey Man of Ben Macdui... (part 3)
(as related to
Here, Munro paused and stared briefly into the glowing embers of the fire, which was reflected in the watery gaze of his eyes like twin flickering gaslamps.
"Ah, and it was then I met a solitary walker approaching from the south. Now, this encounter was only noteworthy because until this point I had seen nary a soul since leaving the hotel in Avie-y-mhor earlier that morning. We approached each other, this fellow and I, and despite the raging storm and biting cold, we decided to stop and have a brew together. "Aye! 'Tis a fine day for the walking sir", said the fellow, who gave his name as John Grant, of Ryvoan. What did he look like you say? Oh, a short wiry fellow, about sixty years old, with a long white beard, very much a biblical type of character, I'd say. Ah, you like to take notes, Mr Holmes? Quite right sir, quite right! Well, after our brew of tea from my flask, Grant proceeded to offer a drink from his waistpocket flask, saying it was a special concoction from the jungles of Burma which his cousin had sent earlier that month. Not wishing to offend the poor fellow, I took a sip, expecting the liquid to have a foul taste. To my surprise however, it tasted very excellent, rather like a combination of honey and pine roots, a most unusual blend sir! And then, as soon as I had taken... what? What do you think... explain yourself sir! I demand that you..."
"You will do nothing of the sort", said my friend, with a malignant stare. Once again he withdrew the revolver from his dressing gown pocket, and pointed the barrel at our visitor's head.
"I am personally acquainted with Mr John Grant of Ryvoan," said he; "indeed I have had the pleasure of purchasing from the fellow a rather singular yellowish blue crystal which may be described as a Cairngorm. I have it here." And reaching into the other pocket of his dressing gown, he withdrew a large rock and flung it into the air, apparently without the slightest effort, where it landed at Munro's feet with an ear-shattering crash. Clearly, Holmes' so-called "Cairngorm" weighed somewhere in the region of 50lb, but he had tossed it in the air as if it were no more than a mere apple. In the silence that followed, I could hear a faint thumping from the room below; evidently Mrs Hudson was none too happy with the noise, and had resorted to hitting her ceiling with a broomstick handle as a token of her extreme displeasure. Holmes' voice broke the silence.
"There you have it sir, the finest Cairngorm in the country, and it goes into my private collection. Now Munro, or whoever you are, I think perhaps it would be better if you told us the truth, otherwise I can only offer you personal violence for wasting my time. Your mistake was made in describing John Grant as an ancient fellow with a white beard. Nothing could be further from the truth, for I know him to be a stout gentleman with a long ginger moustache, with both legs taken off at the waist from a blast of cannon fire during the Boer War; therefore when you said he was walking on the summit plateau of Ben Macdui, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that you were lying to us!" And with this, Holmes crossed the floor to where our visitor sat tied up with rope, and raising the rock above Munro's head, he reiterated his threat of personal violence if the truth was not told.
"That will not be necessary my good fellow. Replace the rock in your pocket and I'll tell you the truth." Clearly, our visitor had no choice in the matter, for it was either that or have his brains bashed in. And Holmes was not one to make idle threats, not by any means. "Release me please, for I grow uncomfortable in these knots. Ah, that's better", not without a sigh of relief. "If I may borrow some nitric acid? Thank you sir."
And to my utter astonishment, our visitor began to pour the foul liquid over his head. Apparently it seemed, Hugh Munro was in fact nothing of the kind, for as the rubber mask dissolved away in a cloud of smoke, the unmistakable features of a woman became established. However, the action of concentrated nitric acid continued beyond her curious rubber mask, and proceeded to eat away at her clothes; in a matter of moments the metamorphosis was complete, and there stood before us a tall slender woman, with luxurious black hair flowing across her shoulders, naked down to her very boots, which continued to sizzle unabated into the stunned silence of our living room.
"What's this then?" stammered Holmes, who had resumed his armchair seat in confusion. Our nude visitor stepped nimbly from her smoking pile of garments and stood by the fire. The glowing embers cast shadows across her pale flesh, which held me in a trance-like state for several moments. Holmes, however, appeared unaffected by this attractive naked woman who now stood at our fireside. Such reaction was typical of my friend, who rarely showed any response as far as women were concerned. "Perhaps you had better explain yourself Madame!"
"Mr Holmes, I apologise for my appearance, and to you also Dr Watson!" I simply nodded in acceptance of her apology. "I am Mrs Hugh Munro, and you must come with me to Scotland right away, for my husband is in terrible danger, and I fear for his life! No, I regret I cannot explain the situation to you now sir, for time is very short! Will you accompany me? Yes, it is very cold in the mountains at this time of year. I should certainly take a woollen balaclava as well as my deerstalker hat! What? These are for me? Thank you sir, I fear my previous set of garments are somewhat the worse for wear! And yes, you are quite correct to bring your revolver, now can we please hurry? If we are swift enough, we may yet catch the 12.15 train to Avie-y-mhor, but I fear we may already be too late to save my husband's life!"
And during that arduous journey to Scotland, Mrs Munro, wife of the well-known mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro, who had expertly disguised herself as her famous husband, told us the horrible details relating to the kidnapping and subsequent torture of her husband by the notorious Professor Hamish Shite of evil repute and foul temper.
To be continued...