The Holly and the Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy

by John Steed III

“Well done, Mrs. Douglas!” Sir Edward laughed as Ivy brought her assailant to his knees. Even though Holly was busy fending off the knives of this three opponents with his steel-trimmed cane, he still had time to appreciate effective technique.

“Come to the Blackpool Tower for Christmas eve, he says, we’ll get together, have a few laughs,” Ivy Douglas mocked Sir Edward’s accent in that oh-so American way as she made sure her man stayed down.

A familiar voice was yelling from the ground.

“Sir Edward! Mrs. Douglas! Are you all right?” It was Watson.

Ivy grabbed the ankles of one of Sir Edwards knife-attacker and flipped him over the rail.

“Feeling pretty cluckin’ unappreciated, John!” Ivy called down to the doctor, who was dashing to one side to avoid the fellow who just smacked the pavement.

Two men had come up to Dr. Watson, Inspector Peter Jones of Scotland Yard and Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard.

“You can go home, Dr. Watson,” the shorter Jones told him. “We’ve got it from here.”

“No, inspector, you couldn’t drag me away,” Watson replied, continuing to stare up at the Tower Top.

“Where’s Sherlock Holmes?” the taller Jones asked.

“He’s at Holly’s house interviewing the maid,” Watson told Jones.

Both Joneses looking at Watson with inquiring eyes. Watson shrugged.

“We have this Wilhelm Gruber and his men have barricaded in the Tower Ballroom,” Inspector Peter Jones growled. “We’ve shut off the gas mains. We let them sweat for a while, then we give them cannons.”

“Right up the bum,” Inspector Athelney Jones growled in agreement. “Just like in Afghanistan.”

“IVY!” Watson shouted up at the tower. “TIME TO PRAY!”

Up in the tower, Sir Edward gave Mrs. Douglas a quizzical look of his own. “Time to pray?”

“They’re running the Scotland Yard special unit playbook,” she explained. “Cannons.” She emphasized that last word with a knockout blow to the final villain on the observation deck with the bronze purse handle that wrapped around her knuckles.

“Gruber will use his hostages as a shield,” Sir Edward observed. “We have to get them out of there. I’m afraid we’ll have to return to the dance floor.”

“But I lost my shoes escaping the dance floor,” Mrs. Douglas complained.

“High time we retrieved them, don’t you think?” Sir Edward quipped.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” Wilhelm Gruber said, stepping out of the shadows with a gun in one hand and Ivy Douglas’s shoes dangling from the other. He tossed them to the floor next to her feet.

“We’d have come for them, Willy,” Ivy Douglas said, not bothering to pick them up.

“I wanted this to be professional … efficient … adult … cooperative. Not a lot to ask. But I didn’t expect two party-crashers, much less an apparent American cowgirl and an English popinjay from some third tier League of Extraordinary Adventurers. Shouldn’t you be exploring some Aztec pyramids, rather that troubling honest professional thieves in a city that has more than it needs?”

“We did that last month,” Sir Edward replied with a roll of his eyes. “We were visiting our friends Holmes and Watson for the holidays.”

“And no doubt speaking to the editors of the Strand Magazine about a spin-off series of your own to match Watson’s works. Was this supposed to be a part of your adventures? Something for next month’s issue? I’m afraid the only way your names will be appearing in print Christmas will be in your obituaries.”

“Willy, Scotland Yard is about to blow holes in the ballroom with cannon fire,” Ivy pointed out. “You’ve got to let us get the hostages out of there.”

“All part of my plan,” Wilhelm Gruber spoke through a thin smile. “The only way to get into the vault room at the base of this thing it to blast it open with a cannon. My man in the Gunners will be a little more precise in this targeting than the Yard might realize. I’ll be gone with my newfound fortune before the dust clears and the screaming stops.”

“You’re a monster!” Ivy cursed.

“Fortunately, Mrs. Douglas and I are famous monster-hunters,” Sir Edward Holly said calmly, starting to raise his hands in surrender. Halfway up, he flicked his wrists and derringer pistols sprang from his sleeves into his hands. He emptied both pistols at Gruber, not coming anywhere close to hitting him.

Gruber’s instinctive reaction to duck the bullets gave Ivy Douglas the minute she needed to cross the five feet that separated them, grabbing his gun hand with one hand and hitting the center of his chest with her shoulder. They both went tumbling over the rail.

“MRS. DOUGLAS!” Sir Edward Holly cried out and rushed to the rail. “Oh . . . there you are.”

About five feet down, Mrs. Douglas was sitting astride Wilhelm Gruber, punching him repeatedly in the face as he lay in a wide swath of netting strung between two sturdy poles which, in turn projected from the gondola of some sort of propelled balloon.

“Brother Thorpe’s inventions are forever coming in useful,” Sherlock Holmes said, waving from the gondola. Anesidora Ivory, the tick-tock woman, was there with him handing some handcuffs down to Ivy Douglas.

“Getting ready to play Santa Claus?” Sir Edward asked, looking at the big bag of gifts that was in the flying machine next to Holmes.

“Somebody has to take the London run this year. We may have saved the North Pole, but that broken leg is doing St. Nick no good tonight! Can we offer you a lift?”

From the ballroom below, the dance band had started playing again, Watson and the Inspectors Jones having liberated the hostages without the aid of cannons. Sir Edward heard a crooner start to sing as he climbed over into Holmes’s airship.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful . . .”