The Case of the Tottering TBR by Sir Arthur Donan Coyle

Chapter 1



Dense, black, billowing fog was swirling around Baker Street when I arrived in response to an urgent request from my old friend, Sherlock Houses. The great detective had clearly had considerably more than his customary three pipes. I hastily opened a window and inquired as to the cause of my summons.

“Elementary, my dear Witless. The game’s afoot! Kindly reach down the Bradshaw and look up the time of the next train to Kirkintilloch.”

“I’m afraid there is no train to Kirkintilloch. However, there’s a canal boat service. If we leave now, we should get there by next Thursday or thereabouts.”

“Then make haste, Witless! There’s not a moment to be lost!”

Forth and Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch (the official Canal Capital of Scotland!)
Forth and Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch (the official Canal Capital of Scotland!)

Houses refused to say another word about the reason for our journey, declaring we should have the full story on our arrival from our client herself. Stopping only to send a brief telegram to my long-suffering wife, (a gentle, understanding woman who always did her best to appear as if she thoroughly enjoyed my frequent absences, often going so far as to telegraph Houses to ask if he needed me for anything), I packed my trusty service revolver, rubbed some embrocation into the old war wound in my leg – or was it my shoulder? Strange how I could never remember – and we hastily set off on our journey to the wilds of North England, which some of the natives still insisted on calling Scotland.

* * * * * * *

A week later, we stumbled weakly off the canal boat at our destination. It had been a long and tiring journey, during which Houses had enlivened the atmosphere with impromptu, unsolicited violin concerts, fascinating monologues on how to identify 600 different kinds of tobacco ash (which unfortunately, since the canal boat was a No Smoking zone, sent several of the passengers into a tooth-gnashing frenzy) and a little target practice with his revolver, inadvertently causing the boat to leak heavily and list to starboard. As always, Houses had made himself extremely popular, and the passengers and crew raised a hearty and prolonged cheer as we disembarked.

Kirkintilloch was a quaint old town built near the site of a Roman fort and looking as if it hadn’t changed much over the intervening centuries. The street names had a poetic ring that conjured up visions of rural loveliness – Cowgate, Industry Street, Gallowhill Road.

Cowgate, Kirkintilloch
Cowgate, Kirkintilloch

Our client lived outside the town, so we hailed a cab and Houses told the driver to make all speed to Culcreuch Castle, the home of our client.

“Lives may depend on it, man! Don’t spare the horse!”

“Och, hoots, dinna ye fash yersel’, sir! The castle’s been there sin’ the days that the auld chieftain o’ the Clan McFan caught the first haggis, an’ it’ll still be staunin’ when we’re a’ deid! Ay, it’s a sorry place noo, tho’, ye ken. They say that strange things happen there in the nicht – gey strange! An’ the puir Lady Laird is at her wit’s end wi’ it a’. Happen ye’ll be the gents she’s sent for frae doon Lunnon way?”

“I have no idea what you’re attempting to say, my good fellow. Drive on!”

We had a long winding journey of it, uphill most of the way, and dusk was falling over the rolling Campsie hills when we finally caught sight of the castle, nestling amongst the trees by the side of a picturesque lake. It was a beautiful setting, its air of peace and tranquillity belying the horror that was beginning to clutch at my heart.

Culcreuch Castle - once upon a time home to the Chief of my own clan...
Culcreuch Castle – once upon a time home to the Chief of my own clan…

We came to a halt at the massive oaken doors, held open by an elderly man in a rather strange looking multi-coloured skirt. Perhaps there was to be a fancy dress-ball that evening, I speculated.

A horrible wailing, screeching sound suddenly caused us to clutch each other in momentary terror. Quickly recovering our stiff upper lips and manly demeanours, Houses and I pulled out our revolvers and prepared to deal with supernatural hounds, or possibly ghoulies and ghosties and lang-leggedy beasties, which the indispensable Bradshaw had informed us frequented these heathen parts.

“’Tis only Wullie the Piper, sir, tae let us ken that supper is ready,” the elderly man cried incomprehensibly.

wullie the piper

Another skirted man appeared round the side of the castle, wrestling with a horrible 5-legged beast, from which the ghastly sounds were emanating. At that moment, with a final scream of mournful agony, the creature seemed to breathe its last. It was a chilling start to our adventure…


* * * * * * *

To be continued… maybe…

(This story was suggested by my old mate, Lady Fancifull. So blame her!)

62 thoughts on “The Case of the Tottering TBR by Sir Arthur Donan Coyle

    • Aha! Clearly you have mastered the barbaric tongue of the North English! I’m so impressed that you zoomed striaght in on the most important point of the story – Houses could do with your assistance… 😉


  1. Oh, I’m already completely drawn in, FictionFan! I can only imagine what horrors lurk in the old castle. Let me guess: a pair of cats who prowl about leaving scratches on unsuspecting tradesmen? I must know what this horrible thing is that has happened! I hope you won’t leave us in suspense for long.
    [This is absolutely hilarious! I’m so enjoying the way you depict Houses and Witless – spot on!]


  2. *laughs* I loved it! You must continue it, of course. It wouldn’t be too fair otherwise.

    Now, I do feel sorry for that poor Scottish chap. I mean, I think I understood most of what he was trying to say. I think…

    Do you know when that picture of Cowgate was taken?

    And I feel bad for the five-legged beast. You just killed Woola.


    • *laughs* Thank you! But you’re used to me not telling you how the story ends… *chuckles wickedly*

      Did you? Your brain must finally be convering to Scottishness! You’ll be dancing the Highland Fling any day now!

      No, but I reckon probably about 1900 or so. The odd thing is, that apart from cars, it looks almost exactly the same still! There’s even a hardware shop where the one in the pic is. If you look for the church tower behind the canal boat, that’s more or less where I live (the canal still looks the same too!)

      *gasps* Never!! Woola has ten legs anyway – unless some wicked person has cut five of them off… *suspicious glare*


      • Yes, I am…but I won’t accept it now, madam! I won’t!! *stamps foot*

        Well, some of it, that is. I’m making things out. Such a funny thing it is.

        So cool!!! What a beautiful place it is, too. Now I’d know my way around Scotland a bit. I think I’d definitely stop in the church to see what it was about.

        I wouldn’t do that! Dejah might. I think she was jealous of Woola.


        • Ooh, so masterful!! *swoons a bit* Well… perhaps…

          I’m proud of you! It’ll come in useful when you get hit with an irresistible impulse to read Burns’ love poetry…

          The Church is lovely actually – *laughs* – well, from the outside, anyway. I fear I haven’t been inside it… *ashamed*

          Well, that’s understandable! His smile is so much more attractive than hers!


          • Only a perhaps? That’s not good enough!

            Haha. Now why would I bet hit with that irresistible impulse? I doubt it!

            Wellllllllll…if you ever manage to get that camera working…it’d be cool to see a pic from the angle that pic is up there…and a pic of the church, too. Just thought I’d mention that.

            I wouldn’t go as far as that!


            • You’ll be sorry by the time it gets to episode 104…

              When Cupid strikes…

              *laughs* OK, OK! But I might not be able to take it from exactly the same place without being run over by a bus. And you wouldn’t want that. *raises quizzical eyebrow*

              See? I knew you were in love with Dejah!! You’ll be quoting Burns to her any time now…


            • Will not neither! Not if Effie is still in it.

              Didn’t you hear? I brutally murdered Cupid in a back alley, by my house. Only there’s no back allies by my house.

              NO, no! You mustn’t get run over at all. Is there a bakery in the town? Oh, see if Amazon will send you a DSLR camera. Then ship it to me, please.

              No, no. She’s too…well, she’s odd.


            • OK, I’ll write another 101 chapters just for you… *chuckles wickedly*

              Ah! Cupid can’t be killed, didn’t you know? He’s immortal – and he strikes just when you least expect it…

              There is! But truthfully not a terribly good one. No book shop either! In fact, I’m beginning to wonder why I live here now… Well, see, that was actually my nefarious plan, but it didn’t work. Sometimes if we review a thing for Amazon they offer us loads of different versions of the same thing. So when I took the rotten underwater camera it was in the hopes they would then offer me brilliant hugely expensive cameras! But they didn’t… *weeps* They still keep offering me headphones though…

              Odd? You better not let John Carter hear you say that… *fears for the Professor*


            • Then publish it! Goody.

              Yeah, but Aphrodite gave me his weakness, see. She liked the Trojans.

              Oh, I’m sure the bakery can’t be all that bad! There has to be a cookie or two that is quite edible, you know. That was your plan? Haha, cool. Hmm, well, you have to grab a Cannon or Sony thingy, then they might, I’m thinking. Effie, you’re the only person I know who wouldn’t take headphones!! *laughs lots*

              Well, she’s not that odd for him!


            • *laughs* Uh-huh!

              How typical of you to be friendly with Aphrodite! It was probably her who taught you to flirt…

              We’re more of a cake than a cookie nation – cookie’s are soooo American! I would if they offered one! *laughs lots* No, no, I did take the headphones. And then another set, and another set… I have wifi headphones, bluetooth headphones, mini headphones, massive headphones, bassy headphones… even a set of headphones which you can wire up to a matching set and have two people listen to the same thing – a very odd concept! In my day, people just played music through speakers if they wanted to share… For a while, I was the Queen of headphones! I had to draw the line eventually and refuse to take any more! So I hoped the same thing might happen with cameras…


            • She maybe did. It’d my greatest defense, see. *proud*

              Cakes are better than cookies! Cookies are American? I never knew that! *laughs* Goodness! You had a whole collection, for sure! I like the idea behind the two people one…see, something like that might be used in a studio or something, maybe.


            • Well, I’m not altogether happy at the thought of you flirting with the Goddess of Love, you know, you know… *growls a bit*

              They are!! Yeah, what you call cookies we call biscuits, but our biscuits were always small things rather than these giant things that have now taken over the world. And what you call biscuits – well, I’ve never quite been able to work out what they are at all! *laughs* See, you should be reviewing them, not me! What made me laugh was that the cord was only about thirty inches – OK for a four min track maybe but not so good for a 45 min symphony…


            • *laughs* Well, she was on the Trojans side, back in the day. Way before you were born.

              Giant cookies are better than small cookies, though. *laughs* Yeah, I’m not sure what our biscuits are either. They’re sorta…dry and stuffy tasting. Not too bad, with soup or a salad, i suppose.

              *laughing lots* 30 inches is huge!!! You listen to symphonies through them? Hahahaha.


            • Good noodles! No wonder you’re a master flirt – you’ve been practicing for centuries!

              It’s not often you’ll hear me say this, but the giant cookies always taste too sugary to me. See, biscuits with soup just sounds odd…

              *laughs* No it’s not! There’s not many people I’d be happy to have my head attached to at a distance of less than 30 inches!!! *laughs more* Why not symphonies?!?!


            • See? I’m so old it staggers the mind.

              Nothing is too sugary! That’s flawed thinking right there, I’m thinking. But that’s because you’ve never had a real biscuit!

              But…it’s not the people…just the music! No, no, there’s nothing wrong with listening to symphonies…it’s just funny!


            • *nods* And wobbles the knees…

              Well, that is my general principle in life, which is why it always surprises me that these giant cookies are too sweet for me. After all I can actually eat sugar on its own by the spoonful – I don’t, but I can! *chuckles* True – you must bake me some…

              But wouldn’t you rather listen to music without being wired up to someone else?? Unless it was Darby, of course…


            • That was yesterday’s problem…I’ve gotten over it, the sudden!

              *laughing* The spoon! Now that isn’t too good. I insist you eat more molasses instead. Hmm, I think I could bake a few. I think I know how to go about it… *considers*

              Well of course! I bet Darby smells funny.


            • Yes, you do appear to be getting younger – your old Professor persona has given way to a youthful, flirtier model…

              We don’t have molasses! I think it’s what we call treacle. Hurry up then, before my soup gets cold…

              I bet he smells delightful! Woody and masculine… *sighs*


            • I know… This is awful. I liked it better when I had a white beard. Blame goes to the guitar, of course.

              okay, if I put these two things together and cooke them…it should work. Are you brave enough?

              *laughing* woody!


            • Well, I kinda miss the old Prof, though I kinda like the new one too … torn, that’s what I am! I miss the guitar though!!! *frowns*

              Brave enough for anything!! Bring them on!! *trembles on the inside*

              *nods* Like the wind through pine trees in the snow…


  3. You made me laugh out loud! I do hope to see the next installment. 🙂 Unlike my library, which seems to delight in having some books in a a series and not others, I hope to find all of this story here.


    • Haha – thank you! Truthfully? It takes me far less time to write this kind of rubbish than a book review… (that, of course, could explain the editorial lapses… 😉 )


  4. I am very very very very very very (continues, to the power of x100) to have dangled this bit of literary cheese in front of your wee mousie typing paws. Beams very proudly at FictionFan. Think I should be your literary agent. Magnificent. It MUST be continued. The Australian Open will be over by the end of the week. I expect an additional 5000 words of equally high standard to be on my desk by the beginning of February. Raps ruler, like someone who means business. If not………….now you have told us where to find you, we will all be arriving, by canal, at your doorstep demanding the next installment. PS Is the skirted man wrestling the beast ForeignFilmFan? Will BigSis come to your rescue if we all start shouting MORE, MORE we want MORE?

    I think you could be running ‘how to write comedy’ classes

    Back to work, puir Lady Laird. No more tennis for you until the next instalment is done

    PS you are NOT to call it ‘this kind of rubbish’ tis a veritable delight


    • Haha! I blame you for me spending so much time on this and being even further behind with reading/reviewing than ever! But it was a brilliant piece of inspiration, and I’ve had loads of fun with it! Oh fear not! The whole thing is already written and you’ll be delighted to hear (as will everyone else) nowhere near 5000 words! Well… no spoilers, mind… but someone you may recognise will appear at some point, subtly disguised of course…

      Or ‘How Not to…’ perhaps..

      Aw, thank you, m’dear! I’m most pleased you’re enjoying it… 😀


      • You have your readers eagerly waiting for the next episode. I think of Mr Dickens, and the mass market in his day of quality serialisations. P.S. Go Konta! Go Murray! Go Murray! It’s a shame all the focus is on Go Konta, Go Murray, and everyone’s forgetting Go Murray, J, as well!


        • Yes, let’s hope it’s not as unsuccessful as Martin Chuzzlewit and I have to send Lady Fancyboots to America to revive flagging readership figures…

          I think Andy’s got a fight on his hands against Roanic in the semis – I don’t like these big servers – dull to watch, but very hard to beat. And Jo’s up against Kerber, who just beat Azarenko… But two in the semis! Brilliant!


          • I agree with your tennis assessments – BUT THREE in the semis, please – Murray J whom everyone is forgetting!

            PS it’s fine to send Lady Fancyboots to America – make it San Fran and she can go raid Jilanne’s secret chocolate stash


            • Oops! Sorry! I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t realised Jamie was in the semis – Eurosport really doesn’t cover the doubles much and I’ve barely seen the news. But they’re showing the semi tonight…

              Now how do you know she has one? Have you been casing the joint??


  5. BigSister is also shouting “More! More!”.And talking of the canal, is it still in its banks? We’ve been deluged here.


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