Friday, March 23, 2018

The Case of the James Bond Killer by David W Landrum

When Sherlock accepts a case in which a killer is re-enacting scenes from James Bond, his American assistant Dr Ophelia Turnberg proves indispensable.

Sherlock Holmes Case #2, 1966

Narrated by his assistant, Dr. Ophelia Turnberg

The scene in Goldfinger where they show the woman who has been murdered by being painted gold shocked me. The camera focused on her suddenly. A scary blare of discordant brass music played. It made me jump. Piers, who was sitting next to me in the theater that night, smiled, and took my hand.

It was a little creepy, then, when Holmes called me in to examine the body of a girl who had been killed - really killed, not theatrically killed - in this very manner. Of course, she did not die by being painted gold. I told him as much.

"You can't suffocate from your skin being painted over," I said. "Your skin absorbs only small amounts of oxygen. If you can breathe through your mouth or nose, you won't suffocate." I looked at toxicology report. "It says here she was poisoned. Cyanide. Whoever did this poisoned her and then painted her."

I have seen death in many forms: gunshot wounds and disemboweling when I worked as an Emergency Room doctor at a hospital in a violent area of Indianapolis; in dozens of gruesome ways during my stint as a US Army doctor in Vietnam. But the sight of the gilded young woman on the table in the police morgue made me shudder. "Whoever did this is a real psycho."

"Agree," Holmes said. "And quite meticulous. You don't do something like this without considerable planning."

The young woman on the slab did not look like Shirley Eaton, the actress in the film. She wore the short "Vidal Sassoon" hair-do so popular today; smaller breasts, not as curvaceous; a simple London girl - a "bird" who wore miniskirts, listened to the Beatles, and called something she liked "fab" - the kind of girl who came to my office for a pregnancy test, contraceptives, or to ask if the vaginal rashes she had was because she had contracted "the clap" (and most of time it was). This reverie took my mind off my work.

"Dr. Turnberg?"

"I'm sorry. Sometimes it's difficult to maintain a physician's detachment when you see" - I glanced at the autopsy report I had on a clipboard - "a nineteen-year-old girl who has been robbed of her future by some maniac. What do we know?"

"It's the same person who killed a young woman three weeks ago. She was shot in the back while dancing with a man."

"Like the scene in Thunderball where Fiona Volpe is dancing with Bond? It's a set up, but when the assassin shoots, Bond spins Fiona around and she ends up taking the bullet."

Holmes' expression of amazement made me smile.

"I read all of Ian Fleming's 007 books while I was in Vietnam. Our base had a small library. I worked through his books back then. When I wasn't on duty, I stayed in my quarters and read. It was a way to hide from the men in my unit, all of whom seemed to think I was Pussy Galore."

"I will not hazard a reply," Holmes said.

"How do we know it's the same killer?"

"We have fingerprints. The killer dropped the gun - a Walther PKK - on the ground at the site of the murder. The fingerprints on the gun and on the paint can and brush he used to paint the woman match."

"So we have nothing else to go on?"

"Nothing other than the fact that the killer knows the James Bond novels."

"And the films," I added.

"A Walther PKK was Bond's weapon of choice," Holmes noted. "I thought of bringing that up when the woman was killed at the dance, but I knew the police would laugh me to scorn if I did. This second murder confirms my theory." After a moment he asked, "Which of the books did you like the best?"

"I like Casino Royale best of all. The opening sentence is one of the greatest I've ever read."

"'The scent of smoke and sweat in a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,'" he quoted.

"Very good. You must like the novels as well as I did. I would think they are a little lowbrow for you."

"There is no such thing as lowbrow."

I covered the girl's body with a sheet.

"I can't offer much help here, Mr. Holmes. Poor girl."

"And I feel for the other woman he killed," he put in. "I wish we had more direction."

I had patients to see starting at 2:00. (I run a small private practice so I can stay current on medical advances and not just do post mortems for Holmes.) We planned to meet at the Sawyer's Arms, my favorite pub, for supper. He said he would have the autopsy report on the other victim sent to my office. After two minutes with my first patient, I sent her to a local hospital. The acute pain she was suffering derived from blockage of the bile duct by gallstones. An ambulance took her away. I vaccinated two children for polio, tetanus, and diphtheria. Children fear shots, but I amazed them with the skill I had acquired by giving as many as 1000 injections a day when I worked at a US Army induction center. I'd tell them to look out the window. Usually they did not feel anything when I stuck them with the needle. My third patient, a girl with gonorrhea, got a prescription for antibiotics. I called Lavender, my live-in nanny, and told her I would be at the hospital when the children got home from school. She should take them out somewhere for supper.

By the time I got to the hospital, the physicians on call had already done the cholecystectomy on my patient and placed her in recovery. I check on her vitals, conferred with the surgeon, and made an appointment to do an examination in the morning. I spoke with the family in the waiting room, assuring them the emergency surgery had gone well and she would be home soon.

I called Lavender again. She said she had taken the children to the Thorndale Brewery, owned by her father. Just like I had expected she would. I took a taxi to the pub. They were all there: Lavender, my two kids, and Piers, her father, whom I had been dating the last couple of months. He was a widower. Lavender had introduced us. Of late, I had been deciding whether I would let him screw me.

You will excuse my language. My time in the army put a lot of coarseness into my vocabulary. But I like to be direct. I kissed my son and daughter, put my cheek on Lavender's head, sat down, and ordered a roll, cheese, and ale. Toward the end of our meal, Piers had to tend bar. Amanda and Todd told me what had gone on at school that day. They were excited about the concert by Herman's Hermits we were going to next week. I told the children I had to take care of something at work but would be home in an hour or so, kissed them, and departed. As I left, I gave Piers a little kiss, and caught a cab for the Sawyer's Arms.



"James Bond has some notable eccentricities," Holmes said. "I spent a night re-reading the novels and stories."

Ian Fleming wrote twelve James Bond novels and a collection of short stories. If anyone else had said they read through all of them in one night, I would have doubted their veracity - and their sanity. I knew Holmes really had done as much and done it for a reason.

"That's quite a feat."

"The novels aren't very long."

"As I recall," I said, "he drinks his martinis stirred, not shaken."

"True. Anything else?"

I hesitated.

"He's puritanical about sex. He has intercourse with woman after woman but has never engaged in oral sex. In Casino Royale, the girl who is his love interest - the Soviet double agent - gets stung by a sea urchin. Bond sucks the poisoned spines out of her foot and comments that this is the first time he has 'eaten a girl.' It seems he limited his sexual practices to the usual and routine."

He blushed crimson.

"And you think the killer may mimic Bond even in little things like this?" I asked.

"He might."

"Of course, that doesn't help much. I can't translate a man's imitation of a fictional character's eccentricities into a plan of action - unless we interview all the prostitutes in London and ask if they know a man who eschews oral sex.'

"That would take too long," Holmes said.

We sat there in glum silence for a time.

"He doesn't like tea," I said, "which is very un-British. He drinks coffee, and calls a cup of tea 'a cup of mud.' We could ask the waiters at different places and see if anyone has used that phrase."

"That would entail visiting hundreds of establishments."

Glum silence again.

"Who were the women he killed?" I asked. "What did they do for a living?"

"One was a secretary who worked for the government. One was a waitress."

"That means he is probably young and good-looking enough to get dates with women who don't know him. The first killing maybe wasn't a date - though it could have been."

"Both women were pretty and young."

"All the Bond girls are pretty and young. And James Bond did not kill the women in the novels we've considered. Odd Job killed Jill Masterson on orders from Auric Goldfinger; Fiona Volpe, the woman in Thunderball, was killed by a hired assassin. If this guy is playing James Bond, he's not doing a very good job of it."

"Perceptive deductions. But it leaves us with nowhere to start."

I agreed. I kept thinking about Piers. Should I give him a call? Maybe it was time. Maybe getting laid would be healing. After all I went through in Vietnam, I had not wanted it. Now my desire was returning.

"Are contemplating an idea?" Holmes asked.

"Yes, I am."

I didn't mean an idea about the case we were working on.



When Piers left, I didn't know what he thought. He had been pleased, I guess, and we enjoyed the warm, cozy afterglow. We laughed, talked, snuggled. But I had moaned, shouted, and flopped around like a whore. I had yelled at the top of my voice when I came (first orgasm in three years). I wondered what he thought of me. He seemed happy that we had finally made it. Still, I wondered. I've always been that way. I got up and ran a bath. As I sank into the tub, I thought maybe I had ruined our little roll with my responses. Probably not. I felt sated. It was nice. He surely had enjoyed it too. It was a start. But I can't stop being me. I always end up critiquing myself.

When I attended my weekly meeting with Holmes, he asked me if I had come upon any leads.

"None. You?"

"Perhaps. We need to realize that he is not trying to be James bond. He killed the woman at the garden dance, he killed the girl and painted her gold; but in both instances, he did not follow the script." He paused.

"Yes, we agree on that," I said. "Go on."

"He is not acting like Bond, he is acting out Bond. Am I making myself clear?"

"Somewhat. Please elaborate."

"He focuses on a highly dramatic episode in the Bond novels - something he can act out. He can't blow up London like Hugo Drax meant to in Moonraker. He can't destroy the gold in Fort Knox. He can't steal a pair of nuclear bombs like in Thunderball. He can kill a girl and paint her gold. He can shoot a woman in the back."

"That would narrow the possibilities of what he might do," I said, and took a sip of whisky. "We know he goes after women who are at least vaguely like the Bond girls - the ones who are killed, at least."

"I suppose we'll just have to start telling every waiter and waitress in London who asks if we want tea, 'No, I don't want a cup of mud.' One of them might say someone else said the same thing to us last week. It will be a tedious process, but it's the only place I know to start."

"It's something."

"Good. We'll try my plan."

In fact, I do not like tea one bit.

The murders took place within a mile-square radius. We got a list of restaurants where we could make a fuss about tea and use the phrase "cup of mud" in the hope the waiters would mention that someone else had said that to them.

I will admit, it was not much of a plan. The waiters might have heard our James Bond re-enactor refer to a cup of mud, but they might not tell us as much. Still, it was a start. And very often, when you start to look for something, even if your search methodology is weak or misdirected, you often end up stumbling upon the thing you seek. Something like karma, providence, Zen, or synchronicity.

The area we had staked out contained about 100 cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Holmes paid some of his "Baker Street Irregulars" - poor boys and girls who did low-level investigation for him and served as lookouts and observers in our various investigations - to go to the eating and drinking establishments and repeat the formula, "I want coffee, not tea - not a cup of mud." I was dubious about the success of the venture, but after a week of sleuthing, we got a lead.

The place was a nice café filled with what appeared to be an upper-class clientele. They did serve coffee. Holmes and the police paid a call, told the staff they were investigating a crime, and showed photographs of the two women who were killed. The staff recognized both but said they could not remember much about them.

"Were they with a man?" he asked. "He would probably be young and handsome."

Again, they could not recall - though a waitress said she remembered one of the women in the pictures (the one who ended up poisoned and painted gold) had been here with a female friend.

When Piers called and asked if I would like to go out to dinner, I agreed and said I wanted to eat at the place we were investigating. Since it was the site that had given us a lead (if only a slender one), the more surveillance we did of the place, the better.

We met beforehand and enjoyed a long, passionate roll in my bed at home. Both the children were staying with friends and Lavender had the night off. I liked getting laid in my own bed. We cleaned up, dressed, and headed for the café. I concluded that, since he had asked me out again, our first time together had not disappointed him. Just as we were getting ready to leave, Holmes called.

"I'm planning to come to the establishment where we got the tip. I want to bring a couple of my Irregulars and get them hired there so we can have a more constant observation of the place."

"I'll be there with Piers," I said. "I like to mix business with pleasure."

"Yes, certainly."

Even though I was working, I enjoyed being there with Piers. He was a man who liked to have fun; he had operated a brewery and pub for many years, knew how to talk to people, and could be jovial and humorous. He behaved the way I always envisioned the Host in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: loquacious, generous, even-tempered, and with the gift of gab.

Halfway through our meal, someone he knew walked in. He rose and introduced me to Madoka Ando.

"Mrs. Ando is also a physician," he said. "She's been living in the UK for five years now and practices at one of our hospitals. You two will have to compare notes."

She was tall, slender, and very pretty. I immediately liked her. I asked her what area of medical research she was in. Cardiology, she said, and we began to chat about matters physicians like to discuss. After a while, she said, "I could stand here and talk about these things all night, but I must not be rude to my friend." She pointed to a tall woman sitting at a table for two just across from us. She took leave, sat down, and she and her friend ordered.

Piers and I continued our meal and our conversation. Something, though, kept me glancing over at Dr. Ando and her friend. I did this so much that Piers noticed.

"I hope you don't think that woman over there is more attractive than I am," he said.

"No. But something about her is odd."

"It's her right shoe."

I glanced over again, trying to be discrete in my curiosity. One of her shoes had a band of silver metal coming up from the sole a few centimeters. It caught the light and shone from where we viewed it.

"When you're the host at a tavern," he explained, "you notice things about people - it's a good way to ask questions that will start conversations. Why does her right shoe have a metal ring at the front? Her other shoe doesn't. If she were a customer and I wanted to get her talking, I might ask about it."

Just then Holmes showed up.

"Piers, there is Sherlock. I need to talk to him for just a minute. I'm sorry."

"That's fine."

I squeezed his hand and went over to the bar. Holmes was sipping one of those disgustingly sweet drinks he liked. His young assistants were talking to the café manager in hope of being hired. I moved to an open space next to him.

"Good evening, Sherlock," I said.

"Hello, Dr. Turnberg," he replied, startled a little by my brusque American intrusiveness. "Any sign of our man?"

"How do we know it's a man?"

Once more, I had nonplussed him. I was getting pretty good at it. I looked back. Dr. Ando's friend had just pulled out a cigarette.

"Stay where you are," I said to Holmes. "I might need back-up."

I hurried over to our table. Piers also was lighting up a cigarette.

"Ophelia, please, no lectures," he said. "I know it's a nasty habit."

Dr. Ando's friend had put the cigarette between her lips and was digging through her purse.

"Give me your lighter," I said. "Right now."

Bewildered, he handed it to me.

I walked over to Dr. Ando's table. The woman was still searching through her purse. I said hello to Dr. Ando and told her I hated to interrupt but I wanted to get her phone number. I looked over at her friend, "Oh, here," I said. "Do you need a light?" I held the lighter out and flicked it on.

An annoyed expression came to her face, she dug a moment more, found a box of matches, extracted one, and lit her cigarette, declining my offer to light it for her. I said a little more to Dr. Ando, who wrote out her phone number for me, thanked her, and returned to my table.

Piers and I finished eating our main course, had a pudding, and then an after-dinner drink. When he went to the lavatory, I hurried over to Holmes.

"That woman is our man," I whispered to him. "When she leaves, follow her out. Make sure you get between her and Dr. Ando. And do not let her get near either of you. Keep five feet distance from her always. Five feet. I don't have time to explain."

He nodded, once again nonplussed.

She and the doctor got up to leave about ten minutes after Piers returned to our table. They exited by a door that led into a narrow, dark lane. Holmes was not at the bar.

"I've got to go," I said to Piers.

Once I got outside, I saw the woman I suspected of being the killer turn and shove Dr. Ando against a wall. Holmes, who was lurking in the shadows, emerged.

"Desist at once!" he shouted. "What is the matter with you?"

The woman stomped her right foot. A small blade flicked out from the metal band on her shoe. Holmes did not see it. I pulled my Beretta pistol from my purse.

"Stop!" I told her, pointing the pistol.

I had said it loudly enough to startle her.

"Holmes, get away from her," I shouted.

He scurried backwards several steps. The woman, hatred etched in her eyes, moved toward me.

I shot her.

As a doctor, I knew the safest place to hit her. The wound would disable but not kill or seriously injure. The bullet knocked her off her feet. Her legs went out from under her and she fell flat on her back. I saw the blade that protruded from her shoes glisten when it caught the little bit of light that shone from the restaurant into the lane. Holmes stepped forward.

"Dr. Turnberg..."

"Get the shoe off her right foot," I ordered. "Don't touch the blade sticking out of it. And I mean that. Take her shoe off but don't touch the blade under any circumstances. It's poisoned."

I went over to Dr. Ando, who was crying with fear. As I comforted her, Holmes knelt and adroitly slipped off the woman's right shoe, without touching the blade sticking out of it, and threw it to one side. The prostrate woman moaned in pain. Blood trickled from the shoulder wound I had given her.

"Dr. Ando, are you all right?"

"Yes, I think so. My head - I feel dizzy."

By that time, people who had heard the gunshot and noticed the commotion emptied out of the café and rushed from the street that adjoined the narrow alley. I told Holmes to stay with Dr. Ando and went over to the woman I had shot. She opened her eyes and looked up at me. She was in too much pain to say anything, but I could see by the look she gave me that she knew we had found her out.

"Nice try, Rosa," I said. And then I chided myself for sounding too much like James Bond (as played by Sean Connery) at his most glib.

Piers came out and put his arms around me. A couple of Bobbies showed up. They detained me. Soon, however, two detectives who knew Holmes and knew I worked for him told them to release me. They took the woman to the hospital. Holmes warned that they needed to guard her closely. The owner of the café called Dr. Ando's husband and he drove over to pick her up. I called Lavender and told her to put the children to bed. I stepped over to be near Piers. When he saw the blank look on my face - the way I look when I am forced to use my firearm and it gives me a mild attack of PTSS, post-traumatic stress syndrome - he put his arms around me. I lifted one of his hands and kissed his fingers.

Eventually things broke up. Piers took me home. He said he would call in the morning. I told him I loved him.

The next day, before I went to my office, when the children were at school and Lavender had not yet arrived, Holmes showed up. I made coffee for the two of us. We sat in the living room and drank in silence. He finally spoke.

"Good work, Dr. Turnberg. I'm impressed. Can you tell me how you spotted our killer?"

"Do we know for sure she is the killer?"

"We do. The police searched her house. They found gold paint, cyanide, and her journal. It seems she was stupid enough to chronicle her exploits. She wrote in detail about her previous murders - details that only someone very close to the deaths could know. And her fingerprints match the ones found at the murder site of the girl she painted gold. Tell me: how did you spot her so easily? We thought we were trying to apprehend a man."

"Our suspect had been killing women. There was the imitation killing of Fiona Volpe and then of Jill Masterson. I saw the person we eventually captured sitting with an Asian woman. But when I saw the metal band on the woman's shoe, it made me suspicious. Because of my medical training, I would have known if it was some sort of prosthetic device. And Piers pointed out that she had a metal ring on one shoe but not on the other. When I saw her take out a cigarette, it all fell together, and I knew I had to act."

"Yes?"

"There is a scene in one of Bond's novels where Bond takes out a cigarette. His American friend Mr. DuPont offers him a light. The line reads, 'Bond produced his own, disliking the outstretched lighter' - or something like that - obviously, another of his eccentricities. She reacted identically. And I was able to see that the metal attachment on her shoe had a spring and blade on it. I remembered. At the end of From Russia With Love Rosa Klebb uses a similar device to almost kill Bond. The blade in her shoe is poisoned. The book ends with Bond collapsing. In the next novel, Doctor No, we get the details of his recovery. And in You Only Live Twice an Asian woman named Aki is poisoned. The poison was meant for Bond but kills Aki instead. That's why she was planning to murder Dr. Ando with poison. If the forensics lab tests the substance on her blade, I would put up even money they can identify the poison as the same one Fleming wrote about in those scenes."

"Cyanide?"

"Tetrodotoxin - fugu poison. It's a toxin found in certain venomous sea creatures - puffer fish, some octopi, triggerfish, moon snails. I knew about it because the Vietcong used it to poison the arrows of the crossbows they sometimes used and on bamboo stakes they set as booby traps. Fleming is typically salacious when he describes the poison as deriving from 'the sex organs of the Japanese globe-fish.'"

"Amazing. You remember all of that?"

"I remember the items in his writings that are egregiously salacious - like names. Pussy Galore, Honey Rider, Mary Goodnight. In You Only Live Twice there is Kissy Suzuki and a Chinese woman named Chew Mee. Disgusting."

"You remembered all of that and I didn't."

"Women are capable of surprising mental adroitness, Mr. Holmes."

"Yes, of course."

"The police might want to look around for the lab she must have somewhere in her house. Tell them to be careful. Tetrodotoxin is deadly." I paused and asked, "By the way, will the police arrest me for possession of an unregistered handgun?"

"I'll talk to some people I know. No one will bother you about it."

"I don't like to shoot people. I only do it as a last resort. I could not risk the chance of her cutting me or Dr. Ando with that little blade." I paused, smiled, and added, "I suppose you could call her footwear the ultimate stilettos."

Holmes sat silent for a long moment.

"I'll just pretend you didn't say that."

I laughed. It felt good to laugh.

4 comments:

  1. A carefully structured story in well-honoured 'who-dun-it' style. Many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. An interesting and intricate tale. I enjoyed how the mystery was intertwined with Ophelia’s Vietnam backstory and her developing relationship with Piers.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Interesting, creating a story around James Bond's fictional world and adding a bit of Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed it.

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