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The Darlington Substitution (Chapter 12)

21st May 2018
(Short Story)

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As Darlington slowly regained consciousness, we dragged him across to the other side of the chapel and sat him upright against a wall. The vicar, who had since returned to the main church to retrieve some more lighting and a few bottles of mineral water, fed Darlington small sips of water to coax him back into the world of the living.

Holmes wasn’t particularly interested in the health of our patient. By the time Darlington had come round, he had moved outside to lean against the church wall and take in some night air.

“I haven’t broken any law,” groaned Darlington.Holmes: The Darlington Substitution by Melvyn Small

“Then why did you run?” I queried.

“I don’t know.”

“What were you looking for?” asked Holmes from behind me.

“I don’t have anything to say,” he replied.

“Fair enough,” said Holmes. “I’ll tell you then.”

Darlington shrugged a dismissal.

Holmes gave him a long stare before delivering his explanation. “When you moved next door to old Agnes in Guisborough you became friendly with her. Your house was undergoing major renovation so there will have been times when you had no plumbing. You will have been in and out of her place all of the time for a cuppa and a Jammy Dodger or a go on her toilet. She could no longer get out and about, and she didn’t have many visitors, so she was glad of the company. During one of your cosy little chats, she let slip about her family heirloom. The thing is she may have come across a bit batty, but she was canny enough not to tell you about Eligius Chapel. Consequently, you assumed it was hidden in her house somewhere. You used to nip upstairs on the premise you were opening the windows to air the place out. You weren’t being neighbourly. You were rooting around for her treasure. Whatever that was.”

Holmes looked to Darlington for a confirmation, but received nothing but a dead stare. Dismissing Darlington’s indifference, he continued. “It was about this time that Agnes called us in. She was a wily old bird and she was clever enough to realise me and the Doc were her best chance of recovering her inheritance. She knew you were rummaging about upstairs and realised she had let the cat out of the bag, different cat. So, she needed to get her family heirloom back before you got your grubby hands on it. She probably had some plan to donate it to a local cats’ home so that Tiddles could live out his days in luxury. She thought we could find it before you did and she was right.”

“What?” said Darlington. “You’ve found it?”

“That bit comes later,” replied Holmes. “Then we have the fire…”

Darlington interrupted. “I never believed she went back in to save the cat. Who would enter a burning building to rescue a scruffy old moggie? She didn’t even seem to like the bloody thing. It was horrible. It kept shedding hairs everywhere. It ruined one of my best suits.”

“Exactly,” said Holmes. “So, figuring the heirloom had gone up in flames, you drew a line under your little treasure hunt. But you were wrong. That cat was her only friend in the world and she died trying to save it. And that would have been that, had the Doc not turned up and mentioned Eligius Chapel. You knew straight away that Eligius Chapel wasn’t a person, a relative of hers.”

“But how?” I queried. “It took us an age to draw that conclusion.”

“You need to remember what Charlie Boy here does for a living. How many authors do you think he’s interviewed over the years? And, good on him, he reads every book. Somewhere along the line he had a chat with someone into old church buildings. Here’s his book.” Holmes pulled a paperback from the pocket of his donkey jacket. “Legendary Churches of the North,” he said, reading from the cover. “Saint Cuthbert’s in Billingham gets a mention.”

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you. At least not without incriminating myself. Let’s just say that the books of every author he has interviewed are stacked in a cupboard in Broadcasting House. Yours is there, this one isn’t. Contained within the pages of this book is the reason why he didn’t broadcast your interview. It wasn’t because you were crap after all. If the author, this Rev Thom Byles fella had been listening in, he’d have known straightaway that Eligius Chapel wasn’t a person. There’s a whole chapter in here about Saint Eligius Chapel and the Knights Templar. Mister Darlington couldn’t let your mention of Eligius Chapel hit the airwaves. That would spoil his chances of snaffling the treasure for himself.”


Darlington dragged himself to his feet. “This is all very interesting, Holmes, but it’s way past my milk and biscuits time. I think I’ll be getting along. I’ll make sure to mention you stealing that book to Inspector Lestrade.”

“I bought this one from Smith’s”

“No, you didn’t. He only sold about four.”

As he reached the door, Darlington looked back to cast a self-satisfied glance at Holmes.

“Are you leaving?” asked Holmes. “Before you find out what the treasure is?”

Darlington turned back. “Enlighten me,” he said.

Holmes fixed a stare on him. He then moved around the room trailing his fingers over various items of bric a brac. “What do you think it is?” he said. “Gold, silver, some sort of priceless work of art?”

“A holy grail?” I added.

My friend smiled to himself before coming to a halt under a shelf fixed at the top of the wall near the ceiling. The shelf contained various items. Some tarnished candlesticks, an old tin kettle, some old plumbing fittings and a long row of what looked to be hymn books. Holmes moved along the books, tapping each book on the spine. Two thirds of the way along the row he stopped, hooked his finger over the top of a book and pulled it out.

“This is the treasure,” he said.

“That?” remarked Darlington, scornfully.

“Yes. It’s an English translation of Saint Cuthbert’s book of prayer. It’s very rare. He only sold about four. Around the time of Agnes’ death one of these went at auction for just under four hundred thousand pounds.”

Holmes gave a shrug of conclusion before turning to the vicar and passing him the book. “There you go, Father,” he said. “You can sell that. Get yourself some lead for the roof. Maybe some disco lights for outside. It’s a bit gloomy out there. You need to jazz the place up a bit.”

Darlington’s mouth dropped. He had the look of a man who’d realised he was always going to lose.


Value can be found in such strange places. Darlington assumed he was looking for silver and gold, but that book was worth more than its weight in either substance. Holmes placed no value in it at all. He almost threw it at the vicar. I’m sure he placed worth in the concluding of the mystery, but it wasn’t apparent.

We drove back up the A19 in silence. After parking up the taxi, we made our way to the Twisted Lip for last orders. Holmes took his first sip of beer like a man returning from exile. We’d only travelled twenty miles from home, but to him we’d been to an alien world.

An end

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Mel Small
Mel Small
(United Kingdom)

The founder of Indipenned and the writer of some books including the Boro’s Greatest Detective series. Goes by the name of Melv!s when writing and performing music. Dislikes turnip and beetroot (the Devil's fruit). /indipenned /indipenned