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The Night Comes Down…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

On discovering Johnny had deserted us to accompany that reprobate Holmes on a mission of discovery, Doctor Hirsch and I took it upon ourselves to follow the rascally pair to wherever they were headed.

We’d learned of the deception via the maid who, on delivering a second round of teacakes and scones to our room, happened to mention she’d seen that ‘handsome Mister Holmes’ hurrying across the street with ‘that funny little Doctor bloke’.

Judith let out a low growl. “I knew it,” she muttered. “The stupid man doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’ll get the pair of them killed. Or worse.”

“We have to go after them,” I said, checking through my husband’s spare trousers.

“What’re you looking for?” asked Judith.

“His gun,” I said, holding up the actual weapon. “Wonderful – they don’t even have the means to protect themselves. Bloody men.”

Out in the street, we halted for a moment as a young lad emerged from the baker’s shop opposite. As there was little else in the thoroughfare to look at, we watched this lanky and apparently stupefied individual as he stood scratching his head and uttering obscenities. Hastening to where he stood, I looked at the boy and I noted two things: his trousers were tucked into his rough woollen socks and the laces of his boots had been double knotted as though to keep them from dangling. I then inspected the area immediately outside the baker’s shop that seemed to have caught the lad’s attention. The familiar imprint of a slim tyre had left a faint impression across the pavement in a diagonal line, presumably after being wheeled from the road to lean against a display board while its owner delivered his wares. I noted the specifics of the tread and calculated the likely distance between the two wheels. Then, clicking my fingers in a school ma’am sort of way, I addressed the lad directly.

“You’ve lost something? A method of transportation, perhaps?”

The dull-faced young man waved a hand as if attempting to grasp some unseen object. “Sum-uns nicked me fookin bike, missus.”

“A Velocipede twin-cogged machine with sprung rear forks, I believe.”

The lad’s mouth dropped open like a trapdoor. “Ow d’yer know that, luv?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” I said. “It’s called paying attention,” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

Judith stepped forward. “Quickly now – how long ago did this happen?”

The lad gazed at her, at me, and back again. “Couple o’ minutes, I reckon. Can’t ha’ been more. I were only in t’shop long enough ter count out five loaves and a dozen stottie cakes.”

Judith turned to me. “We’ll never catch them without a horse and trap.” We moved away and began to discuss the matter in low tones, when the delivery boy interrupted.

“Where is it yer’s are going?”

“Not that it makes any difference, but we must get to the Slaughtered Lamb as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Oh,” he said, with a dopey grin. “Yer’s are wanting a drink, eh?”

I sighed and was about to resume the discussion with Judith when the lad uttered the solution to our problem.

“So why don’t yer’s just do a slider?”

“A what?” said I.

“A slider,” said the lad again. “Get a couple of bits of cardboard and yous can slide down the hill all the way to the Lamb.”

“Down the hill?” said Judith. “But the Slaughtered Lamb is up on the moors.”

The lanky youth nodded. “Oh, aye, it is. If ye go by road. But if’n yous run over to the timber yard yonder, there’s a track that takes ye right down to the back of the inn. It’s where they used to haul up the stones from the quarry.” He shrugged. “I can show yer if yer like?”

I glanced at Judith. “In for a penny…”

And so it was that two minutes later, after hurrying along several lanes and narrow alleys, we arrived at the old timber yard. The delivery boy led us through to a gap in the fence at the far side of the yard and pointed.

“There. That’s the track. Just need ter sit on a bit o’ cardboard and yous can slide right down to the back door.” Crossing to one side, he rummaged in a pile of rubbish and pulled out two battered cardboard boxes. Flattening them out, he gave us one each. “Mind though,” he said, with what I took to be his ‘serious’ face, “don’t yous be stayin out after dark – it be a full moon tonight and yous don’t want ter be meetin with a werewolf.”

Adopting somewhat indelicate seating positions, Judith and I readied ourselves and on a count of three, pushed off from the top of the slope. In a matter of seconds, we were hurtling along at an alarming rate, our respective lady parts bouncing up and down like balls in a juggling contest. Risking a quick glance at Judith, I attempted to conceal my terror, but felt gratified to see that she too was absolutely petrified.

Moments later the slope had levelled out and I could see in the distance a gathering of stone buildings. The nearest of these seemed to be the target of our route and seconds later we glided to a bumpy but largely pain-free stop at the door to what I presumed was the ‘outhouse’ behind the Slaughtered Lamb.

Clambering to my feet, I helped my companion up and we rubbed each other’s bottoms to relieve the throbbing sensation that still reverberated throughout our feminine physiques.

“Come on,” I urged, grasping Judith’s hand. “There’s the back door to the inn.” Within seconds we had negotiated the trail of empty beer barrels that littered the inn yard and pushed through the door that led to the rear part of the public house. As the door swished to behind us, the sound of a heated conversation came to my ears.

“What the fu–”

I stared at Judith. “That was Johnny’s voice,” I hissed.

“Shh!” Doctor Hirsch put a finger to my lips and motioned to a wooden hatch in the wall. Giving the hatch a gentle push, we raised our heads to peer through the aperture into the main room.

As we looked, a strange and unnerving sensation swept over us, as if some kind of dark fog had dropped upon us, changing the scene before our very eyes. And as I watched the crowd of people in front of us, a crowd that included Holmes and my darling Johnny, I saw what Holmes had seen – that an eerie darkness had fallen over the inn and its surroundings.

“Oh my God…” I gasped.

Judith shushed me to be quiet.

Focusing on the scene before us, I shook my head to clear the mugginess in my brain. Then a voice broke through to my consciousness.

“You can’t let ‘em go.”

“They’re being forced back outside,” whispered Judith. “Quickly, we have to reach them before the–” She stopped and stared at me. “Quickly.” Taking my hand, she pulled me backwards and we ran to the door and out into the inn yard. Veering left, we hurried around the corner of the building, heading for the front door. I was all too aware that the night had properly fallen and we were now engulfed in an almost complete darkness. Only the meagre illuminations from the windows of the inn served to light our way.

Rounding the corner, I slid to a halt. In front of us stood my husband, Sherlock Holmes and an approaching stranger.

“Oh shit,” muttered Judith. “It’s him.”

“Who?” I whimpered, not really wanting to know the answer.

But it was Holmes who replied. “Caddy? Inspector Caddy, are you alright, man?”

The other man raised his head and stared at him. “Beware the moon…”

As if on cue, a low howl echoed from somewhere distant.

“Oh, crap,” said Holmes. “It’s coming back!”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Prelude to a Kill…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Closing the inn door behind me I discerned a sudden lull in the conversation. To be more precise, a silence had fallen over the pub’s clientele as suddenly as if it had been dropped from a great height onto a hard and unyielding surface.

“Ah, good afternoon,” said Holmes in his usual jaunty manner. Shuffling out of his overcoat, he flung the garment carelessly over a nearby barstool and approached the innkeeper. “Fine weather we’re having, ay?”

Every eye in the place had turned towards us, and I was all too aware that the low hum of conversation had not returned. The only sound was the crack and hiss of wet logs burning in the fireplace.

Holmes gave me a signal which I took to mean ‘Be Merry’, so I hastened to his side and plunged in: “Two pints of Old Irregular, please, landlord.” I fixed my gaze on the fellow behind the bar and raised an eyebrow in a manner I hoped would intimate that I was not to be kept waiting.

The man sniffed and rubbed a hand across his hairy chin, rummaging in his beard as if searching for a lost item of food. Casting a meaningful glance at his regulars, he gave two short nods and turned his attention to the beer kegs behind him. Miraculously, the two dozen or so men presently inhabiting the Lounge Bar, resumed their various conversations, though there was a definite lessening of enthusiasm, as if the entire brigade had heeded some unseen warning. (That is, some unseen warning other than that of the two short nods given by the landlord).

“Tourists, eh?” said the barman, pushing two pint glasses across the counter.

“Something like that,” said Holmes. He took a large gulp of beer and licked his lips enthusiastically in an exaggerated show of satisfaction that fooled no-one. “Bit off the beaten track out here, aren’t you?” His keen eyes darted round, missing nothing.

“As are you two,” noted the landlord, with a smirk.

“Yes,” said Holmes, leaning his back against the bar. “But off the beaten track is where one is most likely to encounter items of interest. Rare breeds, unusual wildlife, that sort of thing.”

The barman grunted, and his eyes narrowed. “Such as?”

A hush had once again fallen over the room and I coughed loudly, hoping my companion would adopt a less threatening line of enquiry.

Holmes shrugged. “Arctic foxes, perhaps?”

“In Yorkshire?” The barman laughed and the whole room erupted in a gale of guffaws and derision. A moment later, the silence had restored itself, and all eyes were on Holmes.

My companion now had his back to the barman and, keeping his eyes on me, he turned his head towards the hearth, where the fire blazed merrily. Above the Inglenook, a curious shape had been painted on the wall. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but now it caught my attention like a slap in the face. Though it appeared to have been painted over at some point, the original design was still clear.

“A pentagram,” I said, thinking Holmes might not be alert to such pagan symbols. “Commonly used in ancient Greece and Babylonia, also in the Christian faith representing the five wounds of Christ.”

Holmes gave me a withering look. “Well done, Watson. You have once again confirmed my belief that you see but you do not observe.” He pointed a bony finger at the wall. “It’s a reverse pentagram – see where the two points are uppermost? This is not a symbol of good, old friend, but of evil.”

“Oh, bugger.”

A chair scraped across the floor and a thick-set chap strode across the room. Positioning himself rather too close to my hindquarters for comfort, he muttered, “Oi think you gen’lemen ‘ave outlived your welcome.”

“Come, come,” said Holmes, “we haven’t even paid for our drinks.”

“On the ‘ouse,” said the landlord, firmly.

“Ah, well in that case perhaps we’d better…” I had turned to go but Holmes grabbed my sleeve.

“Hold, Watson.” Moving closer, his mouth almost touching my ear, he whispered, “Look out of the window.”

As I turned my head in the direction of the door, I had the curious sensation that everything had slowed down. My whole body seemed to be moving like some badly-oiled machine, barely able to move more than an inch or two at a time. When I was finally able to fix my eyes on the window, the anticipated view of moorland fells and cloudy skies had gone, being replaced by an all-encompassing darkness.

“What the fu–” I started.

“We must go,” said Holmes pushing me towards the door.

“Yes,” bellowed the thick-set man. “Go now.”

Reaching out for the door handle, I stepped forward, then a shriek came from behind me.

“No-o-o-o…”

Spinning round, I saw the figure of a woman behind the bar, an open door beyond suggesting she had entered the room only seconds earlier.

“You can’t let ‘em go,” she yelled, addressing the room as a whole.

“Shut yer gob, wife,” countered the landlord. “We can and we will.”

The newcomer emerged from behind the bar and hurried to where we stood. “Don’t ye be goin’ over the moors, it ain’t safe.” The urgency in her voice convinced me, but Holmes was pulling open the door and pushing me out into the darkness.

“No,” yelled the woman, striving to drag us back inside.

Something thudded into my shoulder and a young lad gripped my arm. “Yous got ter go, but take heed – keep to the road. Don’t go across the moors.” His face was ghastly white and once again I needed no further convincing, but a second later we were shoved across the threshold and the door slammed like a bolt behind us.

The sudden silence engulfed me and I grasped my companion’s hand. “We’re going to die, Holmes, we’re going to die.”

“Don’t be such a Nancy-boy, Watson, the pony and trap is over yonder. We’ll be back in town in a jiffy.”

“But what about the werewolf?” I whined.

“Yes, well I always said it was a load of tosh, now…” His voice tailed off and I saw he was staring at something over my shoulder. “It appears we have company, Watson.”

Swivelling round, I peered into the darkness. A figure was walking, or rather stumbling towards us. At first, I could barely make out his features, but as he drew near, it was the blood oozing from his neck that focused my attention.

“My God,” muttered Holmes dashing forward. Catching the fellow before he fell, Holmes urged me to help. Grasping the man under the arms, we struggled to keep him upright. Thankfully, my medical training leapt to the fore and whipping off my scarf, I fashioned a bandage of sorts and pressed my hand against the worst part of the wound.

“I say, Holmes, this chap looks awfully familiar.”

My companion nodded stiffly. “Of course he is Watson – he’s been tailing us for the last two days.” Then grabbing the man’s face, Holmes gave him a shake. “Caddy? Inspector Caddy, are you alright, man?”

The policeman raised his head and stared at me. “Beware the moon…”

As if on cue, a low howl echoed from somewhere distant.

“Oh, crap,” said Holmes. “It’s coming back!”

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Inspector Calls…


The Journal of Buckingham Caddy
(Inspector 2nd Class)
Notebook No 3

After sending a telegraphical communication to my superior at Scotland Yard detailing my progress so far, I put my mind to another project. Once again, my theories have been cast asunder and I must reconsider the entire premise. Having proposed a series of articles entitled ‘An American Werewolf in Londen’ (being a true-crime expose of that charlatan and so-called detective Sherlock Holmes), I shall be forced to renegotiate with those nice people at The Strand Magazine and come up with a more suitable title. Or at least, one that is geographically accurate.

While sitting in a corner booth in the Snug bar last evening, close enough to the party in question to overhear the chief arguments inherent in their discussion, I was mortified to realise that the blonde goddess Judith Hirsch is in fact not American at all. The bloody woman is Yorkshire born and bred! I can only surmise that my previous encounter with that same personage suffered from an acute case of having the wool yanked over my features in an act of deliberate deception. I might well expect such deviancy from the likes of Holmes himself, but not from a medical professional with actual letters after her name. (Of course, I may yet discover her qualifications too were rendered from the same supremely beautiful and cunningly inventive mind).

However, the issue at hand is now not one of nationality but of location. It was pure chance I happened to be in the process of relieving myself against a wall in the back yard of The Golden Fleece, after sampling a pint of Pennine Pisswater in the company of a few of the locals, when I heard a familiar voice. The owner of said voice appeared to be haranguing his companion about the benefits of not going out ‘into the bloody wilderness with barely a sensible thought in our heads’, while his chum cast several aspersions along the lines of ‘Shut the fuck up, Watson’.

I fastened myself up and hurried out into the lane to see in which direction they were headed. The pair scampered across the street, into an alley and around the back of the public house opposite, where a pony and trap lay in wait. As the vehicle pulled away, I cursed my own stupidity at not having considered such a move – leaving the womenfolk behind is of course a classic Holmesian ruse (the man is a consummate woman-hater), and I should have explored the possibilities of alternative transport.

As it happens, on my way back to the main thoroughfare, I spied a delivery boy heading towards me on a bicycle. Making myself scarce, I watched as the lad leaned the machine against the wall of a shop and dashed off to deliver his groceries, then I ran over, jumped onto the contraption and began pedalling furiously after the pony and trap.

Given the conversation my quarries had engaged in the previous evening, I suspected they were headed for an inn called The Slaughtered Lamb, a dilapidated watering hole near the site of my first encounter with Ms Hirsch. It occurred to me (as I pedalled feverishly across the moors in not-very-hot pursuit), that the good lady may not have furnished Holmes and Watson with the actual truth, in which case, they could well be treading on very dangerous ground.

After losing sight of the trap for a few minutes when it crested the brow of the hill, I began to wonder if I’d made a tragic error of judgement in not contacting Holmes directly, but then I spied the pony and trap in a stationary position. The driver had dismounted and had propped himself up on a nearby rock where he was happily puffing away at a clay pipe. Holmes and Watson were nowhere to be seen.

“I say, you there,” I called, approaching the bewhiskered fellow. “Where did those detecti – I mean, where did those two fellows go?”

The man turned and cast a bloodshot eye in my direction. “Pub,” he muttered and pointed a fat finger at the inn a few hundred yards down the fell.

“Damn and bugger.” I gave the man a stern look and said, “Now look here, you’re a local chap?”

He sniffed and gave a nod. “That Oi be.”

“Then you know all about this place?”

“That Oi do.” Clearly, he was a man of few words.

Stepping up close, I poked him in the chest. “Then what d’you mean by allowing them to go in there?” I waved a hand in the direction of the inn.

The old man shrugged. “B’aint no business o’ mine.”

“And what’ll you do if they…if they…you know, succumb to some injury or other?”

“You mean if the werewolf gets ‘em?” He shrugged again. “Oi’ve already been paid.”

“Hah,” I exploded. “And what happens if the werewolf eats you, eh?”

The man sniffed. “Won’t eat me. Oi’m a vegetarian.”

Looking up at the sky, I calculated we had a least four hours until the moon was up. If we were caught out her after that, we’d all be buggered. “Right,” I muttered, fumbling in my jacket for my revolver. “I’ll just deal with it myself, then.” And with that, I hurried off down the track towards the inn, hoping the pair of dunderheads had been sensible enough not to mention the nature of their mission to any of the locals…

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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A Change in the Wind…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Though barely mid-day, a change in the wind brought a sudden chill to the atmosphere. Gazing upwards, I noted the sky had darkened considerably, imposing a curious sense of impending doom on the three of us as we trundled along. Not for the first time, I began to wonder if we’d made an error of judgement.

Ahead, the road divided into two, and as if warning that to go any further would be to our disadvantage, a wooden crucifix reared up like a stick-man silhouetted against the sky. As we drew closer, I realised it was signpost. Bearing the legend ‘East Protor’, the crosspiece hung limply, the whole thing leaning at a precarious angle amid a tangle of purple heather.

“This be as far as Oi go, sor,” muttered our driver, pulling the horse to a standstill.

We had reached the brow of a hill. Looking down across the fells I perceived what appeared to be a village. On closer inspection I surmised it to be nothing more than a handful of weather-worn buildings huddled together like a group of surly shepherds, pitting their wits against the oncoming rain.

“What the devil d’you mean?” barked Holmes, giving the old man a thump on the shoulder.

“Just what Oi say, sor – Oi ain’t goin no further.” The churlish fellow turned to peer at us and added, “so Oi can wait ‘ere, or Oi can bugger off an’ leave the pair of you.” He turned back to face the front. “Makes no neither nor to me.”

Gazing up at the greying sky, a few drops of rain splashed against my cheek. Recalling something Doctor Hirsch had told us, I peered at an object sticking out from the closest of the stone buildings. The faint squeak of a hanging sign, creaking against its hinges told me all I needed to know. “Well, I don’t know about you, Holmes,” I said, “but I’m all for popping down to the pub for a pint of Old Peculiar, or whatever passes for a decent drink out here. I’m sure the locals will be only too happy to regale us with tales of werewolves and the like.” I began to clamber down from the trap and after a moment, Holmes followed suit.

“As you wish,” he said. Tugging the driver’s sleeve, he waved a bony finger in the man’s face. “And don’t forget that half-crown I gave you. I shall expect change on our return.”

The old man grunted but said nothing more.

The road we were on now split in two – one running off to the left towards the woodland, and the other, a rough farm track, sloping down over the fells in a wide arc that took it past the nearest of the buildings. The pub.

“Your round,” I chirped, striding off down the track.

A few minutes later we had reached the inn. Sliding out of my Mackintosh, I gave it a shake and was all for barging straight through the door, but Holmes held me back.

“Have a care, Watson,” he said, his chin angled upwards.

Following his gaze, I peered at the inn sign. “The Slaughtered Lamb?” My mouth dropped open and I gave Holmes a sharp look. “It can’t be…”

“I know what you’re thinking, Watson, but this is simply a public house that just happens to have the same moniker as that den of iniquity we encountered in the adventure of the…the er…” He clicked his fingers irritably.

“The Wicker Mannie,” I said, helpfully.

“The very same. But this does not mean that whatever lies within these walls promises anything more sinister than a badly-pulled pint of Sheepshagger’s beer.”

“But Holmes,” I said.

“But me no buts, Watson, it’s just a name.” He sniffed and lowered his voice. “All the same, have a care.”

And with that he grasped the iron knob, gave it a firm twist and walked inside.

I looked up at the inn sign again and winced at the gory image. It depicted a severed sheep’s head with blood dripping from the jagged wound. I swallowed hard and went into the pub.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Beware the Moon…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The following afternoon, along with my dear wife and Doctor Hirsch, Holmes and myself travelled by train to Yorkshire – the town of Thirsk, to be precise – and took rooms at The Golden Fleece, an old coaching inn. Most of our journey had been taken up with planning our ‘expedition’ to what my large-nosed companion referred to as the crime scene. Judith filled us in on the gory details of her own encounter on the moors and was keen to caution us to the dangers of wandering about on that place of rolling hills and upland fells after dark.

“I warn you, Mister Holmes, she said, “though it may be an area of supreme beauty and tranquillity during the hours of daylight, the night brings trepidation and terror.”

“Yes, yes,” muttered Holmes. “I expect it does. Luckily Watson and I are au fait with trepidation and terror.” He gave me a sly wink and I groaned inwardly, knowing what was coming next. “In the morning, my companion and I will make a provisional reconnaissance of the immediate area around East Proctor and report back by late afternoon.” He took out his meerschaum and began tapping out the dottle on the edge of the seat. “Or, early evening at the latest. Before dark, at any rate.” He gave me a questioning look. “Wouldn’t have an ounce of hard shag on you, by any chance, Watson?”

“I don’t smoke, Holmes. Haven’t for years.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? That explains it, then.”

“Explains what?” said I, with not a little irritation.

“Why you never carry any Swan Vestas.” He shook his head and peered out of the window.

Mary had been listening intensely to this exchange and I could tell from the way her wonky eye glared at Holmes, that she was about to erupt. I leaned forward with a view to patting her knee in a calming manner, but it was too late.

“Just who the bloody hell do you think you are?”

“What’s that, m’dear?” said Holmes distractedly.

“Haven’t you heard a word Judith has said? D’you imagine that everything she’s told us is utter drivel?”

“Well, I…” he began, but Mary was far from finished.

“Whether you believe in werewolves or not, there is clearly something very wrong here and you are not, I repeat not, going to drag my husband out on a fool’s errand when there’s a full moon. If anything happens to my Johnny, I will bite you myself!”

Holmes appeared taken aback (an unusual experience for him), and for a moment words escaped him.

Now it was Judith’s turn to take up the protest, but not before laying a hand on Mary’s thigh and rubbing it with a gently calming motion. The effect was quite extraordinary. I am accustomed to my wife’s anger subsiding gradually over several hours, but now it petered away as if she’d been injected with a some fast-acting tranquilising solution. Letting out a low sigh, she turned her head towards Judith and smiled shyly.

“Sherlock,” said Judith, turning her attention back to Holmes, “it would be altogether more sensible for all four of us to travel to East Protor, and that way, if anything does happen, I shall be on hand to advise you.”

Holmes coughed and looked at the floor. “As you wish.”

The following morning, Holmes and myself climbed aboard a pony and trap and began a journey that would become nothing less than a nightmare, though we little did know it. I had, of course objected to his plan to ‘outwit the ladies’ under the pretext of having a game of darts with the chaps in the bar, but Holmes can be very forceful, and he ably manoeuvred me through the Lounge Bar, into the Snug and out into the back lane via the kitchen, leaving Mary and Judith to discover our deception when we failed to return to our rooms for morning coffee.

“You really expect we can get back here before dark?” I asked him.

“Don’t see why not,” said he. Tapping the driver on the shoulder, he urged the
dour-faced man to hurry-it-along and within a few minutes we had reached the edge of the moors.

The way ahead was indeed one of beauty and tranquillity as Judith had described, but already the mist was descending over distant woodland and the familiar loosening sensation that often accompanies our many journeys into the unknown, began to make its presence felt in my lower quarters. I only hoped I’d be able to hold onto my dignity if we should encounter the individual – man or beast – who assaulted Judith.

As it happened, messing my pants was the least of my worries.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Myths and Delusions…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

To say I was a little put out at meeting Doctor Hirsch is perhaps to under-egg the custard. To be blunt, I was positively fuming! But I’m getting ahead of myself:

Having tried on several hats (none of which suited me), I admonished the milliner’s assistant for being a complete twit and stormed out of the changing rooms to find my husband was nowhere to be seen. However, all it took was a glance towards the stairs to see the be-tweeded buffoon hurrying away. Ah-ha, Mister Watson, I thought, what are you up to?

It was not a difficult task pursuing Johnny from Debenhams to the hotel, even though he adopted an annoyingly circuitous route involving two trams, a hackney carriage and three visits to the gents’ toilets (a tactic that temporarily convinced me he’d turned queer and had sneaked off to meet some fancy-man).

Happily, I was wrong on the latter point, but even so felt a flush of jealousy to discover he was actually meeting a woman – and a startlingly beautiful one to boot. Judith Hirsch’s unfeasibly golden hair and bright smiling face triggered within me a feeling of salacious juiciness. However, I sensibly cast such thoughts out of my head and told myself to concentrate on the details of the case, which that same person was about to impart. Once I’d given my husband the requisite vexatious stare (ie my well-known jealous-wifey-on-the-war-path look), he knew to behave himself. But just to make sure, I sat next to him and slipped one hand down the back of his trousers, leaving him in no doubt I knew where to poke him if he tried anything saucy with the gilded-haired temptress.

True, I was still a little miffed to find Big-Nose Holmesy had arrived on the scene at the same time, but when I saw that neither he nor Johnny had realised Hirsch was a woman, I calmed down and determined to contribute something useful to the conversation. Judith had shown us the three horrid gashes down her arm and Sherlock was postulating on the apparent fact of her being a werewolf.

“Sorry, Sherl,” I said, helping myself to a digestive biscuit, “but why would a little scratch make her into a werewolf?”

To his credit, Holmes did not adopt his infamous sardonic smile, and surprised me when he actually answered the question without the merest hint of sarcasm.

“It wouldn’t, Mary. Unlike Count Dracula, werewolves do not exist. As your dear husband has already pointed out, there is a condition known as clinical lycanthropy, which I believe this young woman to be suffering from. It is mere myth that perpetuates a belief in a human’s ability to transform into a werewolf.” He smiled warmly at Doctor Hirsch, then taking out his Meerschaum, began to stuff it with tobacco.

I looked at Judith and noted her bright complexion had not altered. “Your scepticism is admirable, Mister Holmes,” she said, “but on this occasion I fear it is misplaced. I am not pretending to be a vampire.”

Holmes didn’t look up, but finished filling his pipe, lit up a Swan Vesta and took a few puffs before continuing. “That particular creature, as Watson recorded in a case of ours entitled, ‘The Vampire Lestrade’, was very real and very dangerous.” He paused and raised an eyebrow in my direction. “You recall that adventure, Mary?”

I nodded.

“Then you will also recall that the Count comes from a long line of vampires which can be traced back to Vlad the Impaler in the fifteenth century. Werewolves, on the other hand, are based on nothing more sinister than European folklore, and we all know what a load of bollocks that is.” He glanced at Judith. “Like God, werewolves are a myth, a delusion, a means of scaring small children into going to bed early.”

Judith smiled, but this time there was no trace of humour in her features. “Two days from now there will be a full moon. If you truly believe there is nothing to fear, perhaps all three of you would accompany me to Yorkshire?”

My companions were silent, so I leaned forward and asked the obvious question. “And what do you expect to find in Yorkshire?”

She sniffed. “The man who did this to me.” She touched her arm and gave me a sideways glance. The look was so fleeting it may have been my imagination, but I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of a somewhat enlarged and pointy canine tooth. But then she grinned, and the image was gone.

Nevertheless, for the rest of the day I had the distinct impression that something deeply disturbing nestled within the bosom of that gorgeous and beautifully thrilling woman.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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An American Werewolf in Londen


From Doctor J. Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq
Hand delivered by urchin

Holmes

On returning home last evening, I received the following communication from an as yet unknown individual:

    Doctor Watson

    Request yourself and Sherlock Holmes investigate bizarre incident of possible lycanthropic origin. Please call on me at the Horse and Trollop at your earliest convenience.

    JSH

I should not have considered the communication significant were it not for the one word – lycanthropic, and I admit a chill ran up and down my spine as I recalled that business in Staffordshire when the chomped-up and bloodied remains of a local boy were found scattered around a graveyard. Our old pal Inspector Buckingham Caddy had some involvement in the case, though the killer – human or otherwise – has never been found.

No doubt you will scoff at the idea of werewolves, Holmes, but medical curiosity and a little knowledge of the disorder known as clinical lycanthropy has occasionally prompted me to wonder about the authenticity of such conditions. In any case, I should be interested in at least meeting this chap and hearing what he has to say.

I shall send the boy round with this note and look forward to meeting you at the aforementioned hostelry at noon.

Yours, Watson.

Diary of Doctor J. Watson

I arrived at the Horse and Trollop shortly before twelve o’clock, having spent the previous half hour trying to shake off my dear wife. (I had no objection to her accompanying me, but the way she positively drooled at the mention of the W word, persuaded me to slip away from her while she tried on a new hat in Debenhams. With any luck, she won’t realise I’ve gone until she reaches the sales counter.)

Having made my presence known to a ruddy-cheeked subordinate in the lobby, I seated myself near the hotel’s bay window where I could peruse The Times as well as the main staircase. I’d only been there a few minutes when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Doctor Watson?”

I looked up into a face so completely beautiful that for a moment I forgot my manners – my mouth dropped open and I let the newspaper slide to the floor.

The newcomer crouched down, picked it up and laid it on the table. “You are Doctor Watson, aren’t you?” she said, her blonde locks tumbling magnificently around her shoulders.

“Oh, er yes, yes of course.” Then getting to my feet, I pulled out another chair and urged her to sit. “My apologies, I hadn’t expected you to be so…er…”

“Judith Hirsch, MD. You were expecting a man, weren’t you?” She gave me a coy grin, leaving me in no doubt I’d made myself look foolish.

“An American, actually,” I said.

“Ah.” She smiled. “A disguise I sometimes utilise in an effort to throw off my pursuer.”

“Your pursuer?” I said, glancing around the lobby.

“A detective who has been harassing me since the incident occurred.”

At that point I suggested we order tea and scones before proceeding further. As the maid scuttled off to the kitchen, my guest leaned forward and patted my knee.

“You’re much more handsome than I was led to believe, Doctor,” she said, rubbing my leg seductively. “I was told Mister Holmes was the good-looking one.”

I was about to laugh in a nonchalant manner when a shadow fell across the table.

“They do say,” said Sherlock Holmes, “that a Watson without his wife is a positive liability.” He grinned sardonically and slid into a chair next to Doctor Hirsch.

A familiar fragrance caught my nostrils and I looked up at the rather vexed visage of my dear Mary. “You know, Johnny,” she purred, “sometimes I wonder if I married the wrong man.” She glanced pointedly at Holmes, who gave a noticeable twitch of disbelief, though the expected sharp retort at such a ridiculous proposal did not materialise.

The girl arrived with a tray and while Holmes ordered two additional teas, we all made ourselves comfortable.

“I must admit,” said Mary, tucking into a jam scone, “for a man, you’re extraordinarily pretty.” She patted Judith’s knee and squeezed her leg with enough force to cause the other woman to wince.

“So,” said I, giving my wife what I hoped was a stern look. “You were going to tell us about this werewolf…”

Judith Hirsch waved a hand at me. “Keep your voice down, Doctor. We don’t want everyone to know there’s an American werewolf on the loose.”

“An American werewolf?” said Mary.

“In Londen,” added Holmes.

Judith nodded. “Yes, an American werewolf in Londen.”

Holmes frowned, then shook his head dismissively. “Tish tosh. No such animal.”

“Really?” said Judith. “then how d’you account for this?” With that, she undid the cuff of her sleeve and pulled it up, revealing three massive gashes down the length of her arm.

Holmes stared at the wound for a moment then raising his beady little eyes to her face, said, “You were bitten?”

Judith nodded.

“By a werewolf?”

Again she nodded.

Holmes sucked on his lip, considering the implications. “Then, according to the myth,” he said, “you must be a werewolf too?”

Judith Hirsch said nothing, but shrugged and sipped her tea.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 
 
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