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!”