Inspector Caddy collapsed in a heap in front of us, Holmes hanging onto the fellow’s neck where some creature had ripped it open.
“Quickly Watson,” he said, as blood spurted through his fingers.
Whipping out my handkerchief, I fashioned a make-shift bandage. Pulling Caddy’s necktie loose and undoing his shirt, I saw that the wound stretched from one ear to the other. By some stroke of luck his attacker had simply ripped the flesh apart, missing the carotid artery and jugular vein. Nevertheless, the fellow might still bleed to death without urgent attention. “Mary, get me a needle and some cat gut.”
My wife crouched down next to me and unfastened her coat. “Nice to see you too, Johnny,” she said, taking out a small metal case about the size of a tobacco tin.
“Sorry, darling,” I said, “but this is no time for niceties.” Giving her a quick glance, I noted how her cleavage shimmered in the moonlight. I made a mental note to spend more time with her bosoms, assuming we survived further attacks by whatever had violated the inspector.
“Number one or number two?” asked Mary, holding out an assortment of already-threaded needles.
“Number one,” I said, taking the smallest of the proffered selection. “And thank you for being so well organised.”
“Isn’t that the role of a doctor’s wife?” she said, with only a hint of sarcasm.
Grasping Caddy’s loose flesh, I began to sew the torn skin together. “Hold him steady Holmes,” I commanded. With as much concentration as I could muster, I did my job and within a few minutes the blood flow had ceased. Taking out my spare handkerchief, I discarded the bloodied one and tied a fresh bandage.
“Thank you, thank you,” gasped Caddy, finally able to speak again.
Holmes and I hauled the fellow to his feet and immediately I was reminded of my companion’s earlier exclamation. I gazed across the lane to the moors beyond but there was nothing to see except darkness.
“I think we scared it away,” said Holmes. “For the moment at least.” He gave me a sardonic grin and added in a low voice, “For once I’m grateful for the presence of your dear wife. Whatever did this, apparently doesn’t like crowds. Or women.”
It was only now that I became aware of Doctor Hirsh, who had retreated to the safety of the inn door. Her face was etched in terror and for the first time I realised she had been telling us the truth. Except, that if she was telling the truth, she too should be displaying some sign of the lycanthropic tendency.
“Judith,” I said, approaching her. “Are you all right?”
Her eyes had a curiously green tinge to them. Moving closer, I took her chin gently in one hand and examined her.
“What’s wrong,” she whispered, staring hard at me.
I blinked. Whatever I’d seen a few seconds before was no longer present and her eyes were as clear as those of a child. “Nothing,” I said, removing my hand. But there was something, something I could not easily explain. Though the green tinge in her eyes had truthfully disappeared, another part of her face had caught my attention. When she’d spoken, I’d caught a glimpse of a somewhat enlarged and pointy canine tooth. Turning away, I made as if to comfort my wife, and taking her to one side, I said, “Noticed anything odd about Judith’s mouth?”
Mary frowned. “No, not really. Unless…”
Moving close, she ran her fingers seductively up the side of my face. “You think she is a werewolf, Johnny?”
“Of course not, such things don’t exist. Nevertheless, she may believe herself to be one.”
“Whether she is or not doesn’t explain what happened to this chap.” She indicated Caddy who was now in deep conversation with Holmes. “Someone, or something attacked him.” She looked up at me, striving to keep her feelings in check, but even her wonky eye betrayed her state of mind – she was genuinely scared.
Turning to look at Judith, I said, “Was she with you the whole time?”
“She couldn’t have slipped away? Even for a moment?”
“What could she achieve in a moment?”
I shook my head, recalling how day had changed to night within a matter of seconds. “I don’t know, darling, but if this werewolf stuff is really true, Christ knows what she might be capable of.”
I peered at Judith who was talking to Holmes, but it was the curious body language displayed by Inspector Caddy that told me what I needed to know – his face was white (which might be expected given what he’d been through), but his body was rigid. He stared at Judith, mouth open, eyes wide, fists clenched tightly. The man was terrified, as surly as if the werewolf itself were standing right in front of him.