“Come along, darling,” said Mary, tugging at my sleeve. “We’re going back to the hotel.”
“Ah,” said I, still gazing at Caddy’s face. Only now he was no longer there – I was staring instead at the grey stone wall of the inn. Turning to look past my wife, I saw Holmes and Judith walking back towards the road where we’d left the pony and trap. Poor Inspector Caddy trailed behind, one hand clutching the bandage round his neck. I judged his general demeanour to be that of a troubled and somewhat disconcerted individual.
“Johnny?” said Mary, still tugging at my sleeve. “Are you quite alright?”
I nodded. “A little distracted, Mary, nothing more.” But as we walked back up the track, I knew Caddy was not the only person to be confused by what had happened. Holding my wife back from our companions, I put a series of questions to her concerning her and Judith’s sudden appearance at The Slaughtered Lamb. As is her habit, Mary gave a detailed but concise account of their unusual journey and how they had reached the inn just as Caddy stumbled down from the moors.
“I see,” I said, though there was nothing illuminating about my conclusions. Clearly, the inspector had followed Holmes and myself from The Golden Fleece only a few minutes before Mary and Judith did the same. Even accounting for the women’s speedy mode of transport, Caddy must have arrived on the scene shortly after our arrival and before theirs, and yet he had apparently wandered up on the moors long enough to offer his throat to the werewolf.
No doubt Holmes would unravel the mystery while smoking a pipeful of Hard Shag in front of the fire, and I would look on dumfounded as usual, amazed at his massive intellect.
But no, damn it! (I said to myself), for once it would be me who solved the puzzle. After all, I knew as much about the affair as he did, and quite possibly a lot more. All I had to do was to get Caddy alone and have him relate his own account of recent events.
Reaching the trap, I helped Mary up and slid in beside her, noting Caddy had opted to ride shotgun, a decision I suspected had something to do with Miss Hirsch. Glancing at the good doctor, still deep in conversation with Holmes, I pondered at the peculiarity of her happy smiling countenance – surely the most battle-hardened soldier could not have recovered his rightness of mind with such ease? Perhaps she really was a werewolf. Perhaps she had somehow frozen time itself, carried out the savage attack then returned to normality in time to witness the aftermath as if she were a mere onlooker.
Oh, you dolt, Watson (I said to myself, again). What a pile of absolute crap. But then, such an occurrence was no more ridiculous than the events we’d witnessed at Castle Dracula, and even Holmes had made that observation.
As the trap trundled back into town, I determined to learn Inspector Caddy’s version of events before Holmes got his sticky fingers on the man. Although, I noted with a sidelong glance at that same personage, the big-nosed detective was already so deeply absorbed by Judith and her bouncing breasts, that a little subterfuge on my part might go completely unnoticed.
And as if by magic, as Holmes assisted her down from the cart, Judith slipped her arm into his and the pair trotted off into the Snug Bar with nary a backward glance.
“You know,” murmured my wife with a demure smile, “if I weren’t aware that Sherlock Holmes is an inveterate woman-hater, I’d think he was trying to get into her knickers.”
“Really, Mary,” I said, affecting disbelief, “I’m shocked you could ever think such a thing. Besides, they’d never fit him.”
She giggled girlishly and as I helped Inspector Caddy down from the cart, I began to see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Unfortunately, as I soon discovered, it was not a light, but a raging inferno.