I must admit I had not expected this turn of events in Caddy’s story. Though the appearance of Miss Hirsch at some point was inevitable, I’d hoped my theory might be proved wrong. Glancing at Mary, I spied a tell-tale crease at the corner of her sweet mouth, revealing that she too had been thinking along the same lines.
“And this,” I said, “was the first time you met Doctor Hirsch?”
Caddy nodded. “It was. In fact, though I only caught a glimpse of her as my aunt fussed over me in the hallway, I found myself transfixed by the young woman’s beauty as she hurried away up the stairs. Naturally, I buttonholed Aunt Agatha at the earliest opportunity, quizzing her as to who this blonde goddess might be, but Aggy is an aficionado of privacy, especially regarding the female sex, and it was all I could do to persuade her to reveal how Miss Hirsch had booked the room only a few days earlier. It seems the doctor needed a place to stay while attending to family business in the village.”
Mary offered our companion another biscuit, before asking, “And when did you see her next?”
“Curiously enough,” said Caddy, “it was the very next day during my visit to the crime scene where the boy’s body was found. Speaking to the detective in charge of the case, one Inspector Hopkins, I learned the body was discovered by a constable who, after taking a break from his beat to relieve himself, had apparently been so shocked at the sight of a bloodied corpse stretched out across the grass that he accidently urinated in the boy’s mouth.”
“Good thing the lad was dead, then,” I muttered. “By the by, Caddy, you said this Inspector’s name was Hopkins.”
“That’s right. Stanley Hopkins.” Caddy inclined his head a little. “You know him?”
I snorted. “Hah. Only too well. The man’s an ass. Constantly haranguing Holmes about his deductive methods. I’d heard the Yard had transferred him somewhere remote – no doubt to keep the useless bugger out of the way.”
Caddy smiled wryly. “He certainly is an ass in this case – the fool had trampled all over the crime scene, destroying any chance of finding a single clue to the killing.”
“But you did see the body?” I said.
“Yes. It had been removed to a cellar in a nearby butcher’s shop – the only place cold enough to store it until it could be examined.”
“And what did you find?” Mary leaned forward, her hand squeezing my knee as she spoke. Sensing her enthusiasm for the grisly facts through the grip of her slim probing fingers, I experienced a thrill of passion in my loins and was forced to shuffle around in my chair lest I betray my rising spirits. Luckily, Caddy didn’t notice my condition and went on with his tale.
“I scrutinised the body at the butcher’s, but Hopkins refused to allow me space for a proper examination. It was only when Miss Hirsch arrived unannounced that the Inspector stepped outside the room to berate her on the inappropriateness of a woman viewing a corpse. While he babbled on at her for several minutes, I took the opportunity to unfasten what was left of the victim’s clothing and found a great many slashes and cuts to his body that could only have been inflicted by someone with knives for hands, or…” He dropped his head for a moment and took a deep breath. “Or by a werewolf.”
Leaning back in my chair, I almost wished I hadn’t given up smoking. At times like this, a pipeful of hard shag would’ve helped me think. Curling my fingers into a fist, I stuck the end of my thumb in my mouth and puffed away for a minute. The charade seemed to work, for the next question came into my head like a bolt of lightning. “Do you happen to know if there was a full moon on the night of the attack?”
Caddy nodded solemnly. “There was.” He gazed into the fire for a moment, then went on. “Doctor Hirsch did me a favour, albeit inadvertently, so when she accosted me in the street a short time later, I was keen to hear what she had to say.”
“And her gorgeous blonde locks and luscious breasts had no bearing on your desire to speak to her?” Mary gave him a playful wink, though her wonky eye may have given him the wrong impression. Nevertheless, he admitted that his initial reaction to the young woman was aided by her devastating beauty.
“She is a beautiful woman,” he murmured, “but my first thought was to know why she had come to where the body was stored. And when she told me the reason, I was so excited I almost wet myself.”
Mary giggled. “Yes, Johnny does that.”
“Tch, d’you mind, darling?” I chided. “Let’s not tell all the world my inadequacies.”
“Sorry, darling,” she said, then turning back to Caddy, she gave him one of her ‘wanton’ looks that rarely fails to achieve the desired effect.
Naturally, Caddy complied. “Well,” he said. “When I first heard her voice, I was struck by her accent – it was that of an American. Which is why I had initially assumed her to be a native of that country.” A frown creased his brow momentarily. “What a fool I’ve been – it was simply a device to add a touch of veracity to her story. It seems the man who was attacked in the fish and chip shop in Walthamstow is actually the brother of Judith Hirsch.”
I stopped sucking my thumb and leaned forward. “You’re bloody joking?”
Caddy rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m joking, but that is what she told me and that’s why I’ve been following her – I thought if I could find Kessler, I’d solve the case and prove that Sherlock Holmes is a fraud.”
“Sorry,” I said. “What was that last bit?”
He blinked several times. “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that.”
Mary had straightened up, her face all seriousness. “Then what did you mean?”
Inspector Caddy coughed. “Er…just that as well as wanting to find the werewolf, or unmask whoever it is that’s going around pretending to be a werewolf, I’ve been trying to prove that Holmes and his methods are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
Now it was Mary’s turn to roll her eyes. “Well, that’s nothing new, dear.”
I gave her a sharp poke in the thigh with my finger. “I’ll thank you not to undermine Holmes, Mary. If anyone ought to do that, it should be me.” I sniffed. “And I’m not going to do it, so there.”
We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, until our reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door. Before any of us could move, a head popped around the door and the Great Detective himself gave us a wide smile. “Ah, there you all are. Wonder if I might spare you for a moment?”
“What’s going on, old chap?” I said, getting up.
“Just a small issue with Doctor Hirsch. You might want to observe.”
With that he disappeared, leaving the door ajar. Hurrying into the hallway, I peered up the stairs after him and noted, with a sense of impending doom, that the window was filled with the light of the moon. A very full moon.