Mary, Caddy and I hurried up the stairs after Holmes, each speculating on what new horror might await us. And indeed it was a horror, for as we burst into my companion’s bedroom, there on the couch lay the prostrate figure of Judith Hirsch, bathed in the eerie glow of moonlight.
But it was not the snarling mouth and fangs of her face that drew our attention, nor even the ripped and torn clothing that lay strewn about the room, revealing a barely-clad young woman in the throes of some demented seizure. No, dear reader, it was her hands that captured our collective gaze in those first few seconds, for at the end of each arm, held out straight and strong in front of her face, a pair of metallic gloves were strapped to her hands, each finger encased in a leather sheath that held at its end a razor-like knife-blade.
An expression Caddy had used earlier popped into my head – someone with knives for hands.
“My God,” I screamed, “she’s got knives for hands!”
“Precisely, Watson,” said Holmes, in a low voice, “and look here…” He pointed to the woman’s face. “Is this the mouth of a werewolf?”
Leaving Mary and Caddy by the door, I stepped closer to Judith’s shaking body and, fearing I might get my face slashed by those demonic gloves, knelt at her side and peered at the woman’s mouth.
Though the fangs were large and canine in style, there was something oddly man-made about them. I looked up at Holmes. “Wooden teeth?”
He nodded. “Yes, Watson. No doubt fashioned to go with her knifey hands.”
Moving back a few feet, I took my companion’s sleeve. “Look here, Sherlock, we need to examine her and find out how this bizarre transformation took place.”
“Precisely, old bean, which is why I took the liberty of borrowing your Gladstone bag before bringing Judith up here. “I popped a couple of sedatives into her drink. Any minute now, she’ll be out like a light.” He gave me a sardonic smile. “Does that meet with your approval?”
A wave of exasperation surged over me, but I knew it’d be useless to make too much of it, so I simply said, “Goodness sake, Holmes, you can’t go around dropping drugs into people’s drinks. Christ knows what might have happened.”
Holmes turned his beady little eyes on Judith for a moment. “You worry too much Johnny. See – even now she is succumbing. In a few seconds she’ll be sound asleep.”
“Hmph,” I muttered. “All the same…”
But he was right – even as we watched, Judith’s eyes closed and her mouth ceased its snarling. A short time later her hands were resting idly at her sides and her breathing returned to its regular pattern.
Kneeling down again, I carefully extracted the set of perfectly carved wooden fangs from the woman’s mouth. Wiping them clean of saliva, I held them up for my companions to see.
Mary peered at the dentures. “She’s not a real werewolf, then?”
“Apparently not,” said Holmes smugly. “Which I, of course, knew all along.”
Inspector Caddy had said nothing through all this, and still maintained his position by the door, a frightened aspect on his face. “If she isn’t one, then who is?”
We all looked at him and the possibility that one of us might be the werewolf flashed into my head. But that was ridiculous – if Mary, Holmes or myself were the guilty party, then we’d surely know.