“I’m sorry, Holmes,” I said, pulling up a chair. “But I just don’t understand how the woman could’ve strapped on these gloves and fitted herself with those horrendous dentures while you were sat here talking to her.”
Almost half an hour had passed since we had first entered the bedroom and looked upon the tormented form of Judith Hirsch. While I had hoped to continue my own investigation into the facts of the matter, it seemed selfish to keep what Mary and I now knew to ourselves, so I filled Holmes in on Caddy’s story, while the inspector added occasional details. My pipe-smoking friend listened attentively, making few comments and nodding thoughtfully from time to time. On finishing my account at the point where Holmes had called us upstairs, the four of us sat in quiet contemplation and for a few minutes no-one spoke.
Eventually, I leaned towards the Great Detective and tapped his knee.
Holmes coughed. “Yes, of course,” he muttered to himself. Then, glancing across at Mary and Caddy who had seated themselves by the fire, he gazed at each of them, their faces turned towards him in anticipation.
“To answer your question, John,” he said, patting his tummy, “I, unfortunately, was not in attendance the entire time, having found it necessary to spend several minutes in the Crapper.”
I let out a groan. “So you’re saying you don’t actually know what happened?”
“On the contrary, Watson, I know precisely what happened.”
He gave me one of his infuriatingly smug grins and said nothing more. Clearly, he was waiting for me to ask the obvious question.
“And what did happen?” I said with only a hint of annoyance.
Holmes leaned back in his chair and turned his face towards the still sleeping figure of Doctor Hirsch. Her ample bosom rose and fell gently in time with her breathing. “Judith here has endeavoured to throw us off the scent with a little bit of play-acting. Thankfully, it did not fool me for a second and I instead concentrated on those aspects of the case that truly required my attention. It was clear to me from our visit to The Slaughtered Lamb that something odd had occurred.” He swivelled his head back to look at me. “Whatever power overcame us during the short time we loitered at the inn, must be due to some sort of mass hallucination.”
“Really?” said I, stifling another groan.
“Yes,” he said. “Really. However, before I continue, I should like to hear the rest of Inspector Caddy’s tale.”
At this, Caddy jerked upright. “The rest? What on earth do you mean?”
Holmes smiled. “Simply that on making the possible connection of Miss Hirsch being the brother of the American David Kessler, you must have followed it up.” He smiled again.
Caddy swallowed noisily and took several deep breaths. “Ah.”
“You might begin,” urged Holmes, “by explaining exactly what drew you to the conclusion that Kessler was indeed her brother.”
Caddy gave a short laugh. “She told me, of course. When I commented on her American accent she described how she and her brother had embarked on a tour of the Londen sights, but that he had disappeared from the hotel where they were staying.”
“And she set out to follow him?” I put in.
“To Titfield?” said Holmes.
“Yes,” said Caddy again, though with a lesser degree of certainty.
“But surely she already knew he was in Titfield?” said Mary, her wonky eye pivoting back and forth. “If she was following the trail of attacks, she must have known he’d been there.” She glanced at Holmes for affirmation.
“Indeed she did,” said Holmes. “What she did not know was where he was headed next.” He peered hard at Caddy. “And she could only have known that if someone in authority had told her.”
“Wait a mo,” said I, feeling somewhat left behind. “You’re saying Caddy knew where Kessler was headed?”
“Of course,” said Holmes. “He knew Doctor Hirsch had engaged the services of ourselves and that our first port of call would be the site of the so-called attack at The Slaughtered Lamb.”
“What d’you mean, so-called?” I said.
“Precisely that,” said Holmes. “The whole thing was a set-up between Caddy and Hirsch to lure the two of us…” he glanced at Mary. “The three of us into a trap.”
“But why,” I wailed.
At this point Caddy leaped up and declared, “Because I have a book deal that’ll make my name – a book that’ll blow the lid off Sherlock Bloody Holmes and his smarmy-parmy investigations.” He hesitated, then, “I mean…before I got to know you better…and…” Caddy’s mouth continued moving but any further explanation eluded him and after a moment he sat down again.
“What you failed to realise,” said Holmes rising to his feet, “is that you, Caddy, are not, and never were, at the centre of this investigation. No, in fact someone else had an interest in getting rid of you and your book deal and at the same time making a name for themselves with the biggest detective story this country has ever known.” He paused for effect. “The reason Judith Hirsch was following Kessler is because she is not Judith Hirsch, but is in fact…”
Stepping across to where Judith lay, he grabbed her bosom and ripped it upwards.
Incredibly, the woman’s face, hair and chest came away as if they were a single piece of fabric, and with a deft movement, Holmes tossed the attachments aside leaving behind the true face and torso of the person underneath.
Caddy sprang out of his chair like a firework. “Fucking hell!”
“Yes,” said Holmes, smoothly. “Inspector Schitt of the Yard, if I’m not very much mistaken.”
“But, but, but..” I stammered.
“But me no buts, Watson. As always, it’s elementary.”
“With the greatest of respect Holmes, it really isn’t.”
A low groan came from the person who apparently was not Judith Hirsch. The scrawny bald-headed features of Inspector Schitt turned towards us, his sharp green eyes blinking rapidly.
“For fuck’s sake…” he muttered. Pulling himself into an upright position he glared at Holmes. “Couldn’t fuckin leave it alone, could you, you bleedin…” He ran out of breath and coughed vehemently several times. Clutching at himself, he rubbed his chest. “Cost me ‘alf a month’s pay did that,” he said, gazing longingly at the disguise that now lay in a crumpled heap on the floor.
“Ah well,” said Holmes. “A disguise is only as good as the individual beneath it.”
With another burst of energy, Caddy leaped forward and landed a sharp right hook to Schitt’s jaw, knocking him backwards onto the bed.
Taking hold of Caddy by the shoulders, I held him back, but his anger had already subsided. Inspector Schitt, conversely, was out cold.
“Well,” I said, sitting back down. “That explains a lot.”
“Sadly,” said Holmes, “it answers only one part of the mystery.”
This was clearly going to be one of those times when Holmes explained everything, or nearly everything, so after lifting Inspector Schitt’s legs onto the bed and assuring myself that he was relaxed in his unconscious state, we all made ourselves comfortable.
“What all of you have singularly failed to realise,” said Holmes, waving a hand towards the bed, “is that this fellow is the only person who actually understood the problem. You see, unlike the rest of us, Schitt already believed in the possibility of an actual werewolf, therefore he was in the best position to hunt down the last of the bloodline and kill it in order to end the carnage.”
“What?” said I, aghast. “You mean it’s all true?”
“Of course,” said Holmes haughtily.
“But you said…” I began.
“I said,” continued the detective, “what it was necessary for me to say in order that the inspector here would not be duped into thinking we knew more than he did.”
I considered this for a moment. “So we could learn what he already knew?”
Holmes nodded. “It would also have served his purpose rather nicely if he could catch and kill the aforementioned wolf, while at the same time, make me out to be some kind of buffoon.”
“Not some kind,” muttered the man on the bed, “every fuckin kind.”
Holmes smiled at the inspector. “Now, now, Andrew, you know you’re not as clever as I am.”
“Oh, no?” said the old man with a snarl.
“No,” said Holmes, reaching into his inside jacket pocket. Pulling out a piece of yellowish paper, he passed it to me.
Taking the telegramatical communication, I unfolded it eagerly. “It’s a telegram,” I said unnecessarily. “It reads – Mister Holmes stop. Have located the gentleman in question stop. Is lodged at the Londen Tavern in Bishopsgate stop. Best wishes Lestrade.”
“Oh my God,” gasped Mary. “This means that…” She looked at me.
“Yes,” I said. “There’s an American werewolf in Londen…”