No sound came from inside the room and after half a minute or so, I knocked again – louder this time. Glancing at my wife, I noted a hint of desperation in her eyes as she and Schitt launched into another chorus of ‘Get Yer Nob Aht, Yer Naugh’y Boy’. Then a noise from within brought my attention back to Kessler’s room: thud – thud – thud. Someone, or something was walking slowly towards the door. Preparing myself for the worst, I leaned back and kept one hand on my weapon in readiness.
The door handle rattled, twisted and finally clicked as the door itself began to move. The dimly-lit corridor in which we stood told me the room beyond must be in darkness, as no tell-tale shaft of light shimmered across the landing carpet as the door swung open.
“Hello?” I ventured.
“Ah, Doctor Watson, I presume?” The person who’d opened the door stepped into the light and held out a hand in greeting.
I blinked several times. The woman standing before me was…
No, that can’t be right (I told myself). While my brain fought to fit the pieces of this bizarre jigsaw together, I became aware the singing had stopped, and sensed (rather than saw) that the mouths of my colleagues had either dropped open, or were fully in contact with the floor in utter amazement.
“You?” I spluttered, stupidly.
Inspector Schitt was the first to pull himself together. Leaping forward, he grabbed the woman’s arm with one hand and began pressing her breasts with the other. “Get them orf, yer bloody cow, get them orf now!”
“Schitt!” I barked, seizing the inspector’s shoulder. “What the hell are you doing, man?” Pulling him back into the corridor, I threw him against the wall. Immediately, the man’s knees gave way and he sank to the floor.
“Oh-my-God-they’re-fucking-real,” he spluttered, covering his face with his hands. “They’re real and I touched them. Oh my God.”
Turning round, I faced the newcomer again. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Doctor Hirsch. How nice to meet you, at last.”
Judith’s hand still hovered in mid-air, so I shook it as firmly as a man can when he’s just had the metaphorical shit kicked out of him. In doing so, I noticed the small scratches her fingernails left on my palm as she withdrew her slim fingers, and the somewhat enlarged and pointy canine teeth on each side of her mouth as she smiled demurely.
“I’m afraid I can’t invite you in, Doctor Watson, as I’ve–”
But I did not wait for her to finish that sentence. My years of observing Sherlock Holmes at work has taught me many things, one of which is the ability to evaluate any situation instantly. I took in the woman’s identity, the darkness of the room, her unwillingness to invite us in and the unmistakable transformation that was even now advancing upon her heavenly, but very dangerous body. Within a split second I knew what I must do. Pulling out my gun, I charged forward, knocking Judith to the floor.
“Johnny, what are you doing?” I heard Mary shout behind me, but I was already inside and determined to get the upper hand while there was still time.
In the half-light from the corridor, I was able to make out the few items of furniture in the room – a bed, two chairs and a wardrobe, but it was the window I was interested in. The blind had been pulled down, blocking out any light from outside. As I stood staring at the window considering the implications of ripping the screen away, I perceived a low guttural snarl from somewhere in the shadows of the room. Whirling round, I discerned a familiar shape crouching against the far wall. It was the shape of a man, but as I watched in horror, the arms began to extend, its legs became thickened and matted with fur and the head twisted sideways as the jaws extended and its teeth grew into the unmistakable outline of a wolf.
Raising my gun, I prepared to pull the trigger, but before I could act, Inspector Caddy threw himself against me and we crashed to the floor in a tangled heap of arms and legs. Looking up into his face, I witnessed a look of utter joy slide across his face.
“No Johnny,” he whispered. “You can’t kill her – she’s gorgeous.”
With a superhuman effort, I pushed him off me and struggled to my feet. “I wasn’t going to kill her, you stupid prick – I was going to kill him.” And I pointed to where the creature had been standing only seconds before, but of course it had gone. In the same instant this information entered my brain, a resounding crash told me the werewolf had thrown itself through the window.
Suddenly the room was full of people – Lestrade and his men ran to the shattered window, Mary and Schitt helped Caddy to his feet and Sherlock Holmes stood in the doorway, hands on hips and looking distinctly annoyed.
The only other person in the room was Judith Hirsch, who was now leaning against the wall, arms folded. She shook her head at me. “And there was me thinking Mister Holmes had you all wrong, Doctor. It seems you really are a total dick.”
“Inspector Lestrade,” I said, feeling my face flush scarlet, “arrest that woman.”
Holmes removed his false wig and mask, allowing it to dangle against his chest. Holding out a hand to prevent Lestrade slapping the ‘cuffs on Miss Hirsch, he said, “Don’t do that, old bean, we wouldn’t want to upset out American friends now, would we?”
A familiar churning sensation began to make itself known in my stomach. “No?” I said to Holmes, “and why’s that, then?”
Holmes smiled sardonically. “Watson, Lestrade, I’d like to introduce you to Miss Kate Warne, of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency.”
I bit my lip. “Kate Warne?”
The woman nodded.
“Of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency?”
She nodded again.
“That’s the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in Chicago?”
“That’s the one,” she said, giving me a sly wink.
“Oh,” I said. “Shit.”