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Smoke and Mirrors…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

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.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Caddy Tells His Tale…


The Journal of Buckingham Caddy

It was after midnight when we arrived back at the inn. Holmes had already disappeared into the Snug Bar with that woman in tow, and I have to say I was very happy to see the back of her. Doctor and Mrs Watson escorted me into the innkeeper’s own front parlour, which they were able to persuade that same gentleman to relinquish for an hour or so.

Having received our order of hot chocolate and a selection of Yorkshire biscuits, the landlord left us alone and, seated around the fire, I finally felt myself able to relax. “So?” I said, gazing at my companions in turn.

“So,” said Watson, dipping a Custard Cream into his cocoa, “vis-à-vis werewolves etcetera, why don’t you start at the beginning?”

“Right.” Taking a breath, I closed my eyes for a moment, and allowed myself to drift back to the first time I heard mention of the dreaded creature. “It began with a visit to my great Aunt Agatha. I was due some leave and had booked a ticket on the 4:15 from Euston to Titfield in Staffordshire, with the intention of spending a long weekend with my aunt, followed by a few days in Cannock. However, before I left Scotland Yard, I called into the office of Chief Inspector Schitt, who had asked to see me.”

“That’s Schitt of the Yard?” said Watson, with a smirk.

“Don’t be childish, Johnny,” said Mary, giving her husband a sharp look.

“Sorry darling,” he muttered. “Continue please.”

“The Chief had been asked to interview a chap by the name of David Kessler, an American who had been attacked by a madman in a fish and chip shop in Walthamstow. It appears a deranged killer had escaped from the Londen Asylum for the Really Rather Mad and caused a furore over a piece of battered haddock. The American got involved in the argument and chased the lunatic into an alley where he was brutally attacked.”

“Hang on a mo,” said Watson, leaning forward, “you’re not talking about the serial killer Hannibal Lecter by any chance?”

I nodded. “We thought so at the time, but it turned out Lecter was giving a speech on ‘meal preparation for cannibals’ at the University of Exeter. Day release, apparently.”

Watson visibly relaxed. “Thank God for that. Go on, please.”

“The Chief told me this American fellow was staying with relatives in Staffordshire and as there were still several unanswered questions regarding the attack, he wondered if I might have time to follow it up. To be honest, I was a little put out he expected me to give up a portion of my holiday, but the case intrigued me, so I agreed.”

“What questions did the Chief Inspector want you to ask, Buckingham?”

Mrs Watson smiled kindly and for a moment I was thrown by her use of my Christian name. I coughed to hide my discomfiture. “Well,” I said, “he was interested to know if the American was travelling alone and if so, why had he entered that particular fish and chip shop. You see, the place is situated in a seedy and, to a certain degree, dangerous area of Walthamstow and the Chief wondered if there might have been another reason for visiting the place, other than to buy haddock and chips.”

Mary nodded thoughtfully. “Anything else?”

“Indeed,” I said, getting into my stride. “By a peculiar coincidence, the American’s travelling companion, one Jack Goodman, had also been attacked in a similar manner only a few days before. Unfortunately, the fellow died of his wounds.”

Doctor Watson leaned forward again. “And that was when you heard about the werewolf?”

“Yes. Of course, we all discounted the theory as utter rubbish, but having read up on the subject, I discovered that a person of a certain mental instability could, given the right circumstances, begin to believe that he or she might be endowed with a lycanthropic tendency, that is, they might have the ability to turn into a werewolf during the course of a full moon.”

My companions said nothing, though it was clear my narrative had piqued more than their interest. “It was only after my arrival at Titfield, that the significance of my visit became obvious to me. While waiting for a Hackney cab on the platform, I picked up a copy of the local newspaper, The Titty Gazette, and saw the headline. The chomped-up and bloodied remains of a local boy had been discovered the previous day. I knew there had to be a connection.”

Pausing for a minute, I gazed into the fire, recalling the horror of that dreadful headline. “I tried to put the thing out of my mind, at least for a couple of days, but on reaching my aunt’s house, I found that I wasn’t the only visitor. Aunt Agatha had long been in the habit of letting out the rooms at the top of her house and one of her lodgers at that time was a young woman. A woman by the name of Judith Hirsch.”

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Watson Works it Out (Sort of…)


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“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.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Pointy Teeth, Pointy, Pointy…



Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Inspector Caddy collapsed in a heap in front of us, Holmes hanging onto the fellow’s neck where some creature had ripped it open.

“Quickly Watson,” he said, as blood spurted through his fingers.

Whipping out my handkerchief, I fashioned a make-shift bandage. Pulling Caddy’s necktie loose and undoing his shirt, I saw that the wound stretched from one ear to the other. By some stroke of luck his attacker had simply ripped the flesh apart, missing the carotid artery and jugular vein. Nevertheless, the fellow might still bleed to death without urgent attention. “Mary, get me a needle and some cat gut.”

My wife crouched down next to me and unfastened her coat. “Nice to see you too, Johnny,” she said, taking out a small metal case about the size of a tobacco tin.

“Sorry, darling,” I said, “but this is no time for niceties.” Giving her a quick glance, I noted how her cleavage shimmered in the moonlight. I made a mental note to spend more time with her bosoms, assuming we survived further attacks by whatever had violated the inspector.

“Number one or number two?” asked Mary, holding out an assortment of already-threaded needles.

“Number one,” I said, taking the smallest of the proffered selection. “And thank you for being so well organised.”

“Isn’t that the role of a doctor’s wife?” she said, with only a hint of sarcasm.

Grasping Caddy’s loose flesh, I began to sew the torn skin together. “Hold him steady Holmes,” I commanded. With as much concentration as I could muster, I did my job and within a few minutes the blood flow had ceased. Taking out my spare handkerchief, I discarded the bloodied one and tied a fresh bandage.

“Thank you, thank you,” gasped Caddy, finally able to speak again.

Holmes and I hauled the fellow to his feet and immediately I was reminded of my companion’s earlier exclamation. I gazed across the lane to the moors beyond but there was nothing to see except darkness.

“I think we scared it away,” said Holmes. “For the moment at least.” He gave me a sardonic grin and added in a low voice, “For once I’m grateful for the presence of your dear wife. Whatever did this, apparently doesn’t like crowds. Or women.”

It was only now that I became aware of Doctor Hirsh, who had retreated to the safety of the inn door. Her face was etched in terror and for the first time I realised she had been telling us the truth. Except, that if she was telling the truth, she too should be displaying some sign of the lycanthropic tendency.

“Judith,” I said, approaching her. “Are you all right?”

Her eyes had a curiously green tinge to them. Moving closer, I took her chin gently in one hand and examined her.

“What’s wrong,” she whispered, staring hard at me.

I blinked. Whatever I’d seen a few seconds before was no longer present and her eyes were as clear as those of a child. “Nothing,” I said, removing my hand. But there was something, something I could not easily explain. Though the green tinge in her eyes had truthfully disappeared, another part of her face had caught my attention. When she’d spoken, I’d caught a glimpse of a somewhat enlarged and pointy canine tooth. Turning away, I made as if to comfort my wife, and taking her to one side, I said, “Noticed anything odd about Judith’s mouth?”

Mary frowned. “No, not really. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

Moving close, she ran her fingers seductively up the side of my face. “You think she is a werewolf, Johnny?”

“Of course not, such things don’t exist. Nevertheless, she may believe herself to be one.”

“Whether she is or not doesn’t explain what happened to this chap.” She indicated Caddy who was now in deep conversation with Holmes. “Someone, or something attacked him.” She looked up at me, striving to keep her feelings in check, but even her wonky eye betrayed her state of mind – she was genuinely scared.

Turning to look at Judith, I said, “Was she with you the whole time?”

Mary nodded.

“She couldn’t have slipped away? Even for a moment?”

“What could she achieve in a moment?”

I shook my head, recalling how day had changed to night within a matter of seconds. “I don’t know, darling, but if this werewolf stuff is really true, Christ knows what she might be capable of.”

I peered at Judith who was talking to Holmes, but it was the curious body language displayed by Inspector Caddy that told me what I needed to know – his face was white (which might be expected given what he’d been through), but his body was rigid. He stared at Judith, mouth open, eyes wide, fists clenched tightly. The man was terrified, as surly as if the werewolf itself were standing right in front of him.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Night Comes Down…


Diary of Mary Watson (Mrs)

On discovering Johnny had deserted us to accompany that reprobate Holmes on a mission of discovery, Doctor Hirsch and I took it upon ourselves to follow the rascally pair to wherever they were headed.

We’d learned of the deception via the maid who, on delivering a second round of teacakes and scones to our room, happened to mention she’d seen that ‘handsome Mister Holmes’ hurrying across the street with ‘that funny little Doctor bloke’.

Judith let out a low growl. “I knew it,” she muttered. “The stupid man doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’ll get the pair of them killed. Or worse.”

“We have to go after them,” I said, checking through my husband’s spare trousers.

“What’re you looking for?” asked Judith.

“His gun,” I said, holding up the actual weapon. “Wonderful – they don’t even have the means to protect themselves. Bloody men.”

Out in the street, we halted for a moment as a young lad emerged from the baker’s shop opposite. As there was little else in the thoroughfare to look at, we watched this lanky and apparently stupefied individual as he stood scratching his head and uttering obscenities. Hastening to where he stood, I looked at the boy and I noted two things: his trousers were tucked into his rough woollen socks and the laces of his boots had been double knotted as though to keep them from dangling. I then inspected the area immediately outside the baker’s shop that seemed to have caught the lad’s attention. The familiar imprint of a slim tyre had left a faint impression across the pavement in a diagonal line, presumably after being wheeled from the road to lean against a display board while its owner delivered his wares. I noted the specifics of the tread and calculated the likely distance between the two wheels. Then, clicking my fingers in a school ma’am sort of way, I addressed the lad directly.

“You’ve lost something? A method of transportation, perhaps?”

The dull-faced young man waved a hand as if attempting to grasp some unseen object. “Sum-uns nicked me fookin bike, missus.”

“A Velocipede twin-cogged machine with sprung rear forks, I believe.”

The lad’s mouth dropped open like a trapdoor. “Ow d’yer know that, luv?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” I said. “It’s called paying attention,” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

Judith stepped forward. “Quickly now – how long ago did this happen?”

The lad gazed at her, at me, and back again. “Couple o’ minutes, I reckon. Can’t ha’ been more. I were only in t’shop long enough ter count out five loaves and a dozen stottie cakes.”

Judith turned to me. “We’ll never catch them without a horse and trap.” We moved away and began to discuss the matter in low tones, when the delivery boy interrupted.

“Where is it yer’s are going?”

“Not that it makes any difference, but we must get to the Slaughtered Lamb as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Oh,” he said, with a dopey grin. “Yer’s are wanting a drink, eh?”

I sighed and was about to resume the discussion with Judith when the lad uttered the solution to our problem.

“So why don’t yer’s just do a slider?”

“A what?” said I.

“A slider,” said the lad again. “Get a couple of bits of cardboard and yous can slide down the hill all the way to the Lamb.”

“Down the hill?” said Judith. “But the Slaughtered Lamb is up on the moors.”

The lanky youth nodded. “Oh, aye, it is. If ye go by road. But if’n yous run over to the timber yard yonder, there’s a track that takes ye right down to the back of the inn. It’s where they used to haul up the stones from the quarry.” He shrugged. “I can show yer if yer like?”

I glanced at Judith. “In for a penny…”

And so it was that two minutes later, after hurrying along several lanes and narrow alleys, we arrived at the old timber yard. The delivery boy led us through to a gap in the fence at the far side of the yard and pointed.

“There. That’s the track. Just need ter sit on a bit o’ cardboard and yous can slide right down to the back door.” Crossing to one side, he rummaged in a pile of rubbish and pulled out two battered cardboard boxes. Flattening them out, he gave us one each. “Mind though,” he said, with what I took to be his ‘serious’ face, “don’t yous be stayin out after dark – it be a full moon tonight and yous don’t want ter be meetin with a werewolf.”

Adopting somewhat indelicate seating positions, Judith and I readied ourselves and on a count of three, pushed off from the top of the slope. In a matter of seconds, we were hurtling along at an alarming rate, our respective lady parts bouncing up and down like balls in a juggling contest. Risking a quick glance at Judith, I attempted to conceal my terror, but felt gratified to see that she too was absolutely petrified.

Moments later the slope had levelled out and I could see in the distance a gathering of stone buildings. The nearest of these seemed to be the target of our route and seconds later we glided to a bumpy but largely pain-free stop at the door to what I presumed was the ‘outhouse’ behind the Slaughtered Lamb.

Clambering to my feet, I helped my companion up and we rubbed each other’s bottoms to relieve the throbbing sensation that still reverberated throughout our feminine physiques.

“Come on,” I urged, grasping Judith’s hand. “There’s the back door to the inn.” Within seconds we had negotiated the trail of empty beer barrels that littered the inn yard and pushed through the door that led to the rear part of the public house. As the door swished to behind us, the sound of a heated conversation came to my ears.

“What the fu–”

I stared at Judith. “That was Johnny’s voice,” I hissed.

“Shh!” Doctor Hirsch put a finger to my lips and motioned to a wooden hatch in the wall. Giving the hatch a gentle push, we raised our heads to peer through the aperture into the main room.

As we looked, a strange and unnerving sensation swept over us, as if some kind of dark fog had dropped upon us, changing the scene before our very eyes. And as I watched the crowd of people in front of us, a crowd that included Holmes and my darling Johnny, I saw what Holmes had seen – that an eerie darkness had fallen over the inn and its surroundings.

“Oh my God…” I gasped.

Judith shushed me to be quiet.

Focusing on the scene before us, I shook my head to clear the mugginess in my brain. Then a voice broke through to my consciousness.

“You can’t let ‘em go.”

“They’re being forced back outside,” whispered Judith. “Quickly, we have to reach them before the–” She stopped and stared at me. “Quickly.” Taking my hand, she pulled me backwards and we ran to the door and out into the inn yard. Veering left, we hurried around the corner of the building, heading for the front door. I was all too aware that the night had properly fallen and we were now engulfed in an almost complete darkness. Only the meagre illuminations from the windows of the inn served to light our way.

Rounding the corner, I slid to a halt. In front of us stood my husband, Sherlock Holmes and an approaching stranger.

“Oh shit,” muttered Judith. “It’s him.”

“Who?” I whimpered, not really wanting to know the answer.

But it was Holmes who replied. “Caddy? Inspector Caddy, are you alright, man?”

The other man raised his head and stared at him. “Beware the moon…”

As if on cue, a low howl echoed from somewhere distant.

“Oh, crap,” said Holmes. “It’s coming back!”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Prelude to a Kill…


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

Closing the inn door behind me I discerned a sudden lull in the conversation. To be more precise, a silence had fallen over the pub’s clientele as suddenly as if it had been dropped from a great height onto a hard and unyielding surface.

“Ah, good afternoon,” said Holmes in his usual jaunty manner. Shuffling out of his overcoat, he flung the garment carelessly over a nearby barstool and approached the innkeeper. “Fine weather we’re having, ay?”

Every eye in the place had turned towards us, and I was all too aware that the low hum of conversation had not returned. The only sound was the crack and hiss of wet logs burning in the fireplace.

Holmes gave me a signal which I took to mean ‘Be Merry’, so I hastened to his side and plunged in: “Two pints of Old Irregular, please, landlord.” I fixed my gaze on the fellow behind the bar and raised an eyebrow in a manner I hoped would intimate that I was not to be kept waiting.

The man sniffed and rubbed a hand across his hairy chin, rummaging in his beard as if searching for a lost item of food. Casting a meaningful glance at his regulars, he gave two short nods and turned his attention to the beer kegs behind him. Miraculously, the two dozen or so men presently inhabiting the Lounge Bar, resumed their various conversations, though there was a definite lessening of enthusiasm, as if the entire brigade had heeded some unseen warning. (That is, some unseen warning other than that of the two short nods given by the landlord).

“Tourists, eh?” said the barman, pushing two pint glasses across the counter.

“Something like that,” said Holmes. He took a large gulp of beer and licked his lips enthusiastically in an exaggerated show of satisfaction that fooled no-one. “Bit off the beaten track out here, aren’t you?” His keen eyes darted round, missing nothing.

“As are you two,” noted the landlord, with a smirk.

“Yes,” said Holmes, leaning his back against the bar. “But off the beaten track is where one is most likely to encounter items of interest. Rare breeds, unusual wildlife, that sort of thing.”

The barman grunted, and his eyes narrowed. “Such as?”

A hush had once again fallen over the room and I coughed loudly, hoping my companion would adopt a less threatening line of enquiry.

Holmes shrugged. “Arctic foxes, perhaps?”

“In Yorkshire?” The barman laughed and the whole room erupted in a gale of guffaws and derision. A moment later, the silence had restored itself, and all eyes were on Holmes.

My companion now had his back to the barman and, keeping his eyes on me, he turned his head towards the hearth, where the fire blazed merrily. Above the Inglenook, a curious shape had been painted on the wall. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but now it caught my attention like a slap in the face. Though it appeared to have been painted over at some point, the original design was still clear.

“A pentagram,” I said, thinking Holmes might not be alert to such pagan symbols. “Commonly used in ancient Greece and Babylonia, also in the Christian faith representing the five wounds of Christ.”

Holmes gave me a withering look. “Well done, Watson. You have once again confirmed my belief that you see but you do not observe.” He pointed a bony finger at the wall. “It’s a reverse pentagram – see where the two points are uppermost? This is not a symbol of good, old friend, but of evil.”

“Oh, bugger.”

A chair scraped across the floor and a thick-set chap strode across the room. Positioning himself rather too close to my hindquarters for comfort, he muttered, “Oi think you gen’lemen ‘ave outlived your welcome.”

“Come, come,” said Holmes, “we haven’t even paid for our drinks.”

“On the ‘ouse,” said the landlord, firmly.

“Ah, well in that case perhaps we’d better…” I had turned to go but Holmes grabbed my sleeve.

“Hold, Watson.” Moving closer, his mouth almost touching my ear, he whispered, “Look out of the window.”

As I turned my head in the direction of the door, I had the curious sensation that everything had slowed down. My whole body seemed to be moving like some badly-oiled machine, barely able to move more than an inch or two at a time. When I was finally able to fix my eyes on the window, the anticipated view of moorland fells and cloudy skies had gone, being replaced by an all-encompassing darkness.

“What the fu–” I started.

“We must go,” said Holmes pushing me towards the door.

“Yes,” bellowed the thick-set man. “Go now.”

Reaching out for the door handle, I stepped forward, then a shriek came from behind me.

“No-o-o-o…”

Spinning round, I saw the figure of a woman behind the bar, an open door beyond suggesting she had entered the room only seconds earlier.

“You can’t let ‘em go,” she yelled, addressing the room as a whole.

“Shut yer gob, wife,” countered the landlord. “We can and we will.”

The newcomer emerged from behind the bar and hurried to where we stood. “Don’t ye be goin’ over the moors, it ain’t safe.” The urgency in her voice convinced me, but Holmes was pulling open the door and pushing me out into the darkness.

“No,” yelled the woman, striving to drag us back inside.

Something thudded into my shoulder and a young lad gripped my arm. “Yous got ter go, but take heed – keep to the road. Don’t go across the moors.” His face was ghastly white and once again I needed no further convincing, but a second later we were shoved across the threshold and the door slammed like a bolt behind us.

The sudden silence engulfed me and I grasped my companion’s hand. “We’re going to die, Holmes, we’re going to die.”

“Don’t be such a Nancy-boy, Watson, the pony and trap is over yonder. We’ll be back in town in a jiffy.”

“But what about the werewolf?” I whined.

“Yes, well I always said it was a load of tosh, now…” His voice tailed off and I saw he was staring at something over my shoulder. “It appears we have company, Watson.”

Swivelling round, I peered into the darkness. A figure was walking, or rather stumbling towards us. At first, I could barely make out his features, but as he drew near, it was the blood oozing from his neck that focused my attention.

“My God,” muttered Holmes dashing forward. Catching the fellow before he fell, Holmes urged me to help. Grasping the man under the arms, we struggled to keep him upright. Thankfully, my medical training leapt to the fore and whipping off my scarf, I fashioned a bandage of sorts and pressed my hand against the worst part of the wound.

“I say, Holmes, this chap looks awfully familiar.”

My companion nodded stiffly. “Of course he is Watson – he’s been tailing us for the last two days.” Then grabbing the man’s face, Holmes gave him a shake. “Caddy? Inspector Caddy, are you alright, man?”

The policeman raised his head and stared at me. “Beware the moon…”

As if on cue, a low howl echoed from somewhere distant.

“Oh, crap,” said Holmes. “It’s coming back!”

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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An Inspector Calls…


The Journal of Buckingham Caddy
(Inspector 2nd Class)
Notebook No 3

After sending a telegraphical communication to my superior at Scotland Yard detailing my progress so far, I put my mind to another project. Once again, my theories have been cast asunder and I must reconsider the entire premise. Having proposed a series of articles entitled ‘An American Werewolf in Londen’ (being a true-crime expose of that charlatan and so-called detective Sherlock Holmes), I shall be forced to renegotiate with those nice people at The Strand Magazine and come up with a more suitable title. Or at least, one that is geographically accurate.

While sitting in a corner booth in the Snug bar last evening, close enough to the party in question to overhear the chief arguments inherent in their discussion, I was mortified to realise that the blonde goddess Judith Hirsch is in fact not American at all. The bloody woman is Yorkshire born and bred! I can only surmise that my previous encounter with that same personage suffered from an acute case of having the wool yanked over my features in an act of deliberate deception. I might well expect such deviancy from the likes of Holmes himself, but not from a medical professional with actual letters after her name. (Of course, I may yet discover her qualifications too were rendered from the same supremely beautiful and cunningly inventive mind).

However, the issue at hand is now not one of nationality but of location. It was pure chance I happened to be in the process of relieving myself against a wall in the back yard of The Golden Fleece, after sampling a pint of Pennine Pisswater in the company of a few of the locals, when I heard a familiar voice. The owner of said voice appeared to be haranguing his companion about the benefits of not going out ‘into the bloody wilderness with barely a sensible thought in our heads’, while his chum cast several aspersions along the lines of ‘Shut the fuck up, Watson’.

I fastened myself up and hurried out into the lane to see in which direction they were headed. The pair scampered across the street, into an alley and around the back of the public house opposite, where a pony and trap lay in wait. As the vehicle pulled away, I cursed my own stupidity at not having considered such a move – leaving the womenfolk behind is of course a classic Holmesian ruse (the man is a consummate woman-hater), and I should have explored the possibilities of alternative transport.

As it happens, on my way back to the main thoroughfare, I spied a delivery boy heading towards me on a bicycle. Making myself scarce, I watched as the lad leaned the machine against the wall of a shop and dashed off to deliver his groceries, then I ran over, jumped onto the contraption and began pedalling furiously after the pony and trap.

Given the conversation my quarries had engaged in the previous evening, I suspected they were headed for an inn called The Slaughtered Lamb, a dilapidated watering hole near the site of my first encounter with Ms Hirsch. It occurred to me (as I pedalled feverishly across the moors in not-very-hot pursuit), that the good lady may not have furnished Holmes and Watson with the actual truth, in which case, they could well be treading on very dangerous ground.

After losing sight of the trap for a few minutes when it crested the brow of the hill, I began to wonder if I’d made a tragic error of judgement in not contacting Holmes directly, but then I spied the pony and trap in a stationary position. The driver had dismounted and had propped himself up on a nearby rock where he was happily puffing away at a clay pipe. Holmes and Watson were nowhere to be seen.

“I say, you there,” I called, approaching the bewhiskered fellow. “Where did those detecti – I mean, where did those two fellows go?”

The man turned and cast a bloodshot eye in my direction. “Pub,” he muttered and pointed a fat finger at the inn a few hundred yards down the fell.

“Damn and bugger.” I gave the man a stern look and said, “Now look here, you’re a local chap?”

He sniffed and gave a nod. “That Oi be.”

“Then you know all about this place?”

“That Oi do.” Clearly, he was a man of few words.

Stepping up close, I poked him in the chest. “Then what d’you mean by allowing them to go in there?” I waved a hand in the direction of the inn.

The old man shrugged. “B’aint no business o’ mine.”

“And what’ll you do if they…if they…you know, succumb to some injury or other?”

“You mean if the werewolf gets ‘em?” He shrugged again. “Oi’ve already been paid.”

“Hah,” I exploded. “And what happens if the werewolf eats you, eh?”

The man sniffed. “Won’t eat me. Oi’m a vegetarian.”

Looking up at the sky, I calculated we had a least four hours until the moon was up. If we were caught out her after that, we’d all be buggered. “Right,” I muttered, fumbling in my jacket for my revolver. “I’ll just deal with it myself, then.” And with that, I hurried off down the track towards the inn, hoping the pair of dunderheads had been sensible enough not to mention the nature of their mission to any of the locals…

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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