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Encounter in a Darkened Room


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

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.”

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Not Much of a Plan


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

The inspector was waiting by the turnstile as we hurried down the platform towards him. For once, his weasel-like features did not prompt my usual urge to snigger, and instead I shook his hand firmly.

“Lestrade. Good to see you, old chap.”

“And you, Doctor,” said the other, clearly surprised at my bonhomie. “Now, if you and Mrs Watson come with me, the others can take the second carriage.”

Leading us out onto the road, Lestrade made a show of getting us settled into our respective Hackneys before climbing in next to me and giving instructions to the driver.

We set off at a pace, hurtling through the darkened streets towards our destination, the cold wind doing nothing to cure my anxiety. Lestrade said nothing about our mission and made only the occasional banal comment relating to our current whereabouts. Within twenty minutes we pulled into a side street and disembarked under the meagre glow of a gas-lamp. Two constables emerged from the shadows and greeted Lestrade with the news that the object of their surveillance had not moved from the Tavern.

“Ah,” said Holmes, nodding towards the dimply lit windows of the public house opposite. “Then he is in his room?”

Lestrade frowned. “More likely to be in the public bar ‘aving a few jars, don’t you think?”

“Observe,” said Holmes pointing a slender finger skywards. Following his gaze, I looked up between the buildings to a narrow patch of the night sky and saw the moon emerge from behind a cloud.

“Full moon,” said Lestrade.

“Yes,” said Holmes. “My guess is the fellow will be waiting for the change to occur. We must get to him before it does, or we may be too late.”

“You think he’ll kill again,” said Mary, squeezing my hand tightly.

“Of course, Mrs Watson. If he is truly a werewolf, he cannot fail to. It is in his nature.”

“Now look here, Holmes,” I said, “we can’t go bursting in there without a plan.”

Holmes looked at me and nodded. “No, Johnny, we can’t. And that is why you will do precisely what I say.”

And so the Great Detective spent the next few minutes outlining the plan he’d worked out on the train journey. Mary, myself and Inspectors Schitt and Caddy were to act as decoys in a bid to lure Kessler out of his room with the offer of alcohol and sex, and thereby observing if the transformation had already taken place. Quite how we were supposed to escape if it had, was not explained. Lestrade and his men, meanwhile, would stand by in the room next door to Kessler’s armed with several rifles and a large net, though Holmes made it clear that killing the werewolf was to be considered only as a last resort.

“And where will you be?” I asked, as we made ready to enter the premises.

“I, Watson,” said Holmes, “shall be the bait.” And with that he unwrapped a package he’d been carrying since we boarded the train. As he unrolled it, I saw with horror that it was the disguise Schitt had used when masquerading as Judith Hirsch.

“You’ve got to be joking,” I said, stifling a laugh.

“Not a bit,” said Holmes, throwing aside his greatcoat and pulling on the false breasts, mask and wig. A moment later he had transformed himself into what can only be described as a very unappealing and grossly misshapen woman. “If the transformation has not already taken place,” he muttered, running his hands up and down his newly acquired chest, “Lestrade and his men will restrain him. If he has made the transformation, I shall tantalise him with my feminine allure, giving the rest of you a chance to move in from behind.”

“Have to say, Holmes,” I said, “that’s not much of a plan.”

“No, it’s not, Watson, but it’s all we’ve got.”

A few minutes later, we were all in position. Kessler’s room was on the second floor at the end of narrow corridor. Keeping one hand on my trusty revolver, I took up a stance outside the room in question, with Caddy standing close by holding two bottles of Baxter’s Very Brown Ale. With a curt nod, I signalled Mary to do her bit. Holding onto Inspector Schitt, she set about singing a music-hall ditty in a manner that might convince listeners she was several sheets to the wind. Schitt ad Caddy joined in the chorus and when I judged that anyone within a hundred yards of us could not have failed to hear them, I knocked on the door.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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The Undoing of Doctor Hirsch


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

“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.

“Yes.”

“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…”

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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Knives in the Night


Diary of Doctor J. Watson

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.

Wouldn’t we?

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2018 in Detective Fiction

 

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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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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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