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The Howling Man

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“Well, Lestrade, we’ve done all we can,” Sherlock Holmes said.  “All that is left now is keep watch and see if my premise is correct.”

“I can scarcely believe it, Mr Holmes,” Inspector Lestrade replied.  “I could have sworn it was a beast that howled last night, and not a man.  And yet why else should we have found Dr Watson asleep in the cave?”

“I would be the happiest man alive if my suspicions prove unfounded, and yet I can see no other solution.  Come, let us hide behind these rocks, but do not let the lantern go out, or we shall be at the creature’s mercy.”

They watched in silence.  Just before the sun dipped below the horizon, Watson emerged from the cave.  He cast about him, and Lestrade had the sense he was smelling the air.  Holmes had been most particular they remain upwind, and Lestrade could now understand why.  Watson stooped to pick something up and then began to make his way slowly down the track.

“He’s taken the biscuits we left,” Lestrade whispered.

“And seems to be enjoying them,” Holmes replied.  “Yet he has not questioned where they came from.”

They continued to watch Watson as best they could in the encroaching dark, and then Lestrade nudged Holmes and pointed at the moon, which was faintly shining.  Holmes nodded.

Suddenly, Watson threw back his head and began to howl.  A shiver of fear ran through Lestrade’s body at the sinister sound.  Another howl could be heard from further away, and then a third.

Lestrade turned a horrified look at Holmes.  Holmes similarly looked at Lestrade.  “The whole village has been infected,” he uttered.  “We must leave at once.”

They made their way back to the Hall, but, fearful of what they would find inside, slipped round to the back, where Lestrade hitched a pony to a cart and drove them to the station in the next town.  There they discovered they had missed the last train, but there was a hotel which was able to put them up for the night.

Finally, they were able to relax over a glass of whisky.  “What will you do now, Holmes?” Lestrade asked.

“I cannot leave Watson in this state, and yet in the current circumstances I cannot rescue him,” Holmes replied.  “I shall give it some thought tonight.”

They went to their room, and Lestrade, exhausted by the events of the day, fell asleep.  Holmes, meanwhile, sat and smoked his pipe.  Lestrade woke in the early hours and found Holmes had departed.  He thought little of it and went back to sleep.

Lestrade waited the whole of the next day for Holmes to return, but, when evening came, and the last train was due, he was forced to accept that Holmes would not be coming back.  Sadly, he returned to London by himself, having lost two of his dearest companions.