For Part One of this story, click here.
3. What Did She Just Say?
“What did she just say?” I asked. I didn’t particularly care who answered me.
Shirley ignored me. Strode ignored me. The half-crazed woman from the inn—Ms. Telson—shot me a rueful glance, and then ignored me. Once again, I should have known better.
“Johnny, please,” Shirley chided me. She took the current wad of gum out of her mouth and jammed it under the nearby windowsill of room one at the Baskerville Inn. There was more than enough to keep her attention now; she’d have no need to chew a stick until she got bored again. “Tell me more about these dogs of yours.”
Telson took a harsh step towards Shirley. “Do you mean you believe me?”
“Hardly,” Shirley said. “But I’m reasonably certain that someone doesn’t burst through a door talking about demonic dogs for absolutely no reason. Your raving—er, information—may be useful.”
Talking through her tight, offended expression, she gave us the skinny. Ever since Mr. Baskerville had moved the hotel closer to the the newly opened highway, guests were checking out in the middle of the night, claiming to hear spooky howling from the cars making their way beyond. This might not have been enough to get people back on the road before daylight, but when they saw a glowing, four-legged figure approach the inn from the road, all bets were off.
Yeah, I didn’t think it wasn’t much help, either.
Shirley unwrapped another piece of gum. “Very well,” she remarked. “I need two rooms for the night. One for myself, the other for Johnny. We will uncover the true nature of your paranormal canines, Miss Telson. I trust you will cover our expenses, Strode?”
Strode hadn’t expected the question. “Uh… Uhh…”
“Very good.” Shirley walked out toward the parking lot and stared at the highway beyond. What she could have hoped to get from the road in broad daylight? Beats the hell out of me.
“Shirley,” I pleaded. “I was with you when you brought down the red-headed communist sleeper cell.”
“Yes. I remember. There’s never been a problem with my memory.” She kicked some gravel aside with her feet.
“And I was with you when that polka dotted rope turned out to be a venomous python.”
She added two fresh sticks of gum to the one she was already chewing. She was definitely working on something, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my continued pestering was splitting her attention. It didn’t stop me, but I did wonder about it.
“And I was with you when Old Man Mortimer pushed you off the edge of that water tower.”
“I have some vague suspicion that you are trying to make some kind of point.” The gum bubble she had blown was nearly the size of her head.
“This thing spooks the hell out of me, and I don’t want to be here when the sun goes down.”
“Nonsense,” Shirley said. It looked as if she had gotten all the information needed. She walked towards me. “You are vital to my process.”
“Aw, thanks,” I said.
“Yes. I often find myself needing to speak to someone less intelligent. It helps clarify my own thinking. I’m very close to a solution in this particular matter, and this conversation has been extremely helpful.”
She walked past me and to her room.
“Th-thanks.” I said.
4. In the Face of the Hellhound or The Conclusion of The Case
Just after midnight, the howling began. I leapt out of my lumpy new bed and out the front door of my room. I was alone in the night air, aside from the glowing spectral form of the hellhound of Baskerville Inn.
I was completely speechless, which only made the next voice I heard more frightening.
“Johnny,” Shirley called from the open door to her own room. I flinched, thinking her voice was the dog’s. “I don’t think the creature means us any harm.”
“It’s glowing,” I breathed.
“I can see that, yes,” Shirley said. “Let the dog come to us.”
Surely enough (no pun intended), the dog meekly approached us. Once it was clear of the large floodlights dotted across the highway, it looked no more spectral than anything else, although it had shock white hair. I pet the delightful little beast, and my hands felt dusty.
“Shirley, this dog’s been covered in some kind of dust,” I wiped the stuff on my pants.
“Yes,” she said. “Phosphorus. It is what caused the creature to appear to glow under the lights of the new highway. Judging by the size of the animal, it didn’t kill anyone.”
I was about to ask how she could possibly know that, but for once, I actually did know better.
“Furthermore,” Shirley continued. “I think we will find that the culprit of these murders is none other than Mister Baskerville himself, assisted by his lover, Miss Telson. She told us that she was terrified of anything happening to the hotel but had no reaction to my placement of gum on the windowsill. Additionally, I think if we searched the home of Mister Baskerville, we might find a stuffed trophy that has the same bite profile as the wounds on the victim. It’s really simple, Johnny. You just have to think about it for a little while.”
“Well, yes,” I said. “When you put it that way, it does seem to be obvious.”
“You see, Johnny? You’re a very real help with my work,” she said, as she picked up the telephone receiver to fill Strode in on her discoveries. “Well, not the carhop thing, but I think you understand what I meant.”
For once, I did.