The detective’s assistant stood alone on the moor, etched in silver by the full moon’s light. His breath, which came in short, distressed puffs, froze before his eyes and mingled with the blue scraps of fog that drifted lugubriously over the moor.
He flexed his fingers around the cold steel barrel of his rifle. Not, actually, his rifle, but the American’s. He — the detective’s assistant — had picked it up from the ground where it lay beside the American, whose throat had been torn out, supposedly by the dreaded demon dog. If the local legend was true, the American would be the eleventh victim claimed by the beast. It was this very legend which had summoned the detective and his assistant to the cursed Scottish manor.
The assistant waited on the moor for his friend, the detective, as instructed. His heart pounded in his chest. He had spoken to the American not an hour ago, when the detective instructed them to take up positions on the moor and await his signal. Sometime between then and now, the American had been brutally murdered — if not, in fact, by some strange beast, then certainly by something. Or someone. Someone who was likely still out here, and the detective’s assistant feared he might become Victim Number Twelve — if the detective himself hadn’t all ready succumbed to that grim fate. Lucky number thirteen, then, the assistant thought to himself as he stood, shivering, on the lonely moor, his ears pricked up for sound — the detective’s signal, whatever it was to be, or footfalls indicating the approach of some unfriendly thing. His eyes strained to penetrate the fog.
He turned with a start. Was that a twig snapping? He held his breath and listened. No other sound came except the silent slithering of fog coiling around wet, black boulders. The assistant shifted his grip on the rifle, and remembered how he had scoffed at the American’s insistence on loading it with bullets fashioned of silver. The American had heard stories of man-eating wolf monsters that could only be killed with a silver bullet shot through the heart. But the assistant — a doctor, and friend to a consulting detective — was a man of logic and did not for a second believe such bilge. Still… He noted now how he clutched the American’s rifle in his sweaty palms, preferring it to his own army revolver. Just in case, he thought. Better safe than—
His thought was cut short by a piercing howl that made his blood run cold in his veins. The assistant readied the American’s rifle and scanned the horizon, finding nothing but pale pools of milky fog.
“Ha-hallo?” The assistant’s voice fell flat at his feet. He took a step backward, thought better of it and whirled around, taking aim with the rifle — at nothing.
Again, the ghastly howl, louder now. Nearer.
Over the blood rushing in his ears, the assistant thought he could discern a scuffling sound, as of padded toes rapidly striking the ground. Then — yes, he was certain now — the sound of heavy, ragged breathing, as of an animal. A throaty, slobbery huffing sound, getting nearer.
The assistant spun around, trying to get a fix on the direction of the sound. Just then, a curtain of fog some fifty yards in the distance swirled and parted, and a huge hulking beast — nearly the size of a pony! — stood glowering at the assistant with awful yellow eyes that glowed like carriage lamps. The creature struck a bristly dark silhouette, but even at that distance the assistant could make out its bared teeth, featuring a pair of large, menacing fangs. Fangs capable of tearing open a man’s throat, to be sure.
As the assistant raised the quivering rifle, the beast sprang forward. The assistant stilled his breathing and took aim, summoning all his military experience as the beast rapidly closed the distance between them. The beast leapt, flying at the assistant’s throat, and the assistant fired. The gun’s recoil knocked the assistant onto the frozen ground, but he heard the animal yip, and he knew his shot had found its target.
The assistant scrabbled to his feet, ready to discharge the second barrel if the beast was not sufficiently deterred by the first. A dark heap lay on the ground in a tangle of fog, like a black iceberg in a white sea.
“I got it!” the assistant shouted, hoping the detective was within earshot and near enough to reach the spot quickly.
Slowly, cautiously, the assistant approached the motionless heap, the rifle trained on the heap’s center. His breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened in horror when he peered into the tangle of fog.
There, his black blood seeping out from a wound in his chest, was the detective.
“Good man,” the detective wheezed. “Good man.”
The assistant was too stunned to form words. His mouth merely flapped silently.
“I have been terribly cursed, as you now know. Better that the medicine be dispensed by a physician, eh?” The detective chuckled mirthlessly, and blood leaked out of his mouth. “I knew you could do it. Dead shot, old boy. Not like that oafish American chap…” He coughed — a terrible, bubbly-sounding affair. “I preferred a friend to break the curse, anyway. Thank you. Thank you…”
The detective, returned to his human form, then shut his eyes and expired on the very moor that he had terrorized.