For several hours following Holmes said, did and ate nothing. His gaunt figure ceaselessly paced to and fro, brows knitted in concentration. Finally, when the afternoon had faded into evening, the sound of his rich voice caused me to look up from my book.
“I am more convinced than ever from our friend Herbert’s testimony that we must ascertain the contents of that box, even if we must do so ‘outside of the law’, as the woman would say.” The ‘woman’ he referred to was Irene Adler whom I have mentioned before as being the only criminal apart from Professor Moriarty to ever outsmart my companion, for which she had earned his utmost respect.
“Then I’m coming with you. I’d much rather be outside of the law than outside of your jail cell.” Holmes’ eyes gleamed.
“Your revolver is in your coat pocket which is on your coat, on the coat stand.” He sprang to his feet. “We must not delay.”
The surgery was dark and forsaken, and the rolling grey clouds above us gave ample cover. Holmes led us around the side to a window looking onto the reception area. Silently, he pushed open the window and we climbed through.
“How did you-?” I began to whisper.
“Ms. Alice Shepard, secretary has recently become enamoured with a soldier honourably discharged from her Majesty’s service who bade her leave the window open so that he might leave her flowers each morning without being caught.” I shook my head at yet another of my friend’s personas and the explanation for his recent frequent solo excursions. We crept to the secretary’s desk and Holmes opened drawer from which he removed a key and stealthily unlocked the door to the consulting room. He stole over to the shelf, feeling his way in the darkness as I kept watch.
I heard the slight rustle of papers as his hand searched for the box he had earlier that day inspected. A sharp intake of breath told me that something was wrong.
“It’s gone,” Holmes murmured. “He must be desperate.” Something seemed to occur to him, for he grabbed my arm, beginning to hastily make for the door. “He’s there,” he whispered hoarsely and broke into a run. I followed him and we sprinted to what I knew must be Ms. Kingsley’s house to find I knew not what. Holmes slowed as we neared the house, and motioned for me to be quiet as he carefully swung the gate open. I drew my revolver as we hurried cautiously across the grass and past the garden table where we had taken tea. A window had been smashed from the outside, the broken shards pushed away for someone to enter. We negotiated it as silently as we could, wincing as the glass crunched softly under out feet. Several muffled thuds as of footsteps issued from upstairs. I caught Holmes’ eye and he glanced at my revolver and nodded slightly before ascending the carpeted stairs as quietly as they would allow. I saw that dim light shone underneath the second door to the left as I reached the top and my heart began to race. To think that such a feeble, gentle woman was in any danger filled me with outrage. Holmes lightly placed his hand on the door handle, paused, then flung it open.
I will never forget the disturbing and extraordinary scene that confronted us there in that room. On the floor lay Jane Kingsley, unconscious and quite pale. Scrupulously attached to her neck was an intravenous tube from which dark blood was flowing into a medical bag. Doctor Berger, pallid face oddly greenish from the faint light of the lamp, was standing in front of the girl with a revolver in his hand pointed slightly shakily at Holmes.
“I heard you as you entered,” he sneered. Well, well: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I take it you are the ‘cousin’ who consulted me. Very clever. Unfortunately, not clever enough. Revolver on the ground, if you please. Now, kick it towards me.” He picked up the revolver and put it in his pocket, keeping his other hand levelled at Holmes. “You’ve put me in a most unfavourable situation, gentlemen.”
“Ah, so it was favourable before, was it?” Holmes interrupted.
“I would mind your tongue if I were you, Mr. Holmes, or things will become even less favourable for you.”
“What are you doing, Berger?” I demanded as Holmes took a breath to answer. “This is against the oath and pointlessly dangerous; you’ll lose your licence, not to mention be arrested. Keeping hostages is hardly going to help your current predicament.”
“You know nothing,” hissed the Doctor. “Do you think I’d be doing this if I had a choice? How many donors of type B negative do you know? I only took enough to satisfy my health,” he explicated, “never permanently harmed them.”
“My God,” I breathed, “you’re the vampire. The Camberwell vampire.”
“But now that has to change,” he continued ominously, a man pushed over the edge. “At least, for you. I’ll have an extra supply this way, though, so I suppose I should be thanking you.”
“What do you mean?” I looked at Holmes questioningly who gave a half smile sadly back. Berger sneered, pale eyes glinting with menace.
“The Doctor doesn’t know? Why, Mr. Holmes, I’m disappointed. And I thought you two were friends.” A paroxysm of fear and alarm shot through my heart as the realisation struck me.
“You’re type B negative.”
“Yes, very good, Dr. Watson, but I’m afraid our little conversation must come to an end. Before I am forced to dispose of you, you can be of medical service to me, and please don’t refuse or I’ll have to shoot you. Prepare your associate for a rather generous donation from the neck – here are the materials. No tomfoolery or I shoot him in the leg, then you in the head. And I’m rather sure that Jane here wouldn’t appreciate the mess when she eventually awakens.”
“You’re mad,” I exclaimed, the last vestiges of composure leaving me as his words sunk in. “You’d have the murder of two innocent people on your hands rather than risk capture? You said yourself you haven’t damaged anyone, you’d only face a jail sentence.”
“Quiet, you fool! You don’t understand,” he cried. “Whether in jail or by the noose I will die, unless I can continue using my oblivious donors. No more delaying. Do it,” he ordered, the tremulous gun pointing at me.
My mind raced as I tried to think of a solution to this terrible, such a horrible circumstance. To be the one to end my friend’s life was more than I could bear. But I had the medical equipment in my hands and Berger watching me with a revolver in his hand as well as my own in his pocket. I fervently wished that I could die rather than perform the awful task demanded of me, but we would both die for certain if I didn’t, so slowly and with a heavy ache in my heart, I turned towards my friend. To my bewilderment, his dark eyes were still alight, a slight amused smile playing upon his face.
“No fear, Watson,” he murmured gently, the eyes looking kindly into my own. “I said our friendship drained me. No kinder hand could hasten the ruthless will of a madman.” His warmth renewed my hope, though I was still grave with sorrow at what was about to pass if whatever plan that lit my comrade’s eyes failed. Painstakingly, I took out a swab, knelt in front of him and began to disinfect his neck. As soon as I was in between him and Berger, Holmes surreptitiously drew his hand to his jacket pocket and soon held his revolver, hidden from Berger’s sight. I nearly sighed with relief, but instead grimly kept at my task, praying that the fanatical Doctor hadn’t sensed anything awry.
“Berger,” said Holmes clearly from behind me. “Only one thing more. See my hand?” He raised his left hand above my head. Instantaneously, there was a loud report and Berger fell onto his side with a bellow clutching at his arm.
We rushed over to him, Holmes seizing the gun from his hand as I retrieved mine from his pocket. “My gun is in the other hand,” Holmes resumed. Berger groaned. “He’s taken so much blood already, I don’t know that he needs our help,” Holmes snapped.
“If only justice were so cruel,” I replied as I tended to Ms. Kingsley. She was very weak, presumably drugged.
The tube had been precisely placed, and fortunately so for less than an inch in any direction could have resulted in fatality.
“You’re fortunate we’re on the side of justice,” Holmes added coldly and threw Berger a bandage from the medical kit. “As it happens, you’re lucky you didn’t kill me, because I promise you that Watson would have forsaken all Hippocratic oaths in such an event.”
“Ms. Kingsley will need the hospital,” I announced as I cautiously removed the tube.
“And Berger needs his cell. I’ll call Lestrade.”
“You’ve killed me,” moaned Berger, nursing his arm.
“You’ve destroyed yourself,” Holmes responded sternly.