“Why a cat?” you ask. Because they’re notorious snoops. Why a Scottish Fold cat? Because a neighbor in Seattle had one that I named MacTavish and sent out Christmas greetings in his name. So . . . when I decided to do a speculative series of stories about Sherlock Holmes, I wrote MacTavish in. Now you know. That’s one mystery solved, now on to the next mystery, “Body of Evidence.”
~ ~ ~
We were walking back from my consulting rooms one night, late, when I noticed what looked like the toe of a woman’s shoe protruding from a nearby doorway. “Is that a woman’s shoe?” I asked. “There, three doors down, just barely protruding.”
“Yes,” said Holmes, “a woman’s shoe, and we’d best look into it. That serial killer has been active again, though not near here as yet.” He stepped quickly forward and I followed.
There, crumpled in the corner of the doorway, was a young woman, apparently sleeping. I squatted down and felt for a pulse, but found none. The poor girl was quite dead. As we learned later, she was a seamstress named Celia Brunetti, a recent immigrant from Florence, Italy, who lived with a local family about three blocks over. We found no marks or stab wounds, and no signs that she had been poisoned.
“We must look further,” Holmes said, unbuttoning the three top buttons of her bodice. “If this is that serial killer’s work, then we’ll find a tiny incision, covered with a small flesh-colored bandage, in which the tiniest of surgical instruments has been inserted into her heart, stopping it.” He looked at me with a grim smile. “This killer is a very tidy person, Watson. He makes the kind of wound that assures the bleeding will occur internally. As I thought!” he continued, finding the bandage with only the faintest trace of blood soaking through. “It’s our killer. Watson, run to my rooms and ring inspector Lestrade. He’s the lead investigator on this man’s crimes, so he’s likely to still be in his office.”
A few minutes later I rushed back to where Holmes was standing in the doorway, chin in hand, thinking. “He’s on his way,” I told him. “From the sound of it, he’s bringing half a squad with him.”
“Well,” said Holmes, “since the young lady’s body is still warm, perhaps this time we will catch the killer.” It was then that we heard a “meow” from across the street. And there, looking out from a doorway about six doors down was the round, gray, owlish face of MacTavish, looking at us. “Meow,” he said again, swishing his tail.
“I’ll go see what he wants,” said Holmes, setting off quickly across the street. A moment later he signalled me to come quickly, so I left the poor girl’s body lying where we had found it and joined him in the doorway of a doctor’s office. “He must have seen the killer leave his victim and come here.” The name on the door read “Reginald Armitage, M.D. Physician and Surgeon.”
“I didn’t know there was a doctor on Baker Street,” I said, surprised. “This is new, isn’t it?”
“In the past two days,” Holmes replied, peering through the semi-opaque glass door panel. “There is a dim light in the back, so he must be here. Wait here for Lestrade. I’m going round back to see what I can see.” And he was gone, as swift and silent as MacTavish, who followed after him, tail hoisted in the air.
“And then what?” our visitor asked,leaning forward.
“I waited for Inspector Lestrade and his men to arrive, which they did very quickly. He sent three of his men round back to get Holmes and guard the door. As soon as Holmes returned, Lestrade picked the lock and we went in and filed down the hall toward the inner office.”
“And then . . ?”
“Holmes quietly tried the latch on the door and opened it. And there sat Doctor Reginald Armitage, examining the content of Miss Brunetti’s handbag.”
“And . . ?”
“Holmes cleared his throat. You’ve never seen such a shocked expression on a human face as that which came across Doctor Armitage’s face when he looked round and saw us. He leaped up, threw open the rear door and rushed into the arms of the three officers Lestrade had sent to guard it. It was over in seconds.”
“Doctor Armitage was a typical surgeon,” Holmes said in a dry voice from where he sat smoking his favorite calabash, with MacTavish lying at his feet. “The instrument he used to kill her was lying on the desk next to a black leather case containing several more like it. He kept meticulous records on all his patients, which included the names of each of his victims, all of whom had consulted him. He had even listed the cause of death for each one.”
“Death by incision,” Holmes replied. He sent a perfect circle of aromatic smoke into the air. “Had MacTavish not happened along, and had Watson not seen the toe of Miss Brunetti’s shoe sticking out of that doorway . . . well . . . Dr. Armitage would likely still be killing young women. And MacTavish saw the good doctor slinking back to his office.” He leaned down and scratched the big gray cat’s ears.
Yawning, MacTavish stretched, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.