John peeked out the passenger window as his limousine approached the tailor shop.
"Stop here, Alf," John directed his chauffeur. "Paul and I can enter through the side door and dodge those birds if we make a mad dash for it."
"As you wish," Alf replied. He pulled up to the curb and began offering suggestions for a meeting place. But John and Paul had already fled the car and were running towards their destination. The tallest girl in the crowd of fans noticed them and called out the alarm. The pack of girls ran towards John and Paul and broke ranks, trapping the two musicians on all sides.
Paul struggled to keep his footing as the fans ambushed him. John managed to wiggle his way out of the pack through a small gap in the groupies. He shifted course and started running towards the building's front door. Half of the girls broke away from Paul and started chasing John.
A man's loud scream pierced through the shrill of the girls' high-pitched shrieks. The panic in his voice momentarily silenced the fans and called their frenzied attack on their heroes to an abrupt halt.
"Bloody hell!" cursed Paul. He saw a man in a tweed suit sprawled across the edge of the street. A bright yellow Mini Cooper was heading directly towards him.
John noticed the imperiled man a split second later. He started running down the sidewalk towards the oncoming car, waving his arms and shouting at the driver. Paul ran to the street and grabbed the stranger's leg. He pulled the man back onto the sidewalk just as the Mini Cooper screeched to a halt.
The silenced girls and the harried Beatles released a collective loud sigh of relief. John reached for the stranger's hand and helped him stand up. The driver of the Mini Cooper started offering profuse apologies, then recognized the familiar faces of John and Paul and started screaming, setting off a second chorus of shrieks.
"Christ," John muttered under his breath. "Let's get out of here!" He ran towards the shop door, still holding onto the stranger. Paul ran directly behind them, pushing the stranger's back with the palms of his hands. The three men entered the tailor shop, then closed the door quickly behind them.
"Lock it, Dad!" shouted Paul as he leaned against the door with all his strength.
Dougie Millings, the Beatles' personal tailor, ran towards the threesome, pulled his keyring out of his trouser pocket, and locked the door.
"Fuck me, that was a close one," John said, panting between words.
"Language, John, language," Dougie admonished his prized customer.
John laughed and turned towards the stranger in the tweed suit. "Are you alright?"
The man smiled and shrugged. "I think so. I'm alive anyway." He turned towards Paul. "Thanks for saving my life."
"Hey, I stopped the bloody car!" John reminded him.
"And I thank you as well," the stranger replied. He held out his hand in greeting. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Henry Baskerville, just arrived in London from Canada, and on my way to my family's estate in Devon."
John and Paul took turns shaking his hand.
"We'd introduce ourselves, but I suspect you already know our names," Paul laughed.
Dougie Millings inspected the cut of Henry's old-fashioned tweed suit, then looked up at his face. "I know that name. Are you related to the late Sir Charles Baskerville, whose unfortunate death has been reported in such grisly detail in all the newspapers of late?"
"I am indeed," Henry replied. "I've just come to the U.K. from the Yukon. Though I'm afraid the news of my uncle's untimely demise reached the entire British populace before I caught word of it. I've missed the funeral. But I've come to lay claim my family's manor house, nevertheless. Uncle Charles had no children, so I'm his heir."
"Untimely demise?" John asked. "Why haven't I heard the grisly details of this unfortunate death?"
"We were touring the States all last month," Paul reminded him. "Don't you remember? We met Elvis." Paul started wiggling his hips and crooning, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog!"
"Mind your manners, Paul!" Dougie scolded him. "I know John has a penchant for tasteless jokes, but I expected better of you!"
John looked at his tailor with a dumbfounded expression. "What do you mean, Dad? What's so tasteless about Elvis Presley, besides the overstuffed shoulder pads in his gold lamé suit?"
Gordon Millings, Dougie's son and professional assistant, stepped towards the four men and intervened. "Let me to catch you up to speed, John. This gentleman's uncle died under very mysterious circumstances while your band was on its world tour. There was a large dog involved. And a young, married lady. And a family curse as well."
Henry sighed theatrically. "I'm sure the newspapers had a field day with that story. But really, my Uncle Charles' death was not entirely unexpected. He had a heart condition." He turned towards John and Paul with a sad expression. "Nobody at the manner house saw my uncle die. Though they did hear a dog howling in the distance at about the same time that Uncle Charles breathed his last. He had gone to the edge of the property to meet a young woman from the village who used to work as his secretary. She was attempting to divorce her abusive husband, but she didn't have the money to pay a lawyer, so my uncle had arranged to discretely give her a bit of cash. Or so she told the police afterwards, anyway. But she never showed up that evening. However, a large dog did, judging from the footprints left in the dirt by the gate. And Uncle Henry apparently took a fright and died on the spot."
Dougie nodded. "The papers all quoted a local legend that said your family had been haunted by a ghostly, demonic dog for generations."
"Right," Henry agreed, rolling his eyes. "I've heard those stories too. Some call it a gytrash. Others a barghest. The Welsh country folk call such mythical dogs púcai. But the one thing these creatures all have in common is that they're make-believe. There's no such thing as a magical black dog that roams the British moors in the midnight hours. My uncle, however, was a superstitious man and he believed in the legend. And apparently, he caught sight of a stray dog wandering on the outskirts of his property on that dark and moonless night. He took a sudden fright and his heart stopped. Poor sod."
"You don't sound terribly upset," John noted.
Henry shrugged. "I hardly knew the man. I'd only met him a few times, when I was a child. He was a stingy bastard, and he only begrudgingly gave my dad the money he'd been promised by their father when Granddad passed on. Dad grabbed the cash before Uncle Charles could find a way to take it back, and took Mum and me off to Canada so there would be an ocean of distance between them."
"Sounds like there's some bad blood in your family," Paul suggested.
Henry sighed. "That's an understatement if ever I've heard one. But enough about me." He smiled at John and Paul. "By what amazing stroke of good fortune did I run into you two this afternoon?"
"Dougie's our band's tailor," John explained. "The two of us dropped by for a fitting."
"You both called him 'Dad'," Henry pointed out.
"That's 'cause he's part of the Beatles family," Paul explained. "We even gave him a part in our first film."
Henry smiled. "You don't say! I saw 'A Hard Day's Night' at a theater in the Northern Territories. Who did you play, Mister…?"
"Millings," Dougie said. "My name is Douglas Millings."
John nudged Henry. "He played a tailor in our film. Great bit of casting that was, wasn't it?"
"Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Millings," Henry said. "The concierge at my hotel recommended you to me. I need a new wardrobe before I assume the role of a country gentleman. I bought this suit at a second-hand shop in Whitehorse, though I fear it's a little out-modish."
"I fear your sense of style is quite out-of-synch with the times, if you think that suit is only 'a little' out-modish," said Gordon.
"Now, Gordy, be nice to the gentleman," Dougie chided his son. "He's had a rough go of it of late."
"I should say so!" Henry exclaimed, focusing a steely gaze at John and Paul. "Honestly, those fans of yours are dangerous! One of them literally pushed me in the street, into the path of an oncoming car!"
"They have a hard time containing their excitement when they see us," Paul agreed. "We do tend to set them on edge."
"You should have seen the gang that fell on our George the day after we sacked Pete Best," John added. "These London lasses are lightweights compared to the Liver-birds from the Pool!"
"Fine. I get it. You're popular," Dougie interrupted. "Now, enough with your chattering, lads. Let's go to the dressing room so Gordy and I can do your fittings. You too, Mr. Baskerville. Or should I say, Sir Henry, now that you've inherited your uncle's title."
Henry nodded and smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Millings. And perhaps after you're done taking your measurements, you could recommend a good cordwainer to me. I seem to have lost my best boots. I left them by my hotel door to be cleaned, and they've vanished."
John and Paul followed Henry down the corridor of the posh hotel, towards his suite of rooms.
"My boots!" Henry exclaimed as he approached his door.
"You mean your boot," Paul corrected him. "There's only one boot standing beside your doorframe."
"Well, one's better than none," Henry said. He turned the key in his lock, opened his door, grabbed the boot and stepped inside. "Come in, lads. I've a half-finished bottle of brandy from last night that needs to be drunk." He placed the boot on a table in the middle of his room, beside a cut-glass carafe.
Paul and John followed him inside and took seats on two beautifully upholstered chairs.
Henry poured drinks into three snifters and passed them around. "To my new London friends," he proposed, holding his glass aloft.
"Here, here," replied Paul.
John took a small sip from his drink, then turned towards the boot. "That's an unusual-looking leather," he noted.
"Indeed it is," Henry agreed. "I bought my boots off an Inuit trader in Dawson City. They're made from walrus hide. There's nothing like it for repelling water. It's a hundred times better than rubber."
"He's got walrus gum boots," John murmured appreciatively.
Henry placed his snifter on the table, stretched his arms high over his head and bent his back until a small cricking noise could be heard. Then he smiled at his guests and sat down. "Sorry. I've a bit of a bad back. Hurt myself in a dog sled race a few years ago. I need to stretch regularly to relieve the pressure."
"He one spinal cracker," John observed.
"I'm sure you'll like the suit Dougie and Gordon are going to make for you," Paul said, changing the subject. "They're wonders with a needle and thread."
"I imagine I will," Henry agreed. He lifted his glass from the table and took a sip, then threw a glance at his boot. His face blanched. "What the hell are those?" he whispered nervously.
John and Paul turned their gazes towards the table and watched a pair of furry white caterpillars emerge from the inside of the boot.
"They're oak processionary moth larvae," announced a voice from the doorway.
Henry, John and Paul turned their attention to the door and watched a strange man enter the room.
"Sorry to step in uninvited, but your door hadn't been closed all the way," the stranger said. He walked towards Henry, but ignored him and focused his gaze on the furry white creatures. "Funny to see these little beasties here in England. They're native to Southern Europe. I suspect they must have come in with some imported oak trees."
He turned towards Henry and flashed him a wicked grin. "Allow me to introduce myself, Sir Henry. I'm Jack Stapleton, the groundskeeper for your late Uncle Charles. I've come to London to accompany you back to Devon."
Henry flushed while he regained his composure, then smiled at his guest. "Jack Stapleton. Yes, yes. I seem to remember that name from the last time I saw my uncle. Your mother was his chamber maid, if I remember correctly. We played together on the moors."
"That was a long time ago," Jack replied. "Mum's retired now. We live in a house on the edge of your uncle's property, facing Grimpen Mire. I'm sorry, I should have said, on the edge of your property, Sir Henry."
"Apologies accepted," Henry laughed. "Do sit down and have some brandy with me and my new friends. I believe you might recognize these two gentlemen."
Jack eyed John and Paul suspiciously. "There's two missing. I thought there were four of you."
John pointed to himself, Paul and Henry and announced, "One and one and one is three."
"I believe the gentleman was referring to our missing mates George and Ringo," Paul said, throwing an exasperated look at John. "George is on holiday with his girlfriend Pattie, and Ringo and his wife Maureen are getting ready for the first baby, who's due any day now."
"Ah," Jack replied in a disinterested voice. He turned his attention back to the caterpillars crawling over the boot. "Nasty little buggers, these OPM's. They've got more than sixty thousand hairs on their tiny little bodies, and each one contains poisonous venom. If you touch them, your skin can break out in a painful rash. Get the hairs in your eyes and you'll need to be rushed to a casualty. Accidently ingest any loose hairs that have gone airborne, and you can go into anaphylactic shock. Your airways will close up. Painful death that'd be."
Jack stepped away from the boot and pulled a pair of leather gloves, some tweezers and a specimen jar from the pocket of his jacket. "If you'll allow me, Sir Henry?" he proposed without looking at his host. He proceeded to catch and trap the caterpillars. "There," he said with a smug look on his face once he accomplished his feat. "All's well now."
"Do you always carry those gloves and tweezers with you?" asked Paul in disbelief.
"I do," Jack answered. "I'm a lepidopterist. Always on the look-out for rare moths and butterflies. Picked up the hobby growing up on the moors."
"Shouldn't you be carrying a butterfly net then?" John challenged.
"It's in my car," Jack replied. He turned towards his host. "So, Sir Henry, when are you planning to come to Devon?"
"I had thought I might spend a few days in London first," Henry replied. "Do a little sight-seeing. I haven't been to England since I was a boy."
"As you wish, sir," Jack replied. "I'm renting a bed-sit in Islington. I'll write down the phone number for you. Give me a ring when you're ready for my escort." He opened a drawer in a desk in the corner of the room, grabbed a sheet of paper and pen, and scribbled down his information. Then he started walking towards the door, patting the specimen jar that he had dropped into his pocket. "Ta for now."
"What an odd man," Henry said after Jack had left.
"Cheeky little devil, I'd say," John agreed. "Stepping into your quarters and sifting through your desk drawers without your leave."
Jack shrugged. "Ah well. I still appreciate his offer of assistance. I was rather dreading the prospect of showing up at the train station and having to ask for help finding my ancestral home." He smiled at his guests. "I do so hope you two might come up and visit me. I'd love to show you around."
"Or show us off," John teased.
"Hey, give the man a bloody break, would you?" Paul piped in. "He's almost died twice today – first in the street, and then at the clutches of those poisoned caterpillars. We're his guardian angels, we are. It's no wonder he wants to keep us around."
John offered Henry a sheepish look. "Sorry, mate. Just having a larf, I was."
"When are you free to visit?" Henry asked, his friendly smile ensuring John that no offence had been taken.
"We'd better come soon," Paul said. "We've got the month of September off, but we're due back in the studio after John's birthday in October. Got to record a new album and release it by Christmas."
"Come next week then," Henry said. "And do bring your wives as well."
"I haven't a wife, just a girlfriend," Paul said. "And Jane's in rehearsals for a play at the moment. I don't think she's free."
"I have a wife, though she's too busy helping Mo Starkey get her nursery in order to travel," John added. "She's painting a mural on the wall of the baby's bedroom."
"But I could bring Martha," Paul proposed. He noticed the puzzled expression on Henry's face and laughed. "She's my new pet. A pure-bred English sheepdog. I imagine she'd love to run across the moors and have a go at rounding up sheep."
"If Paul gets to bring Martha, then I'm bringing Tim," John insisted.
Paul turned towards John. "But I thought he was living with your Aunt Mimi in Bournemouth."
"All the more reason to give the poor bugger a vacation," John replied. "Can't be easy for him, holed up with her all day."
"Is Tim your brother?" Henry asked with a polite smile.
"No, he's my cat!" John laughed. He raised his brandy snifter and held it up for a refill. "He used to be a stray, living on the mean streets of Liddypool, so he's not afraid of anything. He'll chase that bloody ghost-dog off your property in no time flat, so you can sleep in peace after your fretful stay in London."
"Thank you, Mrs. Barrymore, that was delicious," said Henry as his housekeeper cleared the dinner plates.
"You're welcome, Sir Henry," she replied. "Will you and your guests be wanting coffee or desert?"
Henry threw a quick glance and John and Paul. They both shook their heads.
"Not now," Henry said. "But perhaps you could bring a pot of tea to the parlor after you've cleaned the dishes so we could have a cuppa before we turn in for the evening. I think my guests have had a long day."
"Bloody hell did," Paul chimed in. "All that fuss at the train station with the policemen inspecting our carriages – I thought they'd never let us disembark! And then there were a dozen more coppers lining the walls of the station, giving us the stink-eye as we left."
"Pretty little policemen in a row," John agreed. "Though they all ran away like pigs from a gun once their chief blew his whistle."
"Well, you can't blame the constables for wanting to be extra careful," Henry noted. "What with that escaped convict on the loose!"
"I heard he escaped from a lunatic asylum, not a jail," Paul said. He grabbed a bit of beef off his plate before Mrs. Barrymore could remove it from the table, then slipped it to his dog Martha, who was sitting contentedly at his feet.
Mrs. Barrymore rolled her eyes and made a tsk-tsk sound as she cleared the rest of the dishes.
"I do apologize once again for the unanticipated encumbrance to your visit," Henry said as he stood up from the table. "I had so hoped to take you boys for a long walk on the moors tomorrow. But I hesitate to wander far now, with that madman roaming so freely in our midst."
"Mind you stay on the paths," Mrs. Barrymore warned the men as she placed the last dirty wine glass on her trolley cart. "One false step into the peat bogs that dot Grimpen Mire and you'll be dead men. They'll pull you in like quicksand."
Paul blanched. "Lovely." He turned to his host. "You never mentioned anything about quicksand when you asked us to visit!"
Henry chuckled. "I wouldn't worry too much if I were you, Paul. I walked all over the moors when I was a lad visiting my Uncle Charles, and, as you can plainly see, was never swallowed up by the earth."
John and Paul followed Henry into the sitting room, with Martha sticking close to Paul's heels. When they entered the parlor, they found John's large, yellow tabby cat Tim curled up comfortably on an overstuffed leather chair.
"He's claimed the best seat in the room," complained Henry.
Paul attempted to brush Tim aside so he could sit down. Tim casually stretched out his front paw and unsheathed his claws without lifting his head, then curled himself into a tighter ball. Paul took a seat at the neighboring sofa.
John started singing under his breath, "If somebody tries to take my place, we'll pretend we just can see his face…"
Henry laughed. "That cat of yours has an almost aristocratic sense of entitlement."
John walked to the window and stared into the darkness outside. "All cats do. It's in their nature. That's one of the reasons I prefer them to dogs. They're more like me."
Martha walked up to John and lifted her nose. John smiled and petted her forehead. "Though I suppose I like you alright too, my dear. You seem to bring out the best in your master."
"Is that supposed to mean something?" Paul challenged.
"No, sorry," John said. "It's just that you seemed so much more settled since you got a dog."
Paul grinned at Martha, who was nuzzling John's hand. "I suppose you're right about that. She's my inspiration."
A faint, eerie howling emanated from the distant moors. Martha's ears pricked up. She started running back and forth excitedly between John at the window and Paul at the sofa.
"Do you suppose that's the mysterious ghost-dog?" John asked.
Henry joined John at the window. "Don't be silly. I'm sure it's just one of the neighbor's hunting hounds howling at the moon."
"But there's no moon tonight," John pointed out. "It's completely black out there."
Henry stepped closer to the window. "Except for that small light that keeps flickering, just over there." He pointed towards the east. "If I didn't know better, I'd say someone was flashing a message in Morse code."
"Do you know Morse code?" Paul called out from the sofa.
"No, I don't," Henry answered without taking his eyes off the flickering light.
"That light's blinking out a Bo Diddly beat," John laughed. "Whoever is flashing that lamp has a great sense of rhythm!"
John and Henry continued staring at the light for a few more moments, but then the flashing abruptly stopped. The two men met each other's eyes and shrugged. Then John took a seat beside Paul. Henry threw a reproachful look at Tim, then sat down in the second most comfortable chair in the parlor and faced his guests.
"What do you suppose that flashing was all about?" John asked.
"It's obvious, isn't it?" replied Paul. He opened his mouth and started to sing: "So meet me tonight…just where the light shines…from a window…"
"Is that one of your songs?" Henry asked. "I'm not familiar with it."
"Paul wrote the tune, but we gave it to Billy J. Kramer to record," answered John. "Peaked at number ten on the British charts."
"Chad and Jeremy covered it too," Paul added, beaming with pride.
Henry laughed. "You two are ridiculously prolific! Honestly, you're geniuses! Though I do hope you're wrong about your assessment, Paul. I'd hate to think of anyone going out on the moors on a moonless night like this to meet someone, what with that escaped lunatic on the loose."
"Not to mention the quicksand and peat bogs," John added. He stretched out his arms and threw a quick glance at the door. "Something tells me your housekeeper is too busy with the dishes to bring us our tea. But never mind. I think Tim's got the right idea. I'm going to turn in early and go to sleep. I'll need a good night's rest if I'm going to go for a long hike on the moors tomorrow."
"That sounds like a good idea," Paul said, stifling a yawn. "C'mon, silly girl. Hold your head up and follow me," he beckoned his dog. "We're turning in for the night too."
"C'mon!" Henry urged John and Paul. "The cottage is right over this hill!"
John leaned forward, put his hands on his knees and panted until he caught his breath. "That's what you said when we were climbing the last hill."
Paul slackened Martha's leash so she could relieve herself behind a small bush. She did her business, then ran back to his side.
John stood back up and held his hand over the top of his glasses to shield his eyes. "Should have brought my prescription sunglasses," he groused. "Who'd have thought it'd be so sunny on the moors in September?" He looked to the right and left, trying to glimpse Tim, but the cat was nowhere in sight.
"C'mon lads," Henry urged them. "It's just a little bit further."
John and Paul followed Henry up the hill, then traipsed down the path towards the moss-covered stone hut.
"I used to come here and play with Jack Stapleton when I was a lad," Henry said. "But by the look of things, I don't think anyone's been inside this building since!"
"Think again," said John. He pointed to an open window beside the cottage's front door. Tim was perched on the sill.
Henry laughed. "Seems like your cat has more pep than you have, John." He marched up to the hut, threw back the door and welcomed his guests inside.
The three men examined the musty interior. A plate of half-eaten food was sitting on a table in the middle of the room. A clean-looking blanket was haphazardly arranged over a thin mattress tucked in the back corner.
"I think you have a squatter on your property," Paul announced. He unhooked Martha's leash and stuffed it into his coat pocket. She immediately ran to the table and stole a buttered scone off the plate.
"I think you're right," Henry said. "God, I hope it's not that escaped…"
Before he could finish his sentence, a voice rang out from the distance. "Help! I need somebody! Help!"
The three men exchanged worried glances, then ran out of the cottage towards the voice. They scaled the next hill, with Tim leading the way and Martha tagging along at their heels.
"Help!" the voice repeated.
Henry peered through his binoculars and surveyed the scene. "Damn, some poor bloke fell in that bog over there!" he announced.
"D'y'suppose it's the runaway lunatic?" John asked.
"Could be," Henry replied. "But whoever it is, we've got to help him before the Grimpen Mire swallows him up!"
The three men proceeded carefully down the hill to the edge of the peat bog. "Grab a log or a big stick!" Henry commanded John and Paul as they approached the mire.
John and Paul scanned their surroundings, then ran to a forlorn-looking tree and tore off two branches.
"Mind your step!" Henry called after them. Then he turned towards the stranger who was up to his waist in muck. "Try not to move!" he directed the hapless victim. "The more you struggle, the more you'll agitate the peat. Just stay still. Help is coming."
John and Paul returned to Henry's side. Henry directed them to each hold out their sticks towards the imperiled man. "Now very slowly, reach for them!" he commanded the stranger. "That's right. Inch your way towards the sticks, and grab whichever one you can reach best."
After a protracted struggle, in which the stranger sunk a foot lower into the bog, he finally managed to take hold of one of the branches. Then John, Paul and Henry held tight to its other end and started pulling the man to safety. Once the victim reached the lip of the bog, Henry and Paul grabbed the stranger's two hands and dragged him onto dry land.
The stranger started weeping. "Thank you," he whispered between sobs. "I thought I was done for."
John crouched down and offered him the flask of water he'd been carrying in his coat pocket. "Take a drink and try to relax. You're okay now."
The man took a long sip, then broke down crying again.
"C'mon, stop that," Paul urged him. "You're out of harm's way now."
"And you're wearing my old tweed coat!" Henry added.
John squinted and tried to make out the fabric of the stranger's jacket through the layer of muck that had encrusted the better part of it. "I think you might be right about that, Henry. That coat sure looks like the one you were wearing the afternoon we met you."
"However did you get your hands on it?" Henry asked indignantly.
"I gave it to him," replied a quavering woman's voice at his back.
Henry turned and recognized the familiar face of his housekeeper Eliza Barrymore.
"He's my brother, Terrence," she explained. She put down the wicker picnic basket she'd been carrying and walked to the stranger's side. "Terry's a few cards short of a full deck, I'll admit that freely. He always has been, since he was a wee lad. But he's a gentle man. He wouldn't hurt no-one."
"So he's the escaped lunatic?" Henry challenged. "I heard he was dangerous!"
"Them thugs at the asylum bullied him something awful," Eliza explained. "Terry finally had enough and fought one of 'em off, then ran away, 'cause he was afraid of being punished. I've been bringin' him meals these past few days at the old stone hut, while I talked with my cousins in Torquay to see if they mightn't be able to find him a better home. An' I gave him that old suit of yours too, Sir Henry, since you asked me to donate it to the church jumble sale. I figured Terry was as deservin' of some warm clothes as any fool who'd be willing to pay good money for such an outdated suit as yours."
"Well," Henry harrumphed. "You might have told me."
"I tried," Eliza insisted, "though I never could find the right moment." She started wiping dirt off her brother's face with her handkerchief.
"Were you and your brother sending each other messages last night with the light flashes?" Paul asked.
Eliza nodded, then started whispering encouraging words to her brother, urging him to stand up.
"Well, I guess we've solved the mystery then!" John exclaimed.
"Of the lights, yes," Paul agreed. "Though we've still seen neither hide nor hair of the mysterious hound of the Baskervilles!"
As if on cue, a loud growling rose up from just beyond the hill. The assembled party looked towards the sound and saw a huge dog gazing down at them. His face was marked with strange green patches that seemed to glow in the sunlight. He lifted his head and let out a loud, menacing howl.
Martha pricked up her ears, then started running towards the dog.
"No, silly girl, come back!" Paul shouted after her.
But Martha ignored him and met the hound halfway up the hill. The two dogs immediately started sniffing each other's butts.
"Sic!" shouted another man's voice from the top of the hill. "Get that bloody bastard, you stupid dog! Christ, what are you doing?"
Henry squinted at the new man. "Stapleton? Is that you?"
Jack Stapleton gazed down upon the bog with a wicked expression, then pulled a gun out of his coat pocket and pointed it at Henry.
"Shit!" Henry cursed. He immediately hid behind John.
"What the fuck are you doing?" John shouted. He grabbed Paul's arm and pulled his songwriting partner in front of his own chest to act as a shield.
Paul glanced over his shoulder and scowled at John. "Thanks a lot, mate."
Jack started walking down the hill, holding his gun squarely in front of him. "Step aside you two. I've got no truck with either of you. Or with that simpleton and his sister. I'm here for Sir Henry." His face twisted into an evil grimace.
"Don't be a fool, Jack," Eliza chided him. She stood up to her full height and stepped in front of Paul. "You'll have to kill all of us first if you want to get to your cousin. And poppin' off these two pop stars is going to turn the public against you faster than you can say Bob's your uncle."
"Yeah, right, listen to Mrs. Barrymore," Paul urged him. "We're national treasures, we are. You don't want to mess with us."
John looked over his shoulder at Henry. "What did she mean by that? Is this bloke your cousin?"
"I don't think so," Henry replied. He stole a glance over John's shoulder at his approaching nemesis, then ducked down behind John's back once more.
"Let me elucidate the situation," Jack said in an eerily calm voice. "Charles Baskerville was my father, though he never claimed me as his own. He treated me like a servant, just like he did my poor mum. He gave us a little plot of land to live on rent-free, but left his entire estate to you, Henry. Even though you haven't set foot in England since you were ten!"
Jack pointed the gun at Henry's head. "I didn't think that was fair, now, do you?"
"I, um, um…" Henry stammered.
Jack took another step towards Henry, then suddenly lost his footing. Terrence had grabbed his ankle and pulled him to the ground. A shot rang out. The two dogs came barreling down the hill and jumped on top of Jack.
"Sic him, you stupid beast!" Jack shouted at the strangely painted dog. "I trained you to go after him!"
The large dog sank his teeth into Jack's right hand.
"Christ!" Jack screamed. He clutched the gun tighter in his fist, but the dog bit down hard on his thumb. Jack shrieked in pain and dropped the weapon. John grabbed the pistol and tossed it into the bog. It immediately sank beneath the surface.
"Nice throw," said Paul.
"Thanks," John replied. He smiled at Paul, then looked up the hillside and saw Tim approaching, dragging a large, dark object in his teeth. "What the hell…?" he murmured.
Tim deposited the object in front of the assembly.
"That's my lost boot!" Henry shouted. He looked down at Jack, still struggling to escape from the two large dogs who were draped across his person. "You must have stolen it from the hotel in London!"
"I needed something of yours to teach the hound your scent," Jack explained. "Now help me get these damned dogs off my chest!"
"Why?" asked John.
"So I could sic that hound after Henry, just like I did after my father!" shouted Jack.
"No, I meant, why should we help you?" John replied. "You're a fuckin' murderer! You scared Sir Charles to death, and then you tried to poison Henry by dropping those poisonous caterpillars in his boot. And now you nearly shot him!"
Terrence approached Henry meekly and offered him the dirty tweed coat he'd been wearing. "Put this on him backwards, then tie the sleeves behind his back," he mumbled. "It'll hold him fast while you march him back home."
"Thanks," Henry said, accepting the coat. "But what can I use to tie his hands?"
Paul pulled Martha's leash out of his jacket pocket. "This should do the trick."
"Right," Henry agreed. With a little help from John, Paul and Terrence, he managed to restrain his illegitimate cousin in the makeshift straight jacket. "Let's go home now. I think the police will be interested to learn they've been pursuing the wrong man."
Paul petted Martha's back, then offered his hand to the large dog for a good sniff before stroking the hound's forehead. "Looks like you need a good bath, sonny. That mean bloke painted you all over with day-glo colors."
"C'mon, let's go," Henry urged the group. "We've a long walk ahead of us."
"And look who's leading the way!" John exclaimed. He pointed to the west and smiled at Tim, who was running down the path that led to Baskerville Manor. Martha and the hound gave each other's butts a few more good sniffs, then took off after the cat.
"I never trusted that man," John whispered to Paul as they fell into step behind Henry, Jack, Eliza and Terrence. "He raised my shackles the moment he stepped into Sir Henry's hotel room uninvited."
"And he used a dog to do his dirty work," Paul whispered back. "Can a man sink any lower?"
"There's only one possible way," John replied. "If he had tried to use a cat as his accomplice."
Paul laughed. "I think I'd better run ahead. I want to keep an eye on that hound dog. Martha hasn't been spayed yet."
John smiled. "Well, as long as he doesn't start a'cryin' all the time, she'll probably be safe."
A small rabbit darted out of the moor and crossed the path ahead of the two dogs. The hound took off after it.
"Oh hell," Paul sighed. "I hope he doesn't catch it!" He started jogging up the path.
"He ain't no friend of mine!" John called after Paul. He smiled to himself, then walked up to Terrence and offered him his coat.
Inspired by the novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)