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to have abandoned the trousers."
"So I see. Sorry. What did you find today?"
"Do you know, I found absolutely nothing. Not a
rumour, not a word, nary a breath of someone moving
against that old scoundrel Holmes. I must be losing my
"Perhaps there was nothing?"
"Perhaps. It is a most piquant problem, I must admit.
I am intrigued."
"I am cold. So, what are we going to do now?"
"We shall listen to the voices of angels and of men,
my child, set to the music of Verdi and Puccini."
"And after that?"
"After that we shall dine."
"And then?"
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"I fear we shall skulk back to my brother's rooms and
hide behind his drapes."
"Oh. How is your back?"
"Damn my back, I do wish you would stop harping
on the accursed thing. If you must know, I had it serviced
again this afternoon by a retired surgeon who does a good
line in illegal operations and patching up gunshot wounds.
He found very little to do on it, told me to go away, and
I find the topic tiresome."
I was pleased to hear his mood so improved.
The evening that followed was a lovely, sparkling
interval, set off in my mind by what went before and what
came after as a jewel set into mud. I fell asleep twice and
woke with my hat in Holmes' ear, but he seemed not to
notice. In fact, so carried away was he by the music that I
believe he forgot I was there, forgot where he was, forgot
to breathe, even, at certain passages. I have never been a
great lover of the operatic voice, but that night--I cannot
tell you what we saw, unfortunately--even I could begin
to see the point. (Incidentally, I feel that this is one place
where I must contradict the record of Holmes' late biographer
and protest that I never, ever witnessed Holmes
"gently waving his fingers about in time to the music," as
Watson once wrote. The good doctor, on the other hand,
was wont earnestly to perform this activity of the musically
obtuse, particularly when he was tipsy.)
We drank champagne at the intermission and took
to a quiet corner lest he be recognised. Holmes could be
charming when he so desired, but that evening he positively
scintillated, during the intermission with stories
about the primary cast members, and over supper later talking
about his conversations with the lamas in Tibet, his
most recent monographs on varieties of lipstick and the
peculiarities of modern tyre marks, the changes occasioned
by the disappearance of castrati from the music world, and
the analysis of some changes in rhythm in one of the arias
we had just heard. I was quite dazzled by this rarely seen
Holmes, a distinguished-looking, sophisticated bon vivant
without a care in the world (who could also spend hours
in a grey, biting mood, write precise monographs on the
science of detection, and paint blobs on the backs of bees
to track them across the Sussex Downs).
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"Holmes," I asked as we stepped into the street, "I
realise the question sounds sophomoric, but do you find
that there are aspects of yourself with which you feel most
comfortable? I only ask out of curiosity; you needn't feel
obliged to answer." He offered me his arm and, formally, I
took it.
" 'Who am I?' you mean." He smiled at the question
and gave what was at first glance a most oblique answer.
"Do you know what a fugue is?"
"Are you changing the subject?"
I thought in silence for some distance before his answer
arranged itself sensibly in my mind. "I see. Two discrete
sections of a fugue may not appear related, unless the
listener has received the entire work, at which time the
music's internal logic makes clear the relationship."
"A conversation with you is most invigourating, Russell.
That might have taken twenty frustrating minutes
with Watson. Hello, what is this?" He pulled me to a halt
in the shadow of the building we had just rounded, and we
gazed across to the area where the cab and Billy had been
left, seeing with sinking hearts the flicker of naphtha flares
and the distinctive milling outline of many constabulary
helmets and capes. Loud voices called to one another, and
as we watched an ambulance pulled swiftly away. Holmes
slumped against the building, stunned. "Billy?" he whispered
hoarsely. "How could they track us? Russell, am I
losing my grip? I have never come across a mind that could
do this. Even Moriarty." He shook his head as if to clear
it. "I must see the evidence before those oafs obliterate it."
"Wait, Holmes. This could be a trap. There may be
someone waiting with an airgun or a rifle."
Holmes studied the scene before us through narrowed
eyes and shook his head again, slowly. "We were excellent
targets a number of times this evening. With all these police
here it would be a great risk for him. No, we will go.
I only hope that someone with a bit of sense is in charge
I followed his vigorous stride as best I could in my
heeled shoes, and as I came up behind him I saw a small,
wiry man of about thirty-five thrust out his hand and greet
"Mr. Holmes, good to see you up and about. I wondered
if you might not make an appearance. I figured you
must be behind this somewhere."
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"What precisely is 'this,' Inspector?"
"Well, as you can see, Mr. Holmes, the cab-- May
I help you, Miss?" This last was to me.
"Ah, Russell, I should like to introduce to you an old
friend of mine. This is Inspector Lestrade, of Scotland Yard.
His father was a colleague of mine on a number of cases.
Lestrade, this is my ..." A quick smile touched his lips.
"My associate, Miss Mary Russell."
Lestrade stared at the two of us for a moment, then
to my dismay burst into raucous laughter. Was this to be
the reaction of every policeman we met?
"Oh, Mr. Holmes, always the comedian, you were. I
forgot your little jokes for a minute."
Holmes drew himself up to his full height and glared
at the man in icy hauteur.
"Have you ever known me to jest about my profession,
Lestrade? Ever?" The last word cracked through the
cold air like a shot, and Lestrade's humour was cut off in
an instant. The remnant of the smile made his face sour
and slightly ratlike, and he glanced at me quickly and
cleared his throat.
"Ah, yes, well, Mr. Holmes, I presume you'd like to
see what they left of your cab. One of the men recognised
Billy from the old days and thought to give me a ring on
it. He'll get a promotion out of tonight's work, I don't
doubt. And don't worry about your man--he'll be all right
in a day or two, I imagine. It looked like a clout on the
head followed by a bit of chloroform. He was already coming
around when they took him off."
"Thank you for that, Inspector. Have you already
gone over the cab?" His voice held little hope.
"No, no, we haven't touched it. Looked inside, that's
all. I told you the man'd get a promotion. Quick-thinking,
he is." I noticed one of the uniformed men nearby fiddling
needlessly with the horse's reins, his head tilted slightly in
our direction. I nudged Holmes and addressed Lestrade.
"Inspector, that I believe is the individual over
there?" The man started and moved away guiltily, busying
himself elsewhere. Lestrade and Holmes followed my eyes.
"Why yes, how did you guess?"
Holmes interrupted. "I believe you will find, Lestrade,
that Miss Russell never guesses. She may occasionally
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reach tentative hypotheses without absolute proof, but
she does not guess."
"I am glad," I added, "that the gentleman is working
his way back up to his former position of responsibility.
Men with his background can be a valuable model for
younger members of the force." I had Lestrade's full attention
"Do you know him then, Miss?"
"As far as I know I've never seen him before tonight."
Holmes allowed his eyes to wander off to the cab,
his face inscrutable.
"Then how--?"
"Oh, but it is too obvious. An older man in a low
position can either have got there by being, shall we say, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]