Sherlock Holmes & The Ely Conundrum
Alistair Kitching )

Sherlock Holmes & the Ely Conundrum -
Part 1

"I am inclined to pop along to the 'Albert' for a swift half. Fancy coming along?" said I.

"Don't worry about me, Watson," Sherlock Holmes remarked impatiently.

I believe that I am one of the most long-suffering of mortals; but I’ll admit that I was annoyed at him. "Really, Holmes," said I severely, "you are a little trying at times. I was only trying to be friendly."

He was too much absorbed with his own thoughts to give any immediate answer to my remonstrance. He leaned upon his hand, with his untasted breakfast before him, and he stared at a CD case, paused, and then tapped it steadily against his long, aquiline nose. Then he took the case and held it up to the light, and very carefully studied both the exterior and the flap. He indicated the stereo, from which a choir sang a song of ethereal, unknowable beauty, flooding the room with an incandessent glow.

"Do you know this?" asked he thoughtfully. "I myself have never heard it, but I know you have listened to much church music, fascinated as you are by the Christian faith. Come, Watson, what do you say?"

The music was indeed fascinating, as was the admission that, some higher forms of chemical analysis aside, there was a subject he knew very little about. However, this small victory for modesty aside, I had to declare that I had never encountered this particular composition before. It's form, however, was familiar: "It is a Nunc Dimitis," I said, "but I am afraid it's origin escapes me. Thomas Tallis perhaps? Why?"

"Well, Watson, it's a nom-de-plume, or more accurately I fear, a nom-de-guerre, a mere identification mark and perhaps even an invite; behind it lies a shifty and evasive personality. This CD came in the post today, Mrs Hudson has just brought it up to me. There was no letter or note included, no cover notes even, just the CD and of course -" he indicated the glorious chorus once again, "- this. This, my old friend, is important, not for itself, but for the man behind it. I am unsure, which is a state you have rarely seen me in, but this is extremely sinister, and I know not why."

Holmes had lost me big style. "What the hell are you talking about?" I said. "Do you have to get your big ol' brain going every time something odd comes through the post? Remember that trouble we had when the gas bill came? Embarrasing or what?"

Holmes finally broke into a smile. "You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself. No, I'm not certain as to my next move, but I can assure you that this music is a message, and I must do my best to decipher it, or I will be woefully ill-prepared for the devilry to come, and devilry there will be."

I could not let this pass without some explanation, but Holmes put his hand up to block my protests.

"Watson, old man, this is of a vast importance, and I need to understand why. Pray, where can we discover the identity of this fabulous music?" I thought hard. We had lived in Ely just a few months and the world's most famous consulting detective had been criminally [sic] underused. I was, therefore, lacking in practice myself and knew not of the best place to uncover the origin of the CD. Holmes was getting impatient. I thought as quick as I could. "We might try the museum, or the library, I guess, but as it's church music then we ought to start in the cathedral?"

"Watson, you excel yourself!" said Holmes, smiling "Come then, The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely it is!" We bundled our coats on and rushed out of the door. I could barely contain my excitement, for I know not what reasons, but surely because the game was clearly a-foot once again. The air was bitterly cold and took my breath away for an instant, but the sun was bright, and we warmed to our task immediately. Had I known the horrors and amazing turns that awaited us at the start of this particular endeavour, I would've stepped out onto Silver Street with a little less enthusiasm...

Part 2

Sherlock Holmes positively bounded along Silver Street, his great black overcoat billowing out behind him. I tried to display a modicum of dignity in my gait, but ended up taking short and long strides in an effort to remain in his wake. He finally stopped outside the door to the "Fountain" and for a moment I thought he may be softening, and be ready to buy me a drink.

"Come, Watson, come! The forces of evil do not stop when we wish to. We must persevere!" And then, off he he went again, heading down the Gallery, cathedral bound, his cane and cape and arms flying around his head in a mad dervish. I smiled faintly to myself. After the rigours of London's vile victorian underclass, and many life-threatening adventures, I never thought to miss this unpredictable life. But miss it I did, and Holmes' current antics were proof of the same feeling within him. I was as confused as ever by him, but pleased that the enthusiasm of old had returned.

I finally caught up with him, as he stood underneath the huge West Door, looking up at the cathedral's magnificent frontage. Holmes was not one for expressing admiration in anything but his own abilities, but even I could discern within him a sense of wonder as we gazed at the ancient stonework which ran it's complex geometric patterns along the face of the mighty church.

"Strange," he said, to himself.

"Strange?" said I, "what's strange?".

"Nothing, Watson. Come, let's begin our quest in earnest." and with that he bounded into the alcove and vanished into the dark recess of the cathedral. I followed, stooping through the small wooden door and entering the enormous, cavernous nave. For a moment I was so taken aback by the splendour of the place that I did not notice that Holmes was nowhere to be seen. I approached the ticket booth and asked the lady behind the counter if she had seen my friend.

"Oh yes, dear. Just a second ago? Tall chap, long nose, high forehead, clutching a magnifying glass? Yes, you just missed him. I told him he couldn't smoke in here. He disappeared off to the Choir, humming away to himself." Amazed as I was at the old lady's observational skills, I had already guessed that the Choir would be his first port of call. I headed off down the centre of the aisle, stumbling over my shoes as I kept gazing up at the magnificent painted ceiling. Holmes was stood in the centre of the Choir, holding a tuning fork out infront of him. He looked round at me and popped the tuning instrument back in his pocket.

"Glad you could make it, old friend," he said, as if we had been parted for hours. "I may be no expert on the composer of our mystery piece, but I can tell you that, acoustically, it was not recorded here. I suggest we try elsewhere."

"There is a shop, Holmes. Maybe they sell CDs there?." Holmes smiled with delight at my suggestion and bid me lead the way.

The shop, adjacent to the entrance had more people milling around it than were presently in the cathedral. Holmes and I stood in a queue for several minutes until an elderly lady asked us if she could help. Holmes presented her with the blank-looking CD and asked if he might be able to divine it's mysterious origins.

"Well, I don't know," she said, cautiously, "what a peculiar request! I have an idea, but can you wait a little while? I will need to try and see if the Music Director is available."

"Madam," said Holmes in the best obsequious manner he could muster, "that would be marvellous!"

When the charming lady had vanished he turned to me and ushered me out, back into the main body of the church. His tone had become conspiratorial, "Watson, we must split up. Take yourself off to Cromwell's House, the Tourist Information Office, and see if you can find anything that relates to Ely and church music. I shall wait here and see what this alleged expert can tell me. Go, Watson, go! I shall meet you - yes, I acquiesce - in the saloon bar of the 'Prince Albert' in one hour. Now go!" And with this he virtually pushed me out of the huge West Door and onto the street.

Cromwell's House, just across the cathedral close, and no poor relation in a historical perspective, to the cathedral was fascinating, but it held no information with regard to Holmes' vague research instruction. After a good forty-five minutes of endeavour I repaired to the pub, as arranged, and bought myself a well-earned drink. As I found a seat, removed my coat and lifted the teak-brown draft to my parched lips, Holmes burst forth into the inn. He was in a state of high excitement.

"Watson, away! Come with me my faithful friend, for I have grave news."

We rushed, I with more than one mournful glance back at my virgin pint, out of the 'Albert' and once again helter-skeltered along Silver Street. Then into the cathedral, but this time towards a side door at the North side of the church, which I had not realised was there. Holmes was talking all the time:

"Well, I have had a most fascinating hour Watson. First, I met with the Musical Director, who listened intently to our sung message, and who informed me that the recording was of the lost works of one of Ely's foremost church musicians, John Amner. He was the choir master, or similar, here in the early 17th Century. The music has not been performed in some time, but when it was played most recently, it was here-" and at this point we were walking into the most beautiful open space I have ever witnessed in a medieval church "-the Lady Chapel."

Holmes's demeanour became more reverential, a major change of mood indeed, considering his earlier explosions of enthusiasm. "Here, it was recorded for the CD which we received today. The question is why, why have we been brought here. The answer, as is so often the case, is all around us. Watson, pray, look at the statues that ring these beautiful walls, tell me what strikes you."

I looked at them, and it was obvious. "Holmes, why they're all headless."

"Indeed Watson, a legacy of the Lord Protector, so I'm told, for these are our monarchs," he gestured grandly around the room, "and just a few short years after Master Amner's passing, Cromwell's men, in some sort of republican frenzy, set about beheading these monuments to the great and the good. So far, so tourist-style clap-trap. The thing is, as I was walking and talking with the present maestro, just a half hour ago, he noticed something, and this is why we've been brought here, and why we must now take care, for our very lives are in danger."

Holmes beckoned me across the room and in the furthest corner pointed out one of the royal figures. In a rather macabre fashion, a head, of different coloured stone, but with sharp chiselled features, had been crudely stuck back on one of the statues. Holmes glared at it with a suddenly gloomy and dark, brooding eye.

"Do you recognise that face, Watsom? The cruel lips, the poisoned snear? Do you know what this signifies? Which king has come back to life?"

I was aghast, for I recognised that fearsome visage only too well. "You surely don't mean?"

"I do."

"My God, Holmes, it's impossible! He has returned?"

"Yes, my dear friend," and Holmes closed his eyes with weary resignation, "Moriarty is here in Ely!"

Part 3

Holmes accepted the pint that was offered him with grace.

"Thank you, Watson" he said and sipped the top thoughtfully.

I paid for our beers and coached him gently across the lounge and out of the patio doors into the beer garden. We sat at one of the two tressel tables. There was no-one else about, which is precisely what I wanted. I could always rely on the 'Tinker' to be quiet, and quiet it most certainly was.

Holmes had suffered some sort of seizure following the events in the cathedral's Lady Chapel: what ladies might politely term 'an episode'. Although he had already witnessed and used his methods to deduce the meaning of the chapel situation long before I saw it, I believe that it was not until I had made the connection about Moriarty for myself, that the full emotional impact of the moment befell him. As we left the cathedral, he had collapsed against me, though not to an unconscious state. It was as I helped him regain his footing that I realised, since he was my greatest ally and asset, I must get him to safety. He had whispered to me that we must not go back to our home on Silver Street, but that he needed to rest far away from the curious gazes of tourists, shoppers and who knows what ill-meaning individuals. I suggested the 'Tinker' and enquired as to his mental and physical readiness for the journey. He nodded and we headed out on the Lynn Road, my arm supporting his elbow, and it was this very hostelry that we now found ourselves.

"Chin up, old friend!" said Holmes, catching me by surprise, "my, you are in the spell of a powerful reverie indeed. Is there anything I can do or say to help you?"

I nearly fell off the chair in amazement. I had, as Holmes rudely suggested with his interjection, been far off in thought, though I could not tell you what those thoughts were, so suddenly shocked was I. I looked across at the man who exhibited a fine but faintly annoying grin.

"Holmes, damn you, an explanation please! Why, I thought you were almost expiring on me back there. But now you radiate the rudest health. A phrase that suits this situation down to the ground, I might add! An explanation sir." I was most perturbed by Holmes's games-playing and he could tell.

"Watson, Watson, do calm yourself. I can explain. Cheers!" He raised his glass and drank a healthy portion of the IPA. Forgive me, but I did also. "I was shocked beyond belief, more so than you my trusty companion, that the signal in the cathedral pointed so shockingly at the Professor. That initial shock gave me the idea of feigning such a deep and physical despair: if Moriarty had his spies in operation and I could give them an impression that I was ailed and an easy target, it may be good enough to present a minor advantage. I'm sorry that I took you in, but I needed your reaction to be genuine. Don't pout! I should be annoyed with you for bringing me to the bloody 'Tinker'!!" He smiled and I had to concede the point, though my pride remained a little dented.

He was continuing: "Actually, a walk along the Lynn Road was an excellent idea, for any followers would've had to have shown themselves along such a straight and open thoroughfare if they were to keep up with us. We can, I think, consider ourselves alone. I realise that such a scheme was not your intention, but it has worked well Watson!"

It was typical of Holmes to offer appreciation at one moment and snatch it back the next. But he hadn't finished: "Our fight atop the Reichenbach Falls may have resulted in one miraculous escape, but two! It's preposterous at best, but that is the deduction that presents itself. Odd that such a huge event, well, huge in the amusing memoirs you pen of our exploits, should ultimately come to nothing. Still, if the Professor is at large, we must ask ourself two questions. Firstly, why is he here? And secondly, how do we combat him?"

"It must be to gain revenge, Holmes," I suggested, "to avenge the supposed vanquishing of his criminal talents and prove to the world, why, that he's superior to you."

Holmes's eyes lit up. "Yes, I had worked that one out. I am certain that our lives are in danger. Watson, pass me the moby, I need to make a couple of calls." Holmes punched at the buttons of the Nokia. He was connected almost immediately. He spoke a name I had not heard in a long, long time. "DS Sholto Lestrade, please. Yes, it's urgent." - a wait, then - "Lestrade! How are you? How's the Met? DCI? Goodness, things are looking up. Lestrade, I need your help, yes, yes, that's right. Yes, the Silver Street address I gave you a few weeks ago. Yes. An hour? Thank you, I am, as ever, indebted. Goodbye."

Holmes switched the mobile off and said, "We wait, Lestrade will phone a few cronies and do a supposed drugs raid on the flat. It will scare any of Moriarty's bunch off and allow us access back to our equipment. In the meantime,we need to organise a way of flushing Moriarty out in the open, or at least divining his scheme. And I know just the man to help us. I think the Professor would jump at the chance of offing two Holmes for the price of one, don't you?"

"Your brother."

"Got it in one, big guy," said Holmes, "can you remind me of Mycroft's number?"

Part 4

There was no answer at Mycroft's number and, not knowing if his sibling had a mobile of his own, Holmes decided it was best to try later. We agreed that Lestrade's arrangements (a call to Parkside police station in Cambridge or even the Ely cop shop, and then the so-called raid on our flat) might take considerably more than an hour to implement and thus decided that further refreshment was required.

Holmes returned from the bar with a half for himself and a pint for me, with the disconcerting justification that he would require a clear head that afternoon!

"Thanks," I said, with a note of some small indignation. "Nice to know my opinion will be eagerly sought-after. Honestly Holmes, I sometimes wonder if we are a team at all."

"Do you feel undervalued then, my friend?"

"Well, no, not really, but you do tend to dismiss me on occassion. My trip to the Tourist Information was erroneous, wasn't it?"

Holmes smiled as he poured the half-pint into the dregs of the larger glass. "I was worried about our situation. The CD acting as an invite was my first clue that something sinister might be in store for us. All our cases come along as referrals from the victims of crime, Yes? This-" and he stopped to jab a finger at me pointedly "-was clearly a perversion of that request. Why approach us in this way if it was all above board? Moriarty knows I am not a regular church-goer and that my interest in a subject such as cathedral music, which I know little of, would be piqued. It was as we entered the cathedral that I realised this. I suddenly became overwhelmed by the sensation that something was amiss and that I needed to expulcate you before I appreciated the full impact of my suspicions. I'm sorry if it appeared a little rude; my intentions, I can assure you, were of the most altruistic kind."

As usual I was left with a somewhat hollow feeling once the great man took time to explain himself. I was, I can say with all candor, the luckiest of men for having him as my friend.

We chatted on this and that for another half hour. Holmes was all set to launch himself once again on the thorny subject of European unity when the mobile phone, which had lain on the table between us all this time, began to wiggle bizarrely across towards me, seemingly of it's own accord. I pulled away from the bench in horror, placed my hand firmly at Holmes's shoulder and pushed him as hard as I could, away from the table. "It's a bomb, Holmes!" I shouted and clattered headlong into the fence, all the time awaiting the explosion.

Holmes picked himself up, sporting a few grass-stains on his cloak, and a disgruntled pout, and calmly walked back to his seat. "Actually," he said, "it's just on throb mode."

I rose gingerly to my feet, feeling more than a bit foolish, and thanked my stars that we were the only people in the beer garden. Holmes punched the talk button.

"Holmes. Ah, Lestr... sorry? What? When? My God, are you sure? Any idea who it might be? Clues, man! What are the clues?" Holmes was seriously agitated and shouted at full volume into the handset. Inside the pub, I could see the barmaid glance in our direction, her eye already caught no doubt by the sight of us throwing ourselves gracelessly to the ground a few moments earlier. Holmes was continuing: "...that which is left is, yes, that's it, yes yes yes, the answer, that's it. That's the method I have implored you to use, but you ignore it like a child! Just tell me. No, on second thoughts let me go there. No, I won't hear of it. Goodbye." And with that Holmes emptied the rest of his glass and slammed it down.

"Good Lord, Holmes, whatever is the matter? Is this one of your blasted tricks? Has something happened?"

"Yes, you might say that," Holmes grumbled as he stood. "We have another problem. This is turning into quite a day. Excuse me a moment, I need to get the number of a a cab firm. Please, finish your pint." He stormed off into the bar and began talking to the lady behind the counter. After a moment he returned to the table. I drained my drink.

"Whassup, then?" I said as jovially as I could.

"Watson, things have become even more complicated. Let's go, the taxi will be here in a moment, so they said. I'll fill you in on the way."

"But Moriarty's spies!" I protested.

"May have to wait," said Holmes with some authority, shutting me up immediately. We walked out of the front door as a green and white Fen Cab pulled up at the kerbside, Holmes opening the door in an easy smooth motion. He gave the driver the instruction for Silver Street and offered him an extra five pounds if he could make the journey in less than three minutes. As we squealed away from the 'Tinker' and sped off into town he turned to me and relayed Lestrade's message about the corpse. The corpse the police had discovered. Twenty minutes ago. In our flat.
Part 5

The taxi driver swung us into Silver Street and easily won the extra incentive that Holmes had offered him in return for a speedy delivery. We exitted to the pavement just as the cathedral clock struck 2pm and Holmes approached the constable who was standing in front of our front door.

"I must congratulate your senior officer!" he exclaimed, with much confidence and a smile that took the young man aback. "I take it DCI Lestrade is not here?"

"Er, no sir, we're acting under his instruction, so I understand, but he's not - hang on - who are you? Er, sir?" He was gabbling, confused, but trying to be polite.

"We live here, young man, well, share the upstairs apartment I should say. It makes us, I'd imagine, people your superiors would like to have a word with. And I shall want to have a word with them, in return, to praise them on the discretion they've shown: Lestrade would've cordoned off the street, scrambled the police helicopter and called a state of natonal emergency. C'mon Watson." He moved toward the door.

"Well, I don't know. Just a sec. Are you Mr Shylock Jones? No, I mean, have you got any ID on you. Passport, driving li-"

"This'll do young man," said Holmes and planted his key into the yale lock. He turned it and said: "Now even if I don't live here your boss," he pushed the door open, "will want to know about someone who can gain access to a flat where a body's been discovered won't he?" Holmes eased himself past the PC and indicated for me to follow. I was amazed at his assertiveness and could only fall into step behind him.

"She," said the man as he resumed his guard. Holmes hadn't caught what he said, thundering as he was up the steps to our quarters.

We burst into the room and the peace of the street we'd left below was thrown into sharp relief. The place was a shambles, anarchy even, a symphony of chaos. There must have been twenty people packed into our living room, and there were certainly more policemen in the kitchen and bedrooms. Scenes of Crime Officers in all-white body suits crowded, some kneeling some standing, around one corner. Flashlights popped and people chattered incessantly. The composer of this tumult of noise and activity stood in the centre of the room and barked instructions, waving and pointing all the while: a woman, very smartly dressed in power suit and striped tie. I noticed that everybody else within the four walls was a man.

Holmes slammed the door behind us and cut the riot dead. All faces turned to us. It was the sort of moment that my erstwhile colleague relished, and he did not disappoint.

"DS Cassandra Merripit, welcome to my home. I am Sherlock Holmes. This, as you will probably be able to guess, is Dr John Watson, MD." Holmes strode forward and offered to shake the startled young woman's hand. It was clear that she was suddenly self-conscious and fought quickly to regain her composure. She took Holmes's hand briefly and cast a nod in my direction.

"I know who you are sir, and you Dr Watson, what I'd like to know is how you know me."

Jeez, what a mistake. Holmes enjoyed, more than being the centre of attention, the ability to show off his redoubtable deduction methods. I settled into watching the great man explain himself. DS Merripit regarded him carefully, aware that she had knocked a ball back into the court of a particularly hard-hitter.

"It's really rather straightforward, my dear. You are in charge, which, in a fairly major police operation as this, means you must be DS or above. There are so few woman of that standing in the Cambridgeshire constabulary, and I believe that I have met most of them, that my field of choice is pretty narrow. You're also young, so DS is the best you can hope for at this stage. You have a Thanet and Margate College tie, and so must still be fresh off the graduate programme; your performance is a little too bold, and so probably backs this up. And, unless the latest copy of the 'Police Review' is incorrect, the only person who fits all those criteria and has just been assigned to this area is DS Cassandra Merripit." He ended with a flourish, which was a little too much for the DS whose cheeks coloured a tad. I could see one or two of the older men behind her trying to conceal their delight at Holmes's over the top explanation.

"Very clever, Mr Holmes, very clever indeed," she countered immediately, much to her credit, "however, I must say that I'm looking forward to your erudite view on precisely why you have a dead body lying in your apartment." She stepped to the side, like a theatre chorus revealing the play's first act, the SOCO boys moving apart also, to reveal a man lying on the floor. He was clearly as dead as it is possible to be, a huge hole gaping at the back of his head, from which Holmes's prized Turkish rug was taking a rather astonishing soaking of blood and brain. Holmes leaned forward.

"He's about thirty, unshaven, and his clothes, taking into account recent events, are pretty tatty. He's been shot between the eyes, hence the exit wound to the back. If I could be allowed a few minutes' uninterrupted observation I could tell you a lot more. As long as your people haven't disturbed too much I could probably give you all the information you need to know."

"Mr Holmes, all we need to know is what on earth you've been doing this morning, where you've been and who with. I'd also like to know what my colleague in the Met is doing sending us to an address where we find a serious crime scene. And finally, I'd like to know if you'd accompany us to the station. The rest we can take care of. It is, after all, our job."

"Ms Merripit, perhaps you don't appreciate my position. DCI Lestrade will assure you that-" "DCI Lestrade is stuck in bloody London," bit back the visibly angered DS, "and has no idea what is going on here! You can be assured, sir, that I shall make a full report to him as soon as we settle down to questioning you. Oh, and Dr Watson too, of course."

"You're welcome, Ma'am," I said, "We'd be only to pleased to help the police in this matter. Please forgive us, we're a little shocked by this. My colleague-" I shot an admonishing look at Holmes, who now seemed curious and rather bemused to hear that I was apologising for his behaviour, when all around him hell was breaking loose "-is merely trying to shed some light on all of this."

"Yes," said Holmes, "for some of us, dear lady, it's not the first time we've seen a dead body."

This was uncalled for, even from Holmes. His social skills, I should know, had not always been impeccable, especially around the fairer sex, but this bordered on the misogynistic.

"But it may be the first time you have encountered one at your own address, Mr Holmes. Constable please show the gentlemen out."

We were taken out of the room we had so recently entered and led down the stairs into the street, where a couple of patrol cars had now arrived. Although they showed the greatest politeness, I noticed that we were now separated and would presumably remain so until the police had spoken to us. And yet, despite this, I was impressed with Cassandra Merripit. She had recovered her nerve following Holmes's patronising little lecture and taken control of the situation. I was equally impressed with her fellow officers who at that point had stopped smirking and begun to look at her with a little more respect. The dreadful sight that had greeted us was shocking indeed, and we, as journeymen of crime and detection, had seen our fair share of horrors; but I shuddered to think what had gone on in our home.

More pressing still, and something which I was now desperate to discuss with Holmes, was the fact that I had recognised the young man lying on the carpet.
Part 6

I sat on a plastic moulded chair in a bright but otherwise featureless corridor in the police station. Holmes had vanished, deep in one-upmanship with DS Merripit, who had asked me to stay put for a few minutes. They had disappeared off through the firedoors to my right over an hour ago and I had only been disturbed by half a dozen people since as they blundered through on their way somewhere else.

I was confused by the events that had shaken my world today. A bizarre musical message from Moriarty, a macabre and veiled threat in the centre of a very holy place, pursuit by a person or persons unknown and then a body, violating our accommodation. The body of a man I recognised. It was too much to take in. I could only be thankful that Holmes had removed us from the flat on the strength of his suspicion that something was gravely wrong, yet I had never imagined we would could come so close to the danger he detected.

I longed for a friendly face, but the only people I knew in Ely were Holmes and Mrs Hudson, our housekeeper. My God, Mrs Hudson! I panicked briefly. What of her welfare? I needn't have worried. Mrs Hudson, who had once upon a time lived with us in the rooms adjacent to our old Baker Street address, now resided along the West Fen road and popped along to our apartment on weekday mornings for cleaning and preparing our lunch. As long as I contacted her before the day was out, we could avoid any confusion regarding the police at the flat and, of course, the blood in the carpet. Holmes still had the Nokia, and so I made a mental note to call her this evening.

The firedoors swung again and I turned toward them in the hope that it was Holmes, but instead I encountered a young man. He was dressed in t-shirt and jeans, sporting a pair of bright sandy-coloured suede boots, and he wasn't looking where he was going. He came closer and closer, veering absent-mindedly towards me as he counted the pile of change in his palm. I had just made out the legend "Bradford City AFC, The Bantams, Pride of West Yorkshire" writ across his shirt when he stumbled into my chair.

"God, sorry mate, not looking where I'm going."

"No problem," I replied. "Er, are you sure you should be here, I think this might be a restricted part of the station? Don't want to see you getting into difficulties with the local law." I tried to be as helpful as possible, not out of any particular fraternal bonhomie, but mostly because I was in need of some conversation. The young chap reached round to his back pocket and pulled out a baseball cap, which he jammed somewhat indignantly onto his head.

"Actually, sir, I am the local law," he said, looking a little quizically at me. "But I'll admit I haven't been here very long. So I should be the one trying to be helpful."

I was a little taken aback to know that someone who wouldn't have looked out of place in Holmes's urchin street army, the Baker Street Irregulars, was now one of the Thin Blue Line. Still, he seemed amiable enough, even if the lunchtime pint was evident on his breath.

"My mistake," I said. "But you could let me know if there's a drinks machine nearby."

"Yep, just back where I came from," he said, pointing behind him through the doors. "But don't have the cappuccino, that much local colour I have picked up." And off he went, still counting his change and apologising to the wall when he brushed up against it.

I pushed through the doors and espied the machine. I was just waiting for the tea (whoever drinks coffee in the afternoon?) when Holmes appeared at my shoulder, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The machine burred and rumbled and spat out a spray of hot water against my trousers. No cup appeared.

"Seems we move from one mess to another today, Watson!" laughed Holmes.

"Holmes, you really are the absolute limit! I am as confused as I can possibly be. We have travelled the world and dealt with some of the most bizarre problems human imagination can invent, but today I profess I'm at the end of my tether. Why do you look so cheery? What have you and DS Merripit been talking about? Do they want to see me? Why is Irene Adler's brother lying murdered in our flat? And why can't I get a decent cup of tea at 3 in the afternoon?!"

I was, I truly believe, knocking on the door of suffering from shock. Although much of my frustration originated from Holmes and his not infrequent patronising remarks, he was the only oasis of calm rationalisation I had to draw upon. He was, thankfully, rather contrite for once.

"Watson, I'm sure that I will be able to answer all your questions in time. For now, we must away. I fear that Ely is no longer safe for us. I have second guessed you, I believe, imagining you sat here and thinking of all those people you needed to be concerned for, and have called Mrs Hudson. She is now on the 2.49 train to Kings Lynn, where her daughter will pick her up and take her to the cottage in Cley. I suggested 3 days, things will have resolved themselves by then."

I was astonished, as usual, by Holmes and his amazing foresight and frightening certainty. But he continued: "Now, as for questioning by the excellent Cassandra Merripit. Do not worry, she will not need to talk to you at this stage. I underestimated her, she has an excellent mind considering that she is of a lower rank than Lestrade! But enough of that. She is aware that we must act quickly. We need to leave Ely immediately, no packing, we must go as we stand."

We stood on Nutholt Lane. Holmes strode off in the direction of the alleyway that leads into the Waitrose car park.

"We can cut through the Cloisters shopping arcade, Watson, and then down to the station-"

"But Holmes, Terrence Adler. What of him? Did you tell the police we knew him?"

Holmes stopped and turned. He grabbed my shoulders and looked intently at me. "Terrence was a good man. It was a terrible sight and we both held our emotions in check. But there was no need. The Police had to be told, of course. They also know about my connection with Irene. Moriarty, it seems, is trying to draw us out, or at least destroy our sanity, and he has absolutely no qualms about using people from our past to do it! We must go. There is a Cambridge train in eleven minutes. Come on!"

Irene Adler. Or, should I say, Irene Norton, née Adler: to Holmes she would always be the woman. His agitation, when previously he had shown intense restraint at even the most startling events, indicated to me that his feelings for her had not changed. As he rushed to the station I ran behind him, and wondered if we were rushing headlong towards the great man's breaking point.

Part 7

We missed the train. By the time we had purchased our tickets and run helter skelter through the subway to the far platform the 15:30 for Cambridge was on it's way and we had more than half an hour to wait for the next one. The sun was beginning to head off towards Tescos and therefore behind the station building, a slight breeze was picking up from Stuntney Hill, blowing at us and making us button our coats, and I realised that this was becoming a very long day indeed. Holmes was clearly annoyed that we would be waiting around. He mumbled something which I took to be an instruction: look across the tracks at the main entrance and signal if anyone arrives. He muttered something else which I didn't hear and then trudged off up the platform, hands thrust into his pockets.

It gave me a little time to reflect on Terence Adler, but more so, I confess, on his sister, the intriguing Irene. To Holmes, she was always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipsed and predominated the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler, at least this is what he professed. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was Irene Adler. Irene had been involved in a minor scandal some years ago with the King of Bohemia. Her background included some history of acting and she had fooled Holmes at one point by turning his usual penchant for disguise against him. It had pleased him immensely that someone had finally got the better of him, albeit in a rather whimsical manner, though I suspect it had come as a relief to his ego that Irene and her husband had - following the scandal - left England for good.

Months later, Holmes and I had been drinking in that famous East End den of iniquity, the "Blind Beggar", while carrying out our ultimately frustrating investigations into a series of murders in the Tower Hamlets and Whitechapel areas. Terence had introduced himself to us one night in the saloon bar, carrying a note from Irene, which further explained to Holmes how grateful she was for not pursuing her (Moriarty style) across Europe. Holmes, I knew, had kept this letter for years, and probably still had it. During the next few weeks, as our investigations ran dry, we would keep ourselves well-oiled by increased visits to the "Beggar" and nightly chats with the likeable Terence.

The murders ended suddenly and we found no further need to visit the East End. But Terence would come along to Baker Street ("up West" as he called it) for the ocassional bevvy. He preferred the "Princess Louise" on Kingsway, which always struck me as an odd drinking establishment, but it was close to Covent garden and the theatres, so we entertained it for a while. After a time, Terence came along to 221b less and less and, as is so often the case, we lost touch. Until now.

I looked up and Holmes was walking from one extreme end of the platform to the other. No-one else had yet arrived to join us and the jerkily lowered gates along the line from us finally indicated that the traffic was being stopped for our train. Holmes moved in close to me.

"I think we have made it, Watson. Unless Moriarty has rushed someone up to Littleport to catch this, we'll be OK."

It was a good point, for this was the slow train which stopped at every pile of sticks by the line. The train pulled to a halt. No-one got off, for there was no-one on the carriage to exit it. As we sat down and the doors swished close behind us I could almost feel Holmes relax. For a minute or more he said nothing. The train got up to it's full speed. Holmes eventually spoke.

"We have been given a brief respite. Now, then, I want you to be on your mettle, Watson. The Professor has killed one person we know, I cannot imagine he will stop at that. I have sent Mycroft an e-mail via the Nokia to his anonymous account to warn him, and we must now set ourselves the task of flushing the fiend out into the open." Holmes gazed out of the window at the flat lands slashing past. He grimaced. "This is odd country to feel trapped in," said he enigmatically. "In London, we were oppressed by huge black buildings, yet I actually feel vulnerable for the first time in my life."

I was shocked to hear that the Professor was getting to him, but he countered this immediately. "Still, I dare say it is because we are out of practice. Watson, you may detect that we are slowing down a tad."

Indeed we were, but the countryside continued. I worried that the train might stop in the middle of nowhere, making us even more vulnerable than we felt. "Holmes..." I began.

We stopped, but I realised that it was a scheduled stop. The sign said Waterbeach, and a modest gathering of houses had appeared at our right. Holmes was rising from his seat. I looked at him, confused. He smiled back, less knowingly than of late, but at least he was still smiling.

"C'mon, my faithful old friend, we must depart. I have changed my mind, Cambridge is not the best idea," He was moving towards the door. "While you were starting to doze off back there on the station, I formulated another plan. Don't protest - whoops, mind the doors - I could see you were getting tired. Anyway, if Moriarty realises we are not in Ely he will immediately suspect that we'll have escaped to Cambridge. Ravin Smild, my old taylor you may remember from Saville Row, now works as a porter at one of the colleges. I dare say that the Professor has paid him a visit by now. I may need to check on the old fellow's welfare."

I had forgotten about Ravin, I hoped he was alright. We were walking off the platform and onto what I assumed was the main street through the village. An old church appeared up on our right. We continued off to the left and a large green, surrounded by beech trees, shops and pubs opened out in front of us. I asked Holmes where we were going. He looked at his watch.

"First, to the newsagents, yes. If they have an internet connection I really ought to check my mail. I might send a message to the Irregulars and see what information they have picked up any rumours about Moriarty and all his known accomplices. Then, we need to find a bed for the night."

"Holmes? We're staying here?"

"Why yes, Watson. After all, we're going to need all the energy we can get if we're to walk to Ely tomorrow!"
Part 8

Holmes asked the newsagent if the copies he had of the "Cambridge Evening News" were the most up to date.

"Not quite, sir. We won't get the latest version for another hour or more. That's the early afternoon edition." It was enough to give me shivers. 'Murder By The Cathedral' screamed the front page: 'Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, had his retirement shattered today when a man was found gunned down in his apartment in a quiet Ely side-street...'

Holmes looked over my shoulder at the story. "I expect the Professor is loving this," said he. "He will no doubt wish to be the headline in tomorrow's rag." He turned back to the shopkeeper. "Tell me, do you have an internet connection in the shop? I just need to check a few emails."

I carried on reading the paper, which had somehow filled five pages with the story, when the only fact they actually had was the body in our flat. Terence's identity, for now, was not reported, but then this must've gone to press very close to the time of the discovery. Holmes was still busily talking to the proprietor. I put the paper down and joined them.

"Watson, we're in luck. Our genial host here has just taken possession of a Time machine."

"Holmes? Can it be true? Can we really be about to head back to this morning and resolve all of these problems!? Can man do such amazing things?"

Holmes rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Derr! No, when I say a Time machine, I mean the PCs that Leonard Nimoy advertises on the television. Honestly. Anyway, it seems that if we can get it all cabled up and connected for him, we're welcome to use it for as long as is needed."

The man behind the counter beamed at me. "Aye, well, I don't understand such things, but you gents can catch up on your electric mail if you can save me the hassle of getting some whizz-kid boffin in who'll charge me mountains of cash. Feel free."

We were issued into the house at the back of the shop and shown a pile of cardboard boxes. Holmes was soon ripping into the packaging and clipping cables together. After a few minutes, much more speedily than I would've imagined it possible, an orchestral chime signalled that we were in business and the PC whirred into action. Outside, finally, it was dark and the weight of the day was beginning to feel oppressive. Holmes bent under the desk and swapped some phone connectors, tapped a string of numbers into the machine, restarted it and then began launching applications left right and centre.

"We're on," he said, "check it out. Look, I'm in the chat room."

"The chat room for what?" I asked. On the screen, a window opened up where messages appeared, assigned to names I half recognised, scrolling, flashing up, dozens of lines it was impossible to separate. Holmes explained.

"This is the Baker Street Irregulars group, known to the wider unsuspecting world as the BS Massive, or Di O'Jeanie's Club. It's the way the guys in London keep in touch these days." That was cheeky. The Diogenes Club was originally founded by men who, for one reason or another, had no desire to associate with others. Mycroft was one such founder. The original Diogenes Club was located near the Carlton Hotel, just opposite Pall Mall. Now, thanks to the internet it had been reduced to a sly joke by Holmes's bunch of misfit informers. He gazed intently at the screen.

"Two of the Irregulars have disappeared in the last few days. The rumour that it was Moriarty or his accomplices was laughed at to begin with, but now it has become accepted." He looked down at the keyboard, 'what news of TPA?' he tapped in. Terence Peter Adler. Holmes's message appeared on the screen next to his alias, 'Basil'. We waited a moment and then half a dozen lines at once flooded the screen.

"Terence had been asking questions about us in every pub that would serve him. Looks like he made himself quite the nuisance. I fear, Watson, that he performed a useful function for Moriarty. It would surprise me not at all if the Professor, on his return to London, sought out Terence. Then he simply observed as our young friend tried to warn us and followed him. By trying to help us, we've been compromised."

This was a worrying scenario. It looked like Moriarty had infiltrated our group of contacts in London. Holmes switched the PC off and rubbed his face with his hands. He looked tired. "Right. Well, we're scuppered. We must deduce that Moriarty knows all our contacts in London. And so, we cannot rely on anyone to help us. The only thing in our favour right now is that the Professor can't know our whereabouts."

We left the shop and tried the pub next door, "The White Horse", to see if they could put us up for the night. Two very small single rooms was the best we could get, but for us that was all we needed. I threw our coats and jackets on the bed and wondered how much longer I would be able to stay awake. Just as my head began to drop onto my chest, the mobile phone rang. Startled, I scrambled around inside the pocket of Holmes's coat, found the handset and jabbed at the talk button.

"Hello," I said.

A voice, hard and clear, pierced the moment. "This is Professor Moriarty," it said.
Part 9

I carried the phone out in front of me with a sense of fear and amazement. I walked across the landing and into Holmes's room, where he was sat on the bed reading the slim volume of poetry he'd been carrying around with him for days. He looked up and could tell, without me saying anything, that something was gravely wrong. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood next to me. I handed him the phone.

"It's for you," I said.

Holmes took the Nokia and listened. His face fell momentarily and then he settled into a series of monosyllabic responses. He walked up and down the tiny room, creaking the uneven floorboards as he went. It seemed like ages, but presently, he said, "Thank you, Professor. Good-bye." And switched the phone off.

He looked at me: "A beer, I think. Yes, first and foremost a beer. I confess I am, in modern parlance, gagging for a pint."

We descended to the bar and sat in a quiet corner, while I was regaled of my friend's recent conversation with the Napoleon of Crime.

"When we were on the phone, you will recall that Moriarty did just about all the talking? Well, that was his attempt at preventing me from asking him searching questions. It was clear to me that he was most perturbed by our disappearance from Ely and our subsequent non-appearance in Cambridge, and he wanted to mask that. He assures me that our associate, Ravin Smild, is unharmed and to some extent I believe him. He has paid him a visit, though, which is how he got the mobile number, but at the moment I fear it will do us no good to imagine how he acquired that information. He has promised to make our lives a misery if we do not appear back in Ely by midday tomorrow. First on his agenda is a little visit by his paid lackeys to Sir Henry."

Moriarty was upping the ante. Sir Henry Baskerville, a young man when we first knew him, had retired - once old age had taken hold - to the family seat in the wilds of Devon and Cornwall. We had stayed in touch for many years and I counted him as one of my closest friends. The Professor certainly knew how to hurt us.

"Holmes, what are we to do? We must catch the train back to Ely immediately."

"Nothing of the sort, Watson. Sit back in your chair. Don't you see? Moriarty doesn't know where we are. We must use that positively. We will, as I decided, walk to Ely tomorrow. We will leave at six. Using the footpaths and bridlepaths, at approximately three miles an hour, we should be there in plenty of time. When we get to Ely we must discover him before he realizes we are back in the city."

"But that is impossible! We have no evidence as to his whereabouts. How can we surprise him if we don't know where he is?"

"On the contrary, Watson, there are plenty of clues. You will recall our actions this morning. We left the house, walked along Silver Street, went to the cathedral. Later we were back in Silver Street, only to be whisked away by the police. Since, we have escaped to Waterbeach unseen. Is it not obvious?"

I looked at him, confused. I sighed, resigned and weary. "No, to be frank, my old china, it's not obvious."

"Oh, I do wish you wouldn't slip into that faux cockney patois, Watson. We're not in the Smoke any more, you know? Well, understanding Moriarty as I do, I began to think that what he would really wish to do during this grandest of schemes is to witness the key scenes in my destruction. He must've seen us go to the cathedral, which is when he had the opportunity to somehow lure Terence inside the flat and shoot him. He would have seen us return and be taken away by DS Merripit, something he must've absolutely relished. He wanted to observe us come back, confused and upset. Instead, what he didn't see was us slide off to the station, and that's exactly how we have escaped thus far. So it is simple, no? Now drink up, we have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, not the least of which will be apprehending a rather annoyed master criminal."

"But where, Holmes? Where is Moriarty? I don't understand."

Holmes stood up, drained his pint and wiped the back of his hand across his lips.

"Moriarty doesn't trust his spies to watch the most satisfying parts of his game. This is his masterpiece, and he wants to see us squirm for himself. He wants to see first-hand how we struggle and falter: it's the best part for him. Watson, for the past two days he's been living in the empty house across the street from us."
Part 10

I slept fitfully. Despite my tiredness, and the relief that we had finally stopped running around in wild circles, I found that sleep evaded me. Moriarty's activities had sent me into an alert state of anxiety which I fought only to struggle to drift off. When I did sleep I found myself dreaming of him. As the clock clicked over to 5am I decided that enough was enough. Whilst washing my face I could hear Holmes stirring in the room across the hall. We met on the stairs a few minutes later.

"Excellent, Watson! We start our journey in good time. Now then, you paid last night I hope? We don't want to be chased through the fields of Cambridgeshire by an irate pub landlord, along with everything else, do we?"

"No, Holmes, I paid. Now, what's our first move?"

We went downstairs and out through the bar. The world was just beginning to lighten, and the hardiest of birds were twittering away crazily. As yesterday, it was bloody freezing. We set off down a side road, which took us behind a dozen scrappy allotments, heading towards a lych gate. The gate took us up a gentle embankment and out onto the railway line. Holmes stopped for a moment, looking up and down the track.

"This will get us started. If we travel north along here we will eventually hit the A1123, the Wicken/Haddenham road. I propose that we jump off just prior to that, else our presence on the tracks may be reported at the crossing, and take a small footpath I know into Stretham. Then we'll cross over to the Witchford side of the A10 and take the back fen roads into Ely. After that, we see how the land lies."

We trudged on, the morning coming to life around us. To our left the traffic on the Cambridge road, though a mile away, became louder and louder as it filled up with the daily crawl into work. The thin frost which had covered the ground disappeared in a twinkling and we realised that we were suddenly in the middle of a very beautiful day indeed. Holmes and I were quiet as we walked along, save on those odd ocassions when he remembered a nugget of local history he felt he could share. The land about us was flat and almost without exception agricultural, yet as we approached the Wicken road a small incline appeared, with trees scattered across it and, off to the West, a church spire. Behind that, the tower of a sail-less windmill.

"Stretham?" I asked.

Holmes nodded. It meant we were close to jumping off the railway line. Up ahead Holmes pointed out, and moved toward, a Railtrack-signed access path which provided us with the opportunity to head across the fields. After a few hundred yards along this muddy path, a large hawthorn hedge came into view, laying north/south, parallel to the rail route. We followed this, all the while noting the position of the A10 and A1123 by catching glimpses of the cars hurrying past, and from, the point where the roads met. Eventually, we were in the middle of a scattering of houses and back gardens. We lept over a fence, past a rather startled horse, and onto one of Stretham's untarmacc'd back roads.

Holmes spoke in a low, conspiratorial voice: "We must be careful, old friend. Although he doesn't know which direction we might approach Ely, I would bet that Moriarty will have someone posted at the roundabout, here, and the bus stop, just ahead. Yet we must cross the road, so we shall have to keep our eyes peeled."

Stretham, as I have mentioned, straddles a small hill. On the Cambridge side a busy roundabout is the only part of the village most people are aware of, cars slowing down before they speed past to Ely and the coastal towns beyond. Atop the hill, just behind the black and white windmill, is the bus stop. We needed to get to the other side of this, the Ely side of the hill, before breaking cover and crossing the busy road. Holmes decided the direct approach was best and we hopped across fences and gardens, past the churchyard and private houses. The windmill rearing up on our left, drawing level, then falling behind us. Suddenly, we were there, through to the other side of the village, stumbling through a hedge and out onto an enormous ploughed field. Four miles ahead, the magnificent medieval cathedral seemed to shimmer in the sunlight. Even Holmes, a man for whom appreciation of the aesthetic was anathema, stood for a second in wonder. Presently, he tugged my sleeve, and led me along the side of the field, bearing directly for the A10.

"Come, Watson! We are below the brow of the hill and, I'll wager, out of sight of anyone in the village. There is a gap. Quickly! Cross!"

We ran across the road and ducked into a large farmyard, where coaches, tractors and combines sat parked up infront of a huge corrugated-iron garage. Beyond this, more fields, which we immediately headed out onto. The frost had hardened the ground, but as the morning became warmer, our footware was beginning to suffer. I was just about to make a pointless complaint about the clods of sticky earth ruining the line of my coat and trousers when we climbed a small fence and landed onto a farm track. Holmes headed left, away from the beacon of the cathedral. Soon, a t-junction appeared, and we found ourselves in a maze of country lanes. Our meandering route took us past farmhouses, the old Stretham railway station (now disused), the landfill site and then into Witchford village, the cathedral tower moving steadily round to our right as we did. We crossed the road and took a footpath - still vigilant - towards the Sutton road, then over that and following the field borders west, finally cut straight at our target. It was now 11 o'clock. Our target of noon was making quicker progress, it seemed, than we.

Eventually, we crossed the A10 once more, and emerged in the mass of houses on the West End side of the city. We moved through the network of side streets carefully, to the centre of town. Then, and it had to be done, we ran across the green infront of the Tourist Office - where I had been just 24 hours previously. Next door, the graveyard, and we jumped the wall and ran behind St Mary's church. In the tangle of bushes and weeds and briars we found another fence which we scrambled across, then another. We came to rest behind an old garden shed, breathing heavily. After a few moments Holmes spoke:

"Watson, this is it. By my reckoning, we are now in the back garden of the house opposite our own. The Professor is, I believe, in there and we must draw the fiend into the open. Moriarty will be on the look out, expecting us to return to our apartment before the deadline and thereby save Sir Henry's life. We must confuse him. Take your revolver, this is what we must do: jump this fence here and walk as calmly as possible up to our door. I anticipate that the Professor will be out poste haste to intercept you. Fear not, for I shall be behind him! Go Watson!"

I knew that Holmes would not let me down. I nodded in agreement, feeling the snub-nose revolver that rested in my jacket pocket, and scaled the fence by our side. I dropped into the lane that runs up from the cathedral green to Silver Street. Trying to appear as nonchalent as possible I walked up to the door of our flat and placed the key in the lock. I was, in truth, shaking like a leaf, for I expected an assault at any moment. But nothing came. I twisted the key and opened the door.

What now? Holmes's imagined attack had not come. With no clear idea what to do next, I walked uncertainly up the stairs and entered our apartment. Standing in our living room was DS Cassandra Merripit, along with two uniformed constables, one of whom stepped forward and placed his hand on my shoulder.

I cannot imagine the shock that must have registered on my face as DS Merripit spoke.

"Dr John Watson," she said, "I am arresting you for the murder of Terence Peter Adler."
Part 11

It seemed that we were visiting everywhere twice. The cathedral, twice. Our flat, twice. The green outside Cromwell's House, twice. The police station, twice. This time, however, I sat alone in the interview room that Sherlock Holmes had occupied yesterday afternoon. A young WPC stood at the door. On the table a cassette recorder, and across from me two empty chairs. I had tried to speak to the WPC but she was clearly acting upon the brief of non-fraternisation. Understandable, I suppose, when confronted with a suspected murderer!

I put my head in my hands. A suspected murderer. Since our flight from Ely yesterday something had gone severely awry. How could the police get their facts this confused? I tried to make sense of it, but all I could come up with was that Moriarty had somehow influenced their investigation. They were in full possession, as Holmes said, of the fact that we knew Terrence and had possibly drawn some erroneous conclusion from that. Despite worrying about Holmes's whereabouts, I began to comfort myself with the fact that I at least had the opportunity to put the matter right. But time was dragging. DS Merripit had left me here almost half an hour ago. My tea, undrinkable, had gone stone cold. I wondered how much longer I might have to wait when suddenly the door opened and in she walked, followed by a man I did not recognise.

They sat down. Cassandra leant across to the cassette recorder and pressed a button, a high pitched whine filled the room for a moment. When it stopped, she spoke:

"1.15pm on Wednesday 24th. This is DS Cassandra Merripit and DS Hilton Cubitt interviewing the suspect Dr John Watson. Dr Watson has, for now, declined a solicitor and agreed to proceed with the interview. Is that right, John?"

I was a little taken aback by the use of my christian name. "Er, yes. absolutely, no problem," I stammered.

"OK, bit of background first, I think. Let's see, degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of London, then became an Army surgeon. Active service in the Far East with the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as assistant surgeon. Reassigned to the Berkshires, with whom you suffered an injury whilst serving in Maiwand. The record says you were struck in the shoulder by a bullet which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery?"

"That's right. It's why I walk with a stick when the weather's a little cold. Look, is all this absolutely necessary?"

"It's just for the tape, John. Right, then you were honourably discharged and moved to London where you made the acquaintance of Mr Sherlock Holmes?"

"Correct. We were both in the search for a flat to share and pooled our resources. A friend of mine, a Mr Stamford, made the introductions."

"Which is when you moved to 221b Baker Street, London? And when did you marry?"

"Shortly after, but that's really none of your business. My wife Mary has been dead for a very long time."

"Well, yes. Now, in the time at Baker Street you helped the Metroploitan Police apprehend many villains. That's how DCI Lestrade became an acquaintance. After retirement you and Holmes moved to Ely to live in Silver Street, is all of that correct?"

"It is, DS Merripit. Though I fear you do us a disservice. We were rather successful as detectives and Inspector Lestrade had good cause to be thankful to us on more than one occasion. Now can we get to the point please?"

She looked up from her notes, and then across to her colleague. She took a sip of water and leaned imperceptibly closer. "Yes, OK. The point. The point is that yesterday we were called to your flat by your friend Lestrade. This was, so I'm told, to provide a diversion for you so that you could return without hindrance from observation by a-" she consulted her notepad "-Professor Moriarty. Leaving aside for the moment the issue of misappropriation of Police time, something which DCI Lestrade is about to be investigated for, I entered the flat to find the body of Mr Terence Peter Adler. He had been very recently shot, falling where he'd stood. There was no sign of a struggle. You then turn up. On further investigation, I find that this same Professor Moriarty was reported by the German Poilce authorities, several years ago, as killed, following a brawl, at a popular holiday spot called the Reichenbach Falls. Please stop me if any of this is boring you."

I nodded for her to continue. It wasn't boring me in the slightest.

"Well, it strikes me as odd, John, that you want us to believe that a man who, many years ago, fell 200 feet from a waterfall in the Bavarian Alps, is now responsible for the death a man you once knew, shot in your flat by your Army service revolver, during a point in the day when Mr Holmes tells us you were out of his sight having allegedly visited the Tourist Information Office at St Mary's! I'm afraid I just don't buy it. What's more, when we asked to interview you yesterday, you disappear."

My old service revolver; they had taken it off me at the moment of arrest. But, wait, something was wrong. Hang on...let's go back a few seconds.


"Yes, John. Yesterday afternoon we spoke to Mr Holmes and were ready then to see you. But oh no, you went, both of you, vanished out of Ely. We nearly got the dogs and helicopters out then, I can tell you. If I'd investigated the Moriarty angle sooner and realised that he'd been dead for an age I would've closed the ports and stations, believe me. Personally, I think you're being pretty clever about this. Sherlock Holmes' reputation is a pretty good cover for a man harbouring such deep-seated frustrations as you. I expect you thought we'd be too slow to catch on to your little game?"

"But I spoke to Moriarty. He's alive. He's spinning you around for fun, it's what ... he ... does." Something clicked together in my head and I stopped short.

"As the bank managers say, John, it's time to stop digging and start climbing. Don't make this any more diffi-"

"Oh shut up for a second. What are you saying? That after decades of following in Holmes' footsteps I wanted to have the last laugh? Are you crazy? I worship the man. I admire and love him. I would never do anything to harm him."

DS Merripit and her silent campanion stared contemptuously at me. The pennies were still dropping in the back of my mind, but I knew that what I was saying was the truth, so I went along with it, for it was all falling into place as I said it.

"You've got the wrong man, my dear. I have no frustrations to work out, no demons to exorcise, I've had adventures and experiences that would fill many imaginations ten-fold. But listen to me: I think we need to consider something else. Holmes told me that once you have eliminated the impossible then whatever is left - however improbable - must be the truth. Well, there's just one impossible thing I need to eliminate. Once I can do that, and I'll need you to help and trust me for five minutes, then I can tell you who killed Terence and just how Moriarty will present himself to you."
Part 12

I left the police station and walked up the Lynn Road, past the derelict and soon-to-be demolished sofa centre. Despite everything that was rattling through my tired brain, it seemed bizarre to me that no-one had displayed even a modicum of imagination with the place. For - when anyone involved in property had looked at it - they only saw the space where houses could be. I saw a rather swanky lounge bar and flash upstairs restuarant. I shook my head, wondering if this inability to remain focussed on weightier matters might yet prove costly, and continued up toward the "Tinker".

The change from yesterday, when we had sat in the beer garden, discussing our latest adventure over a pint, was marked. A mesh fence had been erected around the pub, barring entry. Boards had been placed across the windows and an atmosphere of dismissive quiet had moved in. But this was not the moment to stand and stare. No-one around, so I scrambled, with not a little discomfort, up the fence and landed in the garden. It seemed ironic that a day's passing could result in such a massive change. Very ironic.

The door into the back bar had been forced, as I expected, and the chipboard that was supposed to resist attention from the curious had already been disturbed. I put my hand in behind it and pulled, stepping neatly into the dark. The door snapped shut behind me and for a moment the gloom seemed impenetrable. I stood for a second, listening to the sound of my own breathing.

Gradually, my eyes became accustomed to the poor light and I could distinguish the bar, a few tables and stools. Up ahead, something shifted.
"Watson, since we are in a pub, I suppose you'll want a drink. I only have whiskey, though. The barrels were disabled first thing this morning."
I walked up to the bar and sat next to Sherlock Holmes. "Whiskey's fine," I said.
He poured a couple of fingers into a glass and handed it to me. I could just see a glint of light in the swirl of alcohol before the smell of it hit me.

"Jura? Not your style, Holmes" I asked, taking a nip.

"No, but beggars, eh? There's not a lot else on offer," said he.

"How about the truth, how will that do? How about offering that up? No, don't bother, let me:" - I held a hand up, for I knew he would be delighted to explain - "I want to see if I get this right. Where shall I start? Oh, how about the small matter of bringing Professor Moriarty back from the dead? Or killing Terence in our flat while I was wandering aimlessly around the Tourist Information Centre? This last day and a half, you've really been enjoying yourself haven't you?"

"Really, Watson! You excel yourself twice! First, you guess the correct malt, which I'm still reeling from by the way, then you rumble my little game. How did you manage that?"

I was shaking with rage, but I knew we had to perform this silly little pantomime before we could progress. I continued: "By using your methods. Moriarty's phone call turned my suspicions about him into hard fact, which was your intention all along. As long as I accepted his call as a genuine event, I'd never deduce the actual culprit because it could not be eliminated. Moriarty was alive and we were in danger. But I've just had a demonstration which allows me to eliminate that phone call. A demonstration where I created a sound file on a PC and then programmed the PC to make a phone call at a given time and reproduce the contents of the file. You gave me all the clues when you so expertly set up the newsagent's computer. You knew that if I heard the Professor's voice I would be so shocked as to consult you immediately and not enter into a conversation with him. So, with your talent for mimicry, you created a file and used it to phone the Nokia. All that anxiety at the train station was genuine because you wanted to get to Waterbeach before it went off. I wouldn't be surprised if you altered the time of activation while I was sat next to you, confused and ignorant about what you were doing on the screen.

"Once I made that leap, everything else dropped into place. The diversion to the Tourist Information Place, while you ran back to flat, met Terence, invited him in, killed him and then ran back to the Cathedral. You'd forgotten the statue's head of Moriarty, which is why you muttered to yourself that something was strange when we first looked up at the Cathedral, strange because it amused you that the first part of your grand plan had been overlooked! So, you kill Terence, run back to the Lady Chapel, place the head on the statue and run back to the pub to pick me up. We then come back here while the police discover the body. You then use your reputation to squirm out of the questioning and by rushing me off when I was actually due to be interviewed, lay the suspicion firmly on me. When we miss the first train you use the newsagent's PC as the perfect cover for re-configuring the sound file. Walking to Ely in such a circuitous manner helps us hide, sure, but from the police, not from Moriarty who remains as dead as when you pushed him off the bloody waterfall. It also helped keep me very confused.

"Of course, such things need planning, so I'm guessing that you've planted the seeds of this game for months, getting Terence involved, disposing of a couple of Irregulars, that sort of thing. I bet you even dressed up as the Professor and made an appearance or two in the shadier East End pubs to get the rumours going. I expect you even read the Planning Application notices in the paper so that you knew when this place would be closing down. John Amner in the Lady Chapel my arse: you wanted me to end up opposite John Amner Close. This sort of dénouement appeals to your sense of the dramatic. There's just one thing I don't get."

Holmes had been sitting quietly content, a broad smile across his face while all this went on. He took a healthy shot of the whiskey and looked across at me.

"You've worked it out so beautifully, Watson, how could there be anything at all amiss?"

"Well," I said, "I'd like to know why you've done all this."

He sighed. He sighed more heavily than I have ever heard anyone sigh. "Watson, look at this place, isn't it obvious? We move from the hustle and bustle of the most exciting city in the world and wind up here."

"I like it here," I protested.

"I can tell that, but after 6 months I was bored. Don't look like that! You think I am a monster for killing three people because I was bored? I have saved dozens, hundreds, more and would've lost my powers had I not invented this little scheme. Terence was a sad, lonely man and no-one will miss the two wretches in the service of the Irregulars. But my mind is back to its sharpest and now I have proof that yours is on an equal standing by solving my riddle!"

"You're mad."

"Not at all, Watson. Look around you, look at the pub here. It's only slightly less boring now than when it was open yesterday. Imagine how stagnant we would've become had we allowed this to continue. Ely is hardly the crime centre of the world, it needed a visit from the Professor, albeit by proxy. Just to liven it up for a day."

"You have, for once grasped the wrong end of the stick, Holmes. This place is a welcome alternative to the life you mention. The things, like the Tinker, that fail here, fail because the alternatives that are created for them are too unrealistic and then we forget where we started from! There is much to be found, much to discover, but you have to cut your cloth accordingly. You're way off the mark."

"But I'm not alone. We can really pep things up around here."

"Not with me, pal. No way. I'm happy with things as they are. As they were."

"Shame, then in that case I'll have to convince DS Merripit that her initial suspicion was correct." Holmes reached into his pocket and pulled out his revolver. "Goodbye, John," he said, "it's been emotional."

The Epilogue

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. Irene, who had come across from the US to help bury her brother, took no persuading to stay the extra few weeks. After the inquest passed we struggled to come to terms with our new lives, but we had at least the energy left to struggle. The aneurysm that had struck Holmes at the moment he prepared to pull the trigger had been swift and brutal; the irony not being lost on me that there was little hope of Holmes actually being able to enjoy his zest for excitement had he succeeded in shooting me. In fact, the police physician was quick to point out that our six months in the Cambridgeshire countryside may even have extended his life a little.

It was our duty to develop the irony further and create a resting place for this steadfastly atheist man who had no love for the Cathedral city.

And so, in the spring rain we stood, in a corner of St Mary's graveyard. Sir Henry Baskerville had arranged a massive favour from the Bishop of Ely to allow the space for a new plot by the church wall. I looked down at the headstone, holding Irene's hand, reading the epitaph she had taken and altered from Gray's 'Elegy', considering it now fitting for Holmes:

Here rests his Head upon the Lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame well known:
Fair Science smiled upon his humble Birth,
Yet Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

"You live close enough to maybe hear him turning down there," she said, a smile faintly registering. I squeezed her hand.

"Come on," I said, "they open in five minutes, and I could murder a pint."

Previous Great Stories by Alistair Kitching
She's an Archaeologist & THE ELY NiGHT-CLUB