"It's delicious!" she said after her first taste. "Is it French?"
"Yes," replied Holmes. "Château Vernet, '97."
"I can't say I've ever heard of Vernet, sir," said our guest, "but they make a very fine cognac."
"It's a family business," said my friend, "on my mother's side. Uncle Pierre would be pleased to know of your reaction. But surely your time is of some value. Please tell us more about Gareth Williams."
"The person everyone talks about?" Sian Lloyd-Jones asked rhetorically. "I don't recognise him at all. He was the complete opposite of everything that has been said about him. It's been awful for everyone but particularly his family.
"They're completely broken by this because it's not the true Gareth at all. He was a lovely guy, a true, old-school gentleman. He had an excellent sense of humour and, from the bottom of my heart, he was the most charming, sensitive, gorgeous man. Truly, he was one in a million. He was somebody who really had a sound judgment for life.
"He was very effortless as a person. Nothing was a bother to him; whether you asked him to call you a cab or do a big deed, he was always the same. He wasn't a loner and he wasn't lonely. He had close chums in Cheltenham whom he was very friendly with and whom he spoke highly of, but because of the line of work they do they naturally keep in the background. He loved what he did and he thrived on it. He was a workaholic. That kept him very happy and content.
"When Gareth was not at work, I was the person he spent more time with than anyone else. I have thought about this every day since he died. I find it difficult to see anything in his personal life which could lie behind this. But I know this is a murder investigation so we must remain open to every possibility."
"We are trying to do so," replied my friend, "although I wouldn't blame you for thinking the police were not."
"The police have been very disappointing, sir," she said. "They made a big issue out of the women's clothes that were found in his flat. But there's no mystery about them. He bought them for me and his sister.
"He gave me the trousers I am wearing today. Stella McCartney, seven hundred quid minimum, and it was nothing out of the ordinary for him. He gave me so many things, the list is endless. He bought me a high-end Balenciaga top, a Gucci bag, a Mulberry bag, an Armani fur. He did the same for his sister. I truly believe that Ceri and I were going to receive the clothing. We received so many things from him, that wouldn't have been strange.
"I've seen every item of clothing that was there in the flat. There was Diana von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, all in a size 6 or 8 which he wouldn't even fit an arm or a leg into. He was small but not that small. And the shoes they found in his apartment were not in his size, but his sister's. He was so generous you wouldn't believe."
"Excuse me for asking this," said Holmes, "but did his interest in women's fashion extend to cross-dressing or homosexuality?"
"Not as far as I know, sir," replied Ms. Lloyd-Jones. "He liked fashion. He saw it as art.
"He had lots of magazines at his flat, Italian Vogue and all sorts, but he was open with his family, and if he was gay and had any temptations he would have spoken about them, especially to his sister. Hand on heart, there were no 'innuendoes' about him.
"His father was his best friend and he adored his mother and his sister. He was really open with his friends and family about his personal life and I truly believe if he had any interest in homosexuality, he would have spoken to his sister and to me as well.
"I'm not in denial and nor are Gareth's mum, dad or sister. It would have been fine with us if he was gay, but he had too much interest in women. He wanted a girlfriend and he wanted a wife and family. The truth is he wished he was better with women. He had a mild stutter, which was a big barrier as it would get worse when he was nervous.
"I don't know if he ever had a girlfriend. There weren't any I was aware of but to be honest, we never mentioned it. I know it was my next big project to get him a girlfriend. He felt he lacked confidence with women. He cherished the time he had with his sister and with me and he wanted that with other girls. I know because Gareth had a bit of a soft spot for me."
"When did you last see him alive?" asked the detective.
"It was in April, sir," Lloyd-Jones answered.
"April? That was a long time ago," said Holmes. "You were both in London, and yet --"
"Ah, but we weren't," she interrupted. "I moved back to Wales for a while and Gareth came to see me there in April. We went down to Trearddur Bay and watched the sunset. We'd spent the whole afternoon together. I was at home with my parents and he stopped by. He was excited about the trip he was planning -- a driving holiday to the West Coast of America during July and August. He seemed very together. There was nothing troubling him. It was just a lovely, completely normal afternoon. I had no way of knowing I would never see him again, sir."
"I understand, Ms. Lloyd-Jones," said Holmes, "and I am very sorry for your loss. Can you tell us when you last spoke with Gareth?"
"We stayed in touch by phone," she said, "once a week usually, and the last time he called me was Saturday, August 14. I wasn't in but he left a message. He said he was leaving London and moving back to Cheltenham, and wondering when we would meet up next. He was happy and warm and the same as he always was. I didn't get the message until the Wednesday as I was in Spain for work and couldn't pick up messages abroad.
"He was fine, which is why I'm sure he didn't try to take his own life. And anyway, he'd never do that. He loved his family too much to commit suicide.
"On August 23, the day he was found, Ceri called me at 11 A.M. and asked if I'd heard from him. I said, 'Yes, a week ago.' He and Ceri were due to go to Paris on the Wednesday of that week. She'd tried to get in touch over the weekend and there was no answer on the home phone or the mobile.
"It was odd she hadn't heard from him, particularly as they were going away. She said, 'What do you think?' I told her I was sure it was nothing to worry about. But the minute I put the phone down, I knew something was wrong. He was like clockwork, so predictable. It was completely out of character for him.
"I spoke to Ceri again later and we both admitted we were worried. We thought he must have had an accident or something. She called his work and they said he hadn't shown up for a meeting on Wednesday."
"Make sure to note that, Watson," said my friend. "It may be crucial." Then to Ms. Lloyd-Jones, he said, "We are very interested in the time Gareth spent in London. What else can you remember? Any detail may be significant, so please tell us everything you can recall."
"He came to see me one evening in January," she replied. "He often came round with his work, but that night he came over with a box file and started going through it. He had two passports."
"Why two passports?" asked Holmes.
"He said he was learning his new identity," Lloyd-Jones replied. "It was all so relaxed. I was taping up shoes and co-ordinating outfits and he was going through his papers. He probably fell asleep on the sofa that night and stayed overnight with all the documents."
"Do you know anything else about the new identity he was learning?" asked the detective.
"No, sir," she answered. "He didn't tell me anything substantial about it. But he did say in February that he'd be unavailable for nine days because he was on a training exercise. He'd often go away, so I didn't think any more about it."
"Do you know of, or even suspect, any connection between Gareth's job and his most unfortunate death?" asked Holmes.
"Frankly, sir," Lloyd-Jones replied, "I find it very difficult to see anything in his personal life which could lie behind his death. His family respect, 100 per cent, that he worked for MI6. The family and I both respect the role he was in. But personally, I don't think we'll ever get an answer as to what happened.
"The most hurtful thing about all the innuendos that have been smeared around is the way they imply not only that Gareth was into kinky sex but also that he was somehow responsible for his own death. That is just so far from the truth! It's painful to all of us, sir, but especially to his family."
"I understand completely," said the detective. "To have lost such a remarkable young man must be bad enough, but to endure the character-assassination that has gone on in the press is more than any family should have to bear."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, sir," replied our guest. "I'm not sure we ever will know how and why he died, but the family need some answers. It's not fair for them to suffer like this."
"We will find the answers the family need if we possibly can, I assure you," said Holmes, rising from his seat. "I cannot promise that they will be happy with what we find, but we will do our best to discover the truth, whatever it be."
"Thank you so much, Mr. Holmes," said Sian Lloyd-Jones, leaving her seat and starting toward the door. "If anyone can break this case open, sir, surely it must be you."
"Thank you for saying so," replied my friend. "And thank you for coming to see us this evening. It has indeed been a pleasure."