"Mycroft is in a very delicate position," said Sherlock Holmes, "so I had to be careful."
"I assumed as much," I said, "and that's why I asked."
"I reminded him of the times he and his cohorts at the Foreign Office had fouled things up and needed me to save their skins. Not all the times, mind you -- we only had most of the day. And I couldn't spend the whole time talking. In fact, I spent most of the time listening to him.
"Mycroft is not as happy at work as he once was, and not as indispensable, either. Once upon a time, the fact that he had no job title and no job description worked in his favour -- he could make himself useful in many ways, and in many places, and there was no bureaucratic restriction against any of them. He knew everybody and everything, and everyone came to him when they needed a bit of extra thinking done.
"Now, his cohorts are all gone, everything is compartmentalised, and he works as a consultant. He doesn't know half the people, let alone half the news, and aside from a few routine meetings, at which little of practical import is discussed openly, they only call him in when things get messy.
"Sometimes the separation works to his advantage, but this is more apparent to me than it is to him. Such is the value of distance, Watson.
"If Mycroft knew what we know about this case, he would be livid. That would work to our disadvantage. And yet I needed to tell him a few things he could repeat with confidence when and if necessary.
"So after I got him started, and listened to him for a while, I gave him a few tidbits -- bait, I suppose you could say -- and asked him to do me a favour on Tuesday evening. By that point in the conversation, he couldn't refuse."
"No, I don't suppose he could," I said.
"We can expect his assistance," said Holmes, "and that makes everything else we need to do possible. Mycroft will need to hear the whole story at some point, but not before his part is played."
"What else do we need to do?" I asked.
"I regret to say I cannot tell you," said Holmes. "Don't take it personally. Just be patient for a few days and see what happens."
"After all these years," I said, "I would think you could trust me."
"I do, Watson," he replied, "but I need to protect you as well."
"I have my revolver," I answered. "I don't need any protection."
"I meant it in another sense," said Holmes. "I mustn't put you in a difficult position if it's not necessary. And I know you well enough by now, Watson. You do crosswords. You play snooker."
"What of it?" I asked. "You smoke six pipes in a row with the windows closed. You take cocaine when your boredom becomes a burden. You shoot bullets at the wall, Holmes! Goodness, man! You have no right to criticise anyone for his hobbies."
"I didn't mean it that way, Watson," he replied. "I was about to say you don't play poker. You don't play chess. You don't play bridge. You don't play any games that require you to keep your thoughts off your face. And if I may be so blunt, you aren't very good at it. Neither is my brother. He doesn't play any of those games, either. It's not criticism. It's just a fact.
"Both of you will do anything I ask you to do, if you possibly can. I respect that. I try to avoid taking advantage of it. And I try to protect you by not putting you in difficult positions unnecessarily. It's the least I can do for you and Mycroft, Watson. You're like brothers to me."
"Except he is your brother," I objected.
"You know what I mean," said Holmes. And I did.
Thus was my ego was soothed, and peace was restored at 221B Baker Street.
But Sherlock Holmes would not say another word about his brother Mycroft, or about Gareth Williams, or about his plans for Tuesday.