Chapter 84: A Tense Interview

"We can begin with the details of the scene."
"I am all ears," said the Minister. Holmes sat in an armchair and peered intently at our guest.

"We can begin," said my friend, "with the details of the scene. Even though no precise cause of death has been established, our investigation has left no doubt in our minds that Gareth Williams was murdered."

"Murdered!" exclaimed the Minister. "Oh, no! He was the victim of a very strange accident: a kinky sex game gone wrong, was it not?"

"That does not appear to be the case," replied Holmes. "The condition of the flat and that of the body suggest another explanation entirely."

"I had no idea," said the Minister.

"No, I suppose you didn't," said the detective. "There has been a good deal of confusion about the case.

"A jealous lover?" suggested the Minister.

"No, we don't think so," replied Holmes. "Crimes of passion are normally haphazard; the perpetrator panics and leaves an abundance of evidence. In this case, the absence of forensic evidence, among other things, suggests premeditation."

"Oh my goodness!" said the Minister. "Who could have done such a thing?"

"We asked ourselves the same question," said the detective. "Considering the circumstances, we have come to the conclusion that the killers -- plural, as it would have taken more than one person to do this -- must have been very well trained and coordinated. The killing bears all the hallmarks of organised professionals, such as one would find in an intelligence or security agency."

"Foreigners!" declared the Minister. "We have so many enemies, Mr. Holmes. Which do you think it could have been? Russians? Chinese? Taliban? These mad Irishmen we've been reading about?"

"We've considered all the possibilities, sir," replied Holmes, "and we have used other evidence to reduce the list of suspects by a significant margin."

The Minister shifted in his seat and began to appear somewhat uncomfortable.

"The groups remaining on our list," continued the detective, "are all military or paramilitary in nature, with rigid hierarchical command structures. And the crime, especially given its location, was nothing if not extremely audacious.

"We reasoned that no underling would dare to mount such an operation without explicit orders from above. This insight helped us to reduce our list of suspects even further, to just a few very powerful individuals.

"It is difficult for me to see how you could lay hands on any of them, Mr. Holmes," replied the Minister, "let alone the man you want."

"On the contrary," said my friend, "we have determined which man we want, and I believe we will lay hands on him this very evening."

"And how do you intend to do that?" asked the Minister.

"Sit here with us for a few more minutes," replied Holmes, "and you will see."

"What?" exclaimed the Minister. "Do you mean to say he's coming here?"

"No," said my friend. "I mean to say he is here already."

"Well then, where is he?" asked the Minister. "Do you have him hidden in one of the bedrooms?"

"No, sir," replied Sherlock Holmes. "He is currently sitting on the couch."

"Preposterous!" shouted the Minister. "This is the most ridiculous prank I have ever suffered! I did not come here to be trifled with, Mr. Holmes!"

"But consider the facts," said my friend. "Gareth Williams was brought down to London to work for MI6, he was found dead in the MI6 'safe house' where he lived, and MI6 agents have been impeding the police investigation ever since. His body was in an advanced state of decomposition when it was found, even though he had missed a meeting the previous week. So apparently his employers weren't looking for him. Why not? There can be only one reason.

"Up until a few years ago, evidence implicating a British intelligence service in the murder of one of its own would not have been traceable to a single individual. No one knew who was running MI6; the head of the organisation was known by an initial, which was not even indicative of his given name.

"But that's all been changed, and now Sir John Sawers -- the 'public face' of MI6 -- speaks openly about the need to keep secrets secret, and so on. But in doing so, Sir John has been spilling secrets all over the map. He recently revealed that MI6 is hardly an independent force, but takes its operational direction from the Foreign Minister.

"And that, sir," said Holmes, pointing toward our guest, "means you!"

"Outrageous!" cried the Minister. "This is beyond surreal!"

"But consider the facts," replied Holmes.

"I don't need your facts!" the outraged politician replied. "I've had enough of your facts! It is absurd that a man of my position, a man of power and prestige, a public servant with a long and distinguished history, should be ambushed by the figment of a Victorian writer's imagination, and badgered with so-called facts!"

"Is it really?" asked Holmes.

"You don't even have your facts straight," the Minister added.

"And what, may I ask, do I have wrong?" replied my friend.

"You say Gareth Williams was murdered," replied the Minister, "but you can't prove it!

"And the reason you can't prove it, Mr. Hot-Shot De-tec-tive, is because it's not true!"

Next: Snap!