Chapter 26: A Coded Message

Previous: A Gift Of Logic

Which papers?" asked Hughes.
"All of them!" replied Holmes.
When all the other guests had departed, William Hughes invited us into his study for another chat. "I'm sorry to say I haven't had enough clarity of mind to ask you about your fees, Mr. Holmes. We're not wealthy, as you can see, but --"

"Think nothing of it, Mr. Hughes," replied my companion. "Over the years, I have been approached many times by wealthy and powerful people who have wished nothing more than my help in covering up their indiscretions. Sometimes I have acted on their behalf, and they have paid me very handsomely, to the benefit of all my other clients.

"In other words, money is not a problem for us," the detective continued. "We appreciate your hospitality, and you have been most helpful."

"Thank you, sir," said Hughes. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Will you be going out tomorrow?" Holmes inquired.

"We're going to church in the morning, sir," said Hughes. "You and Dr. Watson are welcome to join us if you wish."

"I think not," said Holmes, "provided you don't mind leaving us behind."

"Not a bit," said our host.

"In that case," said my friend, "would you be so kind as to bring the morning papers with you when you return?"

"Which papers?" asked Hughes.

"All of them!" replied Holmes, reaching for his wallet.

"Yes, of course," said Hughes with a chuckle. "I should have known you would read them all. No, no, keep your money, sir. It's quite all right.

"We’ll return around noon, and Ceri and Chris will join us for lunch," he continued. "You will have a chance to speak with them privately after the meal, sir."

Hughes thanked us again and wished us good night, Holmes and I retired to our rooms, and I spent a fitful time trying to sleep amid visions of the man in the bag, a struggle which served to increase my empathy for the grieving family. Finally, after several hours of tossing and turning, I fell into a deep slumber.

My companion, as usual, had no trouble sleeping. He arose early, asked Hughes to let me sleep, and left a tray of breakfast in my room along with a note.

I've gone for a walk while the family attends church.

Please enjoy your breakfast in time for lunch.

Holmes returned just as I finished eating, having met a few of the neighbours.

"Our host is a politician," said my friend, "and well-respected in the area, as far as I can find out."

"A local politician, I take it," I said, knowing the sort likely to rise to national prominence.

"Indeed," said Holmes. "He's a councillor here on Anglesey."

"Perhaps his success in politics accounts for his spine in the face of the smear campaign mounted against Gareth," I suggested.

"It is entirely possible," said Holmes. "Or it could be that his spine accounts for his success in local politics. In any event, the other members of the family are fortunate to have such a man representing them in public -- unless I'm reading this all wrong!"

"I don't think you are," I said.

"You never do," said he.

When the family returned from church, Hughes handed Holmes a stack of morning papers and said, "I saw one of Gareth's former schoolmates at church this morning, and I've invited him here as well, Mr. Holmes. I don't know if he will have much to tell you, but I thought you might like to hear from him directly."

Holmes nodded and Hughes continued. "Lunch will be served in about half an hour, sir. If you wish to spend some time alone with these papers, you're welcome to use my study."

"We need to get back to London tomorrow," said Holmes a few minutes later, in the privacy of the study.

"What's happening?" I asked.

He held out the classified section of The Times. "Look at this," he said, pointing to a small advertisement which read:

He was here on Monday. Too bad you missed him.

"What? Waiting For Godot?" I exclaimed. "What is the meaning of this?"

"It's the message I've been expecting," he said, "from Buckingham Slate!"