Chapter 30: Invaluable Knowledge

Sunset over Colwyn Bay, North Wales
"I've been trying to get in touch with Terry Hewitt," said William Hughes, after the conversation with Chris and Ceri that never happened, "but I can't seem to catch him. He was Gareth's faculty advisor at Manchester University, sir, and I thought you might like to talk to him."

"Indeed I would," said Sherlock Holmes.

"He's in Bangor now," said Hughes, "and perhaps you could meet him on your way back to London."

"We are due in London tomorrow," said Holmes, "so unless you can reach him tonight, we'll wait and meet Mr. Hewitt on another visit."

"If you please, sir," said Chris, "we could take you as far as Chester this evening, put you up overnight, and drive you to the station in the morning on our way to work. You could be in London by noon, if that suits you."

"It's a very generous offer," said Holmes. "We cannot accept it."

"It's nothing, sir," said Chris. "We'd be happy to help you in any way we can."

"A ride to Chester would be very helpful," replied Holmes. "But we cannot spend the night in your home, which is almost certainly being watched. You will need to be as subtle and nonchalant as possible there, and that will be difficult enough without a consulting detective in your guest room. Can you drop us at a hotel near the station on your way home?"

"Yes, of course," said Chris. So the next step in our plan was set. We packed our few belongings, enjoyed a very tasty Sunday dinner with Chris and Ceri and the Hughes family, and spent an hour and a half riding with the Subbes across the north of Wales and down to Chester.

Along the way we spoke of many things, most of them unrelated to the case. Chris and especially Ceri seemed to have had enough -- enough of being interviewed, enough of having their lives disrupted, enough of being bereaved.

It seemed we could help them most by chatting about other things, so we spoke about horse racing, football matches, and classical music, among other subjects. But as we neared our destination, Chris turned the conversation back to the death of his brother-in-law.

"If I may be so bold as to ask, Mr. Holmes," he said, "are you getting anywhere on this case? We all appreciate your support and your presence very much, but I can't help wondering why you're here at the moment, rather than in London, sir."

"It's because I wanted to meet you," said Holmes. "And I wanted to meet Ceri, and Ian and Ellen, and I was hoping to meet one of Gareth's former teachers, and maybe even one of his former friends. Thanks to Mr. Hughes, we have managed to do all this.

"Some of the people we have met here have spoken to reporters, and they have told us very little that we could not have gleaned from a careful reading of the papers," my friend continued. "But I wanted to meet them, shake their hands, watch them as they talked, ask them questions, and learn what I could, not only from their answers, but from their body language, and their manner of answering -- or not answering, as the case may be," he added, with half a wink in Ceri's direction.

"Dr. Watson," Holmes turned to speak to me, "you have met all these people. You have watched and listened as they spoke. Have you met anyone on this trip whom you were not inclined to trust?"

"Only one," said I. "I have some doubt about the hotel clerk in Holyhead. I thought there was something very odd about the way he said he couldn't find our reservation."

"Yes, I noticed that too," said Holmes. "But of the people connected with this investigation?"

"They all seem perfectly trustworthy to me, Holmes," I said.

"And I believe you are correct," said my friend.

Then, to Chris, he said, "We have gained invaluable knowledge this weekend, Dr. Subbe, and we could not have done so without coming here.

"As for London," Holmes continued, "we'll be there soon enough. I have no doubt that the solution to our puzzle lies in the great city. But without the background knowledge we have obtained in Wales, our chance of finding it would have been very slim indeed."

"So you are making progress?" asked Chris hopefully.

"You might say that," said Holmes. "If nothing else, we're getting closer to Chester."

A few minutes later we were saying our goodbyes at the hotel. "When you get home," said the detective to the young couple, "remember my admonition about speaking freely there."

"That," said Chris, "may be the only part of our conversation that we will remember -- at least officially."

"Good for you," said Holmes. "I think you'll be fine. Take good care of Ceri. She's been through an awful lot lately."

"Indeed I will," said Chris. "Thanks very much again. And best of luck to both of you."