Chapter 33: The Body In The Bag

Previous: Impossible

The bag in which Gareth Williams' body was found
was 32 inches long with a capacity of 140 litres.
"Wake up, Watson!" said Sherlock Holmes, shaking me by the shoulder. "Wake up, man!"

"What is it, Holmes?" I asked groggily.

"You've slept late again. We need to catch a train and get back to London," he said. "I've got some breakfast for you, but I need you to get moving."

I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and started to regain my bearings. We were in a hotel in Chester, on our way home from Wales, and it was a Monday morning.

Holmes gestured toward the table upon which a tray of breakfast awaited me. A second tray, empty, showed me that he had already eaten.

"I'm sorry, Holmes," I said. "I've had terrible trouble falling asleep lately. And then, when I do finally doze off, I am awoken by the most horrible dreams."

"Dreams pertaining to this case?" he asked.

"Oh yes," I said.

"Dreams of Gareth Williams in the bag?"

"Why, yes, indeed. How did you guess?"

"With his 'arms and legs contorted behind him?'"

"That's the strangest part, Holmes. I know it can't be, and yet my mind's eye keeps trying to see it that way."

"That's the power of the lie, Watson," he replied. "Before yesterday, did you have any clear image of the body in the bag?"

"I can't say I did," I answered. "It was all too horrible to contemplate, and my impressions were very fuzzy. Now it seems even more horrible, but my impressions are actually even fuzzier."

"Then let's try to be clear about it," said the detective. "Gareth Williams was five feet eight inches tall. That's 68 inches. The bag is 32 inches long, slightly less than half his height.

"The distance from his hips to the top of his head would have been roughly the same as the length of the bag. We wouldn't expect his torso to be bent in half. Therefore he must have been bent at the hips. Which way do people's hips bend?"

"Forward!" I said. "His knees must have been brought up to his chest."

"Or very nearly so," replied my friend. "Most likely his knees were bent. If they were straight, his feet would have extended beyond his head, and we have already accounted for the entire length of the bag."

"So you think he was on his back?" I asked.

"I would think so," he responded. "If he was dead, or incapacitated, when he was put into the bag, it would make sense to put the torso in first, then the legs.

"And if he went into the bag alive and well --"

"I shudder to think," said I.

"I know you do," said he. "But let's be clear. If by some chance he went into the bag alive and well, how could that have happened?"

"If that is what happened," I said, "some trickery must have been involved. Was he lured into the bag somehow?"

"Let's suppose he was," said Holmes. "If so, did he step into the bag, bend over and tuck himself in, and then have someone close the bag behind him? I find that most unlikely, even in this very unlikely scenario.

"If he entered the bag of his own volition, thinking that he could let himself out at any time, he would have wanted to be on his back, so he could see the zipper, so he could unzip the bag when he was ready to emerge.

"According to this line of thought," Holmes continued, "the padlock was a surprise, and a nasty one."

"Do you really think somebody tricked him into the bag," I asked, "and then locked him in?"

"I don't know what to think," Holmes replied. "At the moment, we are merely exploring a hypothetical line of thought. And I am suggesting that if he climbed into the bag voluntarily, he would have wanted to be on his back."

"So you think he was on his back, in any case?" I asked.

"I think it very likely," said Holmes.

"With his knees tucked tight to his chest?"


"And his arms? Could his arms really have been 'contorted behind him?'"

"If they were," said Holmes, "it wasn't because he was trying to free himself from the bag. If he was on his back and his arms were 'behind' him, then they were actually 'under' him, which would suggest that they may have been tied there."

"You think so?" I asked, gasping at the implications.

"How else could they get there? Did he wiggle around in the bag until he got his arms under his torso? Or was he placed in the bag in that position? If so, how? And why?

"We're speculating, but let's speculate as clearly as possible. He was probably on his back, no matter how he came into the bag. His hips were bent -- forward. His knees were probably bent as well. And his arms, unless they were tied behind his back, were probably in front of him, at his chest.

"If we happen to hear something different, something plausible, from a reliable source, then we may learn something about the nature and the cause of his death."

"And if we hear something implausible?" I asked. "From an official source, or from no source at all?"

"Well, that would tell us something about the nature of the investigation, or the nature of modern journalism, or both," said Holmes.

"Come on," he continued. "Get washed, get dressed, eat some breakfast, put all the fuzzy thoughts behind you, and let's get moving. How soon can you be ready?"

"Do we have forty-five minutes?" I asked.

"I was prepared to give you an hour," said Holmes, picking up a newspaper."There's a train in ninety minutes. If we catch it, we can have dinner in London before our meeting with Buckingham Slate. Otherwise we eat on the train."

"If you put it that way," I said, "I'll be ready in twenty minutes!"