Chapter 38: A Secret Alliance

Previous: Off The Case

"Was there any indication that
the flat had recently been cleaned?"
"B-b-but you're the sharpest detective who ever cracked a case," sputtered Buckingham Slate. "How could I possibly help you, sir?"

"Perhaps you have information that we would find valuable?" replied Sherlock Holmes. "Perhaps you would be willing to share?"

"Information pertaining to what, sir?" asked Slate.

"The case we have been discussing," replied Holmes.

"But you just told me you hadn't gone to any effort on this case, sir. Are you saying you're interested in solving it?"

"I said we had not gone to any effort on your behalf," said Holmes. "However, Dr. Watson and I happen to have an independent interest in the case. In fact, last Friday morning, just a few minutes before you arrived in Baker Street, we were examining this very interesting object."

Saying those words, my companion opened his briefcase, removed the red holdall and handed it to the Scotland Yard man. "You should have these as well," he added, giving Slate the tattered jacket and hat-wig-beard he had worn on his visit to our flat.

"Where did you get this bag?" asked Slate in amazement.

"We have our ways," replied my friend with half a wink in my direction. "We have also collected some very interesting information. But we don't have enough to force a breakthrough -- not yet. Your knowledge of the case, Bucky, should you choose to share it, could make a substantial difference to our investigation."

"Considering the length of time I was assigned to the investigation," said Slate, "I don't actually know very much about this case at all, sir. That's why I came to you in the first place. But I'll tell you what I know, if it will help you."

"It may help us a great deal," replied Holmes.

"I must trust to your discretion," said Slate, "and that of Dr. Watson."

"We may be compelled to use any information you provide," said Holmes, "but we would never reveal our sources."

Slate nodded in assent and Holmes continued, "Tell us what you know of the case, starting with the body, the bag and the flat."

"Well, sir, the body was found late on a Monday afternoon, just as I was finishing my shift. I was off for the next two days, and when I came back on the Thursday, I was surprised to find I'd been assigned to the case. By then the body had been removed, the flat was being examined by a forensics crew, and I was detailed to handle certain other aspects of the investigation. Most of what I know about the body, I've learned by reading other officers' reports. I would say the same about the bag and the flat, sir."

"And what do the reports say?" asked my friend.

"The body was unclothed, sir," replied Buckingham Slate, "and decomposing rapidly. No sign of alcohol, drugs or poison was found, and there was no mark upon the body, except for nearly matching bruises on both elbows.

"The bag was locked with a padlock, the keys to which were found inside the bag, under the body. There was no indication of forced entry to the flat, and no sign of struggle. It was a posh suite, sir, beautifully furnished. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed."

"Was there any indication that the flat had recently been cleaned?" asked Holmes.

"Yes, sir," answered Slate. "All the surfaces were spotless, except for a fine white powder on the counter tops in the kitchen and the bathroom. The powder was never identified, sir, but I suspect it may have been residue from a cleaning product. It suggests to me that the flat was cleaned very thoroughly, but somewhat hastily, after the body was put into the bag, after the bag was put into the bath.

"The flat was locked with a key from the outside, sir. This was no suicide, nor was there anything accidental about it. The first officers to arrive on the scene saw this clearly. One of them referred to the flat as 'a crime scene.' Another described it as 'a neat job' -- in other words, a very competent professional hit.

"But as I say, sir, all this is coming from written reports. I never saw any of these things for myself."

"What, if anything, did you see for yourself?" asked Sherlock Holmes.

"I can tell you all about it, sir," replied Buckingham Slate, "but I'm afraid you won't find much of it very interesting."

"I'd be grateful for any details," replied Holmes, "interesting or otherwise. I would also be grateful if you would keep us apprised of future developments."

"Well, I doubt there will be many of those," said Slate, "but I'll be happy to keep you posted if anything does transpire."

Thus began an alliance which neither Slate nor Holmes could ever acknowledge. Fortunately, my discretion was utterly reliable.