Chapter 51: A Long Shot

Previous: A Jolt Of Fear

"It is certainly a long shot, but if we line it up
properly and hit it just right, who knows?"
Sherlock Holmes looked up from his plate and asked, "How goes the reading?" It was plain from his tone that he wasn't expecting an enthusiastic answer.

"I've been at it less than an hour," I said, "and already my head is spinning."

"Why?" he asked, without the slightest hint of surprise.

"I can't put my finger on it," I replied, "at least not yet. But it seems for every detail that makes sense, I'm finding three or four others that make no sense at all. And ever since I started reading, I have been unable to put the word caricature out of my mind. I'm not sure what that means."

"I think you should trust your feelings on this, Watson," replied my friend. "A caricature is a drawing in which all the prominent features are highly exaggerated, yet the subject is instantly recognizable."

"I know that," I answered somewhat testily.

"And you are reading a story," he continued as if I hadn't spoken, "of which the same is true. Your intuition is serving you very well, even if you don't understand it yet."

"There is so much about this story that puzzles me," I said. "And it seems the more I read, the less I understand."

"You don't need to understand it, Watson," replied my friend. "You have me here, or in a couple of days you will.

"I don't need you to solve all the mysteries," he continued. "I just want you to get a good look at all the files. After our meeting with Dr. Hewitt, we will have plenty of time to talk. You'll have questions for me. I'll have questions for you. Maybe we can get somewhere with this if we work together."

"So it's not as big a job as I thought," I said with considerable relief.

"No, not at all," replied my friend, "My sense of humour may be somewhat obtuse, but I was joking about deadlines and pressure. If by 'big' you mean 'difficult,' then you are correct. It's not supposed to be difficult.

"But 'big' can also mean 'important,'" he continued, "and your work over the next two days may turn out to be very important indeed."

"Are we looking for anything in particular?" I asked.

"I think we should focus on three main aspects of the story," he said. "First, the plot itself: What exactly were the plotters trying to do? How close were they to being able to do it?

"Second, surveillance and prosecution: How were they caught? How were they convicted? Why did it take so much time and effort to put them away?

"And third, Rashid Rauf. We think Gareth Williams may have been reading the coded email he was exchanging with the plotters. So: What sort of code were they using? What were they saying? And what did it really mean?"

"You ask difficult questions," I observed.

"I don't expect you to answer them," he replied. "Just use them as a guide in your reading, and pay close attention to anything that seems as though it might hold the answer to one of them."

"Do you really think we can approach the truth about the murder of Gareth Williams in such an oblique way as this?" I asked.

"It is certainly a long shot," replied Holmes, "but it is the best shot we have at the moment. And if we line it up properly and hit it just right, who knows? It may very well go in."

Soon we had finished our dinner, my companion had packed a bag and called a cab, and I had settled down with a comforting fire to tend and files of clippings to read.

"It could be worse," I told myself. "It could be much worse." My shoulder was happy to be warm and dry. Mrs. Hudson could keep me fed indefinitely. Holmes had left me so much to read that I might never get bored -- certainly not in only two days.

And if I ever needed a break from reading, I could spend some time watching the counter tops dry.