Chapter 60: A Single Drop Of Water

"Wake up, Watson! Wake up, man!!"

I felt a hand shaking my shoulder, and opened my eyes with a start. "What is it, Holmes?" I asked, slowly. "What's happening?"

"You were dreaming, Watson," said my friend. "You were talking in your sleep."

"Oh?" I replied. "What was I saying?"

"It sounded like 'Tommy about you Swede,'" said he.

"No, no!" said I, "Tell me about your sweetie!"

"Tell me about your sweetie?" he asked.

"Exactly!" I answered. "But it's not a question, Holmes. It's a command."

"It's a command?" he shot back. "What sort of command is 'Tell me about your sweetie!'"

"It's a secret command," I said. "A top-secret coded command from an al Qaeda commander in Pakistan!"

Holmes looked astonished.

I continued, "It was sent by email to a fiend in Manchester called XC!"

Holmes gave me his most inquisitive look.

"XC, I tell you. It's all right here," I added, pointing to the page my friend had clipped from The Telegraph more than a year earlier.

"Do you think it's important?" he asked.

"Absolutely vital!" I replied.

"In what way?" he inquired.

"I haven't the faintest idea!" I answered. "I was hoping you'd tell me."

"I'll need some background," said Holmes. "Is it complicated?"


"Tomorrow, then. Go sleep in your bed."

"Not yet!"

Rarely have I spoken so sharply to my best friend and longtime companion, for whom I hold respect so deep I can barely describe it. But on this occasion I was insistent.

"I fell asleep in this chair trying to work out the puzzle," I said. "I'm quite sure the difficulty overloaded my brain and gave me over to the sandman. Will you give me your ear for just five minutes? We can go through all the details tomorrow if you like, but at least let me give you the outline tonight. Please?"

"Yes, of course," he said, and I sketched out the picture I had obtained over the previous 48 hours, including the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson, the sudden resignation of Bob Quick, the dramatic arrests of the "Easter Bombers," and the coded emails that passed between XC and Pakistan, which -- if Slate was correct -- Gareth Williams helped to decipher.

"Wonderful work, Watson!" said Holmes when I had finished. "I knew I could count on you!"

The great detective's smile slowly turned into a clenched-teeth grimace, through which he forced a chestful of air with a sound resembling that of a toy steam engine. "Whoa! What a case!" he said. "We've never had one like it!"

"It's starting to make sense to you now, isn't it?" I asked. I could see it in his face, although I couldn't imagine what sense he was making of it.

"Yes," said my friend. "I believe you've found a key that will unlock the entire mystery."

I spoke not a word, but my expression showed Holmes the question that was in my mind.

"I told you once, long ago," he continued, "that from a single drop of water, a pure logician could infer the vastness of the Pacific, the power of the Niagara, and the splendours of the Grand Canyon. Do you remember that?"

"Yes," I nodded. "I barely knew you back then."

"I think you may have found Gareth's drop of water," said Sherlock Holmes.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"It's a long story," he replied. "You're tired. I'm exhausted. We both need sleep more than we need this.

"We have all day tomorrow, and Tuesday too, for that matter. We can't bring Gareth Williams back from the grave by staying up tonight.

"Do your body a favour. I'll see you in the morning. And thanks again."

With these words, my friend slipped into his bedroom.

I slowly got up from the chair and stumbled into mine.