Chapter 74: Pipe And Violin

I found Holmes sitting on a stack of pillows.
"What do you intend to do now, Holmes?" I asked when Ms. Lloyd-Jones had departed.

"I'm going to fill a pipe and smoke it," he replied, "as many times as necessary."

"Do you need me?" I asked.

"Not at the moment," he answered. "You're more than welcome to stay if you wish, but if you have other plans --"

"I'm just feeling restless," I replied. "I think I'll slip over to the club and play a few frames of snooker, unless you need me here."

"No, go ahead," he said. "You will certainly find me here when you return."

"Please open some windows before you get started," I said. "It's a lovely evening, and the fresh air will do you good."

"Consider it done, Watson," he replied. "Enjoy yourself, win or lose."

I found my friend Thurston at the club, and we played for several hours. It was well after midnight when I returned to Baker Street and found Holmes sitting on a stack of pillows in the centre of the room with a pipe in his mouth. I couldn't make out any other details, because my view was obscured by a thick blue haze.

"My pipe and violin are within reach,
and so, perhaps, is a solution."
"I thought you were going to open the windows," I complained between coughs, as I began to open them myself.

"Eh?" said the detective, noticing me for the first time. "I am dreadfully sorry, Watson. I didn't even know you were here. I've been lost in thought, sitting here with my eyes closed."

"I can see that," I answered. "But you should have opened the windows before you lit your pipe!"

"It's a lucky thing you came along when you did," he replied. "Otherwise it would have been even worse!" I clearly couldn't argue.

"Have you come to any conclusions?" I asked.

"No," said he, "but I have more than an ounce and a half of tobacco left. So there is still hope."

"Can I be of assistance?" I asked. I was hoping he would say, "No," so I could retire for the evening.

"Not as yet," Holmes replied, "although I may need you tomorrow. You may as well get some sleep."

"Do you need anything before I go?" I asked.

"No," he said. "Thank you. Don't worry. I'll be fine. My pipe and violin are within reach, and so, perhaps, may be a solution to the Alderney Street mystery."

"I'm glad to hear it," I said. "I'll see you in the morning."

I washed, changed, crawled into bed, and tried to fall asleep as quickly as I could, but it took several hours. Sometimes I could hear Holmes muttering to himself, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. Occasionally I heard bursts of music: a quick passage full of fire; a long, deep note all by itself; a series of dissonant chords that never resolved; all separated by long periods of silence, with intermittent muttering.

I have never clearly understood what goes on in Holmes' mind when he's hard-pressed to solve an important case, but many times I have seen him use his pipe and violin in combination to produce astonishing results. So I was thinking hopeful thoughts when I finally drifted off.

Pipe and violin worked wonders.
I slept until nearly eleven Thursday morning, and when I awoke I found that my companion had already dressed, eaten, and left. On the tray with my breakfast was a note:

Pipe and violin worked wonders. Our prospects are now brighter than ever.

I've gone off to see my brother. I expect to return in time for dinner.

Please don't make any plans for next Tuesday afternoon or evening. I may need you then.

Clearly Holmes had made a breakthrough of some sort, but to imagine how or where was beyond me.

Why Tuesday? I certainly wasn't making any plans, but I had no idea what my friend intended or why he might need me.

I recalled the remark he made when he heard that Ceri called Gareth's work to ask about him, and was told Gareth had missed a meeting the previous Wednesday. "Make sure to note that," Holmes had said. "It could be crucial."

Crucial how? What did it mean? I couldn't help wondering.

I wondered whether I had failed to appreciate the significance of something Cheryl Eastap had said, or something Sian Lloyd-Jones had said. In the latter case, given the rapid flow of words and ideas, it wouldn't have been difficult to miss something -- or several things.

In the context of what we already knew -- or thought we knew -- our two recent interviews, combined with the new details Bucky had shared with Holmes on the Underground, only helped to make the case more confusing, at least in my mind. Holmes would see it differently, no doubt. He always did.

But why was he suddenly so confident? What had he caught that I had missed? What deductions had he made, sitting on pillows in the poisonous blue haze with too much nicotine coursing through his veins and a violin ringing in his ear?

And would he make me wait five days to find out?