Chapter 75: One Trap After Another

Previous: Pipe And Violin

Mouse Trap
I spent most of Thursday afternoon stewing about the Gareth Williams case, anxious for Holmes to return. He arrived just in time for dinner, bristling with energy and enthusiasm.

"The time has come, Watson," he said. "We have enough cards now to make a play. If we do it well, we should be able to crack the case. I have begun making arrangements. Mycroft is well-positioned to help us. You will be here Tuesday, won't you?"

"Yes, of course," I replied. "I did get your note!"

"Good," he said. "I will certainly need you."

"I take it you've made a breakthrough?" I said.

"In this investigation," he replied, "we've seen evidence of one trap after another. Were the 'Liquid Bombers' trapped in an impossible mission for the sole purpose of making them available to be taken down at the most politically opportune time? Were the 'Easter Bombers' trapped, possibly by association only, in a completely fictional terror exercise? It does appear so, does it not?"

"Well," I answered, "if the 'Easter Bombers' were planning an imminent assault, wouldn't they have had weapons? And if the 'Liquid Bombers' were plotting to blow up intercontinental airliners, wouldn't they have had bombs and passports? And wouldn't they have needed a viable plan of attack?"

"Indeed," Holmes continued. "If there is any truth to the reports that Gareth Williams helped to decode their email and foil their schemes, would he have seen enough to understand that these plots were not what they seemed to be? It is easy to argue that he was bright enough to do so. On the other hand, it is difficult to see how he could have missed the indications. We spotted them ourselves in the short email excerpts The Telegraph published, whereas he would have seen hundreds or thousands of messages."

"Indeed," I nodded.

"I remember suggesting," said Holmes, "that Gareth's analytical skill, combined with the evidence of entrapment clearly visible in the lightly-encoded email, may have put Gareth himself in a different sort of trap. Having come face-to-face with the truth about these so-called 'bombers,' what could he do next?"

"You did mention that," I said, "and, so far, your reasoning seems very plausible to me."

Squirrel Trap
"Last night as I sat and smoked," Holmes continued, "there came a time when I found myself reflecting on all these traps, thinking about what we had heard from Cheryl Eastap and Sian Lloyd-Jones, and trying to recall everything Bucky had said on the train. And slowly I began to discern, dimly at first, the outlines of yet another trap, one set by very clever and powerful people, a trap whose target could have been none other than Gareth Williams."

"Are you sure of that?" I asked.

"The longer I sat and thought about it," he replied, "the more certain I became. After a short sleep, I felt even more confident in my analysis. The time for action has arrived, and my first move was a long talk with brother Mycroft."

"Why Mycroft?" I asked.

"Because of his connections, Watson," he explained, "and because he knows I would never lie to him. He will be vital to us on Tuesday."

"Why Tuesday?" I asked.

"It suits his schedule nicely," replied my friend, "as I expected it would."

"Can you tell me more about your plans?" I asked.

"Not yet," said Holmes.

"Well then," I persisted, "can you tell me more about this new trap, whose outlines you first saw last night?"

"Think of all the new details we have learned since Monday when I rode the train with Slate," Holmes said. "Which of them seem to show Gareth acting most out-of-character?"

Then he answered his own question: "Going to a gay bar, seeing a drag cabaret show, visiting bondage websites, and taking fashion design courses, no? When did he start doing all these things?"

"I don't know," I said. "Do you?" 

"According to Slate," Holmes continued, "the unconfirmed sighting at a gay bar and his confirmed attendance at a drag cabaret show were relatively recent: May and July, if I recall correctly. He said Gareth visited the bondage websites in August. All quite recent, and increasingly 'deviant' over time. His taking courses in fashion design seems the least 'deviant' activity of the lot, and it began in the winter, preceding all the others by several months, if we are to believe Cheryl Eastap." 

"I don't see why you would disbelieve her," I said. "Most of what she told us, especially regarding course scheduling and content, would be very easy to check. And she stood quite firm when you challenged her on her tale about the police and their quest for a decoy."

"Indeed," said my friend. "To me, the most curious thing about this timeline is the fact that Gareth enrolled in his first fashion design course at about the same time as he was assigned to 'learn a new identity,' if we are to believe Sian Lloyd-Jones." 

"She seemed very credible to me," I said. "If she were concerned about casting herself in the best possible light, she wouldn't have told us she sold Gareth's homework when they were children!"

Bear Trap
"I agree," said the detective. "It crossed my mind that she may have told us that story to make herself seem credible, anticipating your reaction, so to speak. But I rejected the idea on a number of counts, including her general demeanour and the condition in which she arrived.

"Now here's a very interesting point: Have you ever heard anyone describe Gareth as a good actor? Or a good liar? Fluent in languages? Good at practical jokes? On the contrary, we've been told he was quiet, socially awkward, extremely honest, with a speech impediment that got worse when he got nervous. Unless we have this all wrong, he was the exact opposite of the type MI6 prefer to send undercover. He took a box of files to a friend's place, and fell asleep there with his two passports, for crying out loud!"

"You don't suppose the new identity was a ruse?" I asked.

"I do suppose!" he replied. "What was he doing? Was he going to a cabaret show in order to try and decode secret messages coming from the transvestite entertainer onstage? Was he planning to catch the next batch of terrorists that way?"

"It doesn't seem very probable," I said.

"Or was he simply following instructions," said Holmes, "thinking he was developing his 'new identity,' but actually laying in a trail of evidence that could be used against him later?

"And if that were the case, what could be the point of the exercise but to provide a semi-plausible basis in reality for the decoy: a purely fictional story -- 'kinky sex game gone wrong' -- that would be prepared in advance and released to accompany, and nearly drown out, the news of his death, and every bit of news about the case that has followed?"

Holmes paused to let me absorb the implications of the hypothesis he had advanced. "If that is the case," I said, finally, "then the assignment to learn a new identity could be seen as evidence of premeditation."

"Absolutely!" replied Sherlock Holmes, "and as proof of a monstrous trap -- with the double aim of silencing the man and smearing his reputation at the same time.

"And, of course, if this be the crime, there can be but one suspect. The Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians, al Q'aeda, the Taliban, the Irish Republican dissidents, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones -- all working together -- could not possibly arrange the assignment of a given task to a given British intelligence officer. Much less could they pry him away from GCHQ and insert him into MI6."

"You don't suppose Gareth was seconded to MI6 in order to make this murderous trap possible?" I asked.

"Don't I?" replied my friend. "Why not? Give me one good reason and I'll drop the whole idea like a hot potato!"

"Well then," I said after a long pause, "What next?"

"If you ever write about this case," he replied, "you could call your story 'One Trap After Another.' Surely the time has come for us to set a trap of our own."