Chapter 80: Preparations

"Where do you suppose
we should put the microphones?"
"If you please, Mr. Holmes," said Buckingham Slate, "I am very anxious to know about the case I am about to break, sir, especially since I still don't know how I am going to break it!"

"All in good time, Bucky," replied Holmes. "Mrs. Hudson will be bringing our dinner shortly. Why don't you slip out of that dress and into your own clothes? You can use my bedroom if you wish."

"Thank you, sir," said Slate. "I can hardly sit here and eat dinner with a dress on, can I?"

"Not at all," said my friend. "This way, Bucky."

Slate picked up the suitcase Scott Robinson had carried in and said, "Excuse me, gentlemen. I won't be a minute." Holmes showed Bucky the door to his room, then returned to sit with Robinson and me.

"How long have you known Slate?" Holmes asked Robinson.

"I met him just after I joined the Force, sir," Robinson replied. "That would be ten, eleven years now, sir."

"Have you worked together often?" continued my friend.

"As often as possible," answered Robinson with a smile. "He's a good one, sir."

"I should say so," agreed Holmes. "The work he's done on this case has been nothing short of miraculous!"

"I'm glad to hear it, sir," said Robinson.

"He'll be glad to hear it, too," said my friend with an ironic smile.

Then Slate reappeared, looking far more presentable in a suit than he had in a dress. "You may as well change next, Scott," he said to his colleague. "I left your suit on the bed."

"Well, Mr. Holmes," said Slate, as Robinson took his turn in Holmes' bedroom, "I've brought everything you asked for. Where do you suppose we should put the microphones?"

"Good question, Bucky," replied Holmes. "Our guest will sit on the couch and we will sit in these armchairs facing him. Find a couple of suitable places."

"I would suggest putting one in that vase of flowers on the mantle," said Slate after a few moments' thought, "and the other one on your desk, if that's possible, sir."

"You could probably hide a small elephant amid all this clutter," said Holmes, gesturing toward the chaos on his desk. "Find a spot that suits you, and occupy it."

"Excellent, sir," said Slate. "This looks perfect. I've left some other audio gear in the bedroom, sir. Scott and I will not only be able to hear everything that's said, we will also be able to record it."

"Very good," said Holmes. "Then it won't come down to your word against his."

"My word against whose?" asked Slate, but Holmes wouldn't bite.

"We can test the mics in just few minutes, sir," said Slate. "And once we're happy with the signals, I would suggest soft lighting, Mr. Holmes, to help with the camouflage."

"I agree entirely," said Holmes. "We would dim the lamps for dinner in any case. What else have you got?"

"These are the cuffs I was telling you about, sir."
"These are the cuffs I was telling you about on Friday, sir," said Slate. "They have the quickest locking mechanism on the market, and they are extremely secure."

"How do they work?" asked my companion, and Slate gave him a short demonstration.

"Excellent!" declared Holmes when he was satisfied. "Our guests will arrive shortly after seven-thirty. By that time, the two of you will be in my bedroom, listening and recording."

"Yes, sir," said Slate. Robinson simply nodded.

"And, no matter what happens," continued my friend, "I want you to stay there, as quietly as possible, until we call you. No matter what. Is that clear?"

"Are you sure, Mr. Holmes?" asked Slate. "We're both armed, and we wouldn't want you to get hurt, sir."

"Please don't worry about us," replied Holmes. "It'll be two against one at worst, with the element of surprise on our side. Watson will be armed. I will have these cuffs. It is extremely unlikely that we will get into trouble. But if we do, we will call you, loud and clear. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," replied Slate. "Now can you tell us about the case I'm about to break, Mr. Holmes?"

"Not yet," replied Sherlock Holmes. "Make sure all your audio equipment is working first. We can talk about the case over dinner."

It took them a few more minutes to get the microphones and the recorder working, and by that time our landlady had starting bringing in the dinner she had prepared.

"Mrs. Hudson, you have truly outdone yourself this time," said my friend, when he saw what she had made for us. "I asked her for something a little bit special," he said to our guests, "but I never expected anything like this!"

I daresay Sherlock Holmes was not the only man destined to encounter something unexpected in our flat that evening.