Chapter 89: Bad News Unfolding

Previous: Second Thoughts

... three gunshot wounds ...
I awoke relatively early on Wednesday morning to find that Holmes had already left, although he hadn't eaten. Along with two full trays of breakfast, I found a note and a newspaper.

I read the note first.

There is very bad news this morning. I have gone to find out what Mycroft knows, if anything.

All the morning papers say essentially the same thing. Here is the story in its least illegible form.

I will return as soon as possible.

Then I picked up the paper and found that Holmes had circled a headline, which read:
Two Metro Cops Shot In Jewel Shop Heist,
Foreign Minister Unharmed, Cabinet Shuffled
The text ran as follows:
Two Metro Police officers sustained gunshot wounds yesterday after apparently stumbling upon an attempted burglary in progress.

Detectives Buckingham Slate, 45, and Scott Robinson, 32, were wounded while chasing two suspects, who abandoned their attempt and fled the scene on foot. It is not known whether the injuries to either officer are life-threatening.

The detectives had been part of a four-man team escorting the Foreign Minister to his Whitehall office from a Queen's Park banquet hall, where a surprise testimonial dinner was given to honour his contributions in the War Against Terrorism. The Minister was unharmed in the incident.

The Prime Minister spoke briefly to reporters last night, expressing his gratitude to the wounded detectives and his relief that the Minister had emerged uninjured. His planned cabinet shuffle will now go ahead, moving the Foreign Minister to a new post in the Ministry of Justice.

The Minister also spoke to reporters, and vowed to avenge the assault upon his escorting officers, calling them "heroes of the highest order."

Reading from a prepared statement, he said, "They brought the escort to a halt, knowing I would be safe with their colleagues, and pursued the suspects on foot. I am deeply saddened that they were wounded while attempting to prevent a serious crime. At my new post as Secretary of State for Justice, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the perpetrators of this and other such crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent possible."
I read the article three times through, but I could make no sense of it. What testimonial dinner were they talking about? Was I going mad?

I spurned my breakfast, except for the coffee, and started smoking, waiting for my friend to return.

"What's happening?" I asked when he arrived a few minutes later.

"I don't know," he replied. "I can't find Mycroft, and nobody else is talking. I couldn't find out where Bucky and Scott were taken. I couldn't find out anything! This is all very strange!"

He sat and smoked in silence for the rest of the morning. Neither of us had any appetite for lunch. I had enough energy to light my pipe, but otherwise I could barely move. The whole world seemed suddenly dark and heavy.

The evening papers brought more bad news. Under the headline:
Wounds To London Detective Prove Fatal
appeared the following story:
Metro Police Officer Scott Robinson, 32, succumbed this morning to injuries suffered last night when he and another detective broke up an apparent robbery in progress.

The burglary occurred at about seven-thirty last evening, at Sammy's Gems in the Edgbaston Road near Stamford Hill. Another Metro detective, Buckingham Slate, 45, was also wounded in the incident. It is not known whether his injuries are life-threatening.

According to the Foreign Minister, Robinson and Slate had been escorting him to his Whitehall office when they noticed suspicious activity in the shop. They made the decision to leave him behind with two of their colleagues and pursue the suspects on foot.

The Minister, who will leave the Foreign Office immediately due to the most recent cabinet shuffle, thanked the detectives for their service and vowed that in his new position as Secretary of State for Justice, he will do everything in his power to see that the perpetrators of this horrible crime are prosecuted to the full.

According to a source familiar with the autopsy, Robinson suffered three gunshot wounds, two to the back of the head and one to the back of the neck.
"I feel so helpless," said Holmes, "We're just sitting here, watching bad news unfolding, and there's nothing we can do about it." I couldn't disagree.

After we picked at our dinner, Holmes left again to make some inquiries. He returned late, empty and frustrated.

"Where is Bucky?" asked Holmes. "Is he alive? Is he able to talk? Nobody who knows anything is talking."

The other shoe dropped Thursday morning. Under the headline:
Second Metro Detective Dies After Shooting
ran this story:
Metro Police announced last evening that Detective Buckingham Slate had died of injuries suffered approximately 24 hours earlier. Slate, 45, a twenty-year veteran of the Force, was wounded Tuesday evening while chasing suspects in a botched jewelry shop heist.

Slate is the second Metro detective to succumb to injuries suffered in the same botched burglary. Scott Robinson, 32, was also wounded in the incident, and died yesterday morning.

Two sources familiar with the autopsy say Slate suffered three gunshot wounds, all to the right rear portion of the skull.

It was not immediately clear how both fallen officers could have been shot in the back of the head while chasing suspects fleeing on foot. But a police spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject, told this reporter, "You never know. Bullets do funny things sometimes. That's a loose end we haven't tied up yet."

One reporter questioned how the escort, taking the Foreign Minister from a Queen's Park dinner to his Whitehall office, could have encountered a burglary in progress near Stamford Hill, several blocks east of the most direct route. But a police spokesman said they must have taken a detour due to construction in Oxford Street, which would have made their most direct route unusable.
"I have never read so much nonsense in all my life," said Holmes. He cleared off the table and then spread out a large map of London. "This is the most direct route from Queen's Park to Whitehall," he said, tracing an invisible line with his finger.

"Yes," I agreed. My knowledge of the city was vastly inferior to his, but I knew these two famous landmarks and could see that the route he had selected was a reasonable one.

"So how could they get to Stamford Hill?" he asked. "And why? This is the route they were apparently taking," he said, tracing another invisible line. "And they were 'several blocks' out of their way? Ha!

"Oxford Street is three blocks long," he continued. "The construction crews could have obliterated the entire street without forcing the escort to go six or eight miles out of their way. So this is all nonsense.

"Furthermore, there is no Edgbaston Road near Stamford Hill, and no Sammy's Gems in all of London. So that is more nonsense.

"And finally: How could they both be shot in the back of the head while chasing the suspects? Bullets do not do 'funny things,' Watson, except when outrageous mischief is being committed. So this is all nonsense, as well."

"Not to mention the fact that Slate and Robinson were here at seven-thirty Tuesday night," I added.

"That, too," replied my friend. 

"What the devil is happening?" I asked. "What does it mean?"

"It means our investigation is finished, Watson," replied my companion. "We are powerless against this sort of attack."

"What do you propose to do?" I asked. "Just drop it?"

"No," replied Holmes. "I propose another journey to Wales. I still have a client on this case, and I need to see him. Will you come with me?"