Chapter 90: A Flexible Plan

"... then we only have to worry ... "
"When do you want to leave?" I asked. Sherlock Holmes thought for several seconds before responding.

"I have mixed feelings about that question," he said. "On one hand, the sooner the better, I should think. But on the other, it might be wise to sit tight for a while.

"And then there's the practical side: it would be foolish to arrive when the people I want to see are unavailable. So I'll have to make some arrangements before we go anywhere."

"If I may be so bold --" I began.

"Yes, of course!" he replied. "Please speak freely, my friend."

"It seems to me," I said, "that you and I must be among the most watched men in London at the moment. After what happened here Tuesday night, if we go running off to Wales immediately, might we not bring danger to Hughes? Maybe it would be better to wait for things to cool down, and then make arrangements to see him.

"If it can be arranged," I continued, "meeting Hughes at a safe neutral location would be ideal."

"You make a good point, Watson," the detective replied. "Hughes hasn't heard from me since we were there, and surely he deserves something. He would have no inkling that Slate was involved in the case, so even if he learned of the so-called 'botched jewelry shop heist,' he wouldn't know it was news of our investigation.

"I could write him a letter, I suppose, and maybe I should. But I can't tell him much that way. If we sat face-to-face, I could answer all his questions, but would he believe me? The story is just so weird, Watson!

"Still, I would like to get away from the city for a while, and I was planning to run back up north for another consultation with Fred.

"Maybe when we get to Yorkshire, the picture will be a little less cloudy. Maybe when we're finished with Fred, we might decide to head west and enjoy some more Welsh scenery. Or maybe we could entice Hughes to join us in Yorkshire. Maybe Hughes would be more apt to believe us if Fred were there, too.

"In any case, Yorkshire would be a good first move, after which we would have options. That is, if you'll join me. Does the prospect appeal to you at all?"

"Well," I said.

"Fred says he would love to meet you, by the way, but he doesn't want to impose," said my friend. "I could certainly go alone."

"I think I'm rendered immobile," I said, "by the amount of bad news we've had in the last few days."

" ... about our bonnets!"
"I understand the impulse to sit here," countered the detective "but I don't trust it. This news makes me want to get moving. Even if we just sat in the train and watched the scenery go by, at least we wouldn't be sitting here looking at the same old --"

"Sold!" I interrupted, with a very small burst of new energy. "And I do like the flexible plan."

"Good!" replied Holmes. "We should be there Saturday morning if possible. We can do all our traveling tomorrow. That gives us the rest of the day to prepare. We'll need to pack for three or four days, I should think."

I groaned.

"Everything seems heavy today," said my friend, "and rightly so. But surely it's not too heavy. We don't dare attend the funerals, so we may as well be elsewhere. And we have plenty of time to get ready. What else do you have to do today?"

I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes.

"It's a very sad day, Watson. I agree. I'm mourning with you. But we can't just sit here like a couple of ducks. And we can't go off with no luggage."

"All right, all right," I said. "I'm sorry. I'm just pitying myself, that's all."

Finally it occurred to me that the bad news -- the execution-style murders of Robinson and Slate, the escape of the Minister and his move to Justice, the steaming heap laid on to bury it all -- must have been worse for my friend than it was for me.

"I'll be ready to go in the morning," I said. "I may sit here for half the day before I start packing, though."

"I wouldn't blame you for that," he replied. "I wouldn't even blame you if you didn't want to go. But I can think of a few people who would be very happy to see you."

"You can count on me, Holmes," I said. "Even if I'm not looking very enthusiastic at the moment," I added.

"That's the spirit, Watson!" said my friend. "Do you think you could fit into one of Mrs. Hudson's dresses?"

"What?" I asked.

"We can't very well walk out the front door as ourselves," replied Holmes. "I think I can fit into the dress Slate left. If you can wear one of Mrs. Hudson's dresses, then we only have to worry about our bonnets!"