Chapter 91: To Yorkshire By Train

Previous: A Flexible Plan

Flamborough Head, Yorkshire [source]
Friday morning dawned crisp and cool. "Excellent," said Holmes. "On a chilly day, heavy shawls do not appear out of place. It will be easier to maintain our disguises." My friend was adept at the art, whereas I was not.

"Under circumstances such as ours, traveling as two old women is always safer," he had said, and we stepped into the street fairly confidently, given the circumstances.

A cab arrived presently and we boarded it. Holmes directed the driver to take one left turn after another until he satisfied himself that no one was following us. Then he seemed to relax slightly, and we reached King's Cross without incident.

Twenty minutes after our train left the station, Holmes left the compartment, 'mistakenly' wandered into the men's room, and emerged a few minutes later in his normal attire. I followed his example, and we had made good our getaway.

Gradually, I could feel myself regaining some traction. I was still badly shaken, but watching the scenery roll by had a soothing effect. Soon I found myself thinking about Yorkshire, and wondering what to expect from our visit.

"Tell me about Fred," I said. "I know you don't know his real name, but what is he doing? What is he hoping to accomplish? How does he want you to help him? Can I help him?"

"Fred is an attorney from the Eastern U.S." replied my companion, "who has taken a special interest in cases which seem from one angle to represent 'terror plots foiled,' but which from another angle scream 'entrapment!'

"According to Fred, the cases appear to be mostly isolated, but some very interesting connections are to be found among the characters. From a distance, he says, they appear to justify the scads of money being spent every year to ensure that no such 'terror plot' ever reaches maturity, and to necessitate the transformation of society entailed in such an effort. But if, as Fred believes, they are all manifestations of the same government policy -- all the work of 'pinsetters,' as he would say -- then we have a very different situation entirely.

"Fred is convinced the billions being spent and the social transformations being undertaken represent something other than protection against 'terror plots,' and he wants to do something about it. But what can he do? That is his biggest question.

Natural arch at Flamborough Head [source]
"He has come to England to see me, hoping that, with my knowledge of crime and my powers of reasoning, I might help him plan his next steps. And perhaps some day I may be able to do so. But that day is still far away."

"It's a gnarly enough problem," I said.

"Indeed," agreed Holmes. "Gnarly from several angles at once. How many people do you think are making money providing security against 'terror threats' that may not exist? How much money do you think they are making? Conversely, how many people stand to make money if the 'terror threats' are proven to be bogus? And how much money do they stand to make?

"Then there's the matter of state power. What state wants to give up any of its power? What state doesn't long to increase its power? How can the power of the state be increased in the absence of a threat? It pays to consider this question with the wisdom of Joseph Heller, who based his novel, Catch-22, on the theme 'they can do anything we can't stop them doing.'

"From Fred's point of view, it seems imperative to stop government agencies setting up 'pins' to be knocked down -- regardless of the reason, but especially when it is done for propaganda purposes. And yet, there are enormous forces acting on various segments of the government to do it, and to keep doing it.

"Yet another angle: If, God forbid, another attack should succeed, certain people are going to demand answers: 'What happened?' and 'Why was it not prevented?' and so on. Nobody wants to have to answer such questions."

"So they become much more willing --" I said.

"-- marks," he continued, "for con-men threatening disaster and selling security."

"And if the threats are all bogus?" I asked.

"Or deliberately fabricated?" added Holmes.

"Then what?" I asked.

"Then woe be unto him," said Holmes, "who dares to stand in the way of the cash flow bonanza."

"Do you think this is what Gareth was up against?" I asked.

"I don't know," said Holmes, "but I would dearly love to find out."

Malham Moor, Yorkshire
Photograph: Stephen Garnett/Craven Herald
In my friend's voice, and in his choice of words, I could hear hints that perhaps our investigation wasn't quite finished after all. But I did not want to approach that topic directly.

"Does Fred know anything about Gareth?" I asked.

"No," replied my friend. "Fred has been talking and I have been listening, asking a few questions here and there, but not saying much else."

"I wonder whether it might be a good idea to tell him?" I mused.

"We'll see," said Holmes. "There are points on both sides of that question."

Something in his tone told me the conversation had reached its end, and we rode along without speaking, listening to the clackety-clack and enjoying the view, until we had very nearly reached Leeds. There we left the train, hired a cab, and drove east and northeast through the countryside until we reached our destination -- the small hotel to which Holmes had alluded when he first told me about Fred.

"They put on a nice dinner here," said my friend. "I'm sure you will enjoy it. And after we eat, a brisk walk amid this lovely scenery will be good for both of us."

I could hear and see his energy rising, and, much to my surprise, I felt a bit of a spring sneaking into my step as well.