Chapter 96: A Three-Pronged Attack

Previous: Pat Tillman

"Another long walk might do
us both good." [source]
Holmes and Fred continued to talk; that is, Fred continued to talk and Holmes continued to listen. I sat there with them, but their conversation moved into other channels, while I continued to consider the eerie parallels between Fred's description of Pat Tillman and the picture we had been building of Gareth Williams.

Fred's words kept ringing in my ear: "Honest, brave, and naive," he had said. "Character assassination, physical assassination, or both."'

I wondered whether the Williams family knew anything about Pat Tillman. I wondered what the Tillman family had done to cope with their loss, and with all the lies that were thrown at them. I wondered whether we could learn anything from their story that we could use to help the grieving Williams family. Soon I was lost in my own thoughts, where I remained until Holmes touched me on the shoulder.

"It's time for lunch, Watson," he said. "Fred and I are finished for now, and we have the rest of the day to ourselves. I think another long walk might do us both good. But first, let us see what the chef has prepared."

We ate quietly, both reluctant to speak. But once we had finished eating and were walking upon the Yorkshire moor, Holmes began to give voice to his thoughts.

"Fred is a valuable resource, isn't he?" he asked. "He may have helped us more than we've helped him, and without even knowing it. But I will make it up to him if I can."

"His description of Pat Tillman rang quite a few bells with me," I said. "If Tillman had been a cyclist, rather than a football player ..."

"Yes, Watson," he said. "The thought crossed my mind as well. But what can we do with it? Their stories are very different, of course."

"I was wondering what the Tillman family did with all the lies," I said, "and how they coped with their loss. Maybe something in their story would help the Williams family."

"I believe we have a few pieces about the Tillman family in our archives," replied Holmes. "We can find out when we get back home."

"Speaking of which," I continued, "what are your plans?"

"None at present," he replied, "other than a walk in the country air."

We walked along, listening to the wind
rustling through the leaves. [source]
I found it difficult to believe that Holmes had no idea what to do next, but I had none myself, so we simply walked along, listening to the chirping of the birds and the wind rustling through the leaves.

Finally my friend spoke. "It's a nasty problem," he said, "Several nasty problems, in fact. What can I do for Fred? What can I tell Hughes? And have I put the puzzle together incorrectly?

"A week ago I thought I had the case solved, and now I find there's still quite some thinking to be done.

"If we were in Baker Street, I would just sit and smoke," he continued. "But London doesn't offer such an atmosphere as this. It may be exactly what we need. So let's enjoy it while we can."

"Can we keep talking?" I asked. "Or do you need the silence?"

"Oh, no," Holmes replied. "I just need the air. Speak freely. What's on your mind?"

"I have so many questions, I don't know where to start," I said.

"Ask one," he replied, "and see where it leads."

"I don't understand," I said, "why you think you might have put the puzzle together incorrectly. You set a trap, and you obtained the confession you were looking for. Granted, the arrest could not be made to stick, but I should have thought the events of the week would confirm your analysis of the murder, rather than causing you to question it."

"I am confident in the core of the analysis," said Holmes, "but it is still rough around the edges. For instance, I have no doubt that Gareth Williams was murdered, and that the murder was an inside job, approved at the highest levels of the British government. But beyond that, things become a bit cloudier.

"Was he moved from Cheltenham to London to enable it? I think he probably was. Why would they do this?

"Unless I'm reading it completely wrong, the crime involved as much character assassination as physical assassination. What could be the reason? It seems to me that Gareth must have been doing something his superiors found intolerable, something that made him a liability rather than an asset, and I don't think he was very circumspect about it.

"He was targeted for a three-
pronged attack." [source]
"Why? Because he was targeted for a three-pronged attack: first, to silence him forever; second, to make sure he would never be considered respectable, though he may have been much more than that; and third, to warn his colleagues of the consequences of following the path he chose."

"How do you deduce all that?" I asked.

"The first prong is elementary," he replied. "If they didn't want to silence him, he would be back in Cheltenham by now.

"The second prong is not much more difficult. We wouldn't be seeing any of this 'kinky sex' nonsense unless very powerful people wanted to smear him. I can think of many 'well-respected gentlemen' who led riotous sex lives, some of whom expired in the midst of outrageous overindulgence, and none of this was ever reported anywhere. The Official Secrets Act guarantees the security services can make sure stories go unreported. But that didn't happen in this instance. Quite the contrary. Therefore the smear must be deliberate, and that can only mean one thing.

"As for the third prong, consider the time, place, and condition in which the body was found. The report that the body of an MI6 worker had been found decomposing in a 'safe house' must have sent shock waves through the people who could read it. On the surface, it's not difficult to read. Who could have done such a thing without inside connections and high-level approval? Who else would have dared?

"If they simply wanted to silence him and tarnish his reputation, they could have hit him with a truck, or given him a heart attack pill, and put out stories that he was gay, or spying for the Russians, or both. But by leaving his body in the 'safe house' for a week or more, and by failing to check on him even after he missed a meeting, they sent a message to every member of the intelligence community.

"On its face, the message says, 'We did it! And we didn't hesitate to lay a trail that leads straight back to us. We're so powerful, we're not afraid of getting caught. Think about that. And think about this: You may feel safe in your safe house. But don't you dare cross us, or this could happen to you!'

"And to people 'in the know' with respect to Gareth Williams, it says even more. I think there must have been some such people, probably several of them, at least.

"If Gareth had become a liability but nobody else knew about it, there would be very little point in sending such a message, since nobody could understand it fully. But I think Gareth had colleagues who knew what he was about, and I think this message was extremely clear to them. It must have resonated for a very long time."