Chapter 102: A Very Careful Setup

Previous: Outside The Box

"It could have been a very
careful setup indeed." [source]
The sun was beginning to set, and the wind began to blow harder and cooler. "It's about time we got moving again, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes, standing and stretching. I rose and joined him, and soon we were back inside the hotel.

We stopped at the desk to extend our reservations until Monday morning, then returned to our rooms.

"While we're outside the box, so to speak," I said, "would you be willing to field another question?"

"One more question it is," replied my friend. "And then we should call it a day. I don't mind telling you I am starting to feel a bit of fatigue."

"It's a bit complicated," I said. "Do you want to wait until morning?"

"Not at all!" said Holmes. "Fire when ready."

"I'm intrigued," I said, "by your hypothesis that Gareth may have been seconded to MI6 in order to get him down to London to be tempted, tested, and eventually murdered.

"This hypothesis seemingly makes the most sense in connection with your suggestion that he may have been tasked to attend fashion design classes, see a drag cabaret show, visit bondage websites, and so on, in order to bring him into contact with unsavoury elements, these contacts to be used later in an attempt to explain his death as the result of a bizarre sex game gone wrong."

"Yes?" said my companion.

"It has occurred to me," I continued, "that perhaps he was going to Holland Park to sit with his laptop at the back of Patisserie Valerie, not against orders, but carrying out orders.

"Maybe he thought he was doing important work, and perhaps he was. But it has struck me as just possible that, from the point of view of his superiors, the main reason why he was sitting in the cafe was so that he would be seen there."

"Why?" asked Holmes.

"They had to know the 'sex game gone wrong' story was not likely to fly very far. It is so bizarre, and so contrary to what we've been told about his character. It doesn't even fit the evidence very well.

"Some potential explanations for his death can be ruled out quite simply, based on what we know about the locks. The flat was locked from the outside, and therefore suicide is not a likely explanation. The holdall was padlocked shut, and therefore it was probably not a game, or an accident. What else could it be but murder?"

"I am with you so far," said my friend.

"The killers couldn't reasonably expect the details about the locks to be kept quiet forever," I continued, "and even though the 'sex game' story, in the hands of the press, may have been sufficiently powerful to tarnish the victim's reputation, they could not have expected it to stand up against intelligent scrutiny.

"And therefore they must have seen the need for a fall-back position, an alternative tale to be rolled out as required. If they sent Gareth out on a mission which exposed him to the public, in a place where he would be seen and noticed and remembered, then if and when the 'sex game' story broke down, and attention turned at last to his professional life, they would still have cards to play.

"They could say he had been working on something important and dangerous, intercepting wireless traffic perhaps. They could claim he had been spying on any scapegoat they wished to frame, and that he had been spotted while doing so. They could suggest the scapegoat was smart enough to put two and two together, and Shazam! Instant motive!"

"You may be on to something, Watson," replied Holmes. "If I am correct in thinking Gareth was brought down to London to be tested and possibly killed -- or simply to be set up for a predetermined knockdown -- then he certainly wouldn't have been entrusted with anything truly significant. His supervisors might not have expected any valuable work out of him at all.

"It's entirely possible that everything he did for MI6 was theatrical, so to speak. All of it may have been intended to create the basis for fictional tales which could be told after his death."

"I said I would ask a question," I continued. "I suppose I was wondering whether it is possible that Gareth Williams was set up much more carefully than we have ever suspected?"

"It is entirely possible," replied the detective. "They had a whole year. It could have been a very careful setup indeed."

"Here's another question for you," I said. "Can you think of any reason to reject my suggestion that Gareth's visits to the Holland Park coffee shop were part of the setup?"

"No, none at all," replied my friend. "I'm surprised I didn't think of it myself."

"But what is the significance of Holland Park?" I asked. "And why Patisserie Valerie? When we return to London, might it be worthwhile to explore these questions?"

"Yes, indeed," replied the detective. "I must congratulate you, Watson. You've done exceptionally well today."

"Thank you," I said, trying not to blush. Holmes was not normally generous with words of praise.

"And now I must bid you good night," he said. "It has been a long and difficult week, and I am unusually tired. But it has been a good day, and you have been very helpful. Sleep well, my friend."