Chapter 98: Three Links In A Chain

"Our hypotheses fit together well,
as three links in a chain." [source]
Holmes and I continued to walk, and he continued to talk.

"As we move further from the core, things get even fuzzier, Watson. I have posed one possible answer to the question of why Gareth may have turned against his employers. But there are many other possibilities.

"I have also floated an explanation for Gareth's trips to the pastry shop near the Holland Park tube station, and his repeated 'chance encounters' with a mysterious couple, who may or may not be the same as the 'Mediterranean couple' for whom the police are supposedly searching. Perhaps Gareth and the 'Holland Park couple' were meeting to arrange other, less visible, meetings, and for this reason, these meetings were seen by Gareth's employers as treacherous.

"It is possible that the 'Mediterranean couple' and the 'Holland Park couple' may be the same people, and that they may have been MI6 agents who were assigned to test Gareth, possibly to entrap him, certainly to contain whatever he may have been tempted to leak.

"Then there's the matter of the gay, drag, and bondage connections. Was Gareth assigned to dip himself in London's 'deviant sex' scene? Is this the import of the story we heard from Sian Lloyd-Jones about Gareth learning a new identity? If so, many puzzling details would become very clear.

"We have three interconnected hypotheses, then.

"First, that Gareth turned against British intelligence when he found out the War on Terror was a fraud predicated on the entrapment of knuckleheads, that he spoke to the 'wrong people' about his change of heart, and that this is why he was seconded from GCHQ to MI6.

"Second, that the 'Mediterranean couple' and the 'Holland Park couple' were the same, and that they were working for MI6, testing and tempting Gareth, and finally setting the stage for his murder.

"Third, that Gareth's appearances at a gay bar and a drag cabaret, and his visits to websites featuring bondage and torture, were work-related tasks whose secret purpose was to lay a foundation for the lurid tales that would be told about him after his death was discovered.

"For the most part, we have been working with published reports, and much of what has been published, concerning Gareth's death and the War on Terror, has been clearly fictional. If we throw away the details which are obviously false, these three hypotheses seem to provide a coherent explanation of what remains."

"It's a more coherent explanation than the police have provided," I said, "and it's much more plausible than anything we have read from the so-called 'security experts.'"

"That part hasn't been difficult," he replied. "They have set the bar extremely low, even for them. But my point is: these hypotheses may be infinitely more credible than anything we've read in the papers, but that doesn't necessarily mean they must be correct.

"When I say there's a possibility that I have some pieces in the wrong places, these are the places where I think it might have happened. For example, our first hypothesis might be wrong in several ways. The reports ascribing to Gareth a role in solving the puzzle presented by the 'Liquid Bombers' might have been fictional. Maybe the papers have it wrong and he wasn't reading Rashid Rauf's email after all. That wouldn't be the first bit of disinformation we've seen along this road.

"There are other possibilities, too. Maybe he never realised the 'Liquid Bombers' were pursuing an impossible plan of attack. Maybe he bought into the explanation that the way to protect ourselves against terrorists is to foment terrorism. In other words, it's possible that he knew their plot was bogus but he approved of the scheme by which they were set up. These latter possibilities seem unlikely, but we don't know.

"Similarly, the 'Mediterranean couple' and the 'Holland Park couple' might be distinct couples. Gareth's reason for meeting the 'Holland Park couple' might have been very different than I have suggested. And I still wonder whether the 'Mediterranean couple' exist at all. The story the police are telling about them is certainly very difficult to believe.

"But the 'Mediterranean couple' may exist; and they may even have got themselves 'buzzed in' to a 'safe house' by claiming they had a key to a flat within. If so, there remain other mysteries, such as why their key wouldn't also open the communal front door, and who in their right mind would let strangers into a 'safe house.'

"And then there's the question of the new identity, with the implication that Gareth was involved, or becoming involved, in undercover work. I have raised the possibility that this new identity was intended to put Gareth in contact with gay men, transvestites, and unsavoury websites. But other interpretations are certainly possible. It could be that the new identity he was learning had nothing to do with homosexuality, cross-dressing, or bondage, and that he was exploring these things on his own initiative. Given what else we know, I think this seems unlikely. But I wouldn't think it impossible.

 "It's possible that Gareth took a box of files to Sian Lloyd-Jones' flat so he could get away from the usual home and office surveillance. Under this line of thought, his second passport was not given to him by MI6, but was connected to something of which he knew MI6 would disapprove. And if this is the case, then there is probably a strong connection between the new identity and the reason why he was killed. 

"Of course, it's also possible that Gareth never took any files to Sian's place at all. She could have made up the whole story to make it seem as if she and Gareth were such good friends that he waived all the normal security precautions in her presence. It wouldn't be the first time somebody made up a story and told it to a reporter.

"Our hypotheses fit together well, as three links in a chain. None of the three is proven, mind you, and even though they combine to provide a reasonably plausible explanation, we still have a number of wide-open questions.

"Fortunately for us, if one of our hypotheses turned out to be incorrect, it wouldn't destroy the utility of the chain, as long as we could replace the faulty hypothesis with a better one.

"It almost seems dishonest, doesn't it, Watson? We can keep changing our story as much as we need to. But here's the catch: We can only move in one direction. We must discard ideas which are proven incorrect, and replace them with plausible alternatives. If we ever reach a point where we have no plausible alternatives, and our working hypothesis is proven incorrect, then changing our story would be dishonest. The thing to do then would be to admit we were wrong.

"But we haven't come to that point yet, my friend. We have not even come near it."

"It sounds to me," I said, "as though the investigation is not as 'finished' as you may have thought a few days ago."

"It's yet another instance of reality intruding on the best-laid plans," replied the detective. "We are compelled to continue, are we not?"

"I can't disagree," I said. "What are you going to tell Hughes?"

"I haven't figured that out yet," said my friend. "Why don't we turn around and head back toward the hotel? Maybe the answer will occur to me as we walk. In any event, you won't want to be late for dinner."

"It's good of you to remember that," said I.

"I've had a few years to pick up on it," said he.