Chapter 103: Home Again

"Good evening, Mister Holmes!"
The wind turned in the night, and the morning brought cold rain from the northeast. "We won't be walking about very much in this weather," said Holmes over breakfast, "so we may wish to change our plan. We could sit in our rooms, smoke our pipes and watch the storm roll in, or we could return to London today. Do you have a preference?"

"It won't take me ten minutes to pack," I replied. "When can we get a train? Do you know?"

"If we leave in an hour or so," said my friend, "we can be in London in time for dinner." I agreed, and we finished our meal in short order, even though we had plenty of time. Apparently we were both more anxious to get back to Baker Street than either of us had let on.

"Do you think it will be safe to return as ourselves?" I asked when we were back in our rooms. "Or should we dress as two old ladies again?"

"I am still inclined to be cautious, Watson," replied the detective. "If we can slip into our flat unnoticed, so much the better."

"I'll pack accordingly," I said, and Holmes went to call a cab. While packing my bags, I noticed that his bags were packed already. Perhaps my preference had been clear to him all along.

Presently we found ourselves watching the storm from a cab, then from a train.

Holmes fell silent again, and his expression appeared gloomy. I couldn't tell whether his face reflected the storm, our sudden change of plan, the difficulties in our way, all of these, or something else. So I sat quietly, watching the rain fall, and keeping one eye on my friend.

After several minutes of silence, the detective spoke again. "I'm still considering the suggestions you made yesterday," he said, "and trying to work out where they lead. We're at a difficult juncture."

I nodded, but had nothing to add to the conversation. Neither, apparently, did my companion. So we rode along without speaking, watching the storm, listening to the wheels upon the rails.

Not for the first time, I found myself thinking about the family, and what a horrible blow this had been to them. I recalled Sian Lloyd-Jones saying, "His family respect, 100 per cent, that he worked for MI6. The family and I both respect the role he was in." And I wondered how they would take the news that Holmes was going to have to give them.

My thoughts turned to the horrible treatment the family had suffered at the hands of the press, and then to the police and their seeming ambiguity about the case. Many times I had seen Holmes demonstrate that the police were on the wrong track, and several times I had heard police officers admit as much to him in private. But the confused and empty public declarations associated with this case were quietly stunning. I wondered for a time what manner of investigative chaos could lie behind the public pronouncements. And once again I found myself hoping Holmes would find another source of inside information.

I wondered what would become of the inquest. To the best of my knowledge, it was scheduled to resume in two weeks. Would we learn anything then? I found it difficult to be hopeful.

Holmes continued to watch the storm, and I stole occasional glances at him. It seemed to me his face had relaxed somewhat, and I hoped this was a good sign. But despite all my years of experience, I still found the great detective's features difficult to read.

Eventually I gave up trying to read them, closed my eyes and settled back for a bit of a rest. The sounds of the rain on the windows and the wheels on the tracks swept me away almost immediately, and I must have slept for an hour or more before Holmes gently shook me awake.

"Hmm, what is it, Holmes?" I muttered.

"We're almost to London," he replied. "You've been sleeping for a while, and I didn't want to wake you until it became necessary."

"Is the game afoot again?" I asked.

"Not exactly," he answered. "But we need to change trains, and I need you to be awake for that. We also need to make a plan. Are you hungry?"

"I could eat," I replied.

"When couldn't you eat?" asked my friend with a smile. "It has occurred to me that with one stop we could obtain a hearty dinner, a tall glass of fine dark ale, and a place to change into our dresses. Are you interested?"

"Harrington's?" I guessed.

"Why not?" replied the detective.

"I did enjoy the ale," said I.

"I know you did," said he. "And I need to speak with Harrington in any case."

"I like your plan," I said with a nod.

"I thought you might," returned my friend.

So we returned to London dressed as ourselves and boarded a tube train, bound once again for Harrington's Pub in the Twickenham Road, near the Royal Gardens at Kew.

No casual observer could possibly have guessed that the two elderly gentlemen who entered the pub through the front door would depart through the family entrance as tottering old ladies just a few hours later.

We took a cab from the pub back to Baker Street, and rang the bell at our own door. Just as Mrs. Hudson opened it to admit us, we heard a man's voice call from the street, "Good evening, Mister Holmes!"

In an instant, my friend slipped his arm around my shoulder and whispered, "Don't look! Just keep walking!"

Within a few seconds we were safely behind the door, up the stairs, and back in our familiar surroundings. But we were well aware that whoever had been watching our flat, and waiting for us to return, now knew exactly where we were.