Chapter 104: Under The 'T'

Previous: Home Again

"Under the 'T,'" said Holmes,
"we find a rare assortment of villains."
"What do you intend to do about the man in the doorway?" I asked, somewhat shaken, as soon as we were safely inside.

"The one who spoke my name a bit too loudly?" replied Holmes. "Nothing, Watson. Nothing at all."

I must have looked as surprised as I felt. "What can I do?" asked my friend. "Do you want me to call the police?"

The absurdity of the suggestion brought a smile to my face, if not quite a laugh.

"What have they gained?" continued the detective. "What have we lost? And what, in fact, has happened?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The man in the street -- was he sure he had seen us? If he was, why would he say anything? My first impression was that he was bluffing, not sure whom he had seen and trying to provoke a reaction which might confirm his suspicion. That's why I didn't want you to look back. If he wasn't sure then, he still isn't."

"But what if he was?" I asked.

"Then he shouldn't have said anything," replied my friend.

"They always knew where we live, Watson," he continued. "Now they know we're here. We were always going to come home. Now they have the time of our arrival. It's a minor point, at best, is it not?

"But on the other side of the ledger, we have just learned that our disguises were ineffective. If their man hadn't alerted us to the fact, we may have used them again, to our great misfortune."

"I'm glad you see it that way," I said, as my sense of panic began to ebb. Holmes smiled in a friendly yet sardonic way, almost as if to say, "Don't worry, my friend. I don't suffer from your limitations."

"What can I do to help you?" I asked, hoping to make myself useful and trying to change the subject at the same time.

"Get one more good night's sleep," replied Holmes. "Tomorrow, read whatever you can about the Tillman family, and find out, if you can, how they have reacted to the loss of their son."

"Very well," said I. "Anything else?"

"That will be enough," said my friend. "I still need to talk to Mycroft, and I need to write to Hughes, but you can't do either of those for me."

"Perhaps I can learn something about the Tillmans," I suggested, "that will help you when you write to Hughes."

"That is my hope," said Holmes. "To the best of my knowledge, Fred knows nothing about Gareth. His description of Pat Tillman rang bells he couldn't have intended to ring, and, for that reason if no other, we would be unwise to neglect them.

"There are two or three other avenues I will try not to neglect," continued my friend, "although I cannot speak of them at the moment."

I was pleased at the thought of more avenues to explore, yet frustrated at the detective's reticence. "He'll speak when he's ready," I told myself. "He always does." I didn't press for more details, but busied myself with unpacking, as did Holmes.

I thought I might spend an hour or so with a pipe and the novel I had been reading before Gareth Williams came into our lives, but as soon as I sat down, I found myself nodding off. "Get to bed, Watson," said a familiar voice, and I obeyed the command as if hypnotized -- or so Holmes told me the next morning, when he found me remarkably refreshed.

Apparently my subconscious, accustomed after many years to life in the city, had found the constant clatter of London more relaxing than the peace and quiet of Yorkshire. I didn't remember any of it myself, but it felt good to wake up with some energy, especially after a long and difficult week.

I had the rare honour of letting Holmes sleep while I ate breakfast and skimmed the morning papers. I didn't find anything particularly interesting, and had just begun to move toward the archives when my friend emerged from his bedroom, looking more rested than I had seen him in quite some time. Clearly the sleep had done us both good.

"Ah, Watson, you're looking very healthy," he said. "Well rested, well fed, nothing very interesting in the papers, and you're ready to go, I perceive. Perhaps I can help you to get started."

I nodded and smiled, once again surprised by a modest display of my friend's finely developed powers of observation and deduction.

"Under the 'T,'" said Holmes, reaching for his alphabetical index, "we find a wide assortment of villains, and a few heroes as well. Ah! Here's Cedrick Thomas, the forger, and Thomasson, the tormented virtuoso. Then we have Tildon, the foul-tempered hotel clerk, and Tillerman, surely the most creative extortionist of his generation.

"And here's our man: Patrick Daniel 'Pat' Tillman, Junior. Born November 1976, Fremont, California. Star football player, first at Leland High School and then, from 1994, at Arizona State University, where he played linebacker. Named Pacific-Ten Conference defensive player of the year in 1997, and drafted the following year by the Arizona Cardinals, who saw him as too small for a professional linebacker and moved him to safety, where he played for the next four years.

"In May of 2002, Pat turned down an offer from the Cardinals that would have paid him $3.6 million over three years, and enlisted, along with his brother Kevin, in the Army. He completed basic training in September, did a Ranger indoctrination program in the fall, and was part of the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. In September, Pat went back to Fort Benning, Georgia, for three months of Ranger School. He graduated in November, and was sent to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 22, 2004.

"The controversy came after that, of course," continued Holmes, "when it emerged that the Pentagon had lied about how he was killed. I'm afraid you'll have to look through the chronological archives to find more details. You may as well start with the file from April of 2004, since he certainly would not have come to my attention before then."

"That leaves quite a bit of searching," I said, somewhat daunted by the prospect.

"Don't worry, Watson," replied the detective. "There's no rush. Make notes about what you find, and I will help you when I return."

"You're leaving again?" I asked.

"Yes," said he. "And as soon as possible." 

"Will you eat some breakfast first?" I asked.

"I suppose I should," said my friend, who ate without speaking while I skimmed through the files. Then he disappeared into his bedroom, from which he emerged as a sloppy auto mechanic, in grimy coveralls, complete with greasy stains on his hands and face. "I'm off to help my brother," he said on his way to the door. "Apparently something has gone wrong with his car."

"I didn't know Mycroft had a car," I said as he slipped out.

"He doesn't," he replied from the stairway.

And then he was gone.