The wind was up in Holmes, make no doubt of that. He stood now with his back to me, gazing down into Baker Street. The great detective had been pacing the room for a quarter hour. Now he turned from the window with an exclamation.
"Ha! Exactly as I anticipated." The aquiline features, so recently strained, were suddenly animated. "Quick, Watson. Our visitors have arrived. Help me get my things while Mrs Hudson is showing them up."
"Odd carriage that," I muttered, glancing through the pane as I picked up Holmes` violin from the window seat.
"Come, come, Watson. A carriage? That`s a Bentley, surely. Sawed, chopped, channelled and fitted with a Sardley overhead cutout, unless I miss my guess. I`ve done a little monograph on the Sardley, as a matter of fact."
"And you have no idea why they want to see us? I asked Holmes.
"Only vaguely," he replied. "But the real truth is that it is I who want to see them. Particularly one of them."
While saying this he had clapped his fez on his head. Now, jamming a meerschaum between his teeth and dropping into the big leather chair, Holmes began sawing at his fiddle. His playing always has the same effect on me and so I was as edgy as he had been by the time a knock sounded at our door.
I opened it to face a square, craggy figure of commanding presence. He was perhaps 60 and his hands were thrust into the pockets of a kind of officer`s coat. He pierced me with a flinty glance and, without removing the briar from his mouth, stalked past me into the room.
Behind him a younger man, dark and athletic and done out in flannel of impeccable Savile Row cut, moved with cat`s stealth through the doorway. Behind me Holmes crashed into the coda of one of his beloved concerti. I nodded to the hovering Mrs Hudson to let her know the pair was expected and closed the door.
"Dr Watson, I believe," said the older of the two, eyeing me and then turning to Holmes who, taking no notice of their arrival, continued his fiddling. "Call me M. This is Mr James Bond and --. I say, can`t you get him to stop that? he asked, waving his pipe in Holmes` direction.
"This won`t do, M," I heard Bond say in an undertone. "We knew the man was an addict, but a musician too? And look at those clothes. Can this be Holmes?"
Just at that moment my friend laid down his violin, took the pipe from his mouth and cooly rose to greet the visitors.
"Good evening, gentlemen. Sorry you had trouble with the Bentley. Those Sardley devices can be difficult. Actually, of course, there`s a garage just down from where you stalled that specializes in them." Holmes` little gambit had its intended effect.
"How the devil did you know that?" exclaimed Bond.
"Elementary, my dear naught naught seven," purred Holmes. "You are late for an appointment that you yourself described as of `supreme importance." Conclusion? The delay was unavoidable. There`s a smudge of oil on your sleeve, which tells me you`ve been under the bonnet, and I noticed your Sardley was wheezing when you drove up. The spot of earth on your shoe is of a texture peculiar to a stretch of Bromley Road where I noticed yesterday that the gas company was excavating."
"Damnably clever," nodded M. "Bond, why don`t you do things like that? Save yourself some of that wear and tear, hmm?"
Holmes allowed himself a small condescending smile while Bond`s face closed again into the impassive mask which I took to be habitual with him.
"Yes, nice trick," he sniffed. "Somewhat circusy, but neat. Would it have the desired effect on a SMERSH man, though? A touch of the steel, a taste of the Walther, a karate chop. Those are more likely to impress the blighters."
"I dare say you`re right," M sighed. "Still it would be pleasant if the office could conduct some of its business on a somewhat quieter, more civilized plane."
I drew up chairs and was just seating our guests when I felt Bond`s eyes on me. I turned to him questioningly, but he only shook his head in mild irritation -- but not before exchanging glances with M. I felt, for some reason, a certain trepidation.
"Watson, why don`t you ask Mrs Hudson to set out tea," said Holmes.
M raised his hand in protest. "Please. James has already seen to our refreshment. He`s having something sent `round from the club. Should be here directly, wouldn`t you say, James?"
"If Alex can manage the souffle in this cold," Bond replied. "Can`t rush those things. Then there`s the Vouvray Mousseux to be brought to the proper chill, and --"
"Took James half an hour to order the stuff," said M, his tone a mixture of pique and grudging admiration. "He does things like that, you know."
"Curious obsession," mused Holmes, to whom the food was inconsequent.
Bond stiffened. "it`s not an obsession. It`s simply an amenity. I prefer to dine well, just as I prefer to live in Chelsea instead of in a more -- um -- prosaic neighborhood. Like Baker Street," he added, unnecessarily, I thought.
"Now, now, gentlemen," put in M. "We`ll leave all that for another time. Right now, there`s a more pressing -- and delicate -- matter I`d like to attend to. James, this is your show."
Bond leaned his cruel face forward and stared balefully at Holmes.
"I`ll be blunt then," he said. "We know all about your habit."
"Your habit. You are a user, a junkie. What is it this week, cocaine or morphine?"
I couldn`t suppress a surge of triumph. For years I had told Holmes that his little peculiarity would some day lead him astray. He caught the look on my face and said wryly: "I`ve never made a secret of my -- er -- habit as you put it. Indeed even were I so inclined, Watson`s constant scribblings about me would have insured disclosure."
"Watson, you say?" and Bond gave me another of his cold looks, less guarded than before. "DOCTOR Watson. And I suppose he is also your connection?"
Holmes, who is even less familiar with the changing language of the street than I, showed puzzlement.
"Your connection, your source of narcotics supply," said M in explanation, his eyes now gleaming behind a wreath of pipe smoke. "Why yes," answered Holmes, "Watson has been good enough to supply my modest needs for stimulants."
"There!" cried Bond. "Does that satisfy you, M? We have him. I told you the methods of procural matched out TTD report." In one fluid movement the Walther PPF appeared in Bond`s hand. But instead of turning the weapon on Holmes, Bond levelled the wicked instrument at my own breasts.
"What is the meaning of this?" I demanded. "I am a medical practitioner and responsible for--"
"Come off that now," said Bond, his voice like a whip. "It has worked too long. You can`t hide behind Holmes any longer."
"My dear fellow, what are you trying to say?" asked Holmes with a composure that, considering the situation, irked me considerably. He had picked up his violin again and was idly plucking at the strings.
"What I mean," said Bond, "is that your good Dr Watson is an imposter. We`ve gotten onto him through his worldwide narcotics contacts. Watson," and he paused for dramatic effect, "is none other than my old antagonist Ernst Stavro Blofeld, master of disguise, fiend incarnate, slayer of my bride and now delivered into my hands."
He fingered the safety on the Walther and I recalled suddenly the significance of his naught naught classification: authorized to kill. Bond glanced at M and I saw the old seadog return his look with a barely perceptible nod. It was a nasty situation.
But I reckoned without Holmes. In a flash, he brought his precious Stradivarius down on Bond`s gun hand. Violin and pistol exploded together. However, Holmes had deflected the muzzle sufficiently so that the bullet passed harmlessly through the cloth of my trousers -- a bare two inches from the spit in my leg that had received the Jezail bullet in `80.
"Damned musician!" Bond growled gripping his injured hand. Holmes meanwhile had leaped to the side table and extracted something from the drawer.
"Quick, Watson, guard the door." I landed against the portal one step ahead of M, whose face was now a mirror of hate. Holmes was instantly at my side, a hypodermic syringe in his hand. Tearing back the man`s shirt cuff he plunged the needle into M`s arm. The powerful morphine concentrate worked with appalling suddenness and M slid to the carpet.
"Good lord, Holmes," I exclaimed. "Why him? Get Bond."
"Nonsense, Watson, naught naught seven is simply an accessory, a fairly ignorant tool. This is our man on the floor. I recognized him as soon as he stepped out of the Bentley. Now if you`ll ring up Lestrade we`ll write finis to the only uncompleted business remaining on my books."
"Holmes, you don`t mean...?"
"Precisely, Watson, the greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every deviltry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations has been ensconced for these years in Special Branch. Our visitor M is none other than our old enemy Professor Moriarty."
"Amazing, Holmes. You outdo yourself."
"Elementary, my dear Watson or Blofeld or whatever. Now I believe I shall repair to the study and work up a little monograph on the subject while it is still fresh in mind -- and before you manage to romanticize it quite out of credibility."
Then I noticed the crestfallen figure standing near the window.
"What should we do with Bond?" I asked.
"Bond? Oh, send him back to his little bureaucratic niche, I expect. Really, I couldn`t be less concerned."
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