Chapter 508 Closing in on the Truth
Holmes decided not to tell the Prime Minister what happened that night.
Zhang Heng had no objections, but Villard felt differently about it-he thought that it was not very gentleman-like since it meant using the prime minister as bait. But since he wasn’t a British citizen, he felt it wasn’t his place to make any comments. So, in the end, Holmes got what he wanted.
The Baker Street Irregulars were summoned once again. This time, Holmes made an appearance himself. During the day, he would dress up as a cobbler, setting up a booth nearby the prime minister’s residence. At night, he played a drunk on the streets.
Two days later, he managed to make four shillings from repairing shoes, but still, no sign of the elusive Prussian.
Even so, Holmes didn’t get perturbed at all. He only slept three hours a day, yet still seemed to be filled with energy, even in the mood to play the violin when he had the time.
Zhang Heng and Villard, on the other hand, spent their time stomping in the belly of London’s pubs and fighting clubs, hoping to find the perpetrator. To their disappointment, like Holmes, neither of them yielded anything. Then, on the morning of the third day, Zhang Heng received unexpected news that Holmes was arrested.
He rushed to the police station, accompanied by Villard. The private detective was found seated on a bench, chin resting on his hands, and seemingly deep in thought. Zhang Heng completed the bail procedure, and Holmes was subsequently released.
Holmes collected a shoe brush and toolbox from the police officer and walked out of the pound without saying a word. This worried Zhang Heng and Villard.
The moment he got into the carriage, Holmes broke into a fit of laughter. “Hah! It appears that I’ve underestimated our opponent!”
“It’s all rather embarrassing,” Holmes sighed. “I haven’t been this abashed in such a long time. I went there to spy on them, but instead, I was found out and given a good beating. Someone informed the officer patrolling on that street that a suspicious individual had been seen outside the prime minister’s residence. Thus, I was arrested. I’m well acquainted with the police, but since this involves the prime minister, they weren’t able to release me immediately, except on bail, of course.”
“They saw through your disguise?”
“Rather, it had been all a trap since the beginning,” said Holmes. “It’s safe to say that we’ve been targeted. Probably because we attempted to find the Prussian based on the information we had on the night at the opera. But the enemy clearly did their homework as well, and boy, did they do pretty well. It appears they now know where we stay and what I do. They have been monitoring us, and what happened today must have been a warning directed to me…”
“Yes. It seems they do not wish for me to be involved,” lamented Holmes. “But at the same time, it means we’re very close to the truth.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” The French detective scratched his head, “but did I miss something? Haven’t these two days been unfruitful? Why are we suddenly close to the truth?”
“I don’t know yet, but we must have done something these past few days that made them nervous. I’ve been trying to determine what it is even before you came,” Holmes said.
He reached into his pocket, only to find his pipe was missing. Where did it go? Oh yeah, he had changed his clothes earlier.
Villard quickly took out his own pack of cigarettes from his pocket and offered Holmes a stick using both hands.
“Don’t worry. Let me think about it a little bit more,” said Holmes, taking in a long drag.
As Holmes mulled over the issue, Zhang Heng recollected the events during the past few days to see if he had missed anything. It wasn’t long before the two looked at each other and cried Eureka! almost simultaneously. “What is it???”
Villard was burning with curiosity, wishing so badly that he could just climb into the brains of Zhang Heng and Holmes.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Holmes asked Zhang Heng.
Zhang Heng looked at Villard.
“You mentioned that all of Mr. M’s crimes were committed in France. This indicates he is very likely a Frenchman.”
“And Carmen is a French opera…”
“…yes, that’s all true.” The French detective frowned. “So?”
“Carmen first premiered in Paris before London, and Mr. M happens to be here in London at the same time,” replied Zhang Heng. “Could it be just a coincidence?” “Hold on. Are you inferring that Mr. M is connected to the opera troupe?” “That would explain why they were so nervous,” said Zhang Heng. “…nervous because we showed up the opera,” Holmes continued. “They must have thought that we were close to finding Mr. M.”
“I’m going to pay Ms. Adler a visit and see if any of the troupe members are French and had arrived in London recently,” Zhang Heng announced.
Half an hour later, Zhang Heng arrived at Irene Adler’s place. After Zhang Heng reported his name, the housekeeper welcomed him, telling him to wait in the living room. Upon entering the house, he heard someone playing the piano on the second floor.
“Ms. Adler is practicing. Please wait a moment,” said the housekeeper. “Alright.”
Zhang Heng sat himself down on a sofa while the housekeeper made him a cup of tea. After about a quarter of an hour, the music stopped, and the opera songstress emerged from the stairs.
“Look who’s here! It appears we have an extraordinary guest, Mr. Zhang Heng,” Irene quipped. The white dress she was in today made her look like a blooming lily.
Knowing how perspicacious irene could be, Zhang Heng went straight to the point and related everything to her.
The opera singer looked stunned. “It all makes sense now. You left that night because of this case.”
“I hope you won’t take any offense, Ms. Adler.”
“Irene. Just call me Irene,” answered the singer. “How could I blame a man who works so hard to make London a safer place for all of us?”
“It’s strictly a pro bono job,” said Zhang Heng. “So, perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it a hobby.”
“That makes it even more admirable, doesn’t it?” said Irene. Sitting adjacent to Zhang Heng, she poured herself a cup of tea.
“The person you’re looking for actually exists. He’s the troupe’s French consultant. During rehearsals, he only communicates with the team through telegrams, but the London premiere is of great importance, so he came here all the way from France. I must say though, that I don’t fancy him very much. He might appear humble on the surface, but I can tell how he’s a very proud man, constantly looking down on people—women especially. Of course, he’s very good at his job; but unfortunately, he’s not the smartest person in the troupe-as he would like to think.”