[Narration by Doctor John Watson, M.D.]
Many of our cases began with someone entering 221B Baker Street, seating themselves in the famous fireside chair and telling us of a case that they needed our (all right, Sherlock’s) help in solving.
This one began when the devil himself came charging through the door then promptly slipped and fell flat on his face!
It was a cold misty evening in September and I was grateful for the blazing fire burning merrily in our grate. I was reading through my notes on our recent cases and thinking privately that my writing was indeed degenerating to Standard Received Doctor Scrawl. It would be a bad day indeed if I ruined the re-telling of a case just because I could not read my own handwriting!
Sherlock was sat reading some ancient treatise on Greek literature and looking even more owlish than usual in his reading-glasses. It was all wonderfully domestic except possibly for the bit where I kept thinking about sex with Sherlock while he kept his glasses on (in short it was a perfectly normal evening). And I just knew that the slow smile the blue-eyed bastard was putting out meant that he knew full well the effect his new eye-wear was having on me. He would pay for that later!
Or I would. I was not fussy. I won either way!
Our quiet evening in was curtailed by a sudden pounding on 221B's front door which along with the frantic ringing of the bell suggested more than a degree of urgency. Sherlock raised an eyebrow at me and we listened as the door was opened by a maid. There was no rifle fire so Mrs. Singer must have deemed the visitor acceptable, and soon there was a sound of feet pounding heavily on the stairs. Before we could rise to our feet the door burst open - and there was a man dressed as the devil, complete with a long pitchfork on which he was leaning while trying to catch his breath!
That, incredibly, was only the first shock. The second one was that we recognized the fellow even though he had only been in Baker Street on a very few occasions over the years we had known him. It was Mr. Marcus Crowley!
Mr. Crowley’s entrance would have been dramatic enough as it was but having briefly recovered his breath he lurched forward and tried to execute a sharp turn on the rug leading to the door only to fall flat on his face with an exclamation of pained anguish. Sherlock and I looked at each other in shock, then acting as one we crossed the room and hoisted him back to his feet again. He looked at us in gratitude but his expression was one of barely-concealed terror.
“Mr. Holmes, help me!” he ground out.
The words were barely out of his mouth when we had our second interruption of the evening (seriously, we were going to start issuing tickets at this rate!). Three large policemen surged through the open door behind Mr. Crowley, and advanced on him. I groaned inwardly when I recognized the one in the lead as the obnoxious Sergeant Craig Whitefeather, a dour-faced newcomer to the area. Indeed his station did not even cover Baker Street, much to my immense relief. What was the annoying, overweight, pompous, self-righteous, racist, moronic, oafish waste of space doing in our home?
(I may just possibly not have had the highest opinion of this personage as more than one of his constables had told me of disparaging remarks that the incompetent rat-faced numbskull had made about both Sherlock and our friend Henriksen. Just possibly).
“Mr. Marcus Crowley!” the sergeant panted, his face red with the great effort all those stairs. “I arrest you.... in the name of.... the law!”
He advanced on the oddly-dressed acquaintance of ours only for Sherlock to smoothly put himself in the way.
“In case you have not noticed, sergeant”, he said pointedly, “you are on my private property.”
I belatedly thought that Mrs. Singer actually had to have been out. She held the same opinion of the waste of human flesh before us as we did, and would doubtless have given him both barrels had he tried to get past her. What a pity that would not have been.
“Following a suspected felon!” the sergeant snapped. “Take him, lads!”
He moved as if to push Sherlock aside which led me to growl and advance on him. He belatedly seemed to notice me and spluttered indignantly.
“Sergeant”, Sherlock said smoothly, “you and your men will wait in the downstairs lobby. Not outside this door; in the lobby. Mr. Crowley is engaging me to investigate his case” – he glanced at our still panting visitor who looked frankly terrified – “after which one of us will escort him down to you.”
“But….” the sergeant began.
“Or do I have to send a telegram to my good friend Colonel Bradford about his men not apparently being capable of respecting the time-honoured tradition that an Englishman’s home is his castle?” Sherlock said coldly. “And to suggest to him that he perhaps needs to take the time to review whether some of his sergeants deserve their positions if they cannot grasp a basic tenet of English law that has existed for nearly three centuries?”
I smiled at that threat. Colonel Sir Edward Ridley Colborne Bradford, Baronet, was then the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and he had written to Sherlock on more than one occasion to thank him for his assistance in various cases. He was thus the person with the power to promote or sack (please please please!) our unwelcome visitor. Sergeant Whitefeather grunted.
“One of my men will be on the stairs”, he snarled. “Boys!”
The two constables followed him out though I caught at least one of them shooting me a covert smile when his superior’s back was turned. I managed to turn the resultant laugh into a cough. Fairly well.
Sherlock and I helped Mr. Crowley to the fireside chair and took our normal positions. Our guest’s face had faded from a red virulent enough to match his costume, and I could see that my friend was having to make an effort to avoid smiling.
“Mr. Crowley”, he said. “Good evening. How may we be of service?”
The man looked shocked at the sudden chain of developments and drew a deep breath.
“The sergeant wants to charge me with theft of the Devil's Foot”, he said heavily. “And that’s not the worst of it! Unless they find who did it I’m a dead man walking!”
“With both our sons set to marry, my wife and I moved to a smaller house across Golders Green last year”, he said. “Sad to say, another reason was that dear Growley passed on to that great kennel in the sky so of course we did not need a large garden any more.”
It seemed vaguely unreal that we had one of the most dangerous criminals in the capital taking drinks with us while the Metropolitan Police were champing at the bit to arrest him just yards outside our door. Such were the lives we led, I supposed. I looked out of the window and caught Mrs. Singer returning from wherever she had been. I silently hoped that she had plenty of ammunition in stock.
“Why does Sergeant Whitefeather suspect you of this theft?” Sherlock asked looking sharply at me for some reason. Mr. Crowley shuddered.
“This evening I went to a party at Mr. Vine’s house in Mill Hill”, he said, looking meaningfully at Sherlock. My friend nodded.
“Ah”, he said knowingly. “Am I to take it that Mr. Bercow and Miss MacIntyre were there by any chance?”
Our guest nodded. I looked inquiringly at my friend.
“Those three, along with our guest this evening, are the leading proponents of their trade in our fair city”, he said. “And if something has happened to endanger the position of any one of them it would be greatly to the advantage of the other three.”
“Indeed”, our guest said. “I should add, because I know both of you are probably wondering, that we were but four guests among over thirty and that it was a costume party.”
“Even I might have worked that one out!” I snorted (it was completely unfair that they both looked at me in that judgemental way).
“Mr. Vine was displaying a recent acquisition of his, a turquoise bracelet from the time of the Pharaohs”, Mr. Crowley continued. “A pure gold piece known as the Devil's Foot because of both the shape and the repeated attempts that have been made to steal it. It has been verified as of its time by several leading antiquarians and is supposed to be a fertility charm. He invited the three of us to look at it….”
“To boast about it, you mean”, Sherlock cut in. Our guest smiled but nodded.
“You know him well”, he said. “We examined the bracelet - it was a fine piece of work I thought - before we adjourned to the next room to discuss certain, ahem, business matters.”
“Which are only my concern in that I need to know both how long you were in there and if anyone left during that time”, Sherlock said smoothly.
“Thank you”, our guest said, visibly relieved. “No-one left the room during the meeting which lasted for a little over half an hour; the clock had struck the half-hour as we entered and the hour not long after we had left. Mr. Vine had a guard at the connecting door back to the room where the bracelet was as well as a second at the door from that room into the corridor, and even one at the balcony window.”
“Yet it was still stolen?” Sherlock said. Mr. Crowley groaned.
“It was the oldest trick in the book!” he said sadly. “I felt such a fool afterwards. There was the sound of a small explosion, possibly a shot, from the front of the house and Mr. Vine went to investigate saying that we should wait for him. Miss MacIntyre suggested that we could pass the time by looking at the bracelet again so we went back into the other room. There was only one guard left, the one by the window. He stayed in the room the whole time that we were there.”
“How long was Mr. Vine gone for?” Sherlock asked.
“I think about five to ten minutes”, Mr. Crowley said. “He was very annoyed when he came back. Some boy letting off a firework in the neighbourhood, he said.”
“Were you still in the bracelet room when he returned?”
“Where did you go from there and who went first?” Sherlock asked.
Our guest had to think about that one.
“Mr. Bercow went first, back into the other room”, he said. “Then myself, then Mr. Vine and finally Miss MacIntyre. I would think that there was but ten seconds between all of us. We talked for not more than ten minutes more then returned downstairs, but not through the bracelet room.”
Sherlock pressed his fingers together.
“This bracelet”, he said. “Is it particularly famous?”
“Most definitely”, Mr. Crowley said. “The last owner before Mr. Vine, Lord Brading, loaned it to the British Museum for a time and I saw it there. I would have liked it for myself but I could never have afforded it.”
“Did you take it?”
“Sir?” Mr. Crowley looked shocked.
“Come now”, Sherlock said. “You know from our previous encounter that my interests lie in the pursuit of justice, not necessarily the strict letter of the law which can be a blunt instrument at times. And talking of blunt instruments I suppose that we must consider poor Sergeant Whitefeather, who is either wearing a hole in Mrs. Singer’s hall carpet or has been thrown out onto the roadway for being an annoyance. More likely the latter I suspect; if he has been truly unlucky he will have discovered that she has a rifle and is not afraid to demonstrate that fact. We can but hope. Tell me, how did these associates of yours come to believe that you had stolen the bracelet?”
“It must have been half an hour or so later that the hue and cry went up that it had been stolen”, our guest recalled. “Mr. Vine insisted that it must have been one of us and pulled us all into a side-room. It was pitch-black and he put on some odd sort of blue light. Then he told us that he had protected the bracelet casing with a paint that could only be detected under this light and my hands were glowing blue. I managed to knock over the light and get away in the confusion.”
“Could anyone had transferred that paint onto your costume without your being aware of it?” Sherlock asked. Mr. Crowley shook his head.
“I smelled it in the cab coming here”, our visitor said, “so there was no way I would have missed it if it had been there at the start of the evening. I shook hands only with the three people I have mentioned and any of them could have done it then.”
“Miss MacIntyre shook hands?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes”, our guest said. “She is..... quite modern, I am afraid.”
“I suppose that we have kept the sergeant waiting long enough”, Sherlock said. “I am sure that someone in your position has access to a high-quality lawyer so if you recall anything else of import please send it to me through them. Doctor, would you please escort Mr. Crowley downstairs?”
“You will help me?” our guest asked.
“Of course”, Sherlock said. “The price should I succeed will be the same as last time. One unspecified future favour to be honoured at a time and place of my choosing.”
Mr. Crowley nodded and I led him out of the room. Sherlock had been right; Sergeant Whitefeather had successfully annoyed Mrs. Singer enough for her to make him (but not his constables, I noted) wait outside in the rain. I hoped that I did not smile too much. Though judging by the annoyed look on the sergeant's face I may have done.
The snigger probably did not help matters either.
“This is serious, John”, Sherlock said once I had returned to the room. “Deadly serious. We must solve this case as soon as possible otherwise the three suspects will be doing their level best to undermine Mr. Crowley’s network.”
“Would that be a bad thing?” I wondered. Sherlock smiled.
“It seems an unfortunate thing to say given his costume tonight”, he said, “but I think that this is truly a case of ‘better the devil you know’. Let us start with the hypothesis that Mr. Crowley was set up, since he is no fool and would not seek to engage me if he feared that I might prove him guilty. I know others have tried that in the past, but he is too smart for that game. So one of the three people there must have done it.”
He thought for some time then smiled.
“I have an idea”, he said. “But we are going to have to persuade a hardened criminal to co-operate with our investigation. It will not be easy!”
The following morning we took a cab to 'High Sands', the Mill Hill home of Mr. Jonathan Vine. I cannot say that the criminal lifestyle did him any favours in his appearance, that of a bloated blond hulk of a fellow whose designer clothes were clearly straining at their buttons. Little wonder that he needed a fertility charm; it would have needed to be a powerful one to boot. He scowled at us from across the study table.
“Didn’t know this was your sort of thing, Mr. Holmes”, he said tartly.
“I have had dealings with Mr. Crowley before”, Sherlock said politely, “and bearing in mind what is at stake here I would crave your indulgence.”
“In the first place, for your own continued existence.”
The man’s eyes bulged.
“Consider sir, if you will, the possibility that Mr. Crowley may be telling the truth when he claimed to have not taken your bracelet”, Sherlock said gently. “Now let us follow that on and assume that either Miss MacIntyre or Mr. Bercow is guilty. Consider then how much they have to gain in such a situation.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Let us talk plainly”, Sherlock said. “You are all criminals.” He held up his hand when the fellow looked set to protest. “I know people talk about the concept of 'honour among thieves' but I am here to represent Mr. Crowley, who is a criminal. I do not disillusion myself as to that fact; the demands of justice mean I must strive to represent and give justice to all, without fear or favour. I merely wish to see that justice done and I firmly believe it is in your interests to see that too. Remember, both Miss MacIntyre and Mr. Bercow had the chance to take the Devil's Foot as well.”
“Neither Virginia nor John would behave in such a manner!” the man spluttered.
Sherlock leaned forward.
“You are prepared to stake your life on that?” he asked pointedly.
The criminal shuddered.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“To interview the three security guards who you had stationed around the bracelet”, Sherlock said.
“They are my most loyal men”, Mr. Vine said testily. “They would not betray me.”
“Yet your bracelet is gone”, Sherlock pointed out.
The big man reddened at that.
“Ah”, he said.
We both looked hard at him.
“'Ah?'” Sherlock said.
“I may have, sort of, um, found it this morning”, he admitted, red-faced. “I was examining the stand on which the case had been mounted and felt something sticking out from under the covers on the table. It turned out to be the bracelet.”
Sherlock eyed him coolly. The man visibly wilted.
“You did, I presume, immediately communicate this discovery to the local police station?” he asked.
“I was just going to”, he said.
I refrained from laughing. But it was a near thing.
“May we see it, please?” Sherlock said. “And there is of course the small matter as to how it got under there.”
“Of course”, the man said, obviously all too glad to change the subject. “Come this way.”
The Ancient Egyptians had produced a beautiful piece, I thought. The bracelet shone as if it has been fresh out of the goldsmith's workshop and the turquoise, which I knew was a difficult stone to work with as it is relatively soft, shone almost as blue as my friend's eyes. Sherlock spent some time examining it being careful to only touch it with his handkerchief, and even looked at the stone through his lens. Then he nodded as if reaching a conclusion.
“Mr. Crowley told me that two of the guards left the room at the firework explosion while one stayed behind”, he said. “I think that I still need to speak with that gentleman if you please.”
“Very well”, Mr. Vine said crossly. “I trust you have no objection in my being there when you question him?”
“I would welcome it”, Sherlock smiled to his evident surprise.
“Joe Biggerson, sir”, the hulking man before us said.
“Sit down please Mr. Biggerson”, Sherlock said pleasantly. “I am afraid that this interview will be very unpleasant for you so let us endeavour to keep it short.”
The huge man glanced nervously at his boss who merely nodded.
“I have one main question for you”, Sherlock said. “Who was the lady?”
“The lady who tricked you into abandoning your post, Mr. Biggerson”, Sherlock said sharply. “Kindly describe her to us.”
The fellow looked horrified but blundered into speech.
“It was after everyone had gone down, sir”, he said, his face even redder than Mr. Vine's had been earlier. “This lady came out of an upstairs room and said she had heard there was a fabulous bracelet here and would I allow her to see it? I thought there no harm provided I stayed with her. But she felt a bit woozy after she put it back so I took her along and halfway down the stairs, where Ben was on guard. Then I went and stood outside the door again. The thing was there then; we all saw it!”
Sherlock shook his head.
“Who is this lady?” Mr. Vine demanded.
“Clearly someone working for either Miss MacIntyre or Mr. Bercow”, Sherlock said. “Mr. Biggerson, did you see anyone else around this time?”
“Only the gentleman dressed as the devil, sir”, he said. “He came along the corridor as I was taking the lady down. But I'd locked the door, I swear!”
“A locked door wouldn't keep old Crowley out!” Mr. Vine snapped. “I knew it!”
“Hmm”, Sherlock said. “I forgot to ask Mr. Crowley when he was with us; what costumes were the rest of you wearing?”
“Costumes?” Mr. Vine asked, clearly perplexed.
“Mr. Crowley was wearing a devil's costume when he arrived at Baker Street”, Sherlock said patiently. “I like to have all the facts as sometimes the most inconsequential amongst them can turn out to be important. What did the rest of you wear?”
“Oh. I was Mr. Pickwick from Dickens. Mr. Bercow came as Robert the Bruce, kilt and all. And Miss MacIntyre was Mary Queen of Scots.”
“That is most interesting”, Sherlock said with a knowing smile. “They have of course contacted you this morning and suggested an immediate move against Mr. Crowley's organization while he is under arrest.”
Mr. Vine held his gaze for some moments but no-one could out-stare Sherlock when he set his mind to it. The man blinked several times and nodded.
“How did you know that?” he asked warily.
“I have a suggestion for you”, Sherlock said. “You do not of course have to act on it, but failure to do so will almost certainly result in your death so it is rather advisable. Tell Miss MacIntyre and Mr. Bercow that a family emergency has called you away – be sure to go somewhere as they will doubtless be watching – and that while you wish to move against Mr. Crowley with them you need twenty-four hours. You can also assure them that your sources have told you that Mr. Crowley cannot be released for at least two days. I will return tomorrow and tell you how it was done.”
Mr. Vine looked uncertainly at him but nodded his agreement, and we left.
Sherlock was unusually quiet on the journey back to Baker Street and I wondered why.
“All that stuff and nonsense about the bracelet being a fertility charm!” I scoffed as we entered our rooms. “It certainly didn't seem to have made Mr. Vine any the more attractive.
I jumped as Sherlock slammed the door behind me and turned to look at him. His eyes had glazed over and he looked positively feral. I gulped.
“My room!” he snarled. “Now!”
I sprinted for his door and mercifully he was still undressing so I made it to his bedside. However I had barely got off my shoes before a very naked and very horny detective was on me, all but ripping my trousers off of me before throwing me onto the bed. I tried to shed my shirt but Sherlock looked almost manic as he just pushed it up and worked me open far quicker than usual before burying himself inside me with a pleasured groan. And before I could adjust he was going straight for my prostate, jerking me off with one hand while supporting himself with the other. I had time for one brief whine before I came all over my shirt, my head falling back onto the pillow.
Except that instead of following me over the edge as was usual, Sherlock continued to attack my prostate. Either he was exercising monumental self-control or he had applied a cock-ring to himself; I suspected the latter. Incredibly I was growing hard again which for a man of forty-five years of age was not bad going.
Sherlock seemed to be working me around even more than usual, and I was close to a second orgasm when I felt my entrance being stretched even further. Damn it, Sherlock was pushing the vibrator in – the huge one that I had mentally nicknamed 'the rolling-pin'. That was it; I erupted for a second time, this time splattering his chest. Yet he didn't seem to slow down even then, and I whined piteously as my prostate was tortured like never before.
He worked the thing around inside me until I pretty much lost all feeling down there then removed it and pushed back in himself. There was no way I could manage a third time – or so I thought until Sherlock must have removed the cock-ring and was coming forcefully inside of me, growling fiercely as I was filled up. My eruption was weak compared to the first two and my cock was almost painfully sore but he kept going inside of me, and at some point I must have passed out because the next thing that I remembered was waking up and wondering if my legs were going to be even more bowed than before.
Somehow I managed to get up the next morning though only to collapse on the couch. Sherlock brought me my breakfast over and fondly ran his fingers through my hair; of course the bastard was totally unaffected by my ordeal. I made a mental note to leave the bathroom door open when I eventually took the bath I needed in case I went and collapsed in there. And in case Sherlock wanted to come in and help me out.
He did. And did. I was so broken I could not even lift the bacon off my plate to hand it over to him, so he had to come and take it himself!
Later that morning – there may just possibly have been a short 'recovery nap' for one of us who did not have blue eyes - we returned to Mr. Vine's house. The man was clearly champing at the bit but we had not been there five minutes before we were interrupted by one of Mr. Vine's servants who whispered something to him. He shook his head.
“I am busy”, he said. “He will have to wait.”
“If that is Inspector Bradley then you should allow him to come up”, Sherlock said. “I invited him here.”
“You did what?” Mr. Vine yelled.
“I thought it best”, Sherlock said mildly. “After all a crime has been committed here. And you strike me as the sort of person who would much rather it was all sorted out quickly, today if possible. Unless you would rather that the police spend months investigating every single aspect of your affairs?”
“No!” the man yelped, his eyes wide. “Send him up!”
“While I was coming here”, Sherlock began, “one thing struck me particularly about this crime. Assuming that Mr. Crowley was innocent it had to be one of the other three people, surely? But a 'turf war' as the expression goes is a dangerous thing, and in this type of business it can often be fatal. Like on the battlefield one is never sure if there may come a moment when ones allies may suddenly turn their coats. So, I considered an alternative.”
“I supposed that two of the other three had connived in the framing of Mr. Crowley? They would be in a much stronger position because they could form a temporary alliance with the third person to destroy my client's organization and then choose their moment to turn on their unsuspecting former 'ally'. Thus it was not which of a group of people was guilty but which was innocent. I was fortunate to establish quite early on that you, Mr. Vine, were the innocent party.”
“Of course!” he growled.
Sherlock smiled beatifically at him. I reached twelve before the fellow broke.
“Er, how exactly?” he asked.
“Because the bauble that you have on display upstairs is a fake.”
“What?” Our host shot to his feet.
“Calm yourself”, Sherlock said. “Doubtless Miss MacIntyre and Mr. Bercow are currently having a most pleasant discussion as to how to make the maximum amount of money from the original which is currently in their possession.”
“Sir, you will have to be more explicit”, Inspector Bradley intoned. “I cannot enter either of these people's houses without a good reason.”
“I will tell you how the crime was committed”, Sherlock said. “It was quite ingenious, I must say. First, there were two clues in the costumes that the people chose.”
“The costumes?” Mr. Vine asked.
“Both Miss MacIntyre and Mr. Bercow chose Scots rulers”, Sherlock said. “A natural choice for the lady with her Scots ancestry, but Mr. Bercow is English with one Welsh great-grandparent. However, as Robert the Bruce he was wearing a kilt. The sporran worn at the front of that item of apparel is a receptacle most ideal for storing small items such as the Devil's Foot.”
“But when did he take it?” Mr. Vine asked. “He never had an opportunity.”
“While you and two of the guards were outside investigating that conveniently-timed firework, Miss MacIntyre talked with Mr. Crowley and Mr. Bercow waited for the guard to become distracted for a moment. Since the Devil's Foot was on display at the British Museum only recently it would have featured in their catalogue and it was easy for Mr. Bercow and Miss MacIntyre to obtain the replica that they brought with them for the evening, the item which is currently upstairs. Mr. Bercow is an expert thief and his sleight of hand made sure that the switch was unnoticed.”
“The bastard!” Mr. Vine ground out.
“The fact that you did not know that it was a fake upstairs showed that you were the one person not included in the scheme”, Sherlock went on. “You did however neglect to tell me one thing, namely that the idea for the fluorescent paint came from your fellow 'business associates'. I dare say that Miss MacIntyre had some paint on her lady's gloves when she shook hands with Mr. Crowley earlier in the evening then made sure to dispose of them before the 'theft' was discovered. Most probably in a fireplace.”
“But what about the woman who distracted the guard?” Mr. Vine asked. “What was the point of that if the thing had already been switched?”
“Because the item had to be taken at the right time in order to focus suspicion on Mr. Crowley”, Sherlock said. “Lying is an inherent part of your profession, sir, but withholding information from a private detective is never in your best interests. As Mr. Biggerson said, Mr. Crowley went back upstairs later for another look at the Devil's Foot. One of Miss MacIntyre's agents was waiting for him to do exactly that. When she saw him leave the party she quickly distracted the guard so that suspicion would fall on the intended target. No-one was concerned with the area after the theft, so that was easy.”
Mr. Vine blushed.
“So which of them has it, do you think?” the inspector asked.
“I would try Miss MacIntyre first”, Sherlock said. “As Mr. Bercow is deeply misogynistic the distracting lady must almost certainly have been in her pay; I have only once known him to employ a female and then because he had to. It is ironic I suppose that such a man as he was prepared to work with a woman to remove two male rivals, though once he and Miss MacIntyre had finished they would inevitably have turned on each other.”
“I shall go there now”, the inspector said standing up. “Thank you sir.”
“Yes, thank you”, Mr, Vine echoed. “I only hope that I get the thing back.”
He did. The bracelet was traced to Miss MacIntyre's house as Sherlock had predicted, but obtaining a prosecution against them proved impossible due to the lack of witnesses. However Mr. Crowley was fulsome in his gratitude at being released (the sulky pout on Sergeant Whitefeather's face was particularly pleasurable!) and our criminal friend later told us that both Miss MacIntyre and Mr. Bercow had both subsequently decided to 'retire from the business' – although in Mr. Bercow's case it was a short retirement as he was found floating in the Thames less than a month later. The assassin Mrs. Kyndley later admitted to me that it had been one of her more enjoyable 'direct removals'.