FOR a number of weeks, Sherlock Holmes had been in a particularly reflective mood. The greatest crime in recent history was taking place under our noses but neither Inspector Lestrade nor any of his colleagues in Scotland Yard seemed interested in taking action to investigate the plot.
On this crisp and invigorating winter morning, however, I could sense that things were about to change.
I found Holmes in animated mood. He was pacing the floor sporting an expectant look, similar to that of a child awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas.
Part way through a delicious breakfast, Mrs Hudson interrupted us carrying a letter. Holmes immediately pushed his plate to one side and examined the envelope. Playfully, he offered it to me and asked me what I deduced.
‘There is a distinctive smell of perfume. The writing is that of a female; an educated woman. It was posted yesterday afternoon. The postmark says Witherslack. It contains a brief note.’
Holmes complimented me on my conclusions but he obviously knew more. He sliced open the envelope and quickly handed the contents to me.
The letter simply read: ‘The game’s afoot’. It was signed ‘I.A.’
‘Consult Bradshaw’s, Watson! We have no time to lose. It will be the Premier Line from Euston, no doubt. It is time to confront the charlatans who have caused immeasurable devastation and death during the past three years. This letter tells me that soon the scoundrels will be gathered together under the same roof.’
‘Good heavens, Holmes, tell me more.’
‘I have sought the assistance of the only woman in the world whose powers of deduction come anywhere close to mine. I refer of course to Irene Adler who, masquerading as Lady Furness, has persuaded some of the world’s most dubious characters to assemble at Witherslack Hall purportedly for an evening of recitals and a selection of songs from Cosi fan tutte.’
‘Of course! The woman who had a relationship with Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, the hereditary King of Bohemia.’
‘Precisely, my dear Watson, the woman who featured in your short story A Scandal in Bohemia.’
Despite the best efforts of some truculent railway servants who had a disinclination to fulfil their obligations, the journey north made good progress. We shared a carriage with the owner of a cotton-spinning mill from Oswaldtwistle. After observing a frayed stitch on his collar, Holmes informed the gentleman that the overseers at his mill had been exchanging his Egyptian cotton for an inferior product from Kentucky, and selling the better product to a rival spinner. The gentleman left the train at Preston highly distressed.
We made our way from the train to Witherslack Hall in a pony and trap which had seen better days, and arrived at the appointed time.
As we entered the Hall library, our hostess and collaborator ceased her rendition of È amore un ladroncello. She hastened to lock the door behind us. When she introduced us, it was clear that the assembled congregation were displeased with the appearance of the world’s greatest detective. Several of them shuffled their feet or reached for their port to take a rapid gulp.
‘They are certainly a villainous collection, Holmes, but where is Professor Moriarty?’
‘Vile though he is, Watson, I am afraid that even the Napoleon of Crime does not possess the profound evil that manifests itself in this room today.’
In case of insurrection I removed my trusty Model 83 Webley revolver from my coat pocket. Holmes lit his briar stem pipe and assumed centre stage. He began his reflections by addressing the President of the United States.
‘I see we have here the titular head of one of the world’s most despicable crime families. A man who requires 10 per cent from each deal made by the members of that family. It has not escaped my notice that your son and brother have been involved in some chicanery with members of the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, your disreputable son has received large sums of money from dubious sources in the Ukraine. It is apparent that you and your associates are heavily implicated in this affair.’
Moving across the room towards a simpering little man, Holmes continued: ‘I have little doubt that a key player in this conspiracy is you, Doctor Fauci. When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals. He has the nerve and he has the knowledge. It is clear to me that you lied to investigators when you stated that you did not finance gain-of-function research into abominable viruses in the Chinese city of Wuhan. I am also aware that you have displayed a cavalier attitude to pharmaceutical trials which have resulted in the deaths of innumerable innocent people. You have been the foremost advocate of dangerous injections.’
A bespectacled East African man was the next to be confronted. ‘Ah, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the former communist who became the first person who was not a medical doctor to become the Director General of the World Health Organisation, a body which has become an important facilitator of the current evil. It seems to me that you are nothing more than a stooge, a useful idiot with not a jot of useful knowledge. You are a man beholden to your paymasters, be they from Beijing or Seattle.’
Holmes turned his attention to a scruffy, tieless, self-regarding individual. ‘It is no surprise to be in the presence of Germany’s “state virologist” Christian Drosten. It was you, was it not, who was largely involved with magically developing a polymerase chain reaction test for SARS-CoV-2, which was quickly accepted by the World Health Organisation? Shortly before his untimely death, Kary Mullis, the inventor of the PCR test, said it was a useless indicator for the virus, and yet it was used to terrify millions and ruin economies. Not only that, I believe that you, Herr Drosten, were heavily involved with the German-Chinese Joint Laboratory of Infection and Immunity on the opposite side of the Yangtze River from the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology. A suspicious coincidence, don’t you think?
‘And what of President Xi Jinping? Here is a man who has played the world like a fiddle. He has bamboozled and corrupted those with simple minds in foreign governments to take totally inappropriate actions to deal with a relatively mild virus. The apparent success in his endeavours will not end well for him or his associates, including the Biden crime syndicate and the misnamed World Health Organisation. His deception no doubt began in Italy, where the supine political class was traduced to instigate ridiculous coercive measures on a hapless population. He continues to treat his own people like sheep and it is an example that those drunk on power have followed elsewhere.’
Holmes seemed to be enjoying displaying his deductive genius. His gaze fell on a pompous-looking German. ‘Professor Schwab, I believe. A man who oils the wheels of the conspiracy with patronising pontifications from his lair in Geneva. A man who boasts about infiltrating governments to embed thugs such as Trudeau and Ardern, and placemen including Macron and Sunak. A man who is advised by the odious Yuval Noah Harari, whose statements include, “When you have enough data, you don’t need to send soldiers to control a country”, and who speculates about the fate of “useless people”.’
Despite Holmes’s compelling and lengthy denunciation, the old man retained his arrogant demeanour throughout.
The final member of the group was a bespectacled man in a beige pullover. As the great detective neared him, the villain shifted nervously in his seat and fidgeted with his glasses. Perhaps he had a vision that after his charmed life, the winged goddess Nemesis was about to deliver her retribution. ‘So, we meet at last, Mr Gates. The cloak of the convenient cliché of philanthropy cannot save you now. You have used your considerable wealth to influence organisations and governments throughout the world. You believe the world is overpopulated and that vaccines are a solution. You have increased your wealth by over 30 per cent during the so-called pandemic. You are clearly a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his nefarious goals.’
As I guarded the assembly, Holmes turned to thank Miss Adler. Then, addressing us both, he issued this caution. ‘Whilst we can take satisfaction from our work today, not one of these reprobates could have organised these dreadful crimes alone. There is no doubt that we have uncovered a conspiracy. A conspiracy of many hundreds if not thousands of decadent individuals. I fear we are dealing with the equivalent of the Lernaean Hydra, and this decapitation will be insufficient to stop its reign of terror. If humanity is to survive, we must redouble our efforts to thwart the conspirators.
‘As a famous statesman said before his assassination by those who were supposed to guard him, “Our way of life is under attack. We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations”.’
‘Excellent!’ said I.
‘John F Kennedy,’ said he.