The Adventure of the Anonymous Agent Provocateur

This manuscript, “The Adventure of the Anonymous Agent Provocateur,” came
into my possession through a most unusual set of circumstances, and
considering the nature of the story contained within the manuscript, I have
chosen to publish the story through these means rather than through more
conventional means.  Hopefully, my presumption was not unwarranted.

The manuscript was found in my college’s debate office early in September
1998 during our annual office clean-up.  With the team knowing of my
interest in Sherlock Holmes the manuscript naturally went to me; no one
else on the team wanted to claim it.  The question of how it came to be
there in the first place seemed insoluble for a time until a chance
conversation with a former Richmond debater shed some light on the matter.
Some years ago, five or six if memory serves, the University of Richmond
debate team travelled to London to participate in a tournament and while
there a student on the team with an interest in rare books did a book crawl
through the City, hauling back home several hundred dollars in musty books
and manuscripts.  There is some question as to whether or not he even knew
everything that he had bought as he took almost all of his purchases home
and leaving a few odds and ends in the office, awaiting our discovery, one
of those odds and ends being this manuscript.

Unfortunately, attempts to contact the former debater about his loss (and
my gain) have been unsuccessful.  In the meantime, I took the liberty of
transcribing the manuscript given my own natural interest in the subject.
Some effort has been made to authenticate the manuscript which runs a full
thirty-four pages of neat handwriting.  The paper is old and slightly
brittle, the handwriting slightly worn and faded.  Carbon dating on one
sheet places its age as being from circa 1910, which confirms some of the
dating references in the story.  The question of why this manuscript was
lost, and more importantly, why it was written, cannot as yet be answered.

The textfile posted here is a transcription of the first thirty-one pages;
the last three pages mark the beginning of another, though not wholly
separate, story, one that breaks off suddenly in the middle of a sentence.
Punctuation and spelling have been Americanized through the use of Word 97;
this was done for consistencies sake because I am a horrible typist and it
was easier to make the spelling American than to try and make sure that the
spelling was British and correcting the autocorrects.  Also, for the sake
of your e-mail client, the file has been broken into four smaller chunks,
which have been numbered for easy reference.  The breakings in the
manuscript are my own; I chose moments in the story where Watson comes to a
dramatic peak, a cliffhanger of sorts, but in actuality there are no breaks
within the manuscript.

When and if the continuation of those final three pages are located, the
story will be continued.  In the meantime, this story is available for your
enjoyment.

Allyn Gibson  (agibson@richmond.edu)
University of Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
22 January 1998

The Adventure of the Anonymous Agent Provocateur
being a lost manuscript by Dr. John H. Watson

My friend Sherlock Holmes was not one known for the giving of gifts; on
those rare occasions when he did so it was only for the most important and
celebratory of reasons.  In those two years following his return from the
East Holmes’ manner had changed somewhat; usually Christmas and New Year’s
would pass unobserved, but this particular Christmas, for no reason that I
could discern, Holmes found the need to give me a present.  He said nothing
upon doing so, simply tossing the wrapped book in my lap as he mumbled a
few unintelligible and possibly meaningless words, and returned to his
daily perusal of the agony columns.

Two weeks had passed since then, and my medical practice in Paddington was
consuming most of my waking hours, and thus Holmes’ activities during the
time were unknown to me.  But I found myself sharing many hours of quiet
solitude with Holmes on the night of January Sixth, Eighteen Ninety-Six, a
wholly unremarkable day save for a drab fog hanging low over London.
Indeed, the time was best spent catching up on my leisure reading, and
while I had not yet begun to read Holmes’ present, I had glanced through
the tome several times, whetting my appetite for larger morsels yet to
come.

I held the book in my hands, and set it down on the table for perhaps the
dozenth time.  “Tell me, Holmes, have you read it?” I asked at last.

Holmes did not look up from the morning’s Times.  “You mean The Time
Machine, I presume?”

“What else would I mean?”

Holmes flung the Times on the table and took up his pipe.  “Watson, I count
no fewer than seventeen volumes that you have purchased within the past two
months that you have done no more than lovingly hold, shake your head upon
discovering that you have insufficient time in which to immerse yourself in
the book, and then replace the book, unread, in a treasured spot on the
shelves.  Knowing your proclivities, I should be safe in concluding that
each of those volumes has received at the very least a cursory examination
of some sort, whether you have read an isolated chapter or the very next
sentence.

“As to why The Time Machine, my reasoning should be simple; having been
married you tend to see some kind of sentimental attachment toward any
gift, and you think that the giver requires that the gift be read
immediately, lest the giver be truly offended.  I need only point out to
you that you have looked in my direction for some sign of disgust no less
than five times within the past twenty minutes, all the while holding the
offending volume.  Really, Watson, it should have been quite obvious.”
Holmes paused as he lit his pipe and drew in sharply.  “As to whether or
not I have read the book, you should be able to determine from the oil
smudges across the exposed paper edges and the creases along the spine of
the dust jacket that, yes, I have in fact read H.G. Wells’ novel.”

“And what did you think of it?  Travel into the past, the future?  Imagine
the great unsolved mysteries of the world that could be laid bare before
us.  And what of the future?  What does fate hold in store?  One can almost
imagine trips through time as one might travel by cab or by train.”

“Ah, Watson, what of the possibilities for crime?  Imagine committing the
perfect murder by using a time machine to be in two places at once.  Your
past self creates an unbreakable alibi while your future self commits the
deed.  Such a technology, while practical for some and educational for
others, would no doubt be abused for the sake of personal gain.  I am well
aware of your humanistic tendencies, and your judgment of humanity is
favorable, but a healthy dose of scepticism is quite necessary.

“And as for my opinion of the book, I consider it to be lurid and damning
trash, fit for children and simpletons, hardly worth your while.”  With
that, Holmes resumed his perusal of the evening papers as he smoked his
cherrywood pipe, filling our digs with the pungent odor of the burning
shag.  Chastised as I was I returned to Wells, determined to make some
effort toward beginning the novel.  No fewer than fifteen minutes passed,
however, when Holmes bolted from the couch.

“Watson, we shall have to make plans at once!”

“Whatever for?” I asked.

“Guinan is in London, staying at the Savoy, no less.”

“Holmes, whoever might this Guinan be?”

Holmes shrugged.  “I am not entirely sure, though she proved an invaluable
companion during my journeys several years ago.  She seems to know things
that cannot be empirically determined, and her intuition is peerless.
Whatever her origins, she is a most delightful individual, shown most
readily in her books.”

“Books?”

“A published author.  Rumor has it that she travels in the same circles as
some of our literary giants — Wilde, Shaw, Twain.  In any event, Watson,
we shall have to visit her, tomorrow night perhaps.  Did you have plans?”

“No.”

“Very well, then.  Tomorrow night it is.”

Just then there was a knocking at the door.  Holmes went to open it,
revealing our housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson upon the landing.  “Mister Holmes,”
she said, “forgive my interruption, but this just arrived.”  She handed
Holmes a sealed envelope and retired downstairs.

Holmes returned to the couch and turned the envelope over in his hands.
Assuming the note to be a private communication of some sort I stood and
went to the window overlooking Baker Street, pulling back the curtains and
looking into the dimly lit street below.  Under the dim gaslamps rested a
hansom cab, its driver standing on the kerb smoking his pipe.  A light from
within seemed to cast upon him, as though Mrs. Hudson had opened the door
to the man.  My suspicion was confirmed when the light faded away and I
could hear the door shut below.

“Holmes, look,” I said, indicating the street below.

Holmes came to the window and looked down into the street.  “This explains
much,” he said.  “Are you up for a little travel tonight?”

“Where?”

He handed me the note.

Come at once.  The driver is at your disposal.
— Mycroft

The journey through the fogbound streets of London was a brief one —
though London teams with traffic, at this hour the ancient city was all but
deserted, her windows shuttered against the oppressing fog.  As the cab
passed through the streets we journeyed in silence; whatever thoughts
Holmes held he kept to himself.  At last the cab pulled up at the imposing
entrance to the Diogenes Club, and I quitted the cab.  Two storeys above
there was a room aglow with lights, save for the occasional movement of men
within.  Holmes joined me, noticed as well the commotion above.

“The Stranger’s Room, I presume,” I said.

Holmes but nodded.

We mounted the steps and knocked upon the door.  As the normal usher was
not in residence at this late hour, one of the members answered the knock
personally.  He escorted us silently to the Stranger’s Room, the only room
in the club where talking was permitted.  The door swung open and Holmes
and I entered the room.

Mycroft Holmes was not alone.  He was joined by another, the Foreign
Minister, a wholly detestable man whom was not held in high regard by those
within the government or without.  Mycroft made no effort to stand for our
entrance; his immense size likely made standing for prolonged periods of
time damaging to his health.  Instead, he merely waved his hand in the
direction of the two chairs situated opposite his and the Minister’s.

“Sherlock,” began Mycroft, “the government requires your able assistance.”

Holmes leaned back languidly in his chair.  “A delicate matter, I presume.”

“Quite.  Your discretion in the Cadogan West affair has not gone unnoticed
at the highest levels of Her Majesty’s government.”

“A political problem, then?  A scandal involving a member of Parliament,
perhaps?”

The Foreign Minister cleared his throat.  “Were it that simple.  No, the
problem is this.  Early this morning the Earl of Bulkington, noted member
of the House of Lords, discovered a trespasser near one of his industrial
warehouses in the East End, near the Thames.  Scotland Yard was called in
to investigate and promptly arrested the man on the charge of espionage.”

“I was unaware of any foreign spies having been arrested today,” said
Holmes.

“Nor I,” answered Mycroft.  “However, it is the Earl’s opinion that the man
was a French spy.”

“This is most curious, to say the least.  A French spy, you say?”

Mycroft retrieved a file from his attache case.  “I have Inspector
Lestrade’s report here.  Ah, here it is.  ‘The man speaks with a slight
French accent, and his English is somewhat familiar, though the words used
were on occasion ungrammatical.'”

“The man is French, then,” said Holmes.

“It appears so.  However, my unofficial contacts with the French Secret
Service have failed to identify the man.  Indeed, this appears to be a case
of mistaken identity.”

“I fail to see the problem,” I said.

Mycroft cleared his throat.  “Doctor, the Earl of Bulkington has spent the
past three years developing a new, secret military technology for the Royal
Navy, one that may well give Britain a substantial lead in the balance of
power on the Continent.  When one considers the Earl’s standing in the
House of Lords, he may well use this incident as a rallying cry for
increased military funding and a more militant stance against the
Continental powers, in particular France and Germany.  While the French
Ambassador’s insistent denials were persuasive to Her Majesty’s government,
they did not convince the Earl, who demanded an independent investigation,
one who’s impartiality cannot be impeached.  Naturally, Sherlock, my
thoughts in this matter turned to you.”

Holmes sighed.  “Very well, Mycroft.  Have you a description of the man?”

Mycroft ruffled through his papers and began reading again, “‘He wears the
most outlandish clothes.’  And later Lestrade writes that the man appears
middle aged and balding.”

“What was his attire?” I asked.

Mycroft said, “As Lestrade writes, ‘a black suit, almost an overalls,
trimmed in red at the shoulders, with a purple turtleneck underneath.'”

“Does Lestrade give the man a name?” asked Holmes.

“Indeed.  However, it is a name with which I am unfamiliar, and consider
that both you and I are aware of the identities of all foreign spies
presently in England, I have no doubt that you would be unfamiliar with the
name as well.”

“Mycroft, your insinuation is insulting.  The name.”

“Oh, very well, Sherlock.  The man’s name is Jean-Luc Picard.”

Had I not known Holmes as well as I did, the tightening of Holmes’ breath
would have passed unnoticed.  Surely the Foreign Minister did not recognize
Holmes’ brief involuntary action as the shock of recognition as I did and
most assuredly did Mycroft Holmes.  I chose not to remark upon Holmes’
reaction, and trusted that Mycroft Holmes would not remark upon it, either.
Mycroft continued, “Sherlock, Her Majesty’s government requests that you
find substantial proof verifying that this Picard is not in the employ of
the French.”

Holmes response was curt.  “I see.  Very well, then, Mycroft, I shall look
into the matter.  Would I be safe in assuming that Picard is still in the
custody of Scotland Yard?”

“For the time being, yes, he is.”

Holmes stood.  “Come, Watson.  We have business to pursue.”

With that Holmes and I took our leave and flagged down a cab.  “Holmes,” I
said once we had put the Diogenes Club far behind us.  “Scotland Yard, I
presume.”

“Eventually, yes.”

“Eventually?  A slight detour, then?”

“Quite correct.”  “Holmes rapped on the back of the cab and shouted, “The
Savoy, if you would!  And a Guinea if we arrive in fifteen minutes!”

“Guinan?”

“Watson, you surprise me.  Perhaps my habits have begun to rub off on you,
after all.”

I had never known Holmes to rely on intuition over intellect, but this was
as yet a most unusual case for Holmes.  “Have you any theories, Holmes?
The name, Picard, you recognized it.”

“Watson, to theorize in advance of the facts is madness itself, as any
theory invariably biases the result.  You know my methods, Watson.  Apply
them.”

“Holmes, the facts as I see them lend themselves to no particular pattern.
A man arrested, then cleared of the crime by a foreign government, and what
of the machinations of the Earl of Bulkington?  Perhaps we are lacking some
important clue.”

“Quite the two-pipe problem, wouldn’t you say?  As yet, no one solution
suggests itself easily, though I believe that Guinan will provide me the
clue required.”

“Guinan?  How so?”

“Watson, I was not entirely truthful with Mycroft, and I quite suspect that
Mycroft suspected my deception.  I have heard of Jean-Luc Picard, as you
surmised quite rightly, though if the man I have heard mentioned is not the
Picard in the custody of the Yard, then Guinan’s assistance will be all for
naught.”

“I am curious, Holmes.  How does Guinan know Picard?”

“I am not entirely certain that she does.”

“Then how can she help us?  Holmes, I am confused.”

“As are we all, Watson.  As are we all.”

The cab rode on in silence for several more moments.  Holmes appeared lost
in thought.  “Holmes,” I said, “what of the Earl?  I fail to see the
connection between trespassing and espionage.  It seems to me that this
case could simply be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“All too true.  Tell me, Watson, what do you know of the Earl of
Bulkington?”

“His reputation as a philanthropist precedes him.  I dare say his
philanthropy comes from his war injuries.”

“A fellow veteran of Her Majesty’s Army, I presume.”

“Quite so, Holmes.  Though in the Earl’s case, he fought in Crimea against
the Czar.  I believe he lost a leg, his right, if memory serves.  But
Holmes, surely you know all this for yourself.”

“Watson, it would not do to enter the dragon’s lair without some
foreknowledge of the foe.  Indeed, my knowledge in this instance seems to
surpass your own.  Philip Edward Pollard, the eighth Earl of Bulkington,
did in fact lose his leg during the Crimean War, under the most singular of
circumstances.  Then-Major Pollard was leading an infantry charge against a
Russian embankment when his mount was struck by French artillery fire.  His
leg was, most unfortunately, amputated, and he has since received an annual
pension in the amount of 1500 pounds sterling from the French government.”

“Holmes!  I daresay your knowledge is most astonishing.  Do you keep
biographies of all the members of the House of Lords in your memory?”

“Nothing quite that extraordinary, my dear fellow.  I have been secretly
interested in the Earl for some months; another of Mycroft’s infernal
palace intrigues, I regret.  There are some who fear that the Earl is
seeking a pretext for improving his political standing, perhaps as far as
pushing for a breach between Britain and France.  It may well be that we
shall have to pay the Earl a visit in the near future.”

The Savoy loomed large in our sighs and the cab came to a halt.  As Holmes
and I entered the lobby, Holmes said, “Watson, be a good man and retire to
the lounge for a few moments; the details of my relationship with Guinan
being a personal affair and not one for your sordid chronicles.”

“Really, Holmes, this is too much.  My chronicles are hardly the lurid,
objectionable trash that you called The Time Machine this very evening.
Consider, they have brought you a measure of fame and fortune, and very
much worth the while of much of London’s populace.”

“Watson, why ever you persist in writing these trifles is beyond my
comprehension.”  Holmes rang the bell at the desk, summoning the night
clerk from some inner sanctum.  The man that confronted us was a short,
husky man, weighing perhaps 15 stone.  “Wha’ d’ye wan’, gents?  Room for
the night, p’haps?”

“Not this evening, sir.  The room of Madame Guinan, if you wound,” said
Holmes as he slid a gold sovereign across the counter.

“‘Ell, gov’ner, ‘at’ll be room 213, secon’ floor, top o’ the stair.”

Holmes nodded.  “Thank you, sir.  Good evening.”  Holmes mounted the stairs
while I retired to the hotel lounge and helped myself to a pint of stout.
The local stout was far superior to the ales that I had been subjected to
during my time with the Indian Army, and as I savored the musky aromas of
the stout my hand stole toward the old, familiar wound, as I become lost in
a reverie for those long-past times.

Perhaps twenty minutes later Holmes returned, apparently having failed at
his attempt to gain the mysterious Guinan’s assistance.  When questioned,
Holmes’ answers were decidedly noncommittal, a tone Holmes had often
assumed when he discovered the incorrectness of a solution to some
important problem.  The cab was still waiting for us, and Holmes indicated
that the driver take us straight to Scotland Yard.

Holmes and I rarely had occasion to visit the Yard.  Typical of our
associations with the Yard, their business was brought to us, never the
reverse.  Holmes maintained a stony silence on our journey through London,
as my attempts to rouse him from his reverie were all rebuffed.  We rode on
then in silence save for the clopping of the horse’s hooves on the
cobblestone pavement.

The Yard was alive upon our arrival; as Holmes often said, crime never
rests.  Holmes had hoped to apply our relationship with Lestrade to gain
access to Picard, but the incomparable Lestrade was unavailable that night.
Instead, we were directed to Stanley Hopkins, a Scotland Yard inspector
held in higher regard by Holmes than Lestrade.

Hopkins was hunched over his desk, his head buried in paperwork.  Holmes
rapped on the desk, startling poor Hopkins.  “Mr. Holmes!  This is
certainly a rare surprise.  Here on business, I presume?”

“Unfortunately,” said Holmes.  “Were it not urgent business, I have little
doubt that Watson and I would not have come until the morning.”

“I see.  What then can I do for you?”

Holmes withdrew a warrant from his frock coat and presented it to Hopkins
who looked it over.  “You want to see Picard, then?”

Holmes assented.

“I think I can manage something for you, then.  Hell, the Foreign Office
has cleared the man, he says he didn’t realize he was trespassing, and we’d
rather not be holding him, except that the Earl of Bulkington put pressure
on the superiors here.  We’d have released him in the morning, in any
event, we haven’t the grounds to hold him at all.  If you want him, he’ll
be yours, and I’ll take care of the paperwork tomorrow.”

Holmes looked at me.  “Very well, then.  Hopkins, release him into our
custody.”

“Holmes!” I exclaimed.

Holmes waved his hand.  “Really, Watson, you have my assurances that
nothing untoward will happen.”

“Your assurances?  Holmes, you confound me at times.”

The holding cells were darkly lit, the oil lamps needed replacement, their
wan light casting hideous shadows on the jagged stone walls.  Stanley
Hopkins took the lead, heading through the narrow pathway amongst the iron
bars.  The cells reeked of human refuse; these cells were not often
cleaned.  Holmes took no note of it, however, his thought were clearly
elsewhere as they so often were in the hunt of a case.

“This is the cell, Mr. Holmes.”  Hopkins cast the pale glow of his handlamp
through the bars, revealing an older man, perhaps sixty years of age, bald
save for a fringe of profuse white hair around the temples.  He was
sleeping fitfully, the rags given him for a blanket barely covering his
body.

“Open the cell, Hopkins.”

Hopkins fumbled with his keys, rattling metal upon metal, the echoes of the
sound reverberating throughout the cells.  Picard stirred, woken by our
presence.  Hopkins found the key, fitted it in the lock, and turned to the
sound of grinding tumblers within.  With a mighty creak the door swung
open, and Holmes shot through the door with a bolt, placing himself in the
shadows cast by Hopkins lamp.

Picard’s face was eerily illuminated, the light shone directly in his face,
and he raised a hand to block the light.  “Who are you?” he asked quietly
in cultured English, with an accent that showed no trace of French descent.

Hopkins made a move to answer Picard’s query, but Holmes raised his hand to
stop him.  “Sir, I am Sherlock Holmes and this is my companion Doctor John
Watson.  The man holding the lamp is Inspector Stanley Hopkins of Scotland
Yard.”

Picard nodded slowly.  “Sherlock Holmes?  I see.”  Picard looked at the
floor.  “Am I being released.”

Holmes answered.  “Not quite.  Scotland Yard has agreed to temporarily
release you into my care, until a fuller disposition of your circumstances
can be ascertained.”

Hopkins moved to Picard’s side to remove the leg irons that bound him.
Picard stood and stretched, revealing himself to be an unimposing man,
quite ordinary in appearance and character, his body wrapped in the
standard blue jumpsuit afforded prisoners.  Picard stood there and Holmes
motioned for me.  “Watson, perform a preliminary examination, if you
would.”

“Here, Holmes?” I protested.  “Surely you cannot be serious.”

Holmes’ stare was answer enough.  Taking Hopkins’ lamp in hand I ran it
across Picard’s body, examining face, chest, arms, legs.  “Anything?” asked
Holmes.

“Nothing,” I replied.

“Very well.  Hopkins, lead the way.”  Taking his lamp in hand, Hopkins led
us back, past the moans of the mass of incarcerated humanity.  Holmes was
an unaffected as before, a monument to stoicism matched only by the stride
of the freed Picard.  Holmes’ cases all too often had their peaks and
valleys, but for once I felt as though this case had not yet begun.

Hopkins left us to retrieve some paperwork necessary for our release of
Picard, despite his assurances that he would deal with the paperwork in the
morning.  He returned a few moments later with Picard’s original clothing,
a purple turtleneck and a two-piece black jumpsuit with an open collar.
Picard excused himself for a few moment while he changed, and upon his
return his whole appearance and bearing had altered.  In his prison blues
Picard looked like quite the ordinary fellow, but in his black uniform his
whole look took on an almost other-worldly tone.

“Inspector Hopkins,” said Picard, “I seem to be missing a gold insignia.”

“My apologies, sir, but there was no insignia on your person.”

“I see,” said Picard.

The return journey to our digs at 221B Baker Street was uneventful.  I was
shaking off the effects of my pint of stout while Picard seemed to be
resting after a day’s trauma at the hands of Scotland Yard.  Holmes, too,
was quite his reserved self; he appeared to have drifted off into a restful
slumber.  Within twenty minutes the cab stopped in front of our familiar
door, and we disembarked.

Mrs. Hudson was still awake, though the hour was late.  I hustled Picard up
the stairs to our rooms while Holmes made arrangement for a late-night meal
for our guest.  Picard’s demeanor matched that of Holmes’ to a great deal,
upon seeing our rooms for the first time, Picard’s expression was one of
shock, but it quickly tempered back to a reserved strain.  Holmes returned
mere moments later, his ministrations with Mrs. Hudson apparently
successful.

Holmes retired to his couch, filling his pipe with shag and lighting up.
Picard sat still in a chair, and I took my familiar place, notebook in hand
as I had done many times before.  “Tell me, Picard,” began Holmes, “who are
you and what brings you to London.”

Picard sat silent for several moments, then said, “Sir, if you are truly
Sherlock Holmes, then make some deduction about me.  If I agree with your
assessment, then I will tell you what I know.”

“Very well, then, Mr. Picard, I agree.  I suspect, Picard, that you are a
time traveller, sent from the future, several centuries in our advance,
though as to your purpose I have no clue.  Furthermore, you are from
France, very likely southern France to judge by your accent, though you
have spent a number of years from your homeland and this has caused your
accent to fade.  Also, in your time you are a captain or leader, though
your actual position I cannot determine.  The rest, I leave to you.”

“Holmes!” I exclaimed.  “This is too much!  H.G. Wells has infected your
mind, I’m certain of it.”

“Hardly, Watson.  If Picard is in fact from the future, then so be it.  But
if he is not, then I am simply ‘playing a prank’ on an innocent bystander,
one who stands to create a major diplomatic breach between two of the Great
Powers of Europe.”

“Indeed,” said Picard.  “England and Germany, perhaps.”

“Hardly Germany, good sir.  England and France.”

“France?” said Picard.  “I think that unlikely at best.  The Alliance
between England and France…”  Picard paused, considering his next words
carefully.

“As yet, Picard, there is no formal alliance between our two nations.  In
the future, perhaps, but for the present there is none.”

“I see.  Well, Mr. Holmes, your reputation precedes you.  I would tip my
hat, if I had one.”

Holme smiled thinly.  “That can be remedied, I assure you.”

Several minutes later there came a knocking at the door downstairs.  The
neighing of a cab’s horse could be heard, and Mrs. Hudson was heard
conversing with someone down the stairs.  Within seconds the sound of
footfalls could be heard coming from the stairs.  I rose to get the door,
but Holmes waved me down.  “I’ll get it myself, Watson.”

Holmes opened the door, revealing the most stunning woman ever to grace our
lodgings.  Her skin was ebony, her features classical, and her head was
adorned with the largest of hats I have ever seen.  “Watson, this is
Guinan.  Picard, I believe that you know her.”

Picard stood, his jaw agape, and he whispered, “Guinan?”

“Jean-Luc?” she said, as she approached him.  “I thought you wouldn’t come
back.”

“I don’t know quite how I did, but I am here now.  And you, you never
left?”

“It’s not time yet.  I can feel it.”

Holmes resumed his seat and I pulled over a chair for a new guest.  “So,
Picard, I have fulfilled my side of the bargain.  Now what of your tale.

“Very well, then, Mr. Holmes.  My name, as you know, is Jean-Luc Picard.  I
am, in my time, a starship captain, and somehow, on my latest mission,
found myself transported here, to Earth’s distant past.”

“Distant past,” I echoed.  “How far into the future, then?”

Picard looked to me and then to Holmes.  “What year is this?”

“Eighteen ninety-six,” I replied.

Picard paused for a moment then said, “Approximately four hundred and
seventy-five years.”

Holmes said, “Nearly five centuries.  Incredible.  And what was your
mission?”

“I hardly see the relevance.  I can think of nothing relating to that
mission that could have resulted in my being here.”

“It is quite possible that there is no relevance,” conceded Holmes, “but
the more facts I have at my disposal, the quicker the disposition of your
case.”

Picard nodded his assent.  “You are, of course, correct.  My crew and I
were in pursuit of a terrorist, a Doctor Soran.  We located him on a planet
known as Veridian III, where he had constructed an apparatus to destroy a
star.  Beaming down to stop him–”

“Beaming?” I asked.

“Direct transport from one location to another, such as from here to Paris,
all in the matter of a second or two.”

“You do not physically travel from here to there?”

“Not exactly.  Essentially, one is broken down into his constituent
molecules and reassembled in another location in a matter of seconds.”

“I see,” said Holmes.  “Pray continue.”

“Beaming down to stop him I encountered a force shield of some type–”

“Force shield?” I queried.

“Unfortunately, I could hardly begin to answer your question.  The physics
behind the application of force shield technology have not yet even been
discovered by Earth scientists, and I can think of no manner in which to
describe it, even by analogy, except perhaps to call it an invisible wall.”

“That should suffice, wouldn’t you say, Watson?”

I nodded my assent.

“To continue, I discovered a way under his force shield, but became
trapped.  Soran discovered me there, then attacked me with a hand-held
disruptor.”

“Disruptor?”

“Similar to a pistol, but instead of firing bullets, it fires pure energy.”

“A radiation of some kind?” asked Holmes.

“Yes.”

“I see.  Go on, then.”

“After his attack, I must have passed out, because when I came to I found
myself here, on Earth.”

“So you have no inkling of how you came to be here?”

“None.”

“This is most singular.  In any case, the most logical course of action
would be to find a way to return you to your own time, but your own
ignorance concerning your arrival here makes any likelihood of returning
you to your own time impossible for the time being.”

Picard nodded.  “Unfortunately, I would tend to agree,” he said.

Guinan had remained silent during our questioning of Picard, perhaps
because she too was unfamiliar with the events that he described.  Why this
was so I was unsure.  That Guinan and Picard had a relationship of some
sort in the past was clear, but the story of how Picard came to know
someone in his far distant past was as yet an untold tale.

“Tell me, Picard,” said Holmes after a few moments, “What do you know of
the Earl of Bulkington?”

“Philip Edward Pollard, the Eighth Earl of Bulkington?”

“The same.”

“Very little, beyond the historical records of him extant in my time.”

“Summarize if you would.”

“The Earl of Bulkington was a soldier in the British Army during the
Crimean War, if memory serves.  Then, after his retirement from the
military he became a researcher into rocketry technology, predating several
American and German scientists by thirty years.”

“Your information is most interesting, though the verity of it I cannot
confirm.  However, it is clear that there is some connection between the
Earl’s industrial experiments in the East End and your appearance here in
London.”

“Holmes, it may only be a coincidence,” I said.

“Watson, the most intangible of coincidences often lead to the most firm of
certainties.  Have no doubt, the Earl of Bulkington is not as innocent as
he appears, his machinations may well have dire consequences for the
British Empire.  I feel a surreptitious visit to his establishment would
most certainly be the best course of action to pursue.”

“Holmes!” I exclaimed.  “On what grounds?”

“Watson, must I connect the dots for you?  Very well.  Bulkington was
covertly interested in the Bruce-Partington Plans, the very plans that
involved the late Cadogan West.  Mycroft’s mere mention of the name should
have been an indication of the seriousness of this affair, and my mention
that I had been compiling a mental dossier on the Earl should have alerted
you as well to the dire nature of his affairs.

“It is thought within some corners of the government that Bulkington has
secretly been developing a secret weapon of some manner, which would almost
certainly be in an advanced state of development by now.  Picard’s
revelation of his legacy leaves no doubt of his intent, certainly a flying
weapon, a missile of some sort, perhaps, able to strike at the distances of
continents.

“Watson, the government is impotent to act, thus the weight falls upon our
shoulders.  Picard, I cannot ask you to join us, but it is the Earl that
has besmirched your reputation.  The scales must be righted.  Will you join
us?”

Picard stood decisively.  “Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, I would be honored to
join you.”

“Excuse me, Holmes,” said Guinan, “might I join you as well?”

“Why, certainly, Guinan, most certainly.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Holmes sprung from the divan.  “Come, then.  We haven’t a moment to lose!”

Procuring a cab at two in the morning is difficult by any measure, but
Holmes had his methods.  Within twenty minutes a cab passed by our digs and
we were off on the chase.  The fate of the Empire was in the balance.

The East End of London is the dregs of the Empire, home to the riffraff and
rabble of a cultured society.  That the Earl of Bulkington would plan his
nefarious experiments in that den on iniquity was but one enigmas
confronting Holmes and myself on this most remarkable case.  We passed
briefly through Whitechapel, site of the most heinous murders of the
century a few short years before, and onward to the warehouse by the
Thames.

Confronting us was an imposing warehouse, situated on a dock that extended
out into the Thames.  Even at this late hour there was some activity
occurring within, the noises of the fall of hammers an the low murmurs of
voices echoes through the vast building.  Picard led us to where he found
himself after his bizarre journey from the distant future.  Holmes fell
prone on the ground, examining the trampled dirt in the unyielding darkness
for some clue as to Picard’s existence here.  After fifteen minutes of
searching Holmes found a shining insignia of some sort, gold in color, an
arch shaped thing with two curved bars supporting it.  “This is yours, I
presume.”

Picard took it in his hand, turning it over and over again.  “Thank you,
Mr. Holmes.”  He pinned it to the front of his uniform then tapped the
badge, which made a chirping sound.  Whatever he expected it to do, he
found himself disappointed.

“A communications device of some sort, perhaps,” said Holmes.

“Yes.”

“You were hoping that your crew might have followed you here, into the
past.”

“I had hoped, but as the saying goes, ‘If wishes were horses,’ or so it
goes.”

“Quite so.”

Holmes came up to my side, while I was gazing fixedly at Guinan as she
performed a reconnaissance of the grounds.  “Well, Watson, what do you
think?”

“You suspect some foul play within.”

“Really, Watson, I should think you know me better than that.  I suspect
nothing, nothing at all.  The only way to resolve this situation is to
investigate whatever activity is occurring within.”

“Agreed,” said Picard.

Within minutes Guinan returned, reporting that a side door to the warehouse
was unlocked.  Guinan led the way, followed by Holmes and myself, with a
watchful Picard bringing up the rear.  Holmes had his trusted Webley at the
ready, and my revolver was close at my side.  The door, left slightly ajar,
led to an inner office, from which we had a clear view of the warehouse’s
interior.

“Well, Picard, what do you think?” asked Holmes.

I stood agape, staring at the massive contraption through the office’s
windows.  Cylindrical in shape, it rose sixty feet into the air, topped by
a spherical bubble studded with windows.  The base was even more mystifying
than the body.  The cylinder was mounted six feet above a giant disk shaped
apparatus, a disk that may well have been thirty feet across.  Whatever the
device was or what its ultimate purpose might be eluded me.

Holmes said, “A rocket, I presume.”

“Quite possibly,” said Picard.  “Though if it is a rocket, it is of a type
I have never before encountered.”

“How so?”

“During Earth’s early experimentation with rocketry in the late twentieth
and early twenty-first centuries, all rockets were chemically powered,
usually by a mixing of an explosive nitrate compound with an oxidizer
resulting in a focused thrust.  But a chemical rocket requires an exhaust
nozzle of some sort to focus or channel the thrust.  This rocket, however,
only has that broad disk, so I cannot fathom the motive force.”

“Picard,” said Guinan.  “I think I know.”

Three heads turned when Guinan spoke.  “Indeed,” said Holmes.

Guinan pointed at the disk.  “Look at the rim.  Notice how there are
inward-pointing bulges at regular intervals.”

I confess that I had not noticed.  The disk itself did not rest upon the
ground, but the whole rocket was suspended in the air by three harnesses.

“An Orion?” asked Picard.

“I think so,” said Guinan.

“Forgive me, but I do not understand,” I said.

“The Orion, Doctor, was a theoretical starship designed by several noted
Earth scientists during the middle of the twentieth century.  The motive
force was not a chemical reaction as had been commonly used, but instead
the plan was to use a sequence of low-yield atomics exploding against a
massive blast plate to provide thrust.”

Guinan said, “While Earth never experimented with the Orion, it was in
common use on my homeworld of El-Auria.”

I nodded my head, though I must confess that I had understood nothing of
what Picard had said.  Holmes, however, seemed to have comprehended a great
deal.

“Picard, I doubt that the Earl would have these ‘atomics,’ but I suspect
that he may be using explosive artillery shells in their place.”

“Holmes,” I said, “do not tell me that you understood what Picard had just
said?”

“Watson, it was a most simple matter to deduce.  If you look over to the
left, just beyond the far edge of the disk you will notice stacked against
the wall are perhaps fifteen or twenty crates of standard British Army
artillery cartridges.”

The final workers had left, leaving us alone in the cavernous building,
save for one man.  Standing high above us on a gantry extending toward the
spherical appendage of the rocket was the Earl.  I pointed him out to my
companions and said, “Holmes, how could he have possibly climbed up there?
The only way to the top that I see is that ladder, but it would be most
difficult to climb a ladder with a wooden leg.”

“Agreed.  However, Watson, I would suppose that he might well have used a
crane of some sort to reach the platform.”

Properly chastised I then began to survey the edge of the disk.  It was as
Guinan had said, feeling under the rim I found several gun barrels, firmly
mounted into the disk’s structure.  I glanced up at Bulkington, but he had
disappeared.  “Holmes, where ever did Bulkington go?”

“He opened an aperture in the sphere and disappeared within.  Come, let us
find where he has gone.”

Holmes began to climb the ladder, followed by Picard and myself.  The
ladder rose for thirty feet or so, and the climb became ever longer.  At
last we reached the top, and Holmes began to look about.  He took an
interest in the construction of the platform and its intricate ironwork.

Bulkington reappeared, looking straight at us.  “Sherlock Holmes,” he said.
“I should have expected the government to send you.  And the Frenchman,
whatever his name is.  This only proves that our government is in league
with the damnable French.”

“Picard.  My name is Picard.”

“It is no matter,” said Bulkington.  He gestured at his rocket.  “Well,
gentlemen, what do you think of my present to the Empire?”

“Most impressive,” said Holmes.  “I fail, however, to see its ultimate
purpose.”

“The purpose?  Why, to enforce the peace, of course.”  Gesturing at his
monstrosity, Bulkington said, “With this rocket, and others like it, Europe
will be in our thrall.  For too long our politicians have attempted to
appease the powers of the Continent by playing their games against one
another.  But now, with rockets such as these, we can as easily drop tons
of nitroglycerin on Moscow as on Paris, or Calais.”  He laughed maniacally.
“Henry V sought to regain our ancient right in France, and now we can
reclaim it for ourselves!  Look at Germany, building an Empire out of the
chaos of the Continent, and who is to say that we cannot do the same?  They
say that the sun never sets on Her Majesty’s empire, but is it not obvious
that we cannot forever hold our farflung empire without some Sword of
Damocles to enforce our just peace?”

“Your rantings, sir,” said Holmes, “are the rantings of a power-mad
lunatic, and nothing more.”

“Nothing more?” cried Bulkington as he lunged toward us, and I fired a
warning shot off to his left.  The shock of the sound confused Bulkington
momentarily, causing him to lose his balance.  His wooden leg became caught
in the grating of the platform, and his body tottered precariously.  As
Holmes rushed to his side in an effort to rescue him he tumbled over the
side of the platform, grabbing its edge as he fell and gaining a precarious
hold.

Holmes came to his side and extended Bulkington a hand.  “Take my hand.”

“Never.”  Philip Edward Pollard, the Eighth Earl of Bulkington, let his
fingers slip away, one by one, and then he was gone.  His body hit the disk
and then rolled onto the ground.  Guinan ran up to the body and studied it.

Holmes stood.  “Well, Doctor, your opinion?”

“Judging by the fall, and the angle of the head, I would not be surprised
if he has died of a broken neck.”

“Quite so.”

Picard, meanwhile, was examining the rocket.  Holmes and I joined him in
studying the insides, finding within the opening a compartment of some
sort.  “What do you make of it, Picard?” asked Holmes.

“Mister Holmes, he might well have reached orbit with this rocket.
Guidance seems to have been handled mechanically with gyroscopes, and the
walls are sufficiently reinforced to retain air pressure, though how he
might have reentered the atmosphere I have no idea.”

Holmes nodded.

In time we rejoined Guinan and returned to Baker Street.  Our day had been
a long one, and as was our custom, Holmes and I sat reflecting upon the
events of the case.

“Your opinion, Watson?”

“Holmes, with Bulkington dead, it seems likely that England will certainly
be drawn into a closer relationship with the Continent on some basis.  And
with Picard no longer under the threat of law, he is free to do as he
wishes.”

“And what of your plans, Picard?  You are certainly welcome to join us
here.”

“Perhaps in time, Mr. Holmes.  But I must discover if I can how I came to
be here, and the history of Earth, particularly of this time, has always
been of interest to me.  No, Holmes, I think I will take the opportunity to
travel the world, perhaps meet some of the great personages of these times.
To an amateur historian such as myself, this is truly an epic occasion.”

“I see.  You would most likely need a companion on such a journey,
however.”

“True, because your Earth is far different from my own.”

“What of Guinan, then?  She proved an invaluable assistant during my own
travels of a few years back.  And her contributions to the resolution of
this case were significant.”

“And excellent idea,” Picard said.

“I quite agree,” said Guinan.

Come morning Picard and Guinan took their leave, headed for Victoria
Station and their first stop on their world tour.  Holmes and I returned at
noon to the Diogenes Club, presenting Mycroft with a summary of the case.

“So you would say, Sherlock, that Bulkington was most mistaken concerning
the identity of this Jean-Luc Picard?”

“That is the most logical conclusion.  It seems to me that Picard was most
likely an innocent passerby, caught in Bulkington’s web of deceit and
paranoia.”

“You have, I presume, pursued the matter to your complete satisfaction.”

“I believe so, yes.  Picard is hardly a matter worthy of further inquiry.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Holmes,” I interjected.  “What of the rocket?”

Mycroft Holmes stroked his fleshy chin.  “Yes, that is a matter that has
not yet been resolved to Her Majesty’s Government’s satisfaction.  Suffice
to say, there are members of the War Department en route to the warehouse
to take custody of it by the end of the day.  Bulkington’s death will,
naturally, be ruled an accident.  His insanity will be known to no one
outside these walls.”

“And the rocket’s final disposition?” asked Holmes.

“That has not yet been determined.”

Holmes nodded.  The matter was closed.  Holmes and I returned to Baker
Street, whereupon Holmes promptly retired to his bedchamber for a
well-deserved sleep.  And as for myself, I returned that afternoon to my
normal routine at my Paddington practice, the memories of this most unusual
case locked forever away in the recesses of my mind.

And so it happened that several years later Guinan visited me at my Queen
Anne Street practice shortly after Holmes’ retirement to the Sussex Downs.
I had often wondered what had become of her and Picard.  Perhaps Picard had
found a way back to his own time, or perhaps he was stranded forever in the
early years of the twentieth century, assuming some unknown identity and
forever trapped with the knowledge of his former life, a life of which he
would be forever denied.

It was late in the day, my last patient had left short minutes before, and
the last person in the parlor was nondescript save for a most unusual hat.
She stood, and said, “Doctor Watson.”

Her face was familiar, though I could not place it.  “Yes?”

She smiled.  “We met several years ago.  The Bulkington affair.”

“Ah, yes,” I said with recognition.  “Guinan.  How could I have ever
forgotten.”

I took a seat and gestured for her to sit.  “What might I do for you?” I
asked.

“Picard requires Holmes’ assistance, though he is no longer at his Baker
Street address.”

“Holmes is in retirement, my dear.”

“I see,” she said, and she was gone.

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