The Vigil of Camden House – Chapter Two

            The meeting continued for little less than an hour longer, which to Moriarty’s mind was a little less than an hour too long. As they discussed the finer points of the robbery, Moriarty found that he was distracted. Something was different in his study and, whilst he was supposed to be devoting his full attention to the matter in hand, he felt certain uneasiness as he surveyed his surroundings. As the meeting dragged on, Moriarty supposed that it was merely the boredom and monotony of his existence that was playing tricks with his mind, willing him to discover something that could excite his brilliant intellect.

Although his life of criminal dominance had been exciting in the beginning of his career, he was now far too experienced and the work was all far too similar. He had often stayed awake for most nights, hoping and praying that some sort of disaster would befall one of his exploits to invigorate and excite his mind. But Moriarty was far too careful and he knew full well that he would live out his days being a brilliant, successful, yet utterly bored criminal mastermind.

And yet, the strange feeling that something was not quite right stuck with him throughout his meeting with Carstairs. It was only when he was escorting his supercilious new client out of the room that his eyes fell on the books that Carstairs had flung on to the table. His mind was whirring with such intensity that he barely even acknowledged that Carstairs had left.

A few minutes after Carstairs had departed, another figure entered Moriarty’s study. He found Moriarty stood beside his desk, glaring intently down at a book that he held in his hand. Without even bothering to look up, Moriarty began to talk.

“Take a note, Eames,” he ordered abruptly, “that if ever I were to reach such a stage that I should wish to give up pursuit of crime, I should arrange a little accident for the dear Mr. Carstairs in order to raise my spirits!”

Eames nodded awkwardly as Moriarty circled his desk and sat down on his chair, his mind still engrossed with the book in his hands.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

Moriarty slammed the book shut and placed it forcefully down on the table.

“Yes, Eames,” he replied. “Someone was in my rooms this afternoon and not someone who belongs here!”

“I don’t believe so, sir,” replied Eames uncomfortably.

“What you believe is of no importance, Eames,” Moriarty remarked coldly. “There was somebody in my room as recently as the last time I left it!”

“But that is not possible, sir!”

Moriarty stared coldly at his servant who shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot.

“Then how do you account for the mysterious appearance of this book on my desk this afternoon?”

Moriarty tossed the book to the opposite side of the desk. Eames approached it carefully and examined the front cover from a distance. He recognised the book immediately as a copy of “The Dynamics of an Asteroid”, one of the books for which Moriarty had gained considerable acclaim in his career as a legitimate professor of mathematics.

The confused Eames glanced across the desk at the brooding professor.

“Why, is it not one of yours, sir?”

Moriarty scowled.

“Indeed,” he replied.

“Then could it not be possible you moved it there last night, sir?”

“I am not a vain man, Eames. And even if I were, I am not the type to leave a second edition of my most prized work displayed out on my desk, particularly when I have four copies of a first edition that would be better suited for presentation! No, this book was brought here by a third party and you will tell me who that was!”

Eames gave a small, exasperated shrug.

“I don’t know what to tell you, sir,” he declared. “No one has been in your rooms from the time you left this morning until your return this afternoon.”

Moriarty arched his shoulders back and straightened until he was as tall as his back would allow. From behind his grey eyes, he surveyed Eames with precision before finally rising from his chair and rounding the table. He stopped directly in front of Eames and glared into his eyes.

“Did I have no visitors at all?”

“Only one, sir.”

Moriarty drew a sharp intake of breath.

“One is good enough,” he mused. “Tell me about him!”

Eames thought for a moment.

“There’s not very much to tell,” he said eventually. “It was an old gentleman, very old I’d say from the way his back curved over. He said that he had travelled all the way from Durham to see you…”

“And did you let him into my rooms?” Moriarty inquired, drawing himself closer to the pathetic looking servant.

“Of course not, sir,” replied Eames. “I told him you were out and that you would not be back for several hours, but he was insistent on waiting for you. Well, I thought that, as he had come all the way from Durham especially to see you, it would be rude to send him away. So I allowed him to sit out in the corridor whilst I worked out there! He waited for a good hour and a half before he finally left!”

“And he never left your sight?”

“Not once, sir.”

Moriarty stepped away from Eames and started to prowl around the room as though looking for something. He followed the perimeter of his study until eventually something caught his eye on the desk. He glared down at it for a few moments before eventually turning his cold eyes on Eames.

“You’re lying to me, Eames!” he declared.

Eames rose in hands in protest. “I swear to you, sir, its true!”

“Then why did a man who was obviously intent on seeing me decide to leave after waiting for so long?”

“I don’t rightly know, sir…”

Moriarty winced. He was almost certain that the servant had not told him everything.

With another glance at the desk, Moriarty slowly lowered himself back into his seat. There he sat for a few minutes, pondering the mystery, whilst Eames stood nervously before his desk. Finally, Moriarty pulled out his pipe and lit it with a match. As he lowered the match to put it in the ashtray, his eye caught sight of the top piece in a stack of notepaper on which he would note important appointments. As the light flickered across the white paper his mind began to reconstruct what had happened in the room during his absence.

“This man,” he said eventually. “Can you describe him?”

“Well, as I said he was old. He was hunched over and walked with a cane. His skin was very pale and his eyebrows were grey and bushy. I would have said he was fifty and not a day younger…”

“And did he carry a package with him?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Eames confidently.

“And did he leave with the package?”

“I don’t believe so, sir,” Eames said hesitantly. “Professor Marcus had asked me to help move his desk in his office, so I obliged. When I came out again, the gentleman was half way down the corridor. I watched him leave by a cab from the window overlooking the street but I don’t recall him holding the package then.”

Moriarty scowled at Eames once again.

“When you came out again,” he repeated. “So you did leave him alone!”

“Only for a moment, sir,” explained Eames, his voice full of panic. “I was only in Professor Marcus’ study for a moment. Maybe two minutes at most…”

“Two minutes gave him all the time he needed,” barked Moriarty, puffing violently on his pipe. “I hope for your sake that you got the number of the cab in question?”

“Indeed I did, sir,” replied Eames, his voice cracking with nervousness.

The Professor puffed on his pipe once again and waited until the last wisps of smoke had disseminated into the air.

“Very well, Eames,” he muttered, his voice reflecting the distain that his glowering eyes already showed. “I have a little task for you to do.”

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