A few minutes later, an excitable Eames dashed out of the University and down the street. As he disappeared around the corner, Moriarty ceased watching his servant’s progress from his study window and made preparations to return home for the evening. The process did not take long for Moriarty rarely took any of his university belongings back to his rooms, but he did take a considerable amount of time to rearrange his desk back to its correct design.
That is not to say that anything on Moriarty’s desk was vastly out of place for, if it had been, he would have been aware of it instantly. On the contrary, the changes were subtle, although now that Moriarty had become aware of them, they were so glaringly obvious that he wondered how he hadn’t seen it before. In fact, as he began to rearrange the desk back to its regular fashion, we realised that practically everything had been tampered with, down to the smallest pencil or sheet of paper.
Moriarty, with his fascination for mathematics, had designed the layout of his desk to reflect his love of the subject. Every item, from the ticking clock to his writing equipment and papers, had been placed to create a pattern that was mathematically symbolic and, to Moriarty, beautiful. However the stranger, whoever he was, appeared to have tampered with every single item on the desk; turning or shifting each one minutely so that the difference would be imperceptible to anyone who did not understand their placing.
As he replaced each item to its correct position, Moriarty was convinced that the more had been intended to cover up the lesser and thus every single item had been moved slightly to cover up the stranger’s true intention. Unfortunately for the stranger, Moriarty’s mind was too quick and the flickering light of the lit match earlier in the evening had told him precisely what he had wanted to know.
After everything else had been set into its true position, Moriarty turned his attention to the stack of paper that had interested him before. Striking another match and holding it above the notepaper, he gently rubbed his fingers down the face of the paper, searching for the tell-tale grooves that would indicate what had been written on the sheet preceding it. It was only after a good five minutes of this that Moriarty could finally say, with certainty, what the stranger had been doing in his study that afternoon.
“He only needed a few moments,” he explained to the frightened Eames when they both met again at Moriarty’s home. “The distraction caused by Professor Marcus was exactly what he had been waiting for. As you disappeared into Marcus’ study, the stranger took his chance and headed straight into my study and sat down at my desk. He then took one of my pencils from the case, grabbed the top sheet of paper and gently shaded it from top to bottom until the engraved signs of what had been written on the previous sheet appeared to him. Then, having realised that he had moved several items on my desk, he proceeded to shift every thing so as to hide what he had truly been after. He then left the book on the end of my desk in a vain attempt to distract me and headed straight out of the building. It would barely have taken him a minute!”
Eames looked back at the Professor, his face white with horror and anticipation for the scolding that he would receive.
“I apologise, Professor,” he muttered. “But may I say, it is a credit to your brilliance that you managed to discover the truth of it?”
“You may,” Moriarty remarked superciliously.
Eames gave a weak smile, his hands fidgeted nervously as he stood to one side of Moriarty’s grand lounge whilst the Professor sat in an armchair next to the roaring fire.
“What led you to conclude such a thing?” he asked. “And how did the stranger know that you would notice the difference?”
Moriarty slowly turned to face Eames. His eyes flickered with the fire beside him giving him the appearance of a man with a burning hatred inside him. With half of his face cast into shadow, it made for a truly terrifying effect and Eames himself began to step backwards for fear of the anger that was about to be unleashed.
“Perhaps he is simply a cautious man who believed that moving everything on my desk would make the difference less obvious to me,” he replied. “Or maybe he accidentally knocked something and had to hurriedly put everything back to its place as best as he could remember. Or maybe he knows of my reputation and seeks to test my ability. I couldn’t really say at this time, but I would like to think the latter is the truest.”
“But how did you discover it?” Eames asked earnestly.
“That,” Moriarty replied with a wry look on his face, “you shall never know!”
Moriarty kicked out his feet and stood up. He prowled across the room towards Eames, melting into the shadows as he moved out of the light of the fire. His chatoyant, grey eyes shone out from the darkness as he approached the terrified Eames until his majestic silhouette stopped barely an arm’s length away.
“So, what news of my visitor?” he growled.
“Well, I did as you asked, sir,” replied Eames “The cab driver had noted down the address and was only too happy to help.”
Eames reached into his pocket and held out a small piece of paper. Moriarty stepped forward and snatched it out of Eames’ hands. He peered down at the scrawled handwriting.
“221B Baker Street,” he read out before placing the paper in his own pocket. “And I trust you discovered who it is that lives there?”
“There was no need, sir,” replied Eames, the first signs of enthusiasm spreading across his face. “That address is one that I am already aware of!”
Moriarty’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, how so?”
“It’s been all over the papers, sir,” replied Eames. “The man who lives there is an amateur detective of some good standing.”
“An amateur detective?” repeated Moriarty.
“Yes, sir,” replied Eames. “He has been in the papers recently after solving some truly baffling crimes. Rumour has it that even Scotland Yard sometimes call upon his help in times of crisis.”
“And his name?” Moriarty asked impatiently.
“Holmes,” replied Eames. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
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