The Vigil at Camden House – Chapter 4

            Moriarty did not sleep at all that night. After Eames left, he sat by fire and watched as the flames licked the fireplace wall until the burning embers had ceased to glow orange and the room was plunged into darkness. Although the name, Sherlock Holmes, was not one that Moriarty was familiar with, the manner of the man who had broken into his study and the revelation of his occupation was enough to cause considerable concern.

When the dawn finally broke the next day, the weary Moriarty raised himself up and out of his chair and headed straight for the front door where he put on his gloves and coat before stepping out into the brisk winter air. He walked smartly through the streets as London awoke around him.

As he headed closer to his destination, his mind thought of little else than the name that had been given to him the night before. In his mind’s eye, he began to wonder what sort of man this Sherlock Holmes was like and how he had ever been able to stumble across Moriarty’s name. Moriarty had built his criminal organisation with such complexity and care that the mere fact that this Holmes had even managed to come up with his name was something of a miracle in itself.

By the time that he emerged on to Baker Street, Professor Moriarty already held the greatest respect and awe for the unseen Sherlock Holmes. He stopped opposite a modest building and checked the address on the paper. Sure enough, this was 221B.

Moriarty continued walking along the street, occasionally glancing up at the window looked out from 221B. Through the glass, he could see a tall, gaunt looking fellow staring out at the street below. This man appeared to be talking to someone else in the room, although from the brief glances that Moriarty could give he had no inkling as to who else may have been there.

As he continued down the street, Moriarty’s eyes flashed to the window of a house that was opposite Holmes’ residence. On the face of it, the house looked to be abandoned and, as Moriarty drew alongside the door he could make out the faint name engraved in the rusted, bronze nameplate.

“Camden House.”

Moriarty continued walking until he reached a side street that diverted around the back of the Baker Street houses. He followed until he found the back of the abandoned house. With a quick check to see that some curious local was not observing his movements, Moriarty stalked smartly up to the back door and forced it open.

He stepped inside, his heart pounding. His criminal career had been long and distinguished, and yet he himself had never physically taken part in any crime. Sure enough he had been the intelligence behind each operation, but he had never visited a crime scene nor done anything observable that could ever be suggested as illegal. And yet, now was the first time in years that Moriarty could actually feel the blood pumping under his skin. He felt powerful, implacable and full of adrenalin.

For the first time in years, Moriarty felt alive!

As he arrived upstairs, the unpleasant aroma of dust and mould greeted his nose. He found the room that looked out over Baker Street and prepared himself for his long vigil. Grabbing hold of a chair that was propped up in the corner of the room, Moriarty set himself up at the dusty window that commanded an excellent view, not only of the street below, but also of the room directly opposite. In that room the gaunt man, whom Moriarty had seen before in the window, was pacing back and forth across the room whilst talking to another man, who sat in an armchair embroiled in a newspaper.

As Moriarty watched the two men from across the street, he observed that the gaunt man seemed to be dictating the conversation, bounding energetically across the room, gesturing matter-of-factly and occasionally grabbing sheets of paper or small objects to show to his companion. The man in the armchair, on the other hand, appeared to flitter between expressions of confusion and amazement as his friend spoke. The more Moriarty watched, the more sure he was that the gaunt man was the mysterious Sherlock Holmes.

For the rest of the day, Moriarty watched the comings and goings at 221B Baker Street, his keen eyes examining every aspect of Holmes and his demeanour. The longer Moriarty watched, the more wary and yet more respectful he became of his new interest. By the time that night fell at the end of the day, Moriarty’s simple expedition of interest had turned into an obsession. Such was his willingness to find out more about this man that he had completely forgotten to eat or drink anything all day. With a reluctant heart, Moriarty ripped himself away from the window and headed outside to find a local lad to send a message for him before returning to his vigil.

Within an hour, Moriarty heard the heavy footsteps of a man moving up the creaky staircase. Although he knew whom it must be, he cautiously retreated into the shadows. He watched carefully as the silhouette of a broad shouldered man stepped inside the room and glanced around. Moriarty recognised his right hand man immediately.

“Good evening, Colonel,” he announced, stepping out of the shadows. “Thank you for joining me.”

Colonel Sebastian Moran stared at Moriarty through the darkness as the Professor made his way back to his spot by the window.

In the window opposite, Moriarty could see that Holmes’ companion had left 221B, leaving Holmes alone. He was moving around the room searching for something that he eventually found on his desk near to the window. As Holmes raised the violin to his chin, Moriarty sneered cynically and waited for what he was sure would be a truly awful attempt at playing such a perfect instrument.

However, the sound that wafted across the street was not entirely unsatisfactory to Moriarty’s ears. Whilst Holmes was certainly not a professional, he was able to manipulate the instrument so elegantly that Moriarty almost lost himself in the serenity of the music.

Moran shuffled impatiently by the door, snapping Moriarty out of his dream-like state.

“I trust this is important, bringing me out here at this hour!” he declared, his Irish voice echoing off the dilapidated walls.

“My dear Colonel,” Moriarty spoke softly, not taking his eyes away from the swaying Holmes. “Naturally, it is of very great importance.”

“Well, what is it then?” he demanded impatiently.

Moriarty tore his eyes away from the window and stared back at his friend.

“Someone has broken into my study,” declared Moriarty.

Moran shrugged his shoulders. “So? What of it?”

“It was an amateur detective, my dear Colonel, although he prefers to go by the more grand title of ‘consulting detective’ on account of his numerous dealings with the police. He went into my rooms at the university and found a very important note that I had written on my papers there! The note in question, whilst not particularly detailed, contains references to the Athens Diamond, which means Mr. Holmes is now almost certainly aware of our intention to steal it!”

Moran looked incredulous for a moment before bursting out into laughter.

“Very funny, Professor,” he cried out. “Very funny indeed. I know you much better than that! You are careful and thorough to a fault. There is no way that you would have left a note of any real importance out on your desk, regardless of the risk of someone breaking in!”

“Oh, I didn’t say I left the note out,” replied Moriarty. “On the contrary, the note has been in my possession since I wrote it! No, the gentleman who broke into my study recovered the contents of the note by reading the impression left on the sheet of paper below.”

“I would have thought you to be more careful, Professor,” announced Moran, grabbing a spare chair from the side of the room and setting it down next to Moriarty’s.

“Whilst my skills are remarkable, I do not claim to be without fault,” replied the Professor as Moran took his seat. “But trust in this, I intend to be far more careful with the notes I write from now on.”

Moran glanced out of the window, spotting Holmes on the other side of the street to them.

“Is that him then?” he asked.

“Sherlock Holmes,” replied Moriarty, also returning his gaze to man across the street. “Have you heard of him?”

“Aye, I’ve heard of him,” replied Moran. “Quite a clever fellow by all accounts!”

“So I understand,” agreed Moriarty.

“But why are you bothered by him? He is an amateur and of no threat to us!”

Moriarty shook his head.

“Colonel, my business relies heavily on the ability to predict the actions of our police colleagues. The long nose of the law, whilst distinguished, points in only one direction at a time. I thrive on being able to determine in which direction the nose is pointing. Amateur detectives, however, do not play by the same rules and cannot be trusted to follow the breadcrumbs that I lay out for them. As such, this man Holmes may be a very real threat to us!”

The two men watched as Holmes finally finished his playing and set the violin back down on the desk. He reached into his pockets and produced his pipe that he lit and started to smoke as he sat down in front of the fire.

“Would you like me to take care of him?” Moran asked.

“No,” replied Moriarty, watching with interest as Holmes pondered. “This man Holmes has taken great pains to test my ability. It seems only right that I should do the same!”

Moran shook his head in exasperation.

“Do not toy with the man!” he said. “If he is on to you then have him killed and be done with it!”

“And risk not knowing his true potential?” Moriarty inquired. “No, no, Colonel, that won’t do at all. That would be awfully unscientific and could risk drawing more attention to our activities! No, I have a better plan!”

Moriarty reached into his pocket and began to scribble something down. Moran stared, wide mouthed.

“You are fascinated by him!” he declared.

“Absolutely,” replied Moriarty. “He has engaged me in a game of wits. He has tested my ability and now it is time for me to test his!”

“At the expense of our operations?”

“If necessary, yes!”

Moriarty finished writing and grabbed Moran comfortingly around the shoulder.

“My dear Colonel,” he began. “I intend to test this man. I intend to give him a clue to unravelling one of our operations to see whether he is up to the task. I shall pose, by writing short notes of course, as a member of our organisation and pass details of our smaller operations on to him by way of coded messages.”

“It sounds brilliant,” muttered the colonel, sarcastically. “But what if you’re wrong about him. What if he hasn’t got anything on you, or isn’t even investigating you? If you confirm that he is on the right track, he will not stop his pursuit of you!”

Moriarty smiled.

“You do not understand,” he replied. “I shall be his informer, his route into the organisation. The vast majority of what he will know will come from me, which allows me the perfect opportunity to manipulate him! He already knows that we are interested in the Athens Diamond, so I see no reason why we cannot gain his trust by confirming that fact. Once our trust is established, it should be relatively easy to convince him to take one course of action over another that may be more damaging to us!”

Moran turned, his blue eyes finally beginning to grasp his superior’s scheme. “Send him on the wrong path!”

“Exactly,” Moriarty confirmed. “If I feed him a successful operation, he will trust the character that I design. In time, I will be able to distract him with a small and insignificant operation to allow us to carry out a more audacious scheme. And I imagine that wherever Holmes’ logic goes, the nose of the police force will surely follow!”

“Amazing,” announced Moran, the first signs of a smile appearing on his face. “Utterly amazing!”

“Thank you,” replied Moriarty, passing over the paper on which he had been writing. “Now, deliver this across the street and we shall watch the scheme unfold.”

Moran took the paper and read the words on it.

It read, “BUIFOT EJBNPOE UP CF TUPMFO PO MPOEPO-FEJOCVSHI USBJO. QMBOOFE CZ QSPGFTTPS NPSJBSUZ. B XFMM XJTIFS.”

Moran looked up at Moriarty. “But what does it mean?”

“It is Augustus’ Code,” explained Moriarty. “A simple substitution code. A becomes B; B becomes C and so forth. If Holmes is half as clever as I give him credit for, it won’t take him long to decipher it. When he does, he will know precisely where he needs to be to stop the Athens Diamond from being stolen.”

He held out the original message that he had prepared in plain text.

“Athens Diamond to be stolen on London-Edinburgh train. Planned by Professor Moriarty. A well wisher.”

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