Tag Archives: Afghanistan


7 Aug

It was a damned inhospitable place,” I told Holmes over a pipe of something a little more exotic than tobacco. At least that’s what I thought might be in Holmes’ pipe. I was, as was usual, not smoking. The gaseous effluence from Holmes’ own pipe provided me with all the chemical stimulation I could ever need.

So I should imagine,” nodded Holmes.

Sherlock, you should have been there,” I said firmly, “the war was one thing, but the damned weather…”

Appalling, I’m sure,” he nodded.

Just imagine trying a major amputation with all the odds against you, that’s all I can say,” I muttered.

You did a brave job, Watson,” he told me, “or so I’ve heard,” he added.

You’ve heard? Who’s been talking?” I asked, surprised.

It was a good year ago, Watson. I popped in to the Diogenes club to have a word with brother Mycroft..”

You make him sound like a friar or a monk!” I laughed. “Brother Mycroft indeed!”

Well, his name is Mycroft and he is my brother, so I don’t really see how you could interpret it any other way,” he said quietly. “As I was saying before you so unnecessarily interrupted me, I popped in to see Mycroft on a matter of national importance, and he introduced my to one-armed Mike from Aldershot.”

One armed Mike? I’ve never heard of him!” I expostulated.

You were acquainted with his missing arm, I believe, for you amputated it,” said Holmes.

I hacked off many limbs, Holmes, during one cold winter in the mountains,” I told him, and shivered. “I can hardly be expected to remember all of them!”

Well, one-armed Mike was one of them. He now works for Mycroft on secret affairs of the state, but he told me when I met him of his fondness for your work, Watson. He said that had you not removed the remnants of his shattered arm when you did he fears infection might have spread throughout his body and he would now be beneath the sods of an Afghan mountain, pushing up the poppies!”

I’d probably remember him if I met him again,” I murmured.

That’s just as well, Watson, for you are to meet him!” laughed Holmes. “You and I are to call on Mycroft this very morning, in his office sadly and not in his club, where you will be reacquainted with One-armed Mike.

Why? What’s afoot, Holmes?” I asked, curious.

It is a small matter of the prince’s cravat,” he told me, obscurely. “Come along, Watson, put that pipe down and let’s be off!”

I’m not smoking, Holmes.”

Then let’s be off,” he smiled, and led the way onto Baker Street.

What can possibly be important about a cravat?” I asked as we hurried along.

It’s not so much the cravat as what is concealed in one of its hems,” Holmes said, cryptically.

Oh, diamond smuggling, then?”

Holmes laughed and shook his head.

You spent some time in Afghanistan,” he said, pointedly, “What do you think of when you start mulling over Afghan agriculture?”

Ah,” I said, nodding, “Opium.”

Precisely,” said Holmes. “Now, here we are and we’ll see if I’m right. These are secret Government offices, but not those on open display. This is where Mycroft leads his shadow organisation. He enjoys secrecy and cloak and dagger stuff. Come!”

He led me through an inconspicuous door, along a passage and up a flight of stairs until we arrived at the tatty wooden door labelled “MH”

Mycroft Holmes,” whispered Sherlock, “come on in!”

We walked through an outer office in which sat, at a huge desk, Miss Gibson, the prettiest secretary I have ever seen, all peaches and cream and dark, wavy hair, and she smiled and waved us on, through a second door which led directly into Mycroft’s office.

He was sitting at an even more impressive desk than that of his secretary, and facing him was a man I recognised instantly. It was Mike Armstrong, one of the bravest men it has been my privilege to meet, and when I saw him the penny dropped.

One-armed Mike,” I whispered.

Why, greetings again, Watson,” he said, his rugged and scarred face breaking into what I could only describe as a roguish smile.

Armstrong,” I replied, holding one hand out, careful to direct it away from the folded sleeve which marked an absent arm.

So you decided to come, Sherlock,” remarked Mycroft.

I was fascinated by your note,” he replied. “Apparently the prince has lost his cravat, and that has something of value stitched invisibly into a hem?”

Mycroft nodded. “You have it almost down tot he letter,” he said. “But you are slightly wrong in one detail. The prince hasn’t so much lost his cravat as had it stolen on his return from Afghanistan. And you, Sherlock, must retrieve it.”

Let me see,” murmured Holmes looking steadily at his brother. “There must be something extremely valuable in the hem of that cravat for you to be involved. As Afghanistan has poor resources of diamonds I must deduce it is something else. What springs to mind is poppies. Opium poppies. Perhaps some entrepreneur has developed a new even more toxic strain of the plant and has sent seeds sewn in the hem of a royal cravat so that they can be grown elsewhere?”

You’ve hit the target in one, Sherlock,” muttered Mycroft.

And the only person who is aware that the seeds exist is Mr Armstrong here?” asked Sherlock, “I should imagine the prince has no idea. Princes are useless when it comes to matters of national importance. I should imagine this is of national importance, Mycroft?”

His brother nodded.

But Armstrong, despite his name, has the inconvenience of only having one arm,” said Holmes thoughtfully, “and the cravat is somewhere where two arms are essential for its recovery? Hence you have called on me and Watson.”

Mycroft nodded.

Then where might they be?” murmured Sherlock, “maybe at the new exhibition of royal artefacts in Town, I suppose. Maybe in a bulletproof unbreakable glass case? That must be it. Stolen by a master criminal…”

Mycroft nodded. “One of your acquaintance,” he said gravely.

Professor James Moriarty,” whispered Sherlock. “I assume he arranged the exhibition?”

Mycroft nodded. “And the cravat, with at least a thousand pounds worth of poppy seeds sewn carefully into one hem, is on display in the exhibition, and that closes at the end of today. It will be taken from the gallery where it is being displayed to a secret storage place belonging to Moriarty, from where, no doubt, it will disappear and the seeds grown by criminal gangs producing ever more dangerous and addictive opium which will sell for a fortune on the streets. It must be stopped, Sherlock, and Armstrong here, though willing, has but the one arm left to him, and can see no way he could do everything necessary to retrieve the cravat.”

I thought of using explosives,” murmured One-armed Mike, “smash the glass case open and take the cravat. That might work.”

And stand the serious risk of scattering the seeds to the four corners of the planet,” said Mycroft, grinning humourlessly. “No, Sherlock, it’s down to you, and you have only today in which to do it….”

Come, Watson,” barked Holmes, suddenly animated. “And I need to borrow your secretary, Mycroft,” he added.

If you must,” growled his brother. “But put her in no danger. She’s precious to me.”

I can imagine she is,” grinned Sherlock. “Come, Watson!”

Not an hour later three of us, the truly beautiful young secretary (who had been in deep conversation with Sherlock as we had walked along), Holmes and myself, were in the exhibition admiring the royal cravat, which, to look at, was nothing special. Indeed, the exhibition had been there for a month and everybody who wanted to see the royal artefacts on display must already have seen them for there was just a bored looking officer on duty.

Right, Miss Gibson,” said Holmes to the beautiful secretary, “go about your duty and use your charms.”

Miss Gibson (for that was her name) approached the officer who was obviously bored, having very little to do but watch cabinets that were going nowhere, and whispered into his ear. From her body language I could tell what she was up to, and even I blushed deeply when he realised what must be going through the poor man’s mind. There wasn’t a man on this planet who could fail to respond to some of her gesticulations, and sure as anything she led him away from his desk and into a side room, no doubt with promises of glories to come.

Now Watson!” ordered Holmes, and he led me to the cabinet containing the cravat and, at a word of command I helped him lift it from its plinth.

It took us less than two minutes to have it outside, on the street, and less than two more to hail a cab and haul it on board, out of sight of passers by, who had shown no interest in us as yet.

Wait for Miss Gibson and then to Mycroft’s office,” hissed Holmes, “I can see how come a one armed man would be of little use, for it took six arms, including the delicious distraction, to get this far!”

Miss Gibson gave a knowing smile and a gorgeous wink, not to Holmes but to me, and I turned, I’m sure, a beetroot shade of puce, in response.

© Peter Rogerson 27.07.17