The Singular Affair of Mr. Phillip Phot

by The Greek Interpreters of Eat Lansing, Michigan
compiled by Page Heldenbrand

“I rather think we have Murray to thank for those,” reflected
Sherlock Holrnes as we sat before our Sussex hearth one stormy
evening in the Spring of 1945.

I turned my startled gaze from the cabinet which housed the
published records of my friend’s accomplishments to the worn chair
in which he was stretched out, his feet extended toward the fire.

“Really, Holmes, you never fail to astound me!” I exclaimed. “I
should be onto your methods by this time, but I confess I don’t see
how you voiced my thoughts so exactly.”

“My dear Watson, you overestimate my powers. I assure you
it was quite simple. I had only to note your reactions to the
thunderclap of a moment ago, and your mental processes were as
clear as the most excellent wine which accompanied our dinner.”
“Reaction, Holmes? I don’t recall that. . . .”

“That your hand stole toward your old wound? It was from that
I knew you had been reminded of the noise of battle at Maiwand,
and your thoughts could then have only logically turned to your
orderly, Murray, who rescued you in that bloody battle. And when
you presently began to regard the volumes by your publisher,
Murray, which contain the somewhat romantic record of my modest
career, I made the observation which seems to have confounded

“Well, I never I” I chuckled. “I thought at first that you had
done something clever.”

“Which, I believe,” retorted Holmes as he refilled his black
clay pipe, “is the exact sentiment expressed some years ago by our
old friend Mr. Jabez Wilson. ‘As I have said before, Watson, I
sometimes feel that it is a capital error on my part to . . . answer
the summons being beaten so persistently on our door,” he finished
as he rose in response to a loud knock. “Only a bearer of urgent
tidings ventures out on such a night as this.” A moment later he
stood before me holding a telegram. “Extremely urgent, I should
say, Watson,” he said in answer to my questioning glance. “It’s
back into harness for us, old fellow.”

He handed me the message. “COME AT ONCE. BIG GAME
ON YOUR GUARD. MYCROFT.” “Your brother doesn’t give us
much to go on, Holmes,” I commented when I had finished reading.

“I shouldn’t imagine he would, Watson. A matter important
enough to demand my presence in London is hardly the sort to be
divulged in a telegram. And now I suggest we retire. I fancy the
next few days may be slightly strenuous.”

We caught the London train the next day, and during the
course of our ride I attempted to draw Holmes into speculation
as to the cause of Mycroft’s mysterious wire. But the subject
seemed to be the most remote from his thoughts. He talked instead
of the theory of radar, of a newly-developed hybrid honey-bee,
and of a dozen other things as completely foreign to the present
affair. Arriving in London, a cab soon brought us to the familiar
lodgings in Baker Street, which Holmes had arranged to have
maintained upon his retirement. It was not long before we were
again established in our old quarters, and I joined Holmes for a
moment at the window, gazing through the curtains at the Baker
Street scene as dusk gathered and the lights began to come on.

How strange it seemed to be back with my old friend in the same
rooms where many of his notable cases had come to an often
dramatic climax! It was here, I recalled, that Jefferson Hope, the
murderer of Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson, had felt the
manacles lock on his wrists as he bent down to help fasten Holmes’s
portmanteau. Here, too, Mr. Culverton Smith, the murderous
authority on Eastern diseases, and Count Negretto Sylvius, the
Crown-jewel thief, had been brought to justice. And in this very
alcove had stood the wax image of Holmes, with the lights so placed
as to throw a sharp silhouette against the window–bait for the
second most dangerous man in London, the ferocious Colonel
Sebastian Moran. The wall still showed, alongside the unframed
print of Henry Ward Beecher, where the bullet from Moran’s
deadly airgun had spent its strength after passing precisely be-
tween the eyes of the bust. (Mme. Tussaud had later asked Holmes
if she might have the replica for her famous waxworks just down
the street.)

Then, turning to the concern of the moment, I asked: “Why
do you suppose Mycroft warned you to be on your guard, Holmes?”
My friend settled himself comfortably in the armchair, filled a
pipe with Cavendish, and pulled at it several times before reply-
ing. “As I have often said, Watson, it is foolish to theorize before
one has the facts at his command, but if I were you I wouldn’t stand
too close to the window. Whatever this matter is that is responsible
for Mycroft’s telegram, I should not be surprised if it were an
ugly one. For the moment all we can do is wait until we are ad-
vised of our next move.” And with a shrug that indicated he had
dismissed the matter from his thoughts, Holmes took his violin
from its case and, throwing it across his knee, began to scrape at
the instrument in his careless fashion, filling the room with the
sonorous chords which had so often exasperated me in the past.

I saw clearly that nothing more in the way of conversation
would be forthcoming from my friend that evening, and so retired
to my room, where–what with the tiring day’s journey and the
faint melancholy tones from the sitting-room–I was soon fast

It was shortly after ten when I rose the next morning, and I
found Holmes at breakfast amid a confusing array of chemical
apparatus which he had set up throughout the room. “I have spent
several most improving hours while you slumbered, Watson. In fact,
I rather think I shall communicate the result of my little experi-
ment to certain persons in the War Office. It should aid their
uranium researches immensely. And now, old fellow, as soon as
you have finished your coffee, we shall be off to the Diogenes

“You have heard from Mycroft, then?”

“A message came not twenty minutes ago. We have only to join
him to learn the details of this mysterious affair in which we seem
to be involved.”

I was ready in a moment and, slipping my revolver in my over-
coal pocket at Holmes’s suggestion, I followed him down the seven-
teen steps to the street, where he stood for a moment in the shadow
of our doorway looking keenly up and down the block before start-
ing for the cab-stand at the corner, lie refused to take either of
the first two cabs in line, but, urging me into the third, he called
loudly, “Piccadilly Circus, driver,” and we pulled out into the

“But why Piccadilly, Holmes?” I inquired softly. “Was that
for the benefit of the other cabbies? Surely you don’t think. . . .”

“It is wise to take every precaution, Watson,” my friend
interrupted, “for I have no doubt that we are dealing with clever
and desperate persons. Persons for whom Scotland Yard is no
match–otherwise Mycroft would not have sent for me.” As he said
this, Holmes had been staring intently out of the rear window, and
he now shouted to the driver: “Turn right at the intersection!”

“What is it, Holmes?” I exclaimed.

“We’re being followed, Watson! I rather expected this would
happen. Faster, driver, faster!” he called as we rounded the corner.
“Aha! Watson,” he cried a moment later. “You see!”
“You’re right, Holmes. That black car has made the same

Holmes urged the driver on, but our pursuers increased their
speed accordingly. The chase wound through street after street, and
it soon became apparent that we would be overtaken in another
minute or two. I took out my revolver and made sure it was ready
for use.

“We may not need that, Watson,” said Holmes. “Turn here to
the right,” he called again to our cabbie, “and then left into the
court and stop.” The sudden maneuver brought us into a small cir-
cular courtyard, from which we watched breathlessly as the other
car roared past.

. Holmes breathed a sigh of relief. “Safe for the moment at least,
Watson. I wonder why our foreign friends are so anxious to get
their hands on us?”


“Certainly. Anyone familiar with London would never have
been taken in by our trick. Now to Whitehall, driver,” he said,
and leaned back against the seat cushions in a contemplative mood.
which lasted until we reached the government offices. Dismissing
our cab, we walked around the corner to the Diogenes Club where,
once inside, Holmes approached an attendant and asked where we
might find Mycroft.

“I’m sorry, sir,” was the reply, “but Mr. Holmes left the club
about a half hour ago. Left in a great hurry he did, too.”
“That’s odd, Watson,” my friend mused, and then turning to
the attendant again: “Did he leave any message?”

“Well, sir, just before he went out by the rear door, he told me
that if anyone inquired after him I should say that he could be
contacted through a Mr. Phillip Phot.”

“That’s all he said?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re sure about that name?”

“Yes, sir. Phillip Phot.”

“Has there been anyone else here looking for Mr. Holmes this

“Yes, sir. Another gentleman came just after Mr. Holmes left.
I was going to give him the message, too, but when he learned Mr.
Holmes was gone he rushed out before I was able.”

“You say Mr. Holmes left in a great hurry?”

“Yes, sir. And most unusual I thought it at the time. He was
sitting in the bow window, and then all of a sudden he jumped
up and hurried out, giving me the message as he passed.”

“This man–what did he look like?”

“Well, sir, I can’t say that I noticed particularly. He was tall–
about your height. I’d say, and he was wearing a dark suit, as I
recall. What with me being a bit near-sighted, that’s all I can
really say for sure. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help to you, sir.
Is there something wrong?”

But Holmes was already half-way to the door. “Come, Watson,
there’s no time to be lost.”

I followed Holmes out of the club and across the street to
Mycroft’s lodgings. “What does it all mean, Holmes?” I asked as we
waited for an answer to our ring. “Do you expect to find Mycroft
here? And who is this Phillip Phot?”

“All that I hope to find here is a further clue to this business,
Watson. As to your other questions, I am as mystified as you.”
Just then the door was opened by a small white-haired lady,
who told us in answer to my friend’s question: “Why no, sir. Mr.
Holmes came in a short while ago, but lie left almost immediately
afterward, lie appeared to be in a great hurry.”

“Has there been a tall man here looking for Mr. Holmes today?”
“Sakes alive! How did you know? He came just after Mr.
Holmes went out, and was so disappointed not to find him in, too.
You wouldn’t be Mr. Holmes’s brother, would you? I seem to
recognize. . . .”

“That’s quite correct.” said Holmes, brushing past her into the
hallway. “I’d like to see his rooms, if you have no objection. Come
along, Watson.” Leaving the housekeeper standing below in amaze-
ment, I followed him up the staircase and into Mycroft’s sitting-
room, where he immediately began to rifle the contents of a desk
that stood against the far wall. “There has to be another piece to
our puzzle here somewhere, Watson, and I would not be at all sur-
prised if–yes, here it is!”

I bent over Holmes’s shoulder and read the penned lines on
the sheet of note-paper which he was examining with his magnify-
ing glass. “It seems to be a speech of some sort.”

“Exactly. Watson. A speech that Mycroft was writing for some
government official–a speech about Allied cooperation. It is far
from finished, but Mycroft has left us another clue here. You see
this last sentence? It has been added just recently, and in great
haste, whereas the rest of the context was done some days ago.

The ink has not dried as thoroughly on the last line, and the pen
has bitten much more deeply on the upstrokes. There’s even a slight
blur at the end of the final word. It has a bearing on the case,
Watson. It fits into the picture. I only wish I knew where.”

I read the sentence to which he referred. It said only: “Our
first thought must be perfect unity.” “I can’t see that this will be
of any help, Holmes. It seems to fit right into the speech.”

“I know, old fellow, but it also has a deeper meaning. Once we
are on to it, everything will be much clearer.” Holmes spent the
better part of an hour completing a thorough search of his brother’s
quarters, but unearthed nothing more, save for some bits of ash
and charred paper which he carefully gathered up from the grate.

“And now.” lie said, with a last sweeping surveyal that appeared
to penetrate into the furthest recesses of the rooms, “I suggest we
return to Baker Street. There is nothing more to be learned here.”

Holmes said nothing during the ride back to our lodgings. He
puffed thoughtfully on his pipe, and though he showed little ap-
parent emotion, I could tell that he was worried about his brother’s
strange disappearance, in addition to being profoundly puzzled at
the seemingly incomprehensible aspects of the present situation.

That afternoon my friend busied himself consulting his reference
indexes and the London directories, but nowhere was he able to
find anyone by a name resembling that of “Phillip Phot.”

With the ashes he was more successful. By treating the charred
remnants with various chemicals and patiently assembling them,
he was able to reproduce what had evidently been a newspaper
clipping. “From the agony column of the Times, I should judge
by the type face, Watson. But I fear we are little better off than
before–it’s in cipher. However, if you will be good enough to hand
me the Times for day before yesterday, I shall have a more legible
copy for my decoding efforts.”

“But how can you be sure of the date from the clipping,

“Simple deduction, old fellow. Since we can be reasonably cer-
tain that it was this coded message that was in part responsible
for Mycroft’s summons, it is safe to assume that it appeared the
same day he sent his wire.”

While Holmes was unfolding the paper the telephone rang, and
as I moved to answer he sprang from his chair and seized me
roughly by the arm before my hand could reach the receiver. “Don’t
touch it, Watson!” he cried, his voice filled with apprehension.
Then, dumfounded, I watched as he swiftly followed the cord
to the wall-box, snatched away the cover, and tore loose the con-
nections inside.

“Our foreign friends of this morning have again favoured us
with their attentions, Watson. If you will note the small but I
fancy extremely destructive explosive charge that was wired to
our telephone, I believe you will see readily enough that neither of
us is meant to be alive at this moment.”

“But I don’t see how you knew.”

“Elementary, Watson. Only Mycroft and these unknown ene-
mies of ours are aware of our presence in Baker Street, and since
the secret nature of the information which Mycroft intended to
communicate to me would make it inadvisable for him to phone,
it wasn’t difficult to surmise just who was desirous of having our
receiver lifted.”

Holmes then proceeded to take from the corner the heavy sledge
which had played such a prominent part in the schemes of Baron
Maupertuis and, to my amazement, to break out our front windows.

“I doubt if our would-be assassins have risked remaining in the
neighborhood while we met our violent end,” he said by way of
explanation, “but they are probably not far off. They knew when
we returned. And as they will doubtless be by to ascertain their
success before long, I fancy this little deception will satisfy their
homicidal penchant in our regard and enable us to continue our
investigation more comfortably. If you will stand here to one
side, my dear fellow, where you will not be subject to observation
from the street, we shall await the entry of the villains.”

Holmes had hardly spoken when the same black car which had
given us chase that morning drove past. “Rather a singular in-
terest they evinced in our shattered rooms,” my friend chuckled.
“It would have been a pity to disappoint them after all the trouble
to which they had gone in our behalf.”

“They certainly appear extremely anxious to do away with us,”
I remarked as we left the now-uninhabitable sitting-room for the
warmth of Holmes’s bed-chamber. “A good deal of importance
must be attached to this whole affair.”

“I’m sure of it, Watson. Our riddle is of the utmost consequence,
and certain persons are very much afraid we will find the answer.
For the present I think we are safe from them, although it might
be wise to make use of the rear exit in the future. And now to
return to our cryptogram.”

It was not until late evening that my friend rose from his chair
and informed me that he had finally broken the code. “A most
ingenious cipher, Watson. One of the most difficult I have ever
encountered. The variation on the Vigenere Tableau that was
employed is worthy of a monograph, I think.”

“And the message, Holmes?”

“Here is the result of my labor,” he said with a wry smile,
handing me a sheet of paper. “See what you make of it, old chap.”

read. “I’m afraid I fail to see the significance.”

“I’m afraid we both fail in that respect, Watson. I have no
doubt that it is of the greatest significance–we have only to put our
finger on it. But we have another piece for our puzzle; the prob-
lem now is to fit the pieces together.” Then, settling down with his
pipe, my friend advised me to retire. “I may be up most of the
night, Watson. This, I think, is a four-pipe problem.”

When I arose the next morning, I found Holmea exactly as I
had left him. The carpet around his chair was littered with ashes,
and it was evident that he had not slept at all. “No light in the
darkness yet, old fellow,” he said wearily. “The answer is there,
but it still eludes me.”

“You really haven’t a lot to go on,” I said, taking a seat facing
my friend. “Only the sentence in Mycroft’s speech, that apparently
meaningless code message, and the name ‘Phillip Phot’ which, I
take it, means nothing to you.”

“Absolutely nothing, Watson. The name is not familiar to me,
and, as far as I know, Mycroft had no such acquaintance. I must
confess it has me baffled.”

“It’s an odd name, Holmes,” I remarked, “Phillip Phot.”

“Very odd, Watson. Not common at all. It’s one you’d remember
–yet it fails to strike a responsive chord in my memory.”
“I can’t say that I’ve heard it before. Phillip Phot . . . Phil
… . Phot. Most perplexing.”

Holmes suddenly sprang to his feet. His eyes were alive, and
he crossed swiftly to my chair and took me by the shoulder. “What
did you say, Watson?” he cried. “What did you say?”
“Only the name, Holmes: Phil Phot.”

“Phil Phot! By George, Watson, I believe you’ve hit on it! Of
course, that’s it! The last line in the speech . . . and the name!
It all fits! What a fool I’ve been! What an unbelievable fool! Now
If only it’s not too late!”

Holmes took volume “M” of his index down from the shelf
and leafed impatiently through the pages. “Mitchell . . . Mitek
… . yes, here we are!” But after reading for a moment, he cast
the book aside with a gesture of disappointment. “I have been out
of touch with events in London for too long. I imagine, however,
that Langdale Pike will have the information I require.” And with
that he was gone, leaving me as completely confused as before.

My friend was back shortly with a triumphant look in his
eyes that lie could not conceal. “I have spent a most educational
quarter hour, Watson.”

“Then Pike was still at his post in the bow window of the
St. James’s Street club?”

“Still there, and as well-informed as ever. And now, a quick
change of identity and I shall be off for a bit of house-breaking.”
A few minutes later Holmes, wearing a goatee and clad in coveralls,
paused in the doorway to light his clay pipe. “It’s Escott the
plumber again, Watson,” he chuckled. “Let us hope he serves to
as, good advantage as he did in the Milverton affair–without find-
ing it necessary to play the role of lover. In any case, with a little
luck he should find considerably more than a clogged drain.”

It was close to six o’clock when Holmes returned, and I could
tell by his manner as he placed his tool kit in the corner and began
to remove his disguise that he was hot upon the scent. “Our mystery
is solved, Watson,” he declared. “The picture is complete at last.
If all goes well, tonight should see the apprehension of our big

“You found something more, Holmes?”

“I found something again, old fellow–a clipping from the three-
day-old Times.”

“The secret message!”

“Exactly. And in view of where I found it, the wording becomes
quite suggestive. Everything makes sense, Watson. Now it is time
to act. And there is not a moment to be lost.”

While he spoke, Holmes had been swiftly altering his appear-
ance in front of the mirror, and when he turned away and began
to don a worn brown suit, I found it difficult to believe that this
was indeed my companion of so many years. A bushy mustache and
skillfully applied putty and cosmetics had changed his features
beyond all recognition. “Your astonishment is heartening, Watson,”
he chuckled, “for I shall doubtless have to pass muster for some
most discerning critics.” Then, pocketing his revolver and urging
me to do the same, he led the way down to the street, where he
slid behind the wheel of a small sedan which he had evidently
hired that afternoon. After a short drive, my friend pulled to the
kerb in the middle of a residential block and switched off the lights
and motor. The fog lent an air of mystery to the deserted street,
which served to enhance my own mood of anticipation as I noted
that Holmes’s eyes were fixed on a lighted dwelling just back of us.

“You’re waiting for someone, Holmes?” I ventured.

“Yes, old fellow. For the person who is unwittingly going to
lead us to the meeting place of the interior decorators–and to our
quarry. It was her rooms here that I searched this afternoon.”

“Then it is a woman?”

“Decidedly so, Watson. And a woman who has figured as prom-
inently in the international situation as THE woman, I should say.
You possibly remember her return to this country some five years
ago from . . . wait! A cab has stopped in front. And here she
comes down the steps.”

I could make out the slim figure as it entered the waiting taxi,
which, after passing us almost unseen in the fog, Holmes began
cautiously to pursue. “The ride of Valkyrie commences,” he said
softly, and so intent was his gaze through the windshield that I
did not question his puzzling remark. After traveling what seemed
an aimless and circuitous route for some time, I saw that we had
progressed into the Soho, and, shortly after passing the warehouse
in the basement of which the Amateur- Mendicant Society had
located its luxurious club, Holmes pulled to an abrupt stop.

“We have evidently reached our destination,” he said, climbing out.
“Wait here, Watson, and I shall be back presently.” In a minute
he returned, and his voice was tense as he told me: “She’s gone
into a back room of the deserted pub just ahead. Watson. There’s
no time to explain. From now on the success of our venture de-
pends on you. Go to Scotland Yard immediately and find Inspector
Baynes–he’s the best of the lot at present. You may recall his
father in connection with the affair at Wisteria Lodge. If you men-
tion my name you should have no difficulty in bringing him and
his men back here with you. I should have the situation in hand
by the time you arrive, and if you will have Baynes surround the
establishment and force entry in the rear, he will bag the biggest
German agents at large in the country.” And giving me a reassuring
slap on the shoulder, Holmes vanished into the mist.

I lost no time in obeying his directions, and it was not long
before Inspector Baynes, several constables, and myself were
breaking in the pub’s alley door and entering with guns drawn.
The small room in which we found ourselves, however, was empty.
The only furnishings were a wooden table and two chairs which
stood near the wall to our right. We stopped short at this un-
expected turn of events, but only for a moment–Holmes’s voice
sounded through the wall on the left: “In here, Watson, in here!”
Crossing the room, we passed through a door into the front part
of the building, from where another doorway on our loft opened
into a second room at the rear. It was here we found Holmes with
his revolver carefully trained on nine shabbily-dressed, sullen-
looking men who sat in two rows of chairs before him. “Good work,
Watson,” he said, and then to Baynes: “If you will be good enough
to take these gentlemen into custody, I believe you will put an
end to the remnants of organized German espionage in England.”

“Yea, I seem to recognize one or two of them,” the Inspector
replied, and added with a smile, “which is more than I can say
about you with that mustache and all. You are to be congratulated
on your accomplishment, Mr. Holmes.”

“To the contrary, Baynes. I have failed miserably. Due to my
bungling the biggest fish has escaped the net.”

“But you saw her come in here, Holmes,” I said. “Where did
she go?”

“She was here. Watson, but she made good her escape. How-
ever, it is not her to whom I refer.”

“Then there is a woman in this?” asked Baynes.

“There was,” my friend replied. “However, she is not of much

“Then who. . . . ?” I began.

“The most sought-after man in Europe, I should say, Watson. I
had him . . . and he slipped through my fingers.”

“But you took the rest. How were he and the woman alone able
to get away?”

“Because of my own colossal stupidity, Watson. You see, the
rear part of this building was all one room when I arrived.” And
as we watched in astonishment Holmes pushed upon the wall which
separated us from the room into which we had originally entered,
and it swung rapidly upward to lie flat against the ceiling. “It has
been cleverly hinged and attached to a spring arrangement. They
were sitting at the table, apart from the rest of us; and when I was
called upon to properly identify myself and complied by drawing
my revolver, one of them released a catch, the wall fell into place
between us, and they made off through the alley door.”

“Nonetheless, I should say you have done a magnificent piece of
work, Mr. Holmes,” Baynes said warmly. “My men will remove
your captives now; and I am sure Scotland Yard will remain for-
ever indebted to you.”

“It’s not good enough, Baynes. By rights our king-fish should
now be in your custody; instead, I am afraid he is beyond our

“He is still to be had, Sherlock,” said Mycroft Holmes from the
alley doorway.

My friend stood in shocked surprise for a moment and then,
swiftly crossing the room, he took his brother’s hand. “Where have
you been?” he asked, his voice clearly evidencing the immense
relief he felt.

“All in good time, Sherlock. If the chief decorator is to be ap-
prehended, we must hurry.”

“You know where he is?”

“Precisely. On his way down the Thames on the freighter

“We can take a police boat at Westminster wharf,” suggested

“Capital!” Holmes exclaimed. “Let us be off!”

As Baynes’ car sped us to the wharf, Holmes related to his
brother his evening’s adventures, and then inquired of him with a
puzzled frown: “How did you pick up the trail after his escape?”
Mycroft smiled. “I drove him to the boat.”

“You drove him to the boat?” Holmes repeated incredulously.

“Exactly. You see, when the attentions of our German friends
forced my hasty retreat from the Diogenes Club and subsequent
disappearance, I decided that I might yet serve to advantage in
the role of cab-driver. You must agree, in view of my experience
in that vocation in connection with The Final Problem, that the
part was a natural one. It may also surprise you to learn that it was
I who drove the woman to the meeting place. That was how I hap-
pened to be waiting nearby when the two of them ran out of the
alley. She headed off in the opposite direction, but he jumped into
my conveyance. I reached the docks just as the Gladstone was
about to sail, and once I had seen him safely aboard I came back
after you. Ah! but here we are!”

We had arrived at our destination. The Inspector, Mycroft,
Sherlock, and myself boarded the police launch, the lines were
cast off, and we headed out into the current. We roared under the
long series of bridges which span the Thames, past the West India
docks, and around the Isle of Dogs–just as Holmes and I, together
with Athelney Jones, had in 1887, pursued the launch Aurora,
bearing Jonathan Small and the Agra treasure. My reminiscences
were cut short as Baynes announced that we had overtaken the
Gladstone, which hove to on our signal, and a few minutes later
the four of us, along with two stalwart constables, were climbing
over her rail.

“Where is the passenger you took on just before sailing?”
Baynes demanded of the Captain, who came forward to meet us.

“He just passed me heading for the stern,” was the reply.

“What’s he done?”

“Quite a good deal,” Holmes tossed back over his shoulder as
he led the way to the after deck. There, struggling with the ropes
that secured a lifeboat, was a small man with his overcoat collar
turned up about his ears, who backed fearfully to the rail at our

“It’s he, all right!” cried Holmes triumphantly. “All together,
now! Take him!”

We closed quickly in on the cringing figure, and in the glare
of Baynes* pocket torch I caught a fleeting glimpse of the ferocious
dark countenance of the man who, during the last decade, had
brought to the world misery and devastation without historical
precedent. The familiar mustache was gone, but there was no mis-
taking the face which had come to be so hated and feared by
countless millions. But as we were almost upon him he turned and,
climbing upon the rail, with a defiant laugh buried himself down
into the murky Thames.

For a moment a violent splashing readied our ears from below,
which gradually subsided until it was no longer discernible. At
Baynes’ direction, the police launch conducted a through but
fruitless search of the surrounding waters, after which there could
be little doubt that a richly-deserved fate had at last been meted
out. “That, Watson,” said Sherlock Holmes, “marks an end to the
most terrible man in the world.”

Back at Baker Street somewhat later, Baynes and I were an
attentive audience as Holmes and his brother discussed the fast-
moving events of the past several days.

“Evidently,” my friend said, “my arrival in London was noticed
–and was considered too opportune to be a coincidence.”

“So I should judge, Sherlock. Then, too, they couldn’t be sure
just how much you knew–or didn’t know. And I imagine it was
sending you the message here that occasioned my tribulations.”

“It was quite imperative,” Mycroft continued, “that nothing
interfere with their meeting. Not only was their late chief to be
assisted safely on his way to the Argentine, but, having shown his
fanatical associates that he still lived, he was to outline a compre-
hensive program of increased subversive activity.”

“You caught wind of their plans through the notice in the
Times’!” Holmes inquired.

“Word had reached me through several Continental channels,”
Mycroft answered, “so I had long known that something of the
sort was in the offing, but that told me the date. Luckily, after
working for months, Intelligence had just recently cracked the top
diplomatic code which was employed.”

“Really?” chuckled Holmes. “I solved it in a day.”

“But how did you learn of the message?” Mycroft asked.

“The ashes in your grate.”

“That was fortunate. I hadn’t counted on your finding them,
and I didn’t dare attempt to contact you. As it was, I knew when
I saw plumber Escott in the vicinity of the woman’s rooms this
afternoon that the two clues I left you had been sufficient and
that she would lead you to the rendezvous. And I felt certain that
the situation was safe in your hands from that point on.”

“You perhaps put too much faith in me, Mycroft. But for you,
the situation would be far from satisfactory at this moment. In
any case,” Holmes continued, “the course of action I adopted would
doubtless have had more favorable results than the best that
Scotland Yard could have done working from without. At times
a simple and bold procedure is the most effective.”

I could contain my patience no longer. “But how did Mycroft’s
clues bear on this matter?” I demanded. “Who is Phillip Phot?
What did that sentence in the speech and the code message mean?
And who is the woman who escaped?”

“One at a time, Watson,” my friend laughed. “One at a time.”
And as Baynes and I listened eagerly, Holmes began his ex-

“A great deal of credit for the solution belongs to you, Watson.
It was your timely remark this morning that shed the first light
upon this dark business. You recall what it was?”

“Only ‘Phil Phot,’ Holmes.”

“That was it, old fellow. Spelled differently, it held the key to
the entire mystery. You are familiar with the word f-y-l-f-o-tt”
I shook my head, but Baynes had the answer. “It means
swastika, Mr. Holmes!” he exclaimed.

“Exactly, Baynes. And with that knowledge, Mycroft’s worthy
sentiment, Our first thought must be perfect unity, became clear.

That was the woman, Watson–Unity, the perfect Nordic beauty.
Appropriately enough, in view of her past international connec-
tions, her second name is Valkyrie. She is still at large, but I think
there is little cause for concern. Our friend Langdale Pike supplied
her address, which my index lacked. And her interest in the Times
notice suggested a singular interpretation of its wording.”

“The interior decorators you mean, Holmes?”

“Precisely, Watson. When I considered that an interior decora-
tor could well be a paper-hanger, I had little difficulty in guessing
the identity of the big game to which Mycroft had referred.

“And now,” said Holmes, reaching for the gasogene, “the second
east wind has about subsided. We need hardly worry, but God grant
there may never be another.”