Actions

Work Header

The Violin of Autumn

Work Text:

Sergeant James Kinchloe hurried from the radio room hidden away in Barracks 2 to Colonel Robert Hogan’s quarters. “Colonel, are you awake?” he hissed quietly.

A soft groan emanated from behind the curtain. “I am now, Kinch. What’s up?”

“Priority message coming in from London in 5 minutes, sir.”

Another groan followed by the creaking of wood and Hogan pushed through the curtain while still shrugging into his leather bomber jacket. “This had better be good.”

The voice Hogan heard in the headphone pressed to one ear was the epitome of what folks back home in Indiana considered a classy English accent of the sort they heard at the pictures or on the radio, the type of accent the Cockney Corporal Peter Newkirk loved to mimic.

“We seem to have misplaced a very valuable instrument. It’s one of the Violins of Autumn. The quartet needs it back as soon as possible. The case contains most of the music for next season as well as a newly commissioned work. It really is irreplaceable.”

“How can we be of help?”

“Some mutual friends recently mentioned that they might have seen it in your vicinity. Would you be kind enough to check with them and to retrieve it if the information proves to be accurate?”

“Rare musical instruments aren’t really my line. How would I know I had the genuine article?”

“Dark varnish with a definite grain. Robust tone with a deep timbre.”

A few more minutes were spent giving coded information meant to mislead any German ears that might be listening, although in this case Hogan thought that he was likely being misled as well. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he thought there was something important that he wasn’t being told.

“It’s too early to call on our friends,” Hogan said. He knew the eastern sky was lightening, sunrise due within the hour. “We’ll drop by after supper if they have no objection.”

“Capital, really capital, but please do remember that opening night is coming up rather quickly. We need all the rehearsal time possible.” London signed off with the smug, self-satisfied tone that drove Hogan straight up the nearest wall.

“We’re going to rescue a fiddle, Colonel?” Sergeant Andrew Carter asked after London had signed off. Hogan’s staff had been drifting in as they usually did whenever he was having a chat with London.

Non, Carter. Violin is only a code name. We’re going after an intelligence officer who has information needed for the invasion. Oui, Colonel?” Corporal Louis LeBeau offered his take on the situation. The small Frenchman seemed excited by the prospect.

“’ow you figure that, Louie?” Newkirk asked.

“The French Resistance has been told to listen to the BBC personal messages for Chanson d’automne, a famous poem by Paul Verlaine. In English, the first line is ‘The long sobs of the violins of autumn.’ It means the invasion will come within the month and they should be ready.”

Hogan nodded. “I agree with LeBeau. London is hot for the return of this asset. It makes sense that it would be someone with information necessary for the success of the invasion. I get the feeling that there’s something else going on as well, though. We need to take special care out there tonight.”

###

In a clearing in the woods at the side of the road to Hammelburg, Hogan met a tall, thin man with a thick mop of dark hair that was in no way of regulation length. The man wore a long black coat that would have given him the look of a Gestapo agent if it weren’t for his hair and the dark blue knit scarf wrapped around his neck. He could easily pull it up to hide his lower face except that that would impede his talking, and he hadn’t stopped talking since Hogan gave the recognition signal; however, any thoughts Hogan might have had about strangling this Major Sherlock Holmes with his own haberdashery were rapidly thrust aside when a rustling was heard in the underbrush.

Nicht schiessen! Don’t shoot!” Even though the words were spoken barely above a whisper, Hogan recognized the sultry voice of Irene Adler, the chanteuse at the cabaret in Hammelburg.

She cautiously stepped out into the clearing. Leaning heavily on her for support was a short, blond-haired man who might once have had the build of a fine rugby player but who had clearly fallen on hard times. He wore a smart black jacket with leather patches reinforcing the elbows that must have been supplied by the Resistance to offer at least some warmth as well as night camouflage. His khaki trousers were worn and threadbare, his combat boots barely held together.

“Who’s this, then, love?” Newkirk asked in a deceptively jocular voice that was belied by the way the pistol he held covered the woman and her companion.

With an effort, the blond man pulled himself to attention. “Watson, John H., Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps.”

“Late of the Royal Northumbrian Fusiliers. Captured at Tobruk. He’s a colleague, friend, whatever. Tedious!”

“Sherlock!” the doctor hissed.

“It’s fine, John. This is Colonel Robert Hogan, formerly of the United States Army Air Force. Mycroft has arranged for him to get us back to England.”

There was a snideness in the Major’s tone that Hogan didn’t like. “Who the hell is Mycroft?” he demanded to know.

“You’d probably know him by one of his silly code names. Papa Bear, perhaps, or Mama Bear or Goldilocks or some such thing. Personally, I think he should be known as The Three Pigs.”

“I’m Papa Bear,” Hogan said quietly.

Holmes stared at him for a minute. “Yes, of course you are.”

Mycroft is Mycroft Holmes, my elder brother. He holds some minor post in the British Government and seems to think that that gives him the right to meddle in my affairs uninvited.”

Ah, Hogan though, I knew something was up. That was just one of the little details London had forgotten to mention.There was another, of course. “I was told to expect only one of you,” was all he said.

“Mycroft thinks he knows everything, yet it apparently didn’t occur to him that on this mission I would attempt to break John out of goal, much less that I would succeed. Well, I got him out using my own resources, and we’ve come this far in the past week. I have my own plans for getting to England. John and I can do bloody well on our own without interference from Mycroft or you, Hogan. The next time he contacts you, you can tell my brother . . .”

“Sherlock, timing!”

Hogan was surprised that the doctor’s interruption actually stopped the Major’s rant dead in its tracks.

“Not good?” Major Holmes asked uncertainly.

“A bit not good, yeah. Why don’t we take the Colonel up on his kind offer of hospitality, if only for tonight? I could use a bit of a kip, and a cuppa, were it to be offered, wouldn’t go amiss, either.”

“Well, now that you boys have sorted that out, I need to be on my way. I’m to sing at a midnight supper for General Burkhalter and his staff. You know how Bertie gets if I’m late, Herr Oberst.”

“I’ve heard rumors, Irene,” Hogan smiled.

“It has been a most interesting experience, Herr Major. Should you come this way again, please stop by the cabaret. We could have dinner.”

Hogan felt a stab of jealousy and knew that his men – Carter who was hiding amongst the trees and watching the road and Newkirk and LeBeau who were standing guard here in the clearing with him – felt it, too. Why even the unexpected Captain Watson seemed disappointed to have been left out of the invitation. Holmes, however, seemed oblivious. “Right, then, let’s get cracking,” he said as he stalked off headed unerringly in Carter’s direction.

“Take care, Herr Doktor.” Fraulein Adler leaned in and gave Watson a chaste kiss on the cheek before she melted away into the darkness.

“Do try to keep up, John,” Holmes tossed back over his shoulder.

“Newkirk, give the doc a hand.” Hogan trotted to catch up with Holmes. When they got back to Stalag 13, Hogan was going to have words with London, with Goldilocks, Mycroft or whoever the hell he was, words that Hogan suspected could wind up giving him a stint in Leavenworth after the war where the warden would be nothing like the bumbling Colonel Wilhelm Klink who was his current commandant. Well, Hogan thought, maybe he’d at least get credit for time served in the Luftstalag.  

“Don’t even think about it, Guv. It’s not worth it,” Newkirk advised when they got to the edge of the woods just outside the camp.

“This is it, Captain. End of the line. Welcome to Stalag 13 – home sweet home.” To Watson’s ears, Carter sounded entirely too happy.  

Watson took in the towers, searchlights, guards and barbed wire and felt physically sick. After nearly 2 years in captivity, he’d only just escaped from one prisoner of war camp. Now he was breaking into another? “Right,” he said, surprised that his voice sounded as steady as it did, considering the circumstances. “How do we get in?”

“Really, John, you look but you don’t see! There’s a tree stump just over there that is entirely too tall. In the root area . . .”

“Fine, Sherlock, I’ll take your word for it.”

A low growl was heard that cut off all conversation. Please, God, not the hounds! Watson begged silently.

“Not to worry, Capitaine. That is one of the Marquis de Baskerville’s guard dogs. They are the best in all of France, so of course the Boche stole them. But Henri, here, is a loyal Frenchman.” LeBeau whispered as he reached into a small bag at his waist and extracted an item. With a low whistle, he tossed it in the direction of a large mastiff. The dog yipped once and then began to gnaw on something that it obviously considered to be a treat.

A searchlight swung round, sweeping the area until it settled on the dog. Hogan and his band hugged the ground in the tall grass at the edge of the forest. One of the guards called out, “Heinrich?” His partner laughed and a short conversation followed. Hogan explained, “They think he’s caught a squirrel.”

“Louie, didn’t I see Schultz eating one of those dog treats?” Newkirk asked.

Oui, but you don’t seriously think he stopped with one, do you? It took him a half dozen to decide that they needed more liverwurst.”

“I hope you have enough to keep Henry occupied, LeBeau, because after the next pass of the searchlight Carter and Major Holmes are making a break for the tunnel, then Newkirk and Captain Watson with you and me bringing up the rear.”

“There are enough, Colonel.”

LeBeau’s quiet, business-like tone was exactly what Hogan wanted to hear and, really, he’d expected nothing less from the Frenchman. He was more worried about impressing the serious nature of the business at hand on the maverick Major. “I’ve timed the last few passes,” Hogan said. It’s still the usual. When I tell you ‘go’, you’ve got 2 minutes to get over to the entrance to the tunnel, get inside and secure the hatch behind you. Don’t forget to close the stump!”

Watson was as surprised as Hogan that Holmes didn’t make a fuss but was off and running when the signal was given. He and Carter made it with time to spare. Watching their performance, though, heightened Watson’s fear rather than allayed it. “Colonel, I’m afraid my leg will give me a spot of bother. Perhaps it would be best to send me last and alone.”

“And leave me to deal with the Holmes brothers on my own? Not a chance, Captain.”

The searchlight arced over them and Newkirk was up with Hogan helping to position Watson somewhat inelegantly over Newkirk’s shoulder in a fireman’s carry. With a grunt, Newkirk sprinted in a wobbly line toward the tree stump. When he got there, it was already open. Kinchloe manhandled Watson down into the tunnel as though he were a sack of potatoes. Newkirk jumped in, foregoing the use of the ladder’s rungs, but in so doing lost his grip on the handle that served to pull the stump closed behind him.  Fortunately, Holmes immediately noticed the difficulty. He sprang over Newkirk, one long arm wrapping around the side of the ladder to maintain his balance and the other shooting up to grab the lever on the stump which he jerked closed with a “thump” just as the searchlight’s beam came overhead.

Hogan and LeBeau watched nervously from their vantage point at the edge of the forest as the searchlight hovered over the closed stump. “I think the guards would be more at ease if Henry were to resume his patrol, LeBeau.”

Oui, Colonel.”

With another low whistle, LeBeau called out to the huge dog, “Henri, Allons-y,” as he tossed another dog biscuit out in front of the creature. With a sharp bark, the mastiff caught the treat and resumed his rounds at a leisurely pace. When he came to the stump, he stopped and lifted a hind leg before moving on. The searchlight remained over the stump for a few more seconds and then followed Henry, the operator apparently finally convinced that nothing was amiss.

One minute and thirty seconds later, Hogan was lifting a damp latch at the base of the stump with his black-gloved hand. Some missions were trouble from the get-go, he reflected, and some went downhill from there.  

###

Captain John Watson felt as though he’d tumbled down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland. He’d already been checked out in an infirmary better equipped than some he’d seen in the East End and been provided a new set of clothes from quartermaster’s stores that could probably rival Selfridge’s in terms of selection. Now, he was basking in the warmth of a camp stove and enjoying a hearty beef stew (although LeBeau, who must have been a chef before the war, gave it some high-sounding French name) with real meat and fresh vegetables and soft, dark, newly baked pumpernickel to sop up every last ounce.

Newkirk took Watson’s empty bowl and held it up to LeBeau. “Please, sir, could he ‘ave some more?”

Watson blushed with embarrassment. He’d tried not to wolf down his food as though he were an ill-mannered street urchin but had apparently failed. “I’ve had more than my share already. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite,” he said as he patted his stomach.

“No sweat, Captain. We got plenty more. Isn’t that right, LeBeau?” Kinchloe, the big black man, offered with a grin.

Oui,” LeBeau replied as he ladled out another large helping. “Klink heard a rumor that Marshal Rommel might stage a surprise inspection here soon. I do the cooking whenever the Commandant has important guests. I told him I needed to practice a few new recipes.”

“The Desert Fox? Here?” Watson sputtered, nearly choking on his tea.

“Really, John, it’s only a rumor.” Holmes seemed amused as he looked from face to face at the table. “One I believe you started,” he said as he nodded toward Carter.

“How’d you guess it was me, Major?” Carter didn’t even try to play the confused innocent.

“I never guess,” Holmes sniffed. Watson cringed, knowing that a rapid-fire series of deductions was about to follow, some potentially embarrassing, no doubt. Truth be told, he found them fascinating, but others with less patience for the showy theatricality of it, or less willing to placidly accept the sharp-tongued barbs, would simply be annoyed. Watson guessed – and would have no qualms about admitting it – that Colonel Hogan would be one of those.

“He knows cos he’s one of those bleedin’ SOE blokes,” Newkirk opined.

“Special Operations Executive? You think I’m one of those Baker Street Irregulars?” Holmes’ tone was venomous.

“Speaking of Baker Street, Sherlock, how is Mrs. Hudson? Jerry hasn’t had the audacity to drop one down her chimney since I’ve been gone, have they?” Watson broke in. A quick change of subject was definitely called for. How many people in Hogan’s vast underground operation might be SOE or the American version, OSS? Rumors he’d heard, fantastic as they might be, said it was best not to get on the wrong side of either, not that Sherlock would care, of course.

“Mrs. Hudson? She’s fine. Why wouldn’t she be? She has Mycroft to look after her and keep Fleming and his lot at bay. As much as it pains me to say it, my elder brother does seem to be good for something.”

“Right. Good to know,” Watson said quietly.

“Hogan, are you authorized to call for an air strike?” Holmes’ quicksilver temperament had changed again.

“I can forward a request to London, yes. Something you want to blow up, Major?”

“There’s a building north of town where the Hun are producing hedgehogs for the Atlantic Wall. And, no, I don’t mean cute, furry, little woodland creatures that your girl would like for a pet, Carter. They’re a metal tripod-like device. Some are tipped with mines. Others will just rip out the bottom of a landing craft should the invasion come at high tide. Rommel is planting them all along the coast.”

“Come along, Major. Let’s ruin your brother’s dinner.” 

###

With Hogan and Holmes headed for the radio room, Kinchloe took a seat by the window, a fresh cup of coffee in his hands. “No offense, Captain, but is Major Holmes always . . .”

“Such a pain in the arse?” Watson supplied helpfully. Before any of the men could further compromise themselves, he added, “Usually. Sometimes he’s worse. He’s a good man, though. He crashed me and some of my lads out. I don’t know if any of us will make it back to England or even to Switzerland, but we couldn’t have taken much more. The commandant was a right bastard. At least we’ll give him a few sleepless nights.”

“How’d you meet the Major, Guv? If you don’t mind my saying so, he doesn’t seem to be your type.”

“He sat in on some classes when I was in medical school – anatomy and physiology and pharmacokinetics as I recall. Look, he can be an arrogant bastard, but I wouldn’t have passed that last without his help.”

“Farm . . .?” LeBeau was puzzled.

“Pharmacokinetics. It means how drugs work. Holmes was primarily interested in poisons.”

“Figures,” Kinchloe mumbled.

“It was information he needed for his career.”

“He’s a Peeler?” Newkirk asked.

“No.”

“A Yarder, then?”

“That’s even worse. I really wouldn’t mention either of those to him if I were you, Corporal. No, before the war, he was building a business as a consulting detective.”

“So he’s a gumshoe, a private dick like Sam Spade and the Maltese falcon?” Carter looked hopeful.

“That’s probably closer to the truth. He might even be amused by the comparison. He takes on only the most difficult and interesting cases.”

“Bizarre, you mean,” Kinchloe supplied from his lookout post at the window.

“Exactly.”

Kinchloe’s posture suddenly stiffened, his easy-going slouch a thing of the past. “Bogey at 2 o’clock. Schultz is headed this way.” He quickly dragged his chair back to the table while Newkirk fished a well-worn deck of playing cards from a pocket in his uniform jacket, cut, shuffled and dealt.

“You know poker, Cap’n?”

“A little . . . enough.” Watson was already bluffing, trying to cover his fear. He played rather well, actually, unless Sherlock was his opponent, and this hand had possibilities.

The door to the barracks burst open. “Achtung! Inspection,” an obese sergeant called out.

“Aw, Shultz, this is the best hand I’ve had in ages. Could we do this later?” Carter whined.

Schultz strolled over to where Carter was sitting and looked over his shoulder at his hand. “Go fish, Carter.”

Carter threw his cards down in disgust. “What did you have to go and ruin it for, Schultz?”

Just then, LeBeau bustled in with a tin plate full of freshly baked biscuits (dog biscuits if Watson wasn’t mistaken). “Ah, Schulz, I thought I heard you come in. Here, help yourself. Take a few for your rounds, but be careful. They’re hot.”

Schultz had already taken one and popped it into his mouth. The men, even Watson, tried to stifle smiles at the contortions the sergeant’s face made before he finally swallowed the steaming morsel. “Ah, much better, LeBeau,” he choked out. “You took my advice and added more liverwurst.”

Schultz reached for a few more biscuits and slipped them into a pocket. Watson though the sergeant was about to leave when Schultz did a double take and stared at him. “Who is this?”

“Schultzy, that’s Doc Watson. You know, Watson from Barracks 12. Don’t you recognize him?” Newkirk asked.

“What is he doing here after curfew?”

“He’s making a house call,” Carter explained.

“Yeah, I got the rheumatiz really bad tonight, Schultz. It’s too damn cold in here,” Kinchloe complained.

“Nah, it’s because you overexerted yourself digging that tunnel, Kinch,” Carter corrected him. “I told you that would happen.”

“Tunnel?” Schultz exclaimed.

“Yeah, he was going bonkers with boredom so he dug a tunnel to the cooler for something to do. To the cooler, Schultz. Can you believe it? We all told him there were easier ways of getting in.” Even Watson had to admire just how smooth Newkirk was in what the doctor assumed was a lie, although if he thought too much about it, he couldn’t be sure.

“Ah, I see. This is a joke, ja? You pull my leg, Newkirk.”

“You got me, Schultz. I should ‘ave known better than to try to get one past you.”

Ja, you should have.” Schultz headed for the door but once again turned and looked straight at Watson. “I remember that the Watson in Barracks 12 is Harry Watson, and I think the name is funny because that Watson is bald. This Watson,” he shakes a pudgy finger at the doctor, “has hair.”

“I thought I’d grow it out. It’s spring, Sergeant. Time to try new things,” Watson said in the most nonchalant tone he could manage.

Ach, you English,” Schultz shook his head and finally left. Once the door closed, Watson slumped in his chair, breathing deeply.

“Nice one, Doc. You fit in here real well,” Kinchloe grinned.

###

 The game had gone on for more than a few hands when loud voices were heard coming from the direction of Hogan’s quarters. “You hear, but you don’t listen, Hogan,” Holmes all but snarled. “I’m not going anywhere without Watson. Either you arrange to bring him along or we’ll take ourselves off your hands. Tonight, if necessary.”

Watson threw down the best hand he’s had all evening. “Pardon me, gents, I need to see a man about a dog.” Not one of Hogan’s men found it necessary to comment that Watson had just returned from the latrine at the start of the last hand.

Watson rapped loudly twice on the pillar outside Hogan’s quarters.

“What?” two exasperated voices called out in unison from behind the curtain.

Watson stuck his head inside the small cubicle. “Begging your pardon, Colonel, but I need to have a word with the Major. Privately, if possible.”

“Be my guest, Captain. I could use some air.” Hogan strode out.

“John, get your kit together. One way or another, we’re leaving here tonight.”

“No, Sherlock, we’re not,” Watson said firmly. “You’re leaving whenever and however the Colonel says you are, but I’m staying here.”

Holmes opened his mouth to protest, but Watson held up his hand and cut him off before he could get a word out. “Don’t even start, Sherlock. If you close your mouth, the better your ears will open, and you need to hear this. Better yet, you need to listen.

I’m grateful for what you did for me and the lads. Never doubt that. But you must see that I’d be a liability to you. The Jerries are actively looking for me. They know what I look like – short, blond, dodgy leg and dodgy arm. I’m hard to miss. It doesn’t help that when I sleep I have nightmares and wake screaming in English. Even Anderson half asleep and pissed as newts would know who and what I was.” Watson was relieved to see Holmes’ almost imperceptible nod.

You have plans for the invasion tucked away all over that mind palace of yours, and you have new information that the planners need somewhere in there, too. You can’t afford to fall into the Gestapo’s hands.”

“You think I’d break?” Holmes asked, his tone low and dangerous.

“No, if anyone could stand up to Hochstetter and his goons, it would be you.” Watson’s left hand was clenching and unclenching, a tic he couldn’t seem to control. “But make no mistake, Sherlock. He won’t content himself with just toying with you, damaging your shoulder so badly that you’ll never be able to do the big operations again. You, he’ll eventually kill. You’d die before you’d break. And it would be such a bloody waste! I want no part of that. Not to be the cause and not to have to explain it to Mycroft, much less to Mrs. Hudson, after the war.”

“You’re sure? About staying here, I mean.”

“Yes.”

“This wasn’t what I had planned.”

“I know, but as you are prone to say, there’s always something. I’ll be fine Sherlock. I can still help out in Medical. I can still sew up small wounds on good days and change dressings. I can still diagnose. And I can try to pass on to Carter some of the memory tricks you taught me for pharmacokinetics. He wants to be a chemist – no, the Yanks say pharmacist – after the war.”

“Right.” Holmes couldn’t look more dubious. “You’d best go get Hogan, then, before I change my mind.” 

###

It had been almost 2 weeks without any word from London about Holmes. Watson was getting worried. His work in Medical kept him occupied during the day, but the seemingly endless card games were no longer keeping him diverted at night. He’d tried writing to Mrs. Hudson, but he was pretty sure it was nothing but rubbish. Frustrated, he tossed in his hand. “Carter, I’ll take over watch. I need to feel useful, and you need to get some of these biscuits before Newkirk eats them all. It was good of your Mum to send the recipe in your last Red Cross parcel.”

“She knows I like chocolate chip. She just sent the recipe from the back of the bag, though. You want something really great? Stop by after the war, Doc, and she’ll bake you a red velvet cake from scratch from an old Carter family recipe. Trust me, you’ve never had anything like it!”

“Sounds good,” Watson said as he settled in by the window to keep an eye out for Schultz. When it came to food, especially anything that LeBeau whipped up, that man had a better sense of smell than Toby, the hound Holmes used as a tracker. The smallest whiff of chocolate detected at the other side of the camp would bring the portly sergeant by for his share.

The card game went on as the men listened to Axis Sally on a clandestine radio Kinchloe had managed to put together from odds and ends. They didn’t care about the propaganda, although now and again it did provide a good laugh when compared to what they knew was really going on in the world outside of Stalag 13. No, what they really enjoyed was the music.

“Tonight I have a special request from an Oberst Sigerson, a brave German officer standing guard on the impregnable Atlantic Wall near the Pas du Calais, who would like to dedicate a song to his friends and colleagues from his former unit stationed back around Hammelburg. Direct from Herr Goebbels private collection, the original version of one of the most popular songs of 1942, Lili Marlene.”

Watson’s ears pricked up. Axis Sally, for once, was accurate. Like many men who had served in North Africa, Axis and Allied alike, Watson counted Lili Marlene as one of his favorite songs, but the vocalist on this recording wasn’t the one he expected. The voice was familiar, though. Where had he heard it before? He wracked his brain, all the while wishing he had Holmes’ facility for remembering such things.

Wait! Holmes - that was it! That voice had been asking Holmes to dinner almost from the moment they’d arrived at the cabaret in Hammelburg, the latest safe house on their way back to England. It was the voice of the woman who had taken them to meet Hogan before she sang for a German general. That was the voice of Irene Adler!

Almost simultaneously, Watson made another connection. “That song is a message from Holmes!” he exclaimed. “He must have made it back to England.”

“What makes you think that?” Carter asked.

“I spoke to Holmes just before he went out the tunnel. He told me that he’d get a message to me when he made it safely home to Baker Street.”

“I remember,” Kinchloe said. “The Colonel saw you two talking and thought that Holmes was about to welsh on his deal to go quietly, but then everything went exactly to plan.”

“But Capitaine, how can you be sure it is a message from Holmes?”

“The person who requested the song was a Colonel Sigerson. Holmes’ father’s Christian name is Siger. In Iceland, Holmes’ name would be Sherlock Sigerson. They follow the old ways there.”

“Like as not, Holmes would make himself up to Colonel, too,” Newkirk smirked.

“Holmes knows Lili Marlene is a favorite of mine from my time in North Africa, and I’m sure the singer on this recording is Irene Adler.”

“Cor, you’re right! I thought I’d heard that voice before.”

“I’m going to go tell the Colonel.”

“Tell the Colonel what, Carter?” Hogan asked as he strolled into the room with a chilled bottle of champagne from his private stash.

“It’s about Major Holmes, sir.”

“Ah, yes, Major Holmes. London has just informed me that their misplaced “instrument” has turned up in excellent condition. A bit of careful tuning, and it will be ready to play. They send their thanks.”

“I can imagine,” was all Watson said.

Hogan smiled and held out the bottle of champagne. “LeBeau, you want to do the honors?”

Yes, some missions were trouble from the get-go and some went downhill from there, but sometimes even those worked out in the end.