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En Garde, Prêt, Allez

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Holmes stalked through the ballroom where the masquerade had taken place. We had arrived in time to foil the kidnapping, but the would-be kidnappers had escaped once again.

"What do we know?" Holmes said. "The majority of the gang are hired thugs, posing as servants. But their leader belongs to the upper reaches of London society. He knew the steps to the dances and could make appropriate small talk from behind his masque, whilst seeking out his prey. By his fencing, he is a soldier –"

I interrupted him. "By his fencing, I assure you, Holmes, that man is no soldier."

Holmes spun and approached me where I sat, resting my bad leg. "Surely you jest. Consider his stances. First Guard, Initial Guard – they are directly from the Horse Guard's Manual of Infantry Sword Exercises."

"Yes, it takes time to break the lads of that nonsense. Yet I can guarantee that no veteran who has survived hand-to-hand combat would risk cramps by resting all weight on his back leg."

"Ah," said Holmes, eyes distant. "So he was trained, but served on no campaign. That will narrow the focus of our investigations considerably."

He held out his arm. I used it to leverage myself to my feet. "Come, Watson. We must seek this villain's trail in dusty military records, before the next ball."