Friday, April 11, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 10

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

At about 2:31 PM the next day, Friday, Latham, walking across the bridge toward Westminster, was able to determine that the large policeman shambling toward him was, in fact, Inspector Raymond. He hadn't seen Raymond since the incident at Waterloo station. Not very many paces later, Latham began to suspect that the large-linked watch chain protruding from Raymond's waistcoat pocket was platinum; when they were within twenty paces of each other he was sure it was. Then they were face to face, and stopped and stood there, neither one saying Hello or anything else for the nonce. Finally Latham said, "That's an extraordinary watch-chain, Inspector. D'ya have a rich aunt die on you lately?" The two of them weren't in the habit of laying hands upon one another, but Latham unceremoniously pulled the watch from Raymond's pocket, a Waltham 1883, yes, it was the very same watch Charlie had described to him, the same in every detail down to the unusual, deep scratch next to the stem. Latham unfastened the chain from Raymond's vest, looked around to make sure no other pedestrians were near them on the bridge, and tossed the watch and chain into the Thames. "Don't worry," he told Raymond, "I'll get you a new one, you know I will, you just have to ask. You like that sort of heavy chain, no problem. I'll give you a beautiful heavy platinum watch to match it."

They just stood there for a while, neither one knowing what to say. Finally Latham asked Raymond, "So, what are you up to?"

Raymond shrugged several times before he spoke: "To tell you the truth, I'm wandering around aimlessly."

"You look terrible. Pardon my saying so, I say it out of concern."

"I know. I know you do. I know I do."

Latham looked around again to be sure that they were out of anyone's hearing, and asked, "How long were you wearing that watch and chain?"

"A week, a day and a few hours."



"It's clear that you're very upset about something. And that's bad. What I meant is that it's good that, apparently at least, you're not so upset that you've lost all sense of time. Good Lord, has it been a week since you've changed your clothes? Never mind, answer me this instead: have you got fresh clothes at home?"

Raymond nodded: "Yup."

"Right." Latham whistled loudly, an empty hansom cab stopped, Latham herded Raymond into. "Oh," he said, "I don't know your address." Raymond gave the driver his address in Lambeth. They were silent for the several minutes it took the cab to get there. Once Latham got Raymond into a hot bath in his flat, he said, "Look, I understand how sometimes you can't tell someone something. It may hurt my feelings when that someone is me, but I understand that there are more important things in the world than my hurt feelings. The thing is, Charlie, ahhh... I don't think Charlie understands the concept of secrecy."

"Charlie? Ah, you mean that imbecile back at Waterloo Station?"

"He's not an imbecile!"

"You sure?" Raymond asked. "The way you say that, sounds like you've said it several times already."

"He's not an imbecile. Without him you never would've identified that watch and chain."


"No. And he would've spotted the chain several times further away than I did. A football field away. At dusk."

"Would he have now?"

"You remember the drawing of the watch, in the packet I sent you?"


"You know Charlie made that drawing?"

"Oh. Actually, I hadn't realized that. Thought you drew that."

"Wish I could draw like that. Charlie banged that out in two minutes. I'm not exaggerating. Two minutes. He's a genius." He looked up to meet Raymond's eyes after saying this, saw Raymond's skeptical expression. "He's a genius in some areas, not in others. Alright?"

"Well, he seems to be a draftsman, alright."

"The drawing's nothing compared to what he can do with watches. What he can do with a watch with his bare hands. He's spending some time over at the Latham plant now, with proper tools and so forth. But I don't know. I don't know if he shouldn't better be some place like the British Museum. Or Cambridge."

"Alright, alright, I apologize for insulting your talented friend. But I believe how we started talking about him was that you said, ahh, you said that he... doesn't understand the concept of secrecy."

"I suspect he doesn't. And he's got eyes like a hawk. So you've been wearing that watch and chain for a week now. Maybe sort of halfway hoping someone would notice it and it'd get you in trouble, eh?"

"Mm. Maybe so."

"Well, if you've got a guilty conscience about something. Or if there's some shady business in the police, or somewhere else, and you sort of halfway want to expose it, because you think it's rotten -- or whatever's upsetting you, you're a grown-up and it's your business. But imagine if it hadn't been just me on the Westminster bridge. Imagine if Charlie'd been walking along beside me, and a hundred yards away from you he starts pointing at you and shouting excitedly about the watch and the chain and the man running through Waterloo Station with all the police looking for him. Charlie's as harmless as a baby, you saw that yourself. Can't even defend himself. You hurt him, all he can do is scream in pain. And just as easy as that you could've gotten him tangled up in -- God knows what, in something too horrible for you to talk about it with me, just because you're being melodramatic and wearing that watch and chain because -- I don't know why, because you're angry, or sad, or you feel guilty, I don't know. Could've turned Charlie's whole life upside-down because of some melodramatic play-acting on your part."

"Alright, alright, Latham, you've made your point. And you're right. You and me and our friends, we've chosen to carry a lot of secrets around, and we accept the risks. But Charlie hasn't asked for any of that."


"So he's a wizard with watches, Charlie is."

"Oy. Only person I've ever seen who's better at fixing a watch than I am. And he's miles better."

"And you and he are both... autistic."


"You said you understand Charlie much better than you understand me or most people. That was disturbing."

Latham was taken aback. "Sorry, Inspector, didn't mean to disturb you, but there it is."

"But that would mean that you're..."

"Imbecilic? Try to look at it the other way round: it means Charlie isn't nearly as much an imbecile as he seems to you," Latham said, and raised his glance to see Raymond laying back in the tub and staring at the ceiling with an expression of great puzzlement, as if he were having a great deal of trouble looking at Charlie another way around. Latham was exasperated. What more did Raymond have to know in order to revise his preconceived categories of people?

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