It was a very troubled looking Inspector Gregson who walked through our door and into the sitting room. He paused just inside the door, looked around the room, and turned to leave before stopping himself. He remained in that spot for perhaps two seconds more, then strode decisively across the room to stand before Holmes and myself.
"Not a case, then, Inspector?" My friend asked from his chair. Apparently in no mood to be incredulous, the man merely shook his head. Holmes waved him to the couch. "Have a seat."
The Inspector did so, and took to studying the room nervously. It seemed almost as if he were afraid to speak, unusual coming from a man who had visited countless times to request assistance in a case and had weathered a multitude of criticisms from Holmes.
Holmes had no patience for the other man's reluctance. "Out with it, man! What brings you here?"
Gregson started, and looked down at the floor before his eyes sought out Holmes'. "I need some advice."
"I cannot advise you with information, Inspector." Holmes reminded him impatiently.
"Gregson." The Inspector corrected. "This is personal, not business." He hesitated a second longer before making an announcement that seemed to have nothing to do with his visit. "Lestrade is going on holiday. In the States." He swallowed, and for a moment I thought his next statement was a joke. "He has asked me to go with him."
"Lestrade asked you to go on holiday with him?" I blurted, incredulous. The two men still, after all this time, could hardly stand each other, though it was hardly apparent to the casual observer, so professional had they become about it.
"Exactly." Gregson confirmed I was not hearing things. "I'm trying to decide if I should."
"He asked you to go?" Holmes asked.
Gregson nodded. "This morning. He said he was going to the States for a few weeks and would like for me to come along."
"What was his precise wording, when he requested your company?"
Gregson thought for a second. "He walked up to me as I was heading for my office. 'I'm going to the States,' he said. 'on holiday. Would you come along? I've already made arrangements with the Superintendent, we can leave tomorrow morning.' I proceeded to stare at him, and he added 'You've been working just as hard as I lately, I'm sure you could use a break.' It was the strangest thing I've ever witnessed."
"Did he seem genuine about the offer?" Holmes had located his pipe and was now lighting it as he spoke; Gregson was used to such behavior by now and didn't blink when my friend tossed the match absently to the floor rather than in the fire.
"That's another thing. It was like when he invites someone over for dinner, or when he requests a specific person to accompany him on a case. Like he was doing it at someone else's request and his own opinion didn't matter."
"You think his wife put him up to it?" I asked. Gregson shook his head.
"His wife has him invite me over for dinner on occasion; she doesn't have him take people on holiday." I knew what he meant; they went on holiday, together, on the rare occasions Lestrade took off from work.
"Could it be work related?" Holmes asked.
Another denial. "The Superintendent still doesn't trust us to work together without him there to remind us to 'play nice' every day, not since I blacked Lestrade's eye, never mind that it was under your orders, Holmes."
"Could there be some evil intent?" I suggested. "Someone wants to get to you, Inspec – Gregson, and threatened him to gain his cooperation?"
Holmes refuted that theory. "In that case, why not use someone less conspicuous? And Lestrade is hardly the best choice if you hope to threaten someone into submission. He would not go along with such an attempt."
"He could be unaware of the intentions of whoever wanted to get to Gregson." I offered. "Or perhaps Lestrade is in some danger himself and merely wants someone along that he can trust."
Holmes was silent, considering. "It sounds as if he plans to meet someone while in the States, and that that person has requested your presence. If Lestrade did not seem nervous, or reluctant, or upset when he asked you to come along, then I doubt this person has any evil designs planned for you. Whether there may be some sort of case involved or not I cannot say, and whether you wish to go or not is your choice."
Gregson scowled. "Well of course I do not wish to go!" He declared. "As if I enjoyed being around the man even at the best of times!" He calmed somewhat. "But he has asked, where he would not, under normal circumstances, have done so, and as he would probably enjoy trip as little as I, I believe he has good reason for it and that I should accept." He paused, and looked from Holmes to me then back. "Do you think I am mistaken, to go with him?"
Holmes consulted his pocket-watch. "I think if you leave now you will be able to inform Lestrade that you accept his offer before dinner without being invited to stay for it." He said dismissively.
Gregson nodded, and stood. "Thank you, Holmes." For once, the man actually sounded grateful. "Sorry to trouble you." And he was out the door and heading down the stairs.
I shook my head as the man left. "That was odd, Holmes." I said, but my friend was no longer interested.
"Indeed." Was all he said in reply; I could see that he would say nothing else on the matter tonight.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes.