Sir Henry’s grey Bentley was joyless at the best of times but as Watson steered it on to the M4 it was definitely venturing close to negative joy and possibly pain. Something like yoghurt. Sir Henry did not approve of yoghurt.
Sir Henry himself was brooding in the back seat. He had spent a rather disappointing couple of hours, driving out to Professor Greenwood’s house and finding it empty but otherwise devoid of clues. He glanced over at the laptop on the seat next to him. Perhaps that would have some answers that the tech boys could extract. He sneered. Sir Henry did not trust computers.
Alec Watson, meanwhile, was quietly fuming in the front seat and trying not to convert his anger into miles per hour. Sir Henry did not approve of speeding. The fact that Alec Watson was probably capable of driving the Bentley back to London on two wheels was neither here nor there. He was tempted to try.
For Watson, the last couple of hours had been more than disappointing. They had been held up twice on the way to the Professor’s house: first by a drift of sheep being driven down the lane and then by a tractor that necessitated Watson reversing for quarter of a mile. Neither of these were particularly unexpected but Sir Henry seemed to hold him personally responsible.
When they had finally made it to the house, which was clearly deserted, Sir Henry had then refused to let Watson pick the lock. Instead, he made Watson call for a local locksmith, wasting another three quarters of an hour. As a final insult, he rejected Watson’s offer to hack into Greenwood’s laptop, in favour of shipping it back to Q division, who would no doubt find a way to make it explode or turn the CD drive into a Shiruken launcher before getting round to actually extracting any useful data - assuming there was even and useful data on there. As so often in Watson’s life of late, he could not help thinking that he would have achieved four times as much in half the time if Sir Henry would just sod off back to London.
To add injury to insult, they had missed lunch and now Watson’s stomach was rumbling. Sir Henry did not approve of motorway service stations, so there would be nothing for Watson until they got back to London. At least the partition was up so Sir Henry could not grumble about the rumbles.
Just as that last thought passed through his head, Watson heard the gentle whir of the partition sliding down. He gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter and let the accelerator pedal creep towards to the floor.
“I think I might have to get Wainbridge on this one, Smithers,” said Sir Henry. “There’s something funny going on here and I don’t like it.”
Watson nodded. Sir Henry did not approve of funny at the best of times, and this was not the best of times.
“I need you to call ahead and arrange a meeting with the M.O.D.” Sir Henry continued, oblivious to the bad vibes emanating from the front seat. “Unless Greywood turns up soon, I think we’ll have to close down BIRD-FLU until this all blows over. We would not want the locals to panic.”
“Yes, sir.” Watson answered, through gritted teeth.
“Either way, I want you to head back to Swansea first thing and do some more checking up on the rest of the staff. That American professor reeked of whisky and the caretaker clearly cannot be trusted. Never trust a man with a beard, Smithers: they have something to hide. Now, if you excuse me, I have some thinking to do."
As the partition slid back up, Watson’s left hand was already instinctively dialling the number for headquarters as he reflected what was just said. There was some good news, at least. Sir Henry said “you” not “we”. There was chance that he would be released from Sir Henry’s leash. He also found himself contemplating the idea of growing a beard.
Noting that Sir Henry had activated the darkened glass, Watson accelerated a little more and pulled the car out into the fast lane. Perhaps things were looking up.
With that, the heavens opened.