A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 13

It took several moments of rummaging in her pockets for Clara to locate the large key to the front door of Thirteen Paternoster Row, most of which was spent playing 'is it in here? How about here?' before she finally located the key, and opened the front door, large by the standards she was used to.

Once she'd gratefully closed the door, resulting in at least a slight freshening of the air, she began to be able to hear the sounds of someone rhythmically assaulting a large sack of straw with some form of weapon, intermittently followed by a martial sounding haiha or similar noise.

Out of curiosity, she tracked the noise down the hall, and into the kitchen, before localizing it to the cellar steps. Holding onto the guardrail, she descended into the room, to be met by several interesting sights.

On one wall, half concealed behind a wine rack, there was a rack of what looked like relatively modern assault rifles, with the overall design characteristics of a Kalashnikov series weapon, including the banana shaped magazine. Next to them, on a different rack, were sheathed swords, what looked like three full sets from tanto to no-dachi, offering a wide variety of options for turning most problems into several far smaller ones. Below the business weapons, there was a separate rack loaded with bokken, as she vaguely remembered wooden Japanese training weapons to be called. In a separate rack from both swords and rifles, she spotted three weapons made by placing a katana blade on top of a six foot pole, with leather covers protecting the blades.

Vastra was busy killing a large man made out of straw with what looked like the fire poker.

"Oi." Clara said, activating her schoolteacher tone. "Miss Vastra, put that poker down this instant."

She was only mildly surprised when Vastra seemed to react without thought, placing the poker on a small table, before stepping back.

"Clara." She greeted the human. "Are the irregulars loose?"

"Yes, I've turned out the irregulars, and I've paid them up front." Clara replied. "Why were you using a poker to beat up a training dummy?" She asked.

To her surprise, Vastra shuffled her feet briefly before replying. "Jenny never lets me use the poker when she's around. I wanted to see what it is about it that makes it such a popular weapon."

Clara couldn't help rolling her eyes slightly. "It's simply a very available chunk of metal with a long handle." She replied. "No mystic energies, no other powers. Just a lump of metal, on a stick."

"I see." Vastra replied, before there was a sudden clatter in the street outside, as what sounded like a cab drew up outside the house, followed closely by a pair of boots hurrying up the steps to the front door, then a hammering on it.

"Clara, be a dear and get the door, will you?" Vastra instructed. "I'll be in my sitting room. Bring some tea with you, as well."

Clara snapped off a salute which could only be described as sarcastic, before hurrying to the doorway.

Once she'd negotiated the chain, which she couldn't remember fastening herself, she pulled the door open, revealing the figure of a suspicious looking man beyond.

The man wasn't as tall as the doctor, and had a small frame, even by Victorian standards. He had a narrow face, with dark, narrow eyes, and an unhealthy looking sallow complexion. He was smartly dressed, with a bowler, although his clothes showed signs of what looked like mud and dirt, and his bowler was somewhat battered, although by no means disreputable.

"Is Madame Vastra at home? He asked, with a slightly musical accent that put her in mind of a more guttural version of a south wales accent. "We've got something that I think will pique her interest."

"And who shall I say is calling?" She asked, before he handed her a card.

The card read: 'Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade, Scotland Yard CID.'

"I think she is, sir." She replied, with a curtesy, before using the detective inside. "May I conduct you to the drawing room?"

"Certainly, miss…?"

"Oswald, sir."

"Lead the way, Miss Oswald." He said, with a slight smile, which broadened as she borrowed his bowler, before placing it on the coat stand.

"Coats and hats at the door, please." She said, before taking his coat and hanging it up as well.

"Usually, Miss Oswald, Jenny leaves that to Mr Strax." Lestrade said with a wink, before following her to the drawing room, reading his notebook.

Once she reached the drawing room, Clara darted back to the kitchen for the tea-tray, knowing that even Vastra couldn't evade the preliminary niceties of Victorian society, such as discussing the weather, mutual acquaintances, and presumably, previous cases. Unlike a recent version of Sherlock Holmes she'd seen, Vastra wasn't a rude being, although, to be fair, the character of Holmes wasn't rude, just unconcerned with social niceties.

Quickly, she extracted a pot-full of boiling water from the stove, having left a large urn on in anticipation of large amounts of tea being required. Into it, she dropped three teaspoons worth of loose tea-leaves, before placing the lid back on the teapot, then gathering a jug of milk, holding about a pint, before loading three cups onto a tea-tray, along with saucers, a small packet of rich tea biscuits, and the highly vital silver teaspoons. She placed the teapot on the tray, before carefully balancing it and walking through to the drawing room.

The door was closed when she approached, so she, after considering the options, decided to resort to kicking the door several times, at which point the inspector opened the door with a polite nod.

"Madame insisted we wait for the tea before we get down to details." He said, before extracting a small leather bag, akin to a glasses case, then removing a relatively small clay pipe, almost black from long use, and pinching a handful of tobacco into it, before adding a match produced from a plain matchbook, and quickly producing a fug of smoke that would make any 21st century smoke alarm sound in sheer fury.

"Inspector, do you have to smoke that thing in here?" Vastra asked. "Clara, darling, would you get the window?"

Bending low, Clara quickly poured a cup for Vastra, putting the milk in first, then moving to the sash window, and quickly opening it, before standing back, in an at-ease pose, and allowing the meeting to progress.

"We've got an unusual one." Lestrade said, flicking open his notebook. "Last night, we had a report of a young man going missing near the Admiralty, one of the clerks there, going by the name of Arthur West. He and his fiancée were returning from the theatre, having viewed Mr Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' when Mr West, upon passing his workplace, suddenly took off, after passing a man in the fog, with an instruction that if he did not return within ten minutes, his fiancée, a Miss Parker, should make her way in haste to the station at Charing Cross, and request the assistance of a constable. Upon her arrival at the front desk, she was near to hysterics, and it took three cups of tea to calm her down, and that was when we got the story. My colleague Inspector Hackett was on the night shift, and turned out, with a number of his constables and two sergeants to scour the area, although they found no-one. We photo-telegraphed his description and photograph to all of the stations in London this morning, before I was summoned to a report of a man being thrown from an underground carriage at Westminster bridge road. One of the porters saw him suddenly appear from the rear of the train just as it left the station, and sent a runner to Kennington police station, from whence a constable was dispatched, and the line was halted to allow recovery of the body. Once the constable had retrieved the body, which had a very severe head injury, he searched the pockets, finding no sign of a robbery. The man's pockets contained cards and a theatre ticket stub, both in the name of Mr Arthur West. At that point, I was summoned via telegraph, and, after examining the body, I came straight here."

"I see." Vastra said, after a moment. "Why didn't you have the train stopped at the next station, and searched?"

"By the time we were alerted, it had already passed, and stopped at, Waterloo station. We've got a sergeant and two constables interviewing the staff, but frankly we're not hopeful."

"Have you got the train?" Vastra asked?

"We managed to have it stopped at Bond Street, and diverted into a siding, due to a damaged brake, and we paid for onwards journeys out of our sundries budget. We've already been through it, and there was precious little to see, but we want you to have a look before we release it, just in case you can find any clues that we've missed."

"Very well, Inspector." Vastra said, picking up her tea and taking a not so delicate sip. "I'll accompany you presently. Clara, would you go down to the telegraph office, next to St Pauls, and send our visitor from this morning a telegram asking for details of any staff assigned to his project?"

"Certainly, Ma'am." Clara said, before Vastra handed her a card.

"Here are his details." She said, before finishing her tea, and heading for the door.


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