A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 15

Once she got back from the telegraph office, Clara began to feel somewhat hungry. The last meal she had had was a local equivalent of a McDonald’s meal, with chips and a medium sized burger. That had been about five hours previously, although she'd saved some of the chips for later, in the TARDIS equivalent of a doggy bag, which had also been used by the Doctor to transport various authentic Roman delicacies for her history class to try.

Inside the kitchen, she quickly located the pantry, which had been subdivided into two large cupboards and a smaller cupboard. The large cupboards were marked "Vastra" and "Jenny", while the small cupboard had "Strax" written on it. Clara decided very quickly that she didn't want to investigate what Vastra had in her cupboard, and opened Jenny's. Inside, there was a selection of breakfast cereals, along with several baskets of seasonal root vegetables, and a rack of cuts of meat.

Carefully, Clara extracted two cuts of meat, what would have been known as rump steaks on a restaurant menu, before placing them on a metal tray.

Once they were on the tray, she extracted a stock of potatoes from another part of the cupboard, before carefully peeling them, then slicing them into quarters and arranging them on the tray, along with whole carrots and parsnips, then drizzled the whole dish with a cooking oil, before sprinkling herbs and seasonings onto the oiled meat, finishing the dish with a thin coating of paprika.

Once the main dish was in the oven, Clara turned her attention to other matters. Having already found the wine and other alcohol store, she extracted a bottle of Italian red, stored in the 'meat' section of the rack by a previous occupant, and cracked it open, pouring a measure into a gravy boat. She added a small amount of chilli powder to the wine, before covering it well away from the stove.

It took three hours for the meat to cook, which Clara spent planning several lessons for her class, assuming she could get them to go anywhere near the blue box after last time.

About halfway through the cooking process, the sound of a carriage rattled through the yard, before Vastra entered the building via the kitchen door, before almost wrapping herself around the Aga as soon as the door was shut.

"Ma'am?" Clara asked. "Why are you doing that?"

There was no answer for about a minute.

"Ma'am?" Clara asked again, hearing what sounded suspiciously like purring noises coming from the vicinity of the stove.

"Sorry." Vastra said after another pregnant silence. "I needed that."

"Needed what?" Clara asked, slightly confused.

"When Jenny calls me a lizard, Clara, she isn't being inexact, from a biological perspective, at least. I can't generate my own body heat. Couple that with being outside today, and I need heat urgently." Vastra explained, still curled up against the Aga.

"I see." Clara replied. "I need to check on dinner." She explained, holding up a ladle. "If you want some additional heat, I'm sure that Strax will stoke the fire for you."

At that point, she more or less chased Vastra out of the kitchen, not holding the ladle in the overtly threatening fashion Jenny sometimes did, but simply holding a two pound copper ladle a foot long.

Once the meat had finished cooking, she carefully drained the juices from both meat and vegetables into the gravy boat, before raiding one of the other cupboards for drinking vessels, extracting a silver pint mug engraved "Vastra", along with a simple glass for herself.

Once she'd laid the table, using more silver tableware than she'd seen in one place outside of a museum display case, and placed a steak knife by each of the two plates, she called Vastra in from where the Silurian had been huddling next to a fire.

The initial result was surprising.

"Clara, why have you cooked mine?" Vastra asked, looking very unsure.

"Because it was the only way to ensure it tasted right." She replied, before adding; "cooked meat won't exactly kill you."

Clara sat down on the chair, a classic example of the Victorian carpenter's art, with silk upholstery and very comfortable padding. She didn't get too comfortable, though, and quickly had her ladle out.

"That's the gravy jug!" She said, watching the progress of the vessel. "It goes on the meat, not in your glass."

"It smells like a drink." Vastra explained, clearly having been civilized enough over several years living with Jenny to have mastered cutlery, as she wasn't actually struggling to eat with it.

"Drink comes out of the decanter or the bottle." Clara replied, passing over the bottle of red wine. "Not the gravy jug."

There was a hiss from the Silurian, followed by a menacing brandishing of the two pound copper ladle. "Behave." Clara said.

Reluctantly, or at least it seemed that way, Vastra accepted the wine, before pouring herself a generous measure.

"It was a gift from Jenny." She said, holding up the silver mug. "Our wedding was in the twenty-fifth century, as marriages between women are a very grey area with the local apes. We had to lie about my species even then, and claim I was from Elune. We then edited the wedding certificate, and put it in my safe. Wedding presents were off the menu, as we couldn't invite anyone, so we brought each other presents instead. Jenny chose the most powerfully meat scented paper for my presents, but we avoided egg poachers and toast racks, at least." The Silurian smiled slightly at the memory.

"I wish I'd been invited.” Clara replied, not in the slightest bit purely from politeness.

The meat, as it turned out, was done to perfection, with the various herbs and spices she'd sprinkled over it, following a recipe from a folded page in one of Jenny's larger cookbooks, setting off the meat perfectly. The wine tasted slightly of pitch, but otherwise the blend of fruits and berries set off the meat nicely. Vastra had received a somewhat larger portion of meat than Clara, and had quite happily dealt with the three pounds of steak, without earning a single blow from the ladle for table manners.

Unfortunately, she'd also had most of the wine, and several times had been whacked with the ladle for trying to drink from the bottle. There had been a tap each time she tried to pour the wine into her glass without offering any to Clara, which had avoided degeneration into an outright wrestling match over possession of the bottle only because of the presence of the table and crockery.

Once dinner was finished, Clara was surprised to see an actual bulge in Vastra's stomach, representing the final home of three pounds of rump steak, a pound of potatoes and half a pound of carrots and parsnips. Clara, in comparison, had had eight ounces of rump steak, and in total, a pound of vegetables, split nine ounces of potatoes and seven of carrots and parsnips. Vastra had also downed the best part of a bottle of wine, despite Clara's best efforts to have some as well, and had eventually managed to sneak a third of the gravy into her mug before being caught.

Finally, they adjourned for a final discussion of the case.

"Clara, what did you find out about the deceased?" Vastra asked.

"No gambling debts, only a social drinker, no known contacts within the embassy quarter, although several diplomats had approached him in his club with money for news." Clara reeled off. "His relationship with Miss Parker seems to have been monogamous, despite several approaches from other staff."

"What was his current project?" Vastra asked, already knowing the answer.

"Artful Dodger." Clara replied. "He was one of the draftsmen working on the design."

"Which would explain these." Vastra said, smoothing out a number of relatively simple diagrams for ballast chambers and the periscope, among other components.

"Where's the steering assemblage, or the torpedo tube mechanism?" Clara asked, after a moment.

Vastra flicked through the plans briefly, before hissing what sounded like several random syllables.

"I knew this was too easy." She said.

Then there was a polite knock on the door of the drawing room.

"Enter.” Vastra called, before Strax opened the door.

"The Doctor to see Madame Vastra and Miss Clara Oswald." Strax announced, carrying a frock coat over one arm.

"Doctor." Vastra said, with a smile. "What a pleasant surprise."

"Ah, I know." He replied, seemingly as grumpy as ever. "I've got tickets for a film I thought you two might be interested in, which is why I popped in." He replied, quickly cadging a biscuit from the plate on the tea-table.

"Which one?" Clara asked.

"They're calling it 'The empire strikes back', for now. I'm told the sword fighting sequences are worth watching." He said.

There was a muttering from Vastra. "Useless human rubbish and about as realistic as their customs." Vastra hissed, in what Clara realised was Silurian. Her aim with the ladle was precise.

The Silurian rubbed her nose for several seconds, before muttering something too quiet to hear, with a glance that Clara hoped she was misinterpreting.

"Anyway, are you two interested?" The Doctor asked.

"Yes." Clara replied.

"Only if I can take Jenny." Vastra said, seemingly sulking over the ladle throwing.

"I think we can arrange that." The Doctor replied, with a grin. "I've got us tickets to the premiere."

"How did you...?" Clara began, before he waggled a square of apparently blank paper at her.

"Shall we?" He asked, before leading the way to the TARDIS.

Once they were inside, and he'd shut the doors, the Doctor busied himself with the control panel.

"These short trips, I hate these. Why couldn't they have put her in Edinburgh, or Liverpool?" He grumbled, before pulling the lever.

The flight only lasted a few short seconds, before they touched down and the Doctor opened the door.

"Cell 273, Newgate prison." He announced, shortly before Vastra darted out through the door and pounced on a still groggy Jenny. There was a squeal as she landed.

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