A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 25

Clara woke up with someone curled up around her, much to her confusion, considering that her environment was nothing like the bedroom she and Danny shared when they were at his house, or the smaller room in her flat, with the bed they somehow managed to both fit into, and avoid falling out of. The bed was a four poster, with thick wool curtains gathered around it, and an almost solid headboard, excepting several small symmetrical gaps. The cover over her was almost stiflingly thick and warm, with a pattern of what looked almost like dinosaurs, rendered in a primitive style.

She looked up at her bed mate, twisting her head to release herself from what felt like a somewhat scaled chin, and the last few days came back in a flash. Vastra, a Silurian detective marooned in Victorian London, and who had ultimately fallen in love with her maid and carer, was busy using her as an endothermic hot water bottle. She just smiled, as she disentangled herself from the warmth seeking Silurian’s body, before disappearing down to the kitchen.

Quickly, she darted into the pantry, grateful that she'd remembered to slip her feet inside her borrowed slippers before doing so, as she was able to feel the chill of the uninsulated stone floor even through the thick soles of the slippers, which, incongruously, were in the shape of a cartoon rendition of a tyrannosaur. They were also green.

Quickly, she extracted Jenny's packet of cereal, pouring a generous measure into a bowl, before fetching in the almost frozen milk from the rear step, and pouring about a third of a pint over her cereal. It tasted very rewarding, and she allowed herself to savour the taste of home for a few minutes, before heading back into the pantry, and plucking up the courage to open Vastra's cupboard.

She was immediately buried under an avalanche of meat products.

Vastra came awake when she heard the avalanche.

At first, she struggled to place the rumble, thinking that the roof had lost a tile or three, or that a heavy cart had gone past the house too close to the kerb.

Then she heard the swearing.

Helplessly, she just collapsed onto the bed, laughing. Jenny had made it a policy to open said cupboard with a window hook for some time, given the sheer amount of meat Vastra had stacked inside the innocent looking cupboard, all of it from named animals, which were specifically called something other than "Bill" or "Spot". Mostly, during the winter, it contained huge amounts of bacon and other pork products, all of which were wrapped in greaseproof paper. Vastra liked bacon. And sausages. And pork chops. And any other forms of pork she could acquire. But especially bacon. It came in unsliced slabs of meat, usually smoked, if she had any say in the matter. She preferred her bacon at last a centimetre thick. Admittedly, smoking bacon did cause some slight changes, mostly that it was an excellent cure for SAD. In Vastra's case, that meant 'Silurian annoyance disorder' usually manifesting as short temperedness for everyone around her due to the playing of irritating practical jokes on anyone in the area. It was an efficient way of procuring bacon sandwiches.

Reluctantly, she prised herself out of bed, before clambering into her specifically designed dressing gown, with three layers of warmth reflecting foil underneath the thick, smooth layers of wool cloth, topped with a layer of velvet on the outside of the garment, and with a layer of sinfully luxurious shahtoosh wool, gathered in her own time period. It was warm and extremely soft, playing over her skin like warm water, and leaving her feeling a lot more able to face the stresses of life among apes. Jenny had sown several pouches of aromatherapy herbs into the collar, along with a pouch containing a length of her hair, which the Silurian tucked her nose against for a second, before keening a dirge in her throat, then heading into the kitchen.

When she pushed open the door, she could see a number of paper wrapped cuts of meat that had split beyond the door leading into the pantry, and was unsurprised when several more cuts of meat followed them, clearly being hurled or pushed away as Clara dug her way out of trouble.

She decided, after several moments, to go and help.

Vastra being Vastra, help mostly meant standing in the doorway, watching in amusement, although she did scoop several large piles out of the way, allowing the human to excavate herself from under two hundred kilos of beef and pork in about ten minutes, without suffering any serious injuries from the tsunami of meat.

Then the ape drew herself to her feet, glaring belligerently at Vastra, despite the difference in their heights.

"Would you care to explain that large pile, Ma'am?" Clara asked, the aggression in her posture confused with scents of amusement and meat.

"It was a discount sale at a meat wholesaler." Vastra replied. "I wanted to stock up, and they were doing an "all you can fit in a dogcart sale. As it turned out, with the doors closed, you can get a quarter of a tonne of meat, mostly bacon, and a certain amount of steak, in one."

"And it's all in one cupboard because...?"

"It's all in one cupboard because Jenny refused to let me use the coal cellar as a meat store, and the game larder is already full of meat, particularly pheasant and venison, which Jenny insisted we lay on for 'the season' although she's never explained what it is." Vastra said, with a 'so there' snap in her voice.

"And you actually needed that much meat?" Clara asked, probingly.

"I might have run out, otherwise." Vastra said.

"Did you actually need the meat?"

"I had a few days’ worth in the cupboard." Vastra replied, before receiving Clara's version of the eyebrows of doom. "I admit, I possibly didn't." She finally said, shortly before Clara hurled a joint of bacon at her. "And that was what Jenny did when I arrived home, although it was a sustained barrage." She said, remembering the barrage of furious language that her maid had fired in her direction in accompaniment to the meat when Vastra arrived home triumphantly, expecting her wife to be happy at the hunting prowess she was displaying, along with the similar barrage of words she'd directed at Strax for not sitting on her firmly when she saw the sign.

She'd herded the silurian inside with a string of sausages and a whole leg of lamb, before firmly making it very clear that she was now banned from going shopping without Jenny to supervise her. She had also made it clear that the appearance of any large holes in her lawn filled with meat would be punished by withdrawal of all bedtime activities for a month, and by having to sleep in separate bedrooms during that time. As for stashing her haul in the coal cellar, the punishment had been unspecified, but said to involve "ice cubes, rodents and the outhouse."

Vastra had reluctantly piled it into her cupboard, just managing to fit nearly a quarter of a tonne in the cupboard without it falling off the wall or exploding. Jenny had shown how much she loved Vastra by laughing at the bulging doors, before Vastra finally wedged a length of firewood through them, having had the window pole for the kitchen window, Jenny's rolling pin, a coat hanger and a bokken firmly confiscated by her wife.

The assorted fillet le bent banker that had been occupying the cupboard, and maturing nicely, had been removed with a bucket, and disposed of in several of Jenny's flower beds, something the human girl seemed remarkably unconcerned about, despite her consistent refusal to sample steak ala pederast or torte de la poisoner. Vastra had been saving them for Christmas, and finding that they'd been removed and disposed of had made her sad. Jenny had noticed, and decided to make a point. "Look 'ere, ya daft ole thing, I tol' ya before, ya ain't allowed ta keep em more than a week." She'd reminded Vastra, who'd responded with a sharp hiss, before being belted around the head with the nearest pillow.

Vastra grinned at the memory, before Clara walked past her, carrying a supply of bacon under her arm, before unwrapping it from the roll of greaseproof paper, and using a small tanto to slice pieces off of the side of bacon, before flipping them into a frying pan, using what looked like an adapted Japanese razor fan, milled into the form of a spatula. The smell of cooking bacon quickly drew the silurian back into the room, and she darted over to the breadbin, quickly extracting a loaf of what looked like granary bread, before attacking it with another sword, slicing quickly through it with a small, serrated katana. Almost before the stub of the loaf had landed, she was darting into the pantry again, before emerging with a bottle of what appeared to be tomato ketchup, which was slathered over the bread in moments. Thirty seconds later, Clara used the second spatula to extract the available bacon, and flip it onto the bread, before Vastra sliced the bread and meat in two with one stroke from the katana, then darted around the corner.

Thirty seconds later, she was back, with a look on her face reminiscent of a golden retriever staring up at someone's sandwich while sitting with its tail wagging just at the tip.

"No!" Clara said, firmly. "Jenny's notes say that you are not allowed a second sandwich if you're going to be working." Vastra cocked her head to one side, and attempted to produce a whining noise. "I said no." Clara told her, raising the spatula threateningly.

Vastra disappeared, clearly disappointed, judging by the almost telegraphed body language, before Clara heard her pad into the study, then put her own bacon in the pan.

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