A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 26

Inside her drawing room, Vastra busied herself with a wide variety of items, extracted from various cubby holes in the large desk and combined pigeon hole stack she kept in one corner of her main operations room, including a map of the tube, a large scale ordnance survey map of London, with the tube lines plotted on it, five different catalogues from assorted stick manufacturers, a stock of jerky sticks, and three additional data capture forms, which she'd gathered all of the information she could on the various individuals involved.

About ten minutes later, Clara wandered in, carrying a pot of tea, a supply of biscuits, including the rarely seen bourbons that lived in the special box that only Jenny could find, and two cold sausages. Her tongue whipped out immediately, snaring one of the sausages, before coiling and whipping it back into her mouth.

"Mhht'pl me uh moo mot..." Vastra began, before a newspaper traversed the room at speed, and collided with the top of her head.

"No speaking with your mouth full." Clara reminded her.

"Morry." Vastra said, swallowing the last of her sausage. "Clara, this is the most complex part of any investigation. I need a constant supply of tea, cuddles and a sounding board."

"Tea is something I can do." Clara said. "As for cuddling or posing in my underwear, you can pretend that you never considered it as an idea." She got the very sad face and smell in response. "Don't look at me like that. It won't work. My neighbour's puppy tries that every time I walk past with a cereal bar. He's never had one yet."

"I need them..." Vastra tried out, hopefully. "They, err... help my amygdala processes."

"Those are the last thing I want to be helping." Clara reminded her. "Last time I affected those, I spent the next fourteen hours in an armbinder, before you groped me when I passed out while making your tea."

"Clara, I've already apologised once for that, but again, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been such an idiot as to take advantage." She again deployed her most endearing face.

"No." Clara said, firmly, as if speaking to a disobedient puppy surrounded by the remains of a crisp packet. "Bad silurian." Then they both burst out laughing.

Jenny was walking the wheel again, exhausted, despite it being barely ten in the morning. Her morning meal, such as it had been, had consisted of oatmeal, water and salt. There had been a jug of water provided, which she had gratefully downed, along with a foaming pint mug filled with root beer. Her ankle chains had been adjusted in the guard room, although it hadn't lengthened her stride, it had, importantly, made it far easier to walk in them, especially on the wheel. She hadn't been able to see exactly what had been done, but they felt more comfortable.

Normally, about now, I'd be going back into Vastra's room, armed with a bucket of cold water, and turfing her out of bed. She thought, smiling at the inevitable offended and sad face she'd be given, before the Silurian affected reluctance and clambered out of bed. Silly ol' thing. I know she knows how to get up by herself. She managed before she found me, anyway.

The thought of Vastra's amusement if she'd ever simply put her foot down firmly, and insisted she got up by herself made her grin slightly, but she carried on, knowing that her break was in another few minutes.

Vastra was completely frustrated. She'd run hundreds of scenarios in her head, trying to explain he circumstances she was faced with.

Body on train roof. Probably not killed there. Blood planted, to give us a false belief that the killing occurred on the train roof. Preparation or an experienced person. Likely not first murder. Preparation unlikely. Cause of death inconsistent with a premeditated killing. A stick is going to be the first weapon that came to hand. If this was premeditated, and the killer as clever as he thinks he is, we'd never have found the body, or had any evidence of foul play. So they were disturbed. But what where they disturbed doing... She wondered, as Clara poured her another cup of tea.

The Silurian absently blew on her drink, before sampling it with an extremely cautious tongue. Perfect. Given the circumstances, they must have been copying the technical diagrams, intending to return them. No point having a theft that would be remarked on by the first man to open the safe. They'd have been trying to copy them, quickly and accurately. For some reason, they weren't using a camera. If we're dealing with a spy, you can guarantee the foreign office were keeping an eye on him. Nothing more than per-forma surveillance, but he wouldn't have wanted to jump it, because they'd have hit him with half a dozen tails, and probably searched his rooms on some suitable grounds. He would have been therefore hesitant to bring a camera that capable onto the country, and he'd have been investigated to within an inch of his life if he'd brought one in the capital, or travelled to do so elsewhere.

She glanced at another item, a list of the plan pages that had been removed, and those she'd recovered. We've got the periscope, the steering mechanism, the basic drove system, the various compartments like the mess and the bunkroom, and all of the other systems that require little adaptation for a submarine. What we haven't got is the periscope mechanisms, or the torpedo tube design, or the specific close-up showing how the prop-shaft is waterproofed. If those were retained, it means that they're being copied, as they would have been the most crucial possible systems, and those which would take years to reinvent.

She glanced at another map, briefly, before looking up at the clock. Ten past eleven. I want to go and visit something. The country. She thought. I haven't had the chance to visit somewhere with rabbits for months, or sheep. She smiled, remembering the pleasure of walking through an ornamental garden and looking out onto the rolling hills and moorland that was the South Downs.

"Clara, could you go and fetch my .22 rifle and cartridges from the pantry?" Vastra asked, seeming strangely upbeat all of a sudden.

"Why?" Clara responded, with a tone suggesting that there were correct reasons and incorrect reasons for the request, and that Vastra had better be making the request for the correct reasons.

"I need some time to catch my thoughts, and I find that that happens best in the country." Vastra said.

"And you want a small calibre rifle because...?"

"Because I haven't had rabbit in weeks, since Jenny insisted on restocking the game larder with venison and pheasant. Neither of which I actually like. She also banned me from cooking squirrels I'd caught in the park."

"So, in essence, we're going to be traveling through London to visit a national park, in order to shoot at innocent rabbits on the grounds you're peckish." Clara stated, her tone of voice suggesting that the idea seemed entirely inappropriate.

"That's wrong?"

"Yes." Her tone of voice was several degrees the far side of absolute zero. "If you want rabbits, I can go and visit the butcher's. As for squirrels..." Her tone suggested that those would be best left unmolested.

"Clara, I need to get outside the capital for a bit." She explained, hopefully.

"Would you like to stop trying to come up with a pretext for whatever it is you actually want to accomplish, and just explain it to me?" Clara said, firmly.

"Jenny always likes taking excursion trains. And going to the beach." Vastra said.

"Hoi. I said stop fencing, and start explaining."

"I want to find out where on the underground trains stop under a house or other property regularly, and predictably, particularly on that line."

"If you'd said that at the start, I wouldn't have complained." Clara told her wryly.

"Everyone else usually humours me..."


They grinned at each other, Vastra looking like a chastised cross between an Asari and a saltwater crocodile, before Clara made a suggestion she should have known she was going to regret.

"Do you want me to go and get the carriage?"

An hour later, she was discovering the hard way that driving a horse drawn carriage in traffic is a hell of a lot harder than it looked, even from the shotgun seat. Admittedly, in this carriage's case, there was a semi-automatic shotgun under her seat, with a sawn-off barrel shortening the barrel to the approximate length of the tubular magazine. According to Vastra, the first load in the magazine was rock salt, followed by 250 birdshot, then 30 buckshot, then two slugs. She assumed that if she got to the slugs, something had gone seriously wrong in any event.

She had watched a documentary about carriage driving recently enough to remember the basic commands, along with steering and acceleration, as well as deceleration, giving her enough of a grounding to at least be able to navigate through the streets, which hadn't changed much, as far as she could tell. Drivers who thought that right of way was calculated by tonnage and aggression seemed as common, although she was relieved to see that cyclists were fewer in number and far more cautious, and that, surprisingly, omnibus drivers seemed to have not yet developed the aggressive and dangerous attitude towards them that characterised bus-driver/cyclist relations in the 21st century.

Because of her relative lack of skill, it took her half an hour to navigate to the headquarters of the London Underground driver's union. She was able to pull up in a stable yard, before leaving her horse with nosebag fitted and attached to a post, before heading inside.

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