A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 28

The thick shrubbery was very poorly laid out, in Vastra's book. There were no sight lines left in it that would useless from the road, but excellent from the house. It was just thick, thorny vegetation, which seemed to pose a problem for Clara, judging by the constant hissed swear words and occasional sounds of clothing ripping. Vastra, who'd planned for the possibility, was wearing her cat suit, which had nothing to do with the fact that it smelt of Jenny, or the "'secret' pocket containing a stock of beef jerky, along with Jenny's spare lock picks.

When they finally reached the doors, Clara having managed to avoid the wait-a-while vine in the last patch of vegetation by luck, Vastra pulled up short.

"Damn it." She muttered, before switching to Silurian. This is a problem that should have been factored in, but is incredibly annoying

"Clara," she said, in English. "Can you pick locks?"

"I've got a Doctor, remember." She said. "Normally, he just waves his sonic screwdrivery thing, and the doors open, like that."

"Jenny banned me from trying, because I kept damaging the lock picks too much."

"So, we improvise." Clara said, wracking her brain for an actual plan. "How about this?" She said, before simply grabbing the knocker, and banging the heavy cast iron bar against the receiver plate making an absolute racket.

Vastra just reached under her coat, before producing a large leather cosh, and taking a step to one side of the door.

The man who answered the door was holding a pistol in one hand, so Vastra felt very little guilt about bringing the cosh down extremely hard on his head, landing the blow just behind his left ear, sending him smoothly toppling forwards, before stepping rapidly through the door, feeling extremely grateful that she and Jenny had stored their spare bullet proof vests in the carriage, and that Clara was wearing one. With the vest on, being shot fatally by the archaic slug throwing weapons that humans used was considerably less likely, although both of them could still get very unlucky with any given bullet, especially if one scored a golden bb hit, and severed a major artery. Clara had refused to wear one of the spare cat suits, protesting vociferously against wearing something with a variety of loops of metal attached to its wrists and ankles, particularly since it had a padlock looped through the fasteners.

Vastra moved ahead, leaving Clara to keep an eye on the driveway from inside the closed door, before padding down the corridor, sticking to the carpeted sections, and moving rapidly, but with almost no noise that could have been heard from more than a few yards away, keeping her katana in its sheath, and instead relying on the twenty-five ounce lead weight wrapped in an inch of leather to deal with troublemakers.

As it turned out, she didn't need it until she reached the study, at which point she curiously stuck her head around the door.

Inside, a fairly bulky Slav was sitting at a desk, using a device she'd seen a few times before, but never understood the purpose of. On one side, he had a sheet of blue paper, intricately covered by white lines, overlaying a grid. Each line, she saw, was being painstakingly plotted onto the sheet inside the device, creating a perfect copy. Her tongue, however, was itching, and seemed determined to lash out, and deliver a fatal dose of poison into the man's system before he had time to react.

"I'm impressed." She said, instead, stepping into the room. "You took considerable pains to avoid being identified at any point as having been involved.

"Who the hell are you?" He demanded.

"My name, which you will almost certainly have already heard, is Madame Vastra."

"Your reputation seems well deserved." He replied, surprisingly urbanely. "I wouldn't have expected a government official to be able to hire someone as competent as you."

"It was a change from hunting down stealing servants and fraudsters." Vastra said. "I've been bored, recently. There never seems to be a good murder at this time of year. People are too busy doing people things.

"I assume that the ordinary plodders are waiting outside, for me to make a dramatic confession."

"I'm alone, except for my maid, Clara." She said, before showing a mouth with far too many pointed teeth for the man's liking. "However, I wouldn't advise that you move, Mr Grigorievich. Or that you attempt to open the second drawer on the right hand side of your desk. Not if you want to walk out of here."

"What in heaven are you?" He asked.

"I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time, whose wife is currently imprisoned for a slip only an ape would hold against her. And if you make a threatening move towards me, or try and open that drawer, you will die."

"I have no intention of challenging you." He said.

"Good. Now, did you kill Arthur West?"

"Who?"

"He was a government clerk, recently engaged to be married. Three days ago, someone smashed in his head with a walking stick with a head three inches across, probably with a single blow. He was placed on the roof of a train which was stopped at the faulty signal underneath your house, along with about three rabbits worth of blood. The body was ultimately deposited on the tracks at Westminster Road station. Did. You. Kill. Him." She hissed, struggling to avoid shredding a pair of her burgling gloves, which she knew Jenny would whack her around the head for.

"I... He burst in, it was Milton. He grabbed my cane, and smashed him on the head with it, and he collapsed, and I knew he was dead."

"So you filled his pockets with the simple papers, the ones you were able to photograph easily using a normal camera, and dumped his body, in the hope it'd be found too far away to be localised, and for you to be tracked down."

"How did you know..."

"You were too good a neighbour to the railway. Most people would have complained, or ignored the workers and their work. You took an interest, which they clearly remembered, and that, along with a sighting of you and Milton near Admiralty House, was enough to tell me whose house to search."

The man sat there for a second. "I'm impressed."

"If you hadn't been involved in a man's death, I wouldn't have been investigating. You would have been up against that bungler Watson, or some bureaucrat used to investigating inter-departmental riffs. Instead, an innocent man is dead, and you had me on your track. Clara!" She called.

"Yes, ma'am?" The human girl called through.

"Stick your head out of the door for a few moments, and then call the home office. Tell them Vastra has the man who stole artful Dodger, and give them the address."

"Roger that."

-0-0-0-0-0-

Clara had been uncomfortable from the moment Vastra tried to hand her a weapon. Just holding a gun was a huge escalation in threat levels, and something that she had learnt from the doctor was that escalating the threat level that much was unprofitable, and extremely dangerous, unless you were willing to go that much further, and intend to use the weapons. Something she'd had drummed into her during her relatively brief spell in the combined cadet force was that you should never point a firearm, loaded or unloaded, at someone, unless you were willing and intending to shoot them, and that that you should never at shoot someone unless you were prepared and intending to kill them.

The only weapon, of it could even be described as such, that she'd accepted from Vastra was a small metal tube, closed at one end, with a mouthpiece at the other, and a small slot about a third of the way down its length.

"Clara?" She heard Vastra call, after about five minutes of muted conversation.

"Yes, ma'am?" She replied, sticking to her role as a Victorian servant.

"Stick your head out of the door for a few moments, and then call the home office. Tell them Vastra has the man who stole artful Dodger, and give them the address."

"Roger that." she called back, hauling open the door, before slipping the whistle, on a leather string, between her lips, and blowing three long blasts on it. If any of the nearby patrolling police constables had heard it, which was an near certainty, given their own possession of the same whistles, and their ubiquitous use in this era by private citizens for the purpose of summoning assistance, she estimated that at least two, probably four uniformed officers were currently approaching at a dead run.

Satisfied, she left the door open, before heading to the simple telephone on a stand next to the door, before simply picking it up, tapping the earpiece support a few times, and waiting for a response.

"Operator, how May I help you?" A woman replied after about fifteen seconds.

"I'm calling from number three Gaywood Street, and I need to be put through to the home office as soon as possible."

"One moment." The operator replied. "Connecting you now."

"Who is this?" A somewhat grumpy sounding official said, after another few seconds.

"My name is Clara Oswald. I'm currently employed as a maid by Madame Vastra. She said to tell you that she has the man who stole artful Dodger, at number three Gaywood Street."

"We'll send a carriage right away." He said. "The department has been in an uproar."

Just as she put the phone back on the hook, Clara heard the clatter of boots, hobnailed, police issue, in the road outside, along with the sound of hooves and an iron-rimmed wheel. Then a familiar hat briefly stuck itself over the wall, shortly before the rest of the officer followed.

"Ma'am, the police are here."

"Coming." Vastra called through, before Clara heard the Silurian's boots rattling on the dressed stone floor.

Lestrade reached the door at about the same time that Vastra did.

"This is a very timely response, Inspector." Vastra said, her tone rather acidic.

"I know what you're like." He replied. "I'm not going to dump you on any of the local Bobbies on the beat. Which room?"

"He's in the study." Vastra hissed. "This one answered the door armed, so I put him to sleep." She said, kicking the side of the floored gunman. "He had a pistol in his desk." She continued, holding up a large revolver between two fingers, holding it by the barrel.

Just as she handed the weapon over to Lestrade, the somewhat subdued Russian was led out, securely handcuffed. "Take him down to the station, sergeant, and charge him with theft of government papers, accessory during and after the fact to the murder of one Arthur West, attempting to pervert the course of justice, disposal of a corpse with intent to obstruct or prevent a coroner's inquest, and espionage against the crown."

"You're sure about disposal of a corpse with intent to obstruct or prevent a coroner's inquest?" Lestrade asked?

"Placing a murdered body so that it would be carried a long distance from the place of its death, and potentially end up under an underground train, which might well have disguised the actual cause of death, I would say is disposal of a corpse with intent to obstruct or prevent a coroner's inquest." Vastra replied, before handing over one of the man's cards to Lestrade.

Lestrade turned to the somewhat abashed Russian, now secured in a pair of darbies by two burly constables, who were standing one either side of him. "Milyutin Yeremey Grigorievich," he said, glancing down at the card. "You are under arrest for the theft of government papers, accessory during and after the fact to the murder of one Arthur West, attempting to pervert the course of justice, disposal of a corpse with intent to obstruct or prevent a coroner's inquest, and espionage against the crown. It is my duty to inform you that anything which you may say will be used against you in a court of law."

The man didn't reply, and Lestrade made a gesture to the officers, who manhandled him outside, before returning to scoop up the somewhat unfortunate gunman.

"Inspector, I'll be at the row in the morning." Vastra said, as he reached out to touch one of her arms briefly. "There are a couple of matters I need to take care of." She explained, as a coach suddenly skidded to a halt in the road, and a somewhat portly man, with a top hat pushed low over his brow, hurried over to her.

"Sir Thomas Milton…" the man began, before Vastra's tongue made a spirited attempt to lash out, leading to a look of confusion from both the police inspector and the bureaucrat.

"Madame has a somewhat unusual illness." Clara quickly explained. "Her tongue is unusually long , and her skin deformed somewhat."

"Inspector, arrest this man!" Vastra demanded.

"Why? Where's Grigorievich?" he said, shortly before Lestrade stepped up to him.

"Hopefully, this will turn out to be a misunderstanding, sir, but as of this moment, I'm arresting you as an accomplice to Mr Grigorievich. Because of this, it is my duty to inform you that anything which you may say will be used against you in a court of law."

Vastra just watched the man being loaded into the hurry-up wagon, before Clara prodded her in the side with her cosh.

"We're heading back to the row for hot chocolate, if you're interested." Clara told her, before firmly lodging the Silurian's oversized hat and veil combination over her head, and taking a firm hold of her, leading her into the road through the gate, which now was standing open, with a guard of two police constables on it, and turning towards the mews where they had left their carriage.


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