The Iron Sea

Full Steam Ahead

Tesla watched intently from the steps of the Waldorf-Astoria, a half-smile never quite leaving his face as Magnus started to reluctantly withdraw from the field – so to speak. Eyes schooled to the mid-space, the brim of her hat tipped down in deep thought, it was clear from her step, the way her bloodied hands clenched, that she was positively seething beneath that calm, polite exterior.

He'd happened to turn up in time to witness a veritable tableau of New York commotion. The traffic was complaining, loudly, at the holdup, the choking engines of new automobiles forcing their drivers to step out and start them up again, horses whinnying impatiently in what was fast becoming a jam. At the front of it all stood a carriage with severely distressed horses, its driver dismounted somewhere amongst the crowd that was currently being dispersed by uniformed policemen. It wasn't a scene he'd have given more than a glance, had his eye not caught a certain Helen Magnus standing, rather ruffled, amongst it all. The ambulance pulling up had seemed in a hurry, but from the look of the medics as they approached the unfortunate patient, she'd lost him before they'd arrived.

The scene had slowed him to a halt, half-way up the stairs, as he observed the effects of Magnus' discussion with the local law enforcement. Whoever had been hit, she had clearly been trying to save their life, though why she was now arguing with the police… there was the mystery.

When she had given up, and finally reached the steps he stood on, she barely stopped herself from automatically hitching up her skirt and getting it bloody. She made a rather unladylike sound and looked up in exasperation, starting at the sight of Nikola there just above.

"Making trouble with the law?" he handed her the kerchief from his top pocket, looking far too amused for his own good.

"That's one way of putting it," she redressed primly, accepting his gentlemanly offer and carefully navigating the steps as she wiped down her hands. Glancing back briefly at the site of the carnage, she turned to him, insisting, "I don't know what was going on there, but that man did not just run out into the traffic and end his life without a bloody good reason."

He raised an eyebrow at that, watching her intently and awaiting further explanation. She had already resolved herself to this cause, he could tell, which meant she was hatching plans. Always such a fetching look on her, Tesla mused, tracing the darkening hue of her eyes as fervent thoughts connected behind them. Then she remembered her surroundings and the magic all but evaporated.

"What are you doing back anyway? I thought you would be in the thick of scientific discovery."

He smiled cheekily, one hand sweeping his coat aside to rest on his hip, "Oh well, you know, I was coming back for lunch, and what should I find but the Waldorf-Astoria's new resident doctor creating a little bother for the locals."

She rolled her eyes, hardly believing him for a second.

"What do you think happened?" he asked.

As he looked back across the street she realised something was different about his appearance.

"Have you…" Why ask? She reprimanded herself, it was obvious he'd shaved off his moustache, and besides, knowing that she'd noticed was going to usher some form of insufferable comment she just wasn't in the mood for. "Never mind," she sighed, focusing back on the site of her most recent battle with death, though worryingly Nikola seemed to have noticed she'd been momentarily distracted, "The gentleman who just lost his life – I saw him dashing out of the hotel as I was leaving. He ran straight into the oncoming traffic, not even a glance."

Tesla narrowed his eyes at her, knowing from her tone alone that there was more to it than that, "He was being pursued?"

"No," she replied, lips pursed thoughtfully and shaking her head a little, "I don't think so. He looked to be suffering from severe head pains… if he was experiencing an acute attack of some kind, something affecting his brain, as I suspect…"

"He wouldn't know what he was doing."

"Precisely. It might've been enough to make him completely unaware of his surroundings. He literally wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind, and not just because of some overwhelming sense of grief, or misguided attempt to end his own life."

She was getting irritated again. Clearly the police had been happy to chalk this up to just another whacko gone loose, or they would've if said whacko hadn't emerged from one of Manhattan's premier hotels. Suicide, it appeared, had thus become their preferred verdict.

"So… yet another resounding triumph for the NYPD," Tesla intoned sarcastically, watching her carefully. "Worth a night in a cell for upsetting the local constabulary?"

"Yes," She eyed him determinedly, surprising him slightly, "it is when no one's even going to look into it properly."

She knew police procedure, in London at least, she couldn't imagine it was much different in God-fearing America. Coroners always aimed to give the bodies back as whole as possible, and far too many of them considered the condition of the corpse going into the ground over the veracity of their demise. Day in, day out, the cause of death was misinterpreted from an insufficient set of results derived from the least invasive, and cheapest, methods. No one was going to open a skull up in a hurry, not without a good solid suspicion that it would provide their probable cause.

Tesla held his hands up in mock surrender, knowing precisely what she was going to say next. She was, after all, physically incapable of forgetting her work. Everywhere she went, everything she did: if there was an abnormal within a five mile radius, some peculiar medical mystery or ancient riddle, you could bet your life Dr Helen Magnus would find herself in the middle of it before long.

"There's no telling what might've been affecting him," she continued a little more quietly. "It could have been a pathogen, or even an abnormal. Either way, it seems to have come on a little too suddenly for my liking."

"Well… the police aren't going to take a liking to the idea of a foreigner poking around," He whispered as another couple passed them on the stairs, grey eyes searching her body language for answers. "This isn't London Helen; you can't just turn up with Watson in tow, or call up the Prime Minister, and get a free pass."

Her brows rose a little defiantly at the prospect of the challenge, her chin jutting just a little higher, to coincide with the small promise of mischief in the eyes. She was going to do it anyway, and Tesla smirked knowingly at the unmistakable signs.

"Helen," he drew out her name with an admiring flourish and the beginnings of a toothy smile, "what are you plotting?"

She turned away, supressing a smirk at that eager, boyish grin of his, and pretended to be highly interested in her dirtied hands. As she moved towards the doors he followed her, still expecting an answer that she didn't really want to vocalise, especially in the hotel lobby. Her reluctance to spill the beans made him all the more curious. They only got as far as the end of reception before he lightly grabbed her upper-arm, pressing her to address him and share the details of that delectable decision she'd made to be brilliant – no matter how much trouble she'd cause.

"First, I need to clean myself up," was as much as she would say, barely stopping as she headed for the elevators.

"Yes," he conceded as though that much was obvious, "but then?"

Their transportation tinged as it arrived on the lower floor, and that crafty smile on Helen's face was, Nikola decided, startlingly attractive.

"I am going to take a look at that body."


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