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A Study In Clockwork

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Saturday, May 11, 1895
    
Holmes and I had returned from Oxford on the previous night. The Adventure of the Three Students as I was wont to call the recent affair was still fresh in my mind. It was brought to a successful conclusion yesterday by Holmes with his usual, masterful analysis of the facts and presentation of the solution. A galley proof of the St. Luke’s College lecturer; Mr. Hilton Soames had been taken and copied to swindle a prominent scholarship. Through the application of that razor-sharp mind, Holmes could piece together the culprit from the black clay of the long-jump pit that was found in the room. Only one man had presence in such a pit, the athlete Mr. Gilchrist, whose father was the servant Bannister’s former employer. Sir Jabez Gilchrist ruined himself on the rugby turf which left the family close to poor. With the facts laid out, Gilchrist admitted to his deed and Bannister admitted to covering for the young man out of that old-found loyalty. Instead of sitting for the exam, Gilchrist bowed out from St. Luke’s to join the Rhodesian Police, the copied proof consigned to the fire, consciences and case cleared.

Holmes’ head was bent towards the breakfast that Mrs. Hudson had laid out for us. He stabbed out the last piece of ham on his plate; sight obstructed by The Police Gazette and brought it to his mouth. With that ritual complete, he set his fork upon the plate and took up his brier-root pipe. The bowl was already packed with tobacco and he lowered the paper down upon the table to light it with a match. Still without a word, he picked up the gazette and smoked vigorously. After a few more moments, he finally broke the vocal silence and cast the paper aside to the floor with a disgusted groan.

“Here we are Watson, back to idleness. I loathe thinking of the lack of crime or worse yet, the paltry and simple cases waiting to be proffered.” Holmes demurred.

“Always pessimistic, Holmes.” I said, shaking my head.

“It is not a matter of pessimism but realism, Watson. I almost wish that Moriarty and I were still dueling in the shadows of London.” Holmes replied, popping the pipe back into his mouth.
    
“Well for the sake of the public at large and even more importantly for your health, I am certainly glad the blackguard is gone, with his gang.” I said with a small smile. “There will be other Everests to conquer, surely.”

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there was no more world to conquer.” Holmes interjected, sharply inhaling on the pipe.

“Plutarch?” I tilted my head in surprise.

“I suppose that classification you clapped upon me on our first meeting of ‘Knowledge of Literature – nil’ can no longer stand.” Holmes grumbled. He cocked his head as we both heard approaching footsteps.

“Mrs. Hudson along with a man and a young girl, the man stands at five-feet and nine. The girl stands at five-feet and two. This sounds like work, Watson.” Holmes commented, starting to straighten up in his seat before rising.

“How could you come to that?” I asked.

“From the pitch and duration of the sound, have you retained nothing of my methods, Watson? Taller people have heavier footfalls and slightly slower ones while shorter have lighter and faster ones.” Holmes explained. “As far as potential work, Mrs. Hudson has allowed them up during breakfast which suggests some matter of urgency. Also, what is so important to bring a young girl here this early in the day? Especially a Saturday? It must be urgent, then.”

He stretched and adjusted his black jacket and locked his fingers together behind his back before turning to face the door to our sitting room. As he said, Mrs. Hudson opened the door and there a man close to Holmes’ height approached with a young girl, perhaps around fourteen in age. With his drooping mustache and profile, the face became more familiar as I kept my gaze.

“Mr. Wells!” I exclaimed with a wide smile, moving closer to offer my hand. Wells took it and shook it vigorously.

“I am certainly glad to see you, Dr. Watson and especially Mr. Holmes.” H.G. Wells said with a nod. He then gestured down to the girl. “A very strange event has happened with a close friend of mine, Mr. Holmes. This girl was apparently a traveling companion of his. Her name is Miss Homura Akemi of Tokyo.”

“Good morning Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson.” The black-haired girl slowly bowed to Holmes and me. “Mr. Wells has been more than helpful but he is correct. My friend has for lack of a better term, gone mad from his experience.”

“Does this friend have a name?” Holmes asked, removing his pipe.

“His name is Moses Nebogipfel but we call him the Time Traveler.” Wells said.

“The Time Traveler, a historian?” I asked.

“In a sense, an inventor by trade and I mean this in all seriousness, gentlemen. He has created a device that allows him to travel backwards and forwards in time. Moses has found and breached the boundary into the fourth dimension of time.” Wells explained. I looked to Holmes for a reaction but his face remained reserved.

“This would explain Miss Akemi’s presence, for she is not of this era.” Holmes said, gesturing towards her. That prompted me to raise an eyebrow in surprise and earned a nod from Homura. “Pray, come in and draw up a seat. If it is with Miss Akemi’s approval, I shall offer you a cigar Mr. Wells, then the two of you can tell me what has happened to Mr. Nebogipfel.”

“You are correct, Mr. Holmes.” Homura bowed her head once to Holmes from the seat she took next to me. “While knowing of your talents as a detective, I would like to know how you figured that out so quickly.”

“The clothing and glasses primarily.” Holmes explained, reaching forward to knock his pipe against an ashtray. “Your jacket, blouse and skirt are made of synthetic materials that are not produced anywhere within this time. The frame of your glasses is also made of another synthetic and the lenses are devoid of scratches. For a young woman like you who has worn glasses for so long, I would expect there to be scratches in their lifetime if they were made in the nineteenth century. The only other logical explanation is that the lenses were treated with a layer of special material that makes them resistant. Also, a young girl, especially hailing from Japan would not have traveled to England alone, even during summer holiday, which has not started yet.”

“Correct on all points, Mr. Holmes.” Homura nodded. “I’ve come from the year 2010. August 13, 14 or 15. I’m not exactly certain any longer at this stage. Were he in the condition to do so, I’m sure Mr. Nebogipfel would explain for me.” She opened the valise and rummaged around inside of it, producing a journal. “The best I can do is providing you with his notebook.”

“It will have to do.” Holmes lamented, reaching for it and meeting the girl halfway. He took the journal and turned its front to face him. “How long ago did you arrive then?”

“Last night, Mr. Holmes.” Wells answered. “We had tried to see you last night but you weren’t back from Oxford yet.” Holmes had started to turn his eyes to Mrs. Hudson but then Wells quickly added. “We thought it best to see you in the morning so I didn’t see much bother in waiting.”

“A fair assessment.” Holmes put the journal under his arm and rose up to his feet. “Oh how rude of me, Wells. Your cigar!” He walked over to the fireplace and then plucked a Romeo y Julieta from the coal scuttle before offering it to the writer. Wells slowly took it and bowed his head.

“I will need time to read Mr. Nebogipfel’s journal but I am giving this matter my full attention, Wells.” Holmes declared. “Watson, would you care to grant me an indulgence?”

“All you have to do is name it.” I said earnestly.

“If Miss Akemi would accompany you, I would like for you to visit Mr. Nebogipfel and assess his condition.” He requested.

“I will see what can be done.” I replied, looking over at the girl. “Are you up for it?”

The girl visibly paled but she nodded slowly, cheeks flushing in apprehension. “I must warn you Dr. Watson that he was not well when we first met. He never hurt me but the things he says, they make little sense.”

“Also in the meantime, I’m sure that you have very little in the way of our money. You may stay with us in Baker Street for as long as needed.” Holmes said quietly. The girl’s cheeks flushed again.

“I will get my bag and we will set off. Where does Mr. Nebogipfel reside?” I asked.

“Richmond.” Wells answered. “Miss Akemi will show you the way.” He bowed his head. “Good day to you, gentlemen and lady. And might I add, good luck.” Wells turned on his heel and left.

Miss Akemi’s face was still in a furious blush as she watched Wells leave.

“I have to admit, I’m a bit starstruck. To meet H.G. Wells.” She said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, we read his books in English class. Oh and well, your works too, Doctor.” She replied. “The Hound of the Baskervilles especially.”

“I haven’t written such a story.” I said with confusion, eyebrows raised.

“Not yet Watson.” Holmes broke in. “Perhaps you should not tell us more about such future events, Miss Akemi. It would look poorly to have the surprise spoiled of what lies ahead for me. People would look at me like I was some sort of street magician.”

“Many will regardless, Holmes.” I chuckled.