The sound of Mrs. Hudson knuckling up the stairs was the first indication that our long lethargy of inaction was coming to an end. She tapped on the door to our suite and said in her gentle Scottish burr, “Telegram for you Mr. Sherlock; it seems urgent.”
I turned to my primate companion to assess his reaction. He was reading the London Times wearing a silk smoking jacket while puffing on his Meerschaum bubble pipe. His bare feet were up on an Ottoman, toes wiggling with anticipation of a new puzzle.
“So the game’s soon to be afoot, Watson,” he mumbled when he sensed my scrutiny.
“Don’t keep calling me that,” I said. “It is not my name!”
“Oh, get into the spirit of the thing, Lucifer.” He tipped back the deerstalker cap he insisted on wearing at all times and rolled his lips as chimpanzees do to show displeasure. “After all, when in Rome …”
“It is one thing to blend on each reality, Khetar, “I said calling him by his right name, “but you have gone full on native!”
“And why not,” he said, “I fit in here!”
It was true, having the outward appearance of an earth Chimpanzee to my ‘normal’ human meant that on most versions of Earth in the multiverse, one or the other of us had to have an elaborate cover story to fit in. Not so on this one; my primate partner and I had taken up residence at 221B Baboon Street, South London while on plane E30. In this reality the five divergent strains of ‘homo-primatus’ had all survived to the 1890s and coexisted. Fortunately, since I like to wear trousers, homo-sapien was one of them.
Mrs. Hudson entered the suite, her orange-going-to-grey fur freshly brushed, her little round glasses slipped up onto her forehead. She knuckle-walked across the room, her skirts with just a little bit more flair to them than necessary as she worked to impress Khetar, aka: Mr. Sherlock Khetar.
“Your telegram, sir,” she said as she handed the envelope to Khetar. “The boy is waiting downstairs for a return message.”
He gave her a chimp smile then scanned the note.
“Is it important, sir?” she asked in as girlish a voice as she could.
Khetar made a show of considering the missive then fixed her in his dark eyes. “Why yes, Mrs. Hudson, dear lady, this could be very important.” I swear she glowed at the attention. “Tell the boy to communicate to his principle we will be there as requested.”
Our Orangutan landlady nodded to me then fairly floated out of the room before Khetar turned to me, holding up the note.
“Time to put on your best bib and tucker, Lucifer,” he said. “We have been invited to dine with nobility!”
“Must you encourage Mrs. Hudson so?” I moved to head to my own bedroom to dress for our supper sojourn.
“I can’t help it if my primate pheromones are overwhelming to the fairer, furry set.”
“Oh, you could help if you wanted,” I called back, “More frequent baths would be a good start, Mister ‘fur-clogs-the-drain’, by the way.”
I will not write his rejoinder, as it is far too blue for print.
We took a hansom and caught the next train from Victoria Station to High Wycombe, north of Maidenhead.
Khetar finally handed me the cable for the first time as we traveled.
“Please come to Gibbonhold in High Wycombe this evening for a small dinner gathering, Mr. Sherlock. The signs are inauspicious, and threatening. I fear there will be death. Edward Ryce-Burroughs, Baronet Greystoke.”
November London whizzed by as the train moved toward the suburban environs. Khetar, now wearing a full Inverness cape, sat looking out the window, bubble pipe clenched in his huge teeth, beetled brow knit in concentration.
“What do you make of it, Watson?”
I gave up on correcting him. “Well, that is dramatic, for sure, but I do not see how it pertains to our mission on this plane.”
Khetar and I are members of the Corporeal Readjustment Alternity Police (though for acronym reasons we prefer ‘Time Cops’) charged with regulating travel in the forty-two known planes of the multi-verse. We were on E30 because there had been a plane breach detected—somebody had ‘slipped’ to this London area from another line. That could be big trouble, for while you could not kill someone in your own time line’s past—as you already exist—you could in a different timeline and change the future. That is a no-no.