Miss Adler Is Tardy
I reside in the very modernized London of the fifty-second year of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s reign. Our Prime Minister is Lord Salisbury, and Parliament is led by the esteemed Lord Cosgrove-Pitt.
My nation is besotted with science, evolution, and invention. If a device can be conceived, someone somewhere is determined that it should be built (which is the only explanation I have for the unfortunate Hystand’s Mechanized Eyelash-Combe).
This proliferation of invention and scientific practice is why I found it both amazing and disappointing that no one had yet invented a working time machine. And the reason I felt this disappointment looked up at me with deep blue eyes.
“Good morning, Dylan,” I said as I closed Miss Irene Adler’s office door behind me.
Though I’d expected to find the attractive dark-haired woman sitting at a large desk in her Darjeeling-scented chamber, I confess I wasn’t at all disappointed to find the young man instead. In fact, to my chagrin, my cheeks heated and my insides gave a little flutter the instant I saw him.
Such a base reaction can be excused by the fact that, aside from being charming and kind, Dylan Eckhert was one of the most handsome young men I’d ever seen. Not much older than I, Dylan had thick hair in every shade of blond. It was unstylishly long, falling into his eyes and covering his ears, and winging up a little at the tips. He had a strong square chin and jaw, perfectly straight, white teeth, and a clear blue gaze that turned pleasantly warm when he was happy or amused. Unfortunately, more often than not, that cerulean gaze was tinged with sadness or despair—a condition which I meant to help eradicate.
If I could help him find a way back home.
“Hi, Mina.” He was holding a curious device. It was a slender, sleek object, slightly larger than my palm. Silvery and mirrorlike, the rectangular item was capable of making loud, erratic noises, lighting up at unexpected moments, and showing amazingly tiny moving pictures.
According to Dylan, it was a telephone. And apparently, this sort of mechanism was very common where he came from . . . more than one hundred and twenty years in the future.
Hence the requirement of a time-traveling machine.
“I expected Miss Adler to be here,” I said, sitting in one of the chairs on the other side of the desk. “Her message said ten o’clock sharp.” My impatience could be excused, for I had been waiting for nearly a month to be summoned to this chamber again.
My mentor’s office was deep inside the British Museum, for Irene Adler was, among other things, the current Keeper of Antiquities at the institution. Or, at least, that was what she told curious-minded people. But there was more to her current occupation than simply unpacking and cataloguing long-forgotten treasures from Egypt and the Far East.
One couldn’t tell it from her work area, however. The chamber wasn’t particularly large, but it was well-organized and elegantly furnished, with a circular table in the center and the large desk at one end. Bookshelves lined the walls and a Tome-Selector had halted in the process of using its slender mechanical fingers to replace—or remove; one couldn’t necessarily tell—a copy of The Domesday Book. A stack of newspapers sat at the corner of the desk, and one of them was mounted in a Proffitt’s Dandy Paper-Peruser.
Behind Dylan was a credenza, on which I observed a new addition to the chamber: a charming copper teapot. It appeared to be a self-heating one, for it sat on a small cogwork dais from which I heard the emission of soft clicks and whirs.
Mingled with the scent of Miss Adler’s favorite tea (the aforementioned Darjeeling), as well as a hint of her preferred perfume (gardenia), was also the faint odor of antiquity and even a little mustiness, though my mentor was meticulous about keeping her office dusted and swept. At the moment, the set of tall, narrow windows that looked out onto a small patch of grass on the north side of the Museum were unshuttered. The openings revealed the usual dull, grayish London weather at midmorning, and in the distance, I could see the shiny black spire of the Oligary Building.
Before Dylan could respond to my query, the door flew open. The pile of newspapers fluttered, the teapot’s top rattled, and I actually felt a breeze announcing the late arrival.
“Good morning, Mina. Hello, Dylan,” said Miss Evaline Stoker. The energetic young woman was my reluctant partner and occasional companion. Presumably, she’d been summoned as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her an intimate friend, but I suppose since I’d saved her from being electrofied and she’d dragged me out of a fire, we’d progressed beyond mere acquaintances. “Miss Adler isn’t here? Where is she?”
“Dylan was about to tell me before you—er—bounded into the chamber,” I told her, watching as she settled gracefully, but no less quietly or slowly, into a chair across from me.
Miss Stoker was an attractive woman of seventeen with thick, curling black hair, lively hazel eyes, and perfect features. Unlike myself, she was petite and elegant—and also unlike myself, she was social, capricious, and a member of the peerage.
And while I, a member of the famous Holmes family (the niece of Sherlock and the daughter of Mycroft), was blessed with brilliant deductive and observational skills (not to mention the prominent Holmesian nose), Miss Stoker had been endowed by a very different family legacy. According to legend, she was supposedly a vampire hunter.
Or at least she would be if there were actually any vampires to hunt.
“I don’t know where she is,” Dylan replied, picking up his silvery telephone-device again. “Evaline, didn’t you say you knew somewhere I could get electricity?”
“Dylan.” I glanced at the door, which was still tightly closed.
“Yeah, I know. Electricity is illegal here. But Evaline said she knew someone who might be able to help me charge my phone.”
“Right. Yes. I . . . believe I do.” Miss Stoker held out her gloved hand matter-of-factly, but of course I noticed the heightened color in her cheeks. “I’ll take it to—uh—I’ll get it charged for you.”
He hesitated handing it over, and I was certain I knew why.
Even though Dylan had accidentally traveled here from London in 2016, somehow that singular device occasionally—very occasionally—was able to connect him back to that time if he stood in a particular area of the Museum. I suspected he was afraid of allowing out of his possession the one thing that might help him return—or at least communicate with—home.
Dylan had uncertainty written all over his face. “I don’t know if I told you this, but there have been a few times when I’ve been in the room where I first appeared that my cell phone seemed to connect to the Intern—I mean, to my time.”