"Nice coat, Sherlock!" laughed one of the rookies as he walked by Peter Caine's desk. It was one of many cracks made by ignorant cops -- for all they knew, they were just making fun of some Sherlock look-alike. None of them even suspected they were dealing with the genuine article.
"Thank you," Holmes said sincerely, which made the rookie laugh even harder.
"Don't you have something to do?" Peter snapped.
"Yeah." The man shook his head and went on his way.
"Now, where were we? . . . " muttered Peter. "Oh yeah -- here's all the files I dragged out of the archives, and the copy boys brought back everything of Detective Vecchio's. So . . . enjoy."
"Let us see whether this would be something worth enjoying." Holmes began to scan the papers, so instantly absorbed that his obliviousness was quite evident.
Peter knew that look. It was one that his father had quite often. //I wonder if Pop knows him from the temple.// He knew that it would be futile to say anything, so he went about some routine business of his own; grabbing some coffee and doughnuts, looking over his own notes.
In that order.
"This coffee is quite wonderful."
That jolted Peter, who had apparently entered his own trance. "Hmm? That's the discount coffee -- I wouldn't call it wonderful myself."
"If you wouldn't call this wonderful, I'd really love to sample what you consider to be wonderful."
Peter wondered if Holmes was as sincere as his face appeared to be. It also rang an alarm bell in his head for some reason that he couldn't quite pinpoint.
Time passed as Holmes read, and after three hours, his look of intense concentration vanished, to replaced by a merely focused look. "Detective Caine, I have reached my conclusions . . . but I think I should confirm them first."
Peter leaned back in his chair, his face wrinkled in thought, "O.K. I like thoroughness in a cop. What is it you need to do?"
"We need to go for a walk." Without any further explanation, he stood up and walked for the exit.
"Wait a moment!" snapped Peter, but Holmes didn't even slow down. He muttered a few words under his breath as he flipped off the computer and ran after him. If he had to do a scandisk because he hadn't exited Windows 95 successfully, he'd kill Holmes. He hated having to do a scandisk.
The streets were nothing new to Holmes, even if the technology was. London had the same filthy streets and alleys, the same people, and the same grime that seemed to cover everything in sight. He walked in silence, smoking his long wood and ceramic pipe.
Peter coughed a little waving his hand in front of his face, "Do you really have to smoke?"
Holmes smiled, "My partner back in London feels the same way you do. If my pipe offends you, I will put it out."
Peter shook his head, "Never mind."
They walked for a few more minutes until Peter's patience was about to snap. For all the Englishman's cultured London manner, he could be as aggravating as the most thoroughly Taoist priest Peter'd ever encountered. An hour walking on the streets in silence. Not a word. An hour was long enough.
Peter put his hand on Holmes' shoulder, stopping him, "Enough. Either you start talking or you stop wasting my time."
"And how am I wasting your time?"
"We're walking around aimlessly, and you're not saying a damned thing!"
Holmes paled a little bit at the last, but held his composure, "Sir, it would be premature for me to tell you my theories until I have proven them with the evidence!"
"You've had lots of time to do just that! I don't see anything!"
Holmes shook his head, "Superior detective work is not as easy as opening a door. It takes time and patience."
"Time that we don't have!"
"Then you had better stop wasting it." He continued walking.
Peter nearly ground his teeth into powder. //This is going to get ugly really soon!//
Holmes secretly felt some remorse for his methods. Walking was certainly a reliable way for him to reach the murder scene, but he also needed to walk there to see more of the sights and people of this time and world. It would give him a better means of analysis.
* * *
The room was generous in size, that much had to be said. This was the office of a graduate student in linguistics and anthropology, and Kwai Chang Caine was amazed, because he had never seen faculty members awarded with rooms this size unless they were in the sciences.
It could be successfully argued that this graduate student was anything but a scientist. Most might consider this woman a bit on the eccentric side, but Caine knew better. She was a seeker of things that one couldn't find in a physics book. There were many things of this world that were not only undreamt of by Horatio, but also those who sought for the truth and understanding that comes from breaking apart particles.
This student was named Alyssa d'Auvergne, and he'd seen her from a distance a few times, though she hadn't seen him yet. A reliable source, even if she gave him the creeps.
Her office was filled from floor to ceiling with books and artifacts. Many of them were over a century old. The air was stagnant, but not strangling, and the smell like that of any old-fashioned library. It took Caine back in his mind to the monastery, where he spent many hours in the library there.
He forced himself to focus on the task at hand.
Alyssa was lounging on a reclining chair at the moment, her slippered feet propped up and her nose in a book.
Caine coughed softly, and Alyssa looked up. At first, it was with boredom, and then she did a double take. "Why, it's not that often that I get a genuine priest in here -- most consider me to be some sort of heretic!" Her English was excellent, but her accent had a very strong European accent. Not French, as her name might suggest. It was something with a little more Italian thrown in.
Caine bowed slightly, "I would not say that, for you follow a certain brand... of truth."
She smiled slightly. "How can I help you?" She got up out of her chair and set her book on a table. One of many. The book was hardly scholarly -- '101 Ways to Cook Asparagus for Someone You Hate'.
Caine pointedly ignored the book. "I was wondering if you might recognize these runes." He produced a sketch of the runes left at the murder scenes.
Alyssa looked at the sketches, frowning. "It has a very distinct European feel. Almost Nordic, I'd say, but it's not historical Nordic, at any rate. Not Cyrillic either."
Caine smiled, "Which is why I came to a specialist in world interests."
Alyssa frowned, "I'd have to say that this is some sort of synthetic script. I can't claim to read every form of writing, but I can identify every single known historical script. This, old man, is not historically-known writing. Where did you get this?"
"I am not at liberty to say."
"A murder scene, then? Good luck. I'd say the only place you could get the translation is from the man's mind himself. For all we know, it could be meaningless scribbling that just looks nice."
Caine shook his head, "Even writing . . . scribbling . . . that has no conscious meaning, still has meaning. Whoever wrote this was feeling something. He wrote it for a reason. And he left, having transmitted a feeling."
"O.K. Art, then? Pretend it's a card with those black blotches on them, the kind the psychologist gives you."
Caine hadn't considered that angle. He stared long and hard. "I . . . do not know."
What Caine never saw the whole time was a tattoo in a very hidden place. Sing Wa. He also missed the change of her expression from mild enthusiasm to a sharp frown. And he couldn't have heard her get on the phone, because he had already gone.
* * * *
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