The Case of the Strange Etruscan Vase

Part 1

by Joy Ellen Parker (Joyspc at

"If time travel is a logical impossibility, Holmes, why are you wearing that toga?"

If Inspector Beth Lestrade was hoping to finally see a look of complete crogglement on her famous colleague's face, she was sorely disappointed. Even flat on his back in a strange, smelly alley and wearing a toga, Sherlock Holmes managed to look only mildly bemused. He patted himself carefully as though searching for his wallet and then rolled gracefully to his feet. "I perceive," he said, "that Professor Cromatty's remarkable machine fits subjects with the correct costume for whatever time period they enter, holographically and automatically. I wonder how far the radius extends. . ." He paused in his musings to offer a hand up.

"I wonder where the door out is." Lestrade ignored the gesture, climbed off her hands and knees and glanced around. It appeared to be broad daylight. Now that she was getting over the sickening dislocation that had gripped her since they had chased Cromatty down a perfectly normal staircase and had been unceremoniously dropped what seemed a hundred feet, she could hear crowd noises and animal noises; and as for the smell, that alone convinced her they weren't in Kansas, er, New London, anymore.

Peering out the alley's entrance she could see men in togas, long tunics, and even loincloths making their way down a busy street. The women wore long wrapped garments like the one she found herself in. A quick check convinced her Holmes was right. She could still feel her New Scotland Yard uniform and its equipment, even if she couldn't see it.

"The answer to your quite pertinent question, my dear Lestrade," Holmes was saying as she tried to get her bearings, "depends on where Professor Cromatty is now and what he may be planning to do in this time period."

"You mean what Moriarty instructed him to do." She had a headache and doubted that it was going to get much better. Holmes turned and began to examine some graffiti scrawled on the nearest wall.

"Whatever city this may be, we find ourselves in the reign of the Emperor Nero, though the precise year escapes me."

"The nutcase who fiddled while Rome...."

"Yes, unfortunately."

"Great, just great." Just then the bit of crowd she had been observing sourly scattered like a flock of frightened geese. A small dark-skinned boy with a mass of curly hair was being chased by three honest-to-God Roman soldiers. He did a forward roll between the legs of a man carrying a large woven basket, ended up on his feet, and twisted around two women with buckets and a mule. Before Lestrade could take another breath he had careened into the alley and right into Holmes, who shoved the boy behind his back without a word. Lestrade moved up to flank her partner as the soldiers pounded past. She waited a few moments to make sure there weren't any more to the posse and then turned, prepared to grab if the kid decided to scamper off again without a proper thank you. She had agreed with Holmes' charity instinctively, but it also occurred to her that they could use some irregular help at the moment.

She should have known Holmes would be fluent in Latin, which she reminded herself was a good thing since it was certain her emergency translator didn't have dead languages on file. The great detective and the boy were talking like old friends. She heard the name "Elizabeth" and what sounded like "feminine" or some such and realized she was being introduced. She nodded at the boy and smiled faintly. He patted her arm in a friendly way and went on gabbling excitedly to Holmes, who nodded and smiled himself. "This is Cyrus," he explained. "He is grateful to us for our help and insists on taking us home for a meal. I've gathered that this is in fact Rome and so have told him that we are travelers recently arrived from Britannia. I am Linus, a merchant," Holmes raised his eyebrows at this description of himself, "and you are Elizabeth, my wife, who --"

"Your WHAT??" howled Lestrade as Cyrus grabbed her and Holmes by the hand and hauled them around the corner.

Editor's Note: Characters and situations from Storykeepers are property of Shepherd Films Ltd. of Dublin. Characters and situations from history are public domain, so nyah nyah. Holmes and Lestrade are already covered in the site's disclaimer. Everything else is Joy's problem.

Latin note: In Latin, the word for "woman" and the word for "wife" are the same: "femina".

On to Part 2!

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