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TOC Files 2: So Gracious is the Time

Title: 2. So Gracious is the Time
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 6755
Summary On the run, Alan arrives in Victorian London hoping to have time to take stock and make a plan. Of course, that doesn't happen
Author's NoteVictorian Christmas. What else do I need to say?



II So Gracious is the Time


Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long,
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm:
So hallowed and gracious is the time.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The police were pounding on the door and a body lay at his feet. Major Alan Kelly ret., was in a worse predicament than he had ever faced in his Military career. Wanted for a murder he did not commit and in possession of a time machine, he would be forever on the run unless he caught the man who had killed his best friend. However, this man also had a time machine, one with a homing device. Alan needed a place to think and heal (he had been wounded at the Battle of Bosworth Field). A picture appeared in his mind, a picture of snow on cobbled streets under gaslight. Victorian London at Christmas. It should be ideal. He punched in the co-ordinates on a watch-like contraption on his wrist. He said a final farewell to his friend and the inventor of the machine, Gilbert Connor, then pushed the final button.

* * * *

After blinking a few times to clear his vision, Alan felt like he was viewing that picture that had popped into his mind earlier. A light snow was falling, adding to what was already on the ground. The street was lined with gaslit lamps which spread a cheery, warming light which reflected on the gathering snow.

He quickly stepped onto the pavement as a hansom cab clattered past. As the driver stared at him, he realised how weird he must look, especially with a medieval broadsword hanging from his side. He pulled Gil's transmuter from his pocket and gave it a cursory examination. It had no switches or buttons, no way to turn it on.. He removed the time machine from his wrist and held the band between his thumb and index finger. With his other hand, he placed the tip of the transmuter to the time machine and held his breath. Two changes took place. The modern wristwatch became a gold-plated pocket-watch and chain. The second change was the transmuter itself. From a small translucent wand that easily fit in the palm of his hand, it became a wooden walking stick. He was impressed, but what about the sword? In order to have his hands free for the task, Alan placed the watchchain in his mouth then held the sword in his left hand and put the tip of the cane to the hilt. It became a single-blade pocket knife. Gil had said that the transmuter was unpredictable, yet it seemed fine.

A sudden chill rushed through him. He had been so engrossed in what he had been doing that he hadn't felt the cold. The first thing he had to do was buy some proper clothes then rent a hotel room.

While looking at street signs, trying to get his bearings, he was attacked by three men who beat him to the ground, but not before he landed a few punches himself. The men were large, stocky, and possible dockhands. Why were they attacking him? Unless it was Cameron James and his homing device. The next thing he knew, he was falling into blackness.

* * * *

Alan woke slowly. He opened his eyes and found himself in a large, warm bed. The room was decorated in very practical colours--browns, reds, greens--and the furniture, to his inexperienced eye, seemed to be made of oak. There was a wardrobe, bureau, wash-stand, two upholstered chairs with a small, round table between them, and a chaise lounge upholstered in the same pattern as the chairs.

He then decided it was time to look at himself. He was wearing a woollen night-shirt and he felt slightly embarrassed for whomever had changed him. His right shoulder had been expertly bandaged. He felt along his arms and legs and discovered small bruises from his street fight. How had he gotten here? Had those men brought him to James?

There was a polite knock on the door and a young woman entered bearing a tea tray. She wore a plain grey dress and Alan guessed that she must be the governess. Her brown hair was pulled up on the back of her head in a bun. Her skin was cream-white which contrasted against her dress. She set the tray down upon the nighttable. "I am glad to see you awake, sir," she said. "The doctor was unsure as to how long you would sleep."

"Doctor?"

She smiled as she poured the tea. "This is the guest room of Dr. Emerson Hunter, Harley Street. It was he who found you on his way home from seeing a patient."

"My name is Alan Kelly."

"Violet Munro. I am governess to the doctor's son, Jason."

Alan could barely keep his eyes open. "Where are my things?"

"Your clothes were beyond mending so we will have to take you to the shops. Your other things are lying on the bureau. It seems that whoever attacked you stole your wallet."

Alan swore inwardly. He had no wallet to be stolen and his attackers took nothing else. That fact only affirmed the worst. Those men had been sent by Cameron to take the time machine. They didn't find it because it no longer looked the way James had described it. He yawned.

"I will leave you now, sir. The doctor will check on you in the morning." Alan mumbled something as he curled up under the sheets. Violet looked down at his sleeping face. There was something different about this stranger. His accent was like none she had heard before. There was also a haunted look in his eyes, as if he had horrible memories. She could not figure out what it was, but there was something compelling about this man. She pushed such notions out of her mind and went to check on her charge before going to bed.

* * * *

Light invaded his head. He drew the sheets up over his face, but this only diffused the light. He finally resorted to placing the pillow over his head. Despite his attempts, he was wide awake. Alan sat up in bed and saw a small figure standing at its foot. "Hello," he said. "You must be Jason."

The boy nodded. "Yes, sir." He moved to the right side of the bed. "The servants say that you were attacked and robbed last night. Is that true?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Alan took an immediate liking to the young boy. "Does anyone know you're here?"

"No. I came in when no one was looking. Please don't tell on me."

"I won't." Alan swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Come over here and help me up." He leaned on the boy's shoulder with his left hand.

Jason saw his bandaged arm for the first time. "Did your attackers do that to you, sir?"

"No, that was someone else. They must have re-opened the wound. Call me Alan, please."

"Yes, sir--Alan."

Alan manoeuvred himself towards the window. The street was filled with traffic; hansoms, four-wheelers, and private carriages running to and fro, "Quite a busy street," he remarked.

"One of the busiest streets in Mayfair. Almost exclusively doctors and patients, Mr. Kelly."

Alan turned to the door and saw a man in his early forties wearing a conservative black suit. "Dr. Hunter. How did you know my name?"

"Miss Munro told me." He looked at his son. "As for you, young man, have you eaten breakfast?"

"Yes, Father."

"Then you had better go to the schoolroom. I'm sure Miss Munro has a busy day planned for you."

"Yes, Father. Good-bye, Mr. Kelly." Jason left the room.

"I hope he didn't wake you."

"No, the sun did that."

Dr. Hunter smiled. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thank you. Miss Munro told me I have you to thank for that."

"You would have died either from the cold or loss of blood. I could not pass by. That wound in your shoulder is older than last night," Hunter stated.

"Yes. It's because of it that I'm here. I had a slight altercation with a powerful man and I had to leave. All the money I had was taken from me last night."

"You can stay here until you heal enough to find yourself a job." He raised a hand as Alan sought to interrupt. "We seem to be of a similar build. You can borrow a suit of mine and Miss Munro can take you to my tailors." He checked his watch. "I must be going. I have an appointment in a quarter-hour. I will send Mrs. Radcliffe up with a suit. Please feel free to make this a home away from home, Mr. Kelly. Good morning."

Once the doctor had left the room, Alan rushed to the bureau to check his "accessories". Everything seemed to be in good condition. He opened the watch and it showed half-past nine. There was a polite knock on the door. "Come in."

A middle-aged woman with a friendly face entered. "I've brought you one of the doctor's suits, Mr. Kelly."

"You must be Mrs. Radcliffe," Alan said as he stepped forward to take the suit. "Thank you." She stood there, waiting. "Is there something else, Mrs. Radcliffe?"

"Yes, sir. Would you like breakfast here or in the dining room?"

"The dining room, I guess. I hope it won't be an imposition."

"Of course not, sir. Everything will be ready when you come downstairs." Mrs. Radcliffe backed out of the room.

Alan lay the grey woollen suit on the bed. It was in the typical style of the age: straight cuffed trousers, a jacket, a white shirt, and waistcoat. He slipped on the trousers. They were quite comfortable. He had a little trouble with the shirt, but he was embarrassed to ask for help in getting dressed. When he was done, he stepped in front of the mirror to check his appearance. Not bad. It made him feel like a civilised gentleman; something he hadn't felt like in years.

Mrs. Radcliffe greeted him with a steaming plate of eggs, toast, bacon, and fried potatoes. "You look very good in the doctor's suit, Mr. Kelly," she said, pouring his tea.

"Thank you, Mrs. Radcliffe. I was quite surprised that it fits so wonderfully." Alan took a bite of the eggs. "These are marvellous. I can't say when I've tasted better." The housekeeper/cook blushed. "Is there a morning paper I can read?"

"Dr. Hunter left his Times here on the sideboard." She handed it to him. "Is there anything else I can get you?"

"No, thank you, Mrs. Radcliffe. This is more than enough." Alan ate a leisurely breakfast and read the paper. There were only two articles he found of particular interest. One was of a rash of thefts throughout the city and the other was further speculation on the unsolved Whitechapel Murders that had occurred a few months earlier. The former caught his attention because it was exactly the sort of thing Cameron James would do. The latter because the identity of Jack the Ripper was still a mystery in his time.

An hour later, Alan decided to visit the schoolroom. He realised that Violet and Jason would be the only real company he would have while he was here. The schoolroom was on the top floor and faced the street. He quietly opened the door and stood in the back. Violet was bending over, checking Jason's work. The expression on her face was a cross between concentration and kindness.

She straightened and saw Alan. "I didn't know you were here, Mr. Kelly. Why didn't you make yourself known?"

"I didn't mean to interrupt. I just wanted to listen. You don't mind, do you?"

"No, as long as you don't interrupt."

"I would never do something like that. What are we learning now?"

Jason spoke up. "I am to read my history aloud."

"Really? What period?"

"The fall of Richard III."

Alan smiled and listened patiently to Jason's history lesson. "A fairly accurate account, even though it is quite subjective," he said when the boy was done. "Of course, we all know that history is written by the victors."

Violet was shocked. "What do you mean 'fairly accurate'? This is an authorised account of the battle."

"Yes, but authorised by whom? I think that the picture of Richard as a murderous tyrant who killed his nephews was painted by Henry Tudor to justify what he had done. He had more to lose if the princes were alive because he wanted to marry their older sister. If all Edward's offspring were declared illegitimate, that ruined Henry's plan. In proclaiming Elizabeth legitimate, he did the same for the princes, thus making them the rightful heirs. The only solution was to kill them."

"But what of Shakespeare's Richard?" asked Jason.

"Shakespeare grew up in Tudor England. That was the only Richard he knew."

Violet was impressed. "You seem to know a great deal, Mr. Kelly."

"I read a lot," was Alan's reply.

Jason was entranced by Alan's presence. "Will you stay and hear my morning lessons, Mr. Kelly?"

"If Miss Munro doesn't mind, I will be quite happy to."

Jason turned to Violet. "May he, Miss Munro? I promise to pay attention. Please?" he pleaded.

"Very well," agreed Violet. "but both of you must behave yourselves."

* * * *

After lunch, Violet announced that they would be going to Dr. Hunter's tailor to get Alan some new clothes. Jason asked if he could go too, but violet said that maybe he could help Mrs. Radcliffe bake a cake. Alan argued on behalf of the boy. "The measuring and choice of fabric shouldn't take too long. Afterwards, we could take him to the National Gallery."

"Mr. Kelly, I don't think you understand. Jason always has to be on the move. He won't be still long enough to enjoy the gallery. He will be better off with Mrs. Radcliffe."

"Surely, Miss Munro, you don't mean to deprive him of part of his education? Before you speak, let me finish. Art is part of man's culture. It captures the beauty of the country, the beauty of man, the beauty of life, and even the beauty of death. Art is like looking at history itself. It captures moments of time and freezes them forever. As John Ruskin said, 'At the same time he (the artist) arrested it as it passed, and perpetuated it forever.'"

Violet Munro was quiet for a moment, absorbing what he said. "You have a very persuasive tongue, Mr. Kelly. He may join us, but we must be home in time for tea."

"Shall I go fetch him?" Alan asked with a smile.

Violet smiled in return. "Go on. I'll tell Travers to notify the doctor where we're going."

"Travers?"

"The butler. He also helps the doctor during surgery hours."

"No wonder I haven't seen him." Alan went down to the kitchen and found Jason spreading flour everywhere.

Mrs. Radcliffe looked at Alan with almost pleading eyes. "Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Kelly?"

"No, thank you, Mrs. Radcliffe. I've just come to free you from the human flour mill." He turned to Jason. "Clean yourself up or Miss Munro just might change her mind."

Jason broke into a smile as did Mrs. Radcliffe, who had her kitchen to herself once more. She took a cloth and wiped the boy's face and hands and dusted off his clothes. "You behave yourself, Master Jason."

"I will, Mrs. Radcliffe." He turned to Alan as they climbed the stairs. "How did you get Miss Munro to change her mind? She hardly ever lets me go shopping with her."

"We're going to the National Gallery afterwards. It's a chance to get you out of the house and to get some culture into you."

"The National Gallery? Why there? Why not the Tower?"

Alan smiled. "If you behave yourself, this won't be your last educational outing."

Out in the street, Jason asked if they could take a hansom. "There's not enough room in a hansom for three, Jason. We'll have to take a four-wheeler."

Alan ignored this and flagged a hansom. "After you, Miss Munro," he said as he helped her inside. Jason eagerly followed. Alan joined them and placed Jason on his lap. "Now, isn't this comfy?"

"You are spoiling him, Mr. Kelly. He will be impossible to teach from now on."

"So we indulge him his fancies. You must make him aware that this is a special treat and," he said with a look at Jason, "they are not frequent happenings."

"Yes, sir," the boy replied, grinning. "I'm sure Miss Munro won't let me forget."

* * * *

As the cab pulled into Saville Row, Violet gave the driver the number of the tailor's shop. When they reached the store Jason climbed down to the ground and Alan followed to keep him from wandering off while Violet paid with the money from Dr. Hunter. The three entered the shop, Violet holding Jason's hand. She stepped up to the counter and asked for Mr. Radley. The man behind the counter nodded and disappeared into the back room.

A few moments later, a second man came out. Alan guessed this was the man they had come to see. "May I help you?"

"Yes. I am the governess for Dr. Hunter's son and he has asked me to bring this gentleman here to have some clothes made."

The tailor eyed Alan, taking mental measurements. "That is one of the doctor's suits, isn't it?" Alan nodded. "I thought so. Would you like something along similar lines?"

"Yes, please."

"Very well. What we will do today is to take measurements and choose materials." Alan stood in the centre of the room and let Mr. Radley measure his arms, shoulders, neck, trunk, waist, and legs. When that was done, the tailor began to take down samples of materials to be used.

Violet was having a hard time keeping the impatient Jason under control. "I'm going to take Jason for a walk," she told Alan. "We won't go too far." To the tailor she said, "This is to be put on Dr. Hunter's bill."

"Very well, miss," he said. "I will make sure they are of the best quality."

Violet and Jason left.

Mr. Radley continued showing Alan materials and soon they all began to blend together. "That's quite enough, Mr. Radley. I'll let you choose what you think best."

Radley smiled. "Dr. Hunter says the same thing." He began to stack the swatches.

Alan walked out onto the pavement and looked around. All the stores were decorated and it made him feel like he had stepped into a Dickens' story. Violet and Jason were nowhere in sight. He soon located them in front of a baker's. Alan chuckled as he saw Jason pointing at the delicacies in the window and Violet constantly shaking her head. He buttoned his collar and started across the street. He was halfway across when a speeding hansom came charging down the street. He jumped aside, falling to the ground. The hansom continued on. Alan watched it disappear around a corner. There was something not quite right about the whole thing. It seemed a deliberate act.

Violet and Jason came rushing over. "Mr. Kelly, are you hurt?" she asked anxiously.

"No, I'm fine. Nothing but a few scrapes and bruises."

"What about your arm?"

"I landed on my left side." He stood and brushed himself off. "Shall we be going?"

"Going? Surely you don't mean to continue?" Violet could not believe her ears.

"Why shouldn't I? It was only a minor accident. The driver must've lost control of the horse. Maybe it was spooked."

"'Spooked?'" She was unfamiliar with word.

"Scared by something; a noise, a slap, or some annoying side effect."

"We don't have to take Jason to the Gallery, if you're not feeling well." Jason groaned.

"I am feeling perfectly well. A good walk will make me feel even better." He smiled at the two of them.

* * * *

Once inside the National Gallery, Jason broke away from Violet's tight grasp and ran to look at the paintings. What caught his eye was the types of clothes the people wore and the pastimes they had. Violet took advantage of his curiosity and questions to teach him history from a social standpoint. She couldn't answer his questions fast enough.

Soon they reached Hogarth's six-picture series Marriage a la Mode. Alan explained satire to the boy then went on to tell him of arranged marriages. "In most cases, the bride and groom had never met, let alone loved each other. Among noble families, fathers arranged marriages for their daughters to improve the family's standing in society. In most of these marriages, the wife took a lover and the husband had a mistress."

Jason was fascinated but Violet was appalled. "Mr. Kelly, that is not appropriate for such young ears!"

"I think he should know about it so he can avoid it." He turned to the boy. "Marry someone for love, because you will be spending the rest of your lives together."

Violet checked the watch she wore as a pendant. "We'd better hurry back or we'll be late for tea."

"Do we have to?" asked Jason. "There's so much to see."

"That will give you another reason to come back," Alan told him.

They took a four-wheeler back to Harley Street and arrived just in time for tea. Mrs. Radcliffe had made fresh scones and gingerbread. Dr. Hunter and Travers closed the surgery for the remainder of the day. Alan asked him what would he do in case of an emergency. "We have a new telephone installed. That would be the quickest form of notification."

Later in the evening, they all sat in the drawing room, winding down after a long day. Dr. Hunter read the Evening Times; Violet, a volume of classical literature; Jason, his history lesson; and Alan, a copy of The Strand magazine. Things were just too quiet for his liking. If he became too complacent, he would be fodder for Cameron James. He stifled a yawn. "Excuse me," he said. "I'm still tired from the beating I took. I think I'll go to my room."

Dr. Hunter checked his watch. "It's about time you went to bed as well, young man," he said to Jason.

"Yes, Father." Jason closed his booked and kissed his father on the cheek. "Good night, Miss Munro. Mr. Kelly."

"I'll walk up with you," Alan told him. "Good night, everyone." He walked upstairs with Jason, then bid him good-night outside his door. "See you in the morning and we'll find out what else we've learned."

Once inside his room, Alan changed into a worn overcoat and his old, torn trousers. He glanced out his window to find an easy way out and saw a beggar in Harley Street. Quite the wrong costume for this type of surveillance. This musty mean that they had been followed and Alan feared what would happen. He waited until all was quiet then crept downstairs and out through the kitchen. He set himself up across the street and watched his watcher.

Having left his watch in his room (it didn't exactly match his outfit), Alan estimated that two hours had passed when a black carriage pulled up outside the house. Two men draped in long black cloaks stepped down and talked with the beggar who motioned with his hands then pointed to Violet's room. The two men paid him and he sauntered away. Alan was aware that a kidnapping was about to occur. Instead of preventing it, however, he decided to let them go through with their plan then follow. He knew who they would take him to, but not where.

One man threw a rope up and it caught on the outcropping to the right of Violet's window. The second took a cloth and jar out of his pockets and handed them to the first, who then began to climb the rope. How they were going to get her down, he had no idea. His question was soon answered as the man appeared with Violet's arms tied and looped around his neck. He rappelled down the wall gently and slowly because of the extra weight. When he reached the ground, they wrapped her in a blanket and placed her in the carriage. As they drove away, Alan jumped on the back.

* * * *

Alan held on to the sides of the carriage as it raced through the streets of London. He couldn't guess where they were, nothing was familiar to him, except for the wide expanse to the right that could be Hyde Park. "How's the girl?" he heard one of the men ask.

"She's startin' to come 'round."

"Don't worry, not much farther."

"Won't Mr. J be pleased 'cos we got the girl."

"'E'd be even happier if we'd gotten the guy, too."

"'E said that 'e 'as a weakness for the ladies, so 'e should come runnin' when 'e finds out."

"All I know is this'll mean double guard duty."

So he would be expected, thought Alan. Well, he'd just show up a little earlier. When he could feel the carriage slowing down, he jumped off and ran to the side of the street and watched them pull up in front of a Georgian-style townhouse. The carriage door opened and Violet was carried inside. The driver then took the carriage into the neighbouring mews. Alan smiled. Leave it to Cameron to pick a fashionable hiding-place. It seemed a bit of exploring was necessary. Alan tucked his trouser legs into his socks and buttoned his coat up all the way. This would cut back on the risk of his clothes getting snagged in branches.

He noticed a light on in a side room; that had to be where they were gathering. He ran across the street and peeked through the window. The two men had entered and set Violet on the couch, gag in place. When she came to, her eyes were round with fear. Right then and there, Alan felt like jumping in and taking her away from that place, but he restrained himself knowing that Cameron was somewhere on the other side of that door.

Then he entered, looking as pompous as ever in a maroon silk smoking jacket. "Good evening, gentlemen. Miss Munro, so nice of you to join us. I'm terribly sorry about your travelling accommodations, but we were in a rush. All our plans would have fallen apart if you had made a noise. Would you like some port? No? I hope you don't mind if I do." He walked to a side table, poured himself a glass of port, then sat in a chair by the roaring fire. "Was the note left for Captain Kelly?"

"Just as you said, Mr. J. Right where 'e c'n see it. Shouldn't be too long till 'e shows up."

Cameron James leaned back in his chair. "He won't get away from me this time. He'll have no soldiers like at Bosworth. He'll be mine."

* * * *

The easiest ways to get into a house were usually through the attic or cellar, experience told Alan. With Victorian houses, it should be even easier. He decided on the cellar but found the doors bolted and windows locked. That left the attic. But how to get there? These buildings were not equipped with outside steps to the higher floors. Luckily, there was a convenient oak with branches within reach of the roof. He realised that climbing would be hard because of his arm, but he had to try. He slipped his walking stick into his belt and started up.

He nearly slipped when he was even to the second floor, and, as he saved himself, he noticed that a window was partially open. What a godsend! He opened it fully and found himself in an empty bedroom. He quietly walked to the door and opened it to listen to James' plans. Knowing he would eventually have to show himself, he took the knife out of his pocket and placed it in his shoe. He braced himself and casually entered the lion's den.

He stopped at the bottom of the stairs when he heard Cameron give the orders for a double watch. "Check all the windows and doors. We don't want him catching us unawares." He looked at Violet. "I shall stay here with the lady."

Alan hid in the front closet and and waited until the scurrying feet had passed. This meant that he only had to worry about James--for now. He entered the drawing room. "Why, Cameron, fancy meeting you here. Port? Don't mind if I do. What story were you telling? You certainly have a captive audience." Alan took a sip of his port. "Good, very good." He sat down on the couch next to Violet and untied her wrists. "Hello, Miss Munro. I didn't know you were acquainted with Mr. James." She didn't say anything, but smiled at him, a smile filled with absolute gratitude.

Cameron recovered quickly. "We didn't expect you so soon, Captain. Miss Munro has been here only fifteen minutes. You're a half hour early."

"On the contrary, I'm right on time. I arrived with Miss Munro." He finished his port. "Quite a cozy place you have here. How long did it take for you to establish yourself?"

"A few months, since August." He relaxed knowing he would have the upper hand.

"I see you have a new gang of gorillas. What happened to the two you brought with you? I don't see their ugly visages anywhere."

"They were worthless. They couldn't even fight medieval soldiers. Money and fear can buy loyalty and obedience here."

"You must be in Heaven. Just make sure no one outbids you. A price can be doubled."

One of Cameron's "gorillas" entered the room. "There's no way anyone c'n--" He stopped when he saw Alan. "'Ow did 'e get in?"

"Captain Kelly was a step ahead of us. He rode on the back of the carriage." Cameron turned to face Alan. "He saved us a lot of trouble by doing so. Tie them up." He watched as the two men tied up Alan as he sat on the couch. "Since you did not bring the machine with you, it must be back at the house. You and Miss Munro will remain here until I bring it back. Then I will personally witness your demise." He strode out of the room.

"He can't kill you, he just can't!" cried Violet.

"He's tried before. He's the one who did this," Alan said, pointing at his arm.

"Mr. Kelly, what did he mean by 'medieval soldiers'? Please, tell me. The truth."

He didn't say anything until the guards had left the room. He faced her. "No matter how fantastic it sounds, I want you to take everything I say as gospel." He began his tale with Gil's phone call and continued through to his arrival in London. He included Cameron's part in Gil's death and Bosworth Field. "I know it sounds incredible, but it is absolutely true."

Violet just stared at him, trying to comprehend everything he had told her. "You are from the future?" she asked. "You can travel through time?" He nodded. "It sounds impossible, yet you are here. That is why you were able to help Jason with his history: you were there!"

"Yes, unfortunately. The hard thing is, I'm unable to change the course of history. I have to watch helplessly as it happens." He swung his legs up on the couch. "Try to take off my left shoe. You should be able to wriggle it off." She looked questioningly at him. "You'll see why."

The shoe came off and his fingers groped for the knife. He slowly rubbed the blade against his bonds, chatting about anything that came to mind so the guards would not be suspicious. When his hands were free, he cut the ropes about his legs, then freed Violet. When that was done, he looked for his walking stick. He couldn't leave without it; Cameron had to know he had John's sword. Finally, he saw it. He put a finger to his lips as he opened the window. No guards in sight. He helped Violet out, then climbed down himself.

"How will we get back?" she whispered. "There are no cabs here."

"Then we'll just have to walk until we find one."

They ran to a main intersection and Alan asked if she knew where they were. "Sloane Square in Chelsea, I think. We should be able to find a cab here."

They waved down a growler and climbed aboard. Alan promised the driver double-fare if he could get them to Harley Street within twenty minutes. The cabbie protested, saying it was impossible. "Okay, just don't take longer than thirty. We're late already."

"Right you are, guv'nor. That I c'n do."

"Great." Alan sat back and heaved a sigh. "God, I hope we're not too late."

"Will he hurt them?"

"I don't think so. Not if he gets what he wants."

"The time machine?"

"Yep. And I can't let him have it." Alan looked at her. "You know what I have to do and why. I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best."

The cabby called down, "Harley Street, guv. Less than thirty."

"Thanks." Alan reached into his pockets but had forgotten he had no money. He turned to Violet. "Can you handle it?" He realised that was a silly question as she was wearing his coat over her night-gown. "I guess you'll have to wait," he told the cabby. "Shouldn't take long."

They ran up the front steps and threw open the door and Alan called out Cameron's name. "I know you're here and unless you want me to disappear with a certain trinket, you'll show yourself now!"

"No need to shout so, Captain. I've been here in the drawing room all the time. I had a feeling you'd be along soon." He motioned with his arm for Alan and Violet to enter.

Sitting on the couch was Dr. Hunter in his shirtsleeves, and Jason leaning against him. Mrs. Radcliffe and Travers stood nervously by the fireplace. Hunter seemed to be struggling with something that was over his head. he could see the animosity between these strangers in his home. He could only guess what sparked it but knew this was one of many confrontations. He had so many questions and never the chance to ask them.

"I was told you had a pocket watch when they took you in. Where is it now? Could that be why you've come back?"

"I came back to keep you from doing anything to these people. I know your tricks, Cameron. They didn't work at Bosworth and they won't work here. If you try anything else, I'll have to take you with me."

James laughed. "In order to do that, Captain, you'll have to show me where the machine is, which defeats your whole purpose."

"Force is always good," Alan said, easing out the knife and pointing it at James. "Take it off and give it to me. No. On second thought, Jason, you take that thing off his wrist. Stand to the side, though."

Jason did as he was told and handed Alan the strange object then crossed between them. Cameron took advantage of this mistake, pushing the boy towards Alan, then running off. Alan swore a futuristic expletive and chased after him, making sure that Jason was okay. He knew that Cameron had to be nearby waiting to take back his time machine. He debated in his mind exactly what to do. If he went directly to the watch, James would be expecting just that and kill him and take both machines. He decided then, to sit and wait for James to show himself.

After ten minutes, he heard footsteps on the stairs behind him. He smiled. "Hello, Cameron. How nice of you to show up."

"I couldn't let you ruin this scheme. Give me the machine now then lead me to yours."

"You don't have much bargaining power now. The family are all downstairs."

"As you said earlier, force is always good." Alan turned to see a gun. "Now give it to me."

Alan reluctantly did as he was told, then went upstairs to his room. He bided his time, knowing his moment would come. He pointed to the watch. "That's it."

Cameron picked it up. "You've given in so easily, Captain. I expected more of a struggle from you. However, that doesn't matter. The end would have been the same." He fired the gun, but Alan ducked behind the bed. "Oh, Captain, that was a move unworthy of you. You know you are trapped here since I have both machines."

Alan was lying flat on his stomach, listening to James' near-convincing arguments. For the moment, he was telling the truth, but time is always moving--he had learned that much. Something was pressing into his stomach. He lifted himself up and pulled out the knife. He had almost forgotten he had it. He pulled the walking stick up beside it and touched it to the knife. In his hand was the medieval sword.

"I can wait just as long as you can, Kelly. And I block your way out. You'll starve before I kill you if this goes on."

"Okay, I'm getting up now, so don't get over-excited and kill me, though I'm sure you definitely want to." Alan got onto his knees and peered over the bed. Cameron was leaning against the closed door. "Put your hands where I can see them," he said.

"I should be saying that," remarked Cameron as he complied.

"One can never be too careful." Alan saw the gun in Cameron's left hand, dangling at his side. He smiled inwardly as he stood, sword raised. "Put the gun down, James, and give me the watch."

Cameron, shocked by the appearance of the weapon, dropped the gun. "That's a medieval sword. You didn't have that before."

"It's amazing what you can find under a bed. Give me the watch." Cameron held onto it. Alan moved forward and grabbed it out of his hand. "I vowed to the man who owned this sword that I'd bring you to justice with it. I could kill you right now, but that would make me just as bad as you. Instead, I'll take you with me."

Cameron was brought back to his senses by the threat. "You can't have thought it would be that easy. You'll have to catch me first." With that, he pressed his time machine.

Alan was just out of range and swore. How could he have been so stupid? He had been so obsessed with killing that he had temporarily forgotten the second machine. He went beside the bed and picked up his walking stick and changed the sword back to a knife. At least Cameron knew he meant business.

He went downstairs to the drawing room and told everyone that Cameron was gone. "I'll gather my stuff together then go myself." He turned to go back upstairs.

"Just a moment, Mr. Kelly," said Dr. Hunter. "You save the people in this room from God knows what, and you plan to leave just like that? At least stay for Christmas. Mrs. Radcliffe has been planning for weeks."

It was the first time Hunter had recognised Alan as someone other than a patient. He looked at the faces staring at him. He smiled. After all, that was his original plan: a Victorian Christmas. "Okay, you've talked me into it."

There was a knock on the door and Travers answered it. A voice carried through to the others. "...I've been waitin' outside for 'alf an 'our and I ain't been paid yet!"

"Oh, Lord," said Violet. "The cabby!" She laughed.

This was going to be a nice vacation after all, Alan thought. Cameron could wait.

3. Time and Tide

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