-jazzhands- Thursday serial story time, my peeps.
Let’s join our insane time traveling historian, two college students, and time traveling cowboy mercenary to see what trouble they get into next!
If you’re new, catch up here:
And, le new part!
(This and the next part are honestly my two favorite parts I have written so far so -excited bouncing-)
Part 8: Howdy, Neighbor
Good news: I managed to not pass out that time. But then I only got to barely glance around at our new London surroundings before doubling over to throw up the bit of jerky I’d eaten.
My head swam, and more teeny memory snippets that weren’t mine danced around the outside of my mind. Saying goodbye to a father going off to war, and the proper etiquette for afternoon tea. Plus more glimpses of the memories of the people I’d travelled with. Another Chase memory, one of a bar fight and one of looking through a library. If I had to guess, I’d say the bar fight was Jonah and the library one was Demetrius.
Chase gagged a little, but managed to stay upright, supporting himself against a rough, wet brick wall that was next to us.
Demetrius didn’t seem affected in the least, not having even changed position. He took in a deep breath through his nose and turned around slowly, examining our surroundings. “Well, we’ve arrived. London, nineteen-sixteen. Right after the log entry ended.”
I could hear the clatter of shoes and carriage wheels on cobblestones nearby. The British-accented buzz of conversation around us raised to a surprised pitch at first, and then quieted to faint murmurs.
Swallowing hard, I straightened up a little to look around. We were partly hidden away in a small side street near a bunch of squished together houses. Everything seemed muffled in the damp, foggy air. People still hurriedly bustled up and down the streets, a few stopped to stare at us.
My blanket skirt and poofy jacket really weren’t blending in at all. I forced an awkward smile, raising my hand in a wave.
No one seemed to notice. They just kept cycling past and giving us weird looks.
As opposed to Chase’s and my nausea, Jonah just looked pleasantly surprised as he looked around. He stared at Demetrius. “That’s it? That’s how your warper works?”
“Of course,” Demetrius responded, clicking his watch shut with his free hand and stuffing it back in his pocket. “How else do you think we got to London?”
Jonah stared for another second, then let out a short laugh. “I never knew what a smooth ride I was missing out on! Man…” he shook his head. “You guys get all the good gadgets.”
“Smooth ride?” Chase asked in disbelief. “That was a smooth ride?”
Jonah adjusted the brim of his hat. “I’ve never had smoother. Usually the time jumps are a lot worse.”
My stomach knotted again and I winced. “Well, it was a pretty short time jump. Only about seventeen years in the future and over to the UK. That’d make it a little easier, right?”
Chase groaned quietly, dropping his head back before he pushed off the wall he was leaning against. “Just remind me to never use whatever Jonah’s time machine is.”
“Hey, mine works, it’s just a little rougher is all. Not everyone can have it so good.”
I stepped away from our group a little bit, looking up and down the street. Things were so different looking here. It felt like I’d just stepped into a book.
I’d been to London once when I was younger, with my family. I loved seeing all the old, old buildings, all the history that was just everywhere around this country. And back here … back in time …
I’m actually seeing history right now. I’m in it. It almost made me want to do a little dance right there. I hopped in place a little, biting my lip.
“So, Energizer bunny,” Chase’s tired voice came from behind me. I heard a bit of a smile in his tone. “Was there a plan here, other than fangirling about history?”
Right. We had things to get done.
I turned back around and looked to Demetrius. “Around here is where you came from, right? Do you remember?”
Demetrius ran his fingers through his tangled hair, pulling it back from his face and frowning as he scanned our surroundings. “I … guess I could have visited before. I know London well, but none of this looks familiar.”
I twisted my mouth to the side and peered out to the row of houses down one side of the street. “Well … maybe if we walk along further down here, we could run into something.” I looked between Chase and Jonah.
Jonah just shrugged.
“Sounds like we don’t have a lot of other options.” Chase folded his arms tightly across his chest, hunching his shoulders against the cold, damp air. “Let’s go.”
So, keeping to the edge of the road and trying to look as inconspicuous as we could, we all started walking. It’s harder than it sounds to walk in a blanket-skirt. And we all felt pretty awkward, with all the looks we were getting.
Demetrius was the only one who didn’t really seem to notice or care. Probably because with his sort of outfit and all the places he went, he was used to it.
I guessed it was morning, by the newspapers I saw sitting on front doorsteps. People who came out to get them as we passed by lingered a little longer if they caught sight of us. A few kids came up to the windows of the houses and peered out at us. Even some parents joined in the staring.
And then down, almost to the corner of the street, we found someone.
Or … someone found us.
“Demetrius? Is that you?”
We all froze.
Chase, Jonah and I all quickly looked between each other, reflexively double checking to make sure it wasn’t just one of us that spoke. It wasn’t. As if the British accent weren’t enough hint as to that.
Demetrius frowned, tilting his head slightly. And then he slowly turned around. The rest of us turned as well.
A small, round man in a red bathrobe stood on the front step of one of the houses, a newspaper in one hand and an incredulous look on his face. His mouth formed a surprised O shape underneath his mustache.
“Guilty as charged,” Demetrius responded, forming his words slowly. He studied the man, a few tiny wrinkles showing at the corners of his eyes as he squinted.
The man stared back for a second, then let out a laugh. “Are you going to a costume party? Good heavens, man. I almost didn’t recognize you. What are you dressed as? And wherever did you get those strange clothes?”
Demetrius didn’t respond, standing stalk still and looking lost in thought. “A party …” he muttered. “A disco. Isn’t that what was … hot and fresh in these times?”
I cleared my throat and stepped over closer to the man. “Hey, so … you know Demetrius?”
The man smiled, looking close to laughing again. “Know him? He and his wife been living next door for months now.”
My heart jumped.
I tried not to look too eager and took a slow breath while I tried to formulate my next questions.
Jane was his wife. He lived here for many months after coming to Liverpool … were the two of them running from something? The Historian Society in the future maybe? Were they trying to hide?
“The name’s John Grimsby, by the way. I assume you three are friends of Mr. Morrow, here …?” His smile faded just slightly with confusion as he looked all of us up and down, examining our clothing. “All going to a costume party together, then. American cowboys, I suspect?”
Jonah tugged on the brim of his hat a little with one hand, sticking the other in his pocket. “Yep.”
Chase gave an awkward smile and a thumbs-up back. He shifted his bare feet on the cobbles, curling his toes against the cold.
“Demetrius, do you always have such odd friends?” John Grimsby asked, chuckling.
“Neighbors?” Demetrius broke in, as if he’d just processed the idea of living next door to this man. “We … we’re neighbors?” He moved closer, coming up next to me. His dark-eyed look stayed fixed on the man’s face.
John backed up a step towards his door, his smile fading away into a worried frown. “Yes, we’ve been neighbors for … a while, now. Are you feeling alright?”
“I don’t even remember meeting you,” Demetrius muttered, taking a few more steps closer. “Why are you here?’
Oh, this wasn’t good.
I reached for Demetrius’s arm. Footsteps and Chase’s voice came from behind me. “Hey, why don’t we maybe … check out the house next door? Make sure if it’s yours.”
John Grimsby’s panic was growing. “Demetrius, what happened to you? Are you sick? Should I get Jane?”
And if I thought Demetrius was acting crazy before.
His eyes popped wide open and he yanked his other arm out of the makeshift sling, grabbing John’s shoulders with both hands. He gripped them so tightly his knuckles went white. He pulled him closer, breathing hard. “You know about Jane! Where is she? Where? Where did they take her? When did you see? What did you see?” All his questions tumbled out in a desperate, jumbled rush.
“Morrow!” Jonah barked. It took a team effort from the three of us to get him off Grimsby.
The poor neighbor was pretty traumatized by now, but was babbling out as much as he could, in response to Demetrius.
“I just saw her the other day! When the two of you were coming back from your walk in the afternoon and I … I don’t know what you’re talking about! She should be right over there in your house …” he pointed a shaking finger at the identical brick-front house next to his with the light blue painted door.
All of us looked over at the same time.
It was like the house lit up with all the more answers we might be able to get inside.
Even though now he wasn’t being physically attacked, John still looked very pale. He stared at his insane-looking neighbor, blinking a couple of times. “Mr. Morrow, you …” confusion clouded his expression again. “You look … older. Is that really your hair? How …?”
Chase got a firm grip on Demetrius’s non-injured arm and started pulling him towards the house. “Alright, Dem. Let’s get you to bed.”
“See, we were coming back from the costume party, actually …” I tried to explain over my shoulder, carefully holding the other arm to help Chase.
“It’s not even nine a.m.!” John exclaimed.
“He’s drunk,” Jonah added, ignoring him completely. “You know how he gets. Can’t even remember his own neighbors and gets super weird about his wife.” He gave a small laugh and made a face as he nonchalantly pushed Demetrius further over towards the other house.
Grimsby just stared after us.
“No, let me go!” Demetrius demanded, trying to yank out of our grip, his curls flying wildly. “He knows something about Jane! Curse you all, this is the first lead I’ve had since the fall of the USSR! I need to talk to him about …”
“Shhh!” I elbowed him violently in the ribs.
“Let’s just get him in before things go any more sideways,” Chase muttered as we went up the steps towards what was supposedly Demetrius’ house.
“Honestly, what did you expect?” Jonah remarked, leaving his post of pushing from behind and coming up to rifle through some of Demetrius’s coat pockets. He stopped for only a second to look up and smile at Chase and me. “You two make a great team.”
I narrowed my eyes at him a little. Chase looked mildly confused. “O…kay, thanks.” He glanced over at me.
I shrugged it off. “Remind me to keep you on speed dial in case I need to haul any more crazy guys off Victorian gentlemen, I guess.”
Chase managed a half chuckle.
“Excuse me,” Demetrius pulled away from Jonah. “I can look through my own pockets just fine. Maybe if you tell me what you’re looking for in the first place, I could …”
“Is this a sundial?” Jonah stared at the weirdly shaped object he’d just pulled out of one pocket. He blinked once and scratched at the side of his head.
Demetrius snatched it back and stuck it in his pocket. “Yes, in fact.”
“Why would you…?”
“Okay, listen,” Chase cut in. “A key to this apartment. For this door. Do you have that on you?”
With how much junk he had in his pockets, I didn’t have high hopes he could really find that.
Demetrius stared at the door for a second. “Why?”
Chase groaned. “Because this is your …”
“Because we want to get inside,” I cut him off. “There might be more information on Jane.”
Because if anything is the magic word for Demetrius, it’s the name “Jane.”
He patted his pockets over with superhuman speed before pulling out a small pouch. “I have a lock picking set,” he declared, before immediately setting about to pick the lock.
I looked to Chase. Chase shrugged. Jonah grinned.
Whatever works, I guess.
It took a minute, since our breaking-and-entering expert had only partial use of one of his arms. But eventually, the door popped open. Demetrius straightened up, scarves swinging, and grinned triumphantly. “We’re in.” And with a swoosh of his coat, he darted inside. Clearly, someone was ready to tear the place up if it might mean a clue about Jane.
The three of us that were left followed at a slower pace, splitting off in different directions, even though we hadn’t spoken a word about planning this. And who knew where Demetrius had whooshed off to.
I felt like I was going to hurt my neck with how much craning and looking around I was doing, but I couldn’t stop staring. It was just so… so real.
An actual, Edwardian London townhouse with original furnishings. Nothing having to be redone or re-polished. All the original paint and wallpaper and everything.
There weren’t a lot of decorations and furnishings. But I guess with how little time they’d lived here, that made sense. Just a couple of bookshelves, cabinets and chairs.
I moved into the dining room and had to take a minute to just stand back and admire everything before I could really get into looking for clues and taking in the information from a detective standpoint.
So. First weird detail I noticed was the clock in the corner. Still ticking away cheerily. I was pretty sure those things needed to be wound consistently. I frowned at it for a second, reading the time. If the neighbor guy was anything to go off of, this clock wasn’t even running right. It wasn’t…
Goosebumps tingled my arms. I gave the clock a threatening look for another second before turning away.
Another weird thing: a picture on the cabinet across from the table. It was clearly of a couple, but it looked like the frame had been broken open and one of the faces cut out.
I frowned and moved over to look. I picked over the broken glass bits, carefully lifting the picture up. The woman’s face was ripped out and all I could see was a bit of her dress and her arms and hands.
The man… it should have been obvious, but it still took me a few seconds to fully recognize Demetrius.
He just looked so different.
Even in the grainy, black and white photo that this was, I could see a world of change.
His curly hair was trimmed short. His eyes looked clear and his smile looked calm and dignified and … genuinely happy. He was wearing a neat suit and tie and was leaning in towards the woman who had her face snipped from the picture. Their hands were clasped together in the middle, between both of their laps.
I swallowed and bit my lip, tucking what was left of the picture in my pocket. Then I turned to the dining room table.
A few more interesting things, there.
Firstly, the flowers in the middle of the table. Fresh and lively roses. Not even fully opened yet. A small, tidy bunch of them was stuck in a jar of water, and not a single petal had even fallen to the tablecloth yet.
The sudden weirdness of that opened my eyes to something else about the house I hadn’t realized before: Nothing was dusty. Not even in the slightest.
And then the big thing.
A package sitting next to the flower vase. A neat, flat square wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string.
A note was propped next to it. I stepped over quickly and picked it up to read it. The same flawless cursive that wrote out Jane’s name on the back of her picture spelled out the short address.
If you get home and I don’t.
This should explain.
I’m so sorry, my darling.
Come back next week to see it resolved. -whooshes away-
-whooshes back for a bit- Okay so really what did you guys think? Have any theories?
talk to me in the comments and tell me what you thought!