Chance Encounters

The boy rapped on the door to the cottage three times before the door opened.  A gentleman in his mid-fifties attired in a dressing gown opened the door and looked down at the boy.  “Yes?” he said, “might I help you?”

“Are you Mister Sherlock Holmes?” asked the boy.

The man smiled thinly and nodded.  “I am, indeed.”  He looked out past the boy into the snow surrounding the cottage, then looked back down at the boy.  “I perceive that you here alone.  Where might your parents be?”

The boy pulled his arms to his sides and shivered.  ” I came alone, sir.  My parents are in London.”

“Hmm,” said Holmes.  “You are a good ways from London, you know.  I shouldn’t leave you standing here in the snow.  Come in, please, and make yourself comfortable.”  He stood aside and gestured for the young boy to enter.  The boy entered the room and looked about.  A roaring fire filled the fireplace, and a couch and several chairs formed a circle around the open hearth.  The walls of the room were lined with books, trinkets, and various other momentoes of adventures past.  “Please, have a seat, young sir,” said Holmes as he went into another room.  “Mrs. Hudson,” he could hear Holmes say, “could you please fetch a pot of tea and settings for three?  Thank you ever so much.”

The boy took a seat on the couch, then noticed that he was not alone in the room.  A tall man in his mid-thirties with long, curly black hair and a long aquiline nose sat in one of the chairs, snoring slightly.  Suddenly, as though he sensed that he was no longer alone, he snapped awake and looked squarely at the boy.

“Who are you?  Are you Doctor Watson?” the boy asked.

The man smiled.  “No, sadly, I’m not.  You may simply call me the Doctor,” he said, as though that were all the explanation needed or desired.

But the boy was young and he was curious and simple answers never sufficed for boys such as he.  “The Doctor?” he repeated.  “Doctor of what?”

“Why, you might say I am a Doctor of many things, but a master of nothing.  I am a student of the universe, and such a role carries with it great responsibilities.  Or is it that great power carries with it great responsibility?  I could never keep these things straight.”

The boy turned this over in his mind.  “You’re an astronomer, then?  You study the stars?”

The Doctor nodded, a bemused expression on his face.  “Among other things,” he replied.

Holmes reappeared holding a pot of tea and a cup, with his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson following close behind with two other cups.  “Ah,” said Holmes, “I see you’ve met my friend the Doctor.”

The boy looked up at Holmes.  “We’ve been speaking, yes.”

“And what do you make of the Doctor?” asked Holmes as he poured the boy a cup of tea.

The boy looked squarely at the Doctor and puzzled the question in his mind.  “He says silly things, as though he’s read Lewis Carroll too many times.”

“I do not say silly things,” the Doctor protested.  “Though as Pinky once told the Brain, ‘Did you know that every time you open your mouth, strange sounds come out?’  Perhaps Pinky was speaking of me as well.”

The boy looked at the Doctor, confused.  “Pinky?  The Brain?”

The Doctor smiled.  “Lab mice determined to take over the world.  They were a favorite of a friend of mine.  She could spend hours relating their adventures, and would spout off quotes at the drop of a hat.”

“Are they in a book?” asked the boy.

The Doctor shook his head.  “Not yet.  Have you seen a moving picture show?”

“No,” said the boy, shaking his head.

“You will someday, and when you do, in ninety years or so there will be moving picture shows of Pinky and the Brain.”

“I thought the moving pictures had no sound.”

The Doctor laughed.  “Oh, they don’t yet.  But they will.”  The Doctor took his cup of tea and sipped from the cup loudly.  “Really, Holmes, Darjeeling?  I would have taken you for an Earl Grey man.”

Holmes laughed.  “I am afraid I must agree with our young visitor, Doctor, when he says you have a gift for whimsy if you can mistake Earl Grey for Darjeeling.  Though you have tempered that quality somewhat since your recent change of appearance.”

The Doctor shrugged, then took another sip of the tea.  “I wouldn’t know.  If I can mistake one tea for another, and Earl Grey at that, then I must have forgotten more than I thought.  Though I never quite understood what Jean-Luc saw in Earl Grey; I thought a Vulcan herbal tea might have suited his personality better.”

The boy took the cup of tea and tentatively took a sip.  “Mister Holmes,” he said, “might I have some sugar for my tea?”

“Yes, you certainly may.”  He turned his head and called, “Mrs. Hudson, could you please bring some sugar!”

Mrs. Hudson appeared momentarily, bringing the sugar pot and a spoon.  The boy stirred three teaspoons of sugar into his tea before he pronounced the tea satisfactory, leaving Mrs. Hudson to grumble about people who wanted tea with their sugar.  “If the Lord had meant for tea to be sweet, he’d have made tea sweet when he made it.  Why someone would want to ruin a perfectly good cup of tea,” she said as she left the room.

The three of them–Holmes, the Doctor, and the boy–sat as they enjoyed a few moments of quiet and their tea.

“So tell me, Holmes, what do you make of our young visitor?” asked the Doctor at last.

Holmes sat in his chair and studied the boy for a moment, then said, “Our visitor is American, on his first visit to England, has a dog of whom he is quite fond, speaks French tolerably well, and has a habit of finding mischief when he least expects it.  His name, however, is not as obvious.”

“I would have thought none of that, beyond that he is American, was obvious,” said the Doctor.

The boy’s eyes had grown wide as he stared at Holmes.  “How did you know all that?” he asked.

“I will make a trade with you,” said Holmes.  “Your name for my deductions.”

The boy smiled.  “Henry Jones, though everyone calls me Indiana.”

“Very well, Henry Jones, though everyone calls you Indiana, that you are American is obvious from your accent which has the flat quality characteristic of the eastern United States, most likely New Jersey or New York or possibly Pennsylvania.  That you are visiting England for the first time is apparent from your deferential manner, probably ingrained by your father who is very likely English and has likely told you that the English are rigid in their behavior towards others and expect the same, quite unlike Americans who are one of the most open people I have ever met.  I have found in my experience that those visiting England on later visits are far more relaxed than you appear at present.  Your dog can be easily surmised by dog collar hanging from your jacket’s left pocket, which indicates that he is not with you but that you think of him constantly.  That you know French is obvious from the train schedule in your right pocket, which shows the times from Paris to Vienna, written in French and a handwritten note, in the distinctive style of a young boy such as yourself on the schedule.  As for the mischief, the fact that you have come from London to Sussex on your own, without leave of your parents, indicates a talent for mischief making.”

“Bravo, Holmes!” exclaimed the Doctor.  “I must hand it to you, I missed every single one of those trifles.  And to think that I once thought Watson overstated this ability of yours.”

“Doctor, had you observed these trifles would have been as apparent to you and led to the obvious deductions that I made.”

“But I’m not a mischief maker,” said the boy.

“Oh?” said Holmes.  “Then what brings a boy such as yourself to my doorstep in Sussex in the dead of winter?”

“Inspector Hopkins of Scotland Yard suggested that I seek out your help.”

Holmes reached over to the table beside his chair and took his cherrywood pipe in hand.  He filled the pipe with shag from his slipper, then lit the tobacco, taking a few deep breaths.  “I am no longer in active practice, I am afraid.  I no longer take cases.”

Indiana shook his head.  “I don’t have a case for you, Mister Holmes.  At least, I don’t think that I do.”

“Oh?” said Holmes.

Indiana unfastened the buttons to his jacket and reached into an inner pocket, taking hold of an object within.  He pulled out his hand and held his closed fist out to Holmes.  “He said you would know the owner of this,” and he opened his hand.

The Doctor’s eyes widened as he looked from Indiana’s hand to his face and back.  “Wherever did you find that?” asked the Doctor.

Indiana looked directly at the Doctor.  “You know what this is?”

The Doctor smiled.  “I do, indeed.  This is the TARDIS key.  My TARDIS key.  Of course, it’s only a spare, and I’d have done well without it, but all the same.”

“The tardis?” asked Indiana.  “What is a tardis?”

“Not tardis,” said the Doctor.  “TARDIS.  It’s an acronym for a contraption of mine.  I use it to travel from place to place.”

“What does it mean?”

“Hmm,” said the Doctor.  “I suppose it can mean any number of things.”  The Doctor thought for a moment, then said quickly, “How does ‘The Ancient Robots Destroy Intruders Severely,’ sound?  Or ‘Three Adventurers Recklessly Discover Ill-tempered Scientists’?  Oh, I know!  ‘Terrible Accidents Reveal Diabolically Insidious Surprises’?  Yes, I believe they will all do nicely!”

“What does that mean?” asked Indiana.

“When you’re ready, you’ll know.  Just not right now.”

Holmes took a deep draw on his pipe, then turned to Indiana and said, “However did you come across this key?”

Indiana began to tell his tale, of his arrival in London with his parents and his visit to the British Museum.  He had wandered away from his mother and found a quiet corner of the Museum where he began studying the paintings.  He then noticed an odd looking man standing in the hall.  The man was tall with black hair swept back and a neatly trimmed Vandyke beard, dressed crisply in an all-black suit.  Suspecting that all was not as it seemed, Indiana followed the man, leaving the hotel and his mother and following him through London.  It was not difficult; the man took neither cabs nor the subway and instead walked several blocks to a nondescript building.  Indiana waited half a moment before entering the building behind the man, then crept as silently into the building as he could manage.  The man was a flight above him, so Indiana took to the stairs in pursuit.  When he reached the second storey, the man disappeared through a door at the end of the hall, and Indiana went over to the door.  The door was slightly ajar, so Indiana peered through the door and saw a dozen paintings, all identical to the painting the man had been studying in the museum.  Suspecting that the man was a counterfeiter, Indiana raced down the stairs and down into the street where he quickly located a constable and told him his suspicions.  The constable went to a nearby telephone, called for several other constables to come, and after fifteen minutes when they had arrived, the three constables and Indiana went up the stairs and entered the room.  The man cried out and made to fly the scene, but the constable Indiana had found on the street tackled the man by the legs and brought him down.

After an hour an Inspector from Scotland Yard arrived.  He introduced himself to Indiana as Inspector Stanley Hopkins, and he thanked Indiana for discovering the counterfeit paintings.  He told Indiana he could return to his mother, and as he was on his way out the door, he noticed something shiny on the floor where the man had been tackled.  He knelt down to pick it up, and Inspector Hopkins came over and looked at what Indiana had found.  Hopkins took the trinket and studied it, then handed it back to Indiana, saying, “I don’t know what it is, but I’ll tell you it has nothing to do with counterfeiting, that’s for sure.  But I can tell you who will know, Mister Sherlock Holmes will.”  Hopkins handed the trinket back to Indiana, who quickly pocketed it in his breast pocket.  Knowing his mother and father would be upset, but knowing he had a mystery to solve, he went quickly to Victoria Station and boarded a train for Sussex, hoping to locate Sherlock Holmes as quickly as possible.  His journey from London to Sussex was unremarkable, and when he arrived a constable at the station offered to bring Indiana to Holmes’ cottage.

The story told, the Doctor said, “I’d wondered what the Master had gotten himself into.”

Holmes looked at the Doctor.  “How had he gotten the TARDIS key?”

The Doctor smiled enigmatically.  “A tale for another time, I’m afraid.  Needless to say, I was lucky to get out of the jam, even though I’d misplaced my spare TARDIS key in the escape.  That’s the danger of meeting villains out of sequence; I know he’ll escape and get away and I know that I will, too, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.”

Holmes nodded.  “Indeed.  Fortunately, I never had such problems in dealing with Moriarty.”

Indiana felt confused by the turn of conversation, having little inkling of the meaning of the discussion.  He started to speak and ask a question when Holmes stood.  “I should telephone your parents, Indiana, lest they worry.”

Indiana looked down at his shoes.  “Yes, sir.”

Holmes put his hand on Indiana’s shoulder.  “Have no fear.  Your parents are likely only concerned for your well-being.”  Holmes stood and placed a hand on Indiana’s shoulder.  “Where might your parents be staying in London?”

Indiana’s face screwed in thought.  “The Hotel Northumberland.”

“Off the Strand,” said Holmes, nodding.  “I am familiar with it.”

Holmes retired to the back room, leaving Indiana alone with the Doctor.  Indiana handed the Doctor the TARDIS key.  “I suppose this is yours, then.”

“It is indeed,” said the Doctor.  “I cannot thank you enough.”

The Doctor appeared lost in thought, then said, “Indiana.  Indiana Jones, you say.  I knew the name was familiar.”

Indiana blushed.  “I’m not famous, yet, though I will be.”

The Doctor smiled.  “Yes, that you will.”

“You sound so sure.  My father will ground me forever, I know.”

The Doctor shook his head.  “I doubt that, young Indy.  Perhaps for thirty years, but not for longer than that.”

“Thirty years?  But I’ll never last that long!”

“You will.  I guarantee it.”

Indiana sat, looking dejected.  Holmes reentered the room, and Indiana couldn’t meet his gaze.  “Indiana, your father will be here in the morning.  Until then, you are welcome to my hospitality as a guest and as someone who has done a close friend a great service.”

“Thank you, Mister Holmes,” said Indiana, believing that the night spent at Holmes’ cottage would be his last night of freedom.

The Doctor stood.  “Well,” said the Doctor, “Now that I have my spare key, I must be going.  Pay Bernice a visit and all.”  He checked his pocket watch and frowned.  “Oh, this will never do.  I’m late, and knowing Bernice she’ll be concerned.”

“Where are you going?” asked Indiana.  “Are you sure you can’t stay longer?  You can explain to my father–”

The Doctor placed his hand on Indiana’s shoulder.  “I would stay longer if I could, but I have a long journey ahead of me.  A trip to Kent to pay a dear friend of mine a visit.”  He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a book.  “A parting gift until our next meeting, for finding the TARDIS key and returning it to me.”  He handed the book to Indiana, who looked at the book and then up at the Doctor.  “I think you’ll enjoy it.  I was reading it not too long ago myself, and found it impossible to resist.”

Indiana ran his hands across the book.  “The Time Machine” the cover said, by H.G. Wells.  “I’ve read it,” said Indiana.

The Doctor smiled.  “Have you, indeed?  Think of a book as a cherished memory, a place to which you can return time and again whenever you desire.  Revisit this book and think of me.”  The Doctor winked, consulted his pocket watch one more time, then said, “I must be on my way; I really can’t tarry.”

“Is it far, Doctor?” asked Indiana, knowing little of English geography.

The Doctor’s smile grew cryptic.  “Oh, about eight-eight years, give or take.”

Holmes showed the Doctor to the door, then returned to his chair and took up his pipe, smoking in silence for several minutes as Indiana drank his tea.

Indiana looked up at Holmes and asked, “So, who is he?  Who is he really?”

Holmes considered Indiana’s face for a moment, then said, “He is the Doctor.”  He fell silent, and Indiana soon fell asleep, tired from his adventure in London and the subsequent journey to Sussex.

The next morning Indiana’s father arrived at the cottage.  Indiana dreaded his arrival, knowing that his father would never understand why he had come to the cottage in the middle of December.  Professor Jones sat in the study and rebuked Indiana sternly for running off from London as he had.  “Henry,” he said, “you know how you mustn’t upset your mother so.  Taking off from London as you did, running halfway across England, you’ve given her a dreadful fright.”

Indiana looked down at his shoes.  “I’m sorry, Father.  I never meant to upset you or Mother.”

“Indeed, but that does not change the fact that you have erred greatly.”

Holmes cleared his throat.  “I would go easy on the boy; it was not his fault.”

Professor Jones looked squarely at Holmes.  “And what do you know of this?”

“He was instrumental in locating a large collection of forged eighteenth century masters, foiling a scheme to steal valuable paintings from the British Museum, and capturing the master forger himself.  Indeed, your son recovered something so valuable that had it not been recovered, the fate of Europe and the world itself might have hung in the balance.”

Professor Jones looked at his son and then at Holmes.  “That is no excuse, though it is a reason.”  He paused.  “I can forgive you this time, Henry, but your presence on this trip is contingent upon your continued good behavior.  I would ask that you remember that the next time you feel the need to upset your mother with your mischief.”

Professor Jones rose, as did Holmes and Indiana.  “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Indiana,” said Holmes as he held out his hand to Indiana.  They shook hands, and Indiana smiled.

“His name is Henry,” said Professor Jones.

“Of course it is,” said Holmes.  “Do take care of him, Professor.  I sense a great future awaits him.”

“I don’t know about that, not if he acts as he has these past few days.”

Indiana and his father left the cottage, driving away in the car that had brought Professor Jones from London to the Sussex Downs.  As the car pulled away from the cottage, Indiana took one last look through the back window and saw Holmes standing there by the cottage looking at the departing car and biding them farewell.

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