THE ADVENTURE OF THE
Just ten minutes with a biocomp.
For at least the hundredth
today, the hypothetical bargain he would make with the controller of
the universe ran through McCoy's head. He knew all about
psychology under stress; he knew that bargaining was one dysfunctional
preliminary to accepting a hopeless loss, and yet he couldn't stop the
cliche routine from streaming through his head.
Dammit, he didn't want to accept this situation! He wasn't
to. Somehow, he was going to get back
Through the doorway, in the main ward, a terminal heart patient
coughed. Short of an implant team and the immunolytics needed
follow after the surgery, there was nothing McCoy could do other than
morphine, and he'd given as much of that as he dared for now.
face flushed hot as chronic frustration boiled to the top of his
If I can't have ten minutes, I'll take five, or even three.
Two. Hell, I could probably get by with one.
his mind amused itself playing the game of what information he would
extract from the biocomps given the chance, so as to do the most good
in the least time; the larger part of his brain busied itself in the
current century trying to save the patients he could with creative
thinking, compassion, hospital supplies that were more toxic than
medicinal, hours of lonely work, and yes, the favorite staple of all
doctors through the ages: luck
Not all improvements took a biochemical degree to implement.
tightening up the antiseptic procedures had probably saved scores of
lives already. Maybe he couldn't pass on future information,
he'd be damned if he'd let people die when he knew what to do and might
somehow be able to recreate (or since they wouldn't be discovered for
centuries, would 'create' be the more proper term?) the means to do it.
He'd taken the Hippocratic Oath long before he'd even heard of the
Prime Directive, and he figured seniority had to count for something in
this mess. Spock wouldn't have approved of that
but Spock wasn't here to argue, was he?
McCoy lifted his head up from the microscope
rubbed his eyes. It had been over eight months since he'd had
use of Retinax drops, and now he was definitely seeing the difference
in his vision--or not seeing because of the difference--however one
would phrase that.
Spock. When they
had jumped it had been together--holding
even. When they landed, it had not. So much for
theory of time being fluid like a river. If it was, one of
must have landed smack in the middle of a whirlpool, for Spock had been
nowhere to be found. Worse, Spock had been the one holding
chronacitron--their vehicle for returning to their own
time. Spock wouldn't leave voluntarily without him,
what if something had happened?
It must be infinitely worse for Spock, wherever he had ended
No one in this time had even seen an extraterrestrial. Spock
would have to stay in hiding or align himself with freaks--maybe a
circus--if he hadn't been captured, the chronacitron confiscated, and
jailed...or worse. No, Spock might be an arrogant
holier-than thou pain in the ass, but he was much too smart to be
captured (or worse). McCoy was sure of it. Or
of it. So why was that stupid corner of his mind trying to
another bargaining game?
Amiens was where the locals told him he had arrived. He'd
put for as long as his tricorder power had lasted, then yielded to the
painfully obvious: he had no idea where of how to look given nineteenth
century technology--or rather, the lack thereof. As
it irked him, he was going to have to let Spock be the one to find
him. More than he hated being lost in time, he hated the fact
that he was going to have to let Spock win.
Given the inevitable, the Boy Scout hug-a-tree plan seemed like the
best strategy, but which tree to pick? He'd
everywhere within a hundred-kilometer radius--including Paris, which
might have been fun in better circumstances. Spock wasn't
so it made sense to move on a bit. His French was almost as
as his Andorian--which Spock swore was even worse than his Vulcan--and
since one direction seemed as good as another, he crossed the channel
After that, the decision seemed obvious. Spock accused him of being a
workaholic. Maybe that was so--it takes one to know one, they
say--but he would know exactly where McCoy would go. The
neediest collection of sick people speaking something close to Georgian
English had to be the University of London hospital, and so McCoy
settled in and stayed.
The choice had a second benefit. The oceans, seas, rivers, sewers and
gutters of this part of the earth all flowed into London and carried
with them all sorts of strangers and strange things. The best
stories of strange things were to be found in the hospitals and in the
pubs, so McCoy made it a point to start his day in one and end it in
the other. Always in the proper order, of course.
But as week followed week with no news of a Chinaman with pointed ears
and patient followed patient with more and more piling into the wards,
his time at the former took precedence over the latter, until his
nightly pint and perfunctory report from the bartender were more of a
ritual than a conscious mission. McCoy wasn't one
into depression, but as the London autumn fell to winter with only
stone-age medicine to look forward to during the day and sitting around
waiting to be rescued at night, sometimes it was a close
It had turned some better in the past few months--since he'd run into
John. The winter was breaking up now. It hadn't
snowed in a
week or two and the cabbies said their horses had decided it was
spring. Still, it was unreasonably cold and there were so
sick. McCoy refocused he microscope slide and focused in on
blood cells. This diagnosis would be easy.
basophilic stippling, Cabot bodies--it was classic lead poisoning, the
only problem now was to track down the source. He'd ask John
he got home. For all John's tall tales about Sherlock Holmes, he was a
decent detective in his own right.
Ironically, it had been a poisoning case that brought them together in
the first place. Strychnine, to be exact. The plant had gone
extinct long before the twenty-fourth century, so although the name
sounded vaguely familiar, McCoy never would have recognized the
A visiting doctor had, and had rushed over with a heavy sedative. Risus
sardonicus he had called he facial finding as he injected higher and
higher doses of a barbiturate, often fatal in overdose itself. "I know
something of poisons," he had said as they shared tasteless, lukewarm
tea keeping watch by their patient's bed. "I have been
to work with a man who knew all that is knowable about them, both
professionally and also from more personal experience than I care to
"Knew?" McCoy asked absently. He put a hand to the patient to
check his pulse.
"He died." The doctor took a swig of tea.
The new doctor gave a rueful grin. "Not exactly. A giant
spider. Three years ago, he left his web for one single, foul
purpose and took away with him the most extraordinary man the world
will ever know."
At McCoy's perplexed expression, the doctor shook his head and cleared
his face. "Don't mind me. As great a loss
as it is to
the world, I took it much harder than most. I am surprised
haven't heard about it. Or has he already been forgotten? It
seems just yesterday to me, but it has been three years." The
fine lines of the doctor's face worried in pain.
"I'm sorry. I'm not from around here," McCoy tried in way of
The man's expression cleared and gave way to a little laugh.
course you aren't. You're American." He gestured
McCoy's attire. "I should have realized.
Holmes would have a splendid go at ridiculing me now. I claim
try to follow his methods, yet overlook the entirely obvious." He
inclined his head. "John H. Watson at your service." He extended a hand.
McCoy took it, his mind spinning. So Sherlock Holmes was
real! How long was that literary hiatus for? Damn, he
remember. There was something about a speckled band and some
orange pips, but damn, how long was he gone? If he could find
Sherlock Holmes, then Sherlock Holmes could find Spock...
was that waterfall? Rikenblade?
Rikenbatt? Damn, if only he had ten seconds with the library
Mind still whirring, McCoy pumped his hand. This could be his
in. If he couldn't find Holmes, he could wait for him
He came back to Watson eventually, he was sure of that. But
how long...? "Dr. Watson! And your friend is...was
Holmes, of course. I'm delighted to meet you.
Leonard H. McCoy."
"I've heard remarkable things about your work here,
Doctor." Watson indicated the ward. "
You've set the
medical community on its ear. Where did you attend
"Medical University of Harvard." It wasn't true, but it was
oldest American school that came to mind. Mentally, McCoy
his fingers against the lie and concentrated on the greater
"And now that I place the name, I can tell you I've heard great things
about you as well. Perhaps we could work out
exchange of sorts?"
"Perhaps we could."
A nun arrived bearing hotter but equally insipid tea. Watson
accepted. "Thank you, sister, yes, I
toasted teacups. McCoy moved in to his house near Paddington
station the next day.
Speaking of home, McCoy leaned back and stretched.
checked the pocket watch that John had given him, insisting that the
image a doctor projects is more important than knowledge.
Ordinarily McCoy would have argued, but in this primitive time it might
well be true. McCoy figured that if worse came to worse, for
of a protoplaser, he could always stuff the watch into a bleeder and
plug it up. Ten thirty. He closed the watch
had stayed much too late again.
McCoy picked up his bag--another gift and another expected prop--and
wrapped his topcoat a tightly around him. Paris had
London in terms of weather, that was for sure. And food, and
and clothing, and disinhibitions.... When he got a chance, he
should probably see about studying a little more French.
No, scratch that. He was getting back to his own
time. He wasn't staying here.
The Laughing Adder was his usual stop. Anhelt waved and drew
him a bitter, easy on the foam.
"News today?" McCoy swallowed gratefully. London
did win as far as beer. He'd have to grant them that.
is in from Alexandria today, the Valencia
from Spain and the Lady
Cottingham from the East
Indies. One of the
Spaniards had three nipples they say."
"Three nipples?" a lady of dubious virtue butted in from over her
glass. "What would 'e want with an extra of his own, when 'e
could 'ave both of these lovelies right here?" She pushed her
bosom towards McCoy's face and laughed exposing an appalling
reduced number of rotting teeth.
McCoy bowed a little. "Had he only known what awaited him,
madam, no doubt he would have given his extra back."
"Oy, aren't you the charmer. And with a luvely accent
too. American, is it?"
"Something like that."
"I thought so." She stroked his cheek and gave him a
disturbing leer. "I'd give you
a free one,
luv. You're as cute as a bug." She plunked her hand
firmly atop his package.
Idly McCoy wondered how many sexually transmitted germs existed in this
time, and how many could be squeezed concurrently into the same
body. Spock would know, and if he brought even one of them
he'd be hearing it from Spock until Vulcan froze over. Not
he was tempted. One of the benefits of having hooked up with
another doctor was it wasn't hard to sell him on the benefits of
McCoy bowed again, a little more deeply this time.
I must decline. I'm a little...tired tonight, and it would
me to risk leaving a lady...unsatisfied"
She reclaimed her hand and tossed back her beer. "Suit
luv. You know where to find me if you're ever feeling up to
A coupled of men in workmen's clothes guffawed.
Behind the bar, Anhelt shrugged. "The blokes from the Indies
are over there." He tossed his head. "I don't see no deformed
ones amongst them--just uglies if you ask me--but you may want to have
a look for yourself."
Gratefully, McCoy took his glass and wandered over. One-armed sailors,
one-eyed sailors, scarred sailors, sailors with tales of island black
men with every known physical defect and a few McCoy figured just had
to be made up, but nary a word of shiny ebony hair with pointed
ears. He bought them a round of drinks
and hailed a
handsom back to their house. By the time he made it, it was
past midnight. To his surprise, the fire was unlit and John
apparently not about.
Had McCoy thought about this a little further, he might have had an
advance clue. Losing his wife had been hard, no doubt. but
even that, there was a sadness, a loneliness about John that never
entirely went away. It lessened somewhat during their time
together, and so their private evenings were sacrosanct. It
wasn't like John to go out alone, but too tired to wonder
it, McCoy crawled in bed and was asleep even before his eyes closed.
Morning came with a rush and the bustle of heavy boots flying down the
hall into the bedroom--not to mention a room full of now sub-arctic
air. John burst in his coat open and flapping, his face flushed and
beaming from ear to ear. "Leonard! The most wonderful thing
happened! You will recall my dear friend Sherlock Holmes; he
returned form the dead!"
About bloody time, McCoy thought. He couldn't take another
winter. "That's marvelous," he said. He tried to sound
but he'd always been a lousy liar.
Watson misinterpreted the queer note in his voice. He looked
to his conspicuously unused side of the bed. He sat and
his throat. "Leonard, it is not my preferred course of action
reveal another man's secrets, but I do owe you some further
explanation, particularly as there must be some...changes in our
accommodations." He paused. "Or perhaps you may have already
Despite the chill, Leonard sat up and took his hand.
like that. Yeah. Anyway, there's nothing you could
isn't already revealed on your face. I thank you for all your
help, and I'm very happy to see you so happy." McCoy kissed
and swung his legs over the bed, matching feet into awaiting slippers.
"There is no need for you to go right away," Watson rattled
"We will occupy his old rooms in Baker Street. I shall
this house presently, but you may take your time seeking new
lodgings. I hadn't meant for you go now. I told him
you, should you be wondering. Not that it much matters with
Sherlock Holmes." Watson chuckled softly, his eyes glazing back in time
as if in fond remembrance. "He would have found me out
McCoy hopped into trousers and struggled with the buttons of his
borrowed shirt. He felt his chin:
stubble, but it
would take too long to boil hot water, and he wasn't putting the icy
stuff in the washbasin anywhere near his skin; a shave would have to
wait. "Thanks. I'll work something out,
but to be
honest, I'm eager to meet your Sherlock Holmes.
I've heard about him, I was hoping he could help me find my...friend."
Watson stood up. "Of course he can! How
stupid of me; I should have thought of that."
McCoy turned to him. His voice was soft like the one he used
his most delicate patients. "Perhaps you had other things on your mind."
Watson came to him and kissed him thoroughly. "Perhaps I
did." His eyes roved his face as if to preserve every inch in
memory. Tenderly he stroked his cheekbone with his
thumb. "I shall miss you, you know."
McCoy smiled. "I'll think of you often, but we both know
where we're supposed to be, and it's not here."
Watson nodded. "May you be as fortunate as I in your own
search." He dropped his hand from McCoy's face.
McCoy swore as his collar popped up again for the third time.
"Help me with the collar?" It was hard to believe that over
hundred years later they still hadn't learned to make a shirt collar
that a man could wear neatly and still breath.
Deftly, Watson fixed it up. He reached for one of his own
and arranged it in a fashionable knot. "Perhaps
us for an early lunch at Simpson's? You can discuss the case
"Elementary, my dear Watson." McCoy bounced on his
toes. He'd been dying to say that ever since they'd met.
Sherlock Holmes proved every bit as irritating, eccentric and
intractable as he had ever been portrayed, and then a wee bit
more. It reminded McCoy acutely of a certain Vulcan, and he
wondered if there was any place around here he could buy a sympathy
card for Watson.
Citing the need to send all blood to his digestion or to his brain, but
never to divide the lot, Holmes steadfastly refused to discuss any new
case until after his meal. Instead he waxed
the wonders of Scandinavia, the Orient, Persia, Africa and other little
known corners of the globe. From his coat pockets he produced souvenirs
and curios, and spread them on the table. Most were of the
gruesome or potentially lethal variety, such as the cheerful berries he
stated had cost a daughter in Bucharest her mother, or the innocuous
looking phial of gray powder he casually tossed onto the tablecloth
with a comment that a pinch ingested would be fatal in
McCoy's appetite waned precipitously after that, but Holmes and Watson
carried on as chipper as two robins in spring.
Not all his finds were so straightforwardly treacherous, it
seemed. Holmes went on at length about a priceless treasure
uncovered in the ruins of Constantinople and smuggled out of Byzantium
at great risk to himself should he be discovered, and of his adventures
at great peril to life and health in the diamond mines of southern
The diamonds he scattered across the table to the ohs and ahs of those
around. History had recorded correctly--or Watson
Sherlock Holmes was an inveterate showman.
When the fruit tart and Sauternes had been cleared away and Holmes
beckoned to the waiter to bring tea and the larger exotic item he had
left in his carriage, McCoy really should have known what was
coming. Back on board the Enterprise,
he kicked himself for days afterward. He blamed the wine for dulling
his senses or his understandable preoccupation with the assorted
deathtraps scattered mere inches from his food, but the short version
was that Spock won again. When he walked in with a
his head and an Inverness tossed over his uniform, McCoy laughed so
hard he forgot to be pissed off at the way he'd been set up.
grabbed Spock in a giant bear hug, and imprudently kissed him on the
neck where--when sensibility returned--he urgently hoped no one could
Logically or not, Spock didn't make a protest.
When he turned around, McCoy cleared his throat. "We've got
on our way. I don't think we'll meet again. I don't know how
thank you both."
"Unnecessary," said Holmes. He lit his pipe and tossed the
insanely close to a lump of clay he had identified as a heat-sensitive
high explosive. "Everything is understood." He
hand as if to wave goodbye, but before pulling it down, spread the
middle fingers apart in the shape of a V.
"Well I'll be." McCoy bounced on his toes. He
Spock. Spock's two longest fingers were paired together
like...like Vulcans did with their...
"Spock!" McCoy spluttered in the middle of the
floor. "Did you--?"
"Come, doctor, I believe we have a date with a chronacitron."
Spock pushed aside the flap of his Inverness to reveal a small device
hanging from his tricorder, then hooked McCoy under the arm.
"Don't give me that." McCoy shook him off. "Did you
or didn't you? I have a right to know."
"Keep your voice down, Doctor. The Prime Directive--"
"--won't exist for another two-hundred years." But McCoy did drop his
tone to be pitched for Vulcan ears alone. "And I'll keep my
down when you keep your pecker down. Pon farr is one thing,
whoring around on me just out of the blue?
Despite the words, McCoy's fuming sounded as familiarly happy as a
tribble shitting in honey.
Spock rose to the bait. It was so good to have him
"Speaking of blue, I assume that blotch protruding from beneath your
collar is bruise from...running into a door?" Spock nodded
blandly at one of the more impressive hickeys McCoy had ever received.
"That's different," McCoy grumbled. "Humans have
was finding his tempo again now and falling back in step as if the
eight months has been eight minutes.
Spock rolled his eyes and led the way to the door. "I am well
acquainted with human needs. Human needs have increased the
distribution of tranquilizers among Vulcans living on among Terrans to
forty-seven point eight six one times that of Vulcans living on Vulcan."
"Have you considered that is because having to live on Vulcan is so
damn boring, it is
The door swung shut behind them and clicked. Holmes gathered
items from the table and dropped them all cavalierly into one
pocket. "I think, Watson, that is our cue to depart. Shall
we?" He extended his hand.
"Delighted." Watson accepted it and let himself be pulled
up. Arm in arm, they left for home.