For [livejournal.com profile] wingedflight21

Nov. 12th, 2013 11:01 pm
lady_songsmith: owl (owl)
[personal profile] lady_songsmith
Bet you thought I forgot, huh?  Nope, just trying to research how antiquities and fossils might have been used/displayed around the turn of the century when the regulations about both were far more lax. Pretty epic fail, actually, so I just made it up instead. :P

Over on my mystery characters prompting post, Winged asked for: "[Mary Anning Russell (rthverse)], [Ramses], and [Holmes] end up in an antique store."

I'm still taking prompts over there, by the way, if anyone wants to play.

Holmes paused with his fingers on a bit of scrimshaw -- walrus tusk, done by a left-handed man, but otherwise unexceptional -- at the sound of a young voice raised indignantly. "It most certainly is not!" Upper-class tones, well-educated, though the accent suggested a familiarity with certain foreign languages -- perhaps a parental posting to India? As a general rule he had little time and less patience for the coddled scions of the British aristos and intelligentsia; few of them were capable of holding a thought in their head beyond the next shiny object. However, this particular scion -- intelligentsia, on further reflection -- carried on in intriguing fashion: "To begin with, that is certainly not Anahoplites; the sutures are too long and the structure far too evolute. Furthermore, this is granite. Fossils are never found in granite, owing to its primordial character, whereas fossils appear in the precipitation layers."

Holmes angled himself for a clearer view through the legs of a chair purporting to be a Louis XIV (nineteenth-century copy, actually quite skillfully executed) which was perched inexplicably and rather incongruously on an authentic American Shaker cabinet, late eighteenth century. From this discreet vantage, he could see the proprietor scowling at a girl of perhaps ten years of age. The wide-collared dress and large bow in her hair matched the voice; ruddy face and peeling nose spoke of a great deal of time outdoors. She was scowling right back, thoroughly uncowed by adult disapproval.

The third person in the tableau, largely ignored by the other two, leaned down to examine a table -- evidently the item in dispute. He was a young man, tall and slim, city suit impeccably tailored in the fashion only bespoke work achieved. The face was intriguing; darker skin than grey-skied England usually produced, with features better suited to the Near East than the Anglo-Nordic blending of the British upper class. And yet he was unquestionably a member of that class; his mannerisms matched the clothing with unselfconscious habit. He extracted a glass from his pocket, turning it on the table, then touching a finger to something on -- in? -- the surface. The glass was a practical model, plain-handled with a rim that had seen wear, to judge by the uneven reflection of light. Holmes regretted he was too distant to make an accurate assessment of the youth's hands -- such telling appendages, nearly impossible to hide.

"Yes," the youth said. "You can see the chisel marks here and here." Holmes ears pricked. Those accents were more interesting than the face. A polyglot, unquestionably -- German mostly recently; there was a forcefulness to his fricatives and a roundness in certain vowels characteristic of that language, indicating he had spent enough time speaking it for the habits to carry over into his native tongue. Beneath that, and the typical public-school drawl (less pronounced; indirect exposure?), lay a complex blend of features. Early exposure to a Semitic language, certainly. Not Hebrew, Holmes thought, though admittedly his familiarity with that tongue was... Hm, yes. Arabic? A fair portion of that region was in British hands, officially or as a de facto protectorate. Ties to the civil service? The young man straightened up, pocketing the glass again. "It's well-done, I must say. Excellent craftsmanship. Your source is wasted on forgeries," he added to the rapidly-purpling proprietor.

"Out!" the merchant roared. "Get out, the pair of you! Scheming little urchins -- in this together, I shouldn&'t wonder! Trying to make a fool of me! Well, I won't have it!" He continued in that vein for some time, herding the girl and the youth toward the door all the while; an excellent portrait of offended dignity, if a trifle overdone for verisimilitude.

The young man's face wore the same faint cast of amusement as a cat observing human foibles, but the girl was inclined to be stubborn, digging in her heels metaphorical and literal. Holmes took the opportunity to busy himself with a collection of carved figurines, mostly Peruvian with two Indian exemplars puzzlingly mixed in, whilst pretending to that peculiarly British deliberate obliviousness of 'unpleasantness', as it was wont to be put. That lasted until the youth spoke again, instantly gaining Holmes's attention with two flat words: "Unhand her."

He turned; all amusement had fled the youth's face, leaving only the feline intensity. Neither was there the self-conscious indignance on behalf of the fairer sex which the upper class was prone to, but rather a sober purpose.

The proprietor's white-knuckled grip slid from the girl's arm as though his fingers had forgotten how to close. She straightened her sleeve with exaggerated dignity, and the young man turned to enquire whether she was hurt. Released from that unnerving stare, the proprietor recovered some of his bluster. "You get her out of my shop, then," he demanded.

Ignoring him utterly, the young man proffered his arm to the girl. "May I escort you back to your governess?"

"Oh, I haven't one," she replied, staring at the offered appendage blankly. "But Papa will be in the bookshop two doors down."

He retracted the arm, extending a hand instead, and this she took. "He permits you to wander?"

"He won't have noticed," she explained. "He found a copy of Histoire des vegetaux fossilesand was comparing two translations when I left."

Holmes leisurely wandered toward the door. There was no point in remaining; the presence of forgeries in the shop had been clearly established, and only extended observation of the premises would determine whether it was connected to the ring he was investigating. In the meantime, if he lingered outside for just a moment he should be able to strike up an acquaintance with the two intriguing young people.

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