June 3, 1917 on a country road outside London.
“What the?!” Corporal Smith’s arms jerked in shock and the car swerved. He quickly brought it under control, as he heard shocked shouts from the Sergeant and Captain in the back seat. “He’s gone, sir!” Corporal Smith exclaimed. “How did he manage that? Where’d he go?”
Captain Mason sat staring at the empty seat in front of Sergeant Kennedy, wondering the same thing. “It’s impossible. People don’t appear out of thin air, and disappear back into it again!” He looked at the sergeant and the corporal. “You both saw him, you held his arms, treated his wounds, and tied his wrists. Did you not do a good job with that?”
“Sir, we did. I checked the cords myself, and they were tied securely. There is no way he could have got them off. And he didn’t jump out of the car, the door is still closed. He didn’t move, I swear, I was looking at him all the time. All he did was rest his head on the top of his gear.” Sergeant Kennedy’s voice was firm, but with an undertone of bewilderment, as he shook his head.
Captain Mason sat in silence for a moment. “We will say nothing. We’ll make no report, and Sergeant, you can see that the wrecked bicycle is quietly disposed of. Anyone who speaks of this will do the dirtiest kp jobs you can find. Be sure they know. Now, let’s get back to London, I have a meeting to attend.
London, June 10, 1905, the home of Percival Cedric Pierce-MacDonald, evening.
“Well, chaps, what do you think of my tale? War with Germany in 1917, and it had been going at least one year. That was all I was able to find out. Frankly, that was all I wanted to find out. I don’t intend to go time hopping into battles and wars.” P.C. leaned back in his chair, eying the others, and taking a sip of his drink.
“You have certainly given us food for thought,” Digsby ‘Digger’ O’Neil, Archeologist, said. “How old will we be in 1917? I’ll be thirty seven, so I probably won’t be called up. P.C., you’ll be in your thirties, too, but with your genius in engineering and such, you would likely be tapped for war work – weapons and such.”
“Yes and young Jimbo here will be thirty. And with his talents in repairs and upkeep on automobiles, he would probably be roped into the cavalry.” G.P. added. “I’m the oldest, but my experience with wounds caused by firearms, even though I’ll be in my forties, I’ll likely be sent to a military hospital. It’s not something any of us can really be happy about. But since we have the warning ahead of time, we can prepare with extra training.” He sighed, and drew on his cigar.
For a short time there was silence, then P.C. said “One thing I know, I will not go forward again. Who knows how that war will turn out? Or how many more there will be this century? I’m going back in time, and picking my arrival very carefully.”
“Do you have any thoughts on that?” Digger asked.
“Yes, in fact I have. I’ve been looking at old copies of newspapers at the Museum for ideas. I’m going back to April 3rd, 1880. I’m going to attend the first performance in this country of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’.” He sat back with a grin, waiting for their reactions.
“Trust P.C. Mac to go for something like that.” Jimbo said. “How many times have you seen that one already?”
“Six – but this time will be the first time ever that it was shown here. I might even see Gilbert and Sullivan! Think of it!” His eyes sparkled with excitement. “Of course, I’ll set the time of arrival at least a week early, maybe March twenty first. That’ll give me time to find a place to stay, and get a ticket. I’ve already got clothes of that time. I’ll be leaving on Saturday. G.P., will you keep an eye on things here for me? Mrs. Kennedy will take care of the mail and such, but I’d feel better if she had someone to turn to in case of a problem.”
“Of course, P.C., let her know I’m on call for her any time. Unless something dire happens to a patient, I don’t expect any urgent calls.” G.P. held out his hand. “Shake on it, friend. Go and enjoy yourself, and come back and tell us all about it.”
Shortly after that the visitors said goodnight and left. P.C. sat for a little while longer, thinking, then headed off to bed. Saturday came, and so did his friends. He was dressed in high 1880s style, and they all commented on how well it suited him. Then they shook hands all ‘round, stepped back, and waited. P.C. took the time machine out of his pocket, checked the settings, smiled and nodded, pressed the stud, and was gone.
“That is eerie!” Jimbo exclaimed. The other nodded. It was indeed.
P.C. looked around. He had set his arrival spot in a secluded place in Kensington Gardens. It was twilight, and quiet. Lifting his carpet bag, he headed for the nearest exit. He intended to stay at the Bentley Hotel, at 27-33 Harrington Gardens in south Kensington. Reaching the street, he flagged down a passing brougham, gave the cabby directions, and settled down to enjoy the ride.
All in all, his venture into the past was a huge success. He did some shopping, finding unusual gifts for his friends, and a lovely tea cup and saucer for Mrs. Kennedy. And the performance of the Prates exceeded his expectations. And best of all, he not only saw Gilbert and Sullivan, he got them to sign his copy of the program. He was almost reluctant the following day to go home. He gazed avidly at the streets and people as he rode back to Kensington Gardens. At last he was back in the secluded spot where he had arrived. Taking out his time machine, he took one last look around, and pressed the stud.