Eliza Carlisle had never given much thought to the ancient Babylonians. So, it’s no surprise that when she first appeared in the middle of a crowded marketplace, she was confused and more than a little pissed off about being there.
A strange man, not wearing near enough clothes, had grabbed her and started babbling at her on the street. Assuming the man was one of the crazy homeless who occasionally inhabit every large city, she did her best to extricate herself from his grasp without setting him off further. The man was strong and began shoving something into her hand that she later recognized as a pocket watch and mumbled “Baker, Baker, help.” When she closed her hand around the object, the man let go of her and stumbled off through the crowd.
It took her a moment to realize she was the one who was wearing the wrong clothes.
“Oy! Come back here!” She called after the man then started shoving her way through the crowd after him. He ducked into an alleyway and she followed quickly after him. She followed him through the maze of the unfamiliar city, rudely shoving people so she could keep following the bouncing head that she couldn’t quite catch up with. When he ducked into a fabric covered doorway, she saw her chance and ducked in behind him.
Going from the hot desert sun into the dark house blinded her long enough for the man to get away from her. By the time her eyes had adjusted to the dim lighting, the only person she could see was a man who looked as out of place as she did.
“Oh good, he found you,” the man said, standing up and handing her a cup.
“Who are you?” Eliza said, taking the cup from him.
“I do realize I’m dressed a bit differently from the last time I saw you, but I should think you’d recognize the person you punched in the middle of a busy London street.”
Her mind raced but, try as she might, she couldn’t recall punching anybody the last time she was in London. “I never punched anybody in London,” she told him. “I haven’t been there since I was 7, anyway, so I’m certain you have the wrong person.”
“Oh,” the man looked at her, his face guilt stricken. “Oh dear. I deserved it then.”
“I’m sure you did, if a strange woman just walked up to you and punched you in the middle of the street.”
“It was you, my dear, just not yet. I know, because you told me to not bother asking for your help when I found the pocket watch.”
“This pocket watch?” She opened her hand to show him the pocket watch the Babylonian had given her.
“That’s the one,” he said, sitting back down on a cushion and taking a sip from his drink. “Please, sit, have some tea. It’s actually quite good.”
Something had been nagging her about him and it suddenly clicked. “You’re British.”
“And you’re American, as evidenced by your appalling manners. Do sit down, time, while fluid, is currently not on our side.”
“Well, excuse me for asking,” she snapped and sat on the cushion opposite him. “You’re not modern British, are you?”
“Strictly speaking, there is no ‘modern British’ right now.” He smiled at her. “But I understand your question and the answer is no, my understanding is that I am from approximately 100 years earlier than you. Which, incidentally, is part of the modern era.”
Questions dragged through her head, each not wanting to be asked. “How…” she started than trailed off. He smirked at her and she shook her head. “That’s not important. No, it is important but not particularly relevant to this discussion right now. Why am I here, why are you here and how do we get out of here?”
“You are here because you punched me in the face and mentioned a pocket watch I hadn’t found yet. I’m here because I was shocked to find a working pocket watch when I was on an expedition to find the ancient city of Babylon. As you can see, I found it.” He gestured to the city around him.
“Yes, very good, well done. Now, how do we get out of here?”
“I wonder if you think I brought you here for revenge. If I knew how to get out of here, I would not be here. You seemed to know how to work the watch when last we met.”
“We haven’t met yet.” Eliza sniffed at the tea in her hand.
“And I accused you of bad manners. My name is Sir Richard Baker, archaeologist. And you are?”
“You’re a sir?” She laughed. “I am Ms. Eliza Carlisle, private investigator.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Carlisle. Now, if you could, I’d like to go home.”
“Sucks to be you because I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
They look at each other in expectation. “Damn,” he says. “I was hoping to not have to live through an ancient battle. There’s an army on the way and the walls aren’t finished. Won’t be for quite some time, I’m afraid.”
Eliza suddenly figured out why she had punched him in the middle of a street in London. She was hard pressed not to punch him right there. “How did you send the guy to me to bring me here?”
“I could tell you a very long, convoluted story but it comes down to, I don’t know. The man who came from you was one of the few people I know here. I mentioned I was lonely, that if I was going to be stuck here, I’d prefer to be stuck here with somebody I had more in common with. He had the watch in his hand and said he would bring me a companion if he could. Then, he disappeared.”
“What were you talking about the first time you held the watch?”
“My desire to see Babylon as it was being built.”
“Did you think to ask it to take you home?”
He opened his mouth and she could see the sharp retort forming on his face then his expression changed to one of chagrin.
“Didn’t think of that, did you?” She laughed at him.
“Well, now that you have, I’ll have the watch back, thank you.” He put his hand out expectantly.
Eliza smiled and looked down at the watch in her hand. “Maybe I’ll make a wish, then. Since my life was so rudely interrupted because you were an idiot.”
“I do apologize for the inconvenience. Now, if I could just have the watch back, I’ll see to it we get where we need to be.”
“I’ll wish for us to get where we need to be, thank you very much.” The world around her changed abruptly and Eliza Carlisle found herself in the middle of a street in Victorian London. She scrambled out of the road as quickly as she could and very nearly ran into a man who looked very familiar.
“I beg your pardon, miss,” the man said. “Are you all right?”
Eliza cocked her arm back and punched him across the jaw, knocking him to the ground. “You jackass! Leave me alone! And don’t you even think about coming to me for help with that damned pocket watch! I want to go home!”
She found herself back in her apartment, the pocket watch making itself felt in her hand. The urge to check what time it was, what day it was, was overwhelming. It was only the man coming out of her kitchen, dressed in modern clothes and bearing two cups of tea that stopped her.
“It’s about time you got home,” he said, handing her a cup. “We need to start planning the wedding.”