A Prologue of Sorts: New York City
"Skipper," Arthur's sort of whining voice made Martin's head hurt a bit.
It was a new day, and so a new adventure. After nearly losing his favorite hobby, Martin had gone home with a heavy heart, thanking whatever deities were actually up in the sky that GERTI was all right and Gordon Shappey hadn't gotten her in the end. All thanks to Douglas, as usual. He had figured everything out and…
Martin shook his head, "What, Arthur?"
"Your flight bag's heavier than usual," the younger male replied, hefting it.
"What does it matter?" Martin suddenly snapped, then, "Sorry, long night."
"The van keep you up?" Douglas asked, his voice velvety and oddly pleasant as ever.
"No," Martin said. He said nothing more.
"Oh, our mysterious Captain is even more mysterious today," was Douglas's reply.
Martin took his bag from Arthur, "I'll take that, Arthur," he said curtly, nodding to the cabin boy before he got up into the aeroplane.
Douglas and Arthur followed him, "But really, Skip, what's in there that makes it so heavy?" Arthur pressed.
"There's a book in it," Martin replied as calmly as he could.
"Oh, that's boring," Douglas pointed out, "You always have a book with you. Though to be fair, it is usually a paperback, and rather more light than whatever you've got in there…"
"You've been handling my bag?" Martin suddenly asked, looking over at his First Officer with a rather icy glare.
"No, not at all," was Douglas's reply. Martin never believed a word Douglas said, of course.
The beginning of their journey started out all right, and once they were in the air, Arthur came in with the coffee. "Shall we play twenty questions about what book Skip's reading, chaps?" he suggested.
"God, do we have to?" the First Officer whined.
"Pass the time," Arthur pointed out.
Martin sighed, "Good luck."
"I'll start!" Arthur shouted. "Is it… The Wind and the Willows?"
"I thought we taught you the right way of playing this game, Arthur!" Douglas said, obviously exasperated by the plane's overly-helpful passenger.
"Did we?" Arthur asked.
"No, 19," Martin said, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly.
"How many pages is it?" Douglas asked, glaring a bit at Arthur.
"Dunno… 'bout… 1100 or so?" Martin asked, thinking about it, "18."
"Uhm…" Arthur thought hard for a moment.
"Male or female protagonist?" Douglas asked.
"Interesting choice, especially since you tend to read chick lit," Douglas mused.
"That's all they have at the airports when I go in to buy a book!" Martin said, flailing a bit in his seat.
"What's the genre, Skip?" Arthur asked.
"Intriguing. Is it British?" Douglas asked.
"How many are we at?" Arthur asked.
Martin thought for a moment, "15 questions?"
Arthur nodded, "Uhm… Is there some sort of romance in it?"
"Well… sort of," Martin replied, "But not between the main character and anyone… I mean, not really. 14."
"What era?" Douglas asked.
"Historically?" Martin asked. When Douglas nodded the affirmative, Martin answered with: "Victorian."
Douglas thought for a long moment about this.
"Has the book been made into a movie?" Arthur asked.
"Yes: A movie plus a recent sequel. Also two or three, or even more, television shows, several glorified fanfictions published, and there are several scholars that just study this particular character and world," Martin answered as if he was reading it out from a textbook.
"Wow… it's pretty popular then?" Arthur asked.
"Yes. 11 questions."
Douglas and Arthur sat in silence for a moment, letting the facts sink in.
"It's Harry Potter, isn't it," Arthur said, a serious expression on his face.
"That's more of… a fantasy, isn't it?" Douglas asked, in the tone he usually took with the simple-minded ex-steward.
"Is it? I just remember there was a lot of mystery in it," Arthur replied, a simple smile on his face.
"I'm not reading Harry Potter, no. 10," Martin sighed.
"A complete book of Miss Marple stories?" Arthur guessed.
"That's a female protagonist, and it's set in the early 1900s, I believe," Douglas pointed out.
"No, and 9," Martin replied.
Douglas was puzzled, "Honestly, Martin. Is it a new book? Something written now but set in the Victorian era?"
"While there is a book out now that is that way and uses the protagonist I'm reading about, no I'm not reading something like that. I'm reading the original," Martin replied, and almost smug smile on his face. "8."
Douglas blinked, and then turned slowly to his captain, "I'm getting bored all ready."
"Giving up, First Officer Richardson?" Martin asked, a challenge in his eyes.
Douglas would have taken the bait, would have continued on, but his mind was really blank right now, and he couldn't think, especially when Martin was radiating such confidence… it was slightly arousing. Douglas crossed his legs. "That won't work, Sir."
Martin sighed and looked behind him at Arthur, "How about you?"
"I just really wanted to know what book you were reading that would make your flight bag so heavy, Skipper…" Arthur replied.
Martin nodded, "It's The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I'm on 'A Case of Identity' right now."
Douglas let out a defeated growl and slumped back in his seat, "Why didn't I think of that. From your clues that makes perfect sense!"
"Did you get the idea to read them from last Burling Day, Skipper?" Arthur asked, "When Mum made you Detective Inspector Martin Crieff for the day?"
Martin thought about it for a moment. "Not really. Kaitlin sent me the book for a belated birthday present last year, and I just dug it out of a pile on my floor. Since I didn't have anything to read, I decided that was the best choice."
Douglas scoffed, "You'll never beat me, though, I'm afraid. Even if you are taking lessons from the only consulting detective in the world…"
"You never know," Martin replied cryptically, putting his hands on the console again.