"I know this probably isn't what you were expecting," HG offered as she settled into the old train seat. Steve raised an eyebrow as someone walked down the aisle with a caged chicken.
"When I checked yes to travel on the application, I thought more of the occasional lecture in New York or Boston. So far it's shaping up to be one hell of a first day." HG laughed and sipped from her water bottle.
"Your assistant is… different," he phrased, kindly. "She doesn't seem to share your love of history."
"Claudia? No, merely a passing interest. Her love lies more in the future. Claudia is the final word on anything to do with computers or technology."
"Where did you find her?"
"She's Artie's wayward niece. A few years ago her expertise got her into a spot of trouble with the law. So when she came to stay with Artie, he foisted her off on the only other person who was a larger thorn in his side. I imagine it was intended as a sort of punishment but, much to his dismay, we got on like a house on fire. Now she's enrolled at the school and is my personal assistant in my work and my own personal hobbies."
"Sounds like Dean Nielsen got more than he bargained for," Steve laughed. HG made a noise of agreement.
"What about you Mr. Jinks? Tell me something interesting about you."
Steve frowned in thought for a moment. Further down the car he could hear the chicken clucking in displeasure.
"I can tell when people are lying," he offered finally. HG regarded him carefully with a skeptical raised eyebrow.
"That's quite a talent. If it's true that is."
"Care to test it out?" Steve challenged.
"Mr. Jinks, I think you and I are going to be good friends indeed," she said on a laugh.
Lumbini gardens didn't turn out to be quite as picturesque as Steve had imagined from the name. A stone's throw from the train station, it was noisy and crowded with locals selling their wares. He stuck close to HG as she wove between the livestock and the people, finally turning down a side alley.
"If the map is correct, this is where the koi should be," HG said, opening a door.
They were immediately immersed in the smell of stale cigarettes and the sounds of yelling coming from the main room.
"This was built on top of where the koi was housed so it probably looks a quite a bit different. You take a look in there and I'll go check the basement."
Steve nodded watching HG disappear down a set of stairs. He turned and parted the beaded curtains that separated the gambling parlor from the entrance. Around each of the tables stood men, all shouting in Nepali at the outcomes of their bets. Weaving between the tables, Steve made his way to the bar at the far side of the room.
"Hey, you wouldn't happen to have seen a fish statue around here would you?" The bartender gave him a blank stare and went back to wiping down the bar top. "Never mind."
He wandered back out to the tables, inspecting each game more closely. Seeing a game he recognized, Steve shouldered his way in between a couple of the gamblers. The round was coming to a close so he pulled a bill from his pocket and set it on the table. Not even slowing, the dealer changed his money to chips and began dealing the next hand.
A few hands later Steve looked up and saw HG hurrying his way.
"Sorry guys, have to go," he said, pulling all his chips off the table.
"Hey! You can't leave yet" complained a man grabbing Steve's arm. "I was just starting to get ahead here!"
"You!" HG growled. She grabbed the man by his shoulder and spun him to face her. "Pete Lattimer. I'm assuming that you have the koi?"
"You mean this?" came another voice behind HG. Steve watched as HG smirked and turned to face the woman holding the koi fish statue.
"Myka Bering, so we meet again. Taking in the scenery are we?"
"The fresh air. The mountains. The sweet smell of victory? Can't beat it. Now we'll be going. Come on Pete."
Before Myka could get the koi in her bag, HG had elbowed Pete in the face and rushed Myka, knocking the woman to the ground. Steve watched as the women wrestled for the statue and Pete slowly got back to his feet.
"Why must we always do things the hard way, darling?" HG gritted, grabbing for the statue. Myka quickly wrapped the woman's leg and flipped them so she was straddling HG's hips.
"Well I know how much you like it rough," she purred, using HG's distraction to wrench the koi from her hands. "Pete! Go long!"
Pete, having sufficiently recovered, easily caught Myka's toss and began his touchdown dance. Steve managed to slip between the people in the crowd and snatch the koi from his unsuspecting fingers.
"Hey! Not cool new guy!"
"Snooze you lose!" Steve called over his shoulder, running for the door. In his excitement, he didn't see Myka's arm until it caught him in a perfectly executed clothesline across the throat. He watched from flat on his back as she took the statue from his stunned hands and motioned for Pete to follow her out the door.
A moment later, Steve felt the meaty hands of a bouncer haul him to his feet and looked to see HG similarly restrained.
"HG? I think they're calling the cops! I could go to jail! Can you imagine what that's like around here?" he said, becoming more hysterical.
"Calm yourself Mr. Jinks. I'm sure they can be reasoned with."
HG turned and smiled sweetly at the manager with the phone, speaking quickly in Nepali. Steve watched her face fall and her voice take a more argumentative tone. Back and forth his head went, from one to the other like a foreign language tennis rally.
"What's he saying?" Steve asked during a lull in the conversation.
"We're in a rather large spot of trouble," HG said, her breathing suddenly turning frantic.
"Can I get some water, please?" she asked, on the verge of hyperventilating.
Steve put a hand on her shoulder as she made the universal symbol for a drink.
"Can't you see how upset she is? Get her some water!" When no one moved, he made to go get it himself. Before anyone could take another step, HG had thrown her elbow high into one of the bouncer's noses. The other was shoved roughly into a gambling table, while the manager just stared in shocked silence.
"I do believe the time to leave would be now Mr. Jinks!"
They hurried out the door and back into the market place. Running between the stalls, Steve chanced a look back to see the bouncers following behind and closing in quickly. He felt a tug on his sleeve, then HG was pulling him through a fabric doorway and behind the counter of a stall. HG pressed a finger to her lips indicating he should be quiet; then peeked between the fabric panels instantly spotting their pursuers not far from their hiding place.
"We'll just wait them out here."
No sooner had she completed her sentence did the owner of the stall walk through. The bells on the fabric doorway jangled, causing the bouncers to look their way. Steve followed HG as she jumped over the stall counter and caught the bundle she thrust into his arms.
They ran to the edge of the market, on to the train platform and jumped down between the stationary train cars. HG found an empty one and pushed Steve up the ladder.
"Get changed," she muttered. "Quickly."
"What? Here? We're just going to—" he trailed off as HG stripped off her shirt and stuffed it into her bag. "Yes, yes we are."
Once changed into more local outfits, they chanced a look outside. Not seeing their tail anymore, they slowly made their way back into the market.
"The next stop on the map after we had the koi would have been Bodh Gaya. I'm sure that's where they'll go," HG said as she steered them to the ticket line for the trains. "We'll get there, find a nice hotel; have a bath, and whatever passes for a cup of tea around here, then regroup and go after Pete and Myka." Steve couldn't have agreed more.
A/N: Hope you're all still with me. I'm sticking pretty close to the show (Relic Hunter in case you skimmed my last note) and it wasn't super historically accurate. More like loosely based in historical fact. Hope that doesn't detract from the adventure too much. Hang on to your hats. More to come!
Like it? Love it? Loathe it? Let me know!