The day started off well. They had a pleasant breakfast before going out for a long walk on the seafront.

“The waitress at breakfast thought we were sweethearts,” Marion said with a smile.

“Yes, she did,” he said and put his arm around her shoulders. “She was thinking that I look a little old for you, but all the same we seem happy with each other. She was envious of you.”

“You’re making it up,” she laughed. “You don’t really know what the waitress was thinking.”

And yet, she thought, he often DID seem to read her mind. He seemed to anticipate her moves. At the supper and this morning at breakfast, he had passed her sugar and salt and filled her coffee cup without her ever having to ask. It was nice to have that sort of attention paid to her.

“It’s a gift I have,” he said. “I CAN see what people are thinking.”

“What am I thinking?” she asked him. She thought of a passage from her favourite gothic novel. The morning after the Demeter arrived with its dead crew, when Mina and Lucy walk by that very sea front they looked out on now.

“Early in the morning we both got up and went down to the harbour to see if anything had happened in the night. There were very few people about, and though the sun was bright, and the air clear and fresh, the big, grim-looking waves, that seemed dark themselves because the foam that topped them was like snow, forced themselves in through the narrow mouth of the harbour- like a bullying man going through a crowd.”

Marion gave a gasp as Kristoph not only knew the scene she was thinking of, but quoted the text from memory. She stared at him. She shivered.

“I’ve frightened you,” he said. “I am sorry about that. I did not mean to do so.”

“You said… last week… that there were things about you that would scare me.”

“And now I have. I don’t need to look at your thoughts. They show on your face. You realise how little you know about me. And here you are with me, in a strange town, and nobody even knows you are here.”

“I trusted you,” she told him. “From the start I trusted you, Kristoph. On the train, at Sunday lunch. You cared for me all week when I was sick. I have never doubted that you are a good man. But you are a very strange man, and…”


“And it’s a bit scary. Please… don’t do it again. Please, just be an ordinary man, a professor of literature. Talk to me about ordinary things, things I understand.”

“Of course,” he said. They walked again, and his arm was around her shoulders. He was worried, though. She had not taken that demonstration of his alien abilities very well. How could he tell her what he was?

The problem filled his mind most of the morning, though he did his best not to show it. They found themselves at lunchtime at a little café by the harbour on the west cliff side. From there they had a grand view across the harbour with its yachts and fishing vessels and onto the imposing East Cliff, the famous one with the ruined Abbey and the church and churchyard on top, where the seduction of Lucy by Count Dracula took place.

“We’ll go up there later,” Kristoph promised. “That is the highlight of a visit to Whitby. For this afternoon I thought it would be pleasant enough to explore the town itself, taking in its antique shops and its tea shops and quiet watering holes of the alcoholic sort. Nothing too energetic. We have those 199 steps to climb if we mean to do the Abbey justice later.”

And for the afternoon he gave her no cause for concern or to wonder about him. Certainly he did nothing frightening to her. They looked in old bookshops and antique shops and drank tea in tea shops where waitresses wore crisp black and white uniforms and the table linen was immaculate. They drank wine in low-ceilinged old pubs that all claimed Bram Stoker once drank there.

“He may well have done,” Kristoph said with a laugh. “But I’d like to see them prove it.”

“It’s a harmless lie,” Marion noted.

That comment pricked Kristoph’s conscience. A harmless lie. But he had told too many not so harmless ones.

“Marion,” he began.

“Yes?” She looked at him.

“Marion, I…” He sighed and ‘bit the bullet’. “Marion, I’m not really a literature teacher. I’m a hitman for my government posing as a teacher. And my government… that place you read about. It’s not in Greece. It’s a planet 250 million light years away from Earth. I’m an alien.”

“What?” she looked at him in astonishment.

“That’s the truth about me, in a nutshell at least. There is more to tell, but you have to grasp that much first.”

“You’re… an ALIEN? An alien HITMAN!” She looked around to make sure nobody had heard her. “Kristoph… that’s not funny. That really IS scary.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you. I love you, Marion. I love you, and I want… I am prepared to give it all up. My whole world, to live on Earth with you. To BE really Kristoph de Leon.”

“You’re an alien! That’s why you don’t blink, and the mind-reading and…”


“No,” she said then. “No, you’re drunk and telling me stupid things or…. Or it’s a joke. Maybe it's been a joke all along. Get Marion interested in a man then make her look stupid. I never thought a staff member would be in on it.”

“Marion,” he said gently. “It is true. I told you because I don’t want any more lies to hang between us. I want…”

“No,” she insisted. “No, it's… NO.”

Kristoph sighed. He reached out and touched her face. She shrank back from him, but he made contact with her skin. He sent her into a gentle sleep, laying her down on the long leather seat. He put his hand more firmly on her forehead and reached into her short term memory. He found the part of the conversation that had frightened her so much and he plucked it out like a bad tooth. He left her lying there while he went to call for a taxi.


Marion woke in her hotel room and looked up to see Kristoph sitting beside her.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You fell fast asleep in the pub,” he answered. “I forgot that you had been ill all week. I think we overdid the afternoon.”

“I’m pretty pathetic if wandering around a few tea shops and antique dealers is overdoing it.”

“Well, you’ve had a nice long nap. All the better for tonight.”

“What are we doing tonight?”

“Staying up to watch the sunrise,” Kristoph told her. “If you think you would be up to it?”

“Oh, yes,” she answered. She sat up and noticed she was in her underwear. “Did you…”

“I took off your outer garments so that you would be more comfortable. That is all.”

She thought about it and couldn’t think of a single reason why she wasn’t happy with that. Except she wished she remembered. He must have been so gentle with her. Carrying her to the bed, taking off her dress and shoes.

“Ok,” she said. “But… funny, I can’t remember anything after we were talking about Bram Stoker’s drinking habits. I MUST have been tired. But I’m awake now, and it sounds a great idea.” She smiled. He touched her forehead gently and told her to bring a coat for when it got colder after sundown. Then he left the room while she got dressed, first for supper at a nice restaurant and then, with the sun dropping low over the town, they climbed the 199 steps.

“Oh!” she cried as they reached the top and looked at the bones of the old abbey silhouetted against the sunset. It was utterly beautiful and exactly what she had imagined from the literary descriptions. Kristoph’s arm was around her shoulders as they stood and watched.

Not that they were completely alone. The abbey was a ruin, but the Church of St. Mary’s was still going strong. They watched the people leaving the Evensong service and the vicar going to his house nearby, the verger locking it up for the night. Then it felt much more as if they were the only people left on the cliff.

“Are you warm enough?” Kristoph asked as they sat down on a bench near the steps back down the hill. The town was well lit below and so was the harbour but the horizon was now marked by the stars in the sky.

“I’m perfectly warm,” she said. “It is a warm night. It feels exciting to be doing something like this. It's like… like an adventure. Being out at night when everyone else is asleep.”

“I never sleep very much,” Kristoph said. “I often find high places at night where I can sit and think.”

“Do you have a problem with sleeping?” she asked.

“No, I just don’t do as much of it as other people do,” he answered.

“There are a lot of things you do differently to other people,” she noted. “You’re an unusual man, Kristoph.”

“I know,” he said. “I am sorry about that. I wish… I wish I WAS an ordinary man. It would make it so much easier. Because then I could just tell you how much I love you, and kiss you and we could make the sort of plans that other people who are in love make.”

Marion looked at him in the dim light of one of the lamps that illuminated the steps for those like them who chose to come up them at night. He sounded like his heart was breaking with frustration. She expected to see tears in his eyes. But they were dry. He was blinking more than she had seen him do before, though. She put her hand to his face, touching him under his eyes.

“You don’t have any tear ducts,” she said. “Only… vestigial ones, as if… as if you had ‘evolved’ without them.”

“Yes,” he answered her. He put his hand over hers and pressed it against his cheek. “Yes, Marion, that is one of the physical ways I am different.” He took both of her hands and held them against his chest. Her eyes became big with astonishment.

“You have… I can feel… you have two hearts. There are two heartbeats.”


She looked at him.

“Is that the secret that you didn’t want to tell? That you have no tear ducts and two hearts? I mean… what is it? A birth defect? Have people been cruel to you about it in the past? I’m not so shallow as that. Little physical differences like that… Do you think I wouldn’t love you because of that?”

“There is more to it,” he said. “It’s much more complicated than that. But… Marion… before I tell you the truth, before I frighten you away forever… we both spoke of love just then.”

“I love you, Kristoph,” she told him. “You know I do. That’s why I came here with you. To Whitby I mean, not just up here on the cliff in the dark.”

“And I love you, Marion. And I am so afraid of getting this wrong. Of losing you. I should tell you the whole truth first. But… if I do, I may never get to do this.” Marion’s hands were still over his hearts. She felt them quicken as he pulled her close. She felt his mouth cover hers. His lips felt cool and masculine, and they possessed her completely in a way that would, she thought, have made every author in the Mills and Boon catalogue weep into their word-processors. She slipped her arms around his back and held him as tightly as he held her. She didn’t want the kiss to end. She didn’t want to hear that truth that would spoil the happiest moment of her life. She just wanted to kiss him forever. She wanted him to be her man. Her true love. She wanted him, no matter what he was going to say to her in a few minutes.

It took longer than a few minutes. When he drew his head back away from her she pulled him close and she initiated the kiss this time. She savoured the nearness of him, the spicy scent of whatever brand of aftershave he was wearing, the slight roughness of his shaven skin, the strength of his arms as they held her.

The clock of St. Mary’s marked midnight not far from them as they finally broke apart.

“It is only an arbitrary number,” Kristoph said. “A mere moment in time. It is only because of associations with the mysterious propagated by the likes of our favourite gothic author that midnight is frightening.”

“I know,” she said. “But, Kristoph, don’t tell me anything else about yourself just yet. Not until… Not until after the sun has come up. In the daylight, in the sunshine, it won’t be so bad.”

He had told her already in daylight, and it frightened her then, he reflected. But he was happy to prolong the revelation in accordance with her wishes.

“It won’t be dawn until about four o’clock,” he said. “Do you wish me to kiss you for four hours?”

“We can try,” she answered, reaching for him. “I’m nineteen, nearly twenty, and you are the first man I have properly kissed. I am at least two years behind everyone I know, unless they are lying about it.”

“They probably are, you know,” he told her.

“Well, even if they are, I’m still owed a lot more kisses.”

“It’s been much, much longer for me,” he said with a sigh. “If love is something that is owed like a debt, then I am long overdue.”

She sighed happily as he reached for her again and took a long, deep, sensuous payment of what was long overdue.

No, they didn’t quite kiss for four hours. They talked, too. They talked about Dracula, about Captain Cook, and the Whitby whaling industry marked on the other cliff by a monument made of two great stone whalebones crossed into an archway. They recited poetry, they sang songs together. They kissed some more.

What they didn’t do was talk in any way about Kristoph’s secret that threatened to spoil their happiness. She did wonder a little. Perhaps he had been in prison or something. That was about the most terrible thing she could think of. It explained why he was a single man at his age. If he had been in prison for many years. She almost wove a story in her head. Maybe he had killed that woman who broke his heart when he was younger. Or her husband, or both. A crime of passion for which he paid with his liberty. But he had repented his terrible deed while he was in prison and when he was released he vowed to be a better man. She was his way to redemption, through her love for him. But he was afraid she would reject him if she knew.

She laughed at herself. What a fairy story.

And yet, was there anything more terrible than that? If he was not a murderer and a convict, then she was sure there was nothing that could frighten her or kill the love she felt for him.

“Oh, Marion,” Kristoph thought as he saw that melodramatic fantasy in her head. “I hope you will feel that way when you do know the truth.”

Prison was too simple an explanation. His truth was much harder.

Not until the sun has come up, he said to himself. Until then, she is mine. Until then, we are two people in love and nothing comes between us.

And his lips found hers again. She had been wearing a lip gloss when she came out. Light make up and a cherry flavoured gloss. But the artificial taste wore off long ago. Now he tasted her pure, unadulterated lips. Human flesh felt just a little different. Warmer than his own species. Thirty degrees warmer. And Marion’s kisses, hesitant and anxious to get it right at first, then throwing away caution as she relaxed and enjoyed it, were different from either of his two lovers before. Lily never hesitated about anything. And Hillary came from a people who exuded pheromones and sensuality. The only disturbing thing about her was when she teased him by morphing into her male form while they were kissing.

But Marion was a simple, straight-forward Human woman and he was the first man who ever kissed her. He felt privileged by that.

He felt so much in love with her.

When the sun came up he had to tell her the truth.

He wished he could stop time and stay here forever and never have to tell it.

But even a Time Lord could not stop time.