Marion came around in the back of the police car with Hillary’s arm around her shoulders and Lily’s hand gripping hers tightly. She was still too groggy and bewildered to take much notice of where they were going. When they reached the police station she was only vaguely aware of being taken through the security door and then brought to a room with chairs and a table.

“We haven’t been arrested, I don’t think,” Marion said as they drank mugs of tea that were brought to them. “We weren’t searched or fingerprinted or anything. I think they just want to talk to us about why we were wandering about in the night.”

“We’re being treated as vagrants?” Hillary was more than a little indignant. “I am an ambassador for my government. I have diplomatic immunity on over four hundred planetary systems of the galaxy.”

“Yes, but Earth isn’t one of them,” Marion reminded her. “Not in the 1990s, anyway. Which is when we are, I’m pretty sure, judging by the kinds of car that was, and the computers they had in the front office. I think you’d better not mention about the four hundred planets when they ask where we’re from. And that goes for you, Lily. They’re not going to believe you’re a Lady of Gallifrey. They’ve never heard of Gallifrey.”

A plain clothed policeman came into the room, accompanied by a uniformed policewoman who brought more tea. Both sat opposite them.

“I’m Detective Sergeant Owen Thomas,” the officer said. “Are you all feeling better now?”

His voice was kind, but it was clear that he wanted to ask them questions. And he lost no time about it.

“Can you explain what you were all doing down on the waterfront in the middle of the night with no identification of any kind but a considerable lot of jewellery on you?”

“We lost our handbags,” Lily said. “Our identification was in them. I can assure you the jewellery all belongs to us.”

“And they’re real?” DS Thomas glanced at the rings on Lily’s hands. She had a great many of them, including a very large diamond solitaire and a rare red diamond surrounded by a cluster of small white ones, and a gold band encrusted with very tiny diamonds. That was a ring of Eternity, worn by all Time Lords. It had belonged to her late husband, Jules D’Alba and she now wore it in his memory.

Hillary had four rings on each hand, too. Marion was almost under-dressed with only one diamond solitaire ring and a glittering gold wedding band. But her solitaire was a very rare white point star, priceless on any market where such a special diamond was known and valuable even here on Earth where such a thing wasn’t known of, but where diamonds generally were prized.

“So why were three ladies dressed in expensive clothes and dripping with jewels wandering around the waterfront at three in the morning?”

“We were lost,” Lily answered.

“Clearly,” the Detective Sergeant remarked. He looked at the woman police officer and spoke to her quietly. Interestingly, he didn’t speak to her in English.

“Heddlu!” Marion exclaimed. “That’s what it said on the car. It’s Welsh for police. We’re in Wales.”

“How can that be a surprise to you?” Detective Sergeant Thomas asked them. “We don’t exactly have passport control on the Severn Bridge, but most people know whether they’re in Wales or not.”

Again he spoke in Welsh to the uniformed sergeant.

“We have not escaped from a mental institute, and in response to your other comment, we are most certainly NOT ‘on the game’,” Lily said. “That was a very insulting thing to suggest to your colleague even in your second language.”

“If we were, that would hardly be the place or time to pick up trade,” Hillary added.

“I don’t know how we got to Wales,” Marion said. “We’re not really sure about anything right now. Except we are neither mad nor the other thing you suggested.”

“Let’s start with your names, then, and an address.”

“I’m Marion de Leon,” Marion replied, giving the surname she was last known by on Earth. “My registered address is 18b Upper Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 9DU.”

The policewoman wrote that down in her notebook. Lily gave Li’s address in Liverpool.

“That’s your home address?” DS Thomas asked.

“No, I am not from this country,” Lily answered. “My... fiancé... lives there. His name is Mai Li Tuo. He is a British citizen registered for taxes at that address. He can vouch for me.”

“He will vouch for me, too,” Hillary said. “I do not live in this country, either.”

“I thought as much, from your accents,” DS Thomas noted. “So which port did you enter the country through? They will be able to confirm that your visas were stamped, no doubt?”

Hillary and Lily looked at each other uncertainly. Of course, they couldn’t answer that question.

“Mai Li Tuo? Hardly a native born scouser, is he, your... fiancé?” The Detective Sergeant looked at Lily, noting, of course, her advanced years. “Is he younger than you?”

“No, in fact, he is several years my senior,” Lily answered. “And again, your assertion is offensive in the extreme. Li is a pillar of the Chinese community in his adopted city. A respected gentleman.”

“We’ll be checking him out. Sounds like some sort of immigration scam to me.”

Marion sighed unhappily. She wondered if Li actually did have official British citizenship. He said that he had come to Liverpool after the communist revolution swept away the China he loved. He didn’t say if he did so by boat or plane like others who fled the changes in that country or if he used his TARDIS. Perhaps he was, in the end, an illegal immigrant.

Would he be arrested because of their strange predicament? If he was, what would happen to him? Would the Gallifreyan authorities act if he was charged with an offence under Earth law? Would he go to prison or face deportation to China?

She was so worried about Li’s plight she almost forgot that she was in some difficulties herself.

“We haven’t committed any crime, you know,” Hillary pointed out. “We’re just lost without our handbags. If we had them, we could have found a taxi and gone to a hotel for the night and there wouldn’t have been any problem, at all.”

“You’ll have to wait here while we check your story,” the Detective Sergeant said, apparently disregarding Hillary’s statement. “Sergeant Lloyd will bring you more tea and possibly some sandwiches. But you can’t go anywhere until we’ve cleared up exactly who you are and why you’re here in Cardiff.”

“We’re in Cardiff?” Marion queried. But the Detective Sergeant wasn’t listening and the uniformed female sergeant had already hurried off to fetch the tea.

“Cardiff?” Neither Lily nor Hillary had heard of the place. Lily knew about Wales. She had travelled as far as Llandudno on a holiday. Hillary was having trouble with the idea that a place as small as Britain was subdivided into even smaller realms.

“It’s in South Wales. It’s a port town... like Liverpool. Only a bit smaller. I still don’t know how we got here. But it’s just possible... this is the one place outside of Liverpool where I think I do know somebody. As long as we’re in the right time. Trouble is, I don’t exactly have his office phone number.”

Marion waited until the sergeant brought the tea and sandwiches. She thanked her for the food and drink and then asked her if the word Torchwood meant anything to her.

The sergeant’s eyes flickered momentarily as if it did, then she shook her head.

“Never heard of it. What is it? A Housing Association or something? Sorry, I can’t help you with that. You’d best wait until the Detective Sergeant comes back.”

The sergeant turned away and left the room. They drank the tea and ate the pre-packaged sandwiches that looked as if they came from a vending machine in the canteen. They were poor fare, but better than nothing.

“What’s Torchwood?” Hillary asked. “Why is it important?”

“It’s... rather hard to explain,” Marion answered. “And... it could be even worst trouble than the police if the wrong people are in charge. If they found out that you two are aliens, there would be all kinds of hassle. But there is one person who could help. He definitely WOULD help. I think he’d do just about anything for me.”

Lily and Hillary looked at each other, and despite their worry they smiled knowingly.

“Marion, do you have a secret friend at this Torchwood place?”

“Well... sort of,” she answered. “Not the way you think. Kristoph knows all about him. It’s not like that, at all. But if I could get in contact with him, we’d be all right.”

Lily started to say something, but the door opened again. The Detective Sergeant came back in. A different uniformed officer accompanied him this time, another woman, but rather severe looking and she didn’t bring tea.

“We’re having trouble verifying your address,” DS Thomas said to Marion.

“What do you mean?” she answered. “It’s my address. I pay rent and council tax...”

“Well, we might be able to check that in the morning when the council offices in Liverpool open,” the Detective Sergeant replied. “But right now, the police up there report that number 18b Upper Duke Street doesn’t exist. Neither does number 18 Upper Duke Street.”

“What do you mean?” Marion asked. “Of course it exists.”

“Not now it doesn’t,” the Detective Sergeant Thomas insisted. “Which means you’re officially NFA as well as these two.”

“What about Li?” Lily asked. “Have you spoken to him?”

“That address DOES exist. But he’s not there.”

“Not there?” Lily’s face paled. “But...”

Of course, Li was often away. He took himself off to imperial China and spent decades living a whole different life before coming back to the herbalist shop in Liverpool’s Chinatown. But today he was expecting them for tea. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere.

Of course, this WASN’T the day they expected to arrive. He might not be expecting them. He might be away in China.

“So, one of you has a missing address. The other has an address but nobody is home. And one of you doesn’t have either. And I have a statement from a man with concussion who claimed that a man wearing a woman’s coat assaulted him not more than a half mile from where you three were picked up.”

“Do any of us look like men in women’s clothing?” Hillary asked, keeping a completely straight face as she spoke. “Don’t be ridiculous. I think it is time we were going. As I understand it, walking around the streets of this country at night without a handbag is not a crime. You have no reason to keep us here. The sandwiches and tea were much appreciated, but this ends, right now.”

Hillary at her most imperious and aristocratic was impressive. The Detective Sergeant almost gave in, before remembering that he WAS a Detective Sergeant and that they were in his police station. Marion was sure he was about to charge them all with vagrancy, assault and battery, and quite possibly, though it was a ridiculous notion, soliciting.

“You’ll stay where you are,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with your stories. I still think this is an immigration scam.”

“I’m from Birkenhead,” Marion insisted. “Born and bred. I’m not an immigrant.”

“So who’s the Prime Minister of the UK, then?” the Detective Sergeant asked.

“I...” Marion hesitated. She wasn’t sure. She had long ago stopped taking any notice of English politics.

“It depends... what year it is,” she said, knowing that was not going to help matters.

Then the door to the interview room opened again. Marion recognised the man who stepped inside.

“Detective Sergeant,” said the tall, handsome man wearing military blue and grey. “These three ladies are coming along with me, now. You can go and catch some criminals.”

“What do these women have to do with Torchwood?” the Detective Sergeant demanded. “You’ve got no jurisdiction here, Harkness.”

“I’ve got jurisdiction anywhere. And that’s Captain Harkness to you, Detective Sergeant.”

“We’ll see about that...” Detective Sergeant Thomas stood up and addressed the uniformed sergeant beside him. “Keep an eye on these women while I sort this out. Any funny business from them and...”

He stopped mid-sentence as the Chief Superintendent came to the door. There were no words spoken. None were needed. Captain Harkness’s expression didn’t change by a single twitch of a facial muscle, but the Detective Sergeant obviously knew when he was beat. He picked up his notes and stalked out of the room. The uniformed officer followed him. The Chief Superintendent nodded curtly to Captain Harkness, who acknowledged him silently before turning to the three women.

“Ladies,” he said with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that should have been enhanced with a toothpaste advert spangle. “Torchwood is at your service. And more importantly, so am I.”