The session in the Panopticon finished early. The reason for that happy and rare event was that Lord Arrette had not turned up to make his formal request to the High Council to have his wife arrested for adultery. Kristoph was relieved not to be placed in the position of ordering such an unpleasant proceeding, but he felt sure this was just a delay not a cancellation of the request.

At least he had the pleasure of Marion's company much earlier than expected. She had come to the Capitol with him today, visiting some of her city dwelling friends. They planned to enjoy an evening at the theatre and then spend the night as guests of the Reidluums. Marion was fond of the children and a firm friend with Mia, while he had plenty to talk to Jarrod Reidluum about.

"My Lord," said his Aide as he stepped into the ante chamber of the Lord High President's quarters. "Your wife and another lady are within, waiting to speak with you."

"Officially, you mean?" He queried as the Aide helped him to remove the heavy collar and the Sash of Rassilon that were required accessories in the Panopticon. "My wife knows she can talk to me any time. Who is the other lady?"

"She is the second wife of Lord Amycus's brother," he was informed. That really wasn't a lot of help. He had only rarely met the younger Amycus - younger being something of a comparative term since both men were in their third millenniums. The second born Amycus worked in an office within a branch of the Civil Service that infrequently interacted with other branches and even less so with the executive branch of Gallifreyan government.

The wife of that quiet gentleman was even more obscure.

The younger Amycus's wife, Kristoph noted as he stepped into his own inner office, was considerably younger than her husband. Of course he had little grounds for criticism on those grounds having married late himself, and it didn't help at all in placing the well -dressed lady who stood in his presence and bowed courteously.

"Good afternoon to you, madam," Kristoph said in response. "Please do be seated. Marion, my dear, I see you have acquired a pot of tea. I shall be glad to join you in that refreshment once I am introduced to your companion."

"This is Annice Amycus, second wife of Cardiw Amycus."

Kristoph sat and Marion poured tea, marvelling at how those names redolent of the northern parts of the southern continent sounded with a Merseyside accent.

He rather fancied a glass of single malt, but tea would have to do for now.

"Excellency," Annice began. "I met your wife in the Conservatory, hoping she would take a message to you. She felt the matter ought to be brought to you in person. It is about my stepdaughter - my husband's child with his late wife.”

Kristoph frowned as he tried to untangle the family lines involved and get to the bottom of something Marion thought important enough to bring directly to his attention.

She is the present Lady Arrette," Marion explained, cutting through the tangle and coming to the reason why domestic affairs of minor members of the Gallifreyan aristocracy had come to the Lord High President's office.

"Ah." Kristoph again considered a glass of malt. He also considered asking for an illistrated chart of the marital ties between Gallifreyan families.

"Kristoph, Annice wants you to know that there has been no adultery committed by Lady Arrette, especially not with the young man she brought to Calliope's party. He is her half brother - Annice 's son."

Kristoph raised an eyebrow at this revelation.

"Marion, my dear, do you recall that the ill-fated Anne Boleyn was accused among other things of just that sort of inappropriate relationship with her own brother."

Kristoph winked at Marion, but with public floggings on the cards she wasn't reassured. Nor was Annice Amycus.

"I am unfamiliar with that name," she said. "My husband and I keep a private household, rarely taking part in social gatherings."

"It was a joke that fell flat," Kristoph assured her. "Your explanation of the situation is appreciated. I presume that Lord Arrette is deaf to this easily proven truth?"

"He is not willing to listen to anyone on the subject," the distressed lady answered. "That is why I hoped you would be more open to explanation. The whole adultery accusation comes from his own over-agitated imagination. There has been no such thing. But Arrette is an old man and his wife young and pretty. He has let himself imagine far too much."

"It seems so," Kristoph agreed. "Fortunately he has not made his claim yet. When he does I will make it incumbent upon him to prove any wrongdoing. If there has been none, there can be no evidence of it. "

"Thank you, Excellency," Annice said fervently. "I have been told of your wisdom. Now I know it."

"I can make no promises," Kristoph reminded her. "There is certainly no way to keep any of this discreet while Lord Arrette continues to make his public denouncements. I am sorry for the embarrassment this brings to the parties involved."

"We will bear it with what dignity we can muster," Annice Amycus answered. "I shall take my leave of you now."

She rose and bowed formally to both the Lord High President and his wife, then turned and left the chamber with a speed of one who felt completely out of her depth in their presence.

"I have talked to Caretakers who were less conscious of the social gap than she was," Marion noted when she was gone. "She was completely tongue tied in the Conservatory. This was the only private place I thought I could bring her."

"That is quite all right," Kristoph replied. "Though I wouldn't want to set a precedent. Nobody should expect to cut through procedure by bringing their issues to me through you. Don't be afraid to refuse such entreaties in future. "

"I won't," Marion promised. "If women are guaranteed equal access to those procedures along with the men."

"This is not a feminist issue," Kristoph responded.

"I'm not sure about that. Lady Arrette is being accused of a crime under Gallifreyan law but has almost no way to defend herself. Her husband is blackening her name all over the place. Annice couldn't find any other means of explaining what went on at Calliope's ball except by asking one of the waiters to seat her near me in the cafe."

Kristoph decided it was time he had a real drink and poured himself one.

"On the subject of Calliope's ball," he said. "Lord Patriclian spoke to me earlier today."

"Exactly my point, " Marion interjected. "Lord Patriclian only has to sidle up to you in a Citadel corridor to get his point made."

"Lord Patriclian doesn't sidle," Kristoph replied. "And the point he brought to my attention has an interesting bearing on the Arrette case. He said that Lady Arrette and her consort ..."

"Half brother," Marion corrected him. "And Anne Boleyn was framed by Thomas Cromwell."

"Anne Boleyn doesn't come under my jurisdiction, I am happy to say. The couple who drew so much attention to themselves on the dance floor were not meant to be at the party. Neither are friends of Calliope or her husband. Nor are they part of the 'must have ' list that Patriclian invited for the sake of expedience. Even Lord and Lady Oakdaene have a higher social profile than Lady Arrette. The invitation card appears to be fake."

Kristoph went to his desk and picked up a gilded card inside a plastic cover. Marion looked at it closely and agreed that there was something not quite right about the invitation. But why would anyone fake such a thing?

“Excellent question, and one I will be asking in the course of time. Lord Arrette had no invitation at all. He was a gatecrasher. I will also be asking how he found out where his wife was on that evening. There is something very odd going on.”

“That is an understatement,” Marion conceded. “But who would concoct such a conspiracy?”

“If I knew, I would have a lot less unanswered questions,” Kristoph remarked. “I think it is high time domestic quarrels were placed under a lower rung of the judicial system than the Panopticon. We need some kind of civil court to hear the sort of complaints Lord Arrette has been making.

"Gallifrey needs more than that," Marion said. "It needs an end to laws that make adultery a crime. That sort of thing belongs with Henry VIII or in some backwards place that treats women as the possessions of men. Then it needs a system of no-fault divorce so that Lady Arrette can be free of a noisy boorish man like her husband and make a new start for herself."

"You are perfectly right," Kristoph told her. "On every point. But even if I could get that sort of reform Bill heard in the Panopticon it will take years of debate and amendments. It won't help anyone right now."

"Why can't you do something? You are Lord High President?" Marion pointed out. "Are any of those words meaningful or is it just an important sounding title for a head of state with no power?"

"That's a question I often ask myself," Kristoph answered with a deep sigh. "I have given serious thought to resigning my Presidency lately."

"You have?" Marion stood up and came closer to him. He gently pulled her down on his knee and held her close.

"I keep coming up with reasons not to - seeing through the devolution Bill for Athenica, ensuring no corruption creeps into the Arcadian Construction project, doing what I can to keep Lady Arrette from a public flogging. And every time I think of one of those reasons to stay I feel guilty because I have betrayed my one reason to give up the whole thing - having more time to look after you."

"I don't need looking after," Marion assured him. "I'm so much better now. I want you to remain as president and make the position less toothless."

Kristoph reached to kiss her on the lips. He drew her even closer, comforted by the warmth of her body and the beating if her one heart next to his own two hearts. He felt as if the burdens that had made him consider resignation had fallen from his shoulders.

Then his Aide burst into the chamber followed by the Castellan. Neither man paid any attention to the fact that the Lord High President's wife was sitting on his lap. She stood up anyway. He reached for her hand, bidding her to remain at his side as he nodded to Castellan Braxietel, bidding him wordlessly to explain the urgency of his arrival.

"Lord Arrette is dead," Pól Braxietel said quickly. "He has been murdered, here in the Citadel itself."