Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Millie walked along the Brighton seafront.

No, she reminded herself with a proud toss of her head. Miss Millicent Dawson sauntered along the promenade with a carefree air. She was wearing a dress of green with a lemon coloured leaf pattern and a wide hat trimmed with yellow ribbons to match.

She looked and felt like a young woman instead of a ‘girl’. She looked and felt, as the tipped hats of many young men testified, attractive, but in a respectable way that meant they kept to hat tipping and polite nods.

Most importantly she felt and looked, and was on the way to becoming, something more than a kitchen maid. While the Mistresses and Strax were in the South of France Madam had enrolled her in a six month course at the Brighton School of Housekeeping and Domestic Sciences. She was well on the way, now, to obtaining the diploma which would enable her to be styled ‘Domestic Manager’, which was the new word, apparently, for a qualified housekeeper.

Joe was with her, lodged in the same respectable boarding house. He was growing strong on breakfasts and suppers cooked by somebody else and lunches of fish and chips or meat pies purchased in the town. Between meals he played on the beach or strolled along the pier enjoying the fresh, clean air of the seaside after a lifetime of London grime.

In short, they were both having a good time. She had worried, at first, about the text books of household theory and the essays to be written. Although she COULD read and write, she had never been required to compose more than a note to go with the laundry hamper before. After a brief panic she settleda down to the work, enjoying the books and imagining how their scientific methods of household management could be applied to the house in Paternoster Row. Her essays received good marks and compliments on her fine, clear handwriting.

This was Sunday afternoon. There were no lessons. She was free to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh sea air. She was by the sea wall, with the beach to her left. Joe was down there, running and turning cartwheels in the sand, messing up his Sunday clothes, but she didn’t care about that. Laundry was included in the price of their board. She only had to put the clothes in a hamper and they would be attended to.

Millie wasn’t lazy, by any means, but she liked having her laundry, her meals, and even her bed made by somebody else for the first time in her life. She liked feeling that she wasn’t the lowliest in a strictly defined pecking order of Victorian house servants.

She liked the look of West Pier in the near distance. Joe could carry on playing on the sands, but she fancied ordering a pot of tea at the little place near the new pavilion.

“Excuse me, miss,” said a gentleman in a brown suit who tipped his hat to her. “The boy on the beach there… is he…”

The gentleman looked at her closely. She was seventeen, going on eighteen. Joe was ten. He visibly revised his guess.

“My brother,” she said quickly. Not strictly true, but in keeping with her assumed status. “Is… is everything all right?”

“I should advise you to keep a closer eye on him,” the gentleman said. He reached into his pocket and handed Millie a business card made of crisp, cream coloured card. In sharp, clear letters it introduced Detective Sergeant Michael Dowling of the London Metropolitan Police Force.

The famous address at Scotland Yard was in the top corner.

Millie reached in her own pocket and handed him a delicate card with a spray of pink flowers in one corner and her own name in the centre. They were a shilling for a dozen at a little shop off the Marine Parade. She had found them to be a fad amongst the young women on the course who exchanged name cards with each other.

“We have the same initials,” Millie said, quite out of the blue. ‘I’m Millicent Dawson.”

“So I see,” Sergeant Dowling told her, pocketing the card. “Delighted to meet you, Miss Dawson. But… the boy….”

“Yes… of course….” She turned to look at Joe. He seemed to be safe enough. “Why… did you say I should keep an eye on him?”

“There have been three boys near to his age found dead in the past month,” the Sergeant answered. “It has been kept from public knowledge at the behest of the Brighton and Hove council. They don’t wish to scare off visitors, but a number of officers have been sent from London to investigate….”

Millie looked at the card again, then at Joe, then back at the Sergeant. Perhaps it was life at Paternoster Row with the Mistresses and Strax, where nothing had ever been what might be expected, that made her hesitate. It was easy enough to get cards printed. A shilling a dozen off the Marine Parade. And her mother, Miss Jenny and Madame had all warned her about a certain type of man who frequented the promenade, even if all three had possibly meant something quite different to watch out for. And not that she was completely naïve, anyway. She was an East End girl, after all.

But on balance as she looked at neatly combed brown hair, clear grey eyes and a firmly set jaw in a face that could be considered handsome enough, she felt she ought to trust this man, for the moment, at least.

“Three boys?” Her mouth felt oddly dry as she said that. “Killed… how?”

“That’s something we’re not giving out to the public, yet,” the Sergeant answered, and there was a look in those grey eyes and a set to his mouth that made her feel he was in deadly earnest.

She turned from him and ran to the railing looking over the beach. She called to Joe anxiously. The boy turned to look at her then, to her relief, came running across the sand to the steps.

“Whatssup?” he asked, taking in her anxious expression.

“Nothing’s ‘up’,” answered Sergeant Dowling with a disarming grin. “I’ve just invited your sister to have a pot of tea with me on the pier, and since I’m you to come along as chaperone.”

“Err…urrf… all right….” Joe drawled, his eyes narrowing at the ‘sister’ bit but his London urchin instinct accepting the idea of free food.

He didn’t really want tea, but he drank a glass of milk and then took a muffin with him along with a handful of pennies to put in the mechanical amusements placed along the pier. Millie could see him all the way as she ate thin sandwiches and drank tea in as genteel a manner as she could muster.

“So… you’re a policeman?” she queried of her companion. “I’ve never had tea with a policeman before.”

She didn’t mean to sound flirtatious, but it was better than going straight into questions about missing boys.

Sergeant Dowling made small talk for a little while before coming to his point.

“I would not have been so forward with a respectable young lady,” he assured her. “But your Joe looked so like the boys who’ve died. I felt I had to warn you. My guv’nor would think I’ve gone soft, and if he knew I’d told you any details, he’d be livid. But still….”

He reached into his inside pocket and found a brown envelope containing very good, detailed drawings of boys. Millie was struck at once by how much they did look like Joe – untameable hair, cheeky faces that were strangers to daily washing.

The next thing that struck her was that these were drawings, not photographs.

These boys were dead.

“It was so awful you can’t show their real pictures?”

Michael Dowling nodded. He hadn’t said anything. The sharp young woman had guessed. His guv’nor couldn’t object.

“Just boys,” she added. “Not… older men, not girls or… women?”

“Just boys around the age of twelve to fourteen. The guv’nor said he’d seen all sorts of ‘perversions’ in his time. He was just a constable when Jack the Ripper was about Whitechapel. He said this was worse.”

Worse than the mutilated victims of a crime still talked about a generation later? Millie knew of those murders as warnings not to be out and about after dark and to steer herself towards a respectable career path.

In Paternoster Row she had heard whispers that Jack was secretly stopped by her Mistress by means best not dwelt upon.

She wondered what Madame Vastra would make of this.

She found herself taking a professional interest in the case, wondering what Madame or Miss Jenny would think. She tried to place the facts in her mind as they might.

By asking direct and indirect questions she discovered that the first boy, George Sykes, the eldest victim, newly employed as a printer’s apprentice, had been found under the old and soon to be dismantled Chain Link Pier. The youngest, Albert Jenkins, was still a pupil at Hove free school. He had been found very early in the morning by a gentleman walking his dog.

The third, known only as ‘Davie’ was an urchin who made money running errands for the stall holders and barrow men who sold cockles and jellied eels and other delicacies along the promenade.

“I talked to a lot of those people,” Michael said. “They all said he was a good lad. I’m sure they all were. The odd thing is that nothing connects them except they’re near enough the same age and appearance and they’re all dead.”

“It’s very sad,” Millie answered him. “Especially when it happened in such a nice place as this… where people come to enjoy themselves.”

“Yes, indeed,” Michael agreed. “I only wish I were here for enjoyment, instead of work.”

That reminded Millie that she wasn’t quite a lady of leisure herself. She felt a tinge of guilt at having appeared to be more than she was. She found herself explaining about the housekeeping course at her employer’s expense.

She did slightly represent her position at Paternoster Row as rather higher than a kitchen maid, of course. She had SOME pride, and he was a detective, after all, not an ordinary bobby who might well court a girl of her class.

Court? Oh, well, that was getting ahead of herself. She had only just met him.

But Michael was happy to leave business aside and talk as if they were meeting for a friendly pot of tea between people of equal social standing. He ordered a second pot and another muffin for Joe and stretched the occasion out. He told her of his own background, growing up in a slightly better part of London than the East End, choosing the police force as a career, working hard for his promotion and translation to the plain clothes section, something he did by the age of twenty-five, an achievement in itself.

Before Millie noticed, the afternoon had passed in pleasant conversation. She mentioned that she and Joe were expected back at the boarding house for their evening meal. Michael immediately offered to walk with them, whether because he wanted to ensure their safety or out of a desire to further stretch out the pleasant afternoon she didn’t know or care. A young man walked with her and said goodbye on the doorstep. It was the sort of thing that had never happened to her before, and she liked it.

Monday morning meant back to the institute and a lecture first thing about the ergonomic organisation of domestic tasks. Ergonomic was a strange new word, but Millie understood it to mean finding labour saving ways of doing housework. That sounded good to her.

She was thinking about it as she walked along North Gardens, the respectable garden terrace where Mrs Acres, a respectable widow, ran a respectable boarding house for respectable gentlewomen. Even Detective Sergeant Michael Dowling wasn’t in her mind just now, either as a policeman on a case or as a prospective beau. She was dutifully thinking about housekeeping.

At the end of the long terrace was a house that had been empty for some time. The windows were blank and the garden thoroughly overgrown. Millie had looked at it often, harbouring a dream of being able to emulate Mrs Acres and run her own boarding house for gentlewomen with a couple of maids doing the hard work – ergonomically of course. That would be a good future for a girl like her, beyond a life of service to people like her present mistresses.

As she looked at the overgrown garden this morning, something caught her eye that drove all such domestic dreams from her mind. Her heart beat fast in a chest gripped by an icy hand as she pushed open the dilapidated gate and looked closer.

It was a body – milk white, the skin glossy and unnatural. He was dressed as a butcher’s delivery boy. The apron was pulled over his face. Millie didn’t move it. She didn’t want to see his dead features. He was probably going to look a bit like Joe, who was back at the boarding house making himself useful to Mrs Acres in return for today’s midday meal.

She didn’t want to touch the body, but she knew she had to. She pulled off one of her gloves and reached to the cold white hand. She felt the fingers bend as if there were no bones in them. The wrist twisted as if that, too, was just cold flesh with no skeleton within it.

She stood up and looked around at respectable North Gardens where such things weren’t supposed to happen and did what a girl like her ought to do in a horrifying situation like this.

She screamed.

She screamed loudly and incessantly until people came from the garden terraces to see what was wrong and the shrill sound of police whistles converged on the scene.

After that things happened quickly. But most of them happened without her. A respectable lady walked her back to respectable Mrs Acres who plied her with tea for the awful, terrible shock and on the one hand told her not to think about the ghastly thing she had seen and on the other asked her searching questions about the murder scene. As a respectable landlady, Mrs Acres wasn’t one to gossip, of course. But when her equally respectable neighbours asked her what she knew about it all she was going to be armed with the fullest information.

The gentlewomen who resided with Mrs Acres were not the sort who regularly had policemen asking after them, of course, but when one of her guests was a witness to a ‘terrible scene’ it was a different matter. She revelled in the excitement of having a uniformed constable come to take Millie’s statement of what she had seen on this fateful morning.

When, in the late afternoon an actual plain clothes Scotland Yard Officer came to interview the chief witness Mrs Acres was visibly thrilled. She showed Detective Sergeant Dowling into her best parlour and went to fetch a pot of tea.

“Hai don’t, of course, hold with gentleman callers,” she said with careful attention to her ‘h’s’, even ones that didn’t need to be there. “But a detective from London is ha different matter, hentirely.”

Michael waited until she was out of earshot before saying anything to Millie.

“Yes,” he began, answering a question she hadn’t even asked. “George Peabody, butcher’s boy, is another of the ‘special’ cases.”

“The others were like that… white and… and boneless.”

“Not quite boneless,” Michael corrected her. “When the others were autopsied, the bones were there… but it was as if all the calcium… the substance that makes bones hard… had been removed, leaving them soft and pliable.”

“How could that happen?” Millie asked. “People in the East End say that Jack the Ripper took parts of the bodies, but not like that.”

“That’s the part that has us all puzzled,” Michael admitted. “There is nothing any Human being could do to another Human being that corresponds to these murders.”

Millie thought of the people she lived with. Two of them were not Human Beings. But neither Madame nor Strax could do that, either.

“No Human.…” There was a question in those two words as well as in Millie’s expression.

“My guv’nor isn’t entertaining the possibility of it being anything OTHER than a Human murderer. He gave one of my colleagues a right dressing down for mentioning a penny dreadful about vampires that he’d read….”

“But vampires drink blood, not calcium,” Millie noted. She had never read a penny dreadful about such things. She didn’t need to living in Paternoster Row. She had learnt many things that had nothing to do with kitchen work or housekeeping under that roof.

“I think my guv’nor is wrong,” Michael added.

Millie said nothing but her expression must have given something away.

“This doesn’t seem to surprise you,” Michael said. “Or distress you, either.”

Again she said nothing.

“You’re not really as shocked at finding the body as your landlady thinks, either. She was urging me to be gentle with my questioning. She thought you’d be swooning and having the vapours.”

Millie laughed softly.

“I’m a bit stronger than Mrs Acres thinks. I WAS shocked at finding the poor boy like that. Who wouldn’t be. But I’m not going to keep fainting now its over. As for the other thing… I can’t really explain to you, but I do know there are things that aren’t Human in this world and I think you should be looking at the possibility that some kind of monster is at large. Its not what Scotland Yard does, usually, but this isn’t usual.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Michael told her. “Having somebody to talk to who understands these things is such a relief. The trouble is, how to find a non-human monster using police methods meant to investigate Human murders.”

“I don’t see why the method should be any different,” Millie answered him. “You still have to be diligent and patient and look at every clue very carefully and closely.”

Millie was pleased with that. ‘Diligent’ wasn’t a word she got to use very often in conversation. She counted it as part of her elevation from kitchen maid to something better that this summer had been all about.

Michael smiled widely. “You are quite right. I should have known better. But where do you think I should start, in that case?”

“Well.. I was wondering…. All the other bodies… they were found in different parts of the town, I suppose?”

“Yes, they were.”

“But none of those were near an empty house where a murderer – of any species – might be hiding. Suppose he – or it – didn’t have time to move the body somewhere else?”

“That’s an interesting idea,” Michael agreed. “I know the house wasn’t investigated by the local police because they couldn’t find the owner.”

“Then you can’t do that, either?”

“No,” Michael admitted. “Unless.…”

He seemed to be thinking about something, then he shook his head.

“No, it’s a ridiculous idea and I should be ashamed to think it, even.”

“What idea?” Millie questioned.

“No…. Really. It was an appalling thought.”


“I… well… you see, a policeman can enter private property if he has suspicion that a crime is taking place… a burglary for instance. I actually thought for one terrible moment, of suggesting that you might… break a window or some such thing. But… to ask a decent young woman to do such a thing… it is terrible. You must think I am some kind of….”

“No… I don’t think bad of you. It could work.”

“No. It is terrible. I couldn’t ask a lady to do it.”

“Michael, I’m not a lady. I’m from Whitechapel. I am a kitchen maid. I hope to be more, especially with the diploma, but I’m just a girl from east London. I know about crime. Nearly everyone in my neighbourhood had done something. Breaking a window is hardly the worst thing I could imagine.”

“You are a lady to me,” Michael said with a warm smile. “And asking you to be involved in this tawdry business is bad enough. It’s not work for the fairer sex.”

Millie smiled widely and wondered what Madame Vastra or Miss Jenny would say to that. They had both been involved in far more ‘tawdry’ business and their views about what the ‘fairer sex’ could do was clear enough.

“I’m not one of these ‘modern’ women who want the vote and to do men’s jobs,” she said. “But, again, I’m from the East End. I’ve seen nasty things before. Besides, I found the boy this morning. I’m not likely to see anything worse than that in my entire life.”

“That is true. But still… I’ll find another way to investigate the house. It was absurdly bad manners to even suggest it.”

“All right. No house breaking. But if there is any other way I can help, please ask.”

Michael was about to speak again when Mrs Acres looked in at the door.

“Oh, Miss Dawson, hai whondered if your Joe was hin here with you,” she said. “Hai’ve just finished making happle tarts for tonight’s dessert and as he helped me to peel the happles, hai thought he dheserved a little treat.”

“No, he isn’t here,” Millie answered.

“Strange. I thought he had come this way,” Mrs Acres said. “Whell, if you see him, send him halong to the kitchen. He’s such a good young bhoy.”

Mrs Acres turned away as Michael and Millie looked at each other in horror.

“Did he overhear us?” Michael asked. “Could he have….”

“I think he might have,” Millie replied in a choked voice. “And its just the sort of thing he would do…. If he thought it would help us.”

Michael jumped up from his seat first. Millie spent one precious second steadying one of Mrs Acres’ best china cups that had tipped over before rushing after him, out through the front door and down the garden path. She was level with him as they reached the street and ran for the dark house at the end of the row.

They slowed as they crept up the overgrown path and worked their way around the side of the house to where they found a small broken window next to a kitchen door that swung inwards when Michael touched it.

“Clever boy, making sure we can get in easily,” he remarked, but without humour. Joe could be in terrible trouble within this empty house. Millie didn’t say anything in reply. Her mouth was dry with fear.

It was still light outside on a summer evening, but with all of the windows covered in blinds the rooms were grey and shadowy. They passed from the kitchen along a stone flagged corridor to the hallway where the genteel living quarters were to be found. Whoever used to live in the house had left most of their furniture covered over with linen cloths and a layer of dust. The walls of the hallway were covered in paintings of military campaigns and mounted souvenirs of such campaigns like a silver cavalry sword and a shield with a native African look to it.

All seemed quiet enough until they entered the front parlour. There was a movement behind the long sofa and an involuntary sneeze.

“Joe!” Millie exclaimed in a loud whisper. The boy stood and crept towards her. She was astonished by his pale face and the way he trembled when she reached out to him.

“What did you see, boy?” Michael asked him. “Where is it?”

“Uh… uhhhh… up….” Joe stammered, pointing to the ceiling. “It… it…”

Michael moved quickly. Millie hesitated, torn three ways. She was in mortal dread of what was on the top floor of the house, and her first instinct was to look after Joe.

But she also felt strongly that she should help Michael.

“If you’re both there I can stand to go back up,” Joe said in a still trembling whisper.

“Are you sure?” Millie answered.

“Yes,” he said decisively. That was enough for her. Clasping Joe’s clammy hand she crept to the bottom of the stairs and climbed up carefully and quietly.

At the turn of the stairs onto the first landing she saw another display of antique weapons. A stand that had contained a sword of some sort had been wrenched from the wall. Beneath it was a long spear and a curving knife, both of exotic foreign make. Millie grabbed the spear, its wooden stave taller than she was, and for good measure thrust the knife into Joe’s hand. Thus armed, neither quite knowing whether they could dare use their weapons, they headed towards the sound of Michael’s voice in the master bedroom.

It was his voice, no doubt about that. But curiously, he was speaking in another language. Millie noticed that before they crept into the room and saw him confronting the monster.

It WAS most certainly a monster in every definition Millie knew of the word. It was at least seven feet tall, white as milk, and human shaped only in the very loosest way. The word, had she known it, was amorphous. Its body swelled and shifted constantly as it reared forward and then retreated before Michael’s sword thrust.

“Ahhhhh!” it rasped, a dark slit of a mouth opening in what might be called its head. “Guardian, let us speak the native language of this world in honour of our visitors. Let them know the truth of it.”

Michael visibly stiffened but didn’t look around as they took a few tentative steps closer.

“The only truth they need to know is that you are a murderer and a thing of evil,” he answered, thrusting his sword forward again and this time managing to wound the creature before ducking away from arms that elongated and formed strangling fingers which almost reached his neck.

The wound was slight. The skin barely penetrated, but Millie saw what had to be the creature’s blood, a thick, colourless goo, leaking out.

Michael thrust again, this time causing a long slash that spilt more of the goo, but the creature wasn’t finished. Again, it stretched out long arms and this time it fixed around Michael’s neck.

‘No!” Millie cried and ran forward with the spear, thrusting and slashing twice at what might have been a stomach. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Joe slip past her with the knife. He slashed at the strangling limbs that let go of Michael and reached for him instead. Joe nimbly ducked and rolled out of reach. It turned towards Millie, but she clung to her spear fiercely. Michael re-joined the fight with his sword.

‘Aim for the centre of the head,” he told her, realising that her spear afforded a longer reach. “Its central nervous system is there.”

She thrust higher and the spearhead of iron pulled from the soil of Africa penetrated the creature from goodness knows where. Its slit mouth opened to cry out in agony, and it began to crumple before her eyes, the stumps of legs moulding into the huge trunk that folded in on itself until all that remained was a milky-white puddle that the wounded head collapsed into.

“Its over,” Michael said quietly. He threw down his sword. Millie did the same. Joe rather more reluctantly dropped the knife and came to her side.

“Is it over?” she asked with an edge to her voice. “If so, I think you need to explain something.”

“Yes, I do. But not here. Let’s return to Mrs Acres’ drawing room before we’re missed. In that calm place I will tell you everything, I promise.”

Millie was not at all certain she wanted to do that. She kept Joe on her right hand side, away from him and didn’t let Michael take her arm at all.

Mrs Acres had missed them. When they stepped back into the house she looked at them inquiringly.

“Just a little walk in the late sunshine,” Michael explained to her. She seemed to accept that readily enough.

“Supper is halmost ready. Whould yhou like to join us, Dhetective Sergeant,” she asked. “Hai wouldn’t hallow it normally, but this is han hexeption.”

Millie got ready to say that he couldn’t stay, but he accepted quickly and that was that. She had no time to argue. He caught a look at herself in a mirror and hurried off to tidy her hair and change a blouse that had monster goo on the collar before Mrs Acres’ gentlewomen plus Joe and Michael representing the male gender gathered in the dining room.

There was no opportunity to talk privately, of course. Mrs Acres monopolised Michael, asking him about his work with the London police. Millie paid close attention to his answers to those questions. Nobody but Michael was aware of Millie’s suspicious glances towards him.

When the meal was over she lost no time in appropriating Mrs Acres’ best parlour again. She sat with a firm, fierce expression she hoped was worthy of Madame Vastra at her most acerbic.

“You’re not really Detective Sergeant Michael Dowling,” she said accusingly. “You don’t come from Chiswick. You’re not even human.”

“As far as it goes, I AM Michael Dowling,” he answered. “I took the name from a child who died in infancy. I DID join the police force. My career is real. But you are quite right. I am not from Chiswick, or indeed, from Earth.”

He paused, expecting Millie to say something.

She didn’t. She deliberately kept her stern expression.

“I was sent to Earth as an agent of my government to track down criminals who escaped from my world. Being a London policeman was a cover for my investigations. I arrested three such renegades over the years. They’re living out miserable lives in human prisons and will never see our home world again, which is a dreadful punishment. Our planet is more beautiful than I could begin to describe. Exile from it is a hard thing.”

Still Millie said nothing.

“When I heard of the murders here in Brighton I knew they were the foul deeds of one of our worst criminals. The shape you saw… that is the result of an ionising chamber, our punishment for murderers.”

“You mean it used to look like you… like us… normal.”

Millie wasn’t at all sure if ‘normal’ was a word she ought to use coming from Paternoster Row where she had become accustomed to a lizard lady and… whatever Strax was… but it was the only word she could think of.

“Yes. And yes, I can see by your face that you think it is horrific. But is it any worse than the forms of execution humans have used – beheading, drawing and quartering, even the supposedly humane hanging that goes on? Our way allows the criminal to live, in a limited form, at least.

Millie didn’t feel qualified to make a judgement.

“This criminal did what nobody expected it to do… it escaped from our world. Its arrival on this world was unfortunate for the human race… especially for the victims it took… boys who were not quite men… whose bones were still growing, still rich with the minerals that the criminal had taken away. It killed those boys to try to replenish itself.”

“That’s horrible.”

“It is,” Michael agreed. “And it is only by sheer luck that I was sent to Brighton as part of the investigation. Even greater luck that I met you… and that we both guessed where the criminal had made its lair.”

“Yes…” Millie’s face took on an even sterner appearance. “That’s the other thing. When you saw me and Joe yesterday….” She paused. Was it really only yesterday that she had been concerned only with her housekeeping diploma and wearing nice dresses while walking along the promenade.

“Was it just chance that we met… or did you see Joe… who was the right age to be a victim… and think you might use us… as… as… bait.”

“I promise you,” Michael said in a voice loaded with sincerity. “On my honour as a Sirenian…”

“Sirenian? Is that what you are? But that means nothing to me… I don’t know how honourable they are…”

“Then as an officer of the London Metropolitan Police Force… on the honour of that institution… will you accept that?”

Millie nodded. She could accept and understand that.

“When I saw you and Joe… my only thought was to protect you both. I wanted to keep you and him safe. I hadn’t seen any of the boys before they died… only their pitiful bodies. Joe… running and playing on the beach… I had to make sure he didn’t become one of those victims. That’s the truth.”

Millie believed him. But she kept her poise a little longer. She watched his face carefully.

“Now that you’ve found your criminal… will you go back to your world?” she asked. “You said it was beautiful. You said it was hard to be an exile from it. So….”

“I still have a mission here. This is one of the planets where people look the same as us. It is a place where our wrongdoers might come to. I have a job to do. Besides… there could be compensations. If… if….”

He paused and looked at her carefully. She tried to keep up her steely expression, but then he reached out and touched her hand. She didn’t withdraw it.

“Since my guv’nor doesn’t know that the murderer has been destroyed I’ll be here in Brighton for a while longer. Do you think… might I walk with you on the promenade… take tea… perhaps go to the theatre.”

“Only at the weekend,” Millie answered. “I have my studies on weekdays. And… and don’t forget that Mrs Acres doesn’t ‘hallow’ gentleman callers.”

“I’ve dealt with a Sirenian criminal this evening. I think I can deal with Mrs Acres,” Michael answered. Millie smiled, not just because of his little joke, but because she was imagining what might happen later in the year, when they were both back in London, and this alien from another world, living as a human policeman, called on her at Paternoster Row.

She had a feeling he would fit in there very well, indeed.