Chrístõ looked at Julia and smiled. She looked utterly beautiful and graceful in the blue and white striped cotton dress, cardigan and wide brimmed hat with silk stockings and high heeled shoes. She could have belonged to just about any period of Human history from the 1920s onwards.

It was 1934, in fact, and she lingered by the magazine stall on the railway station at Calais while he organised a porter to transport the collection of suitcases and hatboxes that she had insisted she needed for the weekend. Julia paid for the magazines she had chosen and came to his side as he found the Wagon Lit that corresponded to their tickets and showed them to the conductor. The suitcases were promptly taken in hand and they were escorted to their first class compartment.

“Le Train Bleu,” Julia said as she ‘freshened up’ at the little washbasin and mirror. The train jerked once and started moving out of Calais station as she combed her hair. “It really is blue.”

“Of course,” Chrístõ replied. “It’s not as momentous as the Orient Express, but I thought you might enjoy travelling the old fashioned way through France and along the Riviera. We’ll have a quiet couple of days in Menton like fashionable young English people of this era. Just the thing we both need – a thoroughly relaxing week.”

“You certainly do,” Julia told him. “You look tired. Have you been overdoing it?”

“Not really. Just my usual activities.”

“Which means apart from a full time teaching job you’ve probably taken 3c backpacking on Beta Delta II for a weekend, then used the TARDIS to go back to the start of the same weekend to take the Chrysalids somewhere else, and then I bet you’ve been away in the TARDIS every evening with your Prydonian students doing all sorts of strange things.”

“3c are 4c now,” Chrístõ pointed out. “And I took them wind-surfing. But otherwise, that’s about right.”

“So for one week of one hundred and sixty-eight hours, how many hours have you actually lived?”

“Three hundred and thirty two,” he admitted after a quick calculation. “But there was a fair proportion of sleeping involved. And I had all the required meals.”

“If you keep on like that, you’ll live two years for every one the rest of us live.”

“I’m a Time Lord. I have plenty of years to spare. But this week is just for you, I promise.”

“Good. I’m ready. Let’s go to the dining car and see if we can spot any of the famous people who are supposed to frequent this train.”

That was the main reason for catching the train to the Riviera instead of simply going there by TARDIS. It was what Julia wanted to do. She had read about the train in an old novel and discovered that it was frequented by the cream of English aristocracy and celebrities heading for the Riviera.

There was probably some obscure regulation about using a TARDIS to indulge his fiancée’s interest in celebrity spotting, but other than that he could see no reason not to start the weekend this way. He liked train travel, especially old-fashioned steam trains. They were one of the reasons he liked coming to Earth in historical periods.

Calais was behind them by the time they were seated in the dining car. They were travelling through the French countryside, heading towards Paris. It was early November, the start of the Riviera season for those who could afford to escape the English winter. In this northern part of France the weather was still looking quite English. The sky was grey and rain blattered the windows, obscuring the view. But Julia wasn’t bothered about what was outside the train. She made sure she was seated with a good view of the dining carriage. Chrístõ had his back to most of it, but that didn’t stop him acting as Julia’s social guide. He closed his eyes and used his telepathic eye to scan the car. Julia touched the diamond in the brooch that adorned her dress and heard his voice in her head as he named half a dozen English lords and ladies who were heading south for the season. There was also an actress who had been well known on the London stage and had just made her first film. She was with an American producer who was wooing her with promises about Hollywood. Chrístõ had strong suspicions about his motives for taking her to his Riviera villa to discuss her future.

“I’ve never heard of her,” Julia pointed out. “Or him, either. So I don’t think she became a huge movie star.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve seen very many films from the late 1930s,” Chrístõ pointed out. “She might have had her share of the limelight for a while.”

“I hope so,” Julia said charitably. “But is there anyone REALLY famous here?”

“The lady seated on the right, is not, in fact, a member of the English aristocracy, but a Frenchwoman, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel,” Chrístõ told her. “You are wearing the twenty-fourth century incarnation of her Chanel No. 5 perfume which is already world famous but didn’t make her as much money as it should have due to rather unfortunate contractual arrangements. The lady with her is Vera Bate Lombardi who is related to the British Royal Family, but not closely enough to get her own dining car, it seems.”

Julia looked at the two women who were deep in conversation with each other. They were dressed in very masculine looking tweed clothes and had short hairstyles under their cloche hats. They were beautiful in their own way, but not as glamorous as she expected.

“They’re not… you know… attached to each other?” she asked, wondering about that unfeminine style of clothing and certain mannerisms they had.

“Not that I know of,” Chrístõ answered. “If you’re looking for that sort of thing, try those two gentlemen on the left. That is William Somerset Maugham, the very famous writer, and his lover, Frederick Gerald Haxton. Haxton is American and was deported from England after the last war as an undesirable alien, so they live in the Riviera where people with money can do as they please behind the closed gates of their villa estates.”

“I’ve heard of Maugham, but I’ve never read any of his books,” Julia admitted. “I didn’t know he had a boyfriend.” Both men were in their fifties, so boyfriend didn’t quite sound right, but it was the only word she knew to describe such a relationship. They, too, seemed caught up with each other and had no interest in conversing with anyone else on the train.

“At the table behind Madam Chanel,” Chrístõ added. “Is the real prize on this journey, if it’s famous people you want. Try not to look too closely, I think they’re probably trying to be incognito, but that is the Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson.”

“Really?” Julia was intrigued. “But he’s going to be king one day. Shouldn’t he have his own car?”

“That’s the point of being incognito,” Chrístõ said. “Don’t worry, those two men in dark suits sitting opposite Maugham and Haxton are undercover British intelligence keeping an eye on him. And the man in the corner over there is American intelligence keeping an eye on her. They all suspect her of being a spy for the German National Socialists and don’t like the interest his royal Highness is taking in her.”

Julia knew enough twentieth century history to know just why that would worry the authorities, but her sympathies leant, perhaps with romantic innocence, towards the lovers who just wanted to be together.

“It’s far more complicated than that,” Chrístõ told her. “But I can understand the desire to be with each other. I’ve missed you a lot since your last free weekend.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” Julia said, speaking out loud now they weren’t discussing any of the other passengers. “But I’m enjoying college. I’m getting on well in the practical and theoretical courses. It’s hard work. When I was at New Canberra High School I was the star of the gymnastics team. I stood out from the others. But the college took all the stars from all the high schools in the Beta Delta system, and now we’re all having to compete to stand out from each other. Some of the girls are VERY determined about it. All the talk is about the Olympiad. I would love to be chosen, but I’m not as obsessed about it as the others. I probably won’t do any gymnastics over this week, and I won’t feel at all guilty about it on the following Monday.”

“This restaurant car prides itself on its five course haute cuisine dinners,” Chrístõ pointed out with a teasing smile. “Will you be having pudding tonight, madam?”

Julia laughed. It was something of a running joke between them, although one with a serious undertone. The relationship between teenage gymnasts and food was a difficult one. If Julia was ever tempted by any of the ‘fad’ diets her friends talked about a fiancée who was not only a trained doctor but also telepathic would soon set her straight.

“I’m sure there will be a fresh fruit alternative,” she pointed out. Then she noticed that Chrístõ wasn’t paying attention to her. That was unusual in itself and made her curious rather than annoyed at being ignored. She half turned in her seat and noticed the well-dressed lady and gentleman who had entered the dining car and were being escorted to a table next to the two English secret service men. “Oh!” she said. “Chrístõ… did you know they were going to be on this train?”

“No, I didn’t,” he replied. “I wouldn’t have come if I had known. Try not to look at them. They’re seated well away from us. We might get away with it.”

He was, he thought, too much of his father’s son. They had the same tastes in so many things. Both fell in love with Earth women. Why wouldn’t they think about travelling on the Blue Train with those women? That they did so on the same weekend, on the same train, was a monumental coincidence, but that was all.

“We could leave the train,” Julia suggested. “We could go back to Calais and get the TARDIS and go onto another weekend. Or… just get off in Paris in the ordinary way and stay in a hotel for the night and take tomorrow’s Blue Train. It means one night less in Menton, but we’d have a day in Paris instead. I’d quite like to see Paris in this era. It’ll be dark when we get there, we won’t see anything from the train.”

Those were both sensible ideas. He should have considered them.

He didn’t.

“It is just a coincidence,” he insisted. “There’s no reason why it should be a problem. Besides… it’s lovely to see her.” Chrístõ looked past his own fiancée and gazed with a soft expression at the elegantly dressed lady who was being served blue cheese and walnut flan on a bed of green salad by a liveried waiter. His few memories of his mother were of faded beauty and tired eyes. She had a beautiful smile, especially reserved for her husband and son, but it came less readily to her in her failing years. Chrístõ’s hearts leapt as he looked at her now, smiling easily and laughing at something her husband had said to her. He would happily sit here all afternoon to see her laughing like that.

She is beautiful,” Julia agreed. “But this is wrong and you know it.”

“That man by the door is a Presidential Guard,” Chrístõ added. “This must be the time when my father was Lord High President of Gallifrey.” He laughed. “That makes two of them here incognito with an undercover man watching. My father and the Prince of Wales.”

“They’re going to the Riviera for the same reason… to be free of their responsibilities for a little while.”

“Yes, it seems so.”

“Well, between the Gallifreyan, British and American secret services, this has to be the safest railway carriage on Earth,” Julia said. “We’re all under the best of protection.”

“If I thought there was any reason to need them I’d much rather have a couple of Penne’s special forces,” Chrístõ answered. “Or a couple of the Celestial Intervention Agency men that Paracell Hext trains at his Tower. But there is no reason to expect anything but a peaceful journey. It’s a matter of historical record that Edward VIII abdicates in 1936 in order to marry that same lady he wants to go to the Riviera with.” He smiled wryly. “Actually, my father ‘abdicated’ the presidency, too, long before his expected term. I asked him once why he did that, and he said it was to spend more time with my mother. Much the same reason, but different circumstances.”

After lunch, the passengers split along distinct gender lines. The women went to the observation lounge where they drank iced water with lime and read magazines or chatted among themselves. Mrs Simpson went there. So did Miss Chanel and Miss Lombardi. Chrístõ’s mother did the same. Julia wondered if she should go, too.

“Yes, do,” Chrístõ told her. “You should be all right with the women. You’ve had enough lessons in etiquette from Valena and you’re used to meeting royalty. There’s nobody in there you need feel inferior to.”

The men went to the smoking car. Most of them lit cigars and ordered drinks from the bartender. Chrístõ’s father was one of the few who didn’t smoke, though he did have a glass of whiskey. Chrístõ ordered a soda and lime with ice. He drank it while idly focussing on the thoughts of the American agent who was supposed to be watching Mrs Simpson. The man was bored. So far the woman hadn’t done anything remotely treasonable. In the dining carriage, surrounded by so many other people, she hadn’t even done anything close to salacious. The British Prince and the American divorcee had behaved remarkably discreetly.

“Didn’t I ever introduce you to the pleasures of a good single malt?” a familiar voice asked. Chrístõ looked around to see his father standing close by. He slipped into the seat opposite him. “Yes, I know who you are. Our timelines have crossed often enough to give me a huge sense of déjà vu when I see you. Your young lady has grown up a bit since last time.”

“Yes, she has,” Chrístõ answered. He was actually having a bit of trouble remembering when in his father’s timeline they had last met. He gave up working it out. “We’re formally betrothed, now. This is a quiet week on the Riviera for us.”

“I had much the same idea,” his future father told him. “Your mother likes the South of France. It was one of the first places I took her when we were ‘courting’.”

“I didn’t know that,” Chrístõ answered. “Julia and I have stayed in the house in Parthenay, but I didn’t know you visited other parts of France. When I was a boy… it was hard for you to talk to me about my mother… and now I’m not home long enough to talk about anything much.”

“We’re Lords of Time, but we don’t make enough of it for ourselves.”

“I think we assume there is plenty of it in the future,” Chrístõ noted. “I hope that is true.” He looked towards the lounge in the adjoining carriage and carefully felt the feminine minds there. Julia was talking to the would-be Hollywood actress and Miss Chanel, who also had ideas about America. His mother was talking to Miss Lombardi and Mrs Simpson.

“When I first met her, she didn’t think she was special enough to have lunch with the literature professor I was pretending to be at the time,” his father remarked. “Now she’s holding her own with two of the most notoriously famous women of their day.”

“Was your Earth name Professor Higgins?” Chrístõ asked, knowing his father would recognise the literary allusion.

“No, but it wouldn’t have been far wrong. Except the creature of my fashioning loved me much more readily. Of course, as First Lady of Gallifrey, she actually ranks higher than all of them. But that’s our secret. They’re both all right for a while. We have some of that time we forgot to make for ourselves.”

He WAS his father, after all, even if his birth was still in the future. Chrístõ remembered him with that face when he was young. His father’s last regeneration happened when he was a schoolboy. In a lot of ways he was closer to him like this than in his proper time. And when he asked him about his mother, the questions he always wanted to ask about how they met, about the things they did together, he answered so much more easily. The pain of loss didn’t cloud the happy memories for his father. As Le Train Bleu sped through the French countryside and the autumn afternoon wore on, neither Time Lord noticed the passage of time, and for their species that was unusual.

Tea was served aboard the train mainly frequented by English aristocrats at four o’clock. It was starting to get dark outside and the lamps came on in the carriages. This meal was segregated on gender lines, still, as most of the women remained in the observation lounge and the men in the smoking car. It wasn’t until six o’clock that the parties began to break up. The train was approaching Paris. There was an hour wait at Gare du Nord. They had an opportunity to stretch their legs before dinner. That meant a change of clothes, shoes and hats for the ladies.

Chrístõ took Julia in a different direction to his parents on their walk. He had enjoyed the hours with his father, but it was better if he didn’t interact with his mother quite so much. Besides, he was in Paris with Julia. What could be more sublime, even if it was only for a short while.

When they returned to the train, they went to their compartment. Julia rested on the lower of the two bunks, reading the magazines she had bought in Calais. They were curious literature for a girl from the twenty-fourth century, being a mixture of 1930s fashion and make up advice, fiction of a romantic sort and profiles of the sort of celebrities that might frequent Le Train Bleu.

“There’s a rather mean article about Mrs Simpson in here,” she commented to Chrístõ, who was sitting in the armchair watching the streetlights of Paris as the train made its slow way around the city on the Grande Ceinture line. It would stop to pick up more passengers and an extra couple of sleeping carriages at Gare de Lyon before setting off across country again. “They make her out to be a complete man eater. Two husbands already and her eyes on the Prince of Wales… or the German Ambassador in London apparently. I think this writer would like her to take the German Ambassador back to Germany and never be seen in reputable English society again.”

“I think that might be the prevailing opinion about now,” Chrístõ responded. “But history is going to prove far more interesting than that. Do you still sympathise with her after reading such a character assassination?”

“Yes, I think I do,” Julia answered. “They love each other. They just want to be left in peace. People can’t help who they fall in love with. The other two, William and Gerald… they could both have made things easier for themselves by marrying women like society expected them to do. But they loved each other.”

“I think things are a lot more complicated than that in both cases,” Chrístõ commented. “But fundamentally, yes, you’re probably right. My father could have married a Gallifreyan woman and saved himself a lot of heartsache. But he loved my mother.”

“You talked to him, didn’t you?” Julia said. “I’m glad. I don’t think you and your father talk enough. You’re too busy.”

“There will be time,” Chrístõ answered her. “When we’re married and living in Mount Lœng House, and father and Valena and Garrick are in the Dower House, there will be plenty of time to sit and talk. It’s not so far off, now. Five years more freedom to explore the galaxies and be my own man. Then I’ll belong to Gallifrey for the rest of my life.”

“You’ll belong to me,” Julia reminded him.

“Yes, I will,” he admitted. He smiled. That was a good compensation.

There was a knock at the door. Chrístõ opened it, expecting the wagon lit conductor to tell them how long they would be stationery at Gare de Lyon and what time dinner would be served. He was surprised to see his father.

“I’m sorry to disturb you,” he said. “But there is a matter of concern, and you are the only one I can speak to about it.”

He stepped into the compartment and Chrístõ closed the door. Julia sat up on the bunk and straightened her clothes. Chrístõ offered his father the armchair but he remained standing.

“There are two men missing from the train,” he said, getting to the point. “The Presidential Guard who accompanied me and the American secret service man. They didn’t return from the excursions we all took at Gare du Nord.”

“If they simply missed the train, they will be waiting at Gare de Lyon,” Chrístõ pointed out. “The train goes insufferably slowly around the city on the Grande Ceinture. A taxi straight through the city centre would get them there with time to spare.”

“I considered that possibility,” his father said. “And it might be so, in which case there is nothing to worry about. But if they do not return….” He sighed. “I brought Marion to Earth to get away from the machinations of Gallifreyan politics. If they have followed us here….”

“As the American is also missing, it is possible that it is the machinations of Earth politics,” Chrístõ pointed out. “Either way, all we can do is remain vigilant until we know more. Is that why you told me? So that we can watch each other’s backs, as it were?”

“Something of that nature. You’re not trained in the techniques of the Celestial Intervention Agency, but you have your wits, as I have cause to know. Keep them about you, son.”

“I will,” Chrístõ promised. “Meantime, perhaps you should not leave mama alone, since there is no man watching out for you, now.”

“Quite so. I shall see you at dinner, if not before.”

He left. Chrístõ looked out of the window at the dark Parisian landscape and sighed. He had wanted to enjoy a quiet weekend, not get involved in a conspiracy.

“They might just have missed the train,” Julia pointed out.

“If that is the case, I hope father gives our agent a thorough telling off. It is disgraceful of him. If it is more… our TARDIS is in Calais where we left it. Father’s TARDIS is in Dover. They took the boat from England in order to enjoy the complete experience. Neither of us have any way to contact home if there is danger.”

“You are in the Celestial Intervention Agency,” Julia reminded him. “And your father used to be. I feel safe with both of you around.”

“Good. Because whatever the problem is, you shouldn’t worry about it. I’m going to step into the corridor while you get dressed for dinner. It’s a little early, but you can have aperitifs in the lounge with the ladies you kept company with this afternoon.”

“What will you be doing?” Julia asked.

“Watching at the station for our missing agents,” Chrístõ answered. “After that I shall be enjoying the five course dinner included in the price of the tickets and ensuring that you enjoy yours without worrying more than necessary about calories.”

He stepped out of the compartment and watched at the window as the train continued on its stop-start journey around Paris. As he did so, several of the characters in this potential mystery passed him by. Messrs Maugham and Haxton were in the same Wagon Lit as well as Miss Chanel and Miss Lombardi whose idea of dressing for dinner was, he noted, a variation on their masculine couture theme with long black skirts and men’s shirts and evening jackets. The Prince of Wales emerged from a compartment near the end of the Wagon Lit accompanied by the elegantly dressed American socialite who was subject of most of the society gossip of this era. They were obviously sharing a compartment, and that was fuel for the ongoing scandal if anyone chose to make it so. But Chrístõ wasn't interested in that.

The two British agents came out of another compartment in time to follow the VIP couple without appearing to be following them. Chrístõ had spent enough time in Paracell Hext’s company to appreciate the techniques of undercover men anywhere. These might prove trustworthy allies if the in potentia plot thickened.

Julia emerged from the compartment looking stunning in a twenty fourth century version of a 1930s cocktail dress. The fabric looked like taffeta but didn’t crease. The matching shoes were of a fabric that didn’t scuff and her carefully applied make up wouldn’t come off even if she was silly enough to stick her head out of the window into the steam from the locomotive pulling the train.

“You look magnificent,” he told her. She smiled happily at him. He left her in the corridor while he made the quickest change into dinner shirt and jacket that ever occurred on Le Train Bleu. When he emerged Julia had some news for him.

“Those two secret agents came running back to their compartment,” she said. “Actually running. They nearly knocked me over and didn’t even apologise. They haven’t come back, yet.”

“Odd, and possibly connected to the initial mystery, but I’m not going to worry about it, yet. Aperitifs in the lounge for you, my dear, and a cold wait on the station for me.”

His mother was already in the lounge, looking enticingly elegant. Chrístõ watched her longingly before his father called to him, reminding him that they had something important to do. The train was pulling into Gare de Lyon now and they had to watch out for both of the missing men.

Chrístõ hoped to see them waiting there, looking contrite and with simple explanations. That would have been the end of it. But there was no sign of them. He and his father both stepped down from the train and carefully watched the new passengers getting on while the extra carriages were shunted into place at the back.

Then they noticed one of the English agents alighting.

“What’s his game?” Chrístõ’s father wondered. “He should be protecting the Prince of Wales.”

“You go and protect him,” Chrístõ said. “And everyone else. I’ll follow this one”

It really ought to have been impossible for Chrístõ to tail the man as he walked through the magnificent station and emerged onto Place Diderot. He should have been aware that he was being followed, even though Chrístõ was at least as good as he was at being unnoticed. As it was, he got surprisingly close to the man just before he stepped into a shadowy alleyway. Chrístõ started to follow, then somebody hit him on the back of his head and he collapsed, unconscious.

He came round some time later feeling very cold. His dinner jacket had been stolen and his pockets had been rifled. Fortunately he wasn’t carrying very much except a few francs for tipping the waiters at dinner.

His watch was gone, but he was aware that at least half an hour had passed. Then he heard a train whistle. He pulled himself upright and began to run, folding time desperately. He couldn’t miss the train as well.

It was starting to move out of the station when he ran across the platform. A door swung open and he leapt for it. He almost missed and was in serious danger of being dragged under the train but strong arms that had protected him for as long as he could remember pulled him aboard.

“What happened?” his father asked, full of concern for him. “Are you hurt?”

“Not now,” he answered. “Did the agent come back?”

“Ten minutes ago.”

“The plot is definitely thickening,” Chrístõ observed. “I need to put my other dinner jacket on and comb my hair. Then we’d better go to dinner and give our ladies nothing to worry about.”

“I will talk to you later about this,” his father promised him.

He got changed quickly and made his way to the dining car. He seemed to be the last passenger to get there. Julia was sitting alone sipping something multi-coloured from a long glass. She looked relieved to see him. He didn’t worry her with details of his misadventure. He tried not to worry himself. He wanted to enjoy the very fine dinner with Julia. He ordered a bottle of champagne with the meal and poured for them both. Julia drank the champagne and ate her fill of the food.

If truth be told, she drank a bit too much of the champagne. Chrístõ blamed himself for being distracted by things he didn’t intend to be distracted by, like the presence of the two British secret agents and the absence of the American and Gallifreyan ones. She was very giddy by the time they had finished the meal. Even a strong cup of coffee had little effect on her.

“You’re going straight to bed,” he told her firmly. She didn’t object as he took her by the arm and guided her in a relatively straight line through the narrow corridors of the Wagon Lit until they reached their compartment. She sat on the edge of the bed and tried to unfasten her shoes. Between the champagne and the rattling of the carriage on the tracks she nearly fell over. Chrístõ bent and took off her shoes and stay-up silk stockings. He unfastened the back of her dress and lifted it off her and took the combs and pins from her hair. He used the special wipes that removed the twenty-fourth century make up from her face and then put her into the bed in her petticoat and underwear. He leaned forward and kissed her on the lips.

“I don’t think it was just the champagne,” he noted. “You will have a really sore head in the morning. And it will be a valuable lesson to you. Next time I’m late for dinner, stick to non-alcoholic aperitifs while you wait for me.”

“Don’t be late for dinner.”

“I’m a busy man,” he answered. “Sometimes I will be late for dinner. You’ll have to get used to that, sweetheart, and learn to forgive me when it happens.”

“I forgive you,” she said in a sleepy tone. He kissed her again and waited until he was sure she was asleep then he slipped out of the compartment, locking the door behind him. He was intending to find his father and talk to him about what happened outside the station and the continued absence of the other two men.

Instead he found himself witnessing a cold blooded murder.

The victim was one of the British agents. The murderer was the other agent. The victim’s scream was silenced as the murderer’s hands clasped around his neck and squeezed while he pushed him back against the outer door of the Wagon Lit. The door swung open and the victim leaned perilously over the threshold, buffeted by the rushing wind as the train sped through the countryside.

Chrístõ didn’t hesitate. He rushed to try to put a stop to the deed. He grappled with the killer and tried to grab the victim at the same time. He failed to do either. The victim fell. Chrístõ briefly saw his body flung down the banking beside the line while he himself clung to the outside handle of the door, once again dangling inches away from being dragged under the wheels of the train.

The murderer looked at him and sneered before slamming the door shut. He walked away as Christo clung on for dear life. He managed to get a foothold on the narrow edge of the footplate, and grasped hold of the edge of the window, but he couldn’t open it.

The train went into a tunnel. Chrístõ held on tightly as compressed air slammed him against the door and his ears rang with the noise. When the train emerged into the open air again he gasped for breath. He couldn’t move. There was nowhere to move to. He was trapped there until somebody spotted him, or the train slowed down, or he fell to his death.

He wasn’t sure which of those things was most likely to happen. He hoped somebody would come by. Somebody ought to. There should be a wagon lit conductor who attended to anyone who wanted room service during the night. He recalled that he hadn’t seen the man when he brought Julia back to their compartment. Had the murderer killed him, too? A conductor was small fry. He couldn’t be the main target. Somebody else was in danger, but Chrístõ couldn’t do anything about it because he was clinging onto the side of the train. His fingers were already numb. He was losing the sensation in his arms and legs. His ears rang with the sound of the wind rushing past his head. Any moment now, he was just going to fall off. And if that happened he was dead.

Just when he thought he couldn’t hold on any longer, the train began to slow. His body clock told him he had been trapped there for nearly an hour. It was a little after midnight. The train was due into the town of Dijon, one of the overnight stops it made.

Just a little longer, he told himself as the rushing noise lessened and the air pressure decreased. Then he saw a platform underneath him. The train slowed right down and stopped.

He let go and fell into a crumpled heap on the concrete platform. He lay there for half a minute willing his limbs to work on demand then he forced himself to stand. The door was still locked from the inside. He propelled himself along the side of the carriage until he reached the other door. He yanked it open and pulled himself up onto the train moments before the guard blew the whistle. This was only a very short stop. Le Train Bleu was off again.

He caught a glance of his reflection in the smoked glass door between two of the Wagon Lit. He was a mess. His face was black from soot blown into it. His hair was standing on end. His dinner jacket was in rags. He was scraped and bruised all over.

He must have been a startling sight when he ran through the dining car and into the lounge. If there had been a protection detail left to guard the Prince of Wales they would probably have pounced on him, but of course there wasn’t.

The Prince was playing cards with Chrístõ’s father. Both looked around in astonishment when he burst in. His father was the one who reached him and held him upright.

“The… agent… is… a…a… Haxian shape… shifter,” he managed to say. “He wants to kill.…”

Chrístõ couldn’t say any more for a while. He was in a near faint. The Prince of Wales stood and approached him. Chrístõ forced himself to stay conscious.

“My secret service agent is out to kill me?” he asked in astonishment. “That’s preposterous.”

“Not… you…” Chrístõ stammered. “Your… the… Mrs Sss….”

That was the best he could manage. But his father understood enough. He pressed him down onto a chair and ordered the Prince of Wales to get him a glass of brandy. The Prince didn’t actually pour drinks for himself. He called for a steward to do it, but he did reach into the pocket of his own dinner jacket for a handkerchief and used it to wipe Chrístõ’s face.

His father, meanwhile, had rushed away. As he slowly gathered his strength, fortified by the brandy, he was able to feel apprehensive. Now his father was up against the man who had nearly killed him, and a lady’s life was at stake.

Then the door to the lounge opened again. Mrs Simpson, hurriedly dressed in a fur lined coat over her nightdress and stockingless feet thrust into her evening shoes ran to her royal lover’s side. Chrístõ’s father followed behind. He assured the VIP couple that everything was all right, now.

“Some good men are dead,” he said. “An American agent back in Paris. By now I should think his body will have been found somewhere in the vicinity of Gare du Nord. The Haxian must have recognised him as dangerous to the plan and killed him. I rather suspect the body of MY agent is floating in the English Channel. I fear we have been travelling with an imposter for that long. He crossed Paris after killing the American to rendezvous with the British agent who had been tricked into meeting him outside Gare de Lyon. Again, there will have been a body found by now, but it is likely he has not yet been identified. The Haxian, of course, took his identity and returned to the train, having also struck down my son, here, who almost missed the train.”

“The imposter killed the genuine agent, and nearly did me in a second time,” Chrístõ noted. “Then he sought out his quarry.”

“Me.” Mrs Simpson shuddered. She clung to her Prince. “The killer was that close to me… his hands reaching out for my neck when my saviour burst in. He fought him with his bare hands… killed him stone dead. He pushed the body out of the train. It landed in the river.”

“I can’t say I’m sorry about that,” the Prince of Wales said. “It saves a trial. The men he killed… I’ll make sure their families know they died honourably. Posthumous honours… pensions for the widows… that sort of thing. But I can’t believe this man wanted to kill Wallis. Why? Who was he working for?”

“Your British government?” Mrs Simpson suggested to her lover with a wry smile. “My US government?”

“The Irish Free State government,” the Prince of Wales ventured. “There have been rumblings from there… Roman Catholic objections to a divorcee as my consort.”

“None of those,” Chrístõ’s father assured him. “Though I have no doubt it would have pleased all of them. Your Highness, madam, don’t let this incident worry you further. It is all over, now. I’m going to take my son back to his compartment and get him cleaned up and put to bed. We’ll doubtless see you at breakfast in the morning just after the Marseilles stop.”

“Goodnight,” the Prince said. “And thank you.”

“He… never asked what a Haxian shape-shifter was,” Chrístõ noted as he sat on a chair next to the washbasin and let his father gently clean his face and hands. Julia was fast asleep, blissfully unaware of any of the drama that had taken place.

“A small bit of Power of Suggestion with them both,” his father explained. “That way I was able to more or less tell them the truth. It’s usually a good idea to be truthful to royalty. What I didn’t tell him was why. That really would have worried them too much. You had physical contact with the Haxian, too. You know why it wanted to kill her?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “Haxians thrive on the chaos caused by upsetting timelines… the energy created by the unravelling of history. If it had killed Mrs Simpson, the Prince would have mourned her, because there really was love there. But then he would have got on with his life… become king… maybe done what everyone wanted him to do… marry a suitable woman of child-bearing age. He would have an heir. The line of succession would be completely altered. A significant portion of twentieth century British history would have been changed. Ten, twenty generations later, the differences could be global… a planet out of kilter with itself because history was altered. Then it could spread through the galaxy.”

“You must have done well in Lord Archian’s Temporal Cause and Effect classes,” his father said. “That was word perfect.”

“With insane ideas like that going around, is it any wonder two Time Lords can’t take their ladies on a quiet weekend without a heap of trouble?”

“It’s over now. You go to bed now, son. I’ll see YOU at breakfast, as well. We’ll talk some more before we arrive in Menton.”

“I’d like that,” he said. He liked his father helping him up into the top bunk and pulling the blankets around him. He felt his hand caressing his face and brushing a curl of his hair out of his eyes as he often remembered his father doing when he was a boy. That comforting gesture stayed in his thoughts as he closed his eyes and his father quietly left the compartment.