Jennica Corr walked in the warm evening sunshine beside a lake that had been fashioned on the one at Stourhead House in Wiltshire. It even had the fake Greek temples and carefully recreated ruins that caught the slanting sunlight in beautiful ways.

The amazing thing was that the lake and the Greek ruins, the gardens and the House were all on a planet nearly two years lightspeed travel from Earth where the original property was still preserved by the Federal Trust for Antiquities. It was the country Retreat of Gregor Bassinikov, known to his students at the Beta Deltan Youth Ballet as The Great Bassinikov - or TGB when he wasn’t within hearing. Jennica, and her principal partner and sweetheart who walked at her side in this romantic setting, were among those invited to the Summer School at the house.

“I don’t understand why he called the place Rusalka Park,” Cinnamal Hext commented, quite out of the blue. “It is a Gallifreyan name.”

“If it is, that’s a complete coincidence,” Jennica told him. “Rusalka is a Slavic word that means water-fairy. And you need to brush up on the classics. It’s the name of an opera by Antonin Dvorák. TGB adapted it as a ballet. It was his first triumph as a choreographer after retiring from a glittering career as a dancer.”

“Well, it must have been a Gallifreyan word, first,” Cinnamal insisted. “Our language and culture is far older than any on Earth.”

“Very likely,” Jennica conceded with a soft laugh. “But I bet the Gallifreyans never had such an interesting use for the word.”

For the most part Cinnamal was a warm-hearted, likeable young man. Jennica liked him VERY much. But every so often he remembered that he was Gallifreyan, and that his species were intellectually and physically superior to humans. She had learnt not to be offended when he said things that made him sound arrogant. She just gently reminded him not to say them in front of the other students, and certainly not around TGB who would not think two hearts were anything to get excited about.

“No, not really. It is a sort of green vegetable,” he admitted. Jennica laughed. “All right, tell me more about this Earth Rusalka,” he said to her.

“You ought to know about it already,” she chided him. “Dvorák’s music is beautiful and the story is heartbreakingly lovely. And since it is one of TGB’s favourites it is quite remiss of you to have left it out of your studies.”

“That’s why I’m asking you,” he responded.

“Rusalka was a water-spirit, daughter of the lake-goblin. She fell in love with the prince who lived in the castle by their lake, and wanted to be Human to be with him. Her father warned her that it was a terrible idea to swap her immortality for mortality out of love for a fickle Human man who might betray her. The witch who made her mortal warned her that there was a price to pay for being Human. She would lose her voice. And on top of that, if the prince should spurn her love she would die and become the water spirit of death, heralding drowned souls. Rusalka accepted the risk and became Human, and the Prince fell in love with her. But his courtiers were suspicious of a mute woman who came from nowhere and tricked her into believing that he was paying court to a foreign princess as well as to her. She returned to the lake, broken hearted, to become the spirit of death. The Prince came searching for her and asked for forgiveness, but the only way he could be forgiven was to accept a kiss from her – and in her spirit form that meant that he would die of drowning. He chose to die to be with her in her dark, watery world of the drowned rather than live with the guilt of his infidelity.”

“Why is it that Princes are always dying for love of girls with some kind of supernatural secret in Earth ballets?” Cinnamal asked. “Swan Lake is nearly the same plot. And the Little Mermaid.”

“They’re not all like that,” Jennica argued. “Besides, the music is very special. If you hear it, you’ll fall in love with the mute water spirit, too.”

“No, I won’t,” Cinnamal insisted. “I’m in love with you, already.”

Jennica smiled. When they were alone she let him say things like that. When they were among their colleagues and friends in the Ballet Corps they kept their affection for each other muted. It was probably no surprise to anyone by now that they were together, but Jennica insisted on keeping things professional.

“The Rusalki might lure you away from me,” she told him. “In Slavic folklore they are the spirits of women who were wronged in love and took their own lives, so they think nothing of tricking men into rivers and lakes to drown them.”

“Nice!” Cinnamal commented. “Well, I haven’t wronged any women, so I should be safe to walk by the lake with you.”

“Better tell Shaun Thornton to stay clear,” Jennica answered. “Did you hear that he dumped Helen Dial for Annette Waring.”

Cinnamal nodded. The handful of physically fit and attractive young men who joined the ballet corps had the pick of the females who outnumbered them ten to one. Relationships were always changing around and tears and recriminations were a weekly occurrence.

“Dean Rowe is going out with Annette and if Shaun thinks he can move in on her after the way he treated Helen then he’s a &#£@#,” he said, using a Low Gallifreyan term that was too rude for translation.

“I have no idea what that is,” Jennica responded. “And I doubt if Dean Rowe does, either. But it sounds about right. It really is a good job there are no Rusalki in this lake, though. Shaun would be in trouble.”

“So would I,” said a deep and richly accented voice that could inspire fear as well as awe. Cinnamal and Jennica both turned to see the Great Bassinikov standing by a weeping willow tree that hung over the lake edge. The two of them bowed their heads in respect to their teacher.

“Good evening, moi? molodoi? vlyublennykh,” he added. Bassinikov had taken to calling Jennica and Cinnamal his ‘young lovebirds’ not because he knew that they were an item, but because they danced the roles of love-struck couples so very well. It was a sign that he had favourably noticed them. Everyone else was called his ‘babochki’ – his butterflies.

“Forgive me for listening in to your conversation. Jennica, you learnt the story of Dvorák’s tragic Rusalka well. You have the true soul of a dancer within you, just like your mother.”

“You have heard of my mother?” Jennica asked.

“I knew her when she was your age. Don’t be surprised. The galaxy is a big place, but the dance community is a small one. I saw her rise from one of the corps de ballet hopefuls to prima ballerina.”

There was something in his reminiscent smile as he spoke that put an odd thought in Jennica’s head.

“Sir. Were you and she….”

“No, babochki,” Bassinikov quickly reassured her. “Jacinta Corr only ever loved one man, and fortunately for her it wasn’t me. In my younger days I did things that I am thoroughly ashamed of now I am older and wiser, and it was always beautiful women who suffered. Yes, indeed, the Rusalki would be angry with me for my past sins.”

Cinnamal and Jennica both smiled politely. Neither of them quite knew what to say to him.

“I shall leave you in peace,” Bassinikov added with an indulgent smile. “This old man has taken enough time away from you young things. I shall see you at supper?”

“Of course, sir,” Jennica answered. They both watched as he went on his way, swinging the silver tipped wooden cane that he didn’t seem to need as a walking aid, but nevertheless carried with him everywhere.

“What was that all about?” Cinnamal asked.

“Nothing that isn’t common knowledge to anyone who knows anything about ballet history,” Jennica answered as they continued on around the lake before heading back to the house in the still warm evening air.

“Everyone except me, then,” Cinnamal admitted. “You grew up reading about that sort of thing. Everyone here did. I’m still catching up. Half the time I have to wing it - as Chrístõ calls it.”

“You do it well,” Jennica assured him. “As for Bassinikov – he was known as a lothario when he was younger. He was married four times and had at least a dozen mistresses - all ballerinas, of course. Some of them never danced again after their affairs with him ended. One of his ex-wives died very young – of a broken heart.”

“Even Humans can’t really die of a broken heart,” Cinnamal pointed out. “The heart can’t ‘break’ that way. It’s a complex muscle for moving oxygenated blood around the body. It can wear out and fail. But it doesn’t ‘break’.”

“You really don’t have the soul of a ballet dancer,” Jennica told him. “But that’s all right. I still love you. As for Bassinikov, even if he did treat women badly, he has admitted he was wrong and tried to make up for it. I respect him for that. Besides, he is a great teacher.”

“Yes, he is. And he is a noble and aristocratic man. His demesne here is as magnificent as any of the estates of the Oldbloods of Gallifrey.”

“Now you’re being all superior again. Noble birth doesn’t make somebody a good person, just a rich one. Besides, Bassinikov wasn’t born rich. He was the son of a Russian fishmonger,” Jennica said. “He earned his way up to owning this ‘demesne’. And I bet that doesn’t happen on Gallifrey. The sky would fall in if a lower caste man came to own a house like that.”

“Very probably,” Cinnamal admitted. He looked at the house that Bassinikov had bought with the royalties from the great performances of a lifetime. It was five hundred years old, built originally in North Wales. It had been carefully taken apart, transported for two years across deep space and rebuilt on Beta Delta Five as Bassinikov’s pride and joy. The grey stone walls and the gabled roof stood solidly against the Beta Deltan landscape as if it had always been there. They walked up wide steps under a collonaded portico and into an entrance hall with a vaulted ceiling and portraits of great ballet dancers in their most famous roles adorning the walls. To the right was the dining room with crystal chandeliers lighting a long table that easily seated twenty of Bassinikov’s young ballet dancers with himself at the top place, smiling benevolently upon them as they were served a sumptuous evening meal. To the left was a great ballroom with gilded mirrors on three walls and sparkling floor length windows on the other so that by day sunlight bathed the room and by night the light from yet more chandeliers reflected and multiplied.

Everyone loved dancing in that room, and they got the chance to do so every night after supper. The music from the great ballets was played through a magnificent sound system and they danced for the joy of dancing that they all shared.

“Oh!” Jennica murmured happily as a tune Gregor Bassinikov called "Mesícku na nebi hlubokém" and she knew as “Song of The Moon” played. “It is Rusalka’s love theme to make the prince fall in love with her.”

Jennica’s feet were already finding the rhythm. But a part of the floor was clearing for another dancer tonight. She watched as Helen Dial proved that she, too, had the soul of a dancer, interpreting the music with grace and style as well as an empathy that she made look easy.

Jennica swallowed an envious moment and applauded Helen along with the others. She and Cinnamal were TGB’s favourites, but all of those here at his home for the Summer School were worthy of his praise and he lavished it upon Helen now.

She smiled and bowed to her teacher, but curiously, when she turned away from him she didn’t look especially happy. Jennica thought her expression was the coldest she had ever seen.

Unless that was meant for Shaun Thornton. Helen’s former boyfriend had applauded along with the others, but he turned away from her when she drew near.

That was why, Jennica thought, it was better to concentrate on dancing and leave relationships out of the equation – unless the relationship was with a Gallifreyan with comfortingly old fashioned ideas about fidelity and devotion for all of eternity.

The morning sun woke Jennica in the beautifully appointed bedroom she was sharing with Annette Waring. Her friend was still asleep, But Jennica was ready to get up and go out for a walk on the dew-laden grass. Cinnamal would probably be about. He never slept as much as his Human friends and he would have roused with the dawn.

She walked down to the lakeside wearing tights, a skirt and leotard and practice pumps. She did her morning warm up exercises on the grass beside the temple of Athene.

Then something caught her eye in the lake. She moved closer and knelt down on the bank to reach into the water, grasping the silver topped cane that lay in the silt. How did it get there? Bassinikov never went anywhere without it.

Then she felt something grab at her arm. Through the disturbed water she thought she could see a grey-green sinewy arm stretching out from the weeds and a hand with long, bony fingers and nails like talons closing around her wrist. She felt those nails digging into her flesh.

“Help!” she screamed. “Somebody help me.” She pulled against the vice-like grip of the unnatural hand, holding on tight still to Bassinikov’s cane. She couldn’t pull her arm out of the water, and there was every possibility she would be bodily pulled in.

“Help!” she screamed again. Then she heard Cinnamal answering her. He was by her side in an instant, his arm reaching down to grasp those unnatural fingers and wrench them away from her. They both fell back onto the grass, Jennica still clinging to the cane. Cinnamal looked around in time to see the surface of the water break once as a creature with an angry face snarled at him and then dived back into the depths of the man-made lake.

“What in Chaos’s name was that?” he demanded.

“I think it was a Rusalki,” Jennica answered nursing her arm and noting several deep scratches that were bleeding slightly. “Cinn… I think… Bassinikov… I think a Rusalki has drowned him.”

“That’s…. not very likely,” Cinnamal answered her. “Even if… there is something in that lake… I don’t think it’s….”

He stopped. Jennica was chalk-white with shock and shivering. He lifted her to her feet, talking of hot coffee and toast and promising her that everything would be all right.

But it wasn’t. They came into the dining room to find most of their friends there, all talking over each other in agitated tones. Cinnamal carefully filtered the voices, the heightened emotions and the melange of thoughts behind them until he understood what was happening.

“Bassinikov is missing,” he said. “His room is trashed, his bed all messed up. So is….” Cinnamal shook his head “Shaun Thornton is gone, too. And Anton Neuve who shares the room with him. And… the head chef. His room in the servant’s quarters was the same….”

Cinnamal’s eyes opened wide in surprise as he gleaned the next bit of information.

“No, that’s got to be nonsense,” he said. He turned and ran up the stairs and through the door to the east wing. He pushed open the bedroom door and looked at the two beds where Shaun and Anton should have been sleeping.

Both beds were soaking wet. The sheets, mattress, duvet and pillows dripped with dirty water. Cinnamal stepped closer to Anton’s bed and put his hand in a puddle that had filled the indentation in the pillow where the boy’s head had been. The water was cold and smelled faintly the way water in ponds and lakes smelt. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the molecular structure of the water. He detected silt, pond weed spores, pollen from willow tree blossoms, dead fish scales and fragments of frog excrement.

This water came from the lake.

Which made no sense at all.

There was the Doppler sound of a siren coming closer then abruptly cutting off as a police hover car came to a halt on the drive outside. Two more cars and a ‘special crime scene’ van arrived shortly after. They had responded quickly. Bassinikov was a rich celebrity, after all. If somebody reported him missing, not to mention two young guests and one of his employees, then they wouldn’t waste time.

And they didn’t. Bassinikov’s butterflies found themselves caught up in the net as the police investigated the scene of a multiple kidnapping.

“Kidnapping?” Annette Waring commented. “I mean, sure, Bassinikov is worth millions, billions even. Holding him to ransom makes sense. But Shaun and Anton, and the chef? Why are they missing, too?”

“Perhaps they kidnapped him,” her boyfriend, Dean Rowe joked. “They were all in on it.”

Everyone within his hearing laughed but with a nervous edge as if they were laughing just to relieve the tension in the air.

“The Rusalki took them all,” Jennica Corr said. “That’s why the beds are full of water. And it’s why….”

The police had taken Bassinikov’s cane from her. They said it was material evidence and questioned her carefully about where she had found it. She had lied, saying that it was on the grass by the lake. She had felt, instinctively, that the Beta Deltan police wouldn’t be interested in a story about taloned hands coming out of the water reeds and trying to pull her into the lake.

But that was what had happened, and she had a perfectly good name for the creature.

Rusalki, the vengeful spirits of wronged women who live in water and drown men for their infidelities.

“That’s it,” she added. “Bassinikov… we all know he was a… a… philanderer… when he was a young man. And Shaun….” She glanced around at Helen Dial, who wasn’t saying much about anything. She was sitting by herself with a curiously uninterested expression on her face.

“Anton isn’t much better,” Annette added. “He’s been trying it on with Lise O’Neill and Anak Chowdry at the same time. But, Jenny, that’s really a bit….”

“The chef got a girl in the town pregnant and denied it,” Dean said. “I heard the girls who do the floors talking about it while they were working the other day. But are you serious, Jenny? You really think somebody has kidnapped four men because they’ve treated women badly?”

“Not somebody, someTHING,” Jennica insisted. “A Rusalki.”

“Jenny, you’re upset,” Annette told her. “We all have a soft spot for TGB, but maybe you’re taking it a bit too much to heart. Rusalki are a myth, a fairy tale, just a pretty story for dancing to. They’re not real.”

“Something grabbed me.” Jennica showed them her arm. The scratches had been cleaned and bandaged but they still stung painfully. “Something grabbed me under the water.”

“An old tree branch, maybe,” Dean suggested. “Annie’s right. I think you’re letting your imagination go wild. This is mad enough as it is. Bassinikov’s been kidnapped, Shaun, Anton and the chef, too, for… well, for some reason we don’t know, yet. We’re in the middle of a holodisc movie mystery as it is. We don’t need it to be a horror story with evil creatures from the deep snatching people.”

“I don’t want that, either,” Jennica insisted. “Because if it’s true, then they’re dead, all of them - Bassinikov, and the others. And… and that’s… just horrible.”

“The police went down to the lake first, after you told them you found TGB’s cane there,” Mari Anderson said. “There’s some signs of a scuffle near the edge, but nothing conclusive. They talked about getting divers down tomorrow if they don’t get a message from the kidnappers, but they really don’t expect to find their bodies in there.”

“They will,” Jennica murmured almost soundlessly, her lips moving softly. “If they look properly, they will find them.”

“Jenny,” Cinnamal said gently. “You ARE distressed, and you’re getting the story we were talking about last night all mixed up in your mind.”

“I’m not,” she protested, astonished that even Cinnamal was doubting her now.

“I think you should go up to your room for a lie down. The police didn’t say we have to stay here. Come on. I’ll stay with you. There are no rules about girls and boys dorms here.”

Everybody thought it was a good idea. Jennica was becoming hysterical and irrational and a lie down was the best thing for her. They moved aside as Cinnamal led her from the room.

“Of course I believe you,” he assured her as they turned towards the kitchen corridor instead of going upstairs. “I saw that thing, too. It’s not natural. Or at least, it’s not Human. It might be something that lives in the water on this planet, or it might be an extra-terrestrial species that came here just like you Human colonists. It might even BE a Rusalki, for all I know. We need to find out. Come on.”

“Come on where?” Jennica asked as Cinnamal opened a side door through the kitchen garden that led into a stand of trees and gave them cover as they headed away from the house. “To the lake?”


“Ok.” She let him hold her hand as they slipped along the woodland path then along the back of a colonnaded folly and across one long piece of meadow before they were sheltered by the willow trees and out of sight of the police setting up a phone tapping system in the drawing room.

“It looks quiet, now,” Jennica admitted. “Was I being silly? Did I imagine it?”

“No, I saw it too,” Cinnamal again reminded her. “And I’m a Gallifreyan. We don’t have that sort of imagination. Not purebloods, anyway. Over-emotional half-bloods like Chrístõ, maybe.”

He grinned as he said that. Jennica didn’t rail at him for that slander.

“Chrístõ saved my mother’s life,” Jennica said.

“He saved my father’s life. And my brother’s more times than he’ll admit. And he is the best teacher either of us had. Even TGB would bow to him on that. And the best lesson he ever taught either of us is not to be cowards. I have been a lot of times. I slouched off and let others face danger. But that was stupid of me. And now it’s time to prove that I’ve learnt from my teacher.”

As he spoke, Cinnamal was taking his clothes off. Jennica thought she probably ought to avert her eyes as he stripped right down to his underpants, but she didn’t. She noted how strong he looked. Relentless daily practice, rehearsals and performances had given him muscles to be proud of and a lithe, agile figure. She smiled admiringly.

“Are you sure?” she asked him. “It’s dangerous. That thing….”

“If you’re right, and it only wants men who have wronged women, then I’m safe. You are the first and only woman I have ever loved and I always will until my dying day. Which could be as much as six thousand years away, and if that’s not fidelity enough for the Rusalki then they really are impossible to please.”

He turned and jumped into the lake. Jennica saw him swim out with smooth, strong strokes before surface diving into the deep part. Ripples spread out from where he had gone down but then the lake was still again.

Cinnamal felt the cold as soon as he plunged under the water, but his blood temperature automatically adjusted. He closed off his lungs, recycling his breathing, and struck out for the bottom of the lake. His pureblood Gallifreyan eyes with hexagons as well as rods and cones in the retinas processed the very tiniest shred of light. He could see perfectly under water.

He could see through the perception field that had been thrown over the bottom of the lake. The police, if they sent divers down would know nothing. They would see only mud and weeds.

But he could see the four pale faced men bound up in the weeds. He swam towards them, his hearts thumping with dread and one possible shred of hope in his soul. If they were dead, why were they still bound?

He touched Shaun’s face and noted that it was cold, the wan flesh utterly flaccid. He wasn’t breathing, but there was a heartbeat, just the one, as he touched him.

The weeds were tightly bound around him, but his Gallifreyan muscles, enhanced by nearly a year of Human ballet training, were strong. Cinnamal tore them apart and freed the youth. He held him by the shoulders and kicked out as he swam to the surface.

Jennica yelped in fear as he lifted Shaun’s body onto the bank, but Cinnamal shook his head reassuringly.

“He’s not dead. It’s a sort of suspended animation. I don’t know how to break him out of it, yet. I have to get the others. Look after him.”

He dived into the water again. Jennica turned her attention to Shaun. He looked dead. He was soaking wet, water streaming from his hair and clothes, his skin glistening but cold beneath her touch.

Cinnamal returned to the surface dragging Anton with him. He laid him down beside his roommate and dived back again, returning with the philandering chef.

Jennica waited for him to return one last time with Gregor Bassinikov, but the minutes ticked by and all she saw was a strange rippling on the surface as if the water was being agitated below.

Fifteen minutes. That was the limit to his respiratory bypass. She knew that. And it was close to that, now. She knelt by the edge of the water and watched anxiously. Then she threw off her shoes and her jumper and skirt and dived into the cold water. She took a deep breath and kicked out as she dived down into the depths.

She was scared, but Cinnamal’s life was at stake - and Bassinikov’s. She had to reach them.

She couldn’t see very well underwater, but she could make out shapes moving and headed towards them. As she drew near she recognised Cinnamal’s lithe body struggling to hold onto the unconscious Bassinikov and fight off a water wraith in the form of a woman, rags of a gown flowing around her emaciated body, her cruel hands grasping at Cinnamal, clawing his face, trying to strangle him.

Jennica was almost out of breath herself, but she grabbed at the creature and pulled it away from him. Cinnamal wrenched himself free and swam up to the surface with Bassinikov. The creature tried to follow him but Jennica held it back.

She was struggling now, her lungs bursting, and those talons were scratching at her face and arms as the creature tried to drown her.

She was sure she WAS going to drown. But the four victims of the Rusalki were safe. It was worth it.

Then the creature was gone. It melted away into the water. She felt another pair of hands clutching her, and lips pressing against hers. She felt air blown into her lungs before Cinnamal helped her up to the surface. She breathed out and then gulped in new air before swimming to the lake side.

“What happened to her?” Jennica asked. She knelt on the grass beside the four bodies of the men and noticed Helen Dial lying beside them in a crumpled heap. “What is she doing here?”

“I hit her,” Cinnamal answered. “Not something I like to do. Even a Sillanian woman is still a woman. But she would have killed you if I didn’t stop her.”

“Helen? You mean she….”

Cinnamal didn’t answer. He was leaning over Bassinikov, his hands over his heart and his eyes closed. After a minute she heard Bassinikov cough and groan and he opened his eyes. Jennica hurriedly put her skirt and jumper back on before he was fully aware of his surroundings.

“Try to sit up, sir,” Cinnamal told him. “Rub your arms and legs to get the circulation going.” He moved onto the chef and then Anton and Shaun. They were all cold and confused, but alive.

“She did it,” Cinnamal explained. “She’s not Human. She’s a Sillanian – which isn’t a problem in itself. After all, I’m not Human, either, and there’s no point in being prejudiced. But Sillanians… they’re descended from fish, and they have a sort of telepathic affinity with water. I think Helen created what Jenny called a Rusalki… And it took all of you….”

“Why?” Shaun demanded. They all had enough vague recollection of their watery prison to fully believe what they were being told. There was no argument about that.

“As if you should have to ask,” Jennica responded. She was trying to revive Helen from the knockout Cinn had dealt her. “The way you treated her. It’s EXACTLY why the Rusalki are so bitter towards men. YOU used Helen. Anton, you were two timing Lise and Anak.” She looked at the chef. “I don’t even know your name, but I’ve heard the gossip about the girl in the village, and you should be ashamed of yourself. And… Sir…” Bassinikov caught her eye and then bowed his head. “EVERYONE knows about your past. I know you have tried to atone for it, but it seems as if the Rusalki wasn’t ready to forgive you. This was the punishment for all of you, for what you did to women.”

“It wasn’t enough,” Helen cried out in a strangely cracked voice as she regained consciousness. Jennica held her arms so that she couldn’t escape, but she didn’t seem to want to go anywhere, yet. “You shouldn’t have interfered, Jenny. They deserved to suffer. My Water-maiden would have kept them there for eternity… or for what would feel like an eternity… torturing them until their sins were paid for.”

“It’s not your right to decide how to punish them,” Jennica argued. “Yes, they’ve ALL done wrong. I agree. But they didn’t deserve that. Not even Shaun. I know he hurt you. But….”

“Helen Dial,” Cinnamal spoke her name aloud. “Dial… in Sillanian… and Welsh by complete coincidence… that name means retribution, or revenge.”

“It does?” Shaun looked at his former girlfriend in surprise and horror. “You mean I was set up?”

“You set yourself up by using her and then dumping her,” Jennica told him. “So just shut up.”

Shaun shut up. Cinnamal continued talking.

“Bassinikov, sir, I think the others were just coincidence, even Shaun. I think you were the reason that Helen created her Rusalki. I think….”

“Gerte Sanne,” Bassinikov said with a soft sigh and a shake of his head. “She was the reason why my second marriage collapsed. I fell in love with her…. But we were a brilliant flame that burned too brightly, then died away. By the time I was divorced the affair was over. I was already interested in another woman… the one who would become my third wife. Gerte left the ballet company. I never knew what happened to her.”

“She went back to Sillania and gave birth to my mother,” Helen said in a voice filled with bitterness. “Half Human, half Sillanian, ignored by her father who went on to be rich and famous all over the galaxy. I was raised by my mother and grandmother to exact their revenge upon him. I came to his ballet corps in order to find a way to fulfil my destiny. I didn’t expect to fall in love, myself. For a while I forgot all about revenge. But then… my own lover was as false to me as HE had been to my grandmother. I was betrayed in the same way. So I punished all of you. And I will punish you again….”

“No, you won’t,” Jennica told her. “It’s over.”

And it was. The scene on the lake side had been observed and now the police arrived. Helen was taken into their custody.

“She has admitted the kidnapping,” Bassinikov said later when everyone involved was dry and warm and drinking brandy in his private drawing room. “She is still talking about creating water-maidens to do her will. I rather think she will be taken to a mental hospital, deemed incompetent to stand trial, and perhaps that is for the best. After all, we ARE the truly guilty ones.”

“I hope you ALL realise that,” Jennica answered, looking around at all of Helen’s victims. Her eyes fixed on the chef, whose name she STILL didn’t know. “Especially you. If you don’t admit that baby is yours, then you’re… the worst kind of…. &#£@#.”

Jennica had no idea what the Low Gallifreyan word meant, but Cinnamal nodded. It was accurate enough.

“If I had known that Gerte was carrying my child,” Bassinikov said as the chef took in Jennica’s censure. “I have no children from any of my wives. That is the deepest regret of my life. Helen’s mother… my daughter… would have been my pride if I had known.” He looked at his employee. “Go to the mother of your child and make it right or you will know the same regret. As for you boys….” He turned to Shaun and Anton. “Yes, you are a lot like me at your age. You are handsome and talented with assured futures in a glittering profession where beautiful women surround you every day. It is all too easy. But take this as a warning. Do not follow my example or it will be your downfall.”

He turned to Jennica. She smiled softly at him. He nodded in acknowledgement.

“If you can forgive me, khrabraya devushka, then there is hope for my soul. Let us all learn from this and go on to be better people from this day. If we do not, then the Rusalki should have the right to come for us again.”

Jennica grasped the hand of her own sweetheart, who had pledged to love her for eternity, or as close to it as ought to satisfy the wronged heart of the bitterest Rusalki.