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

Adric fidgeted in the suit of clothes he had been made to wear and complained for the umpteenth time about the patent leather shoes on his feet.

“Oh, do be quiet,” Tegan told him. “You’re acting like a real spoilt brat. We’re travelling first class, really ritzy. You can’t wear that outfit of yours. Anyway, you look very nice like that. Little Lord Fauntelroy himself.”

Adric didn’t understand the literary reference. Neither did Nyssa. But she didn’t let it bother her.

“I like my outfit,” she said. “And yours, Tegan. What year did The Doctor say this was?”

“1935. Europe’s golden age,” Tegan said. “At least for the well off.”

She looked around. Most of the passengers in the foyer of the opulent Gare de l’Est were well off. Ladies in fine silks and voile with linen coats and fur stoles around their necks mingled with men in suits and top hats. Porters pushed trolleys laden with expensive luggage.

They caught sight of The Doctor. He was dressed in his usual clothes, but they seemed to fit, all the same. There was something oddly timeless and classless about his coat and hat over the cricket jumper and candy-striped trousers. He smiled and waved and they moved towards him. A porter followed with a trolley containing their own hand baggage.

“The… luggage… is stowed away in the freight car?” Tegan asked him.

“It is,” The Doctor replied. “It’ll be safe there for the next three days and nights. Shall we go?”

He took Tegan and Nyssa both by the arms. Adric fell into step alongside them, still looking like a sulky younger brother to the two women. They passed from the grand foyer with its high, heavily decorated ceiling to the platform. It was still very grand, but a little darker and colder. It was nearly eleven o’clock at night, after all, in early April. The Doctor steered them along the platform until they reached a long, beautifully liveried ‘wagon-lit’ where he presented their tickets to the conductor. He took charge of their bags and escorted them along the narrow corridor to their two adjoining sleeping compartments.

“Will you be requiring refreshments, mademoiselles, monsieur?” the conductor asked.

“Hot chocolate all round, I think,” The Doctor answered as he handed the conductor a generous tip. The man departed and they looked around approvingly at the compartment where the two girls would be sleeping. A sliding door led into a matching one for The Doctor and Adric.

“Very nice,” Tegan said approvingly. She sat carefully on the edge of the lower bunk, almost afraid to wrinkle the white broderie-anglaise counterpane. Nyssa sat beside her and The Doctor and Adric took two easy chairs near the window. The conductor returned presently with their hot chocolate and departed, again generously tipped by The Doctor.

“I still don’t get what’s so special about trains,” Adric commented.

“This isn’t just any train,” Tegan told him. “This is the Orient Express, the most luxurious train in the universe.”

“Well,” The Doctor contradicted with a wry smile. “There is the Silver Bullet that crosses from the East City to West City across the great Fluxos Desert on the red planet of Flexella. I should take you all some time. Of course, the locomotive is powered by a micro-gravitic reactor and the carriages skim along six inches above the rails using static-grav momentum. And you really don’t get a proper look at the scenery going along at three hundred miles per hour. But Flexellan cuisine is excellent and the beds… you feel like you’re floating on air. In fact if you use the levitation switch, you actually can…”

All three of his companions looked at The Doctor with bemused expressions.

“But this is the real thing. Pure steam power. And think of all the exotic places we’ll be passing through.”

“France, Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey. All the way from Paris to Istanbul. Wonderful.”

“Contantinople, it says here.” Nyssa glanced at a highly coloured brochure with details of the cities and towns the train was visiting in the course of the three day journey.

“The Ottoman Empire changed the name of the city nearly ten years ago,” The Doctor commented. “But western snobbery still prevails. They call it Constantinople in the Orient Express timetables.”

Tegan laughed and sang a little song that she remembered learning somewhere.

“Istanbul was Constantinople

Now it's Istanbul

not Constantinople

Been a long time gone

Old Constantinople's still has Turkish delight

On a moonlight night….”

“How strange,” Nyssa commented. “Changing the name of a place. Traken has been called Traken for thousands of years.”

“Earth geography is subject to some ever-changing internal politics,” The Doctor said. “In Tegan’s own lifetime, Yugoslavia is going to split again into the separate states it was before the Great War. If she took this trip in the 1990s she would pass through Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro instead of the one country we will be travelling through during most of Friday night.”

“I don’t understand it, I really don’t,” Nyssa insisted. “And I can’t quite imagine spending three days on this ‘train’. Won’t we be terribly bored?”

“I won’t be,” Tegan said. She looked out of the window as a guard blew a whistle loudly and the Orient Express jerked once then began to move, slowly at first, but gathering speed as it left the station behind and ran through central Paris in the dark. The outline of some of the great landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, of course, but also Notre Dame cathedral on top of Montmartre, stood out against the starry sky. She sighed happily. As much fun as she had travelling in the TARDIS, this really was the life.

“There won’t be much to see once we get out in the countryside,” The Doctor told her. “You might as well turn in. Plenty to see tomorrow.”

He stood and signalled to Adric. The two of them went through the connecting door to the other room. He closed it behind him but didn’t lock it. Nyssa and Tegan opened their overnight bags and changed out of their elegant but very formal day dresses into nightclothes. Tegan climbed into the bottom bunk. Nyssa settled herself in the top one and they went to sleep with the regular sound of the train on the tracks as their lullaby.

Tegan woke in the morning and saw by the clock on the bedside cabinet that it was six o’clock. The train was slowing down. She remembered from reading the time table that this was the first stop of the morning, Vallorbe in Switzerland.

She got up out of the bed, wrapping a silk kimono style robe around herself and sat by the window. She pulled open the curtains and looked out. Vallorbe station was just a station. Nothing much to look at, but when the train pulled out again twenty minutes later she happily sat looking at the view of a beautiful Swiss valley with mountain peaks rising above and picturesque villages below. It was a blissful forty minutes before the next stop at the lovely city of Lausanne near Lake Geneva.

“I went to bed in Paris, France, and woke up in Switzerland,” she said aloud and sighed happily.

“Well, what’s so strange about that?” Nyssa looked over the edge of her bunk, her hair tousled and her eyes still sleepy. She had no desire to get up even though she was awake now. The bed was just too comfortable. “We often go to bed on one planet and wake up on another in the TARDIS.”

“I know,” Tegan admitted. “But that’s easy. The TARDIS just is! This… it’s taken men shovelling coal into a firebox all night to get us here. Real effort. It’s an achievement.”

The train only stopped in Lausanne for five minutes. Then it was off again. Tegan lapsed into silence, happily enjoying the view of Lake Geneva as the Orient Express hugged its shores all the way to Montreux. She picked up the illustrated time-table and noted that the stop here was only for two minutes. That struck her as odd. Two minutes was barely long enough to board a train, especially with the kind of luggage anyone travelling on the Orient Express was likely to have. Why didn’t they allow a little more time?

Nobody was waiting. But with only ten seconds to go, a man ran down the platform. Tegan watched him with interest, wondering if he was going to make it. He was dressed in a black overcoat and wore a derby hat which he held onto with one hand. In the other he carried the sort of old-fashioned carpet bag that was associated with Phileas Fogg’s journey.

He jumped onto the train seconds before the whistle blew. Tegan stood up from her seat and went to the door. She opened it and looked out. She saw the man showing a ticket to the conductor and then walking away towards the next car.

“Good morning, Madamoiselle,” said the conductor to her politely. “Breakfast will be served in twenty-five minutes in the dining car.”

“Merci, Monsieur,” Tegan answered, using something like a quarter of the sum total of her French vocabulary. The conductor continued on his way, knocking on doors and passing the same message on to the occupants. Tegan heard The Doctor’s voice from next door replying to his call before she closed the door and entered the tiny but elegant en suite bathroom where she showered quickly before dressing for the day.

All four of the travellers reached the dining car with five minutes to the first serving and were seated by a neatly dressed waiter. Tegan noticed that the new arrival was already sitting at a table for one and had been served coffee. He had taken off the hat and coat and was wearing a good suit of the contemporary fashion. His hair was black. He looked about thirty-five years of age and had pleasant, open features. There was something about his expression as he sipped his coffee and watched the view out of the big, wide dining car windows that put him in mind of The Doctor. There was no physical resemblance, but she thought he was somebody who might be trusted the same way she trusted The Doctor.

That’s silly, she told herself. He could be anyone and anything. You can’t judge a book by its cover. And you can’t decide somebody is trustworthy just because he has a nice smile.

She realised she was staring and turned away before he noticed. She gave her attention to the coffee and croissants that were served as the first part of the breakfast and to the rest of the travellers who had emerged from the sleeping cars. They were a fascinating collection of well-heeled Europeans. There was an elegant woman dressed in a long black dress with a feather boat and long gloves. She looked ready for a night at the opera even at a quarter to eight in the morning. She sat in a window seat and lit a cigarette in a long holder. A man slid into the seat opposite her. Tegan thought he must be her husband, but he dressed so plainly compared to her, he almost seemed to fade into the background beside her.

Across the aisle from the lady with the boa was a stout man with a handlebar moustache who wore a Harris tweed suit. Tegan mentally christened him Colonel Mustard even before she heard his clipped English accent as he ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea with his breakfast.

Two Frenchmen came into the dining car, talking animatedly about share prices as they took their seats behind the Colonel. Opposite them was a woman in a severe black dress with a white collar who was in charge of three little girls in frilled dresses. They ate their breakfast quietly. Behind them was a couple who held hands over the table. Newlyweds, Tegan thought. And directly opposite them were another couple who might have been the same two people forty years on. They didn’t hold hands, but they looked like they were at the other end of the lifetime commitment the young people were starting on. Tegan thought the contrast between the two couples was rather nice.

“The lady is Cecilia Hayes,” The Doctor said in a low voice. “She’s a Hollywood actress. The man is her latest husband. This one actually looks like he might go the distance. He’s an architect, a down to earth sort, not phased by the glamour around her. Colonel Mustard is actually Brigadier Donald Hampden-Kerr, Retired. The two Frenchmen are Monsieurs François and Louis Chapuisat, merchant bankers and art collectors. The three children with their governess are Mila, Alisa and Margherita Rigotti, who have been visiting their mother in Paris and are now returning home to their father’s estate near Trieste. The newlywed couple are the Honourable Andrew Stockport and Lady Alice. The elderly couple are Doctor Auguste Albin, a renowned Swiss surgeon and his wife, Elizabeth. They’re going to Belgrade for a seminar on diseases of the cardio-vascular system. Doctor Albin is a guest speaker.”

Tegan was surprised. For one thing, The Doctor was sitting with his back to them all. For another, how could he possibly know…

“It’s a little known fact, but when people have only just woken up, their minds are very easy to read by any half decent telepathic brain. Everyone here would really have preferred another hour in bed. Even you, my dear Tegan. You got up because you were excited to be on the Orient Express and didn’t want to miss a minute of it. But your body would have liked a bit more sleep.”

Tegan gave The Doctor an extra special scowl for being such a clever clogs – especially about her. But she was impressed, all the same.

“What about the man with the carpet bag?” she asked. “What’s his story?”

“Mmm. That’s a bit harder. I think he’s been awake all night. He’s still running on adrenaline. I can’t read him at all.”

“He nearly missed the train,” Tegan told The Doctor, and related what she saw of his last minute dash. “And he hasn’t brought much luggage.”

“He may not be travelling the whole way,” Nyssa pointed out. There are lots of stops on this journey. The children are getting off at this Trieste place. Maybe he is, too.”

“That’s true,” Tegan admitted. “Though I can’t help wondering… No, I’m not going to imagine there is any mystery. I don’t want one. I want to sit and watch the scenery go by and enjoy myself. No aliens, no creepy things. No scares.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Adric said. “I think this could get a bit boring. I wouldn’t mind a mystery.”

“Me, too,” Nyssa agreed. “I really don’t know what anyone does for three days inside a moving tube.”

“Enjoy the scenery and the lack of mysteries to worry about,” The Doctor said, leaning back in his seat and looking out of the window at the view. They had left Lake Geneva now and were on a gradual incline that brought them inexorably into the Swiss Alps. The mountains were topped with snow and the valleys were lush and green. It looked a nice, clean, quiet place.

He and Tegan were both enthusiastic about the trip. The countries the train passed through, the many cities with their rich history and culture, interested them both.

Tegan was from Earth, and had wanted to travel all her life. The Doctor had spent a good part of his life on the planet and was interested in the history and culture of humans.

But Nyssa and Adric were not from Earth and had no special interest in it. They didn’t understand about the romance of travelling on the Orient Express in its heyday. They didn’t know why places like Milan and Venice, Belgrade, Sofia, and the ultimate destination, Constantinople, made Tegan’s heart flutter and The Doctor dream of a quiet life.

They had finished their breakfast before the train reached the next stop, Brig, the last Swiss town before the train entered the Simplon Tunnel and emerged in Italy. Immigration officers passed down the train and checked everyone’s passports. When they were done, The Doctor and Tegan went to the lounge car to enjoy the view and chat with some of their fellow travellers. Nyssa and Adric elected to return to their sleeping compartments and catch up on their reading.

At least that was what they told The Doctor they were going to do.

“I think there is something strange about that man,” Adric said. “The one with the carpet bag. Let’s watch him.”

They concealed themselves behind the door of Adric’s compartment and waited until the gentleman with the carpet bag went to his own allocated berth. It turned out to be the one right next to Nyssa and Tegan’s. They heard him enter and then the sound of the water running in the bathroom. There was no way to disguise the sound of the water pipes in those little bathrooms that were, of course, built back to back. Nyssa thought it was improper to try to listen to what a man might be doing in a bathroom, and stepped out of the compartment. She opened one of the windows in the corridor outside and pretended to be looking at the electric locomotive that passed along the track to couple up to the Orient Express and take it through the all electric Simplon Tunnel section before they switched to old fashioned steam again.

The two French businessmen walked by as she waited. They were still talking in French. It was all about business and not very interesting. The three children filed past, too. They didn’t talk. Their governess looked as if she might disapprove of chit chat.

The husband of the actress came by. He bumped into Nyssa, which she thought was unnecessary since the train was at a standstill in Brig station. His apology was slurred and his breath smelt very strong for nine o’clock in the morning. He lurched away down the corridor.

Then the door to the sleeping compartment next to hers opened. She didn’t turn around, but looked at the reflection in the window next to the open one. She was very surprised.

A woman came out of the compartment. As she disappeared down the corridor Nyssa turned and looked. There was no mistake. The woman had her back to her, of course. But her figure was a slim hour glass that could not possibly be a man in disguise. She walked like a woman. Her hair was carefully pinned under a cloche hat. She wore an elegant linen day dress that accentuated her shape.

Adric stepped out of the compartment. Nyssa told him what she had seen.

“But… it can’t be,” he argued. “That was a man at breakfast. Definitely a man.”

“And that was definitely a woman who came out of the compartment,” Nyssa insisted.

“Maybe…” Adric began, then changed his mind. “I mean… could it be…”

“A stowaway,” Nyssa suggested. “Like when you hid on the TARDIS and came with us from Alzeria. Maybe they couldn’t afford two tickets. So one of them is hiding in the room while the other goes and has breakfast…”

“So he’s hiding in there?”

“The room on the other side is empty,” Nyssa pointed out. “There’s no name card on the door. If we used The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver to open that, and then open the dividing door… If he is in there, we could pretend we made a mistake…”

Adric went back into the compartment and found the sonic screwdriver. Nyssa used it on the empty compartment door and they both slipped inside, closing it behind them. She used the sonic on the dividing door and the lock clicked quietly. She stepped back from it, though. She didn’t want to walk into a strange man’s bedroom. Adric opened the door instead. She waited while he searched the room and then came back to her.

“It’s empty,” he said. “There’s no man in there. And no man’s clothes, either. Or a woman’s. The wardrobe is empty. The carpet bag was there, beside the bed. But that was empty, too.”

“That’s very strange,” Nyssa admitted. “And… so is this.” She held out a piece of crumpled paper. Adric took it from her and smoothed it out in his hands. “I found it in my pocket just now. It wasn’t there before. I think the man who bumped into me before put it there.”

“It says ‘help me!’.”

“I know. But… how did he think I could help him? Except by using the sonic screwdriver to go into his compartment and throw all his drink away.”

“He’s married to a rich woman,” Adric pointed out. “Why would he need help?”

“Do you think we should tell The Doctor about this?”

“You mean the note, or the stowaway… if that’s what he is?”


“No. He doesn’t want a mystery. He said so. And neither does Tegan. Let’s leave them alone. We’ll sort this out by ourselves.”

“Do you think we can?”

“Why not. I’m a mathematical genius and you’re really clever with computers. We can work out what’s going on here. Both goings on.”

“All right. Which shall we do first?”

“’Help me’ sounds kind of important,” Adric suggested. “Let’s go and find him, first.”

“He went that way,” Nyssa pointed out.

They were walking towards the back of the train as it began to pull out of Brig station and gather speed. They went through a very elegant but rather foggy smoking car where the French gentlemen were enjoying cigars and still talking about stocks and shares while a neatly liveried man polished glasses behind a bar that wasn’t yet serving drinks. Beyond that was another sleeping car. They were near the end of the corridor when the train passed into the Simplon Tunnel. It went dark outside and the lights inside the train seemed brighter in contrast.

They opened the door at the end of the car and found themselves in the baggage car. They noticed the TARDIS standing against the wall, covered in a tarpaulin.

And a body of a man lying next to it.

Nyssa screamed. Adric pulled her back through the door to the sleeping car and back to the smoking car where he managed to convey the urgency of what they had seen to the French gentlemen. They lived up to the title of ‘gentlemen’, sitting Nyssa down while the barman brought her a glass of iced water for the shock. Adric, meanwhile, ran to fetch The Doctor.

Two doctors rushed back with him. One was The Doctor. The other was the elderly Doctor Albin. They both examined the body and concluded that he had died of a sudden heart attack. A quick search in his pockets identified him as Vasil Radanova, an artist from Sofia in Bulgaria.

The fact that two doctors had confirmed the cause of death made things a little easier than they might have been when the train came out of the tunnel and arrived at Domodossola. There was a brief discussion about whether he had died on the Swiss or Italian side of the international border that lay halfway through the tunnel. It was agreed that he must have died in Switzerland, but as his body was discovered in Italy and death was confirmed in that country he was the responsibility of the Italian authorities.

The train was only twenty minutes late moving off from Domodossola. The Doctor brought Nyssa and Adric to the lounge and made them both sit quietly. Tegan was upset to hear about the man’s death, but she insisted that they shouldn’t let it spoil the journey for them.

“Tegan is right,” The Doctor told Nyssa, who was still very upset. “There was nothing anyone could do. It was just a heart attack. It’s unfortunate that it happened in the baggage car where there was nobody to help him. If he had been anywhere else he might have been all right. You did the right thing calling for help. But it was just too late for him.”

“What were you doing all the way back there, anyway?” Tegan asked.

“Just… taking a walk,” Adric answered her, glancing at Nyssa, who shook her head very slightly.

“Well, just sit quiet for a little while,” The Doctor told them. “We are passing through some very nice scenery on the way to Milan. Just relax and enjoy it.”

Nyssa sat back a little glumly. But she didn’t look at the scenery. She looked instead at the people in the lounge. The Hollywood actress was there and her husband was with her. He still seemed very drunk and didn’t say much. She was smoking her cigarette and reading a fashion magazine.

The mystery woman from the compartment next to theirs was in the lounge, too. She was reading the illustrated time table. Or at least she was pretending to. In fact, Nyssa was certain she was watching everyone else in the lounge. She kept her eyes on The Doctor for a very long time. But he wasn’t doing anything interesting. He was talking to Tegan about a time when he was much younger than he was now, and had spent several years living in Milan among the artists and musicians of the bohemian quarter.

“It was there that I first came to be known as ‘The Doctor’,” he explained. “Or, Il Dottore, anyway. It is from an Italian theatrical tradition called Commedia Dell'Arte, in which one of the stock characters is usually portrayed as one who talks too much and pretends to know more than he really does.”

Tegan laughed. Nyssa smiled a little but she still didn’t feel very happy and laughing was beyond her. Adric didn’t get the joke.

The mystery woman stood up and walked out of the lounge. Nyssa watched her go and then stood up.

“I don’t really feel like watching scenery,” she said. “I think I’d like to go and lie down for a while. Perhaps I’ll feel better after a little sleep?”

She left the lounge. A few minutes later, Adric said he was going to go and read in his cabin, again.

“Doctor,” Tegan said. “Those two are up to something.”

“No, surely not,” he answered. “They’re just not terribly interested in looking at scenery.”

“Even so, when did either of them decide to take an afternoon nap by themselves?”

“Good point,” he conceded. “I’ll give them five minutes, then go take a look.”

Actually, Nyssa really did want to have a lie down. But there was no reason why she couldn’t keep an eye on the mystery woman while she did so. She left the door to the compartment slightly ajar so that she would hear if anyone came or went in the compartment next door.

Adric waited in the corridor, pretending to look out of the window at the Italian countryside the train was passing through. He knew somebody was in the compartment, and they weren’t going to leave again without him knowing.

Nyssa was watching the door carefully. But when something darkened the window she looked around. She screamed loudly as the man from the compartment next door flattened himself against the glass. Literally flattened. His face was distorted as he pressed against it and his limbs were stretched like elastic as he reached from his own compartment window right across to hers. He looked as shocked to see her there as she was to see him.

Nyssa kept on screaming even when The Doctor rushed into the compartment and pushed the window open. He pulled the man inside. His elongated arms trailed as he flopped onto the floor and then returned to normal proportions. He slowly stood up. The Doctor pushed him down onto one of the chairs.

“He’s… not Human!” Nyssa exclaimed. “Humans can’t do that.”

“I didn’t think anything could,” Adric added. “That was…”

“He’s a Boraen,” The Doctor said. “From the Leon clusters. “They are one of the mutable species. He can change his appearance at will. Male to female, even non-humanoid if he has to. Very flexible bodies, too.”

“You… aren’t Human, either,” the Boraen pointed out. “I was observing you in the dining car. You don’t blink often enough.”

“This is true. But I wasn’t hanging onto the outside of a train looking into a lady’s bedroom,” The Doctor answered him. “I think you should explain yourself, first.”

“I am Reys Hanvik, of the Annex Borea External Office,” he said. He reached into his pocket and produced a holographic card. The Doctor read it carefully and returned it.

“What’s the… what he said?” Adric asked.

“He’s a secret agent… a spy,” The Doctor explained. “You’re on a mission, here on Earth?”

“I can say no more to you, until I know who you are,” he answered. “Even revealing this much is dangerous.”

“I am The Doctor,” The Doctor told him. “I am a Time Lord of Gallifrey in the Kasterborus system. And as such my honour is above reproach. You will know that if you know anything. My companions here are Nyssa of Traken, a planet where deceit and lies were never heard of, and Adric, a native of Alzaria, which I doubt you have heard of since it lies within N-Space. My other companion, Tegan, is from Brisbane in Australia and is as honest an example of the Human race as you can ever hope to meet. Reys Hanvik, if you have a mission aboard this train, you would be advised to bring us into your confidence.”

Reys Hanvik looked at The Doctor for a long moment, then clearly decided he could trust him.

“Protection,” he answered. “I have to protect… somebody. I cannot tell you who… a passenger on this train… another alien… a member of the royal family of Annex Borea who has been living offworld for many years, experiencing life as an ordinary being before taking up the royal duties. Such experiences are encouraged in our royals. It teaches them understanding of the common people they rule.”

“Very commendable. But, of course, outside of the royal circles they are open to threats from their enemies… kidnap, assassination… And that’s why you’re here?”

“Exactly so. My protectee is one of the passengers. And the enemy who wishes to cause a constitutional crisis on Annex Borea by assassinating the eldest grandchild of the reigning monarch is also a passenger. But I do not yet know who the would be assassin is.”

“Oh!” Nyssa groaned. She reached into her pocket and took out the crumpled note. “Oh, I know who the royal is. And she needs help… look. She must have asked her husband to pass on the message.”

The Doctor took the note and read it, then passed it to Hanvik as Nyssa related her story about the drunken husband of the Hollywood star. He shook his head.

“No, that lady is not the one I am protecting,” he said. “This is nothing to do with my case.”

“Then… what is it about?” Adric asked. “We thought…”

“You can explain later why you thought I shouldn’t see a message like this,” The Doctor said, giving Nyssa and Adric a stern and paternalistic stare that conveyed more than any words could. “But right now… Nyssa, you go with Hanvik back to the lounge and sit with Tegan. You can observe the passengers from there just as easily. Adric, you come with me. We’ll sort this other problem out, first.”

Hanvik agreed to that suggestion. Before they left the privacy of the sleeping compartment, though, he stood up and shimmered strangely before resolving into the attractive female form that Nyssa had noticed before.

“I think a woman in conversation with two young ladies would arouse less comment than a man doing the same,” she pointed out.

“Indeed,” The Doctor responded. “Adric, close your mouth before you actually drool, there’s a good chap.”

Nyssa and the elegant female Hanvik went one way. Adric and The Doctor went the other, but only as far as the last but one compartment in the wagon-lit. The card in the slot on the door identified it as occupied by Miss Cecilia Hayes and Mr Gordon Dawes.

“She’s a Miss?” Adric asked as The Doctor knocked.

“For professional purposes.” The door opened on the security key chain that all of the compartments had. Mr Gordon Dawes looked out. His expression when he saw The Doctor was surprisingly relieved. He unlocked the door and asked him and Adric to come inside before closing the door again.

Cecilia Hayes was sitting on a chair by the window. She had a cigarette in the holder but it was unlit. She was clearly worried beneath the veneer of poise and charm that came second nature to her. Mr Dawes, on the other hand, was living up to his name. In his black suit and white shirt and with his nervous manner, he looked just like a Human jackdaw.

“Lord Palmer, thank you for coming,” Cecilia Hayes said to The Doctor. “Please sit down. And your young friend.”

“Lord…” Adric began, but The Doctor nudged him into silence. He took the other chair by the window while Adric perched on one of the beds. Mr Dawes sat down opposite, then stood up again and then sat again as if he couldn’t make his mind up which was the better position. The Doctor noted that he didn’t seem to be drunk, after all. Nervous, worried, certainly, but perfectly sober. Clearly he was at least as good an actor as his wife.

“We knew you straight away this morning at breakfast,” Cecilia Hayes continued. “Lord Peter Palmer, the aristocratic detective from London. I don’t suppose you remember me. We met briefly at Lady Astoria’s New Year party… when you exposed the thief who had tried to make off with the Astoria emerald.”

“Lady Astoria…. Ah, yes, of course,” The Doctor replied, glancing at Adric and daring him to say a word. “And that is why you tried to get a message to me? You need help?”

“Alas, it is too late,” Cecilia continued. “All is lost. The best we can do now is make a clean breast of it and hope the authorities will be lenient.” She nodded towards the wardrobe, where a valise was half packed. “We were preparing to get off the train at Milan and go to the police… make a full confession. The scandal will no doubt finish my career… but… Oh, I know what people think of Hollywood, of actresses like myself. But before I was an actress, I sang in the church choir. I had morals… and… I can’t live with this… not now. It’s all gone too far.”

“We’ve still got thirty minutes until we reach Milan,” The Doctor said. “We’re running late because of the delay at Domodossola. So why don’t you tell me everything, first. If nothing else, it will help you get your story straight for the authorities.”

“It… was all my fault,” Cecilia admitted. “I was a fool. An utter, utter fool. I let myself be lured into an indiscretion… It happened when we were in Paris. It was a stupid mistake. I know that now. A silly, meaningless affair. I was so ashamed afterwards. I confessed to Gordon. And he, wonderful man that he is… he forgave me. He counted it as a woman’s fleeting fancy and told me not to think of it again. I told the man involved that it was over, and he accepted that. Or so I thought. Then we received photographs… in the post. There was a demand for money. An arrangement was made. The exchange would take place on the Swiss/Italian border… within the tunnel. We would hand over the money on the Swiss side. He would give us the prints and negatives on the Italian side He said… that way… no actual crime of extortion was committed in either jurisdiction. Nothing could be pinned on him.”

“A good lawyer could make mincemeat of that idea,” The Doctor commented. “But do go on.”

“We had no reason to trust him. That’s why… when we knew you were on board the train… we hoped… hence the note Gordon gave to your young friend. But the poor girl must have been too frightened to pass it on. The delay… alas…”

“The man in the baggage car!” Adric exclaimed. “You killed him.”

“Not on purpose,” Dawes insisted. “Please believe me. I planned only to frighten him… to ensure that he kept his end of the bargain fully. I brought this…” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver-handled pistol. The Doctor drew back instinctively as Dawes fired into the air. But there was no bullet, only a small blue and orange flame. It was a rather macabre but utterly harmless cigarette lighter.

“And Radanova was frightened by it?”

“I couldn’t believe his reaction,” Dawes said as he continued his story. “I think he was an amateur at the blackmail business, because he looked nervy enough to begin with. When he saw the gun he panicked. He gave me the photographs even without asking for the money and he began to shake and beg me not to kill him. Then he went a funny colour and started choking. He tried to say something in his own language… and then collapsed. I tried to revive him. I swear I tried. But he was already stone dead…. There was nothing I could do. Then I heard somebody coming and I hid behind that large piece of freight. That was my real mistake, of course. Hiding… it just compounded my guilt. I was hiding there all the time… when the two youngsters found the body, and when you and Doctor Albin confirmed the death… All the way to Domodossola where the body was taken off the train, I stayed hidden, praying I would not be discovered. Only when it was over could I come back here to Cecelia. We talked about it and… we decided that the game was up. We had to tell the truth. I am sorry I didn’t do that from the start. Hiding like that makes me look so much more guilty. But I was scared… I panicked…”

“May I see the pictures?” The Doctor asked. Dawes and Cecelia looked at each other and then the troubled lady took a large manila envelope from a valise. The Doctor glanced at the first one and then turned so that Adric couldn’t see. He looked at a few more of the prints then held up some of the negatives to the light from the window. Then he put everything back into the envelope. He put the envelope into the metal lined waste bin under the table and took the lighter from Dawes. He held the flame to the envelope until it caught light. The celluloid negatives and the glossy photographic paper inside soon ignited and burned quickly.

“But…” Cecilia looked worried. “Without those… we can’t even show that Radanova was blackmailing us. It just looks like plain and simple murder.”

“Without those,” The Doctor corrected her. “There is nothing to connect you to a Bulgarian artist who just happened to have travelled from Paris on the same train as you.”


“I examined the body. So did the respected Doctor Auguste Albin. We both confirmed death by natural causes. Doctor Albin signed a death certificate in front of the Italian authorities at Domodossola. Would you want to embarrass that good man by questioning his diagnosis? Would you damage his reputation as a man of medicine?” The Doctor looked out of the window and noted that the train was slowing down. “We’re coming into Milan station at last. There was mean to be an hour long stop here. Time enough for a stroll. But the delay at Domodossola means we will only be here a mere twenty minutes. Best if everyone travelling on from here stays aboard, I think.”

“You really mean..” Cecelia Hayes was astonished. “Lord Palmer… you mean you would… You don’t intend to tell…”

“What would be gained? As I said, there is Doctor Albin’s reputation at stake. And let’s be charitable to Radanova’s loved ones. Bad enough he is dead without learning that he was a blackmailer. You’re going on to Constantinople, I believe? And from there, back to the USA eventually? May you have a good journey and may your stars take you where you would wish them to take you.”

He stood and bowed his head to Cecelia. He shook hands with Gordon Dawes. Then he told Adric to come along and backed out of the compartment. Adric said nothing for the length of two sleeping compartments before his curiosity got the better of him.

“I could see it in their eyes,” The Doctor answered his first question. “They both told me the whole, unvarnished truth. Besides, Doctor Albin IS a very good physician, and so am I. There was no evidence of anything other than a sudden heart attack in a man who an autopsy will doubtless show had a weakness other than for money he didn’t earn and attractive brunettes.”

“And what about… this Lord Palmer thing…”

“Now that IS a puzzle,” The Doctor admitted. “I have never been to a party at Lady Astoria’s and I have never posed as an aristocratic detective. When we get back into the TARDIS in Istanbul, remind me to look up Lord Palmer. If he really does look that much like me it would be a remarkable coincidence, wouldn’t it?”

“Especially after Nyssa was mistaken for Anne Talbot not so very long ago,” Adric pointed out. “If we meet somebody who looks just like me next time…”

“Stranger things have happened,” The Doctor told him. “Now, let’s meet up with the ladies and adjourn to the dining car. Luncheon will be served immediately after the train departs from Milan.”

There was just time to explain everything to Tegan, Nyssa and Hanvik before the train pulled out of Milan’s central station. Nyssa was relieved by the explanation of everything that had happened and agreed with The Doctor’s decision not to turn in the unfortunate couple at the centre of the matter. Tegan was even more philosophical about it.

“I really did want to have a walk around in Milan,” she sighed. “It was one of the destinations I would have been travelling to as an air hostess if I hadn’t got mixed up with you, Doctor. I’m sorry the man is dead, even if he was a blackmailer. But I wish he hadn’t spoiled Milan.”

“I’ll bring you back here another time,” The Doctor promised. “Perhaps we can come in the 1900s when my old friend Puccini was making his name at the Opera House. I’ll have to keep an eye on him, though. He was a terrible rogue around young women.”

“The morals of some humans,” Nyssa commented as they stepped into the dining car and were seated together for luncheon. As their vichyssoise soup was being served, Cecelia and Gordon came in and were seated at a table for two. They looked relieved, and held hands across the table. The Doctor acknowledged the nods and smiles they gave to him and congratulated himself on a job well done.

The stern looking governess and the three girls came and sat at a table and ate quietly. So did Doctor Albin and his wife and the newlyweds. Last to be seated were the two Frenchmen and the Colonel. The three of them sat together and continued an animated discussion of the Gold Standard. It was a curious discussion because although the Colonel clearly understood French and Monsieurs François and Louis Chapuisat both spoke fluent English, the Colonel used English for his part of the conversation and the two brothers replied in French. National pride was obviously an issue and neither party was giving an inch.

“So… anyway, why WERE you clinging to the outside of our compartment while the train was doing ninety miles an hour?” Tegan asked Hanvik. “That’s what I’d really like to know.”

“Attempting to reach the carriage on the other side of yours without being observed. I saw your young friend in the corridor and knew I could not get into the room that way. But I had reason to believe there was something suspicious about the passenger who slept in that compartment. He wasn’t at breakfast, and didn’t appear in either the observation lounge or the smoking car.”

“That wasn’t very bright of you,” The Doctor told him. “It was Radanova. By the time you went looking he was already in a morgue in Domodossola. Red herring there, old chap.”

“It seems so.” Hanvik sighed dismally and concentrated on his main course of chicken fillets in white wine that was placed in front of him.

“But…” Adric piped up. “This means that somebody in this carriage, eating luncheon right now… is extra-terrestrial royalty. And somebody else is an extra-terrestrial assassin.”


“I know who the royal is,” The Doctor said. “She’s quite obvious now I know I’m looking for a Borean.”

“She?” Nyssa and Adric looked around. Ruling out Cecelia Hayes, there were only a few female possibilities. They looked at Lady Alice Stockport and Madam Albin closely but they couldn’t decide for certain.

“It’s not one of those children is it?” Nyssa asked. “Oh, how dreadful. To think somebody would want to hurt a little girl…”

“No,” The Doctor assured her. “It’s not one of the children. Their only problem is that their mother and father live in two separate countries and think they can keep sending them back and forwards along this railway line like parcels in the mail car. But the identity of the princess is less important than the identity of the assassin. We must assume he intends to make his move in the next few hours. It is a little over three hours to Venice, now, and two and a half more before we arrive in Trieste. I have every reason to think the attempt will be made before then, don’t you agree, Hanvik?”

“I agree, Doctor,” Hanvik answered. “So it is imperative to identify the assassin and pre-empt his move.”

“It may not be anyone in this car,” Tegan pointed out. It was her first contribution to the conversation. She was more than a little disappointed to find there were mysteries going on after all, and had been doing her best to blank it all out and enjoy an afternoon travelling through the lovely Lombardy region of Italy in the sunshine. But she couldn’t help feeling they were missing something. “There is another dining car further down the train, and two more sleeping cars. These are not the only people aboard the Orient Express.”

“Quite true,” The Doctor acknowledged. “But I don’t think the assassin wants to let his quarry out of his sight. As long as she is here, he is.”

“I concur,” Hanvik said. “But we still don't know who…”

“Patience,” The Doctor replied. “And observation. He will reveal himself before long. Be sure of that. We must…”

“Should we be talking about it all like this?” Tegan asked. Again it seemed an obvious question. “Aren’t we giving away that we’re onto this assassin?”

The Doctor nodded to Hanvik who reached into his pocket and held out a small and very anachronistic device. It looked like a bicycle computer.

“It’s a sort of audio perception filter,” The Doctor explained. “Like the chameleon circuit on the TARDIS – if it worked. It cloaks our conversation. Anyone overhearing us will think we’re discussing the weather or fashions in Milan or the Gold Standard. Even the assassin won’t realise we’re talking about him if he walked past. We’re completely safe.”

“Good,” Nyssa said. “Because I think I know who it is. It’s the ‘Colonel’ – if he really is a colonel. There’s something very shady about him. He has something to hide.”

“Yes, he does,” The Doctor answered. “But not that. He developed a bad gambling habit since he left the army. He left Paris in a hurry because his creditors were after him. He’s hoping to make good in Turkey with a former comrade who has a business proposal.”

Everyone looked at The Doctor curiously.

“I saw it in his thoughts this morning at breakfast. I told you, minds are easy to read when people aren’t quite awake. Anyway, he’s not the one. He’s 100% Human with ordinary Human failings.”

“I think it’s one of the Frenchman,” Adric said.

“Or both of them,” Nyssa added. “I mean, how do we know what either of them is really saying. Maybe they have a perception filter, too. Can anyone REALLY talk about business as long as they have?”

The idea intrigued Nyssa and Adric. They convinced themselves that François and Louis Chapuisat were the extra-terrestrial assassins and watched them for signs of non-Human activity like blinking more or less often than necessary or any unusual body language. The Doctor left them to it. He knew they weren’t the ones Hanvik was looking for. He had identified the assassin almost as soon as he identified the Princess.

Of course, Princess was an approximate translation of her title. Annex Boreans were, as he had said already, a mutable species. And they could choose their gender according to mood or preference, or political expediency. The Princess could just as easily be a Prince if she wanted. She could have chosen to live on Earth as a man or a woman.

She had chosen to be a woman because Humans, generally speaking, not counting the selfish and cruel ones that too often cropped up, tended to be sympathetic towards women, and sought to protect them. She had chosen to give herself the kind of Human life where there would be a man to look after her, to provide a home for her. And, should the worst happen, he would give his own life to protect hers. Cynical minds might think that was a selfish thing for her to do, using a man simply as a shield. But in this case it was obvious to The Doctor that mutual love went with the relationship, and she would as easily put her own life on the line for her husband.

“Not while I have breath in my body,” The Doctor thought. “They both need protecting from this evil.”

The assassin was obviously in no hurry to make his move, though. Tegan had a peaceful and enjoyable afternoon savouring the Italian countryside as the train moved down through Lombardy to Veneto, the region that stretched along the Adriatic to the north-east of Italy. The glimpses of Venice that she enjoyed when they arrived there at a little after five o’clock set her heart aglow, and she was a little sorry to leave it behind, though the promise of a beautiful Adriatic sunset in the hours before they reached Trieste was compensation.

There was still an hour to go before that destination when Doctor and Mrs Albin left the lounge to go to their compartment. Mrs Albin was tired and wanted a lie down before dinner.

Shortly after that, the governess ushered the children out of the lounge, too. They were getting off the train at Trieste, and had to pack their overnight bags, still. The three girls walked quietly and demurely under the watchful eye of their stern overseer. The Doctor watched them go before he turned to Hanvik and nodded to him.

“What? It’s one of them?” Nyssa and Adric were astonished. They started to rise, but The Doctor told them to sit down again.

“We’ll handle this,” he said. “You three wait here. This could get dangerous and I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

They looked mutinous, but they had no choice but to obey. Tegan promised to keep an eye on them. They protested about being treated like children. She reminded them that, by Earth standards and by their own worlds, they both WERE children.

The Doctor and Hanvik followed the governess and the children through the dining car and towards the Wagon-Lit. They watched from the dividing door as Doctor and Mrs Albin went into their compartment. The governess herded the children into theirs. Then she locked the door and turned. The Doctor saw her face change in the lamplit corridor and felt a surge of self-satisfaction. He had guessed right. Nyssa and Adric had set far too much store by the word ‘he’, of course. Even having seen Hanvik change in front of them they had forgotten that Boreans were mutable and could change gender. It never occurred to them that the assassin was the governess.

He didn’t get involved in what came next. He was a pacifist, and when Hanvik drew a small, discreet, but deadly disintegrator gun from inside the tailored bodice of ‘her’ dress, he looked away. He heard the hum of the weapon firing up and a quickly cut off cry before he turned around and saw a dark pile of dust on the floor outside the compartment where Doctor and Mrs Albin were resting, unaware of the drama outside.

He walked back to the dining car and asked Tegan to come with him. Adric and Nyssa both protested at being left alone without any explanations about what was happening.

“I need your hostess skills,” he told her. “Take the three girls up to the dining car and ask the waiter to get them orange juice or something. Tell them there’s nothing to worry about.”

“You mean, like when we’re supposed to tell passengers that it’s just turbulence, or that we’ve got more than enough fuel to circle the runway for an hour before landing?” she asked.

“A lie, yes,” The Doctor replied.

“Right you are, Doctor,” Tegan said. “Just so long as we’re clear about that.”

He and Hanvik waited until Tegan led the three girls back to the dining car, then they let themselves into the compartment. Three beds were made up for the three children. A dividing door led into the adjoining room where the governess slept. The Doctor and Hanvik looked around cursorily and then opened the only obvious hiding place – the wardrobe. They caught the body of the woman who fell out and laid her gently on the carpeted floor.

“She’s not dead,” Hanvik confirmed with a sigh of relief. “I hoped… he needed her alive to access her memories and copy her manners. Otherwise his disguise wouldn’t have worked.”

“Lucky for her,” The Doctor agreed. He put his hand on the woman’s forehead and reached into her mind. He found the moment early this morning when she had answered a knock at the door claiming to be a wagon-lit guard. She didn’t remember anything else after that.

“Best if we leave it like that,” The Doctor said. He gently brought her round and told her she had been asleep most of the day after having fallen in the bathroom this morning.

“The children?” she said in a panic. “Les enfants?”

“They’re quite all right,” The Doctor assured her. “If you join les enfants in the dining car, we will make sure your luggage is ready when the train reaches Trieste in half an hour.”

That much was done. The Doctor and Hanvik, with Tegan waved goodbye to the children and their rather bewildered but unharmed governess on Trieste station and got back on board the Orient Express before the whistle blew and it went on its way again.

“So Mrs Elizabeth Albin is the Borean Princess?” Nyssa was still annoyed not to be involved in the excitement, but the final details of the mystery intrigued her all the same. “That nice elderly lady?”

“Indeed, she is. Boreans live very long lives. She is only a young woman by their standards. She’s happy living on Earth with Doctor Albin. I expect her plan is to stay with him until he dies of old age, and then after having lived a full, happy life with him she’ll be ready to go back to her home world and take up her royal duties.”

“Fair play to her,” Tegan said. “Are you going to tell her that there was an assassin outside her door?”

“I think not,” Hanvik answered. “It would only worry her. I will stay on the train as far as Belgrade, just to make sure all is well, but then I think my work is done. I can return to Annex Borea.”

“If you want to stick around to Constantinople, we can give you a lift,” The Doctor offered.

“That is very generous of you, Doctor,” Hanvik answered. “Thank you, very much. And may I extend an invitation to you all to enjoy an extended visit to Borea? It is spring there, and very pleasant, just now.”

The prospect excited Nyssa and Adric. Tegan thought it sounded good, too. But she was just glad that the mysteries had all been solved and she could look forward to going to bed tonight in Italy and waking up in the morning in Yugoslavia. Breakfast time would see them pulling into Belgrade, and then there were cities with such exotic names as Crveni Krst, Dimitrovgrad and Sofia to look forward to, then during Friday night, Saturday morning they would pass into Turkey itself and place names such as Phythion and Uzunkopru were on the time table before the exotic Sirkeci station in Istanbul…

…Or Constantinople.

That was excitement enough for her to be going on with, anyway.