To Sapphire & Steel Hub

Sapphire and Steel

by P. J. Hammond Episode # 5,

"Doctor McDee Must Die"

Transcripted by Jill





1980 when it isn't 1930

Once upon a time there was a room scented with the weight of time. It was a clean room, pale and colored in light shades of yellow. The delicate petals of the pale roses complimented it perfectly.

There was a bearded man in round spectacles, a dignified tuxedo gracing his aged body. His hair was perfect, not a dark gray strand out of place. He stood by the window smoking a cigar and watching the elderly woman with barely veiled amusement.

She was graced with silvery-white hair, and as perfectly coifed. It was drawn back from a wide forehead, a long oval face that must have been astonishingly lovely in years past. She wore a black silken gown. A black choker rested delicately upon her neck, and below it was a strand of perfect, white pearls. She arranged the roses in a vase on the table in front of her, then spoke to the slim, elderly butler standing beside her with roses in his hands.

"Greville, isn't it a little late to send flowers?"

With gentle subservience he replied, "I think you shall have to use them, Miss Emma. They'd be very hurt if you didn't."

She answered him with silent exasperation as she added a pink rose to the ones already in the vase. The pale pinks, the red, the white and yellow and lavender, "Roses. The roses were always so much nicer, then."

Hearing her, the bearded, spectacled man stepped away from the window, revealing himself to be more than a head shorter than the butler. With his own exasperation he said, "Never mind the roses, Emma. The guests will be arriving shortly."

The butler, Greville, stood guard over his mistress' sensibility, bending slightly to the man at his side. "These have only just arrived, sir." He watched Miss Emma with an indulgent smile.

Still adjusting the bouquet, she said firmly, "I remember the house was always full of perfect roses." She placed another red rose as she saw fit.

Exasperated, the spectacled man came to the opposite side of her. "Oh please, come on Emma!"

She picked the last two roses, a pink and white, from Greville's hands and looked up at the other man with the sweet innocence of either a child, or a very elderly woman. "Everything seemed more perfect in those days, didn't it, dear?"

His eyebrows shot up and he shifted with outrage, bringing his cigar to his lips. "It should be perfect now! It's damned well cost me enough to make it that way!"

She turned to him, angered by his pomposity. "It was your idea, Arthur," she reminded him sternly before turning back to the roses.

"That's right," he said, and moved away across the room. "And now that I've gone to all this expense, we're going to go along with it." He turned on his heel and waggled the index finger of his right hand, the one with the cigar, at her. "And don't make any faux pas, Emma!"

"No, Arthur," she replied obediently as she finished the bouquet. "I'll try not to." She and Greville both gave him a quiet look that he did not quite trust. The butler was too solicitous of her, and it troubled him.

He continued sternly, leaning forward on the balls of his feet. "Remember the date, and remember the year!"

Folding a delicate white cloth Greville had handed to her, she responded, "Yes, dear. Such a lovely day, and such an exciting year!"

He turned away from her towards the decanters on the far table. "June the 21st, 1930!"

"Yes, dear," she replied cheerfully.

"Good! Greville, did you manage to get the g -- "

"Ah, yes sir," the butler replied firmly, though with no trace of annoyance as the master of the house turned towards him.

With a wry laugh, Arthur stuck his cigar in his mouth, then took it out as he came back to Emma's side. As he checked his pocket watch he said amusedly, "I should imagine that Wall Street and the stock exchange would say it was a little too damn exciting!" He put the watch back in his pocket, suddenly worried. "Stock exchange, damn!"

Emma looked up from the new thing she was doing, alerted. "What is it, Arthur?" Greville was folding the napkin for her as she settled her embroidered pocket-purse in her lap, running her fingers lovingly over the beautiful, intricate designs.

He swung about and started across the room. "I didn't get yesterday's closing prices on the Tokyo market."

Emma glanced up at Greville. "Oh dear."

Arthur marched to the padded green door in the wall on the other side of the room, brought out a small, silver box and depressed a button on it. There was a high-pitched whistle, along with a lower vibratory hum as the door opened.

Emma, distressed, pressed her fingertips against her cheekbones and said unhappily, "I don't care what he says, I can actually hear that thing."

Greville bent down to her and chided gently, "Ultrasonics, Miss Emma."

She looked up at him with mild outrage, the diamonds in her heavy, dangling earrings flashing in the light. "I don't care what they call it, Greville. I can hear it." She swatted his hands reprovingly.

        Stepping through the green door was like stepping into another time. From rooms designed and then left in the 1930s to a room decorated in the late 70s, with far more practical bright lamps and lighting. Modern art hung upon the wall, black and white abstracts of geometrical shapes, glass and metal tables lined the short hall he hurried through.

His secretary Anne Shaw was busy typing away and said, "Good evening, sir."

Cheerily he answered her, "Good evening, Miss Shaw. Y'all right?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's good." He tore a page from the printout on the desk, glanced mildly at it, snorted and tossed it away. He crossed to the terminal and flicked it on, saying over his shoulder, "What did Tokyo close at?"

She was a red-head, pale with curled hair, and she paused in her typing to punch in the code that would relay the information to the screen Arthur sat in front of. Her pale green silk blouse complimented her dark green skirt beautifully. "Two point five up, my Lord, as you predicted."

Pleased, he said, "Good." She watched him alertly yet with patience as he puffed on his cigar. Nasty thing. "Hong Kong?"

She punched in that code to show him and answered firmly, "Recorded a point six percent rise on Mullrine International, and point four on Mullrine Engineering." She grinned in victory at him as the little man puffed up.

He was on his feet and away from the screen, a man who never stopped. "Splendid! You spoke to Fairfax in Washington?"

"Yes, sir. He managed to knock Lauderdale Arms and Caterpillars down to eight million dollars, U.S." She handed him the printout about the deal and he took it, laughing.

"I won't go to a cent more!" he said, practically crowing as he paced away and around to face her.

"I told him that, sir."

He was practically dancing on his feet. "Good." He shoved his free hand into his pocket and tilted his head in playful invitation. Obeying cheerfully, she came out from behind the desk, smiling, hands carefully behind her back. Like almost everyone, she towered above him. It did give him a certain satisfaction to have these giants at his beck and call.

Rolling back on his heels he asked cheerily, "And uh, what do you think of the outfit, eh?"

She shook her head admiringly. "Exactly right, sir."

Affecting indignation he said, "Damned well should be! The tailor charged me four-hundred quid to make it!" He paced around behind her and she turned to watch him admiringly. "Not a single trace of polyester or synthetic fiber in the whole suit!" He took her arm in his hand conspiratorially. "Got him to guarantee that."

She smiled warmly at him and began, "Authentic" he spoke with her "through and through!" They nodded together, voices intimate with laughter.

He spun away towards the white door, marching down the hall. "Yes, well, if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing thoroughly."

"Indeed, yes."

His hand on the knob, he turned quickly. "Oh, by the way! You're not to come out of this door under any circumstances! You understand, Miss Shaw?" He came back to her urgently. "Under any circumstances, whatsoever! It would spoil the whole effect; I mean, your clothes, and y -- "

She bent determinedly, reassuring him. "I understand, sir!"

He stepped to the other door to emphasize his point, whirling back to her. "Good. If you want to go out, you'll have to use this door. I don't want anyone to see you!"

Long-suffering, but easily hiding it, she answered, "I intended to work through the weekend, anyway, sir!"

He cupped her cheek in his right hand, became aware of the dangers of indulgence and patted her condescendingly. "You're a very good girl. And you, uh... don't have to go through the house for your bedroom in the annex..?" he touched her hand conspiratorially.

She let an affectionate giggle into her voice. "Uh, no, sir."

He let it go, then, bowing his head to her. "All right, then. See you Monday." He began again the march towards the door to another time.

She said, "I hope you have a super party, sir."

"Well, it'll be different, anyway." He paused and turned to her, his hand outstretched to the handle of the door. "Have to mark our fiftieth year of operation, don't we? Seems a good a way as any." He glanced up at the plastic calendar on the wall, that they had already arranged to show the date they were pretending it to be. He read it with mild amusement. 21, June, Saturday, 18:30. "Twenty-first of June. The summer solstice. I remember noting it, then." He was bemused by the strangeness of memory. He stepped through the door.

An age long gone and forgotten by too many. The wooden floors, the couches with their fringes, the lamps equally fringed. Emma sat in the chair by the roses she had arranged so beautifully. Greville met his eyes and shook a metal decanter conspiratorially. Arthur grinned. "Ah, the cocktails. Good man, Greville. Splendid chap." As the butler left the room, Arthur turned about, giving the walls a once-over to make certain there was nothing posted to spoil the theme of his party. He found himself stopping to stare at a portrait of the darkly handsome, brooding young man he had been fifty years before. Where had the years gone?

Emma spoke behind him. "Yes, Arthur. You look very handsome." He nodded. At that moment, the ancient doorbell rang its jangling summons. Excited, Emma turned her head. "Ah, the first guests!"

Satisfied by his portrait, Arthur bounced back a bit on his heels. "Yes. Now it all begins."

Emma pulled out a pouch and began powdering her nose, her voice quavering. "How silly of me. I feel quite nervous."

Distracted by thoughts of the coming party, Arthur answered her absently. "Yes. How silly of you, Emma."

        In the office, Anne Shaw locked the closet behind her desk and was about to get back to work when she saw the delicate, silver box on her desk. This was the tool that would open the door between the main house and these business offices. Oh dear! She snatched it up and hurried towards that door. About to open it, she stopped. He had said not to open it under any circumstances. She tossed the electronic key lightly in her palm, her lips pursed in frustration. She leaned against the door, trying to listen. She could not hear through the heavy, padded door. No, she should not. She sighed and headed back towards her desk. It was late, already 6:30 in the evening.

"Well, he could get back here if he wanted to, silly old devil." She sat back down, under the shining picture that showed the time zones of the world.

        Excited, Greville did a quick check of the taller doorman's uniform. Satisfied with it, he hurried to open the door. The woman who waited outside was dressed in a deep purple gown, with white furs draped across her shoulders. The man far behind her in the hall said, "Good evening, Greville."

He replied as calmly as he could, "Good evening, Mr. Harborough!"

The elderly woman came in, stately as she could at her age. "Good evening, Greville," she said musically.

"Good evening, Mrs. McDee," he bade her.

The younger woman behind her, of the curled dark hair, also said, "Good evening, Greville." The maid stepped forward to take their wraps.

Greville replied cheerfully, "Good evening, Mrs. Harborough."

"Good evening, Greville," said Mr. McDee, who entered next.

"Good evening, sir."

The men wore black tuxedos, with long white scarves hanging about their necks. Howard McDee, a pale-haired man, looked down his nose at the butler but without rancor. "I like your monkey suit, Greville," he commented mockingly.

But Greville could not be disturbed by such pettiness. "Nineteen-thirties, sir. Absolutely authentic," he said with pride.

With mild amusement, McDee looked at Harborough. "Hm. I'll bet the theatrical costumees must be having a field day."

His eyes twinkling, Greville cocked his head closer to the man. "All specially made, sir. By Lord Mullrine's personal tailor."

Harborough swept his white scarf off of his neck and spun away. "It must have cost a fortune."

Mrs. McDee leaned towards Mrs. Harborough and stage-whispered, "Does that imply that the shareholders will have reduced dividends this year?"

Mrs. Harborough's lips twisted in wry amusement. "God, I hope not."

The two women seemed almost like mother and daughter. Mrs. McDee wore shades of violet and lavender, and a diamond necklace. Mrs. Harborough work a brick red gown, but her necklace was diamond, though not as shining as Mrs. McDee's. Though they looked very different, their expressions were very similar. They combined wry amusement with a kind of jaded cynicism so few people wished to have.

Mr. Harborough announced, "The bags are in the car, Greville."

"Thank you, sir." Carrying the male guest's top hat and coat, he quickly signaled to the doorman, mouthed, "bags are in the car" and the other man hurried outside. Greville watched him go, amused and delighted. He crossed the room and came up against the obstacle of Mr. Harborough, who always seemed to make a habit of getting in the way. "Sorry, sir."

Mr. Harborough leaned down to him quizzically, McDee listening from nearby. "How many guest have been invited?"

Unperturbed, Greville said, "Well I've no idea, sir. Miss Emma saw to the invitations placed, bless her."

Mr. McDee sneered. "Oh, Lord. That spells trouble. Batty old flapper, she'll probably have half the county down here."

Annoyed, Greville stepped away to hide his irritation. Mrs. Harborough was as bad as Mr. McDee. "While the other half tries to get away," she sneered. They laughed mockingly.

Yet her husband stiffened and moved closer to her. He said with a smile, low and cool, "Keep your opinions to yourself, Annabelle." When she turned to meet his eyes with her own haughtiness, he weighted his voice and smiled icily with teeth at her. "If Mullrine wants to indulge his fantasies, let him. Go along with it, will you."

She met his eyes coldly, and his smile flicked off at her words. "Of course, darling. I think it's fun! Honestly." And yet she was not amused, her eyes angry at her husband.

Greville led them into the receiving room with a flourish, opening the doors wide to greet his employers. "Mrs. Felicity McDee, my lord, and Mr. Howard McDee. Mr. and Mrs. Felix Harborough."

As her brother/son shook hands with Mullrine, Mrs. McDee was drawn across the room. She stared up, time forgotten, at a picture there of a young man with a mustache. He had been more handsome than any other man she ever met. The black curtains of mourning had been pulled back just for their visit. Oh, the memories here that she had abandoned.

Emma's voice sludged through the suddenly thick air like a parachute. "Oh, how beautiful! How lovely you all look!" The voices faded and blurred into the background. Oh, she remembered him. She still remembered.

And then another voice was at her ear, a hated voice. Emma. "Hello, Felicity. How well you look." Shaken out of her trance, Felicity McDee turned to look at the other woman. Even now, after all this time? Emma's gaze turned to the portrait, but it was her face Felicity watched. That eternal, false innocence. "I do so wish George could have been here. He would have enjoyed it, wouldn't he?"

Felicity could barely contain her anger. It seeped into her tone slowly as she spoke, a verbal poison. She forcibly swung her gaze back to her dead husband's portrait. "George would have hated it, Emma. He always left ostentatious nonsense to you and your brother."

Emma's eyes glittered, half in amusement, half in hostility. She moved around, the better to see Felicity's expression. "Yes. Yes, I suppose so." She turned away, her eyes sharp on the lovely, dark-haired young woman confronting Greville across the room. Emma called out, "Annabelle. That dress is quite stunning." In obediance to the implied summons, the young woman crossed the room, showing off her curves in sinuous movement. She reached out one black gloved hand to take Emma's and they walked away together.

Mr. Harborough was speaking, "Arthur, you've been to a tremendous amount of trouble," he said to the man whose head barefly came up to the middle of his chest.

Smug with self-satisfaction, Arthur answered him, "Yes I have, haven't I?"

McDee cut in with the bored tones of the idle rich. "It's dead right, isn't it?"


"Every detail."

Taking a puff of his cigar, Arthur confirmed, "Every detail."

McDee challenged, "Except for...."

Alert, Arthur turned to him sharply. "Except for what?"

McDee, his fingers deep in his pockets, moved away across the room towards the wall. "Except for the black mourning crepe over my grandfather's portrait. Surely on June the twenty-first, 1930, he was very much alive, wasn't he Grandmama?"

Harborough tried to cut him off. "Howard -- "

Her voice ghostly with remembered loss, she said, "Yes, dear."

Standing at her side, he continued blithely. "No, no, no! Mullrine and McDee, the two whiz-kids of the Depression. Both hell-bent on making a second fortune for the Mullrine family!"

Harborough had made his way next to them, standing between the pair and the two women sitting on the loveseat behind, watching the exchange with interest. Arthur also moved past as Harborough uttered a low, menacing, "Yes, all right, Howard."

Sensing himself being reproved, Howard looked away. "Sorry."

Arthur bit back a sigh and turned away. His eyes fell on his trusted manservant. "Greville, whiskey and soda for the menfolk will you, please." He turned on his heel towards the two women seated in the loveseat as Greville moved to follow his orders. "And the ladies can have champagne or any of those damned newfangled cocktail things."

Annabelle Harborough almost laughed. "Splendid," she said, her voice low and rich.

As the McDees sat across from them, Emma said cheerfully, "What do you have in mind, Annabelle?"

Her arm stretched across the loveseat's arm, she smiled wickedly but spoke with utmost dignity. "I shall have a Green Goddess. I believe they were the in thing in 1930."

The Mullrines shared a glance of amusement. Arthur turned. "Greville, a Green Goddess for Mademoiselle, please if you w -- "

Emma cut him off merrily, turning to Annabelle. "Oh, don't be silly, ducky. You weren't even around then."

"Well, I've been doing my research."

Arthur turned away from her in exasperation. She would have to ruin the mood by reminding them of reality. Other voices raised in protest, but young McDee's cut across the muttering in amazed surprise. "I don't believe it! Does this thing work?"

He was standing in front of the old Wurlitzer, indicating it with his hand and looking around quizzically at Arthur, who replied, "Everything works."

His hands deep in his pockets, McDee said almost sheepishly, "Well, I was following the test match. Wanted to see how Boycott was getting on."

Puffing smoke towards the young man's arrogant face, Arthur said, "Be my guest." They were all just determined to spoil the mood! McDee eyed him hesitantly, glanced uncertainly at the radio, and he felt better. He urged the youngster, "Go on, switch it on!" With a mild snort of exasperation, the youngster reached to do so. He hit the switch in the middle. There was silence and he glanced by at Arthur, who was again puffing up with pride. "Well, they have to warm up, you know."

The innocence of the statement cheered young McDee and brought a genuine smile to his face, just as the whine of the radio became loud enough to hear. "Oh, that's good. That's very good." Arthur chuckled.

The signal cleared and a deep, brassy voice commanded the line. "Well, here we are back at the first test. The weather is still glorious here at Twin Bridge as Bradrun takes his stance with his fourth ball of the over."

Puzzled, McDee raised his chin. "Bradrun?" Arthur frowned, not understanding the confusion in the other man's voice.

The radio announcer continued. "Now it starts his long run, Ames well back, crouches behind the wicket -- " Harborough lifted his gaze, puzzled and curious to hear what would happen next " -- now it bowls fast a good length, and Bradrun flicks it sweet into the outermost culture-stroke! But Wally Hammond is there and there's no run."

McDee blinked, his mouth dropping open in surprise. He spoke over the announcer. "Bradrun, Larwood, Ames, Wally Hammond? This is extraordinary!" He listened intently as the voice continued.

"Australia, still one-hundred and twenty-three for one wicket, as Hammond returns the ball to Larwood."

Arthur raised his voice above the radio. "Trent Bridge. First test of the 1930 season, England against Australia!" He took a smug puff of his cigar.

The radio speaker was still going on. "Incidentally, speaking of Hammond's feilding, there's a story about it which is uh , if not true, at least ben-trevado." Harborough got out of the seat and joined the other two men at the radio, listening with interest, while behind him Greville brought something for the Mrs. McDee to drink. "It seems it was about a year ago when, Larwood was bowling and it was Brittany, Bradrun batting just as it is today, and Hammond was in the slips. Larwood bowled, Bradrun made a stroke there was a snick... and Hammond dived full length, and threw the ball up in front!" As the commentator continued, Harborough finally reached out and turned the radio around. He gently took the backing off. Sure enough, inside was a small, white tape player, a cord connecting it to the on-off switch. "Only, unfortunately it wasn't a ball. It was a swallow, which Hammond had caught as it -- " Harborough held the player in his right hand and shut it off, while Arthur Mullrine watched him with a mixture of indignation and stoic annoyance.

Harborough said mildly, "All done by mirrors. Or tape recorders." He looked mildly down at Arthur.

McDee sneered, half angry because he had enjoyed the surprise of the illusion. "Well that's clever. I wish to God there was a bookie handy, I know who won that game!"

Arthur tilted his head slightly to glower up at him. "You can't possibly, it hasn't ended yet." These men were such spoil-sports!

McDee continued, rocking slightly on his toes, studying the ceiling. "Now let me see, it was... well, I know every test score going back to Nineteen-eighteen. England/Australia, first test..." he trailed off as his mind went blank. After a moment he said, frowning, "That's funny. My memory's normally rather good. How strange, I can't remember"

Mrs. Harborough watched him expressionlessly, the white flower pinned in her hair startling in contrast against the rich brown of it. Her mind went blank and then cold ice crossed her senses. She gasped mildly and automatically clutched herself, only her left hand on her right arm, as he right hand rested on her left knee, crossed over her right.

Emma turned in concern. "Annabelle, are you all right?"

Puzzled, but holding her dignity, her rich voice rolling slightly, she rubbed her arm. "Yes, I think so. I just felt as if someone had -- "

Mrs. McDee cut in, her eyes twinkling. She was already slightly buzzed from the drink Greville had given her. "Walked over your grave?"

The old cliche brought a real laugh to Annabelle Harborough, who smiled warmly at the older woman. "Yes."

Mrs. McDee pushed herself to her feet under the watchful eyes of the other two woman and walked mostly steadily towards the portrait on the wall, her hands in their white gloves clasped together. Emma watched her alertly, setting her own glass on the coffee table. "This house has that effect on a lot of people. George used to loathe it."

Arthur came to her, looking up at her with barely controlled indignation. "On the contrary, as Emma will tell you, my late lamented partner did not loathe this house, Felicity. As a matter of fact he did some of his most creative work here, and my sister always made him feel most welcome."

Emma blinked back tears that threatened. She said with soft reproof, "Arthur, please."

Sensitive to the pained mood, Mr. Harborough crossed the room behind the two as Felicity spoke again. "He said it was an evil house."

Her voice trembling slightly, Emma held her hands on her knees. "Oh, no Felicity. Surely not."

Feeling oddly disoriented, Arthur spoke to the portrait. "Nothing ever changes, George."

Mr. Harborough had intended to pour another drink, but he looked in surprise at the label of the green wine bottle. "Allender Nineteen-twenty-seven?"

Shaken from his contemplation of the portrait, Arthur moved to Harborough, leaving Felicity McDee contemplating her grief. "Well of course."

Young McDee crossed the room, as usual his hands deep in his pockets, to join them, saying arrogantly, "It's a fallacy to assume that champagne matures with age! Now that bottle is -- "

Arthur said firmly, "Is only three years old and Nineteen twenty-seven was a very good year."

Annabelle Harborough had left the loveseat and came towards them. She had decided she enjoyed the game, and said firmly, "Yes it was. We had some only last week and it was simply divine."

Her husband frowned at her. "We've never had Allender Twenty-seven."

She stared at him, her mind feeling vaguely fogged preventing her from answering with the ice she might have. "Haven't we? I seem to remember..." she trailed off.

He frowned at her, while Arthur smiled in delight. "What?"

But it was Greville who spoke next. "May I, sir?" he asked, solicitously reaching for the champagne bottle. Harborough gave it to him and he began to pour.

Young McDee took Annabelle's left elbow in his hand, his eyes twinkling. He, too, was enjoying the game. "I thought everyone, but everyone, drank Allender Twenty-seven! I say, have you noticed it's getting quite dark outside?" His head fogged and he frowned, releasing Annabelle's arm in puzzlement.

Harborough stiffened in surprise. "That's impossible. It's not seven yet."

And yet it was true. Outside the windows the sky had turned a deep blue, and the corners of the room were shrouded in shadows where just a few moments earlier they had been warm with the light of day. Greville brought champagne to Mrs. McDee, who smiled and accepted the glass as her grandson continued.

Howard McDee said, "And the weather's glorious at Trent Bridge!"


"You heard the wireless."

Mrs. McDee turned and stared at a white door in the wall. "No!" she said reflexively. The door became green and its nob vanished as she watched it. The green door that exited into more modern rooms. Disoriented, she trembled and stared at it. "No, that's impossible!"

Annabelle came to her side. "What's the matter?"

"That green door!" Her grandson came up behind her with concern, and Arthur too stood at her side.

He said in confusion, "What about it?"

She stuttered a bit. "Well I -- I could swear it -- it seemed to disappear!"

Her grandson chuckled. "Oh, come on grandmama. You've only just started your first glass of champagne!"

Actually, it was her second drink. But she had more pressing concerns. "I tell you it disappeared."

Emma said firmly, "Nonsense." She was watching Felicity expressionlessly, and yet her eyes were sharp on the other woman's face.

Felicity McDee met her look and said huffily, "Only for a second or two."

Emma responded with her own arrogance. "Doors don't disappear, Felicity."

The other woman rolled her eyes and looked back at the green door. "This one did." Strange, that however impossible it was she felt absolutely sure of what she had seen.

Arthur looked up at her. "That's the door to my office, Felicity."

She shrugged, looking down at him in frustration. "I know, Arthur. But it wasn't there in Nineteen thirty, was it." The room had lightened visibly around them. Outside the windows was again the bright light of afternoon. They all felt a faint sense of disorientation.

Arthur shook it off as embarrassment. She was right. It spoiled the whole illusion! "Damn." He walked to the door and stared at it indignantly. Whirling back to them he muttered to himself, "I forgot about that."

Young McDee chuckled and tried to soothe the ruffled feathers. "Well, I wouldn't have known anyway. I wasn't born then." He and Annabelle exchanged merry glances and walked away towards the loveseat to sit and talk together.

Emma stood, her pocket-purse between her fingers and said softly, "You built that office in Nineteen thirty-eight, Arthur. I remember thinking how out of place that door looked in this room." She eyed it as if it offended her.

Arthur took a puff, then waved his cigar indignantly. "Yes, all right, Emma."

At that moment the doorbell went off. Emma chuckled merrily. "That's probably young Tony Purnell and his pretty little girlfriend!"

Arthur stared at her in dismay. "Probably?"

Flustered, she turned to Greville, who had just come up beside her. "Oh dear, I can't remember her name." In the background, Mrs. McDee and Mr. Harborough were sitting down together on the other divan.

Arthur shook his head at her. "You didn't invite anyone else, did you?" he asked, pained.

She stared at him, annoyed. "I don't know, Arthur. I thought you made out the list of invitations."

Greville broke in smoothly, waving a hand towards the door. "Should I, sir?"

Arthur shook his head and looked at his sister. "No. You'd better go and receive them," he told her.

She shook her head at him. "Oh, very well." She moved away to answer the door.

Arthur took his manservant's arm, leading the man aside. "Greville, you will serve some drinks for me, please."

Emma walked out into the bright white hall towards the door. The house was a wonder of taste and beauty. She had lived here all of her life, it seemed. She ignored the fixings today and went towards the door. Stopping short of it, she hesitated and said, "Hello?"

A man answered her, his voice calm and young. "Good evening."

She did not know this voice. Surprised and puzzled, she asked, "Who is it?"

"Miles and Virginia Cavendish," came the confident answer.

The names were unfamiliar. She frowned. "Who?"

The man sounded slightly bewildered as he asked, "This is Lord Mullrine's party? We were invited."

Nervously, Emma clasped her pocket-purse between the fingers of both hands. She did not know those names at all. She turned back towards the other room, wondering if she should check with Arthur. But how would total strangers know of the party? She turned back, still unsure. "Oh. It should be all right then." She opened the doors and stared in surprise at the woman who stood in front of her.

She was a vision in a long-sleeved, bright blue dress, golden hair brushing the nape of her neck. She smiled warmly and handed the invitation to Emma. "I hope we're not too late." Her voice was incredibly gentle and disarming.

Emma stared first at the invitation, then in some shock at the man who carried the luggage in. He was dressed in a dark gray business suit, a light gray tie and white shirt. Blond, like the woman, and handsome in a severe way. The two heavy brown cases in his hands looked heavy. He met her stunned gaze steadily and said, "The invitation was most specific."

"Allow me, sir!" came an urgent male voice behind her.

Emma turned with considerable relief. "Oh, Greville! Thank you!" She looked up into the warm, kind eyes of the young woman and felt adrift.

They were the anachronisms in the room, their clothing modern and flowing as they looked about at the antiques surrounding them. The woman exuded warmth, while the man seemed more standoffish. Greville said to them, "This way, sir," as he took the suitcases and started up the stairs. They walked gracefully after him.

Emma followed a few steps and forced a smile to her face. These two were utter strangers, beautiful as they were. She managed to say, "Don't be too long!" before turning her attention to study the invitation intently.

Arthur stared at the card in confusion. "The Honorable Miles and Mrs. Cavendish?" he read.

Emma said firmly, "Yes. Miles and Virginia. I didn't send that card." She eyed him intently.

He could see she was suspicious of the two strangers. He knew that in truth her mind was often like a steel trap and if she said she had not sent this invitation, it was true. He tapped the invitation against his palm, trying to think where he had heard that name before. "Cavendish, Cavendi -- " It came to him suddenly and he looked into Emma's suspicious eyes with relief and excitement. "Oh, yes. He must be that chap who deals in futures."

"Would he mean all our futures?" she asked him grimly.

Young McDee got to his feet suddenly from where he had been sitting with Annabelle. "Would anybody mind if we had some music?" He marched to the radio and flicked the switch, amused.

Harborough rolled his eyes. "You're going to get that blasted test match again. It's a tape, remember?"

The radio whistled behind him as it warmed up. And then, to all of their surprise, they could hear a waltz clearly. Annabelle broke into a smile, pleased to be surprised again in this game. "Oh, how nice! Jack Fane and his orchestra!" She got to her feet to head towards the radio.

Her husband sprang up as well and hurried forward, Arthur fast behind him. "What's that?"

She sneered slightly, "Dance music, darling."

Young McDee was happy to go along. "Well I'd thought everyone had heard of Jack Fane. He's all the rage at the moment!"

Harborough had turned the radio around and pulled off the backing. There was nothing. Where the tape had been was only an empty spot. In shock he said, "Good heavens!"

Annabelle asked quickly, "What's the matter?"

"What's happened to the tape?"

Genuinely confused, Arthur asked, "What tape, Felix?"

        Sapphire was listening. She wore this time delicate silver balls for earrings, a pale lipstick and her golden hair hid her eyebrows where it was not pulled back by a barrett . Light violet eyeshadow made her eyes seem even larger than they were as she looked about. She said, "The whole place seems very odd to me." She stepped forward and glanced down at the white covers, folded her hands together at her waist and twinkled merrily at Steel beside her. "Which side of the bed would you prefer?"

Disgruntled, he looked at her. Today she wore low heels, and they could look each other directly in the eye. He said heavily, "There's no other way?"

She glanced away, amusement tugging at her lips. "Not now, no."

He grumbled, "Miles Cavendish, who chose that?"

She looked at him in surprise. "You did."

His lips tightened indignantly. "I didn't."

"Yes you did."

She was right, of course. He looked away in annoyance. "The host must have started this as a game."

She turned her attention towards the bed. "Well, now it's become reality." She drew in a breath and walked around him. "You know, I think I'd rather be nearer the door." He watched her as she moved around and sat on the other side of the bed. Not looking at him she said thoughtfully, "It's funny, since I arrived I haven't seen or touched anything that was made later than Nineteen thirty. Nothing."

He frowned slightly. "What about the materials?"

She gave a slight shake of her head, blinking. "No synthetic fibers. No plastics. No nylon."

He said grimly, "It's as though we stepped back fifty years when we walked through the front door. I wonder if the people downstairs realize that?" He glanced about the room.

Sapphire shrugged to herself and lay down on the bed with a sigh. "How long will it take you to get ready?" she asked, resting her left palm on her stomach.

        Downstairs the radio played another dance piece, and Annabelle danced with Howard. She commented suddenly, "I say it really is getting awfully dark in here."

Young McDee said, "Longest day of the English summer, what do you expect?"

Emma raised her eyebrows where she sat and said, "I do hope it's not going to rain."

Arthur was standing behind her. She listened as he said, "Let's have some lights on, shall we, and draw the curtains, shut it all out. Never had summers like this in the Thirties," he grumbled.

Emma lifted her chin, a small smile at the edges of her lips and said thoughtfully, "I was looking forward to a lovely, sunny weekend. Tea on the lawn tomorrow, with strawberries."

Her brother walked away in disgust. Outside the window in the gathering gloom, a church could be dimly seen through the trees. A clock struck.

Annabelle commented, "Well it started out all right."

It was Harborough who shut the curtains abruptly. He could not say what was alarming him about the outside scene. But beside him young McDee said suddenly, "Now I never noticed that before."

Startled, he asked, "What?"

"You can see the church tower from here. It's almost as though there were a path through the trees to it." McDee was puzzled, but not alarmed as he stared at the curtained window.

Emma said calmly, "I'm afraid you're mistaken, Howard." She watched him over her shoulder.

He turned to her curiously, "Oh, why?"

She looked away from him towards the opposite wall. "Must be a trick of the light. The church tower was V-two'ed, or was it doodle-bombed... one or the other in uh... Nineteen forty-four, or Nineteen forty-five."

Surprised, Harborough asked, "Are you sure, Emma?"

She looked up at him where he stood beside her seat. "Positive. Terribly sad."

He moved away from her uncertainly and looked down at his wife, where she sat beside Mrs. McDee. "It did look like a church tower."

Felicity McDee blinked up at him blearily. "And it would have been there in Nineteen thirty, wouldn't it?"

Annabelle beside her smiled indulgently at the way these people were behaving. She said reasonably, "Listen, this is just a game, it isn't for real. This is Nineteen -- " she broke off in sudden confusion and blinked uncertainly.

Mrs. McDee asked, "Nineteen what, Annabelle?"

Confusion increasing, her fine brows drawing together over dark eyes, Annabelle moved her lips uncertainly. "Nineteen...."

Arthur said with authority, "Nineteen thirty. June the twenty-first, Nineteen thirty!"

Harborough grumbled, "Oh come on, Arthur."

Arthur gazed up at him, unperturbed. "King George the Fifth is on the throne, Ryan's moved on as Prime Minister, and eight months ago on October the twenty-fourth, Nineteen twenty-nine, the American stock market collapsed. And we are in the midst of a depression." He paused for breath, then waved his hand up at the portrait on the wall with great indignation. "But McDee and I, we form Mullrine International right here in this house! We built it with our own hands and we believed in it! And it was a massive achievement!" He glared up at Harborough.

Harborough answered firmly, startled by the man's intensity, "Quite right."

Arthur turned away and strode towards the curtained windows and young McDee saying firmly, with victory. "Yes. Therefore you can see that church tower from that window, and you can't possibly know who won that test match at Trent Bridge!" He turned with finality towards Emma, who clutched her purse tight in her hands and kept her gaze forward as he walked around the back of the loveseat she sat in. "The champagne we've been drinking is definitely Nineteen twenty-seven vintage, and only three years old. And what's more..." he turned with furious indignation and wagged his finger at the door to his office, "that damned green door shouldn't be there!"

Amused, Harborough said, "It's a paradox, Arthur!"

He spun around indignantly. "What do you mean?"

Harborough answered, standing next to Mrs. McDee and his wife, who sat on the other sofa. "You can't make it Nineteen thirty, you can only pretend! Logically if it was Nineteen thirty only you and Emma and Mrs. McDee could be in this room. The rest of us wouldn't have been born yet." Arthur puffed indignantly on his cigar and Harborough shook his head. "You're an amazing man, Arthur. Powerful, rich beyond most people's dreams and very, very clever. A bit of a genius!" He came over to Arthur, admiringly. "But even you can't turn back the clock."

Annabelle frowned and then shivered as cold ice seemed to crawl through her bones, worse than earlier. She crossed her arms and rubbed at her shoulders as Mrs. McDee spoke up. "If you could, Arthur, would you bring George back to life?"

Annabelle could not keep silent any more as she rubbed her shoulders. "My God, there's still a draft in here even with the curtains drawn."

Felicity McDee ignored her and eyed Arthur intently. "Would you?"

Arthur looked up at the portrait of George McDee and said firmly, "Yes."

Howard McDee watched Arthur intently. "That's interesting."

"What's interesting about it?" Arthur asked defensively.

"I was wondering."

"Wondering what?"

McDee crossed the room, his gaze flickering from Arthur to the portrait far above. "I was wondering why the black mourning crepe has gone."

There was a moment before it registered, and the women all murmured in astonishment for it was true. The blue-grey eyes of Howard's grandfather stared out, unshadowed by the crepe. It was nowhere to be seen.

Felix Harborough straightened up angrily. "Someone's playing some clownish trick!"

His wife came to his side, her voice low and puzzled. "They couldn't have done, Felix, we haven't left the room. We couldn't have missed seeing someone reach up for that crepe." Her husband looked at her to argue, but closed his lips as he realized she was right.

Howard McDee shuddered and looked down towards Arthur, though he spoke to the woman behind him. "You're right about that chill, Annabelle. It seems to cut right through the center of this room." They all frowned and turned, their eyes drawn to Emma, who was watching them with great puzzlement.

        Sapphire held a small, silver-handled mirror up so that she could see as she carefully adjusted her makeup to match what would have been worn in Nineteen thirty. Steel was watching her preparations with curiosity. She asked him softly, "Why'd it choose this house?"

His brows drew down, his worry revealed there rather than in the steady set of his lips. "It's definitely here?"

"Yes," she confirmed, setting the mirror down and meeting his eyes.

"But where?" When she only looked at him, he got to his feet nervously and strode into the closet. "Maybe it's taken over someone downstairs. We have to find out which one."

She said mildly, "That won't be easy. It could be any one of them."

He stepped back out of the closet, having shifted in an instant into the clothing they were to wear for the party. He looked incredible in the black suit, bow tie and bright white shirt, his hair stood out bright golden against the black. As ever, he did not know or care what he looked like. He adjusted the cuffs of the jacket and said grimly, "Or all of them." He moved towards her.

She said simply, "No." As he had done, she changed. "It wouldn't make sense." She stared into the little mirror, adjusting her now tightly-curled hair, the flowing black gown that covered her body shone with sequins here and there, and lined with silver.

Steel sighed and stood beside her. "No, of course it wouldn't. There has to be a victim."

Sapphire set the mirror down. "Or victims." She looked steadily up at him.

The twinkle of amusement was so subtle, no one but his long-term partner could have recognized it. "Anything you say, Virginia. Shall we go down?"

She smiled at him, her eyes dancing. "Haven't you forgotten something... Miles?" She stood then, her back to him, once again in shoes that kept her head far above his. Puzzled, he looked at her as she moved away. Then he sat in front of the mirror and stared at his image. Oh, yes. That was missing.

        Arthur lifted two glasses cheerfully, deciding between them. He glanced back and up, mischief clouding his voice. "Yes, very frustrating for you, Felix. It must be. Old bugger like me refusing to retire." He handed Felix one glass and drank out of his own.

Felix said mildly, "You'll have to, sooner or later. I can wait." He toasted Arthur.

Glaring, the older man said, "The only way you'll ever become chairman of Mullrine International is by burying me!"

Felix muttered, "Don't tempt me, Arthur," and took a drink.

Emma opened a small, wooden box to offer its cigarettes to the beautiful Annabelle. She said cheerfully, "Oh, yes! I used to love going to the flower show!" As Annabelle took a cigarette, Emma continued cheerily. "Did you know Queen Mary's opening it this year? But I never get to London, these days!" She shrugged and set the box down again.

Bemused, Annabelle smiled. "Queen Mary?"

Emma continued, waving her hands in small gestures. "Formidable lady, but so regal!"

In the other sofa, Felicity McDee slapped a panic stricken hand down on her grandson's knee and clutched it. They were speaking in low voices, not to be overheard. "Howard!"

He was trying to calm her. "Yes, all right! We'll have to make some excuse and leave first thing in the morning -- "

Her face twisted in anquish. "I want to go! I hate them all -- "

"Felix and Annabelle will have to get a lift from somebody else, perhaps the other couple will -- "

        On the stairs, 'Virginia' heard the sound of 'Miles' changing and turned. She let her mouth drop in surprised admiration. "Wow!" She grinned as he joined her and together they continued down the stairs.

The manservant waited for them and asked, "All well, sir?"

Miles replied with dignity, "Good evening, Greville."

Sapphire's voice reached into Steel's head. {Fifty-two years old. Totally repressed personality.}

The man was tilting towards them, sincere in his groveling. "I hope the room is to your liking, sir."

Miles answered him calmly, "It's absolutely marvelous, thank you Greville."

{He's devoted to the Mullrines.}

Steel puzzled over her statement. [Devoted to the family, or to the house?] Greville reached and adjusted Miles' kerchief as Virginia smiled indulgently.

{To Lord Mullrine. He's very fond of the old man.} Virginia smiled at the man. "Thank you, Greville."

He smiled widely at her and bowed with a flourish. "This way madam, sir."

They followed him into the main room, where Mrs. Harborough was crossing the room, drinking from a glass of champagne. Greville introduced them grandly. "The Honorable Miles and Mrs. Cavendish."

Emma got to her feet and greeted them excitedly, ignoring how Mrs. McDee sat on the other sofa, hands clenched together in her lap. "Oh, there you are, you lovely people. We were beginning to think you'd quite deserted us!" She studied their clothes intently.

Virginia said gently, "We were just changing."

Looking her up and down admiringly, Emma said, "My dear, what a delightful dress. So elegant! I wish I was still young enough to wear fashionable things like that."

Startled, Virginia asked, "You mean they're back in fashion?"

Emma glanced at Miles with bright interest and raised her brows intently, "But when you're sixty, it's too late!" There was something about him, about his face. Why, he bore a faint resemblance to George McDee! How sweet!

Virginia smiled, utterly charmed by the old woman, but as Sapphire she spoke to Steel. {She's seventy-four.} "Thank you, Miss Mullrine," she said aloud, blushing. {A lonely old woman, carrying a torch for a lost love.}

[For how long?] he asked sternly.

{For fifty years.}

Miles, wearing the mustache Steel had affected as part of the ancient fashion, straightened as the woman's attention focused on him. "Mr. Cavendish, you look grand."

He stepped close to her, his mind clicking. A victim... she was a likely candidate. "How nice of you to say so, you're very kind."

He came too close, and she lifted her hands, setting one against his chest to keep him at a distance, gazing beyond him at the manservant. "Greville, our two new guests have no drinks."

Miles met her gaze. There was something about her... but he pulled his attention in and said softly, "I'm sorry, Miss Emma. But I'm afraid I don't drink."

She shifted away from him, her cheeks flushing slightly. "Oh, what a good idea, so sensible." She led them farther into the room. "Come and meet everybody. This is Mrs. McDee." She gestured down at the other older woman, who seemed fragile where she sat.

Mrs. McDee gamely said, "How do you do."

Virginia first and then Miles with smiles said, "How do you do."

"And Howard McDee," Emma gestured at the young man with a flourish.

"How do you do," Howard said with a nod.

Virginia smiled across at him, "How do you do."

Miles stepped forward, getting into the game. "Delighted."

The two men clasped hands and then Howard McDee pulled Miles away with him, muttering, "The champagne's awfully good."

Virginia turned her attention to Emma Mullrine, who began to say, "And this is -- oh, dear." She was gesturing towards the young woman in a dark red gown, dark hair lovely, who was standing near the wall looking very uneasy and not paying attention to the new guests. She kept shivering. Emma turned to Virginia. "Poor Annabelle isn't well. I do hope she hasn't caught a chill."

Feeling compassionate, Virginia asked, "Is there anything I can do?"

Bemused by the gentle offer, Emma accepted it and led her towards Annabelle. "I don't really know, shall we go and see? Annabelle, are you still feeling cold?" Virginia kept her hands clasped at her waist and followed the older woman.

Annabelle's voice was deep and rich as she said, "Yes, don't you feel it?"

Virginia watched her carefully as Emma answered, "No, I don't believe I do. This is Virginia Cavendish and Annabelle Harborough." She gestured in introduction, and the two women gazed at each other, Virginia warmly and Annabelle gauging the newcomer.

Dutifully, Virginia shook hands. "How do you do?"

Steel's voice filled Sapphire's thoughts, dividing her attention. He was standing by the curtained windows, holding a drink in his hands and turned to look at her. [Has she a temperature loss?]


[Then she could be affected by time.]

{It's possible.}

Annabelle was responding to her. "How do you do. You haven't been here before?"

Virginia was for once having difficulty with the division of her thoughts. She shook herself slightly. "I'm sorry?"

"Here, to this house," Annabelle clarified, amused.

"No, no I haven't. Have you?"

Annabelle smiled warmly. "Oh good heavens, yes. My husband's Arthur Mullrine's deputy. Impressed, Virginia stared at her. "They're in the library at the moment, talking business."

Emma was watching the two young women. She interjected, "Perhaps Greville could bring you something. Something to warm you."

Enjoying their solicitousness, Annabelle dismissed the idea. "Oh, no thank you. I think it's passing."

Emma said with relief, "Good."

Drawn to the circle of women, especially since it included two lovely young women, Howard McDee joined them, glass in hand. "Something wrong?" he asked Annabelle.

Emma jumped back slightly and looked at him. "Ah, Howard."

Annabelle shook her head. "No, no, not really."

Emma said sourly, "You're here." She met Annabelle's glance and moved away from the little circle. Let him deal with these niceties.

Virginia said gently, "Annabelle was just complaining of the cold."

Startled, Howard moved closer to her. "On a mid-summer's day? Oh my dear."

Virginia turned away, and as Sapphire sent to her partner, filled with silent laughter. {Steel?}


{They're rather more than friends.}

He moved away from the curtains, more towards Emma who had settled beside Felicity. She said innocently, "Howard's very attentive, isn't he?"

Felicity McDee drew in a breath and said sourly, "He's always been a considerate boy."

Emma shifted slightly, her tone quite innocent. "I wonder if Felix has noticed how considerate he is."

Felicity rolled her eyes. "Felix wouldn't notice anything unless it was connected with business."

At that moment, Felix and Arthur came through a white door and shut it behind them. Arthur was saying, "Let's not argue about it, Felix. We'll leave the whole thing to Fairfax in Washington."

Felix shut the door hard behind them, looking about. Felicity leaned forward and said to Emma conspiratorially, "Look at him, now."

Huffily, Felix was saying, "If that's what you want, Arthur."

Arthur took a puff of his cigar. "I won't discuss it anymore this weekend."

Felix bent down slightly to him angrily. "I never thought I'd live to see the day when you'd let sentiment interfere with business!"

Forced to tilt his chin up, Arthur glared. "Well you have, now."

Felix scowled. "Are you by any chance losing your grip?"

Arthur snorted a laugh. "That'll be the day. If you ever live to see it. You know what your trouble is, Felix?" he asked, grinning.

"Tell me," Felix managed to say mildly.

"You don't enjoy business enough, and that's what keeps me young. That's what'll keep me going when men like you have packed it in and turned your toes up. Have a cigar." He plopped the new cigar between Felix's lips, ignoring the frustration on the other man's face, and turned away. He caught sight behind him of the blond stranger. Caught off balance he stepped forward to greet him, "Ah!"

The young man moved forward smoothly and clasped hands. "Lord Mullrine, how nice of you to invite us."

Snatching at the first name that came to mind, Arthur said, "Grovernaugh."

"Cavendish," the man corrected calmly.

"Oh, yes, of course."

"Miles Cavendish."

They released hands and Arthur racked his brains trying to remember the man. He twiddled with his own cigar as he spoke. The man kept a proper distance, not forcing Arthur to tilt his head painfully. He liked that. "Eh, glad you could come."

Felix had pulled himself together and stepped in, not to be ignored. "I'm Felix Harborough," he said, shaking the man's hand, pushing Arthur a little to the side.

Miles accepted his handshake and met his gaze steadily. "Deputy chairman of Mullrine International."

Surprised and grateful for the instant recognition, Felix straightened up, ignoring Arthur's pleased grin. "Full marks! I believe you're in the future's market?"

Miles settled his hands behind his back and lowered his eyes humbly. "In a way. I'm a... futurologist." He met Felix's bewildered gaze innocently.

Felix looked down at Arthur and chuckled. "Well, sounds like a fortune teller."

Arthur raised his brows. "Fortunes... yes, I like that. Fortunes." Arthur walked across the room, leaving Miles to Felix's talented hands.

Miles moved with Felix after Arthur. "Well, my predictions are rather more scientific than that. They're based on logical projections using the advanced physical sciences."

Curious, Felix asked, "As it were speculative cybernetics?"

Arthur had snatched up a drink for them both and said playfully, "Hey, break it up, you two! You're here to enjoy yourselves, not talk shop!"

Miles accepted the drink with a frown, but Felix huffed indignantly, "You told me just now you enjoy...." He broke off, his mouth hanging open. Snapping it shut forcefully his eyes gleamed with delight and he said accusingly, "You old ruffian! What are you trying to hide?"

Arthur went completely innocent. "Me, hide?"

Delighted at having caught something, Felix waved his fingers and glanced at Miles, who had decided to wait out the conversation until it became understandable again. "You're up to something, I know the signs." He looked at Miles with dancing eyes. "Is he planning to use you to make his killing?"

Arthur interrupted him sternly, "Felix, if I were you I'd keep an eye on your wife. Young McDee takes after his grandfather, you know. In more ways than one."

Startled, Felix turned his head. There was Annabelle, standing and laughing with Howard McDee. She met his gaze with a smile. Discomfitted, he swallowed.

Seeing his expression she said to Howard, "I think I'd better go and talk to my husband, if you'll excuse me." With a playful swing of her hips, she moved to join him. "Felix," she called gently. He stepped away from the other two men, feeling faintly light-headed. Damn Mullrine for having that effect on him!

Miles watched the byplay with some bewilderment. Left alone with Arthur, whose eyes were dancing, he turned to the shorter man, who nudged him conspiratorially with an elbow.

Deprived of Annabelle, Howard crossed the room to the vision of golden loveliness. "My dear Virginia, you haven't got a drink."

She smiled graciously at him, her eyes twinkling. "Well, that's perfectly all r -- "

He interrupted her smoothly. "No no no. Leave it to me." Eyes dancing, he moved away to get her one.

She turned and said softly, "There is a time break. And someone in this house is causing it."

Steel was at her side, hearing all she said to him. "What about this room?" he said, low.

"It's the same as the bedroom." She felt the distortion and it troubled her greatly.

He moved around to better see her face. "Nothing later than Nineteen thirty?"

She nodded slightly ahead of them. "Except that door."

He looked at the green, padded door and murmured "And that's -- "

Howard McDee returned at that moment and cut in. "Out of place, would you say?"

They jumped and turned to face him, Virginia plastering a warm smile to her face. "It is, rather, thank you," she answered him and took the glass he offered her.

He held out another glass to Miles. "Champagne?"

"No, thank you," Miles said stiffly.

Raising his eyebrows, Howard said, "Chin chin."

Bewildered, Steel reached for his partner. [What's he talking about?]

Biting back a laugh she told him, {Say 'chin chin,'}


Practically giggling in his mind, she said, {He can't drink until you say 'chin chin.'}

It made a bizarre kind of sense, as so many things on this world did. He blinked and said cheerfully, "Chin chin!"

Sapphire said playfully, {See?} as Howard promptly raised his glass and took a drink.

Howard lowered the drink and pointed out, "It has no lock and no handle."

Bewildered, Miles asked, "What's the point of a door if you can't open it?"

"Ah, exactly. You've got it."

"Have I?"

Sapphire watched as the door blurred and then began to glow an eerie, pale blue. All features were soon erased to her sight and she reached to Steel. {There's an aura. A barrier.}

Puzzled, Steel turned to look at it. [Barrier?]

As though answering Steel's thoughts, Howard still addressed Miles, who turned back to him. "Yes, of course, my dear fellow. There's a certain man in this house who thinks that door is the door to end all doors."

Sapphire continued, watching the door. {It's a light. A blue light.}

And Howard said, "Why don't you ask him what the point is?"

Steel met Sapphire's gaze. [Temperature?]

She blinked and lifted her head slightly. {Much lower. Possibly the location of a ley-line. There should be evidence of it through that window.} The barrier changed appearance, spurting flames and allowing her to see the green door again.

Howard McDee bent down, seeing the bright alert understanding in the shorter man's gray eyes. "You have guessed, haven't you?"

Puzzled, Miles turned his gaze to the man. "What?"

"The door! Whose idea it was." He was grinning like a child with a secret.

Miles smiled slightly. "No, you tell me."

"Well, our host. His Lordship, of course."

Steel reached out to Sapphire again. [What's behind that door?]

Howard was continuing inanely, "He's got a special device. Must have something to hide. He's the only person who knows how to use it."

Sapphire engaged her power, smiling outwardly as Virginia at the foibles of men. She split away from her body, going to touch the door. {There's something moving.}

Steel's lips thinned, he was hard pressed to be Miles for Howard and himself for Sapphire. [Tell me.]

Her voice reflected her strain. {It's... twisting. Turning, and writhing. It's -- } she gasped, and her projection vanished among flames.

Steel clenched his fist as he felt her go out. The inane human beside him looked at Virginia and said, "More champagne?"

Steel ignored him and broadcast an alarmed plea. [Come back, Sapphire.] There was no response. Panicked, he called, [Sapphire!]

Her physical form stood still and blinked at him. He whirled towards the door, ignoring the humans. [Do you hear me, come back!]

Arthur Mullrine came up behind Sapphire, just in time to divert Howard from noticing anything wrong. He said, "The door interests you?"

Howard startled slightly and looked down at him. "Ah, Arthur! The very man!" He shifted his attention to Miles, who was looking at them again. "He'll explain all. Excuse me." He walked away.

Arthur stepped closer as Miles said stuttered in embarrassment, "Yes, I see it has no handle. No lock."

Arthur shrugged slightly and stepped between the two young people until he could get a good view of the door.. "Nothing mysterious, I'm afraid. It's just a security door, that's all. Leads to my office."

Miles said, "The heart of Mullrine International."

Amused, Arthur turned away from him towards Virginia. "The... nerve center, you might say."

It was just that moment that Sapphire returned to her body. She blinked and smiled down at him. "How fascinating!"

Disarmed by the sweetness of her smile, Arthur blustered shyly. "Not really, it's just something I -- " He was cut off by the ringing of a doorbell. They all turned in surprise.

From where she sat beside Felicity McDee, Emma said firmly, "This time it must be Tony Purnell and his girlfriend."

Arthur smiled and turned to the young couple apologetically. "You, uh, will excuse me, won't you?" He went off to answer the door.

Virginia smiled and turned back to Miles. But it was as Sapphire she spoke to him quietly. "It's in there, behind the door. A feeling of euphoria."

He brought his head close to hers. "What do you mean?"

"A sense of success. Of achievement."

Bewildered, his tone sharpened. "B -- nothing evil?"

She hissed, "No. Something wonderful happened in there." She turned away, still dizzy with the pleasure that had come from behind that door. He moved away from her, trying to sort out the information they had learned.

He went to Felix, as the weak link, trying to find out more information. "I say, who's Tony Purnell?"

Gratified by Mile's attention, Felix leaned his arm on the rest and looked up at him, explaining, "The Purnells are our merchant bankers."

"Ah, thank you."

"Not at all." As Miles moved away from him, behind the couch, Felix realized he had been remiss. He stood up quickly to greet the lovely Mrs. Cavendish and took her hand. "I'm Felix Harborough."

Her smile was incredibly beautiful as she said, "Deputy chairman of Mullrine International."

Heavens, such recognition could go to a man's head. Delighted, he said, "Hole in one."

        The doorman opened the door, but before he could get a word out the young man there bustled in. "Hello, Jenkins, how are you? Look after these for me, will you?" he pressed a red and a black suitcase into Jenkins' hands. A sweet girl with long, dark brown hair came through the door behind him as he continued. "How's the back, better?" Jenkins barely managed to say thank you before the youngster had put his arm around the girl's back. "Come on, dear!" He pulled her into the hall and saw the next man there. "Greville! How are you?"

Greville began to say, "Good evening sir," when the boy whirled away.

"Where's himself? Ah, hello, sir. Look, I'm awfully sorry if we're a bit late."

At last the boy stopped talking. Mullrine came off the steps and circles around them, looked at the girl's pale blue blouse and dark vest, dark pants. Then he looked at the boy's brown jacket and white pants. With mild exasperation he said, "Oh, dear. Your clothes!"

The boy swung his hands behind his back and smiled engagingly. "Oh, we've got all the gear, there. It won't take us a second to change."

The girl said eagerly, "Oh, yes sir. I can do it in a jiffy!"

The boy interjected, "Oh, this is Veronica Blamey. Veronica, Lord Mullrine."

Eager to please, Veronica held out her hand to shake his. "How do you do?"

Barely had they clasped hands when the boy reached out and took her shoulder, propelling her with him towards the living room. "Maybe if we just had a quick drink...."

"Oh, yes," Veronica agreed, moving with him.

Frustrated, Arthur snapped sternly, "You can't go in there like that!" They stopped and turned to gaze at him in surprise. Up on the steps he said gruffly, "I mean it's all wrong, I mean damn it, Tony! The instructions were detailed in the invitation." He glared fiercely at the boy.

Tony had put his hands behind his back like a child caught in the cookie jar. "Yes, I know. I'm sorry."

With a sigh, Mullrine said, "Greville, take them up to their rooms." Greville moved obediently forward to indicated to Veronica where she was to go. Mullrine continued sternly, "And don't let them come down until they've changed!"

Veronica followed behind Greville, looking shyly at Lord Mullrine. "Oh, look sir, I'm awfully sorry."

Greville called, "This way if you please, Miss, Sir!" as Tony caught her arm and came with her.

Tony could only tolerate being treated like a child for so long. He turned as he passed Mullrine. "Look, I don't know if you're expecting anyone else, but it's getting rather dark outside."

Veronica said earnestly, "Oh, yes! And there's a thick fog coming up."

Mullrine was startled. "In the middle of June?"

She nodded eagerly and looked up at Greville with a bright smile. "Funny, isn't it? Rather spooky, actually!"

In Tony's room, Greville was helping by unpacking his case as the young man changed. They were singing together. "Oh, Oh, Oh my gal, there's none so classy, as my fair lassy. Oh, Oh -- "

Tony broke off and complained, "Greville! There's no power poin for my electric razor!"

Surprised, Greville closed the drawer and asked, "Power poin, sir?"

The youngster stepped through the door in his Thirties-style white shirt and black pats, glancing at his watch. "Oh, incidentally I've gotta call London." He crossed to the ancient phone by the bedside. "Does that thing work?"

"Yes, sir!" Greville answered cheerfully.

"But there's no dial on it."

Bewildered, Greville answered him, voice slurred slightly. "Dial, sir? It's a country exchange. If you lift the receiver, the operator will get you your number!" How bewildering that the child should not know how to use a phone.

He smiled indulgently as Tony lifted the receiver in amazement. The boy chuckled and said, "I didn't think there were any of them left. I ought to have a shave before dinner."

Confidently, Greville said, "I'll lay out your safety razor and shaving brush, sir."

"Safety razor?" Tony repeated in confusion.

At that moment a woman's voice sounded tinnily through the phone. "Number please."

Startled, Tony spoke into the earpiece. "Oh, hello?" He realized suddenly he was doing it wrong and spun about to speak into the microphone, holding the earpiece right so he could hear. "Oh, yes. Look, oh, uh, can you get me a London number? Yes, it's oh one, two four six, eight oh two one." Greville smiled indulgently and continued to lay out equipment for the hapless young man. He ignored the continued conversation. "What do you mean, which exchange? London. That's the number."

In the bathroom, Greville continued the song they had been singing earlier.

At last understanding the woman speaking to him, Tony said, "Oh! Oh, the exchange! Yes, now what was dad's old number at the bank..." he wracked his brain. "Temple Bar, Chancery, London Wall. No, it's gone. Anyway, just get it for me, will you?" he asked her charmingly. At her bewildered reply, he felt frustration welling. "Oh no, come on. Don't milk the joke, luv, I've gotta make this call!" There was silence when she hung up and he set his phone down in confusion. He looked down at the small phone book on the table. It said, "London, March 1929." He was not going to be able to get through. Frustrated, he marched into the bathroom, passing the older man. He grumbled, "I think his Lordship's taking the joke a bit too far, don't you, Greville?"

Puzzled, the manservant anwered, "I beg your pardon, sir?"

"What the hell's this?" Tony came out of the room, flicking a silvery instrument in confusion. "Where's my electric razor?"

Greville was sorting out some straps and looked up, completely bewildered. "Electric, sir? Rather dangerous, I would have thought."

But Tony dropped the razor on the bed and snatched the garter clips Greville was holding in surprise. "These aren't mine! I mean, I just hired the tails!"

Greville looked down in embarrassment. The boy was rather strange to be associating with the Mullrines. He looked back up. "They came out of your suitcase, sir. If you need anything else, perhaps you will ring. The remainder of the guests are in the lounge." He walked to the door, hoping the boy did not need his hand held through everything. He looked back at the bewildered young man and said gravely, "Dinner will be at nine."

Tony stared after him in frustration. At last he tossed the snaps into his suitcase. "Damned cheek. So what've they done with all my gear?" He began digging around to see if he could find his things. There was a nock on the door while he was searching under the bed. "Come," he called out.

Veronica entered, closing the door swiftly behind her. She looked lovely in the pale pink dress with its red ruffles following her neckline. When she did not see him, she stopped in confusion. "Tony?"

He popped up, not even looking at her in his exasperation. "What?"

"Well, look!" She held her arms wide, the better for him to see.

Oh, she was absolutely lovely. He had forgotten how sexy some of those old styles could be. He scrambled to his feet. "Oh, yes!"

She was amazed by all that had happened. "They swapped all my clothes, and my makeup. Everything's really old!" As he ignored her, searching the drawers of the dresser next to the door, she tried to provoke his attention. "You should see my nighty. It's peach-colored crepe du-sheen." When he turned at last to her she held out the delicate, light gray material for him to see. "And look at these."

He chuckled appreciatively, running his hands over the silk. "Pure silk, fully fashioned! All the rage." Something clicked in his head, puzzling him. "In Nineteen thirty."

They came into the lounge and Arthur came forward to greet them with Emma on his heels. "Come in, you two! Now that's better, I must say."

Emma greeted him cheerfully. "Tony, my dear boy!"

He took her hand gratefully, "Miss Emma."

She scolded him playfully, "You really are naughty! It's ages since we saw you last!" She turned her attention to the lovely girl at his side. The child had an almost angelic smile. "And who is this charming young woman?"

He answered proudly, "This is Veronica Blamey."

The girl stopped just short of giggling, her eyes incredibly bright. Emma said, "Hello. Adorable child. Come and meet people!" She turned and found the Cavendishs closest. "Ah, you two. This is, uh, Tony Purnell, Veronica Blamey and uh...."

The tall, blond woman cut in smoothly. "Virginia Cavendish."

Emma nodded slightly and shifted her indicating hand to the man. "And?"

"Miles," he said calmly.

Relieved, Emma said, "Exactly."

Tony inclined his head. "How do you do."

Emma nodded and left them together. "Greville, some drinks over here, please!"

Virginia turned her attention to Tony. "I understand you're a banker."

"Born and bred, I'm afraid," he answered her.

While Virginia focused on him, asking, "Don't you find all that money awfully tedious?" Miles focused on the girl.

Tony answered her, "Oh, it has its uses."

Sapphire took a drink and broadcast to Steel, who stalked the girl. {He's a year older than she is, born in Maidenhead, rich family.}

Veronica could not have said why she turned to follow the older man who seemed intent on looking her over. There was something utterly appealing about him, yet he was nothing like Tony. He studied her and said, "We've met before, haven't we?"

Stunned, she nearly bounced and said, "Really? I wonder where it was!" For surely she would have remembered... whatever it was that made him so extraordinary.

Behind her, Sapphire listened with genuine delight in the young, clean spirit. Steel as Miles pushed gently. "Last season, somewhere?"

Thinking hard, Veronica tried intently to focus on memories that seemed suddenly fluid. "Ooh, well then it must have been...."

Sapphire dipped into the shifting focus. {She's twenty-four. Very much in love. Not very bright. Born in Barnes.}

Veronica asked tentatively, "Calles?"

Miles shook his head slightly. "No."

The girl gave up the attempt, embarrassed. "Oh." She turned her head to see in dismay that Tony seemed smitten with the tall, golden-haired woman.

He had been listening, though. "Henley, perhaps," he suggested.

Trying to hide her hurt, Veronica turned back to Miles. Sapphire continued mildly, looking down with soft compassion to the girl. {He doesn't feel the same way. He has someone else.}

Steel felt the same compassion, and so what he said to her lifted the onus he had caused. "No, it wasn't Henley. Well give me time, I'll remember." Relieved and charmed, she smiled at him.

Mr. Harborough joined them then, finding the girl's sweet smile charming. "Hello," he said kindly. She looked up at him and smiled shyly. He said, "I'm Felix Harborough. Would you care to dance?"

She was startled by the invitation and did not know what she should say. "Oh, well. If Tony doesn't mind." She looked nervously back at him.

He tore his eyes from Virginia Cavendish long enough to smile condescendingly and say, "No, of course not!" That was not the answer she would have preferred to hear when a beautiful woman was nearby. Now she had no choice as the older man led her off. Tony turned his attention to Virginia. "Shall we?" he held out his arm for her to take.

"Thank you!" She handed her glass to Miles. "What's it to be? The Charleston? The Black Bottom?"

"Old hat, my dear! This is Nineteen thirty, you know. The Foxtrot!"

"Of course."

Miles set his wife's glass on the small round table with its vase of roses and found himself without a partner. Freed to wander and study the room, he walked around and noticed a door in the far wall with mild interest. Howard danced with Annabelle next to the other two couples. Miles' eye was drawn to the odd, green door.

        Anne Shaw sat in front of her typewriter, trying to calm the man on the line. The clock on the wall read six thirty-one. Had she noticed that the second hand was moving counter-clockwise? "Yes, yes I know it's urgent, Mr. Fairfax! But my orders from Lord Mullrine were most specific, he is not to be disturbed. No, no I'm sorry. His party isn't to be interrupted under any circumstances. Oh, yes. He was in the office oh... just about three minutes ago." The man on the phone babbled urgently. She sighed. "All right. All right, look. Let me look into the drawing room, and if his guests haven't arrive yet, I'll talk to him. All right, hold the line a moment." She set the phone down carefully, getting to her feet. She tried to open the door, but the handle would not budge. Surprised, she went back to the desk where she had set the electronic key. She tried it twice, but the door remained locked. Uncertain, she shook and tried twice again. Still no response. Heading back towards her desk she murmured, "How very odd." She picked up the phone fretfully and plastered a smile on her face. "Mr. Fairfax? Look, I'm awfully sorry but the, uh, security device that opens the door doesn't seem to be working." She sat down. At his words she hid her exasperation. "No I've no idea how to mend it. It's probably just the batteries. But I'm afraid we'll have to leave it for now. I'll certainly give Lord Mullrine your message as soon as I see him. All right. Goodbye." She set the phone on its hook, troubled. Fifty red candles lined the edges of a great, square cake covered in red frosting. On it was written in red letters, 50th ANNIVERSERY, the symbol of the M over an I, and 1930 at the bottom. Arthur lit all the candles and his guests applauded.

Emma said, "Lovely, so lovely!"

Sapphire's attention snapped and she sent to her partner, {It's here, Steel.}

He stiffened. [In this room?]

{Yes. No! All around us!} The two agents stiffened and shivered.

Lord Mullrine was puffing on his cigar and held up both hands. "Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen! No birthday party is complete without a birthday cake! And as this is a very special birthday party, Mullrine International provides a very special cake, commemorating fifty years of achievement, and splendid growth!"

Sapphire pressed closer to Steel, studying the room around them. {Pressure. Can you feel it?}

[No,] he answered grimly. And yet it was there, a rumble increasing at the back of their senses.

Lord Mullrine continued cheerfully. "And I think it would be very nice, if we invited the youngest here tonight to cut the cake!" He lifted the knife and handed it to Veronica. Behind her, Felix grinned.

Shy and embarrassed yet delighted, she said, "Oh, I think that must be me!"

Turning smugly away from her, Arthur said teasingly, "Well it certainly isn't Miss Emma, is it?"

His sister smiled affectionately at him. "It certainly is not, Arthur."

Veronica was blushing tremendously, her fingers trembling she said, "Oh, I don't think I can." Tony smiled down at her until the next man spoke.

"Well pretend it's your wedding cake, Veronica," suggested Howard.

She looked up at Tony's face. He was watching the other man expressionlessly, but turned to look down at her. Felix added, "Who's the lucky man, Veronica?"

Tony looked at her and signaled with his eyes. The color high in her cheeks, she readied herself. She looked quickly at Emma and said, "Jolly good, then. When do we eat it?"

Emma answered, "After dinner, with the coffee."

Arthur leaned towards the cake to snatch his glass where he had left it. "But first, I would like you all to raise your glasses in a toast." He looked around to be certain they were obeying.

They all said, "To Mullrine International."

He shook his head. "No, no, no, no! Not to Mullrine International! But to the memory of one, who as my sister has pointed out on more than one occasion tonight, has gone from us." He stepped forward gravely and stared up at the portrait of George McDee. "To my old partner -- no. My old friend. To George McDee!"

The rumble became a heavy drone in her sense. Sapphire reached out. {Steel..!} The candles on the cake blew out and then vanished, leaving only white frosting. The words 50th ANNIVERSERY were also gone.

It took the youngest there to realize it first. "Oh, the cake!" Veronica exclaimed. They all stared and gasped in surprise at its clean surface.

A wry voice spoke, echoing and strangely out of synch. "Good evening everyone." They all turned towards the door. He was dreadfully handsome in person, the portrait a perfect image of him. Seeing the shock on all of their faces he remarked mildly, "I hope I'm not late."

Arthur gaped between Emma's and Felicity's shoulders. "George!!"

Out in the hall, mist seeped in under the front door. In the lounge, Sapphire moved forward to get a better look, standing beside Felicity McDee. The elderly woman was staring at her husband in warm delight, yet the fact of his presence did not seem to astonish her as much as it should. "George. About time, too," she reproved him.

He frowned at her and looked her briefly up and down. "What are you talking about, woman?"

She stepped closer to him. "You! You're late, as usual! Let's have a look at you."

Sapphire moved back to Steel's side. They watched Arthur Mullrine, who was not as taken as the old woman. The small man was shaking his head, trembling. "It can't be. It can't be!"

Felix Harborough had already decided on a rational explanation and whispered to Miles, "Old Arthur really pulled one off this time."

Annabelle had sat on one loveseat, and Arthur sat on the arm beside her. Emma sat in the next loveseat, Howard stood behind her and nearby was Greville. All gazed at the scene in astonishment.

Felicity was adjusting George's lapel and he pulled away from her in confusion. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he protested.

She followed him. "What I always have to do. You can never tie a bow properly!"

He huffed half in amusement and set his hands in his pockets. "How dare you!"

Steel's confusion was rife. [Who is he?]

Sapphire answered him quickly and suredly. {George McDee. He's Mullrine's partner.}

Startled, he asked, [Don't you mean was Mullrine's part -- ]

She gave a slight shake of her head. {No, he's not a ghost.}

Emma reached out despairingly and took her brother's hand. "Arthur? Arthur, is this your idea of a joke?"

But of course it was not. This man was so real. Shakily he answered her. "No. No I don't -- I don't understand. It's him!"

Emma shook her head and would not look at him. "Oh nonsense, but it's a remarkable likeness."

Unable to restrain her curiosity, Annabelle got to her feet and approached the portrait. "Fascinating," she said, standing near Tony.

"What?" he asked.

Annabelle turned her head and looked intently at the drama going on next to them. Felicity was putting the finishing touches as George accepted it, not knowing what else to do. Felicity said, "George, what's the matter? I always have to straighten your tie!"

His Irish accent had become more pronounced in his confusion. "I've never set eyes on you in my life," he protested.

Bewildered, she leaned closer to him, her hands splayed on his chest. "But George it's me, Felicity, your wife!"

Sapphire said calmly, {He's very much alive. He's due to die on the twenty-second of June, Nineteen thirty.}

Howard McDee decided this was enough and came forward. He interjected gently, "Grandmama."

George was very confused. He did not want to hurt the strange old woman, but she was too familiar with him. "Whisht, woman. Stop your ramblings. You're fifty years too old to be my wife!" She gasped painfully and he added, "Aye, fifty years at the very least." What sort of game was this?

She turned painfully from him. "Oh Arthur, tell him!"

Steel watched in amazement and the significance of Sapphire's words sank in. [Twenty-second of June. That's tomorrow!] He turned to his partner questioningly.

{Yes,} she confirmed.

Howard held his grandmother to comfort her. Arthur had finally shaken himself out of his shock and he strode over to the tableau. He snapped, "I don't know what you think you're playing at, but I think you should apologize to Felicity!"

Felicity McDee uttered an anguished "Oh!" as her grandson urged her to sit, whispering softly, "Come on, now. Come and sit down."

George watched this in utter confusion. He frowned and looked down at Arthur. "Is everybody mad around here? What's going on?"

"That's what I want to know!" Arthur snapped back.

George followed the little man. "Is she a loony, or what?"

Greville was watching them and looked pained. When Mullrine called, "Greville, bring a whiskey for Mrs. McDee, quickly!"

George watched the man rush to the decanters in confusion. "Mrs. McDee, is it?" He leaned in close to the butler. "You can bring me a large dram while you're at it, man. I've a feeling I'm going to have need of it."

Greville barely constrained his own anger and gritted his teeth. "Excuse me, sir," he said, sliding past on his way to the weeping woman.

Howard McDee had forgotten all his egotism as he saw his grandmother weeping beside Emma. A heavy hand settled on his shoulder, and the man who looked just like his grandfather pulled him aside asking, "Malcolm, can you explain what's going on here?"

Startled, he asked, "Malcolm?"

Amazed, George McDee exclaimed, "Yes you, boy! Do you not know your own name, now?"

Greville was making his way around to stare at the man, but Howard turned in confusion. "Grandmama, what is he talking about?"

"Grandmama, is it?" George McDee questioned.

"Yes," his grandson confirmed, watching him alertly.

"I tell you she's no grandmama of yours." He looked Howard up and down with a grave frown.

Howard stiffened. "Well how would you know?"

Stunned, George stiffened and glowered. "I? I'll thank you to have more respect, young man! Remember who it is you're addressing."

Howard straightened up and set his hands in his pockets with an engaging smile. "Well I'd be delighted, if I knew who you were."

George McDee's mouth dropped open in surprise. "Do you not know your own father?"

All amusement left Howard and he snapped, "My father's dead."

Steel watched all this with bemused amazement. [He must be the image of his father at the same age.]

But Felicity suddenly woke to the realization of what was being said behind her. "Malcolm! What are you saying?"

Totally confused, Howard turned to her. "Malcolm? I'm not Malcolm, that was my father's name! I'm Howard!"

Sapphire licked her lips and turned her gaze on Steel. {Well, what do we do?} The situation, horrible though it was, also was quite amusing.

[Nothing yet. Not until we find out which one of them is being used.]

George glared about in frustration. "Where is Arthur? This has all the marks of one of his wee stunts. Where is Mr. Mullrine?"

Greville approached him cautiously and corrected, "Lord Mullrine is there, sir." He pointed.

George looked at the small, elderly man seated near the old woman. His brow furrowed in frustration and he glared at Greville. "Lord Mullrine, is it? Well, whoever you may be and whatever your name is, I've no time for party games tonight. I've important work to see to. You can bring me that dram in my laboratory." He stalked across the room and passed between Sapphire and Steel to the white door of his laboratory. Pulling out his key, he glanced at them and scowled. "Flappers. No wonder we've a slump coming!" He opened the door and went inside, leaving it hanging open. Sapphire and Steel watched as the door swung shut.

The others began to applaud as Arthur walked towards the door. Felix said, "Congratulations, Arthur! Quite splendid!" they sough to congratulate him, marveling at the realism of the joke.

Howard snapped angrily, "Well I thought it was in very bad taste."

Arthur stopped in front of the white door and stared at it in slow astonishment. He said weakly, "The door. There's s -- something odd. There's some kind of... there's something I ought to remember." He moved away from the disturbing door in confusion. Felicity's weeping caught his attention and he looked up in surprise. "Is something wrong, Felicity?"

Emma was trying to soothe the other woman. "There, there, Felicity. These men, they'll never change."

The sobbing woman dropped her head into her hand as Greville came around, Howard fast on his heel. The two men helped her to her feet and Greville said, "I think Mrs. McDee might benefit from a little rest."

Howard said swiftly, "Come along. You've had rather a nasty shock. We'll get you up to your bedroom and then you'll be fine."

Sapphire and Steel had moved far from the strange door and she was sitting in a chair, he behind her. They watched the people leave the room and turned their bright attention to Arthur and Emma.

Emma whirled on her brother and scolded him sternly. "No consideration! You mark my words, Arthur! He'll shut himself away in that laboratory again, and we shan't see him for the rest of the evening! Poor Felicity," she added as an afterthought.

Shaken out of his confusion, Arthur stared at her. "Poor Felicity indeed. Don't be such a hypocrite, Emma. It doesn't become you." He shook his head at her and walked away from her, raising his voice. "Come on everybody, fill up your glasses and drink up. This is supposed to be a party!" Emma looked up at the portrait of George.

They gathered around him as Greville returned and began mixing the drinks. The champagne was poured, everyone needing some. Voices stood out from the babble, Annabelle saying, "Thank you, I'd love some," and Arthur's "Nice fresh champagne, just been poured out. Thank you Greville."

Frustrated, Steel simply spoke. "Well, which one?"

Sapphire answered him aloud, "I don't know. I've been trying to analyze them but there's something stopping me."

He said grimly, "That means it probably knows about us."

She looked up at him in surprise. "It always does."

        Upstairs in the room set aside for Mrs. McDee, Howard was helping his mother dress down. He laid her lovely bracelet on the white glove she had been wearing on her left hand. "There you are, Grandmama."

"Thank you my dear. And would you please undo this one? I shall be quite all right, now."

He undid the clasp of her other bracelet and looked down at her. "Are you sure? I mean you've had a nasty shock."

"Shock?" She looked up at him innocently. "Oh, no dear. I was just a little tired, that's all. Long journeys always tire me."

Startled, he looked down at her. "Long journeys?"

She finished removing her other glove and handed it to him. "Yes, yes. Now please don't fuss." She smiled at him

Bewildered, he accepted the glove and took it to set aside with the other one. "No. No I won't. I'm certain something happened. I'm sure there was s -- "

Yet his grandmama seemed very relaxed and said to him cheerfully as she undid her earrings, "I shall come down to dinner in half an hour, so off you go and rejoin the others. We don't want to spoil Arthur's little party, do we?"

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. "No, no we don't."

Her face aglow, she smiled at him. "That's right. Now run along, Malcolm." She serenely continued to take off her wrap as he vanished out the door.

In the hall, Howard stopped in confusion. There was still something very wrong. He stopped to the edge of the bannister and looked down. The hallway below seemed fuzzy, as though he was looking down through some kind of glass. He hesitated, then moved through the hall. He came to Purnelle's room and cautiously opened the door to sneak inside.

Down in the lounge, Annabelle Harborough was playing the piano under the admiring eye of her husband. Tony was trying to chat up Sapphire, who was only half paying attention to him. Every once in a while, the young man's eyes would slide to Veronica. She would look up at him and try to smile, though it was getting more difficult as time passed.

Felix came up behind her and bent to her ear. "Your Tony deserting you, my dear?" She laughed weakly and tried to look less abandoned. He reached down his hand and offered it gently. "We can't have that can we, a pretty girl like you."

"Thank you," she managed and accepted his invitation, allowing him to pull her up towards the piano. She held her glass in her hand sadly.

Felix smiled kindly down at her. "You mustn't let this house get you down. Old Arthur acts fierce, but he's pretty soft, really."

She smiled and nodded bravely at him, trying to put on a cheerful front. "I'll try to remember that."

Felix's gaze went past her, to where young Tony held the woman Virginia's wrist in a clear courting gesture. Felix asked softly, "You, um... known Tony long?"

She followed his look. "No, I -- "

"How long?" he asked quickly.

"Can't remember," she said weakly. Her smile now was entirely forced. "I don't know I... oh dear."

He leaned patiently down. "Takes after his father, I'm afraid. Have you met Malcolm yet?" Confused, the girl looked up at him. He continued, "I've known him since I was in nappies."

Something flicked wrong again. He stared at the boy across the room and blinked in confusion. "Malcolm...?" he murmured.

Veronica took a deep breath. "Tony says I'd make a good actress. I think I'd like that."

Shaken out of his bewilderment, Felix smiled down at her. "Oh, and what have your long-suffering parents to say about that?"

"I... I don't know." She shivered and felt like crying.

The man beside her chuckled. "Rather irregular sort of existence. I prefer to know where the next range rover is coming from."

She grasped for reasons for the pain in her heart, in her throat, as she saw Tony put his arm around the golden-haired woman's waist. "Tony says... Tony s -- says...." It was lost in confusion and she dissolved into tears.

Startled, Emma crossed the room towards them. Arthur and Miles came out of the shadows on the other side of the room next to the piano. Annabelle stopped playing and followed Miles.. As Felix held the sobbing Veronica, Emma said, "Now, now. This will never do. This is supposed to be a party! Listen everybody, I think we should all play an exciting game before dinner!"

Arthur sneered indignantly, "Oh, no Emma."

She overrode him. "Now, Arthur, we always play games at my parties. What's it going to be?"

He sniffed indignantly and walked away from her. "Well it's not going to be Posumselt this time, Emma!"

She grinned and clapped her hands. "I know! Sardines!"

Annabelle wound her arm through Miles'. She raised her eyebrows at him. "Sardines? Where are the bones?"

With a merry laugh, Emma said, "All over the house! Except the servants' quarters."

Upstairs, Howard McDee was still searching young Tony's room. He opened drawers in the dresser, then heard footsteps approaching. He pressed himself against the wall behind the door. It swung open. He caught a faint whiff of the perfume young Veronica was wearing, then the door closed and he let out a breath of relief. After a moment he stepped out into the hall, straightened his bowtie and walked down the stairs.

Greville watched the ticking of the small pocketwatch he held in his gloved hand. Tony sat next to Annabelle on the loveseat, Felix sat in the chair behind her. Arthur stood next to the seat. Miles and Virginia sat pressed together on the other loveseat. Emma was next to the manservant and said anxiously, "Greville, how much longer?"

"Sixty seconds to go, Miss Emma! Fifty-nine,"

Together the others counted with him, "Fifty-eight, fifty-seven, fifty-six -- "

Felix demanded suddenly, "What about Felicity's room? She's resting."

Emma answered him, "It's out of bounds too, and so is the grandfather clock! Somebody hid in it last time, and it never worked since!" They laughed.

Annabelle said teasingly to her husband, "Why don't you hide in it, darling, it may start up again!"

Howard McDee made his way silently through the doors to join the group as Emma said, "Ah, Annabelle, not too much naughtiness!" As Howard crossed in front of her, she bounded to him almost flirtatiously. "Ah there you are, Malcolm, just in time!"

Frustrated, he said, "Yes, I'm not Malcolm!"

She pushed him down onto the loveseat next to Miles and Virginia. "Never mind, dear. Come and join the game! We're going to play Sardines, such fun! And we've time for just one go before dinner, haven't we?" She turned to the manservant quizzically. "Greville, how much longer?"

Excited, he said, "Thirty-five seconds to go, Miss Emma!"

They began the countdown together again. "Thirty-four, thirty-three, thirty-two -- "

Annabelle broke it this time briefly. "What's too much naughtiness?"

Irritably, Arthur paced around and said, "Sardines? What a lot of ridiculous tomfoolery!"

Emma snapped back at him, "Nonsense, Arthur! You know you've always adored playing Sardines. Why, when we were at Berty's last month, you couldn't wait to play! Or perhaps that was because little Maisy Hamilton was there!" she sang teasingly.

He grasped his dignity and glowered at her. "Little Maisy Hamilton? I've never had anything to do with little Maisy Hamilton," he continued growling as he marched away from her.

Howard chuckled from the loveseat. "Oh, come along Emma, that's a bit hot."

She turned to him and said cheerfully, "We just sent Veronica off to hide, Malcolm."

He shook his head in mild frustration and protested, "I'm not Malcolm!"

"Never mind!" she told him sternly, and turned to the manservant. "Greville, how long has she got."

"Fifteen seconds to go!" he cheered.

Once again they all joined in the count. "Fourteen, thirteen, twelve -- "

As the count went, Steel talked to Sapphire in a long-suffering tone. [Do we have to join in?]

She answered merrily, {Of course we do. It would look very odd if we didn't. Anyway it might be quite fun. If we don't cheat.} She squeezed his arm affectionately.

He huffed at her. [Well I'm gonna take a look around.]

The humans were finishing the count. "Five, four, three, two, one!"

Greville announced, "Time!"

And they all sang out, "Coooooming!"

Annabelle pulled Howard out into the hall with her and whispered instructions to him. He muttered, "Yes, well if you'll forgive me." She dashed away into another room and he started up the stairs, remembering how Veronica had opened the door to Tony's room while he was searching it.

Emma opened the door to a darkened room. The room that should have been no longer there. "Koooiie," she sang out. When there was only silence she moved further in. "Is anybody there? I know you're there, somewhere!" There was only darkness, and she at last left the room, swinging the door shut behind her. And behind the door there stood a man.

Felix entered the dining room. To his delight there was already fruit on the table, and he was very hungry. He snatched up a grape. Arthur was still in the lounge. He poured himself another drink in exasperation and went to the green door. He reached into his pocket for the key, unable to wait any longer to check on what was happening with Mullrine International. It was not there. Nervously, he searched his other pockets.

Tony stepped into his bedroom. This was the place she was most likely to have gone, he was sure. "Veronica? Veronica, are you there?" he called. He checked behind the bathroom door. "It's me. Veronica?" he moved across the room.

        Sapphire opened the door to the library and closed it. Behind her, a lamp went on and she gasped in surprise. There was Steel, sitting on the edge of the table. She came to him, looking around. "I thought you weren't gonna join in!"

Looking like a ruffled cat, he commented, "Cheap fiction, romantic novels and those." He pointed at the books that had seemed most interesting to him.

She read their titles. "The Physics and Chemistry of Surfaces, The Theory of Elastic Stability, Pathology and -- "

He cut in mildly. "It's a pretty mixed bunch of books. And I found this."

"What is it?"

He was holding up an old, gray book and shrugged absently. "It's a book on local history."

"Useful?" she asked.

He shrugged again, opening the book. "Possibly."

        In the hall upstairs, Howard stepped out of one room. He was rather surprised that he had not found the girl yet. She had not seemed bright enough to hide well. He checked under the divan. There was enough room, but no young girl. He sighed and sat down.
        Sapphire ran her fingers along the books until one rang with a response enough to catch her attention. She took it from the shelf and opened it, then a sensation as of cold and furious chill took hold of her, centered in the small of her back, and she gasped in pain.
        Annabelle walked through the lower hall near the staircase. She considered going up them for a moment, then changed her mind and moved around the back of the staircase. There was a closet door and she opened it to see Veronica. "Ah-hah, found you! Anyone else in there with you?" Veronica's hand dropped on her shoulder and she said, "Oh, I see." And then the girl's whole body slumped forward into Annabelle's arms, and she realized the girl was dead. Instinctively she threw the limp form back into the closet and tried to slam the door, but Veronica's arm was in the way and Annabelle screamed.

It was Howard who got to her first, coming down the stairs on the heels of her scream. "Anabelle? Anabelle?"

"Howard!" she called him hoarsely.

He could see the pale, pink arm sticking out from the door she was holding so desperately closed. "What on earth are you doing?"

She gasped and let the door go, throwing herself into his arms. He stared in amazement as the limp body dropped to the floor, eyes opened by the fall. Arthur came out of the lounge at that moment and snapped, "What the devil's going on?" He gazed in shock, realizing the girl was dead. "Oh my god."

Emma arrived just behind Arthur. She tightened her grip on her handbag and said, "Oh come along, Veronica, you're spoiling it all! We weren't going to play Murders 'til after dinner!" But the silence and complete stillness of the body on the floor slowly became clear to her. She said grimly, "She's not playing, is she Arthur?"

He came forward and knelt to touch the girl's neck for a pulse, ignoring for the moment the bloody knife half-embedded in her back, blood staining her blouse but not her skirt. "No. No, she's not playing. The girl's dead!"

Emma gasped in horror, covering her mouth with her hand.

        Steel and Sapphire moved quickly into the lounge. Steel paused in midstep and questioned his partner thoughtfully. [Did It kill Veronica? Or did someone in this house do it?]

At his side she said matter of factly, {It could be one and the same.}

        The others were gathering in the hall. Felix arrived and right behind him was Greville. Emma finally forced her hand away from her mouth. "Who would've done such a thing?" she asked sadly.

Another woman said coldly, "Almost anyone." It was Felicity, her gloves and jewelry once again in place as she came down the steps. She looked at the other woman grimly, paying no attention to Annabelle's presence in her grandson's arms. "Almost anyone in this house, Emma."

Beside Howard, Emma shook her head and looked down at the limp form. "Poor, poor, lovely girl."

Miles Cavendish came out of the lounge and took Emma by her shoulders, helping turn her away from the terrible sight. Arthur, in the meanwhile, stalked away saying, "Felix, ring for the police, will you? Greville," he added more grimly, "get something to cover the body." The manservant bowed his head and hurried away.

Miles helped Emma to a chair. Outside there was a rumble of bizarre thunder, and the elderly woman winced and shivered, clinging to his supporting hands as she sat down. He sat down beside her and said, "That storm's come out of nowhere."

Before he could continue, Virginia spoke suddenly from her position with Arthur, Annabelle and Howard. "There's somebody missing."

Howard could not think who it might be. "No, I don't think so."

It was Annabelle who remembered. "Tony Purnell. Someone should tell him."

Howard's eyes narrowed slightly. "Maybe he already knows."

Arthur asserted his authority and marched across the room. "Everyone is going to have to remember just exactly where they were, and what they were doing!" Sapphire watched him intently.

Howard asked, "When?"

"Within the last -- " he broke off as his mind skittered in confusion.

Sapphire as Virginia said helpfully, "Ten minutes?"

Half-dizzy, half bewildered, he took a puff of his cigar. "Yes, within the last... ten minutes."

Annabelle shook her head, tears threatening to escape. "I can't even remember what happened yesterday. I can't even remember coming here!" She moved away from Howard, grasping at her memories.

Greville tore past Howard with a large, heavy white blanket. He stopped when he reached Arthur's side and stared in astonished confusion. "But I -- " he began.

"Oh, get on with it, man!" Arthur told him sternly.

Greville bit out, "The knife, sir!"

Howard approached behind them as Arthur said, "What about it?"

"It's one of ours! One of our carving knives! I laid it out in the dining room earlier this evening, sir!"

Howard said wryly, "That would make it accessible to just about anyone."

Arthur glanced up at Howard, growled in exasperation, "Cover the poor girl," and turned away.

Felicity McDee intoned gravely, "And then there were nine."

Standing in front of Virginia, Arthur turned. "What's she babbling on about?"

Felicity turned before Virginia could make an attempt at an answer. "Arthur. Did you know that there were ten of us here when we started?"

He waved his cigar dismissively. "Well, I didn't really check -- "

She continued, walking away from the towards where Steel sat with Emma. "You, me, Emma, and...."

Steel felt a moment of panic, ducking his head. [Quick, what's my name?]


Grasping at the word, Steel filled it in for Felicity. "Miles." Sapphire rolled her eyes at how sharply he said it.

"Thank you," Felicity replied gravely and moved back to the other group of people. "Howard, Virginia, Annabelle and... Felix?" she said when he came through the door of the kitchen.

"Yes?" he asked.

She turned away from him and looked down at the shrouded body. "Veronica Blamey."

Howard spoke up, "That's nine."

She turned around. "And Tony Purnell makes ten."

"Where ever he is."

Arthur was getting impatient with all this. He looked up at the tall man. "Did you get the police, Felix?"

Dismayed, the man said, "No, I couldn't."

"Why not?" Arthur asked in frustration.

Felix shrugged helplessly. "The telephone's dead." On cue, thunder rolled outside the house.

"Telephone, dead?!"

Miles Cavendish stood and spoke quickly, "Ah, now that's significant!"

Arthur spun to him in surprise. "Why is it significant?"

Miles looked down at him coolly. "A dead telephone? 'Cuz it means this house is cut off from the rest of the country." He stalked past the smaller man heading towards the lounge. "It's all part of the device."

Startled, Howard said, "This is not a damned story! This is real!"

Miles turned and looked up at him. "Is it?" He walked into the lounge and picked up the phone to hand to Arthur.

Arthur listened to the silence for one moment before he dismissed it angrily and stalked back into the hall. "Anyway we're not cut off! The storm is affecting the telephone, that's all. Felix!" He snatched the tall man's arm and pulled him towards the door. "Be a good chap, will you, get into your car and nip down to the village -- "

"I'm sorry, old chap. But I haven't got a car."

Not hearing him, Arthur went on, "We can arrange that. Greville!" The butler answered him distantly.

Felix raised his voice, "Annabelle and I rented a car with the McDees -- "

"All I want you to do is find a constable and let him know -- "

"My dear fellow I would go presently but I didn't bring a car!"

Greville had arrived and Arthur indicated his smiling servant. "Greville will take you."

The manservant bowed to both men and said firmly, "Mr. Harborough, sir." He led the confused, tired man off.

Arthur returned to the others and said, "And now the rest of us had better start looking for Purnell." Emma, forgotten, watched him gather the people.

Felicity said coolly, "Howard, I'm going upstairs."

At the front door, Greville and Felix struggled together to open the it. It did not budge. They pulled at the handle, shook it. Felix exclaimed angrily, "The door's locked!"

As mist curled under the door, Greville replied, "That's impossible, sir!"

The two men stared down at their feet as the mist curled about. Felix muttered, "The fog! It's icy cold!"

Greville broke from him and moved back into the main house. "It won't open, sir!" he told Lord Mullrine.

Indignantly the old man snapped, "Don't sound stupid, Greville! Of course it will open!" Like a miniature tyrant he came to the door and struggled with it for a long moment. "You're right, it won't." He conceded finally. He rushed out and opened the curtains of one window. "The window!" Turning to the nearest man behind him he said, "Howard, smash the window."

Howard snatched up a chair quickly to comply. He heaved it at the window and there was a sudden wrench of pressure. The chair shattered to pieces. They all stared at the bits in astonishment. The window was not even touched. Howard reached down and picked up some of the broken pieces.

They were in the lounge. Sapphire rested her right hand on her hip, staring gravely at nothing in particular as she reported, {It has completely isolated this house.}

Steel looked around coolly. [There's no way out?]

She was silent for a long moment. {No conventional way out, no.}

Out in the hall the group still stood. Annabelle at the stairs, Emma nearby. The four men, Felix, Arthur, Howard and Greville puzzling over the bits of broken chair.

[Which one of them, Sapphire? Which one of them killed her? Which one of them does it control?]

She said softly, {Maybe it's one and the same.}

In his room, Tony Purnell desperately tried the telephone. "Hello? Hello, operator?! Hello?" He gave up in frustration and crossed the room to the dresser. Behind him the doorknob started to turn. Hearing it, he looked around. The person in the doorway was familiar. "Oh, it's you. Look, the phone's dead and I -- " he broke off in confusion as the figure loomed, limmed in white light that turned blue. He shrank back in sudden terror, cringing against the mirror.

        The cover of the book was green, with a rather gruesome illustration of a skull with hole on one side and a knife stabbed through the top. The title was "Murder Me Twice," the author's name given as "G. Drew." Sapphire was reading it with bemused interest. She stood halfway up a wooden ladder, leaning comfortably on the top.

Steel was sitting nearby in a chair, reading the old, gray book on the local history. He said, "It is a time-change, most likely. And there is a logical reason for using this house. It says here that it's on a ley-line. The line runs right across this part of the country and directly through this building."

"Mmm," Sapphire responded mildly. "It's a perfect place for turning the clock back." She turned a page.

Steel said pensively, "And it's using the summer solstice, the perfect time. Have you any idea who it's using?"

"Nothing definite. I need to get closer. To make contact."

He turned a page of the book and said mildly, "Well then, make contact."

She laughed softly. "Steel, I need something tangible. Something concrete!"

Steel leaned forward and whipped a white kerchief off the table. Beneath it was a delicate glass and he said, "Tony Purnell's champagne glass." Sapphire started at the movement, then smiled with delight and got down from the ladder, leaving the book. "It's his last physical contact since the girl's death. No one has touched it since he put it down. You can start there." He slid the glass on its red coaster over to her.

She began the scan, running her hands down either side. The information left behind unfolded and she read it to Steel. {Anthony Purnell, son of a merchant banker. Fast cars, expensive clothes, money, women...} she paused and struggled against a powerful warding. {It's that barrier again, Steel!}

He said grimly, "Break through it."

She sought around it, reaching. {Tony Purnell. He was here only a few days ago. June the 18th.}

Curious. [This year? Who did he come to see, Mullrine?]

She reached farther. {No, no he was in London. Purnell came to see someone else, in this house.} An image colored in blue formed. A date on a wall. June. Wednesday. 16:25. 18th. The image cleared but remained blue. A woman letting the boy through the green door. {Mullrine's secretary!}

Surprised, Steel asked, [Purnell came to see -- ]

{Anne Shaw,} Sapphire supplied the name. In the image she watched the woman stare after the man who had simply come straight into the room. {In Mullrine's office, here. Behind that green door.} She watched the young man take the woman into his arms. {They're kissing...} and the woman pushed away from him {No, no she's angry with him. She knows about Veronica Blamey. She's jealous.} She watched the young woman stand away from the boy, him sit in her chair, and she then approached him indignantly. {He tells her not to worry. He says Veronica will not be a threat. He says he can easily get rid of her.} Anne shook her head and smiled, then pulled him close for a kiss. The vision ended and the glass shattered violently. Sapphire did not even notice. She was listening to a deep rumble and sudden, sharp noise and exclaimed, "Purnell."


She searched, but heard no answer. "I don't know. Somewhere in the house. A gunshot, I think."


She searched again and heard a murmur of response. "Soon."

Upstairs, Howard tried Tony Purnell's room again. When he opened the door it was on a scene of chaos. Bedding was strewn everything, drawers were half-open, pictures knocked askew on the walls, the phone hanging off the hook. "What on earth?!" he exclaimed and hurried out, closing the door behind him.

Downstairs, Greville strode quickly through the hall to his master. "Sir?"

"What is it, Greville?" Arthus asked bitterly.

"There's no sign of Mr. Purnell at the back of the house, sir."

Arthur lowered his cigar in surprise. "No sign at all?"

"None of the servants have seen him," Greville affirmed as they walked together down the hall.

Arthur said uncertainly, "Well that can't be possible! I mean the man just can't disappear in thin air, can he?"

As they passed, the door to the lounge opened. Felix was snapping contemptuously at his wife, "photographs, darling, please try and grow up!" He turned and met the other men's astonished gazes.

Arthur said quickly, "Did you find anything?"

"Nothing," Felix said, after exchanging a glance with Annabelle.

From above them on the stair, Howard spoke. "His room's a shambles. He's not there. I can't find him anywhere." He marched down the stairs and they all stared at him in surprise.

Arthur shook his head reasonably. "Oh, well he can't get out."

"That's right," said a new voice. They wheeled and found Virginia and Miles there. It was she who spoke as her husband watched them. "No one can get out."

Howard eyed them suspiciously. They were too knowing. He lifted his chin angrily. "Now look here! I want to know what the devil's going on! For starters, I want to know who you two are!"

Miles murmured indignantly, "I beg your pardon!"

Virginia smiled warmly, her voice gentle and sweet. "We were invited. We're not gate-crashers."

But the suspicion had been triggered. It was Felix next who pursed his lips stubbornly. "You're not answering the question!"

Distressed, Annabelle added her voice to the demand. "Yes, who are you?! I don't rememb -- " she paused in total confusion, "remember...."

Miles stepped forward past Emma. "I doubt if any of you can remember very much."

Arthur stuttered indignantly, "What are you talking about?"

Miles answered with the truth. "A tear in the fabric of time. I read somewhere that the inability to remember is one of the symptoms." He turned away from them and left the ball rolling, knowing human minds would worry like dogs with such an intriguing statement.

Howard huffed from the stair, "I'm awfully sorry, but you're not making any sense at all."

Arthur, Greville behind him, took a puff of his cigar and said coolly, "I can remember perfectly."

Miles turned to him. "Can you, sir?"


Virginia said smoothly, her voice like magic on a wild night. "Where were you, Lord Mullrine, three days ago on June the eighteenth?"

He huffed up and said, "Here!"

"No," she said calmly.

Shifting with embarrassment he said, "Well I must have been in London, then!"

"Correct," she said and walked around behind him.

Miles followed on her heels. "And what were you doing in London?"

Following their movement instinctively, Arthur shrugged at the blond man. "What I always do, business."

"Go on," Miles encouraged him.

Arthur's mind clicked and ran through events rapidly. Behind him, Sapphire watched Greville's approval of his master. Arthur spoke blithely, "In the afternoon I went my club Denver for lunch, and in the evening I went to the theatre. The Night's Bridge Tibly -- "

Virginia cut in firmly, "Impossible."

Arthur whirled in surprise. "Are you calling me a liar?" She smiled at him and moved away beyond a puzzled Greville.

Miles spoke again, "With all respect, sir, it is impossible for you to have done either of these things three days ago."

Virginia stood behind Annabelle and Felix and said calmly, "The Night's Bridge Tibly closed its doors for the last time in Nineteen thirty-four. And the Denver was, I believe, blitzed in Nineteen forty-one." The two in front of her looked at her in surprise.

Miles said, "You see?"

Felix grasped at reasons, trying out any that could seem feasible. "It's some sort of conjuring trick!" he protested.

"Is it?" Miles demanded. "Where were you yesterday, Mr. Harborough?" He came to them and turned his demanding gaze on Annabelle. "And where did you have lunch today, Mrs. Harborough?" For they were too young to have their own memories of Nineteen thirty. They stared at him in bewilderment. When they could not answer, he swung away from them to the young man on the stairs and smiled. "What is the, uh, registration number of your car, Mr. McDee?" Howard smiled back at the amazing man. No one could be expected to remember that number. He was just fine. Miles looked at him steadily. "Can't remember? No? Well, what kind of a car is it? What make, Mr. McDee?"

Laughing, for that was very easy, he started to reply and found the information gone beneath the surface of his thoughts. "Well, it's a -- " he broke off in confusion.

Realization hit Felix first, or perhaps he was the only one who spoke it. "Oh no!"

Miles nodded and answered calmly, "Oh, yes." He paced over to Emma, who was watching him with bright interest. "By now I would venture to say that none of us can remember arriving at this house tonight. Nor why we came!"

Emma smiled at him, recognizing alarm under the calm front. She patted the area beside her. "Come and sit down, Miles."

"Thank you," he said gratefully, and sank down beside her, pulling on his trousers so that the creases sat right. He set his hands on his knees and eyed the windows uneasily. "Now it is impossible to know what is happening outside this house! Assuming that there is an outside to the house." There was a sudden sound of thunder, but it was distorted. Weird, almost... no, definitely they were hearing the sound in reverse! Miles cocked his head and almost nodded. "The clock is moving backwards. For the moment there is no past, and no future." He looked at Emma.

Annabelle stepped forward angrily. "There was a murder, I remember that!"

"Was there?" he asked her.

Furious, she said, "Well of course there was! I found the body and -- "

They all began speaking at once and Miles got to his feet to try to calm the uproar, holding up both palms calmingly. "Then let us refresh our memories." He stepped forward and took Greville's arm. He led the man, led them all, to the other side of the staircase where they had left young Veronica's body. "If Greville would be kind enough," Miles began.

"Of course, sir!" the other man said cheerfully.

"To remove the sheet from the body."

At that the protests became loud, starting from Annabelle. "Oh no, please!"

"Now look here, that's obscene!" protested Howard.

Greville looked to his master for confirmation. "Sir?"

Arthur almost sighed aloud. "Yes, go ahead," he said, and puffed on his cigar.

Unhappily, Greville bent down and pulled the sheet swiftly. The outline of a body collapsed. When he removed it completely there was only the knife on the floor, and that without blood staining it. They all stared in amazement.

In the lounge, Arthur was speaking indignantly to Miles. " -- changing, bodies disappearing! There's no logic to it and that's what I don't like!" Miles held up an ashtray for the little man to stub his cigar into.

Miles tried to get a word in edgewise, "Well you can't blame the -- "

Arthur stalked off, waving his hand angrily. "The girl was murdered! There was a knife sticking out of her back and she couldn't have put it there! And now she's gone and Tony Purnell's disappeared!"

Miles was trying to keep up with him and said firmly, "There is a logic to it, somewhere."

The others sat on the couches, listening to the two clever men. Arthur snapped angrily, "Rubbish!"

Miles could not be deterred. "If we can find it."

Annabelle sat beside Virginia and shook her head. "Listen, my memory's gone completely. I can't think where I had lunch today. I simply can't remember!"

Howard sat beside his mother on the other loveseat and said mournfully, "I can't even remember my own car."

Arthur growled, "There's no logic and no sense to it."

Miles interjected, "No, no, no, no, no. There is... there is a sense to it. You see, Lord Mullrine provided the setting. A party. A celebration back in Nineteen thirty. Everything," he picked up on of the items on the table and showed it to them, "authentic. And set in a house that sits astride an ancient ley-line."

Annabelle frowned and asked, "Miles, what exactly is a ley-line?"

Miles set the vase back down. "It's a line of increased magnetic activity on the Earth's surface."

Felicity McDee looked at her grandson. "I believe birds navigate by them."

Miles agreed fully with her, but stood up straight trying to lead them to his point. "Yes, and then there's the date. The summer solstice. No it's... it's all very significant." He moved away from them and looked up, his eye falling on the portrait of George McDee. "June the twenty-first, Nineteen thirty."

Felicity said helpfully, "That's today."

He agreed again. "Yes, today but... fifty years ago. What was he doing? I mean, what was he working on?" Miles stared up at the portrait as though lost in thought.

Arthur came over to him. "Why don't you ask him yourself? He's here!"

Felix Harborough's mouth almost dropped open. It took Felicity's next words to shake him out of his silence. She said, "You can't interrupt him while he's in his laboratory!"

Felix stepped forward angrily. "It's absurd!" He marched towards the door to the laboratory over the objections of the woman.

"No, you can't disturb him, Felix, no!" When he turned to look at her, Felicity said sternly, "You can't go in there!"

Huffily, he surged on towards the door and almost ran over Virginia, who blocked his way. She said gravely, "You can't get in, anyway."

He opened his mouth to protest, wheeled to look at Miles Cavendish. "Tony Purnell may be in there! Nobody's looked, have they?"

Miles met his gaze coolly. "We're talking about George McDee. About his work." Felix almost tried to shove past Virginia, but finally thought better of it and stomped away.

Arthur shrugged and said, "George never talks about his work. At least not until the project he's working on is finished."

Miles pitched his voice low, provoking a feeling of superiority. "B -- you must have some idea." He and Virginia stood close to Arthur.

"Yes, it's a... a medicine of some sort, I think."

"Medicine?" Miles asked curiously.

Sapphire, having something to key to, began to use her power.

Arthur continued blithely, "Yes. He's in there messing about with genetics. You know, biology and all that stuff." He chuckled, "Who ever heard of anything so ludicrous." He took a puff of his cigar.

Sapphire's voice rang in Steel's thoughts. {Genetic engineering.}

Amazed, he added, [Serum biology!]


Arthur shrugged at them, "Anyway, someone at the ministry has swallowed the idea, evidently! It's all very secret, hush-hush."

Steel as Miles dug for more. "Yeah, ah, a medicine. For which disease?"

Arthur shook his head and laughed. "To hear him talk, all of them! He's nattering on about giving it to the whole population! Hah, George!" Arthur had always admired the man's dreams.

Sapphire's attention was drawn to the painting of George McDee. Her power hummed and thrummed about them, but only her partner could hear it. He asked urgently, [What was he doing, Sapphire? What was he working on?]

She strained to reach the information coming from a dark room with only one light at the center, illuminating a determined man with his eye seemingly glued to a microscope and free hand busy writing notes. {He... he's almost succeeded. He's very close. He's broken the genetic code. He's replacing.... No! He's manipulating the genetic characteristics of a virus! It will save thousands of lives. One more day, Steel! One more day and he will succeed!}

Confused, Steel asked, [To save lives? Then why should it keep him alive?]

Sapphire answered him, her voice low with fear. {Because he's careless, Steel.} In her mind's eye they saw McDee's hand slowly push a petri dish until it fell from the table and smashed on the floor, releasing a deadly virus. She said angrily, {He will cause the extinction of life on this planet by his carelessness.}

Startled and horrified, Steel said, [So on June the twenty-first, Nineteen thirty this planet faces extinction unless....] And in the image, the man writing never even noticed the fallen vial.

Sapphire said firmly, {On June the twenty-second, George McDee dies.}

Sapphire's communication had slipped into verbalization at that last and Felicity scrambled to her feet. "No! What are you saying?!"

Annabelle surged out of the loveseat. "That's tomorrow!"

Arthur, Miles, Virginia, Felicity, Howard and lastly Annabelle all stood looking up at George McDee's portrait.

Howard demanded, "How do you know my grandfather dies tomorrow?!"

Miles said firmly, "Because he has to."

Felix joined them from the other side of the room and snapped angrily, "If you're so clever, Mr. Cavendish, at what time?"

Then from the door to the lounge came another voice. Emma said, "Arthur. We've got a little bit of a problem."

Annabelle groaned. "Oh, God. A little bit of a problem, says Emma."

The old woman spared her a glance and turned her attention back to her brother. "It's about dinner. Greville's getting quite anxious!"

Arthur practically groaned too, and shook his head at her. "Dinner? Who the devil can think about dinner, Emma?"

She laughed her eyes twinkling, taking the years away. "Well, somebody has to! We've got Jugged Hare, and all sorts of lovely other things! The kitchen staff went to a great deal of trouble. Is nobody hungry?"

In the dining room, Greville lit the candles on the table. The effect was perfect, if he did say so himself (and he did). The plates were ready, the napkins waiting. He moved a centerpiece to the side table to clear some space when he heard a gasping noise coming from nearby. Puzzled, he moved around the table and pulled aside the heavy, golden curtains into the breakfast nook. There in the darkness stood a tall young man, trembling and shivering, his face white as he stepped into the light.

Greville exclaimed, "Mr. Purnell, sir! They've been looking for you!"

The boy shivered violently and said, "Yes, I know."

Taking in his shudders, Greville frowned. "Are you all right, sir?"

The boy looked at him and trembled even more. "No I'm not. Someone... or something... tried to kill me!" He waved a hand weakly in a striking gesture.

Greville tried to calm him. "I'll tell Lord Mullrine, sir."

Panicking, Tony stopped him. "No! Tell Cavendish! Tell him I'm in here, tell him I must speak to him!"

"Yes, sir," the manservant agreed readily.

The shaking boy pawed at him, anxiously, "No one else! No one else!"

Grevile hastened to reassure him. "Just as you say, sir. Why don't you sit down, sir?" He gestured to the nearest chair and hurried out of the room as Tony sat and dropped his head in his hands. Beside the terrified young man, the candles blew out.

Steel dragged Sapphire into the library with him. She was focussed on the puzzle of their assignment and grumbled indignantly to herself more than to him, "What is so significant about Nineteen thirty? What happened in this house fifty years ago?!"

Steel steered her to sit down at the desk. "If we find out who it is then we'll know. Now let's try George McDee again." He pulled aside one of the curtains and searched for a likely book as Sapphire waited for him. He snatched up a blue book and flipped through the pages. "He must have had this in his hands at some time or another."

She blinked at him. "You're asking for a manifestation."

"Yes. Published in Nineteen twenty-two."

She continued, "But it's too difficult. It's a very long time ago and it's too dangerous."

Steel simply set the book in front of her. "Give it a try."

She sighed and raised her hand over the book, using her power and getting a confirmation. "Yes, he was in this room sometime during that day. But I can't tell when." She dropped her hand and tried to escape the chair, but Steel caught her shoulder and broadcast insistence at her. She settled back in the chair stubbornly.

He said sternly, "Sapphire...."

With another long sigh, she set her hands palm up on either side of the book. It responded, opening and slowly turning pages. Then the door to the library opened. They turned their heads, but no one was visible. Sapphire instinctively got out of the chair and moved to the one at tghe side of the table.

Steel could feel the presence coming towards the chair. "Mr. McDee?" he tried tentatively.

The voice came out of thin air. "Yes?" When he did not speak at once, but watched the faint distortion as it moved into the chair it demanded impatiently, "What do you want?"

Steel frowned and eyed the empty chair. "To talk."

Irritably, the voice replied, "Well I've no time for that. I've work to do. Who are you, anyway? One of Arthur's flapper set?"

The pages of the book were being turned as McDee searched for information. Steel moved away uncertainly. "Not exactly."

"Very well you'd better get back out there. I'm sure Emma's about to organize one of those daft party games of hers. Sardines, I shouldn't wonder." He sounded more amused than irritated.

Steel said firmly, "Well, we've already played that."

"Aye, well, I've no time for idle chatter, young man!"

Steel chose his next words carefully. "What do you know of Dioxy-ribonucleic Acid, Mr. McDee?"

There was a flash of utter astonishment from the ghost, and it materialized fully at the seat next to Sapphire, fists clenched on top of the desk. "What?!"

Steel clarified without mocking the man. "The transference of coded genetic material. Cloning bacteria." He turned to look at the man at the chair in a tweed suit. "Encouraging them to produce your vaccine."

George McDee turned to look at Steel in complete shock. "How do you know about that? Has Arthur been blathering again?!"

Steel ignored that last and asked, "Do you know the danger involved?"

Huffily, the man looked down at the desk. "There is no danger!" Unconsciously he rubbed his wrist and glanced around. His eyes fell on Sapphire and widened in appreciation. She smiled warmly at him and rested her chin on her fist hopefully. He gentled his voice for her and leaned towards her, tapping his fingers on the desktop. "No, the only real danger is to the millions who may die without my vaccine!"

"Such laboratory procedures must be carefully controlled," Steel said coldly.

Annoyed, McDee snapped back at him, "They are carefully controlled!"

Steel insisted angrily, "Bacteria can escape from the laboratory."

McDee turned back to the beautiful woman and shook his head. "It couldn't happen!"

Steel said, "You cannot be certain."

"Even if it did they'd be killed off! They could never withstand the change in temperature, for one thing." He chuckled at the young man's naivate.

But Steel knew they had stumbled upon something. He came over to McDee. "Ah, but is it not possible for a strain of bacteria not only to withstand the change in temperature but also to become immune, and therefore highly lethal?"

George McDee glared up at the impertinent youngster. "Are you a scientist?" he challenged.

The man said firmly, "I can tell you what will happen if you don't call a halt to your work right now."

Furious, McDee surged to his feet. He snarled, "Who put you up to this? Are you one of Alec Fleming's lot?"

Steel met his fury coldly, striving for rational argument. "Others will come later. They will find a means to control and use genetic engineering."

McDee stiffened and glowered at him. "I sincerely hope so!"

"You don't have the facilities, yet!"

Furious, McDee blocked out communication and vanished. Sapphire jumped in her seat and said, "I've lost him!"

The ghost was spinning, hit the chair and knocked it down on its way. "Of course I have the facilities!" it snapped.

"I've lost him," Sapphire repeated as it pulled away from her angrily.

McDee was throwing the words out as he left. "I've been working on this theorum for six years! How dare you?!" It reached the door, which opened suddenly to admit an anxious Greville.

Seeing them, the manservant said quickly, "Mr. Cavendish -- " he started, then saw the chair knocked down and reached to right it. "Oh, I'm sorry sir, madam, did I disturb you."

Steel was too incensed to be polite as Sapphire placed herself between the two men to provide an illusion of her formerly sitting in that chair. "Yes, I'm afraid you did, Greville," Steel snarled, picking up the blue book.

Greville ignored the rudeness, wondering what the young couple had been fighting about. "It's Mr. Purnell, sir."

"You found him?"

Hesitant to directly contradict a superior, it took Greville a moment to answer. "Uh, he -- he... he's in the dining room, sir. He didn't appear really appear to be lost. Somewhat disheveled, though." Resting an anxious hand on the righted chair, Greville added, "He said that he wanted to see you, sir."

Sapphire met her partner's eyes intently. {Don't go.}

Steel pretended not to hear. "Of course, Greville."

But the manservant added nervously, "Uh, nobody else."


When Miles continued to simply stand there Greville added uncertainly, "Mr. Purnell led me to believe that it was uh, rather urgent, sir." Seeing that they did not appear in any hurry to move, Greville pursed his lips worriedly and hurried out of the room, closing the door behind him. He had delivered the message and done what he should.

Sapphire spoke, low and quiet. "Don't go, Steel. Don't go in there."

"What is it?" he asked her, in an equally quiet tone.

She turned around. "Listen."

The humans were sipping drinks in the lounge when the shot rang out. They all startled. In the library, Steel heard it. "You told me," he said, acknowledging Sapphire's foresight. He took a step forward.

She moved around in front of him and said calmly, "You forgot." He acknowledged that with a rueful flicker and they left the library.

Greville hurried anxiously through the lounge. "That was a gunshot, sir!" he exclaimed in passing.

Arthur forced his mouth closed and said, "Yes, it was!" He quickly moved to stand next to Greville.

Miles and Virginia came to stand near the three women sitting on the loveseats. Miles said mildly, "From inside the dining room."

Emma looked up at him and said promptly, "Don't be silly, nobody takes guns into dining rooms!"

Felicity did not turn her head back towards the other woman, but said coolly, "Emma, stop your prattling."

Annabelle got to her feet anxiously. "It might be Tony in there!" Felicity forced herself up in alarm.

Virginia had come to the dining-room side of the seats. Cool, unflappable Miles was still near Emma. He asked quietly, "Where are the others? Howard and Felix?"

Annabelle answered him uncertainly, "Felix went upstairs to get some cigarettes."

Felicity added, "And I thought Howard was in the library."

Virginia said firmly, "No, he isn't."

Arthur shook off his paralysis. "Well for God's sake, let's get in there!" He led the way, Greville, Virginia, Miles and Annabelle fast behind him. Emma and Felicity were left alone.

They opened the dining room doors and the first thing they saw was young Purnell, his face ashen above the dark-red stain on his white shirt. As if the breath of wind from their approach did it, his body fell forward onto the table.

Annabelle gasped, "Tony!"

Felicity blinked and intoned gravely, "And then there were eight!"

Arthur and Greville made their way around the table. Arthur glanced at the gun on the opposite corner of the table and said determinidly, "Suicide!"

Miles snapped, "The gun is well out of his reach."

Arthur could not be dissuaded so easily by facts. "He killed the girl and then shot himself! It stands to reason!"

Annabelle hurried forward in anguish. "There's no reason for any of this!"

Emma, too, stepped forward to stare at the dead boy, and Miles stated coolly, "Oh yes, there's a reason for all of it. The time change, the murders, the barrier around this house."

Virginia supported her husband. "It's just very difficult for Miles to pinpoint."

Arthur looked across the room at the young couple. "If you don't pinpoint it quickly there won't be any of us left to care!" He joined the distraught Annabelle and glared at Miles.

Annabelle shivered and pressed her fingers against her chest. "No, nobody else! I can't bear it!"

Miles suggested to Arthur, "Perhaps you'll take the ladies back to the drawing room, sir?"

Willing for this chance to play the gallant, Arthur said, "A very good idea." He scooped his arms around Annabelle's warm waist and led her out the door, calling, "Come on everybody. Let's get out of here."

Greville murmured, "Excuse me, Miss Emma," and made his way past her towards the kitchen.

His movement shocked her out of her trance and she turned after him. "I must get Greville to tidy up in here. Greville?"

        Miles and Virginia were left staring alone at the dead body. Steel and Sapphire left in a moment of peace. Steel frowned at the limp young form. "We know that Tony Purnell was in love with Anne Shaw, Mullrine's secretary."

Sapphire shook her head in bemusement. "Not necessarily in love, he was... using her."

Confused, Steel tilted his head and furrowed his brow. "There's a difference?"

"On this planet, yes." She crossed around the table towards the body.

Steel studied the situation, trying to make sense of it. "Veronica Blamey was in the way."

She agreed, "I'd say so."

How very predictable, but the reaction seemed a bit extreme. "Is that strong enough motive enough for murder?"

Sapphire held her hand over the boy's back, beginning to use her power. She said mildly, "It depends what he was using her for. What he wanted from her." She let her hand draw circles in the air over the dead back as she read off the data.

Steel's mind leaped to the kinds of things he knew. "Access to Mullrine's office records! His plans for the future! George McDee's notes from fifty years ago." Sapphire had finished with the body and came around Steel's side of the table. He asked her grimly, "Are any of those sufficient motive?"

Steel was concentrating on the reason for Veronica Blamey's death, but here they had another body to contend with. Sapphire asked him, "Who has a motive to kill Tony Purnell?"

Steel frowned. "Oh, the Purnells are bankers to Mullrine International. Maybe it has something to do with the bank? Could the bank be in trouble?"

Sapphire frowned as she circumnavigated the table. She paused and leaned on the back of a chair. "No, the motives are irrelevant. They're merely part of the setting. Part of the time-change."

Steel took a step closer, confused. "Merely? For more than murders?"

She looked back at him and moved her hands gracefully. "The clues are here! We already have them."

Steel blinked at her, completely lost. "We have?"

Sapphire moved away, tracking those clues she had told him they already had. "Do you remember when I first met Veronica Blamey?"

"Yes, what about it?"

She answered him with growing confidence. "I received information about her birth and background, but not that she was going to die."

Steel frowned behind her. "Well, either you made a mistake, or Veronica Blamey isn't dead."

Sapphire whirled to face him, victory in her eyes. She grinned and headed for a chair to sit and said, "And assuming that...."

Steel sank into the chair behind him. "Neither is Tony Purnell."

"Tony Purnell and Veronica Blamey. I wonder what the link is?"

Steel tracked through the information they knew. "Well, they came here together. He's twenty-five, she's twenty-four. They're the two youngest -- "

Sapphire, exasperated with his lack of understanding began to say, "I don't mean the link between them, I mean the link between them and -- "

But he had found it. "The two youngest! Killing them off one by one, starting with the youngest!"

A weight settled in the room and Sapphire stiffened in her seat. "Steel," she whispered.

"What is it?" he whispered back.

"It's getting closer." The sense of something approaching was strong.

"Yes, but where?"

She turned her head slowly, searching for it. "It's very close...."

He turned his head and looked at her. "You realize it's fooling us, don't you? Drawing us further and further away from the truth?" He glanced at the dead body on the table. "It's setting us puzzles about these murders that it knows we're innately bound to solve!" Sapphire regarded him quietly.

She said softly, "So are we... Miles, and Virginia." She smiled at him with sheer mischief, ran her right hand up her gloved left wrist and stood up cheerfully.

Bewildered, he turned to follow her movement across the room. "What are you talking about?"

She spun, grinning. "It's having to deal with us on more than one level. As Sapphire and Steel and... as Miles and Virginia!" She leaned against the sideboard and smirked.

Steel bolted to his feet with relief. "And as long as it has to deal with them..."

"We stand a chance of winning."

He frowned pensively. "Yes. Well, I wonder what the next puzzle is growing from."

Sapphire's eyes fell past him and her mouth dropped open in surprise. She pressed close to him. "Look!" As they watched, the table became strewn with cobwebs, Tony's body laden with dust as if years had already passed, and yet it did not deteriorate. Amazed, Sapphire said, "The molecular structure is altering."

Steel trembled under her hands. "It's going back in time!"

"No, Steel," she contradicted him firmly.

He was not deterred. "Back fifty years!"

She said gently, "It's aging."

He shuddered against her. "Yes, it's going backwards."

She forced him to look at her. "Steel, things age forwards." He met her eyes in confusion and she said gently, "From Nineteen thirty, to Nineteen eighty." The panic eased from his bright, dark eyes. He blinked and moved away from her to stare in surprise. She smiled as she looked at the table. "Look at the dust. The cobwebs. This is as it would have been if it had lain here for fifty years." Untouched, unused. Steel pointed at the revolver. On the handle were the initials McD in large letters. "McDee," Sapphire confirmed.

"Yes, but look at it," Steel urged her. He moved his finger over the gun. "There's not a mark on it. No oxidization, no dust. Nothing."

"It's in a different time frame," she answered calmly. Steel used the end of a silvery pen to poke down the gun's barrel, so that he could pick it up without touching it. Sapphire said quietly, "Steel, that gun is going to be used again."

He stared at her in alarm, then forcibly calmed himself. "Where are we, Sapphire? Get us back. Now!" He carefully set the gun on his kerchief, removing the pen from the barrel.

Howard McDee marched into the lounge, where everyone else was. "God, this is ridiculous!"

Annabelle stared at his strained face in surprise. "Howard, you look dreadful!"

Arthur snapped sternly, "Where the devil have you been, Howard?"

Pouring himself a drink, the young McDee growled back, "Trying to get out of here! It's absolutely impossible. It's as though there were an impenetrable barrier across all the windows and doors! Do you know most of the servants have left?"

Emma piped up gracefully. "There, you see Arthur? You can't depend on servants at all, these days."

Arthur bit back a sigh and moved away from her towards Howard. "Well, Greville is still here. You can always depend on him."

She sighed slightly and moved across the room herself. "Well, Greville is special."

Felix walked into the room at that point, looking pleased with himself. "Ah, that's better," he said cheerfully.

Annabelle rushed to him. "Oh, Felix!"

Surprised by her anxiousness he met her eyes and asked, "Hello, darling, have I missed anything?"

Arthur looked up at him gravely, with more than a little blame in his eyes. "Yes you have. Purnell is dead."

Stunned, Felix murmured, "Good grief."

Accusingly Arthur demanded, "So where the devil have you been?"

Felix met his wife's gaze in bewilderment and bent down to Arthur, flushing. "Well it's... slightly embarrassing in mixed company. Rather too much of your excellent champagne. Had to pump ship."

Arthur rolled his eyes and turned away. "Huh. Took you long enough."

Howard turned towards them from where he was gulping a drink. "How did Purnell die?"

Arthur answered gravely, "He was shot. Through the heart."

Felix wavered slightly on his feet. "Shot? Through the heart?"

"Yes," Arthur confirmed. The two men and Annabelle stared at each other, and Howard turned back to the drinks.

Thus no one was looking when Sapphire and Steel materialized in between them. Sapphire asked, "Howard McDee, do you own a revolver?" There was faint startlement from the others, who had not seen them come in.

He did not turn, gazing bewildered at the decanters in front of him. "Yes I do. I've had it for ages, my father gave it to me."

Steel as Miles stalked over to him, head tilted to study the young man's reactions. "And where is that revolver now?"

Howard lifted his head and straightened to his full height to look down at Miles. "Upstairs, in my suitcase." Emma and Felicity watched all this with great interest.

Miles said calmly, "No, I'm afraid it isn't." He brought out his kerchief and unfolded it to reveal the gun.

Felicity scrambled to her feet. "How are you -- are you accusing Howard, Mr. Cavendish?"

As startled as the others, Felix moved over to the confrontation. "Yes, I recognize that. That's yours, Howard!" Felix met the bewildered man's eyes with confused accusation. Arthur came up behind him to see what there was to see.

Miles said calmly, "It was in the other room, close to the body. Still warm when I picked it up."

Howard's eyes were dark with confusion, his normally smooth face troubled. He forced a shrug and strutted over to his mother. "I haven't been anywhere near the dining room!" he said huffily. Felix, Arthur and Annabelle stiffened alertly, then moved towards Howard, whose eyes widened. "Well I mean, I assume it was in the dining room."

Felicity hastened to defend her grandson and glared at the three. "That's enough!" She put a hand protectively on his arm. "I will not have Howard intimidated in this way!"

Felix's lower lip jutted out. "How do you intimidate a blackmailer, Mrs. McDee?" he asked coldly.

She startled in confusion. "Blackmailer?!?

Felix nodded accusingly. "Your precious Howard! He'd been blackmailing Tony Purnell for ages!"

Howard's expression was blank as his grandmother looked up at him in disbelief. She said angrily, "Why should Howard do a thing like that?"

But Felix had the answer. "Tony'd been filching money from his father's bank!"

Howard swallowed and forced a smile to his face, turning to his grandmother. "It's all a lie, Grandmama!" He took a long drink.

Arthur Mullrine, however, stepped forward to confirm it. They looked down in amazement at him as he said, "I'm afraid it's true, Felicity. Tony made a clean breast of it a few days ago. His father was going to make good all the money he'd embezzled."

Felix looked fiercely at Howard. "On one condition. That Tony went to the police."

Arthur watched Howard's face. "But you had to stop Tony from doing that, didn't you Howard?" He pointed a finger accusingly.

Howard's face was white, though he held himself still and straight. "I haven't killed anybody! This is a monstrous suggestion!" He looked back and forth at their cold, accusing faces and began to shiver. He started away across the room towards the dining room. "Oh, this is absurd, I'm going to see for myself!" He opened the doors and walked in, only to stop in bewildered surprise. The others in the dining room turned when they heard him laughing.

Annabelle shivered at the sound and said hoarsely, "This gets crazier by the minute!"

Arthur hurried to the dining room, Felix on his heels. They came in and stopped short. Howard looked at them with a smile. There was nothing there. Arthur gaped for a moment, then said, "Howard is right. There is nobody. There is no evidence whatsoever that -- "

Felix glared down at him in confusion. "But you said that you saw -- "

Arthur met his eyes seriously, his own bright with puzzlement. "I saw two murders, Felix. Two bodies. The Blamey girl and young Purnell!"

"Yes that is what you saw," came Miles' voice from behind them. The three of them turned around to see him waiting outside the door in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. When they came to him he continued. "But I don't think Tony Purnell was responsible for the knife in Veronica Blamey's back. Nor do I think Howard McDee shot Tony Purnell."

Gratified, Howard lifted his head in relief and bowed slightly. "Thank you."

Arthur stared at him in dismay. "You mean... somebody else is the killer?"

Miles tilted his head and said gravely, "Someone else is responsible, yes. And I don't think they've finished yet. In fact I -- " He stopped in surprise.

Felicity McDee was standing before the fireplace in the lounge, singing. "If one green bottle should accidentally fall...."

Emma spoke up from her seat. "No, Felicity, that's the wrong tune. Listen." She waved her hands to set the beat and began, "If one green bottle should accidentally fall...."

Felicity grinned with delight and settled beside her. "That's right!"

They sang together, "There'll be seven green bottles, hanging on the wall! Seven green bottles, hanging on the wall. Seven green bottles, hanging on the wall. And if one green bottle should accidentally fall there'll be six green bottles, hanging on the wall."

        As Sapphire and Steel watched, the humans were drawn into the lounge as if the merry music cast a spell on them. Sapphire turned and moved to Steel. "You're sure you only touched the barrel?" she asked him.

He shrugged slightly. "Of course."

At that moment Greville closed the door to the kitchen. He held a decanter full of an amber liquid and took it carefully into the dining room. They watched him curiously until the door closed. In the dining room, Greville set the container down and bent to tidy up some last pieces before dinner.

They retired to the library. Sapphire ran her fingers bare inches over the revolver and the knife, taking a reading. She said mildly, "They are real."

"Both of them?" Steel asked her.

"Yes." Her fingers traveled over the handle of the knife. "The knife has been used hundreds of times, by many people. It was made in Sheffield in Nineteen twenty-four. Brought into this house by Greville." She took it gingerly between her fingertips and lifted it up.

Steel asked, "Who used it on Veronica Blamey?"

She tilted the knife to let it catch the light and intoned sonorously, "No living soul." She stared at him, then smiled mischievously and set it down.

Steel cleared his throat. "And the revolver? Who used it on Purnell?"

She picked up the weapon, reading it as she had done the knife. "No living soul," she repeated mildly.

Steel reached out and took the gun from her fingers, turning it over and over then settling it in his lap out of her sight with an exasperated sigh. "In this house, Sapphire, something hidden. Something disguised."

Sapphire face went blank and still. Her mind found the answer and she said, "A force inhabiting something."

Steel set the revolver back down beside the knife. "Yes, well tell me some more about that."

Sapphire lifted the knife and used it to push the revolver around, then over towards Steel. "It was made in Birmingham in Nineteen twenty-eight and brought into this house by George McDee." She pointedly moved the knife away from the revolver and dropped it hard on the tabletop.

Steel frowned at her. "But you can't tell who used it on Purnell?"

She sat utterly still, her face a mask without expression, and said quietly, "No living soul."

Steel let out an exasperated sigh and got to his feet to pace anxiously. "Yeah, well that's not gonna tell us much."

Sapphire looked down at the knife and revolver. Slowly she reached out and took the knife up in her hand as Steel paced around the table. Staring at it without expression she turned the tip of the blade towards her. She slowly tilted it down and prepared to stab herself in the chest, a strange feeling of euphoria sweeping over her. It was time to end all this. She would be free. She laughed as she heaved to stab into her heart.

        Arthur was once again staring up at the portrait of George McDee pensively. Thunder rolled, again a peculiar, almost backwards sound. Annabelle shivered on the arm of the loveseat where she sat near Emma. Her husband was behind her, standing closer to the piano. Howard stood behind his grandmother who sat on the other loveseat.

Annabelle spoke suddenly, rubbing her arms. "Oh it's all so eerie! Dreadful things keep happening!"

Emma shifted slightly in her seat. "Do you know what I think?"

"No one cares, Emma," Arthur growled pettishly.

She was not to be deterred by his mood. She nodded her head saying, "I think it's a poltergeist. I think it's a dear little poltergeist trying to tell us something."

        Sapphire was struggling to force the knife into her body, but Steel had thrust his left hand in the way and would not permit the blade through. He was on his knees, fighting the shock to his flesh as he fought Sapphire's efforts. They rose to their feet, Sapphire knocking her chair over and still fighting to push the knife into her body as he still fought to prevent her. The only thing he could do against her strength was reach in with his right hand and snap the blade in two.

Sapphire held the useless handle in her palm for a moment before letting it fall to the floor. Steel moved to right the overturned chair and when he turned, found Sapphire had the gun in her hand and was aiming straight between his eyes. He froze, then stepped slowly back before making his way around. She swung with him, her targeting absolute. A faint smile twisted her lips and she cocked the gun. She stared at him for a moment, the smile gone, and said, "I'm not sorry about this." She pressed the trigger.

Nothing happened. Steel glanced down and reached into his pocket. He took out his hand and opened his palm, out of which poured the bullets. He was no fool.

        Felix stood and worried the problems they had found. "Who do you suppose killed Tony Purnell?"

Howard cut in, mildly amused, "If anybody did."

Arthur glared at him, looking him up and down. "What are you talking about, Howard? We all saw the body!"

Howard chuckled and asked pointedly, "Yes, but can you see it now?"

His grandmother spoke up stubbornly from the loveseat beside him. "That's right dear, you stand up for yourself."

Felix, walking around behind Howard towards the wine bottles, commented, "Until they put a rope around your neck and you can't anymore."

Emma frowned and lifted her chin at him. "Now then, Felix, there's no time for any more games. Not even Hangman before dinner." She smiled indulgently at him.

Arthur stared at her for an instant before stubbing his cigar out. "Oh, do be quiet you silly old sausage!" he snapped and walked away.

Felicity McDee leaped to her fellow woman's defense. "Don't be rude, Arthur! Not even to Emma!"

Emma pushed herself up out of the loveseat and said, "Really, Arthur," reprovingly, before she started towards the dining room.

        Steel calmly returned the bullets to their chambers. "Did you learn anything?" he asked Sapphire.

"A need to kill in this house," she said grimly.

He let out a breath. "Then we are its only obstacle. It's having to concentrate on us." Sapphire set the pieces of the knife on the table and Steel picked up the blade.

Sapphire said thoughtfully, "The power resides in this house. Everything else is irrelevant to the central intention."

Steel raised his brows. "Which is?"

"The need to retrace the years back to Nineteen thirty." There was a zipping sound as Steel repaired the molecular bonds of the knife, and held the intact instrument up for her inspection. She did not bother to glance at it, simply met his eyes. "Until time takes a different course."

        Felicity held open a magazine and skimmed the pages, while the men argued behind her. Howard said with dignity, "What can I say, Felix? Except it's been in the family for years!"

Felix snapped stubbornly, "You still can't deny the fact that it was your gun! And you did have a motive." Annabelle was listening, still unsure and cold in the shifting time of this building. She found her attention drawn to the arguing men.

Howard grumbled, "It would appear so, yes."

Annabelle stepped towards them, finding her voice. "I don't think Miles would agree with you."

"What the devil does he know about it?" Howard paused in midstep and looked around at the other men in confusion. "Come to think of it, who the hell is he, anyway?"

Arthur looked up at him sternly. "Now, mind your language, Howard!" He handed a drink to Annabelle. "In front of the ladies."

Howard dipped his head graciously, "Oh yes, of course. I'm so sorry."

Annabelle said wryly, "Think nothing of it."

With a snort, he turned his back on her. "I wasn't talking to you." He walked around and sat next to Felicity, offering her a glass of champagne. "There we are, Grandmama!"

She took it gratefully with a smile for him. "Thank you, Malcolm."

He held his expression smoothly for a moment, then sat back in exasperation against the back of the seat. "I must say, I wish somebody could tell me what on Earth is going on around here."

Annabelle was walking by him and said, "I'll second that!" She rolled her eyes and sighed as Felix began speaking.

"All the same you know, Arthur, Howard does have a point. I mean, here we are, all friends together -- "

"Ha, ha," Annabelle said sarcastically.

Her husband flashed an angry glare at her and continued. "At least we all know a very great deal about each other. Except for the Cavendishes about whom we know nothing!" He wheeled around to aim the question at Arthur, who was pouring a drink at the bar.

Furious, Arthur set the decanter down with a hard thump and spun on him sharply. "They are my guests! And that should be good enough!"

Felix was not so easily deterred. "All you can tell us about him is that he is in futures! Where did you meet him, Arthur?"

Leaning on his heels Arthur glowered up. "I met him at my club. He introduced himself, and we got talking business!" He poked at Felix's stomach angrily.

Felix looked down at him condescendingly. "And now you're perfectly happy to let him undertake the investigation of two apparent murders?"

Arthur was practically incensed. "Yes."


"Because he's qualified." Felix evidently could think of no response and moved away from Arthur in frustration.

        Steel stood near the door of the darkened library, his brow furrowed. [You were right,] he told Sapphire, and came over to sit down.


[The motives for the murders are irrelevant.] He sighed and looked up at her. [What do you mean by 'a different course'?]

She reached out and caressed his face, startling him. He eyed her hand uncertainly, but she was speaking to him. {An uncontrollable disaster in the middle of Nineteen thirty.} She bent down to him.

He met her eyes. [And no one knew?]

Her hand strayed across his chin, down his chest and she gazed at him steadily. {Well it was frustrated on June the twenty-second, fifty years ago.}

[So now it's going to take us back to that day and rearrange the events that followed. And for that it needs -- ]

{It needs George McDee,} she said gravely. Then more urgently, {It can't let him die. If it can keep him alive, he will accidentally cause the disaster. Life will end on this planet.}

They stared at each other. Steel asked, [Does it need any of the other people in this house? Felix and Annabelle Harborough, Howard McDee, Emma, the others?]

She leaned in, tilting her chin up and slowly bringing her lips to touch his, but their conversation went on. {They're living in a void. In a vacuum.}

They closed their eyes, but the physical action had no effect on their thoughts. Steel asked wistfully, [Have any of them been taken over?]

The door swung open on a small, dignified figure who hit the light switch. It was Emma McDee and she let out a breath of amusement. "Ah! So this is where you two lovely people are hiding!"

Virginia sprang up and away from Miles, the color high in her cheeks. She held her hand over the fluttering in her stomach and looked everywhere but directly into Emma's eyes and said breathlessly, "Well, we weren't exactly hiding."

Emma cast an all-knowing glance at the stoic Miles and looked up into Virginia's flushed face. "Well, whatever you were doing you'll have to stop it now!" Miles stiffened.

Virginia smiled. "Dinner?"

"We've decided to eat, at last."

Virginia threw her hands behind her back and turned to her husband like an excited schoolgirl. "Miles!"

Emma leaned down and caught Miles' hands, pulling him from the chair. She said cheerfully, "We've put it off long enough. Greville's getting exasperated, I can tell, and if Cook goes into a sulk the pudding will be a disaster...." She led them from the room. The gun remained on the table for a moment and then slowly faded away.

Felix pounced on Miles almost the moment he came into the lounge. "Ah, Cavendish! We're led to believe that you're a qualified detective."

Miles dipped his head, not certain where this was coming from. "In a way, yes."

Felix's smile went no further than his lips. His eyes were wide and intent upon Miles' face. "What precisely do you mean by that?"

He considered his words even as he spoke them. Just this much truth, and no more. "I'm a specialized investigator."

"In futures?" Howard interjected from his seat. He stared angrily over at them and added, "Perhaps he works out who's going to commit the crime before it happens, eh?" He chuckled, but when Miles simply stared steadily at him he cast his eyes down. "Well, you did mention that you were in the futures market."

Annabelle interjected with gentle amusement, "How absolutely fascinating!"

Miles looked disgruntled, especially when Felix said, "Well?" He cast a desperate look across the room.

Sapphire twinkled at him. {Can you guess who'll be next?}

Nervously clenching his fists, Miles moved across the room to turn and look at them all. "Well, since you ask. Yes, I can."

Arthur chuckled and Annabelle smiled at Miles from the loveseat. "So that's why you haven't asked us what we were doing at the time of the murders!"

Howard clambered to his feet, his drink held at waist level in his right hand while he shoved his left into his pocket. He said mockingly, "Perhaps you can tell us what we're going to be doing at the time of the next murder, eh?"

Miles stepped forward to the taller man and looked at him seriously. "If I were you, Mr. McDee, I wouldn't take the next few hours too lightly."

After a moment of silent astonishment, Howard swallowed and turned away from him. There was a soft clonging sound and they all looked around. Greville stood there with a gong and said cheerfully, "Dinner is served, sir."

Emma said cheerfully, "Dinner. Splendid! Come along everybody! Now then, who's going to take in who?" Howard had already offered Virginia Cavendish his arm and they walked past Emma. "We've got a rather special jugged hare tonight, it's excellent. Arthur shot it himself!" Miles walked past with Annabelle.

Howard threw back over his shoulder, "Oh, Arthur's rather a daft hand with a gun, aren't you Arthur?" Annabelle gave Miles a dark, frightened look.

Arthur was leading in Felicity McDee. He had missed the hint entirely and was saying, "It's not the shooting of the hare that matters, it's the excitement of the watching and waiting."

Felicity said with exasperation, "I don't mind trying to eat the poor creature, Arthur, but I will not listen to the details -- "

Felix was escorting Emma, who was saying, "I love my brother dearly, but he's too fond of shooting things." She closed her mouth primly, then looked up in surprise when Felix stopped moving, his eyes alarmed as he stared at her. She realized what she had just said and said, "Ooh!" in embarrassed amusement. She got him moving again towards the table.

The places were labeled, and Felicity had already sat down. She lifted the label in front of her. 'Miss Veronica Blamey' was written on it. She set it down and looked about angrily. "Oh, this is too rich. I shan't be able to eat a thing!"

Emma, standing across from her next to Virginia Cavendish, said anxiously, "Oh, Cook will be so disappointed! Do try, Felicity." She turned to skim Virginia's warm gaze and raised her voice over the low murmurs of conversation. "Won't you sit down, everybody?"

Steel reached down to lift one of the knives. Spoon, knife, knife, knife, knife, spoon. Confused, he queried, [Sapphire?]

She smiled mischievously at him as he sat. {The rule is to start from the outside, and work your way through to the last fork and spoon.} She glanced away as Felix settled settled into the chair beside her.

Not in the least reassured, he turned his attention to the elderly woman settling in beside him. Sheepishly he said, "I'm sorry, Miss Emma but I'm afraid I -- I'm not very hungry either."

She folded her fingers together at her breast and looked down at him with tender affection. "Oh, what a shame. I do like to see good appetites around me." Behind her, Greville looked on with an indulgent smile.

Miles eyed her questioningly. "In spite of what may have happened to take them away?"

Eagerly, she said, "Oh yes!" She looked about, at Howard who was sitting on her right, at the people settling down at other seats. "We must eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow..." shying away from that thought she turned to the man behind her and put her hands over his. "Oh Greville, am I saying that?"

Annabelle, from her seat between Howard and Felix, said with her eyes twinkling, "I know it's awful, but I feel ravenous!"

Across from her, Felicity leaned forward as though slightly scandalized. "Annabelle! How can you be so callous?"

"I can't help it," Annabelle answered her with a hint of amusement.

Felix was shaking out his napkin to place in his lap and he said cheerfully, "Annabelle's appetites thrive on crisis."

Howard grumbled, "Rather like my thirst."

Behind them Emma was leaving the room. Sapphire did not turn around, but she noticed the leaving, and noticed something else. A strange sensation. The movement of time.

Emma turned in the hallway and drew a silent breath. Could she see how everything around her fuzzed? Perhaps, or perhaps not. She crossed into the lounge anxiously, heading towards the green door which faded out to leave the original, white door in it's place. Emma turned the knob and walked into the laboratory. She was lost in memory that was more and more real.

Fifty years later, or was it still Nineteen thirty? In some way both times were present. Anne Shaw shivered and rubbed her arms as the temperature had abruptly dropped. The clock on the wall read six thirty-six. Could Anne hear the voices that murmured in the room? Hmm.

Emma was lost in memory as she looked about the lab. She smiled tenderly remembering saying, "George. George darling." At age twenty-five her voice had been throaty and high.

His voice, sexy and gruff, mildly exasperated at the interruption of his work, but warm for her. "Hello. Oh, Emma."

She shyly returned, "Hello? I hope you don't mind. I had to see you."

Emma smiled, her eyes shining with the memory. She watched George sitting at his paper-strewn table, writing notes under the glare of a small lamp. She started towards him shyly. "George. George, darling."

He reacted to her voice without really recognizing it. "Hello." Then he turned his head and looked at her as she came closer. Recognizing her he said with mild exasperation, "Oh, Emma."

She ran her fingers along the counter next to her. "Hello. I hope you don't mind. I had to see you." She played nervously with the knob of the burner in front of her, turning it on slowly.

He shook his head and looked down at his work, but she could almost feel the heat smoldering from him. Him, the older man. Old enough to be her father and so sexy and masterful it took her breath away. He growled helplessly, "This is idiotic, Emma!"

She turned the flame on full. "You told her?" she asked.

He ducked his head. "Not yet." The high flame caught his eye and he looked up at her, cautioning her sternly, "Ah, turn that thing down, will you?" He forced his attention back to the pages. "Uh, I've been too busy here."

She turned down the flame and stared at the blue flicker, not looking at him. She said reprovingly, "You promised you'd tell her."

His concentration broken, he flushed and looked up at her. "And I will. Really, I will!"

"When?" she asked him suspiciously. Older men still might play games with a girl's heart. She raised the flame slowly, watching it at the stage when it was blue and then became golden white.

"Very soon, I promise! Now you be a good girl and get out of here before anybody notices!"

She continued manipulating the flame, raising and lowering it. "If they do notice -- " she began angrily but George's strong hand closed over hers and pulled her away from the burner into his arms. She yielded immediately, gratified by his strength and her ability to win his attention from his work. She melted against him. "I only came to say we're just starting dinner."

He wrapped her warm, fragrant body in his arms. So playful. Not at all like Felicity. She had so relieved the tedium of his work, while his wife did not appreciate the importance of the things he was doing. He half-sighed. "All right, now you be a good girl and get along without me. I'll be along in a minute, then." He let her go, despite the temptations of her body.

She brushed his face with her gloved fingers. "Yes," she said softly, and turned to move towards the door of the room. He turned back towards his desk, his body tingling and alive, powerfully alive with more than the facts and figures on his papers. Her voice came again from the door, enticing and sweet. "George?"

He turned slightly, unwilling to lose himself totally at this delicate juncture of his work. "Yes?"

"Shall I see you tonight?"

He turned in half-surprise. Oh, yes. Concentrating on his work was going to be difficult for a while. Her black gown hugged her body, her pale, smooth skin beckoned him. He controlled his animal impulses and said soothingly, "Yes, of course!"

Her eyes danced and she tilted her head coquettishly. "Come to my room when she's in bed and asleep." She lowered her voice to an enticing whisper. "I'm there, honest." Then, slightly louder, "I'll be waiting."

Three words from a beautiful young woman that could probably draw any man from almost any wife. As she turned and opened the door without looking back, George McDee had to fight a desire so strong it almost blotted out all thought of his research from his mind.

The lights dimmed in Lord Mullrine's office and a wind blew up. Anne Shaw, in astonishment, frantically held down the papers that were flapping on her desk. Then it was over. The room was no longer cold, and the lights returned to full power.

Emma left George's laboratory. Behind her the white door was quickly overlaid with the green, padded one.

Arthur Mullrine sat at the head of the table, the fireplace behind him. On his left was Virginia, beside her Felix, then Annabelle, then Howard. On his right was Felicity, then two empty chair to Miles. And at the foot of the table the empty chair waited for Emma. As his guests supped their soup, he told a merry story. "This chap, who'd had a couple of drinks, said to Emma 'do you know the road to Mandele?' And she said 'Yes, shall I sing it?' and he said 'No, take it.'" The people burst into laughter and he said cheerfully, "I thought that was rather funny!" Just then Emma came in through the door from the hallway and Arthur looked up brightly. "Oh, there you are, Emma!"

Felix said mischievously, "We were just talking about you."

Felicity, her anger long abated, said, "We missed you, Emma."

Emma made her way around the table, past Howard towards her seat. "I'd just been making sure everything's all right in the kitchen." She started to sit down with dignity, Greville holding her chair for her. "Somebody had to give Cook a hand."

Felicity turned to ask, "Arthur -- "

        In the laboratory, George McDee was patting himself down and getting up to join the others at the dinner table. He was being watched intently. In the room as it would be fifty years later, Anne Shaw was again hit by a harsh wave of brilliant cold. Then the computer in front of her began beeping and spitting out messages jumbled and chaotic. The printer began going on its own, the "RUN STOP" button bright where it had been off a moment before.

The screen cleared and the word were readable. Anne looked on in astonishment. "Gazette Exclusive also quoted Reuters 23/6/30. File by RL/26/6/30." The screen blanked and then showed the contents of the article, "The residence occupied by well known business man Arthur Mullrine and formerly known as Apsley House was last night the scene of a two alarm fire that seriously destroyed part of the West Mine. It also -- " The screen blanked again as it moved to the next page. "Chief Officer Higgins who supervised the fire fight activities told our reporter that it was one of the worst fires he had attended in the district in recent years." The screen blanked again to spit up the next part. "The deceased, whose body was found in the ashes, was believed to be the celebrated physicist George McDee, who readers will recall caused such a stir last month with his paper to the Kopoloski Society on coherent -- " Blank, change. "Interviewed by our reporter, a desolate Arthur Mullrine praised the local brigade for their prompt response. But in spite of their gallants efforts, the laboratory where Doctor McDee was known to work late into the -- "

Anne looked about in confusion as the printer automatically printed the words passing through the display. And then, on her computer-linked typewriter, something was changing. It printed in underlined, "Laboratory error library" and on the screen it made the change, highlighting with quotation marks what needed to be different. "In spite of their gallants efforts, the ""'library'""" it had been changed.

Anne stared down at the paper being printed by her typewriter in astonishment. She turned it off to stop it, but it kept printing. Then that brush of cold wind setting her skin prickling and brought her head up. Did she really see the faint image of a man walking through the room? And then the image became clearer and completely solid as he reached the door and opened it, walking into the main house and closing it behind him.

Anne gaped after him. It was over. Whatever totally strange thing had happened, it was over. She sank into her chair and let out her breath, confused and frightened.

        The room was abuzz with conversation when George McDee walked in. Virginia stiffened and looked up at him, but he did not really notice her as being any different from the rest of them. He chided, "I see no one has the courtesy to wait for me!" and walked around past Arthur towards the seat next to his wife.

Felicity said scoldingly, "We know you don't like to be disturbed when you're working, George." She watched him pull out his chair and settle next to her. Howard, across the table, stared at his grandfather in astonishment.

Emma raised her voice. "Greville, you've kept something for Mr. McDee, haven't you?"

The manservant replied confidently, "Yes, Miss Emma."

George McDee grumbled, "There's a draft in that drawing room."

Annabelle leaned forward, unperturbed by his presence. "Yes there is. I noticed it earlier. It chilled me to the bone." She looked down at her food, suddenly uneasy.

Emma said soothingly, "It's always been there, George."

Felix chuckled and said, "You won't find it much warmer in here!" He toasted Virginia, whose eyes danced at him.

Arthur smiled at them in shared bemusement, "Yeah, look it's midsummer." Greville handed the plates to George McDee, who politely thanked him.

Miles, who had finished his meal and thus had a clear spot in front of him, intoned sonorously, "The night of the summer solstice."

Felix reacted with bright interest, amused. "No doubt you're qualified to tell us all about it!"

"Well it's the points on the elliptic which mark -- " but Felix deliberately ignored him and he fell silent, hurt.

Emma leaned towards him to soothe the injury she saw in his eyes. "Miles, you can tell me." She smiled warmly at him as he brightened slightly.

"Well...." Flattered, he looked around for something to illustrate his point, and found it on the fruit-plate beside him. He snatched an orange in his left hand and a small grape in his right. One for the sun and one for Earth. Meeting her eyes earnestly, he moved the grape around the orange and explained, "It's the points on the elliptic that mark the Earth's position." She nodded and made a soft go-on noise. He moved the grape over the orange to simulate the orbit, slowly rounding back to him. "At the sun's extreme limit of distance, north and south of the equator."

Her eyes were bright and drawing him in. She said encouragingly, "Fascinating!" and made him smile.

The others were in fact paying attention, and Arthur at the opposite end laughed. "It's all double-dutch to me."

Virginia smiled conspiratorially, bringing her drink to her lips. "It's the longest day of the year. We have very little control over our fates on the night of June twenty-first."

Arthur murmured indulgently, "Oh, dear."

Even George McDee had been listening in and he said indignantly, "Rubbish! A sensible man can always control his own fate!"

Virginia watched him intently under the guise of laughing cheer. "Do you think so, Mr. McDee?"

Felicity began, "Show me a sensible man-- "

Perhaps a stranger would have missed the grimness of Sapphire's expression as she sent to Steel, turning her gaze towards him, {They all seem to be accepting his presence, now.} She sipped her drink to cover her silence

[Howard isn't,] he replied, with some approval for the sullen young man.

Greville stood with the decanter at the end of the table. "Shall I serve it now, sir? Or wait until the ladies have retired?" He grinned merrily over at Lord Mullrine.

Felicity McDee said laughingly, "I for one have no intention of retiring, Arthur." He nodded approvingly at her.

Annabelle said, "Safety in numbers eh, Felicity?"

Howard looked at his grandmother and agreed. "Quite right! I think we should all stay together."

Emma said anxiously, "Oh, I don't think we should stay while the men are smoking."

Annabelle said sternly, "Nonsense, Emma. We're all going to stick together!"

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Oh, serve the port, Greville, and let's get it over with!"

"Yes, sir. For you?"

Arthur grimaced and shook his head. "No, no, it makes me liverish. Start at the other end."

Greville smiled and said obediently, "Yes, sir." He set the decanter next to Miles. "Mr. Cavendish, sir." Miles eyed the bottle in some confusion and pushed it a bit away.

Howard lifted his chin haughtily from across the table. "Oh, come along, man! It's with you!"

Miles glanced down at the bottle and up at Howard. "Yes," he confirmed. They were all watching him and he felt quite bewildered.

Felix frowned and asked, "You're not drinking, Cavendish?"

Howard leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. He kept a civil tongue barely, his throat aching for the flavor of the port. "If you're not would you uh, would you mind passing it?"

Miles flushed and offered the bottle quickly. "Oh, sorry."

Scandalized, Howard pulled back and waved his hand towards the head of the table. "Oh God, man! Clockwise!"

Arthur felt a tinge of pity for the poor Miles. "Oh, shut up Howard."

Miles confusedly handed the port to George, who passed it to Felicity, who passed it to Arthur, who passed it to... Steel only became more confused. As his partner took the bottle, he asked, [Sapphire? What is going on?]

Smiling, she answered him. {It's the custom here to pass this particular drink to the left.} She grinned and looked down at her plate as Felix chose to pour himself a drink.

Sullenly, Steel asked, [Why?]

{Oh, it's just one of their childish superstitions.}

Annabelle passed the bottle on to Howard, who took it with considerable relief. He got to his feet as he poured his drink and said, "May I uh... may I offer you the first toast... of the evening?"

Exasperated, Felix grumbled, "Oh, no speeches, Howard!"

But Howard would not be put off. "To Mullrine, and McDee!" he said, and took a large gulp of the port. The others murmured in echo, able to appreciate that toast. Howard had not finished, though. He plastered a smile to his face and continued half-angrily, "To the millions they will make out of other people's pain and misery!" The other people began to raise a murmur of protest as Howard shoved on. "To our hosts! Charletans and purveyors of plunder!"

Arthur began getting to his feet in indignation. "Howard, you are a pest!"

George McDee was also on his feet, glaring angrily across the table, his wife outraged by his side. His Irish accent became pronounced in his anger. "Who are you?!"

Howard was practically in tears. He set down his drink and started, "I'm... I'm...." and then the pain which he had thought was only emotions overwhelmed him. He choked and collapsed on the table with a hard thud that shook the glasses against each other. Annabelle sprang up with a gasp of horror, Felix dashing around her chair towards the fallen man.

Emma said anxiously, "Do you think he's drunk, Arthur? A bit squiffy?"

But Felix was checking Howard's pulse and he looked up in dismay and anger. "On the contrary, I'm afraid he's a bit dead."

Felicity collapsed in her chair, weeping. George beside her shifted in astonished confusion, then he snapped at Miles, "Out of my way there!" and with Arthur hurried around the table. It was Miles who came to her side and held her shaking shoulders, trying to comfort her.

As George McDee approached, Felix tried to assert some authority. "Don't touch him!"

George snapped back at him, "I am the doctor around here!" and balanced his hand on the body as he passed it to settle in Annabelle's chair. He picked up Howard's glass and sniffed it, and knew at once what he was smelling. "Cyanide." He was still startled, rubbing the faint slickness of the liquid between his fingers and said in amazement, "Cyanide, without a doubt!"

Arthur turned quickly to his manservant. "Greville?"

"My Lord?" the poor, troubled man asked.

"Did you decant the port?"

"Well of course, sir! But it's been standing on the sideboard all evening!"

But Arthur was not at all concerned, not once even considering Greville as a suspect. He was already saying, "So anyone could have tampered with it."

"Yes sir," Greville confirmed, half in relief and half in puzzled confusion.

George McDee looked up at Arthur, anguished. "I've always warned him about drinking stuff like this!" His voice shook as he touched the body his mind said was his son's, searching desperately for some sign of life.

Arthur looked away. "Oh, don't lecture us, George."

Annabelle glared at him and demanded harshly, "What are you going to do about all this?!"

He laughed weakly. "Why me?"

She snapped back at him, "It's your house. It's about time you started doing something!"

Emma was shaking her head. "What a mess. This tablecloth is ruined, absolutely ruined!"

Annabelle overrode her in agony, "This is no time to talk about tablecloths!"

Her husband anxiously came to her, trying to calm her down. "Quite, darling." He swung back to the little man. "Well, Arthur?"

Arthur glowered and said defensively, "Oh, don't 'well Arthur' me, I never did like the fellow. He was a damned nuisance, he was balnery."

George McDee was looking up in confusion at them as Felix said agreeably, "Well, he hadn't the brains of a flea!"

Arthur looked away, "No."

George snapped angrily at the two men, "Vultures!! That's just what I'd have expected! The poor boy's not even cold and you've started to pick over his bones!"

Felix was flushed with embarrassed anger. He glared down at George and snapped back, "Hardly that!" He turned back to Arthur with a frown. "Though I can't help wondering what happens to his shares."

McDee gave a disgusted snarl and got to his feet. "Oh, I'll not stay and listen to this!"

Annabelle, standing behind him, met his eyes fiercely when his turn to exit the room brought him face to face with her. "Oh no you don't, you'll stay here! Everyone will until we get to the bottom of this affair!" Adversity did indeed bring out the best in her. Though her voice shook, she faced the man without flinching, then whirled to Miles and Virginia behind her. "Miles, lock that door!"

Miles, startled to be the focus of her attention when everyone else had forgotten him, started to say, "I don't think it'll do any -- "

Her eyes burned at him. "I said lock it!

He stared at her in surprise. From the other end of the table Arthur told him, "You might as well do as she says."

Feeling strangely out of place, he got to his feet. She followed him to the door and watched as he locked it and took the key. When he moved away from the door she said, "Thank you," and held out her hand, palm up, for the key. He took a moment to realize what she wanted, and then gave the key to her. She took it firmly between her fingers and, staring intently at his face said, "Sit down." He obeyed, taking Arthur's seat at the head of the table. Annabelle moved to put her right hand on the back of the chair he sat in and looked intently over the other faces that were turned to her in silent confusion. "Now, Miles. You're going to start questioning us. Find out who had the best motive. We all had good ones, I'm sure."

At the other end of the table, Emma still sat patiently in her seat, staring at the top of poor Howard's head. Her brother shifted huffily beside her as she said, "I think we should move poor Howard. He doesn't look at all comfortable." She reached out her hand tentatively and laid it on the dead man's shoulder.

Felicity jumped to her feet. "Don't touch him!"

Emma looked up at her, startled. "What?"

Regal with pride, Felicity McDee said, "Take your hands off my son."

Completely bewildered, Emma asked, "Your son?"

Felicity narrowed her sparkling, fierce eyes. "Never forget, Emma. I know."

Emma blinked back tears and said in anguish, "Haven't you done enough damage?!"

Watching the sparks fly between the two women, George McDee commented in frustration, "Oh, great God! I'm on my way back to my laboratory!" He started angrily towards the locked doors.

Annabelle lifted her chin and said, "You can't."

And yet when he touched the handles there was no resistance. The doors swung open at his touch and he stalked out them, slamming them behind him. Stunned, Annabelle turned her head to stare, then lunged to the doors and tried them. They were locked, and would not turn for her. Miles and Virginia looked at each other expressionlessly. Annabelle turned around, holding the key out to confirm its existence. "I have the key," she said shakily. And then she gasped, "Oh, my God!"

Howard's body was gone as though it had never been there. Felix stared down in confused surprise and reached down to touch... nothing. Emma did not even look at the empty space. Felix sat down heavily. "I need a drink."

Virginia immediately covered the glass of port he was reaching for and met his eyes. "I shouldn't if I were you."

Annabelle went to reach into the empty space. She looked over hopelessly at Miles. "Tell me... there was... I didn't imagine it all, did I?"

He shook his head. "No. You didn't imagine it."

Her face went utterly white. She had picked up the clues, begun to see the pattern. "It's going to happen to me. I'm next, aren't I?" She began to shake and her husband reached instinctively for her hand.

Miles said calmly, "There is danger in this house for all of us."

Across the table was the tableau of Emma and Arthur, Greville watching them indulgently as Arthur said, "That's very good, Emma!"

She was showing him the very thing Miles had shown her earlier, praising the young man as she used the grape to orbit the orange. Annabelle said hysterically, "How can you take all this so calmly?! First Veronica, then Tony and now Howard!"

Emma set the fruits down as Arthur straightened up with an exasperated look on his face. "Look my dear, when you get to my age you -- "

Felicity cut in teasingly, "How old are you, Arthur?"

Arthur chuckled in embarrassment. "What?"

Emma lifted her head, her eyes twinkling. "Really, Felicity, what a question! One should never ask anyone's age over thirty!"

Arthur sneered slightly and closed his eyes a moment. "Oh, don't be so coy Emma. You're three years younger than I am, everybody knows that."

Felicity narrowed her eyes. "And how old it that?"

Emma got to her feet, trying to dislodge the coming argument. "Greville," she said anxiously, "I think we're ready for coffee!"

Arthur agreed happily, "A very good idea!"

Annabelle was getting frantic. "Now just a minute! What about Howard?!" she gasped, leaning forward over the empty seat.

Arthur answered in bewilderment, "Who?"

Strained to the breaking point, her voice was hoarse with unshed tears. "Howard! Howard McDee! He was here!"

Emma was passing behind Miles, who remained seated, looking over his shoulder at the old woman. She said haughtily, "Greville, would you please sprinkle some salt on the tablecloth? Someone seems to have upset the port."

Felicity, also behind Miles, said anxiously, "I do hope it wasn't George."

Emma looked at her through narrowed eyes. "George? Where is he?"

Arthur answered with mile amusement, "He's gone back to his laboratory."

Felicity McDee huffed and raised her chin high. "I sometimes wonder why I ever married that man. He really does think more of his work than he does of me."

Emma's eyes glittered and she blinked hard. "Don't complain, Felicity. Just remember how lucky you are." She turned away angrily.

Arthur turned to open the doors. "Greville, serve the coffee in the lounge, will you please?" He pushed the doors open and left the room.

Greville answered, "Yes, Mr. Mullrine."

He continued straightening up the table under the confused gaze of Felix Harborough, who echoed softly, "Mr. Mullrine?"

Emma's voice drifted back from the hall, "And you will all join us, won't you?"

Miles raised his voice. "In a moment, Miss Emma!"

Annabelle lifted a plate and threw it violently at the door snarling, "How can they!?!" It smashed against the door satisfyingly, just as it should have done.

Her poor husband stared at the door in confusion. Virginia looked up at the startled manservant who seemed at an utter loss. She said gently, "Greville, will you leave us please?"

He shook himself out of his trance and hesitated against the strong urge to clean the broken plate. At last he said, "Yes, madam." He walked out the door to the hall.

Virginia looked over at the couple. Felix had taken his wife's trembling fingers in his own, but in his confusion was hardly better off than she was. Virginia said softly, "Perhaps they are under no immediate threat."

Her voice shaking, Annabelle said, "And we are."

Miles confirmed it firmly. "Yes. What year were you born, Mr. Harborough?"

Bewildered, he released his wife's fingers and stared at Miles. "Me? Nineteen thirty-one."

"And your wife?"

Her fingers stroking her husband's back, she shifted quickly to firmly touch his shoulder. "Later. Much later."

Miles was not disturbed by her unwillingness to clarify that. He said, "Thank you," and looked at Virginia.

Both amused and sympathetic, she said, "It all seems perfectly obvious."

"Yes," he said grimly, and settled back in the chair.

Annabelle's voice sharpened. "What seems perfectly obvious?"

Nervously, Felix supported her. "You're talking in riddles!"

Miles leaned slightly forward, not looking at them. "I'm afraid you're both in considerable danger."

Virginia turned her head and smiled up at Annabelle as the young woman said, "Of being murdered."

Virginia answered her with a smile, "Something like that, yes."

Annabelle looked desperately from one to the other. "Well by whom? Do you know who is committing these crimes?"

Miles said with a sigh, "More or less."

Felix leaned forward anxiously. "Well for heaven's sake man, tell us! Who?"

Miles almost sighed again. He clenched his fist in exasperation and stood up. Slowly he said, "No... living soul." Virginia smiled at that.

Annabelle said in frustration, "Oh, really, this is preposterous!"

Her husband stuttered in fury, "I entirely agree!" as Miles paced along the side of the table, running his fingers along until he could lift Howard's glass and study it. Felix got to his feet. "Look, Cavendish, if you really are a detective isn't it time you stopped talking in riddles and did some detecting?!"

Annabelle leaned forward anxiously. "Particularly if you think I'm going to be next!" Felix reached out to comfort her.

Miles looked into the empty glass, frowning. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid we're dealing with something far more important than ei -- "

Felix dropped his hands and exploded, "More important?!"

Annabelle whirled away in frustration. "Oh, really! I'm not staying to listen to this, I'm going to speak to Arthur!!" She hurried towards the door to the lounge.

Felix glowered at Miles as his wife unlocked the door. "For once in your life, my darling, a very good idea!!" He followed his wife out, kicking aside the pieces of broken plate.

Steel could find no answers in the glass he held and set it down. Sapphire settled more comfortably in her chair and said, "June the twenty-second, Nineteen thirty."

Steel clarified. "Present that night were Mullrine and Emma, Felicity and George." He moved around and sat in Emma's chair.

Sapphire said mildly, "And Greville. He went through the door."

Steel sighed and bit his lip. "Yes. He's older than he looks." He met her eyes quizzically. "How will it deal with Felix and Annabelle? How else do humans destroy one another?"

Sapphire had her head tilted at an angle and regarded him gravely. "Oh, they have so many ways."

        Music jazzed into the air and Arthur lifted his head in delight. "Ah, the new record, Emma!"

Felix tried to talk to him. "Arthur, could I have a word with you?" but the other man did not even seem aware of his presence.

Emma was delighting in the sound that filled the room and moving to the tune. "Oh, I do adore this music, don't you Felicity?"

From her position on the loveseat, Felicity raised her voice over the music. "Not really, Emma. I think it's rather vulgar."

Felix, his wife anxiously beside him with her hands crossed at her chest, tried to get Arthur's attention. "Arthur, I must talk to you!"

Arthur was patting Felicity's shoulder. "They wouldn't make money then, my dear." He moved away from her towards the bar, while Felix and Annabelle looked helplessly at each other.

Felicity shook her head. "Very probably, Arthur."

Annabelle covered her ears and the pounding between them. "I think I'm going mad." Felix tried to comfort her.

Emma continued dancing. "And so up to date! This is as much a part of Nineteen thirty as, oh, Amy Johnson. Or the Allejandro airship!"

Arthur, dancing at her side said happily, "Airship! Now, there's something that'll make a packet for someone, with enough capital and foresight!"

Singing with the tune, Emma asked, "What's that, Arthur?"

He turned determined to her. "Airships, Emma!"

She pushed him away. "Oh, don't be silly!"

Almost laughing, he wandered past the couch to the two people on the other side of the couch. His head was filled with grand visions and he wanted to speak them. "Here we are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to build great ocean liners like the Empress of Britain, and the Britannic, when the real future is up there!" He pointed dramatically at the skies.

Annabelle followed his finger in confusion, but Felix came forward anxiously. "Arthur!"

But he barely registered Felix's presence, instead coming around to Felicity's side. "Yes, up there in the skies!" He caught her arm and she indulgently leaned in and followed his wildly waving finger. "Look at the way the Allejandro can fly! All the way to Canada!"

Emma paused in her dancing. "Oh, I should love to fly an aeroplane!"

Her brother sneered at her over his shoulder. "You couldn't fly a kite."

Felicity indulged the young man at her side with a gentle smile and laugh. "It's awfully difficult to fly a kite," she told him reprovingly.

Emma sniffed and came around them enthusiastically. "If Amy Johnson can do it, why shouldn't I? Last month I was listening to a talk she was giving about her flight, and she was talking all the way from Australia, just fancy that!" She clapped her hands together, a youthful vision of possibility.

Arthur grumbled, "Yes, just fancy."

Felicity laughed at the girl's eager excitement. What young people got into! Emma turned around to look at the two people standing behind her. "Wouldn't you like to fly?"

Annabelle's throat was tight and she held her right hand flat against her chest, her left on her husband's arm as the whole world seemed to have lifted out from under her. "Fly? With wings?!" She looked desperately at her husband.

Emma patted the girl's arm and scolded lightly, "Silly girl, an aeroplane!" She looked up at the tall, feathery-eyebrowed Felix. "Arthur says I'm too idiotic even to think of such a thing, what do you say?"

Felix stuttered in confusion, "Well I...."

Arthur laughed and said, "Come and sit down, young man, whoever you are!"

Emma grappled at Felix's coat lightly and pulled him by the arm away from the terrified Annabelle. "Yes, come and sit down."

Their voices rose in a babble inviting him to sit. Annabelle's presence had blurred from their collective consciousness, and she said frantically, "Felix!" But he was trapped, his mind lost in the mists of time, caught up with the other three. Annabelle wailed, "Felix," but he was talking of cars and engines while the others laughed appreciatively. She backed towards the doors in total confusion and fear. "I can't stand any more of this! You're all mad! All of you! Quite mad! It could be any one of you!" She grabbed the door knob and twisted it, then there was a deep hum and she shrieked as a powerful electric charge slammed through her body, the air smoking, and she fell.

        "Oh, Annabelle," Felix whispered in agony. He sat weeping in the dining room with Miles and Virginia and snarled, "It's not right!"

Miles did not know quite what to do with the man's helpless fury. "She isn't dead."

Virginia supported his statement firmly. "No one has been murdered."

Miles continued as calmly as he could. "Mr. Harborough, you're going to have to suspend disbelief."

Virginia filled in the moment of silence. "I know what we're telling you is very hard for you to accept."

Miles almost sighed, but held it in. He crossed to the weeping man. "Mr. Harborough, you're a shrewd man. Can you give me a rational explanation for what's happened in this house tonight?"

Virginia was rational however strange her words were. "There has been a time change. This house and everyone in it has been moved back in time."

Miles clarified firmly, "Back to Nineteen thirty. And to be consistent, everyone who wasn't born then has to be eliminated. Hence these murders." He walked around to the other side of Felix and stared down at the man. Virginia crossed the room to join him.

She said gently, "But you see, they never really happened. Time has simply been suspended."

Trembling, Felix lifted his head to look at the pair who stood over him, his face red with emotion. "You call that a rational explanation?" He glared from one to the other and stood up huffily, straightening his coat automatically. "I call it lunacy. You should be locked up, the pair of you!" His lips trembling, he wavered on his feet and said in anguish, "I wouldn't be surprised to find you were at the bottom of this whole damn business!" He moved away from them, shaking badly. He headed furiously for the door to the lounge.

Sapphire had bored of this. She reached out with her power and turned the key to lock the doors. Felix stopped and stared in surprise as it turned without a soul touching it. From behind him came a dark, cool voice.

"I am not Miles Cavendish."

Sapphire met Steel's gaze and agreed with him. They both turned to face the man who stood at the doors, his back to them. "And I am not Virginia Cavendish."

        Greville set up the next album to play in obedience to his mistress's wishes. Emma said happily, "Thank you, Greville! They played this at the Kitkat when I went there last month."

Greville went to the door, studying the wiring along it in confusion. This was dangerous. He began to dissasemble it.

        Saphire sat at the head of the table, Steel at the foot. She was gazing up, her eyes shining gently, into Felix's helpless gaze. "So you see no one has been killed. You won't die."

Felix stared back at her unsteadily. "You're asking me to believe that you're a kind of interplanetary police force."

Sapphire grinned and looked at Steel, who ducked his head. "Yes."

Felix shifted uneasily. "Aliens of some sort?"

Steel replied coolly, "In an extraterrestrial sense, yes."

Felix looked straight at him, trying not to believe what he was hearing. "And you've been sent down here...."

"To keep order."

Sapphire looked up at the frustrated human and spoke gently. "There are capricious as well as dangerous elements at work in the universe."

Felix trembled and sank into the chair. "I think you'd at least have the decency to consider my feelings at a time like this!"

She answered him, "Time is not as rigid a concept as most people would believe."

Felix glowered helplessly. "With respect to you -- "

Steel's hand descended on Felix's shoulder and locked the man into stillness. There was a moment of sheer terror before his mind was forcibly calmed, and Steel said, "No more words, Sapphire. Show him."

Steel let go of Felix, who sat still. Sapphire engaged her power, waking the nearest presence to answer. Howard's voice drifted out of the air. "You ought to listen to them, Felix. Do what they say." As Felix turned his head in astonishment, Howard's physical image appeared in the seat where he had died. "They really are who they say they are! It's quite extraordinary actually, and rather fun!"

Felix was just beginning to get control of himself and shifted anxiously, objecting. "Fun? But... you're dead! You died there!"

Howard's eyes danced. "Not really! Halfway if you like. It's absolutely marvelous! I've learned more up here than I ever did down there!"

Felix's mouth dropped open. "Where are you?"

Howard shrugged slightly. "Haven't the faintest. Sort of floating. Waiting." He looked brightly at Felix. "I can look at anything I want. As a matter of fact I was, um... I was just watching my first day at school when you called. Fascinating!" His eyes twinkled and he smiled.

Felix scrambled for control and blustered, "It's all a trick!"

Howard laughed. "No, it's not a trick, Felix."

But the older man's mouth hung open as he tried to find an explanation. "All right," he finally gasped out and stood on his feet, approaching Howard nervously. "If you can really... can see anything you want to from up there... what is the...." He groped for something, anything he could imagine, excited and terrified at the same time. "What's the... color... what's the color of the lining paper in the drawer I keep my shirts?"

Howard burst into an easy chuckle. "Oh, that's a bit of a teaser, Felix. Hang on a minute." He turned his gaze to the table cloth, reaching with broad senses. Felix followed his gaze in confusion, but of course saw nothing. The was a long moment, then Howard exclaimed, "Good Lord!" His eyes twinkled merrily and he met Felix's white expression. "Someone's used old wallpaper!" he teased. "Regency stripe. Gold on white."

Felix bit his lip in bewildered shock. It was true. And then Howard vanished. Steel said firmly, "We don't have time for any more questions."

Felix turned unsteadily, his head spinning, to stare at the two people at the head of the table. "Who are you?"

The man said gravely, "I am known as Steel."

The woman seated said, "Sapphire."

Strangely, an eerie calm settled over Felix. He would be all right. Annabelle was all right, however much it appeared otherwise. He stared at each of them in turn. "Sapphire... and Steel. Are there more of you?"

They said together, "Oh, yes."

Sapphire said, "Bronze."

Steel said, "Silver."

"Lead," Sapphire added to the list.

It made Felix smile. The names were simple, like any spy-organization. "I see. Code names."

Sapphire said gently, "We need your help."

A feeling of awe washed over Felix. They needed him. Alien police and they needed him. He straightened up like a good soldier. "Very well. Who shall I be? Platinum? Diamond?" He rubbed his palms together anxiously as they looked at him. "Tin?"

Sapphire smiled slightly. "How about Brass?"

He flushed slightly. That was a properly dignified code name for a man of his position. "That will do fine. What do you want me to do?" He looked anxiously at Steel.

Taking a breath, the unflappable agent said, "Find out if... Greville could have been in this house in Nineteen thirty." Sapphire had said Greville was fifty-two years old in Nineteen eighty. Had that information been wrong? Or was there something else going on?

But Felix answered gallantly, "Right."

Sapphire came to him, her arms out and she said gently, "Before you go, you'll need this." He could see nothing in her hands, but followed her movement as she laid her hands firmly on his shoulders. Her voice was clear when she said, {Can you hear me?}

"Yes, of course I can." She was right in front of him, after all. And her eyes were astonishing.

She looked at him steadily and he heard her again, though her lips did not move at all. {Don't speak. Just think.}

His obeyed automatically, his thoughts pulsing out. #She has gotten very pretty eyes.#

Laughter seemed to brush through him. {Thank you.}

#Don't mention it.# Then the realization of what was happening hit him and he burst out laughing. "Good Lord!"

        In the hall, Greville followed the cord intently, trying to trace it to its source. He leaped up to make sure he had not missed it, then had to kneel down to follow it where it ran along the floorboard. A door opening behind him startled him and he looked up at Mr. Harborough, who said, "Greville."

"Sir!" he exclaimed. He was thoroughly embarrassed to be caught on his knees like this and blushed.

Mr. Harborough asked curiously, "What are you doing?"

Getting to his feet unsteadily, Greville answered him, "I found these wires leading from the fusebox, sir. I thought it looked rather dangerous!" Not straightening up, he continued to follow them uncertainly.

"Do you recognize it?"

Confused by the question he said, "Sir?"

Harborough followed him. "The wire. Do you keep any more like it in the house?"

Greville followed the path of the wire as it went under a table. "No, sir. I thought it looked the sort of thing Mr. McDee might have in his laboratory."

Felix clenched his fists and forced himself to relax. He followed Greville, who was once again crawling along the mysterious wire. "Who could have done such a terrible thing?"

"Who indeed," agreed Greville with a frown, holding the dangerous wire.

Felix lowered his voice. "I mean, any one of us might have opened that door. Anybody."

Felix got to his feet, holding the broken wires apart and frowning intently. "I think not."

Felix surged forward at the man's certainty. "What?"

Greville looked at him gravely. "I think it was meant only for your wife." Felix took the wire from him and put the exposed ends together. When nothing happened, Greville shuddered and let out the breath he had automatically held with a weak laugh.

Felix looked at him. "Oh, very good."

He followed Greville who led him down the hall saying, "The fusebox is under the back stairs."

"You certainly know this house like the back of your hand, Greville," Felix said admiringly. They rounded the corner of the hall. "Have you lived here long?"

        Steel growled sulkily, "He hasn't the ability to handle communication!"

Sapphire answered mildly, "I only gave him the first level." She came close to him and looked questioningly at his stern profile. "Anyway, what makes you think he can help us?"

"He can't. I was just getting him out of the way. To take his mind off it." When she stared at him steadily he said defensively, "It'll come as a surprise."

She was beginning to smirk, her eyes gleaming with laughter. "How very considerate of you!"

He glared, but asked with much annoyance, "And speaking of death, isn't it about time we found out about George McDee?"

She answered him immediately, "He died on the twenty-second."

"Yes, well it's twenty-five to twelve, now."

She was silent for a moment and then said calmly, "Mullrine has an office right through that door in the living room. George McDee was a very eminent scientist, he died young. His death would have been reported in the newspapers. There'll be a record in the office."

Steel frowned slightly. "Yes, but that's in Nineteen eighty." Sapphire smiled at him, her eyes dancing. Steel stared at her in disbelief. "You could never do it." Her smile broadened and she left the dining room, teleporting into the hall. He went through the door and watched as her eyes glowed bright blue, then turned green with a rising level of power. A vase burst on the shelf next to him and he shielded his face with his arms from the flying debris. [Well?]

{Not yet,} she said firmly.

The doors to the lounge flung open as though someone had shoved them. Beyond the white door was overlaid with the hard reality of the padded, green door. Stillness settled in the empty room. Steel stared at the door in perplexion. "Well there it is. But how do we open it? It has no lock. No handle, remember?" Disgruntled, he stared at it, then looked at her. "How does Mullrine open it?"

"Electronically. He generates a signal." She leaned against a pillar and watched him stride towards the door.

"What frequency?"

"Thirty kilohertz." She watched as he closed on the door, staring at it indignantly.

He spun and looked at the ancient radio sitting nearby. He turned it, opening the back and pulling out one of the large transformers. He flicked the switch on the front, then put his hand over the empty spot, forcing an energy feedback that buzzed in the air. He eyed the door, and Sapphire said, "Higher." He pulled out another transformer and braced his hand over its place. The buzz rose shrilly in pitch, and at last the door swung open. Steel moved swiftly through the open door. Sapphire watched him go calmly.

Behind her the doors to the hall opened and Greville walked in carrying a gameboard. Arthur Mullrine was right behind him and upon seeing her said, "Ah, Virginia! It is our fourth! Two of clubs will force you to!"

Behind him came Felix, carrying the box of cards. Saphire greeted Felix with a smile, but directed her answer to Arthur. "Culbertson!"

He puffed his cigar cheerfully. "That's my girl."

"I always play one of clubs," she reported, falling into step behind him.


Felix smiled back at Sapphire. "Good, you'll be playing with me. Arthur always plays with Greville."

"He's a natural, I taught him everything he knows!" He grinned over his shoulder at them, and Sapphire laughed cheerfully, looking at Felix. They moved into the library together.

        The clock on the wall said six-forty. Steel moved silently to the front of the desk. The woman, Anne Shaw, was intent upon her typewriter and had not heard him come in. He said calmly, "Good evening."

Miss Shaw nearly jumped out of her skin and gaped up at him. "Oh! How did you get in here?"

He replied equibly, "Through the door."

Even more confused she protested, "But you can't, I mean it isn't working -- " She looked at him and tilted her head helplessly, "You're not a ghost, are you?"

He almost smiled. "A ghost?"

"Well, there was -- " she blushed, glancing uncertainly towards the door and bowed her head, realizing how silly she must sound. She pulled herself together and shook her head, then looked up at him, standing. "I'm sorry. Can I help you?"

"No thank you, I can manage." He moved around and took her place in her chair, pushing her away saying "Excuse me." Startled, she stood back against the wall and watched him type instructions in. She reached to stop him and he simply stared at her. When she finally withdrew he started typing again, but she quickly moved to turn off the computer. He stopped and glared at her, then got to his feet and came around to gaze her in the eye. He said menacingly, "What operates the door?"

She glanced down at the electronic key and he took it up, hit the open command and stalked towards the door. Anne Shaw pulled herself together in confusion. "Now just one moment! I don't care if you are one of Lord Mullrine's guests, you just can't walk in a -- "

The door closed behind Steel and cut off her words. He turned and stared at the green padded door, watching as it faded out to be replaced by the original white door. Steel glanced down at the electronic key in his hand in bemusement.

Then voices cleared through the air as time settled. Emma was saying, "You're looking very tired, Felicity dear. Don't you think you ought to go to bed?"

The other woman was blowing lightly on a spoon full of brown, rich liquid she held over her cup. "Let me finish my cocoa first, I don't know how you can drink it so hot." She sipped carefully.

Emma said encouragingly, "You could take it up with you."

"Don't be in such a hurry, Emma. Arthur will play cards all night, and I never know when George comes to bed." Emma whirled around and held herself just short of saying something foolish. But Felicity continued, "We can sleep late in the morning."

Emma managed to hold a civil tongue in her head. She scratched impatiently at the threading of the loveseat. "Oh, very well. If that's the way you feel about it, but remember, one minute's sleep before midnight -- "

Exasperated with the young girl's urging, Felicity got to her feet. "Oh, all right, Emma."

Emma continued, "Is worth one hour, after."

Felicity moved towards the door, rolling her eyes. "If it means so much to you. Oh!" she said as she took a mis-step.

Emma glared daggers after the older woman but kept her voice light. "Careful! You're spilling it!"

Steel made his way out of the room and into the library. At the center of this room was the card table. Felix sat with his back to the door, facing Sapphire, who had taken her gloves off for the game. Greville sat on Felix's left facing Arthur. They all had cards in their hands. Felix was saying, "No trumps."

Arthur replied, "No beard."

Felix glanced around. "Ah, there you are, Miles. Thought we'd lost you." He turned his attention to Sapphire. "Your bid, partner."

Steel bent to Sapphire's ear as she was intent on the game. "Could you help me a moment please, Virginia?"

She looked back at him quickly then back at her cards. "Darling not now, I'm busy!" She turned to the others as Steel straightened up in exasperation. "We are vulnerable, aren't we?"

Greville answered courteously, "Uh, yes, madam. And thirty below the line."

Confused, Steel asked, "Thirty below?" He glanced back at the clock. It said eleven-fifteen. Curious, he asked, "What time do you make it, Felix?"

The man obligingly brought out his pocketwatch and looked at it. "Quarter past eleven," he said, then looked up at the clock on the wall.

Steel frowned. [Sapphire?] he asked uncertainly.

She ignored him. "Four diamonds," she said calmly.

Arthur's mouth dropped open and he said after a moment, "Dabble."

Felix was all mischief. "Four diamonds, partner? Interesting."

Steel paced around to his partner's side. [Sapphire,] he said sternly. When she was silent, he pushed up his demand. [Sapphire, answer me!]

And yet it was Felix who answered, lifting his head at the increasing anger in Steel's signal, his eyes dancing. #Brass here. Where were you?# Felix could not help his smile of delight and tried to at least pretend to focus on his cards.

Steel clenched his fist and paced lightly towards the human. [I've been back into the future.]

Startled, Felix forgot himself and spoke aloud, whirling. "What?"

Steel glared at him, while the other men looked at him in surprise. Greville asked, "What?"

Arthur frowned. "Felix?"

The center of their attention, Felix shifted back to face them. "Oh, I'm so sorry." Chagrined, he glanced to the heavens and sent to Steel, #Sorry.#

Steel patted Felix's shoulder to reassure him. He was actually impressed with the human's aplomb. [I was in Mullrine's office.]

#You were away for almost two hours,# Felix informed him.

Arthur, aggravated at having to wait for Felix to do the next bit, growled, "Felix!"

Felix met the other man's eyes with a smile. "Four no trumps." Yet he was understanding more every moment he was involved with these people. #It is playing about with time, isn't it?#

Steel grumbled worriedly, [That's not all it's playing about with.]

Greville said, "No bid."

#What do you mean?#

Sapphire said, "Five spades."

Steel answered... Brass... wistfully. [It's playing about with us, too.]

#Like some dreadful game.# Felix played well at being absorbed in his cards.

Arthur said sourly, "No bid, damnit."

Steel shifted impatiently. [Yes, it's a... a mischievous force.]

Felix lifted his head and said, "Five no trumps." He shifted so that he could see Steel out of the corner of his eye. #One with a warped sense of humor,# he said, and had to fight to hold in his laughter, his face wreathed in smiles.

Greville said sheepishly, "Sorry sir, no bid."

Sapphire said, "Six hearts."

Frustrated, Arthur grouched, "Dabble."

Steel shifted, his thoughts laden with worry. [It's not a joke, I'm afraid.]

Startled by his seriousness, Felix twisted to look up at Steel and answered aloud again. "No?" Steel's hand came firmly down on his shoulder in warning.

Sapphire said calmly, "A contest of wits."

Felix turned to her. "What?"

Arthur, totally unaware of the actual conversation, said, "Yes, it certainly is! Come on old man, let us off the hook! What's it going to be?"

Felix had gotten lost, not multi-tasking very well. Nothing in his life had prepared him for this experience, as Steel released him. He managed to remember where they had been and said, "Seven nine." Steel moved away from the group.

Greville immediately said, "No bid."

Sapphire said, "Pass."

Smugly, Arthur said, "Dabble!"

Felix had caught up with them and, setting his cards down, exclaimed, "Re-dabble!"

Arthur stared at him a moment. "What? Greville?"

The manservant said cheerily, "Contend."

Sapphire agreed. "Contend," she said. Greville set down a card and Sapphire began setting hers next to his. "Spades, hearts, diamonds, and...."

Arthur groaned and puffed his cigar, "Oh, no."

She set down the last card. "A club." She stood up from the table as Felix sat back, laughing.

He said happily, "Thank you, partner!" He set the last card in the place it was supposed to be and grinned at the others.

        Sapphire left the room to join Steel, who was staring at McDee's laboratory door from the lounge. She smiled at him as she joined him. He glared at her and said angrily, "Why didn't you answer me?"

She bounced with excitement. "We bid seven diamonds!"

He glowered. "What of it?"

Spoilsport. She calmed down and sighed, playing with her gloves. "What do you want me to do."

He glowered and moved away from her. "I need some feminine guile."

That brought the laughter back to her eyes and she followed after him. Seeing his stony expression she said, "You don't play Bridge, do you?"

He determinedly ignored her question and activated the door.

The clock on the wall said six forty-two. Anne Shaw was just bending to turn off the lamp when the door opened. Expecting the rude blond man, she lifted her head. "I'm sorry, this is a private office!"

The lovely blonde woman came in without pausing, smiling an incredibly warm, genuine smile. Somehow she made the old-fashioned black dress look perfectly suited, while the man followed behind her. She came right to Anne. "I've come to apologize for my husband." She gestured at him to come closer, holding out her hand for the key. "Darling."

He fished it from his pocket as the door swung shut behind them. "Sorry," he said as he handed it to his wife. She smiled warmly at Anne moved past her to set it on the table. "Lord Mullrine has been very generous with the champagne. He's such a wonderful host." She set the key down on the desktop.

Anne was scrabbling for control of the situation, only half-disarmed by the woman's warmth. She closed the distance between them anxiously. "Yes he is, isn't he. Does he know you're in here?"

But Sapphire interrupted her with amazed admiration. "That's a lovely blouse!"

Floundering, Anne looked down at her blouse. "What? Oh, uh, thank you. You see -- "

But Sapphire again drew her off track. "Where did you get it?"

She almost stumbled, wavering. "Oh, locally. Nowhere very chic." She shook her head dizzily, trying to get control. "I -- "

Sapphire's voice was a caress, irresistible as time (hahah). "Goodness, you are clever. I wish I could find things like that."

Anne fell under Sapphire's spell and laughed lightly, "How very sweet of you." As the two women communed, Steel edged around behind Anne, headed for the computer.

He was brought up short when Sapphire said, "We need you to help us settle an argument." With no idea what she was up to, he quickly set the computer after the data he wanted. Sapphire continued, "Now, it has nothing to do with Lord Mullrine's private or financial affairs. It's about something that happened a long time ago."

Curious, but willing, Anne asked, "What is it you want to know, exactly."

Steel reached into the computer, spinning his fingers to set the machine spooling, though physically he did not touch it. The report came up on the screen and he read it rapidly. Sapphire was saying to the human woman, "A report or a newspaper cutting concerning the death of George McDee. I understand it was a tragedy."

Anne Shaw answered, "Oh, yes it was."

Sapphire asked innocently, "He was Lord Mullrine's partner, wasn't he?"

"Yes, but... he's been out of the picture for a long time now. Since the early thirties."

"Was it June the twenty-second, Nineteen thirty? You see it's the exact date that we're arguing about."

Steel's eye was caught by the line about the first starting in George McDee's laboratory no, the word changed as he read and became 'library'. But did Steel see it? Whether he had or not, he was satisfied and moved away from the computer.

"Oh," said Anne in realization.

Sapphire asked, "Do you have a record of it somewhere?"

Anne was frowning pensively. "All our files are computerized now."

Sapphire widened her eyes innocently. "Oh, so it could be programmed into the computer!"

Anne followed her logic and found it sound. She nodded slightly, pursing her lips. "It is possible."

Sapphire's voice was a warm caress. "Oh, could you look for us?"

The human woman flushed slightly and smiled in apology, "Look, I really would like to help you, but I just can't. I have very specific instructions. Why don't you ask Lord Mullrine to come in here a -- "

Sapphire left her immediately, smiling warmly as she joined Steel. "Oh, what a good idea!" Her husband moved to allow her to walk beside him and she said, "Come along, Miles. We'll be back!"

Feeling much better than she had in what seemed a very long time, Anne said, "Oh, all right. Goodbye."

The man paused at the door and looked back at her sheepishly, pointing towards the electronic key. "Oh, would you mind?"

She felt much better and she did not even rankle at him. "Oh, there's a handle on this side." She pointed so they could see.

They both laughed sheepishly, and the beautiful, polite woman waved at her. "Bye-bye."

Instinctively, Anne waved back. When the door closed, the computer behind her began beeping and she stared down at it in surprise. She realized almost exactly what had happened. While the woman had distracted her, the husband had managed to call up the file without her noticing. Anne rested her hands on her hips, flushing. "That bitch!" she said, with more admiration than anger.

        Sitting on the loveseat, Sapphire watched her partner with troubled eyes as he paced. He said, "George McDee's body was found in the ashes."

Something... there was something strange. Something they were missing. "Who else was there? Was anyone else injured?"

Steel bent close to her. "It didn't say."

"Where did the fire start?"

"Apparently it completely destroyed the library."

Sapphire turned her head and they both looked towards the library, where the three human men were still tallying up their scores in the game. Felix was doing the work on a small white notepaper.

He said, "Seven hundred for the Bravo, fifteen-hundred for the Grand Slam re-doubled..." he eyed Arthur to confirm. Arthur puffed his cigarette indignantly, nodded, and Felix continued. "A hundred honors and fifty for the insult. A pound a hundred."

Greville looked up in dismay. "A pound a hundred?"

Arthur said quickly, "It's all right, Greville. I'll take care of it."

Felix tossed him the paper. "That will be thirty-one pounds," and sat back, rubbing his hands.

Arthur practically exploded. "Thirty-one pounds?!"

Greville got up quickly before Arthur could take back his offer. "Thank you very much, sir, shall I take -- " he began, reaching for the playing table.

Arthur was fully in a huff. "No, leave it till the morning."

Greville was chuckling as he left the room. "Very good, sir."

Arthur stared at the note and grumbled, "Thirty-one pounds."

Felix did not even flinch when Steel's voice came into his head. [Say you're tired and go to bed.]

He stretched his arms out with a yawn and announced cheerfully, "Oh, I'm so tired! I'll go to bed." He got to his feet and started for the door.

Sapphire's voice rang urgently through his thoughts. {Take Mullrine with you.}

Not missing a beat, he swung back and squeezed Arthur's shoulder affectionately. "What about you, Arthur?"

The smaller man pocketed the paper and looked at the clock. It was eleven twenty, he noted with surprise. "Yes, huh. Didn't realize it was so late." Felix pulled his chair back for him as he stood.

He cast his thoughts out. #What do you want me to do?#

Steel answered firmly, [Get the details of McDee's death.]

Oh, dear. How to broach that subject casually? Felix slapped a solicitous hand to Arthur's shoulder as the solution came to him. "How 'bout a night cap, Arthur?"

The suggestion delighted the other man as they headed for the door. "Yes, a very good idea!" Felix opened the door for him and he said, "Than you." Together they went into the lounge.

Sapphire and Steel teleported into the room and looked about. Steel said doubtfully, [A fire?]

She had her own doubts, but said, {Yes. But where?} They looked around at the shelves laden with books.

        How to broach the subject.... Felix knew he had to start somewhere. With money. With business. He held his drink and tried to remember when he was simply Felix Harborough, and not a man who had recently been recruited by aliens to fight something that moved them through time. "Arthur, if you're thinking of investing that sort of money, won't you put it to the shareholders?

"What, Emma and Felicity?"

Oh, yes. It was Nineteen thirty. "Emma and Felicity, of course!"

Arthur took a drink and grumbled, "What do they know? They said I was mad when I took George on as a partner!" He smirked happily up at Felix.

"George McDee?" Felix asked, raising his glass to take a sip.

"Yes. 'You've got the ideas, you've got the capital, what do you need him for?' Little did they know," he said smugly, raising his glass to drink.

Felix began, "Wasn't Geo -- " he broke off, reminding himself that the man was still alive at this moment. He chewed his lips for a better question and found one. "George is a very clever fellow, isn't he?" He cast Arthur a meaningful glance.

Arthur chuckled and set his glass down. "You'd like to know, wouldn't you?" Felix chuckled sheepishly, and Arthur laughed and said almost kindly, "No, no, that's strictly between George and me. I'll let you fellows at the bank know when I'm ready to raise capital."

Ah, so he was the banker, was he? Very well. As Arthur took a puff on his cigar, Felix said affectionately, "You always kept your cards close to your chest, Arthur." He glanced at the door to the laboratory and then moved across the room as Arthur took another drink. "Is his... um, work... dangerous?"

Startled by the question, Arthur Mullrine frowned and set his drink down, coming over to Felix. If the bank feared that, it might not let him have the capital. "Dangerous? Dangerous right off my living room and me standing here?"

Felix asked softly, "What exactly has he got in there?"

And time began to distort, menacing the last of the humans who was too young to come from this time. It reached into Arthur Mullrine, waking the resentments forgotten in the slip back through fifty years. He said, "Why don't you see for yourself?"

There was something in that tone that Felix did not like. He looked down, his own thoughts fuzzing, but of course he was unaware. "But surely... we can't go in there. He hates to be disturbed while he's working."

Arthur licked his lips and said, "Not by me. Come and take a look." He led Felix across the room as time righted itself. The push given, it could relax. Arthur opened the door to the lit room. There were lamps and all sorts of equipment, and ahead was the scientist himself, working. Arthur urged Felix ahead in a whisper. "Go on, take a look!"

Felix edged forward uneasily. This was the forbidden place. It grated on his nerves even as his curiosity drew him across the room towards the man working at the desk. Arthur said, "George!"

Quivering, Felix jumped and forced himself back to look. "Good evening."

George McDee did not look up. "Get out," he said angrily.

Anxious, Arthur said, "He's from the bank, George!"

McDee growled, "Not now! Leave!" He threw a book at the annoying intrusion.

It bounced off Felix's legs and he startled back nervously, then bent to retrieve it. He laid it carefully back on the desk, his voice trembling. "I'm sorry you've been disturbed." There was no response from McDee, and then Felix saw in amazement an open Petri dish full of something green. He lifted it carefully in confusion. "Aren't these cultures -- "

McDee lashed a hand out at the movement in his work area. "Get out of here!"

The contents of the petri dish fell into Felix's face, filling his eyes and nose. Shaking, he drew out a kerchief and wiped them off, then fled the laboratory almost at a run as sickness seemed to stream into his body.

Arthur let him go and came to protest. "You shouldn't have done that, George! He was only asking you a civil question!"

McDee growled, "I've nearly solved it!"

Arthur sighed and took a puff on his cigar. "That temper of yours will give the company a bad name."

        They had completed their search of the library. Steel was infuriated. "It's impossible!"

She shook her head. "No, Steel, there's no doubt about it."

"There never was a fire in here." They both ignored the knock on the door.

"There would be a massive carbon residue. There is none."

The door opened and Felix came in, half-tilting. His voice was slurred as he said, "Thdeel. Thdeel."

They still had not noticed him, arguing. Steel snapped, "The computer clearly indicated -- "

Sapphire countered, "This room was never burned -- "

And he overrode her. "The whole room was destroyed -- " Felix's voice slowly impinged on their conversation, blurred enough to not have caught their attention at once, something about Mullrine's office and Steel snapped sternly, "Not now, Felix! You mean there's not even a trace?"

Sapphire was gesturing around. "Not a trace! There used to be a fireplace over there and -- "

Felix's distorted voice finally caught their attention again. Almost his words were clear enough. "Sfiah, Thdeel. Liphe vis fuiahda!"

They stared at him in shock. His face was blurred, as though the skin was melting. Sapphire whispered, "Steel..!" and then Felix toppled. They rushed to him where he lay. Half of his face was covered in yellow goop, like some kind of fungus had grown there and run down. At that moment the clock struck midnight. They tore their eyes from Felix's dead body and stared at the clock.

Steel said gravely, "June the twenty-second."

Sapphire confirmed. "Nineteen thirty."

"No fire," Steel said again.

Sapphire tore her gaze from the clock. "No, there never was a fire anywhere in this room. It's undamaged."

He frowned in frustration. "Then the newspaper report was wrong."

"Possibly. Someone could have lied."

He looked at her immediately. That was a possibility he had not considered. "I wonder what Felix was trying to tell us?" They looked down at his body, but it was already gone. Steel let that go and asked, "Where are Emma and Felicity? They're in their rooms, aren't they?"

"Yes, but they're not asleep yet."

Time moved, putting things in the places they should be. Greville, his hair brown and face young, sporting a mustache, was sitting at Arthur's side. Arthur was scribbling on some papers at the desk across the room. He looked just as old as though it was still Nineteen eighty. Greville asked, "Is Mr. McDee still in his laboratory?"

"Yes, he is. He'll be working late and so shall I. I've never seen that one before," he suddenly said in surprise and handed a paper to Greville, who studied it.

Sapphire grinned at Steel. "So now the events of that night take place exactly as they did before!" There were no longer any people who were born after this time to distort things.

Steel frowned. "With one exception."

Sapphire nodded. "Yes, the death of George McDee."

"This time he could survive, and history could be moved onto a parallel track." They stared gravely at each other.

Greville's voice caught their attention. "Sir, oh," he paused to yawn deeply, rubbing at his aching back before continuing, "Sorry." He handed the paper back to Arthur. "It's deductible, it belongs there."

Arthur took the paper and put it in its place. "Why don't you go to bed?"

But Greville said, "I envy him."

Arthur paused in surprise. "What?"

Greville shrugged, frowning. "Mr. McDee. He doesn't seem to need much sleep."

Arthur sighed gravely. "Yes, well it looks as if he'll be able to get all the sleep he wants after tomorrow." He picked up another set of papers and looked it over curiously.

Greville said wryly. "How very gratifying."

Arthur chuckled and put the papers away. Sapphire and Steel watched the two men, standing next to the desk. She said, "Do you know who that is?"

He snorted. "That's Greville."

She grinned at him. "Well, yes and no. In Nineteen thirty there were two Grevilles in this house. Father... and son."

At that moment, the Greville they were watching got to his feet. "Goodnight, sir." He lifted the chair he had been sitting in and took it across the room.

"Goodnight, Greville."

Sapphire almost laughed, watching him go. "That's old Greville. That's the father."

Steel frowned pensively. "And young Greville?"

"He's asleep in his cot in the servants' quarters. He's two years old."

They watched Greville put on his jacket, standing at the door. "Can I get you anything, sir, before I turn in?"

Arthur answered at once, "No thank you, Greville. Oh, just a moment!"

But Greville was already grinning at him and waved a finger merrily while opening the door. "I'll put the kettle on right away!" He left.

Arthur Mullrine chuckled and bent back to his work.

Steel glared at the man, stalking to the edge of the table. "Mullrine lied. To the newspaper. He killed George McDee and then covered it up."

Sapphire watched him, pursing her lips thoughtfully. "Or..." and then she thought she knew. "Or the computer lied to us!" She was already engaging her power, they both ignored Mullrine's fussing on the desk. Sapphire took Steel's face between her palms. "Remember what you read on that screen!"

He obeyed without hesitation, recalling the words that traveled across the screen. She caught the instant and held it. They both saw the word as it was changed. Laboratory became library became laboratory became library.... Steel slumped in Sapphire's hands before he pulled himself out of the loop and straightened up.

She met his eyes steadily. "It changed the word to trick us."

Steel stared at her gravely. "Well, someone is going to kill George McDee. And we have to make sure that the murder takes place exactly as it did before."

Their attention was caught by the sound of Arthur Mullrine slicing envelopes open with a shining penknife.

        Emma Mullrine made her way down the stairs, her soft, peach gown flowing around her legs. She tip-toed across the lounge and knocked carefully on the laboratory door, looking back over her shoulder. George answered impatiently, "What is it?!"

She leaned against the door and said, "Shhh! You didn't come, George. I waited over an hour for you."

He snapped impatiently, "Leave me alone, Emma!"

Tears threatened and she swallowed. "What's the matter, you getting bored with me?"

"I'm working!" he snapped.

Reproving him, she said, "But George, you promised."

He growled back, "Just go."

She pouted stubbornly and lifted her chin. "No. I won't go until I have your answer. Have you stopped loving me?"

"Don't -- " It was getting impatient. They were coming. It pushed events, placing Emma where she had wound up. In the laboratory, her arms around George McDee's shoulders as he slammed his notes down in frustration. "No!" he protested angrily.

"Now you've no time for me," she complained mournfully.

He waved at his notes. "I couldn't leave this!" he snapped impatiently.

She snuggled against his back, the air filled with the soft fragrance of her perfume. "I waited patiently for you, George." She kissed his left ear and rubbed her face against his hair. Marvelous man. "You promised you'd come to my room!"

He shook his fists in frustration, concentration totally broken. What this girl could do to a man! "Do you not understand, woman? Can you not get it through your head?!" He wheeled to catch her hands and stare into her lovely face. "I'm on the verge of achieving everything I've ever dreamed of!" He tried to turn back to his work, but Emma clung to his arm. "It'll make history, Emma!"

She released him, hurt by his anger and came around the table. "I've never cared for history, George!"

Exasperated, his compelling need to finish his work at war with his need for her, he bit out, "Please, leave me! Go away back to your bed!"

"No," she bit back at him angrily.

At the breaking point, he stared at his notes. "Get out!!"

Almost crying, she said, "Are you telling me you don't love me any more?!"

Frustration made him say things he never would have said otherwise. "If it'll get you out of here, yes!"

"Oh!" The life seemed to drain out of her but she rallied, and the color rose in her cheeks. She glared at him and did not permit tears to escape her eyes. "And I thought you were special, but you're not are you? You're just like anybody else! Any other man! All you care about is your own small world, your precious work!" He desperately ignored her, writing quickly, but she continued. "You'd do anything for your work, George, wouldn't you? Use anyone! Just like Arthur!!" It was that last that broke him. Arthur, the young, cruel, intent man who had thown Emma at him until at a weak moment he had succumbed. Oh, Emma. But she was continuing, the tears beginning to break through. "Just like Arthur! Well, if that's the way you want it...." She whirled away from him and marched towards the laboratory door.

He tried to get back to his work.

Arthur had just left the library. Stepping into the lounge he found his sister standing there in her nightgown, her back to him. "Emma! What on Earth are you doing?!"

She turned around, startled, then turned her head towards the laboratory door, her head held high. "Nothing!" she spat defiantly.

He followed her gaze. "Nothing? You've been in there, haven't you? Dressed like that!" He scowled at her. The potential for scandal was tremendous, the foolish girl!

She stamped away from him angrily towards the laboratory door. "Yes! Your brilliant partner has been telling me the most extra-ordinary -- "

Her voice was too loud, surely echoing through the house. He hurried after her, hissing, "Be quiet, Emma! Sh! Come in the library! Be quiet!!"

He got her into the library, but her blood was still high and she was grumbling, "No I will not!"

He closed the door and locked it, then lunged to her side. "Just what do you think you're doing?"

"I was with George!" she snapped back.

"I could see that! What are you trying to do, wreck everything?!"

She glared at him. "None of your business, Arthur!"

He stomped away from her to his desk. "Oh, yes it is my business! George McDee is my business!! Come here!" When she did not move he growled angrily, "Come here!!" She joined him and he shoved some papers in front of her. "Have a look at that!" She thumbed through them, slowly sitting down. "Do you know what that is? That is a contract! A contract giving everything he has invented, everything he has discovered or will discover... everything to our new company!!" He pointed at it wildly. "Look! Signed George McDee! Do you know what that means?!"

She tossed the papers aside. "You know I never understand such things, Arthur. I leave all of that to you."

He glared at her from the other side of the desk. Neither of them noticed that the door to the lounge was ajar. "Good. And keep on doing just that!" He bent low and hissed eagerly, "George signed that yesterday afternoon! There's millions and millions to be made out of this! We are going to go public!" He turned away and paced happily across the room. "Mullrine Imperial will become Mullrine International!"

She filed her nails and sneered, "How exciting."

He turned and glared at her sternly. Pointing, he said, "Just make sure you don't rock the boat."

She glared back at him. "I don't care what you say!"

Furious, he crossed the room and slammed his fist on the table. "Well you'd better damned well start caring!"

"Oh, really!!" Her temper was just as fierce as his, and brother and sister faced off not for the first time across the business table.

He was almost beyond rational thought. "Now look, Emma! I've had just about enough of you and your selfish ways!"

Even as he started that sentence she knew what he would say and snapped, "Have you indeed?" but his outrage was ridiculous and she started giggling, then laughing at him.

He continued right on. "The trouble is I've spoiled you!"

She stopped giggling and said back at him, "Yes you have indeed!"

"I've always given you everything you've always wanted!"

She said icily, "You were happy enough for me to make love to George while you were trying to persuade him to be your partner!" It was out, the bold truth, and Arthur shied from her bluntness.

He growled, "Well that's good business!" and snatched up the contract to look it over again.

She stood up fiercely. "Oh, I want my happiness, now. I'm not going to be used anymore!"

He laughed at her, did not even look at her. "Used!"

She came up behind him, furious. "I'm sick of sharing George, sick of the secrecy! I love him!"

He shook his head and moved into his chair. "Oh, don't talk such rubbish!"

She glared at him with piercing fury. "George is going to get a divorce from Felicity and marry me!"

Writing on one of his papers, Arthur stopped, set his pencil down sharply and got to his feet, his eyes narrowing fiercely as he shook his head. "Oh, no you don't, Emma Mullrine! We're not having that. There'd be a scandal!"

She spat defiance at him. "Damn the scandal!! You've got what you wanted. Now it's my turn!" She marched across the room, her gown floating ethereally as she moved to the door. She paused on the threshhold and said coolly, "I will have him."

Alarmed, Arthur got to his feet. "Emma!" But she was already gone, the door slammed behind her. Sapphire and Steel watched with interest as he hurried after her. "Emma, where are you going?"

"Away from you!"

They glanced at each other, then followed the unfolding drama out into the hall. Sapphire watched Emma take the stairs as though she might fall. Emma made it to the top and went to Felicity McDee's room, opening the door and letting the light shine in on the other woman, waking her instantly. When she closed the door, the room fell dark again. Felicity blinked and asked, "George?"

Emma answered, "No, it's me."

Felicity sat up in surprise. "What? Who?" She turned on the lamp at her bedtable. "Emma. What do you want? I've got the most dreadful headache." She rubbed between her eyes.

"I have to talk to you, Felicity."

With an aggrieved sigh, the older woman dropped her hand. "Can't it wait 'til morning?"

"No. I want to talk to you now. I can't wait."

With a long-suffering sigh, Felicity pulled on her wrap. "All right. What is it?" She sat back against the headboard.

Emma straightened her shoulders. "George and I are in love."

Felicity simply stared at the foolish young girl, then laughed. "What?"

"He wants to marry me."

Felicity's brows shot up. "Are you mad? George is married to me!"

Emma's lips tightened, her eyes gleaming with fury. "He's going to leave you, Felicity."

The other woman shook her head, bemused by this child's flight of fancy. "Nonsense, you're making it up."

Emma trembled and continued, "George and I have been lovers for the last six months."

For the last six months... they had not made love in so long... the idea was sinking in, the possibility all too real. Felicity closed her eyes on the sudden agony in her heart and shook her head. She said weakly, "It's not true. I won't believe it, I won't."

But Emma had no pity. She went on mercilessly. "He wants you to divorce him!"

Felicity pulled herself together and said strongly, "Where is he? Why isn't he telling me this himself?"

Emma said coolly, "He's too soft-hearted. He's afraid of you."

Felicity felt a searing contempt for this child. "Afraid of me! George isn't -- has never been afraid of anyone in his life! Where is he?!"

"In his laboratory, working."

"Get out of here!" Felicity snarled.

"Are you going to give him his freedom?"

But the other woman only said more coldly, "Get out!! Leave me alone!"

Emma felt victory in her grasp. She did not back down, but walked forward to the other woman's bedside. "There's something else you should know. George comes to my room every night!" With this last cold pronounciation, she whirled and left the room.

Felicity flinched in the hard light of the hallway. She held on until Emma closed the door, and then the small, aching sobs began. Emma listened in the hallway and smiled with satisfaction.

Felicity got control and got to her feet, swiftly checking the drawer. Yes, George's revolver was there. She pulled her wrap on over her long braid. She had to see for herself. She took the gun with her. Sapphire watched her leave.

{Steel. Felicity has the gun.} She vanished from the room to follow the path of the tall woman who strode down the stairs, blue gown flowing. She appeared briefly in the hall by the staircase. {Steel?}


{Come to the laboratory.} She took a few steps towards the door and then teleported the rest of the way.

Steel murmured, [I'm already in there.]

George McDee was desperately writing. There was so much still to do. So much, he was almost there! He felt a draft on his face and knew someone had come in yet again. Reaching for another paper he growled, "I've told you, go away, I'm busy!"

The voice that spoke to him, low and dead, was not the one he expected. "You didn't tell me, George."

Guilt tore through him. His work was driven from his mind. "Felicity." He could not look at her. He could see her form in that pale blue gown out of the corner of his eye.

She asked again in that same tone, "Who did you think it was?"

He forced himself back to his papers, his heart hammering with the twin demands of his work and what he owed his wife. He searched through his notes, skimming for the information he needed, feeling too warm. "I don't know. I just don't want to be disturbed!"

The imperitive she had obeyed for so long was gone in the realization of his betrayal. She stepped closer to him, her low voice now rolling with anger. "You're going to be disturbed! Whether you like it or not, George McDee!

Affecting ignorance he groaned, "Oh, please!"

Her eyes were fixed on his head, for he would not face her. "Go on. Tell me. Who did you think it was? Who have you already sent away?"

His exasperation was increasing, he waved his hands towards his papers helplessly. "Look, this is important!"

Yes, she had thought that when she believed it to be the reason he had abandoned her. Now she knew better. But she had to know for certain. "This is more important. Was it her?"

"Her? Who do you mean?" he stuttered in frustration.

Felicity's low voice vibrated with outrage and loathing. "Emma Mullrine," she practically growled.

If he would only look at her, she might believe his protests. But he did not. "Emma? Whatever gave you that idea?"

"She did."

He froze for only an instant, then held the smile he had plastered to his face and continued searching through his papers. "Oh, come on!"

She had seen that freezing, and knew. She surged closer to him, pain burning through her body. "Oh, don't try to bluff it out, George! You've never been a good liar!"

His whole face twisted with false innocence. "I dunno what you're talking about!"

And Felicity smiled through her agony. She watched his face intently, seeing so clearly through him. "I'm talking about your lover. I'm talking about you wanting a divorce so that you can go off with her."

He paled, a sheen of sweat across his forehead. "No, you've got it all wrong." But he still could not meet her eyes. He could not even look at her.

She said mockingly, "Have I? Or has she?"

This startled him. His brows furrowed as Felicity's words registered. "She? What's she been saying?"

"I told you. That you and she have been lovers for months. That you want to leave me and go off with her!" Felicity's voice was hoarse with her pain.

George could not think how to defuse the situation. His skin burned with embarrassment. The words on the papers in front of him had no meaning. "No," he tried to reassure his wife.

But she came closer to him, thrusting her face in front of his. "Is it true?"

He turned his head away, his blue-gray eyes wide with forced innocence. "Is what true?"

Felicity's voice dripped pain. She gripped his shoulder. "Is she your lover?"

His defenses collapsed. There was no way to hide the truth when he could not even meet her eyes. He swallowed and said wearily, "Yes. Yes she is."

Felicity closed her eyes and groaned. She would have chosen to believe him if he had said no, even when he would not look at her. But he had finally answered the truth, and it tore open the raw pain that she had suppressed for months as he had grown more and more distant from her. She sank towards the tabletop before pulling herself up and moving away from him. The raw pain became a grinding ache and she said grimly, "I see." She lifted the gun and aimed it at him, clenching her teeth. "And what about me?"

At last he looked at her, and she had the gratification of seeing his face go white and slack with surprise. "Felicity, what are you doing?" he managed to say calmly.

The pain had killed her. She had given so much of herself and her life to him. "I won't let you do it, George. I'll kill you before I let her have you." He sat, watching her, frozen.

Steel asked anxiously, [Is this it?]


Felicity McDee cocked the gun and stared into her husband's wide eyes. Well, at last she had his attention. Men and all their weaknesses. His weakness. The desire to kill bled from her. Over twenty years married to him and she could not kill him. She let her arms fall to her side in defeat, tears coming at last as the pain broke.

George got to his feet carefully and came to her. He gently took the gun from her hand and set it on the table. Oh, Felicity. Oh, how I have wronged you.

Sapphire watched the tableau and said sadly, "That was it. That was the moment. Now time is on its new track."

Steel's eyes went wide and sheer panic rolled through him. He stood helplessly, watching. "Well stop them! Stop them!" George McDee was frozen in the midst of turning back to his distraught wife. Steel moved past him to Sapphire and commanded, "Now take it back. Take time back!" Sapphire closed her eyes and began. "Let's see how she killed him." Sapphire opened her eyes, their blue glow of power took the room.

They watched the moment approach. George McDee turned his head and looked up at his wife. His face went slack and white when he saw the gun in her hand. He asked, "Felicity, what are you doing?"

Felicity's face was blank with the death that comes to a mind ready to kill. "I won't let you do it, George. I'll kill you before I let her have you." She cocked the gun to fire, and then did not. Her arms sagged, her whole body sagged as she dropped her hands and began to cry silently.

Sapphire watched in astonishment while George got to his feet carefully and came to Felicity. As he took the gun from her hand she whispered, "But that's odd."

Steel, standing behind Felicity, said in realization, "That wasn't it." He walked around the pair as George McDee took his wife in his arms. Steel looked grimly at Sapphire. "That wasn't the moment."

Sapphire said quietly, "It wasn't Felicity who killed him." Steel looked down at the gun that reflected the lights brightly.

George McDee went into the library where, just as he expected, Arthur sat at his desk working. Arthur looked up at him with a welcoming smile and said, "You still up, George? Would you like a drink?"

George stopped in the middle of the room, wavered in frustration, and looked frantically about. "No thank you, Arthur. Where's the agreement?"

"Which one?" Arthur asked, continuing to work.

His Irish accent well pronounced, George snapped, "Our agreement. I want it back. The deal's off."

Arthur's mouth dropped open for just an instant in surprise and he stared at George. This was unexpected, but he could deal with it. Cold, hard facts for Mr. McDee. "Oh no it isn't. You signed it and Greville witnessed it. It's all legal."

George glared at him. "I've changed my mind."

"Too late," Arthur replied, working again on his papers.

"I won't do it!"

Arthur lifted his eyes and took in the stiff shoulders, the angry expression. He had a good idea what had happened, but he plastered innocence all over his face and came over to George. "What's happened? A few hours back you were all excited!" He gestured dramatically, grinning up at the intellectual giant. "Look George, with your scientific brain and my business acumen, we're going to be rich! Rich beyond our wildest dreams!" But George McDee clenched his fists and hurried to the desk to search for the paper. Arthur watched in bewildered frustration as George began searching through the drawers. His heart heavy, he reached quickly for it where it lay under some of the other papers on top. George saw the movement and snatched for the paper, but Arthur had it behind his back and glared up at the man in dignified fury. "On no you don't."

George McDee growled, "I want those papers. The deal's off!" He lunged forward, fisting his hands in Arthur's labels.

The small man felt a thrill of terror. His free hand closed on the penknife but he held still. "Keep off me, George! I'm warning you!"

[Sapphire!] Steel called anxiously.

{No, not yet!} she replied urgently.

The two men glared fiercely at each other. Arthur's voice rose slightly, though he did not let his fear show. "Keep away from me!"

McDee pushed him away angrily. "I've had enough! Any man who could use his own sister ta entice another man -- " he was full of outrage.

Arthur felt a shock of shame but faced him squarely. "George, you've go to see reason! She fell for you, George!" He saw the agonized doubt in the tall man's eyes and hastened to tell the truth. "It's real, honest! It's genuine! Emma's head over heels in love with you!"

But George McDee had seen too much of Arthur's business practices to believe what the man said. "I'll not listen to you. Give me that!" He lunged for the papers Arthur held behind his back.

"George!" Panicking, Arthur raised the pen-knife to stab, and George's efforts changed to catch that hand and protect himself. They struggled in fury, and then a knock came on the door. Both men froze in their struggle. Arthur relaxed and George let go of him.

Not taking his eyes from George's face, Arthur said calmly, "Come in." There was nothing to be done about their rumpled clothes, their ruffled, flushed appearance, the heavy scent of sweat in the room. They would just have to brazen it out.

The door opened and Greville came in with a tray holding a teapot and cup. "Your tea, sir." He stopped in astonishment upon seeing Mr. McDee. "Ah, shall I get another cup?"

Still breathless, Arthur managed to say, "Thank you, Greville. Mr. McDee is just going to bed. Aren't you, George."

He stepped aside to give space between him and Greville, always watching George's angry face. After a moment the tall man swept between them and stalked through the door, closing it angrily behind him. Shaking, Arthur sank into his seat and held his head in his hands, while a concerned Greville poured his tea. He really liked George McDee. And he really loved his sister. Oh, what a tangled web we weave....

Sapphire and Steel materialized in the room and stared down at him in puzzlement. Sapphire looked up at her partner. "That wasn't it, either."

He breathed an exasperated sigh. "No. It wasn't." He turned away, teleporting on in the brief darkness to appear out in the hall, where he watched George McDee go up the stairs.

George came to the room he shared with his wife and tried to enter it, but the door was locked. He could not really blame her, after what had happened, but he knocked and tried the knob again and called, "Felicity!" When she did not answer him, he knocked strongly and said more fiercely, "Felicity!" At the continued silence he looked around. The potential for humiliation was high. In exasperation he pressed his head close to the door and whispered, "Open this door, will you!" She still did not answer him. For once in his life he had no idea what to do. He moved away from the door and looked frantically around.

He calmed himself as best he could. The outrage he felt was not at her, but at Arthur. He breathed in and came back to the door, knocking again. He kept his voice low and gentle, "Felicity, I know you're in there. If you don't want to let me in, then I understand but... when you need me, when you're ready to talk about all this... you know where I'll be?" he felt ashamed at how his voice quavered at that last. "Felicity?" There was still no answer. Frustrated and helpless, he gave up and headed back down the stairs.

Steel sat in the seat across from the staircase and watched George McDee come down. So many chances for the man to die. McDee's luck had held, and held and held until it finally gave out. But when?! Steel could even feel a slight sympathy for the man who brushed sweat from his forehead, or tears from his eyes.

George pushed open the doors to the lounge. His laboratory was so close. There was so much yet to do and yet... while he had not been looking, he had lost control of his own life. He had hurt his wife terribly. He straightened his tie and went into the laboratory, not seeing Emma where she hid behind a pillar.

He sat down at his desk and stared at the papers in front of him. They were meaningless. He could not grasp the reasons he sat there. He steepled his hands and pressed his forehead against them. I have wronged Felicity, was all he could think.

Greville brought out two glasses and poured Mr. Mullrine a stiff drink, and a smaller one for himself. So rarely had he seen his master so stricken. Mullrine said finally, "What am I gonna do, Greville?"

Compassionately, Greville put the drink in his hand. "It's not easy, is it, sir?"

"No. We can't have a scandal. Not now." He sighed heavily.

Greville took a quick drink. "Good luck, sir."

"Thank you, Greville. Something tells me I'm gonna need it." They drank together, master and servant, bound also by years of loyalty. Greville had cast his fortune with the impetuous Arthur Mullrine, and would do anything he could to ease the strain of conscience upon the young man.

And in the laboratory, George had yet another frustration to deal with. Another person whom he had wronged badly. "Why, Emma? Why did you do it?!"

She had once again set the burner on high, with the gun sitting next to it, but they both had quite forgotten it as they confronted each other. "Because you jilted me!"

"I did no such thing!"

"You told me to get out and leave you!"

He held her hands against his chest and stared down into her lovely, dark eyes, seeing the agony there and feeling quite out of his depth in dealing with it. "I told you to get out because I was working!" He looked earnestly into her eyes, trying to find understanding there. "Surely we love each other?"

Tears sprang to her eyes and she smiled at him, her world suddenly righted. She threw her arms about his neck and, trembling with the depth of her emotions, said hoarsely, "Oh, I do hope so, George!"

Relief tore through him at the warm press of her body, the warmth of her belief in him. And then he opened his eyes and saw his wife standing there in front of the door. A number of less than polite words to describe his stupidity knifed through his thoughts as he disentangled from Emma.

Felicitity bared her teeth in a smile and said sweetly, "I thought as much."

George straightened up nervously. "Felicity."

Emma turned in his arms and then broke away from him, releasing his hand. She stared at the other woman and felt sudden fear. Felicity's expression was curiously dead though her eyes glittered as she looked at her guilty husband. "This won't do, George. This won't do at all." She turned away from them, her heart dead in her breast from an excess of pain. "You might as well leave him alone, Emma. I'll never give him his freedom. Never." George closed his eyes. He had handled this so badly.

Emma's lips trembled. Like the child she no longer was she said helplessly, "He doesn't love you. He loves me."

The older woman looked over at her and then away, sure in the power of her age and the justice of the betrayed. "And I'll make quite sure you can never have him. As long as I live." She turned to see the effect of her words on the young woman, and found herself facing her husband's gun in Emma's hands.

George felt a sheer panic. He backed away around the table towards his wife. Women! He should never, never have been such a fool! "No, Emma, no! For God's sake, don't!"

Sapphire, watching the unfolding drama, called, {Now!}

Steel answered furiously, [Not yet.]

And then time distorted. George McDee threw himself between his wife and his lover, spreading his arms to protect the woman he had wronged so badly. "Stop this!"

And Sapphire did. She froze time, and watched as Emma slowly lowered the gun. Steel said sharply from the door, "That's it. That's the moment." They both came to Emma, who was standing there staring at her lover, frozen with his wife. Her eyes were wide and black with a kind of madness born of agony.

Sapphire stood beside George McDee and stared at Emma in astonishment. "It was Emma!"

And Steel looked at the awareness in the human woman's eyes and said, "It was you. You shot him, didn't you."

She answered coldly, "Yes. But I didn't mean to."

Steel demanded, "Shoot him again."

Sapphire joined her voice to his. "Kill him. Kill him, you must!"

Emma did not look at them. She did not care about them. No, she moved around to get a clear shot at Felicity. "This is what I must do! This time!" She fired, and Felicity fell with a shriek of pain, time knocked into motion again. George McDee turned with a cry and caught his falling wife in his arms.

Relief sighed through Emma. She lowered the gun, held it to her stomach and then moved to set it down on the desk. Steel shivered and closed on her. "Emma...."

Sapphire interjected more softly. "Emma, can you hear us?"

Emma lifted her chin proudly. "Yes, of course I can."

Steel loomed over her. "Do you realize what you're doing?"

She would not look at him. She did not have to look at these people. "Yes. This time I'm going to be happy. I've been given a second chance!"

Sapphire asked gently, "Does George know?"

She shook her head, faintly saddened. "No, only I know."

George finally looked up from the frail body of his dead wife. He could not blame himself, and so there was only one person to aim his pain at. "You've killed her. She's dead."

Emma looked down at him and smiled tenderly. "It's all right, my dearest. I've been promised."

Sapphire rounded the table to look directly into Emma's eyes, horror passing through her. "What have you been promised?!" she demanded.

Emma gazed at her with desperate defiance. "A lifetime of happiness with George. We're going to be young again!"

"What?!" Sapphire gasped out.

Emma bounced gleefully and clapped her hands, her eyes alight with joy. "We're going to be young again!"

Steel cut in coldly from beside her. "It's a trick, Emma! Time is tricking you!!"

She shook her head at him and finally tilted her head angrily. "Who is time?"

Sapphire said fiercely, "Our enemy!"

Steel confirmed, "Your enemy."

Emma met Sapphire's eyes resolutely. "No, no. You don't understand. I really have been given a second chance! It's wonderful!" She turned to the man huddled against the door, cradling a dead woman. He looked up at her, distraught, as she spoke to him. "George my darling, you're not going to die! We're going to be together for the rest of our lives!"

Steel hissed in her ear, "If you don't shoot George there won't be any rest of your lives!"

She turned her head, unable to shut out his words, and met Sapphire's pitiless gaze. "But I was promised."

Steel moved around in front of her and said coldly, "Yes, but you will both die. And in a very short time."

These two were here, knowing what was happening when time had done this remarkable thing for her. What they were saying could not possibly be true. She rubbed her cold fingers and looked desperately away. "What's he saying?"

Sapphire murmured, "Listen to him. He's right."

Steel lifted a petri dish from the counter next to the flaming burner. He brought it to Emma and held it in front of her. "These cultures will destroy you, along with every other living creature on Earth!" Emma stared down at the dish full of goop and held her hand to her lip, trembling with instinctive revulsion. "There is no way of avoiding it once they get out of the laboratory." He set the dish down on the desk.

George McDee had been following the conversation with a sense of utter and complete bewilderment. He did not know who these people were, or why they should be here when they were not moments before. But they seemed so calm and sure of themselves as they talked to his beloved, murderous Emma and ignored him. The man's words were too knowing, and they were about his pet project. He got shakily to his feet, staring at the petri dish of his prized cultures. "Rubbish! How could they?!"

But the stranger whirled and grabbed George, tore open his shirt before he had a chance to protest. "Time is accelerating the disease!!"

Emma let out a shriek, and in the cool air of the laboratory George could suddenly smell the faint sickness. His chest was slick with something that was not sweat. He looked down and gasped in horror at the layer of clear slime that oozed from his flesh. Emma cringed back and clutched at Sapphire's arms helplessly as Steel yanked George away from them. Sapphire held her and met her partner's eyes.

George curled reflexively over himself, clutching his jacket closed and keeping turned away from them. His mind was blank with horror until he struggled through it. He clutched tightly and pulled his chin in, gasping hoarsely, "It's not possible."

The stranger behind him was pitiless and cold. "Not only is it possible, it is absolutely inevitable." He stood at McDee's shoulder and continued, "You have created mutant persistent viruses... that the world of Nineteen thirty has no way of controlling. And Emma will be next." Those words and their meaning brought George's head up, horror driving through him.

Emma was sitting, shaking her head weakly, tears tracking down her face. "But I was promised. I was promised."

Steel came over to her and stepped around behind her. Sapphire knelt at her side and said softly, "It's up to you. Everything must be exactly as it was. Only you can pull the trigger and shoot George."

Emma whimpered, shaking her head. "No."

"You must do it."

"No," she said weakly.

Frustrated, not knowing what to do or say, Sapphire urged, "You must do it!"

Weeping, Emma whispered, "I can't. I can't do it again."

George McDee said softly, "Emma...."

He was talking to her, his voice an incredible balm to her broken heart. She turned her head slowly. "George..?"

It was killing him, and he knew it now. He still stood, clenching his coat shut against the shame of what was happening to his body. What he had done to this woman-child who had loved him enough to change history. But it was too late. He stepped towards her. "Listen to me, my dearest." He came close and reached down to her with his right hand, keeping his coat shut with his left. "We love each other, don't we?" She reached up to take his proffered hand, and he drew back in sudden fear. He looked beyond her at the other man. "Can I touch her?"

The woman stood beside her man, watching him with amazement. The man said simply, "Yes."

It did not make George feel more confident. "Would she be infected?"

The other man shifted slightly. "No, no. Once we go back on the original track, none of this will have happened."

And so he did touch her, winding his hand in hers, bringing his other hand down. He knelt in front of her, wanting to beg her forgiveness for his selfishness that had led to this, wanting to make love to her one last time. He forced his eyes beyond her to the two strangers in silent request, and the woman took the man's hand and led him away. George bowed his head and so did not see them vanish. His attention now was all for Emma. She had needed him. She needed him now, and he would not fail her.

"Listen to me, my darling. You have to do it." He finally looked up at her and met her eyes, his own twinkling with melancholy amusement. "It's for my own sake. Would you have me be the man who destroyed the human race?" This time when the tears came he did not hold them back. He was effectively dead already. What shame was there in a man's tears? He smiled at her and she returned it, her own tears falling as she shook her head. He drew a weak breath. "Then you must kill me. It's the only way." He lowered his gaze, knowing his responsibility and hating himself for the carelessness that would leave two women miserable in a cold, hard world. "Kill me... and let Felicity live. Promise?" He looked up at her anguished eyes and blinked back new tears. He saw the promise there, though she said nothing, and kissed her fingers tenderly. "Be brave, my darling. Remember the good times we had, hah?" He grinned wickedly at her and she chuckled back. George McDee got to his feet, his body an ache of grief. "Remember me."

She stood up with him, pressing her body against his and her arms around his neck. She stared up as if swallowing his face with her eyes. "George, my beloved. I shall keep you alive in my heart."

They embraced with all the intensity only doomed lovers could feel. One last time.

        Feeling the decision, knowing they had only a short time before the determination would weaken, Steel said urgently, [Now, Sapphire! Take time back!] And she did. The gun and the two humans vanished. Sapphire and Steel looked at each other, and then they were carried along in the wave.
        George McDee stared in horror at his wife as she said, "I thought as much."

"Felicity," he began, not knowing what to say.

"This won't do, George. This won't do at all." She turned away from them, her heart dead in her breast from an excess of pain. "You might as well leave him alone, Emma. I'll never give him his freedom. Never." George closed his eyes. He had handled this so badly.

Emma's lips trembled. Like the child she no longer was she said helplessly, "He doesn't love you. He loves me."

The older woman looked over at her and then away, sure in the power of her age and the justice of the betrayed. "And I'll make quite sure you can never have him. As long as I live." She turned to see the effect of her words on the young woman, and found herself facing her husband's gun in Emma's hands.

George felt a sheer panic. He backed away around the table towards his wife. Women! He should never, never have been such a fool! "No, Emma, no! For God's sake, don't!" He threw himself between his wife and his lover, spreading his arms to protect the woman he had wronged so badly. "For God's sake don't! Stop!"

And Emma fired. Felicity wailed as her husband doubled over, collapsing. His flailing arm hit the flaming burner and it fell. Emma screamed as the flames rose.

Attracted first by the sound of George shouting, Arthur flung open the door, Greville fast on his heels. "Oh my God! What's happened!" He looked around frantically. "Emma! George!! Greville, get them out of here!"

Together the two men rallied around the flames, Greville to pull the two wailing women out of the room. They struggled against him, reaching back for George. Arthur scrabbled for the flaming notes on the desk. He almost burned his hands, pulling off his shoes to try to bat out the flames, but he could not. He could only grab up the pistol on the table and take it out of the room when he was forced to flee.

        Steel said sternly, [Now, Sapphire. Take time forward.]

And she did.

        In the office, in Nineteen eighty, Lord Arthur Mullrine was just leaving to go host his party.

Anne Shaw said to him, "I hope you have a super party, sir."

"Well, it'll be different, anyway." He paused and turned to her, his hand outstretched to the handle of the door. "Have to mark our fiftieth year of operation, don't we? Seems as good a way as any." He glanced up at the plastic calendar on the wall, that they had already arranged to show the date they were pretending it to be. He read it with mild amusement. 21, June, Saturday, 18:30. "Twenty-first of June. The summer solstice. I remember noting it, then." He was bemused by the strangeness of memory.

He was about to open the door when Miss Shaw called him, "Lord Mullrine!"

He turned to see her picking up the electronic key, which he had left on his desk. He hurried back to get it. "Oh, dear! Thank you, Miss Shaw! Wouldn't do to leave that behind, would it? Lock myself out of my own office!" He bounced on his heels and looked up at her happily. "And who knows what might happen then!"

She smiled at him warmly. "Indeed yes, sir!" They smiled at each other and he left the room, still chuckling.

An age long gone and forgotten by too many. The wooden floors, the couches with their fringes, the lamps equally fringed. Emma sat in the chair by the roses she had arranged so beautifully. Greville met his eyes and shook a metal decanter conspiratorially. Arthur grinned. "Ah, the cocktails. Good man, Greville."

At that moment, the ancient doorbell rang its jangling summons. Excited, Emma turned her head. "Ah, the first guests!"

"Yes. Now it all begins." He grinned at Greville and urged the man out into the hall.

Emma pulled out a pouch and began powdering her nose, her voice quavering. "How silly of me. I feel quite nervous."

Distracted, Arthur answered her absently. "Yes. How silly of you, Emma."

In the hall, Greville helped the others, the young maid and the older butler, Jenkins, as they bounded into place. They were all excited and delighted by the costuming they got to wear for this party. Greville indicated where the other two were to stand, gave them a once over and was pleased with what he saw, then went to answer the door. He faded out as Sapphire and Steel faded in with their luggage, halting the path of time.

They were once again dressed in modern styles. Steel in his business suit, with no mustache. Sapphire in her bright, light blue dress, her hair straight, her hands folded at her waist. Steel said quietly, "This is where we came in."

Sapphire grinned at him. "And this is where we go out." She straightened her back and let time resume, Greville reappearing as he reached to open the door. Sapphire and Steel vanished and walked out the door, invisible and intangible to mere human senses.

Felicity McDee was first at the door, dressed impeccably in a deep purple gown, with white furs draped across her shoulders. Felix Harborough was behind her in the hall and said, "Good evening, Greville."

He replied confidently, "Good evening, Mr. Harborough!"

Felicity came in, stately as she could at her age. "Good evening, Greville," she said musically.

"Good evening, Mrs. McDee," he bade her.

Annabelle Harborough also said, "Good evening, Greville." The maid stepped forward to take their wraps.

Greville replied cheerfully, "Good evening, Mrs. Harborough."

The men wore black tuxedos, with long white scarves hanging about their necks. Howard McDee said without rancor. "I must say, I like your monkey suit, Greville."

Sapphire suddenly called, {Steel?}

Greville was saying, "Nineteen-thirties, sir," and paused a moment in confusion. Something was wrong with this conversation. Unsteadily he continued, "Absolutely authentic." He bit his lip, trying to figure out what he was missing. What had he forgotten?

Sapphire and Steel's luggage vanished from the downstairs hall.

Greville frowned, then decided it would come back to him later. He cocked his head closer to the young McDee. "All specially made, sir. By Lord Mullrine's personal tailor."

Howard McDee walked past as Felix Harborough said, "It must have cost a fortune." Greville smiled indulgently after the young man.

The End

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