TTR: Murder on the Outside Express
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a fairly typical day in This Time Round.

"There we go," Mel said, slotting the latest crop of coloured cards into
the scheduling board. "That just leaves the fanfics. Rose, these are yours
for the next couple of days" -- she dropped a hefty stack of fanfold paper
on Rose's table -- "and I've highlighted the ones where you get to bear the
Doctor's child. Master, these are yours, and I've highlighted--"

"Yeah, yeah, I can guess," the Simm Master scowled. He glanced down the
list, nearly every line of which was marked in one of four different
colours. "Where do these people get their ideas?"

"From the televised series?" Rose suggested innocently.

Fortunately at this point an interruption presented itself, in the slight
and cheerful form of Jo.

"Evening, Polly," she called over her shoulder as she breezed in.

Michelle smirked triumphantly, as she always did when people didn't realise
who she really was. Jo didn't notice, being far too busy brandishing a glossy
leaflet at the assembled patrons.

"I picked this up at the library," she said. "'For a night out you'll
always remember.'"

"Chance'd be a fine thing," Donna said bitterly.

"'Take a luxurious steam train ride and solve a brutal murder in the utmost
comfort. Dinner included.'"

"A Murder Mystery evening?" Martha asked. "Let's have a look."

"That's what it says here." Jo handed her the leaflet.

"Yeah... but it doesn't say much *else*, does it?"

"Of course not. It's a mystery."

"Do not go," Katarina said. "We have seen leaflets advertising such events
before, and they have always brought nothing but chaos and disaster upon all
who attended."

As usual in the Round, her prophecy of doom was given not the slightest
attention.

"Applications by post," Ace read. "Tickets will be issued with further
instructions."

"Simple enough," Nyssa said. "But the most important point: Is this
connected, in any way, shape or form, with the Tod brothers?"

Various heads bent over the small print.

"Nope. Corrigan Entertainments."

"Never heard of them. Is that a good sign, or a bad sign?"

"It does not matter," Leela said. "Whether these 'Corrigan Entertainments'
are friends, known foes or unknown foes, I do not fear them. I shall face
them and defeat them."

"Anyone else up for it?" Vicki asked.

A small crowd began to gather around the table.

- * -

It was already dark and foggy by the time the various participants reached
the station. The train stood waiting: its locomotive a 1930s streamliner
glistening in silver and grey, the carriages painted chocolate and cream, each
bearing a name and number picked out in gold. The steam from the locomotive
further added to the atmosphere and reduced visibility.

Tegan, looking over the assembled party, was favourably impressed. Perhaps
it was down to the influence of the Eliott sisters, but everyone -- even
Leela -- seemed to have made an effort to don smart evening wear. The
results were not, however, uniformly successful. Adric could make even a
dinner jacket look scruffy, ZoŽ's idea of a cocktail dress might have been
little and black but was still unashamedly a catsuit, and Sara Kingdom's
elegant ballgown was somewhat spoiled by the bulky utility belt and holster
she was wearing over it.

"Carriage one, now boarding," crackled the tannoy. "Will all passengers
for carriage one please join the train."

Tegan glanced down at her ticket. It now bore a glowing numeral 1, which
it certainly hadn't before. She made her way forward and climbed aboard,
finding herself in a wood-panelled vestibule. A man in velveteen uniform
took her ticket.

"Welcome aboard," he said. "Please wait in the dining saloon until the
other passengers arrive."

Tegan followed the direction he indicated, to find herself in a luxuriously-
appointed dining area. A smiling steward directed her to a table set for four.

"Posh, innit?" Rose sat down beside her. "They must make a bit to be able
to afford this. Did you see who else is with us?"

"Perhaps there isn't anyone else," Tegan said.

"Just the two of us, girl detectives?"

"Tyler and Jovanka? Sounds like a builder's merchants."

Before Rose could reply, Sara joined the group.

"They wouldn't let me keep my gun," she grumbled.

"Pity. I'd feel safer knowing one of us was armed and knew how to use it,"
Tegan said dourly.

Rose looked at the tense faces of her fellow-travellers. "Don't be such a
misery. It's just a night out. What can go wrong?"

Tegan took a deep breath. But before she could launch into what would surely
have been an extensive catalogue, the fourth member of the party arrived.

"So that's Jovanka, Kingdom, Shaw and Tyler," Rose said. "I don't think it
sounds like a builder's merchant any more. More an expensive law firm."

"Expensive is the word," said Liz, running her hand over the veneered
surface of the table. "I think that's it for this coach. They closed the door
behind me."

"Presumably we're in teams, then," said Sara. "Each coach against the
others. I wonder how the scoring system works?"

*

Outside, on the platform, Jamie was engaged in heated argument with ZoŽ.

"Look," he said. "Why can't you come in with me?"

"Because your ticket says coach 2, Jamie, and mine doesn't."

"Can ye no' swap wi' someone else?"

"It doesn't work. Look, I'll show you. Jo, can I change tickets with you?"

Jo obligingly held out her ticket. ZoŽ took it, and at once it stopped
glowing. The ticket she gave Jo in return lit up the moment Jo took it.

"Now, stop fussing, Jamie. I'm sure Martha and Jo and Ace will look after
you."

"Aye, but you're cleverer than any of them."

ZoŽ nodded.

"Of course I am. But you'll have to make the best of it. Good luck, Jamie,
and may the best team win."

"Good luck." Jamie reluctantly set out for the train, then turned and called
back. "And try not tae go all zany this time!"

*

As Harry, Leela, ZoŽ and Vicki climbed aboard the train, the four remaining
people on the platform looked at each other and realised the horrid truth.

"Swamprat!"

"Psycho!"

"If you think I'm getting into a train with you two weirdoes," Peri said,
"you've got another think coming, I can tell you."

"But she's..."

"But he's..."

"Quiet." Barbara was using her authoritative schoolmarm voice. "Now, before
you start bickering again, did either of you have the foresight to read the
rules for the evening? All the way through?"

"I was busy," Adric said sulkily. "Dying of a surfeit."

"And no doubt, Nyssa, you were the one force-feeding him? Very well. Look
at rule 49."

There was a short pause.

"But that..." Nyssa spluttered. "It's outrageous!"

"Seems sensible to me," said Peri. "No murders except the one we have to
solve. After all, it'd be cheating otherwise."

Nyssa gritted her teeth.

"So I've got to sit opposite... him... all evening and not kill him at all.
Why did I ever sign up to this?" She glared at Adric. "Why did _you_ ever
sign up to this?"

"As it happens," Adric said, "I didn't. I got the ticket in the post."

"So did I. What's going on?"

*

From their vantage point in the ADF's headquarters truck, Wesley and Lucas
peered at a monitor. The grainy image on the screen had originated in one
of the station's own security cameras and had made its way to them by means
of an unofficial tap into its circuit, the work of ADF technicians. Most CCTV
systems in Nameless had undergone this treatment several times over; the
camera overlooking the pub car park, for example, fed into the secret
monitoring channels of no fewer than nine organisations.

"There you are," Wesley announced triumphantly. "Told you it would work."

*

With a mournful whistle, the train set off into the night. Sitting at their
tables, the passengers watched as the lights of Nameless drifted past.

"Looks like the dinner comes first," Rose said, looking past Sara at the
approaching waiter.

"And then the murder," Tegan said.

"How d'you think they'll do that? I mean, it's just the four of us. Is one
of us the murderer and another one the victim?"

"There's another couple of tables set for dinner," Sara said. "I spotted
them on the way in."

Tegan raised her eyebrows. "I didn't. You're sharp."

"I've been trained to notice things."

The arrival of the waiter with their food caused a momentary distraction.
Before starting her meal, Tegan glanced out of the window. The line here was
on an embankment, giving a view over mist-wreathed marshland. Pools of water
reflected the moonlight. Or was it ice? It had been a warm evening in
Nameless, but the weather Outside Continuity had its own whims and caprices.
In the distance was an abandoned windmill, its sails skeletal and irregular.
She had no recollection of seeing any of these things on previous train
journeys.

"One of us could still be the murderer," Liz said.

Startled out of her reverie, Tegan looked up. "How?"

"Depends how they do it. You've played Cluedo, I take it?"

"Once or twice. It's a Christmas thing, isn't it? You get the relatives
round, and you all end up playing a board game."

"Oh, don't get me started," Rose broke in. "Mum tried to get the Doctor to
play it once. You know, just after he'd regenerated."

"Who won?"

"Mickey. But the Doctor said it didn't count, 'cos the lead pipe had gone
missing and we had to use the iron out of the Monopoly set instead."

"Anyway," Liz said. "My point is that in Cluedo you can be playing the
murderer and not know it. It all depends how the cards are dealt."

Her point apparently proved to her satisfaction, she turned her attention
back to her slice of melon.

"And the next year," Rose said, more to herself than any of the others,
"I was in another world and all the rules were different. And nearly all the
people as well. I mean, there isn't a Miss Grey in any version of Cluedo I've
ever played."

Sara suddenly put down her spoon.

"Look out there," she said.

The mist outside had thickened; instead of a few wisps over the marsh, it
was now a network of streamers, glowing with multicoloured light, and
surrounding the train. Nothing could now be seen of the countryside beyond,
only the coloured ribbons of cloud. As they swirled to and fro, it gave the
dizzying impression that the train was moving backwards, or upwards, or
sideways.

"It's a PLOT hole," Rose said.

"We must be headed Inside," Liz said. "Inside _where_, I wouldn't like to
speculate. Almost certainly not our normal universe. You know what that
means?"

Tegan nodded.

"This is going to be real," she said. "Get this wrong and we could die."

The iron grip of continuity closed around them. Alternative
characterisations melted away like snow. Somewhere else on the train,
Nyssa found herself wondering why she was glaring at Adric's throat, and
ZoŽ looked at the banana skin she'd been about to drop on the floor with
an air of complete bewilderment.

And the knowledge that this was merely a staged murder mystery evening
vanished from everyone's mind.




Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8

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