the guardsman with the komodo dragon head finished the tenth and last question and looked expectantly at sally.
"would you mind repeating that?", sally asked.
"oh bother!" cried mr alfred russel wallace. "can't we just get on with it?"
"it was a long question," said sally.
"indeed it was," mr wallace agreed wearily. "repeat it, young man, but a little quicker this time."
"oh but sir, i so wanted to make it a good one!"
"on with it."
"very well. a train with seventeen passengers is traveling from marseilles to istanbul. the first passenger, mr patel, a student at trinity college dublin, has just discovered a new means of time travel and is scheduled to arrive in zurich in two hours to present his paper on the subject. the second passenger, sharing a compartment with him, is the aging but still beautiful
princess de queiroz, on her way to bayreuth for the annual wagner festival. the third and fourth members of their compartment are jake and jacob jaspers, two american train robbers who don't care where they are going, so long as they escape from theodore roosevelt.
in the next compartment we find deedee and desiree daniels, two ruddy cheeked english girls on their way to vienna to audition for the famed vienna ballet, whose director, franz-josef marx, is, unknown to them, in the third compartment with his protege, mlle pauline psochomorpha, and her friend betty-lou, who have already been promised the parts deedee and desiree have studied and practiced for and dreamed of all their young lives.
also in the second compartment the young comte de gobineau-richelieu, the famed astrologer, numerologer and actor, on his way to monte carlo to try to mend his broken heart, and his valet, a young street urchin named hoho whom the comte is instructing in classic astrology and numerology, in return for which hoho is instructing the comte in the nouveau alchemy and alchemy of his old master ,master lee, and in martial arts, a discipline the comte is curiously deficient in. unknown to the comte and hoho, master lee is in the fourth compartment, disguised as a laotian tea salesman on his way to ankara.
master lee is sharing the fourth compartment with three schoolteachers from wales on their way to monte carlo - miss thomasina williams, miss diana williams, and miss diana jones. the trio have been going to monte carlo on their vacation for years - this year miss jones wanted to go to macao instead, but was overruled by the two miss williamses.
in the fifth and final compartment we find the abbot von brun, custodian of the artworks at the cathedral of salzburg, miss flora nesbit- st jude, a retired postmistress from wessex, and lord aubrey astragoth-martin, the worlds greatest expert on salamanders and a champion fencer. although at first glance these three would seem to have little in common, all three are famous detectives, whose exploits have been widely chronicled and distributed wherever thrilling stories are appreciated. in fact , they are on their way to a conference of famous detectives to be held in - "
"wait a minute," said sally. "that's eighteen people."
"it's seventeen," answered the komodo man. "the valet doesn't count. please don't interrupt."
"he's a passenger , isn't he?" sally looked to mr wallace for support. "he is taking up space, isn't he? does he get to ride for free?"
"the young lady has a point," said mr wallace. "just change it to eighteen people and move along,"
"but sir, that ruins the whole puzzle."
"i know." said sally. "it's a trtck question -eighteen people is the answer, right? did i get it right?"
"no, young lady, it is not the answer. i do not traffic in such easy trickery."
mr wallace sighed. "then then just get rid of the valet - or one of the schoolteachers."
"hey," interrupted bessie. 'what do you have against schoolteachers? i had a teacher named miss williams and she was a nice lady."
"wake up! wake up!"
sally opened her eyes. she was lying on tania's desk and jeanne d'arc was shaking her. she put her legs over the side of the desk and sat up.
jeanne stared at her with her big green eyes. "you were twitching. were you dreaming?"
"no," said sally. "i never dream."
"i was dreaming. you were in my dream. was i in yours?"
"i just told you. i don't dream."
"you mean you don't remember them."
"whatever. it's the same thing, isn't it?"
jeanne kept her gaze on sally. "something terrible has happened. detective kelly has disappeared and detective lyndon is under arrest. we will have to assign two new detectives to your case. we will have to assign new detectives to all their cases!"
sally shrugged. "that's not -" she stopped.
"not your problem. i know,"jeanne answered. "your problem is getting yourself home."
"no, that's your problem too. you brought me here." sally looked at the clock on the wall. it was five o'clock in the morning. "you might as well just take me to work"
"all right. but first let me get you two new detectives."
"who is this and what is she doing here?"
sally looked up and saw a tall slender young woman wearing an enormous top hat. sally could hardly see her eyes from under the hat. this was jeanne's immediate superior, charlotte corday.
"charlotte, this is sally johnson, the subject of the multiplying love letters case."
"ah yes, the multiplying love letters case." charlotte looked at sally.
"kelly and lyndon left her here. she was sleeping on kelly's desk."
"i am sure they expected to be back on time to take her home."
"i don't want any excuses for them any more than i want any for yourself."
jeanne turned to sally. "she was in my dream, too. are you sure you don't recognize her?"
"what are you running on about. jeanne?" charlotte snapped. "dreams? let's get back to reality."
"i thought i would assign two new detectives - maybe torquato and st teresa - and then have them take her home - or to work, that's where she wants to go."
"i will make the new assignments," said charlotte. "as for letting her go - i don't know about that." she continued to stare at sally from under her hat. sally stared back.
charlotte laughed. "she looks like she has a little backbone. 1H, right?"
"you always remember the important details, charlotte."
"all right, take her where she wants to go." charlotte looked at sally. "we will meet again. prepare yourself mentally for some serious interrogation."