Title: Safe Passage
Series: All Aboard
Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: This is an AU (alternate universe) or Elseworld fic; see story for
Category: Action/Adventure, Romance
Archive: List sites, and Disquieting Muses www.geocities.com/jengrrrl2000
Otherwise, please ask.
Thanks to: Donna, Nancy, Diebin - for looking and chatting and being all
around great girls
Special Thanks to: My dvd player. Nuf said
Author's Note: I told myself I'd take a break from series work after Big
Crunch (especially after my 2 feedback ending *sniff). But here I am again.
Oh, well. :)
November 11, 1922, Orient Express Sleeping Car 3309, some miles outside
The snow-covered trees stared back at her, like so many ghosts, pale and
gaunt in the thrall of winter. Mississippi would be warmer than this.
Anything would be warmer than this.
Marie Darkholme was tired of staying in her sleeping carriage. She was
tired of looking at a blanket of white covering the window. And, more
importantly, she was tired of listening to her stepmother drone on and on
about what a fabulous time she was having.
The constant click clack and the gentle rocking of the train were making
her drowsy. Her lids drooped heavily but through them she still caught
Raven shoveling through her trunk like a dog digging up a bone.
�Oh, isn�t this just marvelous! I love the service here. Do you know, I
asked for my heel to be repaired not two hours ago and here it is? Darling,
this is magnificent. What do you think I should wear to dinner tonight?�
She held up two nearly identical black evening gowns. Two gowns that were
bought in Paris for more money than it cost her father to buy ten suits.
Marie watched in bemusement as her father was cornered into making a
decision he�d come to regret. It was always the same. Ever since marrying
Raven, her father had lost any semblance of a backbone. Their miserable
journey to Europe had been Raven�s idea. The ride on the Orient Express had
been a must: �Oh, anybody who�s anybody rides it, darling!� Marie sighed
and tried to ignore the plaintiff whining of her stepmother.
�I, I don�t know, sweetheart. I think they�d both look absolutely
fabulous,� Marie�s father stammered.
Marie would�ve been surprised if Raven�s groan hadn�t been heard throughout
the car. �Sometimes I wonder why I even bother asking you at all, Robert.
Robert Darkholme merely looked on wearily, mustache and shoulders sagging
under the weight of his wife�s displeasure.
�Wear the black one, Raven,� drawled Marie, entertained for the first time
in a week.
�Thank you, Marie,� Raven ground out, eyes glowing an unearthly green. �You
are always such a help.�
Marie rolled her eyes, but promptly shut her mouth. Raven had more
personalities than she could count, and she didn�t want to be on the
receiving end of anything one of the less pleasant ones had to dole out. In
two days they would reach Constantinople. If she could avoid any
confrontation before then, Marie would consider it a small victory.
�How long before we reach Vienna, Father?�
�Twenty minutes, I think. Why?�
�No reason.� Her reason, of course, was that the walls of the compartment
were starting to close in on her. Maybe in Vienna, she�d be able to get
some fresh air. If only it wasn�t snowing�
As if reading her mind, her father suddenly said, �Why don�t you go out to
the smoking car, Marie? Distract yourself some.�
�I think I will, Father. Thank you.� She rose from her seat, grabbed a
book, and exited the compartment, clearly avoiding any contact with her
�Bon jour, mademoiselle.�
The melodious voice startled Marie into looking up from her novel. The
young man�s attire revealed him to be a Wagons-Lit employee, a condoctuer,
although she�d never seen him before. �Bon jour,� she replied tentatively.
�Bon romance?� A rakish smile crossed the man�s lips and Marie suddenly
felt uncomfortable with the situation.
She got up from her seat and tried to move past him. �Excusez-mois.�
�Non! Pardon. Je m�appelle Remy. Et vous?�
Well, he certainly was forward, she thought. Still, he didn�t seem
dangerous. Marie�s basic French was enough to recognize his introduction.
She didn�t offer him her hand, but he took it anyway. When he began
raising it to his lips, she pulled back, distressed by how quickly he�d
violated her space. �Enough,� she said, exasperated. �I don�t speak French
so you�ll just have to leave me alone.�
The conductuer stepped back, slightly abashed. �Ah, I apologize. I didn�t
recognize your accent. You are American?�
�Yes.� The man has very little work to do if he�s able to stand around all
day chatting with passengers, thought Marie. He seemed friendly enough, but
there remained an air of superiority about him that didn�t sit well with
her. He didn�t seem like the type to take orders from anyone.
�I am sorry if I disturbed you, miss. I thought you looked a bit lonesome
sitting here and��
�I wasn�t,� she interrupted. �And I hope you don�t think me rude if I ask
you to leave.�
�Of course not miss,� he responded easily. �Please, enjoy the rest of your
trip.� He bowed slightly and turned toward the other end of the car.
�You were right, monsieur. She is quite cool. Frigid, non? It is not a
wonder they call her �untouchable�. Were did you learn of this?�
�Her stepmother talks to anything that moves. She�s quite loose with her
information. Comes in handy.�
The younger man nodded. �I should say so.� Then in a conspiratorial hush,
�When do you plan to make your move?�
�Soon. After Vienna perhaps, or I may wait until Bucharest. Certainly
before reaching the Turkish border. This train will not reach
Constantinople, my friend. Not with that girl still on it.�
�The father will not be a problem?�
The tall, lean man gazed at his younger companion and smiled. �His idiocy
is my biggest asset. I foresee no difficulties.� He chuckled slightly.
�And, as you well know, the chef du train is even more incompetent. Who is
there to stop us?�
�No one, I assure you.� The conducteur reached into his vest pocket and
pulled out a key. �This will serve us well, n�est-ce pas?�
Taking the object, the man responded, �Yes, it certainly will.� He placed
an amiable hand on the French man�s shoulder. �You�re even more useful than
I anticipated Monsieur LeBeau.�
LeBeau smirked as he began rolling a cigarette. �I expect to be rewarded
�Of course you do.�
The train began to slow and Marie saw the Vienna station coming into view.
It was still snowing, but not as heavily as before. This gave her the
opportunity to go out onto the platform, a welcome relief from the
stuffiness of the train.
She walked to her compartment and grabbed an overcoat, preparing herself
for the chill outdoors. As soon as the train made a complete stop and she
heard a conducteur give the call, she stepped into the Austrian night.
The platform was covered, protected from the snow, but the harsh wind hit
her hard. Her exposed face became stiff from the cold. She watched as
several other passengers made their way out, joining her on the platform
even as others made their way onto the train for the first time. A couple
huddled together, speaking rapidly in German and rubbing their hands
together vigorously. It made her glad she�d remembered to wear her gloves.
Marie continued staring at the couple, interested by their animated
conversation. They didn�t seem Austrian; their German was fractured and she
could hear it was not their native tongue. The man wore funny spectacles:
not round and wired rimmed, but pulled back around his head. His
well-tailored suit suggested wealth and good taste. His companion was an
attractive woman and, from their closeness, Marie inferred they were
She must have lost track of time because, before she knew it, Marie heard
the boarding call: �En voiture, s�ils vous plait!�
As she was turning towards the train, she saw the couple joined by two men
and a station attendant. One man, who appeared to be an officer, although
Marie did not recognize his uniform, was lifting the other, older and wheel
chair bound. Marie was so impressed by how easily the officer carried the
man that she was surprised when they were suddenly standing right beside
her. She blinked and heard a gruff, �Excuse us� before gathering herself
and letting them by.
She followed the group inside and was suddenly warmed by the heat generated
by the train.
A curiosity fueled by boredom propelled her to follow them past her own
compartment. They traveled a bit further down the car before splitting
into two groups: the young couple heading into one compartment, the officer
and the invalid into the one across the way.
She watched them disappear before reluctantly heading back.
�Marie, there are so many handsome young men on board, don�t you think?�
�Hush, Robert. I wasn�t talking to you. Well, Marie? Has anyone caught your
Marie took her time chewing the piece of chicken in her mouth. Dinner was
always like this. Raven never failed to find a way to make her food taste
Pushing her plate aside, Marie took her napkin and wiped her mouth. �No,
Raven,� she replied slowly. �No handsome young man has caught my eye.�
Raven took a sip of her wine. �Well, dear, I certainly hope it�s not
because of that incident with David.�
A strained smile formed on Marie�s face. �Of course not, Raven.�
��Because, you know, no young man is worth so much heartache. While it�s
true he preferred that hussy from Selma, that�s no reason for you to feel
badly. No, indeed.� Marie watched as Raven began playing with her wedding
ring: an ostentatious affair with a large diamond attached. �You haven�t
had another beau since have you?�
�Would you like more dessert, darling?� Robert Darkholme quickly
�No. Now, Robert, quit interrupting me!�
Marie tuned the couple out as they began arguing. Right on schedule, she
thought. She was about to excuse herself when she noticed the group that
boarded in Vienna enter the dining car.
It was the young couple. They had both changed and were looking quite
refreshed, although he was still wearing his silly-looking spectacles. It
always amazed Marie to encounter couples so at ease with each other, so
perfectly content. Her mother had died when she was very young and Marie
had never really had a chance to see that interaction between her parents.
Her father married Raven when she was twelve. Their marriage was turbulent,
at best. Robert Darkholme tried making the best of the situation, for he
certainly loved his wife � or lusted after her, thought Marie. She was
young � much younger than he � and extremely good-looking. Something she
used to her complete advantage. In any case, Raven controlled everything;
easiness and contentment were not words used to describe that relationship.
She watched as they looked over the menu for the night and spoke to the
attendant. Straining to hear, she realized they were speaking English,
their accents most assuredly American. Marie wondered vaguely why the
officer had not joined them. Perhaps he was spending his evening with the
other man, who would be unable to leave their compartment. Was the older
man his father? They didn�t really look alike. The officer was dark and
ruddy. There was something unkempt about his appearance. His hair was
longer than it should have been and he had a fair amount of growth on his
face. In contrast, the older man was well groomed: his suit was neatly
pressed and he definitely shaved more regularly than his companion. His
scalp had been completely devoid of hair and Marie considered whether he
shaved that as well.
The attendant had left them and the couple was left to converse alone.
Marie knew it was rude, but she leaned closer to hear what they were
�Charles was tipped off. He�s not sure when it�s going to happen but it has
to happen soon. Lensherr is just about out of money. He needs to pull off
this job if he�s going to finance his scheme.�
The woman sighed and looked around the car. Marie averted her gaze but
�I just don�t think it makes sense, Scott. A train? Certainly there would
have been easier targets. Whatever Eric has planned, it has to take place
The man, Scott, had removed his glasses and was cleaning the lenses with a
fine cloth. Marie noticed his eyes were a beautiful shade of blue, quite
unlike any she�d seen before. She wondered why he had to ruin his handsome
face by wearing such strangely made spectacles. �I know it sounds strange,
Jean,� he said. �But all we have to go by is the professor�s contact. And
they�re usually very reliable.�
Jean simply shook her head, but seemed content to drop that topic of
conversation. The next thing she said was, �How do you think Charles is
getting along with the new man?�
An indecorous snort escaped the young man�s lips. �I haven�t had a chance
to talk to him alone yet. His guard is on him all day long.� He paused as
the attendant returned, this time bearing a bottle of champagne. The amber
liquid was poured into two glasses and the waiter retreated. When he was
out of range, Scott continued, �There�s something about that man that
strikes me odd. The professor trusts him with his life, yet we hardly know
Marie watched Jean sip her champagne carefully. She seemed to be avoiding
her companion�s gaze. Finally, she put the glass back on the table and
shrugged. �I don�t know, Scott. Charles told me they had an understanding,
but that�s all he would say.�
�And he�s so guarded,� Scott interjected. �It�s impossible to get a word
out of him.� His demeanor shifted; his back straightened and he put his
spectacles back on. �I don�t like the way he looks at you.�
Reaching out, Jean took his hand in hers. Marie felt the sudden urge to
look away; such gestures were beyond her scope of comprehension. �You have
nothing to worry about,� she heard Jean say.
Visibly relaxed by her touch, Scott leaned back in his seat. �It�s not you
I�m worried about,� he replied easily.
�He�s harmless,� she countered.
�Harmless?� Scott leaned forward and took a large drink from his glass.
�Harmless is not a word I would use to describe that man.�
�Marie? Marie! Are you listening to me?� The shrill voice drowned out any
other sound and Marie was forced to look back at its owner.
�I�m sorry, what?�
Robert spoke for his wife, who looked too infuriated to do anything but
seethe. �I�m taking Raven back to our compartment, Marie. She has a
headache. Will you be coming back with us?�
The possibility of having any contact at all with the trembling body of
rage sitting next to her father gave Marie pause. She might have been
willing to go back to her compartment alone, but if they were leaving
perhaps she�d stay a while longer. It was possible she�d even regain her
appetite without Raven there to ruin it.
�I think I�ll stay a while longer.�
Her father nodded and stood up. He reached out to help his wife stand, but
the angry woman was already on her feet and headed out the compartment.
�I�m sorry, Father,� Marie whispered.
Robert looked down at her but said nothing. Instead, he slowly followed
Raven out of the dining car.
Marie sat in the smoking car alone, realizing that this had become a habit
The rest of dinner had been uneventful. She had eaten what remained on her
plate, thankful for Raven�s premature departure. The young couple, Scott
and Jean, had ceased all conversation on arrival of their meal. All she�d
been able to do was watch as they ate in perfectly calm silence.
Remembering the events of that afternoon, Marie thought of the young French
condocteur who�d spoken so freshly to her. It seemed odd to her now, that
she never had seen him before that. At first, it had seemed fairly
coincidental. After all, the train was fairly large. However, all of the
other condocteurs could be spotted regularly making their rounds.
And what had Jean and Scott been discussing? They apparently thought
something was about to happen on the train; what exactly, Marie didn�t
know. Still, it intrigued her that they should be so aware of any eminent
danger, when the chef du train and all the condocteurs had no clue. For if
they did, they would stop the train, wouldn�t they?
Marie chewed her upper lip, trying to piece together what they�d been
saying about the men they�d arrived with. The older gentleman, Scott had
referred to as a professor. What sort of professor wondered Marie, idly
concerned that she was spending her time building terrific conjectures.
It seemed strange to her, the way they regarded the other man, the officer.
Scott especially seemed rather hostile. Marie smiled to herself. Of
course, he would be, seeing as the man had been looking at his wife. And
Jean had blown the whole affair aside, saying that the officer was
harmless. Marie had to agree with Scott. One look at that man had told her
he was definitely not harmless.
The scent of cigar smoke wafted across the car. Marie looked up to find the
object of her thoughts sitting across the way, legs lazily splayed before
him. He held a newspaper before him, and a cigar was wedged firmly between
his lips. He was in civilian clothes now. The pants fit him nicely, Marie
thought, even though they weren�t as well tailored as Scott�s or the
professor he protected.
Indeed, Marie had to admire the way his clothes hung off his physique. She
thought about how carefully made her father�s clothing was, and how it
never looked quite right: his small belly protruded outward or his
shoulders sagged. Her father was not an unattractive man, but the years and
Raven had worn him down. The man sitting before her obviously had no such
worries bearing on him. No, he seemed to be in his absolute prime.
She had been staring, she realized when he looked up from his paper and
frowned. Instinctively, his head turned towards her and she had to quickly
avert her gaze. It hadn�t been quickly enough, for she had found herself
caught. She could feel his eyes on her. Feigning indifference, she began
to play with the cuff of her blouse. She turned her head slightly and gave
him a sidelong glance, but he had apparently lost interest and returned to
While flirting with a stranger had once held it's charm, Marie now found it
distasteful. Besides, it wasn't as if this particular stranger was paying
Suddenly quite tired, Marie decided to retire to her compartment.
She looked once more toward the officer - who was still quite content at
looking at his newspaper - and walked out of the smoking car. Before she
reached the next door of the car, she felt a big hand close around her
waist. Another closed around her mouth, muffling her scream.
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