Randal Purcell and John Creighton arrived at the door of their first-class couchette on the Shanghai Express at the same time. They would have to share the cramped accommodation, tickets being at a premium on the last Express of the year out of Peking and arriving in time for Christmas Day. Despite living in the same city, the two Englishmen had never met, and moved in very different circles. They would just have to make the best of it. The first-class carriages were the last four, the furthest from the smoke and din of the engine, behind third and second class. First class comprised two carriages of couchettes, a dining car and a rear carriage with a bar-cum-smoking observation car. Purcell was keen to get home as friends had arranged a Christmas Eve’s carousing in town that would, he had been assured, commence at one of the better nightspots before ending up at several of the more notorious. Detective Chief Inspector John Creighton, of the Shanghai Municipal Police, was also eager to get home. He wanted desperately to be with his wife and daughters enjoying a lavish Christmas feast before putting up his feet in front of the fire and smoking his pipe. The two men nodded curtly and exchanged minor, seemingly disinterested, pleasantries the way all Englishmen do in foreign parts when unexpectedly encountering another of the same peculiar species. How ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg became the ‘taste of Christmas’ Purcell introduced himself as something-or-other in finance and looked only slightly askance when Creighton mentioned he was a policeman. He’d met with worse reactions over the years. They sat on their respective bunks; neither had much luggage. Purcell began intently smoking while flicking through a copy of the China Weekly Review. Creighton gazed out of the carriage window at the swirling snow on the Chienmen Station platform – what had been a flurry was now becoming something heavier. He lit his pipe and slowly puffed away. Two men, smoking, seemingly lost in their own thoughts, both hoping the snowfall would not delay their arrival in Shanghai. Whistles blew, the train chugged off through the ancient Tartar Wall, looking oddly pristine with a blanket of snow along its top. Ahead lay the seemingly endless plains of northern China towards the first stop at Tientsin before a race through the night to make the long run south to Nanking and then, early the next day, following the mighty Yangtze downriver, their scheduled arrival in Shanghai in time for late Christmas Eve. Just past Tientsin the dining-car porter announced the second supper service. Both men had opted for the later sitting. It seemed most of the other passengers had taken the earlier option. Creighton and Purcell were able to take separate tables. Nine Christmas traditions explained – from crackers to figgy pudding After dinner Creighton returned to their couchette, undressed, washed and climbed into his bunk. A long day in Peking, the rhythmic sound of the train and a tot of whisky from his hip flask ensured he soon drifted off. Creighton was dreaming of turkey with all the trimmings when he was awakened by a violent jolt as the Express slammed to a sudden halt. He looked across the dimly lit couchette and noticed that Purcell’s bunk was empty. His watch showed 12.05, he’d only been asleep an hour or so. He assumed Purcell had gone down to the observation car for a late brandy and cigar. Creighton heard a commotion in the corridor outside, agitated voices, and then a rapid knocking on his door followed by a determined whisper. “Detective Chief Inspector Creighton, sir? Chief porter here, sir. I’m sorry to disturb you, but we have desperate need of your help.” Creighton groggily called from his bunk, “What on earth has happened?” “We are stuck in a snowdrift and cannot advance. There has been a small avalanche behind us so we cannot go back either.” Creighton looked out the train carriage window, “Where are we?” “Just past Tenchow Station, sir.” The name meant nothing to Creighton, just one of the myriad small villages the Express sped through on its way south to Shanghai. “I’m not sure what I can do to assist, chief porter.” Some thought the Chinese language would die. They were wrong Creighton realised a delay was now probably inevitable. Nothing to be done but return to sleep. There was little a detective chief inspector could do about a snowdrift. But the chief porter wasn’t budging … he knocked again, appealing to the detective. And so Creighton accepted the inevitable, climbed out of his bunk and unlocked the door. The smartly uniformed Chinese man edged into the cabin looking agitated and whispered, “It’s not the snow, sir, it’s Mr Purcell.” “Purcell?” “Yes, sir, your fellow passenger,” the chief porter motioned to the opposite, empty, bunk. Still slightly foggy with sleep Creighton felt a tad confused. “Well, what about Purcell?” The chief porter looked sheepish, “He’s dead, sir.” “Dead?” Creighton was not sure he had heard the man correctly. “Yes, sir. Stabbed. In the heart …” He motioned to his own chest as if perhaps Creighton were unsure where the heart was located, “ … with a knife.” “Where?” “In the observation car and we thought, well, what with you being a senior detective in Shanghai and this being the Shanghai Express, as well as you being his room companion, you might assist?” Christmas dinner without turkey: why don’t we just eat what Jesus would’ve? The Express’ final car was composed of two sections. As one entered there was a compact bar area, manned by a steward who mixed drinks in the tight space behind. Adjacent was a small stockroom used to prepare snacks or take a break while still close by if a passenger requested a refill. After the bar the carriage became a lounge, with a glass roof and large side windows to allow passengers to drink, smoke and chat as the countryside rolled past. In the far distance Creighton spied a few dim lights and wisps of smoke, which he assumed to be Tenchow. The carriage was lined with leather Chesterfield chairs and two couches, all with smoke stands beside them for cigar ash. In the middle of the carriage was the nervous looking Chinese bar steward standing next to the clearly quite dead body of Randal Purcell, slumped in a chair facing back the way the train had come, staring lifelessly towards the falling snow outside. Looking out the observation windows Creighton could see no sign of footprints, the surrounding snow fresh and undisturbed. Using the chief porter’s lantern he stepped out onto the small observation deck, also covered only in smooth snow. Nobody had entered from the train’s rear. 12 ‘wines’ for the 12 days of Christmas – plus a recipe for mulled wine The bar steward assured Creighton that Purcell had been the only passenger to visit that evening. The steward had brought Purcell a brandy as requested, observed him lighting a cigar, and left him alone. The man had busied himself in the windowless stockroom, out of view of the observation carriage. Then the train had suddenly stopped. He had gone to seek out the chief porter to find out what had happened and been told it was a snowdrift. The bar steward then returned to the observation carriage to inform his lone customer of the reason for the sudden unscheduled stop. He found Purcell still seated facing the rear of the car but noticed his still-smoking cigar had fallen to the carriage floor and was burning a hole in the rug, damaging company property. He moved to retrieve the cigar thinking it had dropped from Purcell’s ashtray in the jarring halt. That’s when he noticed an ivory-handled knife sticking out of the Englishman’s chest. Purcell’s cut-crystal brandy glass was empty in his lap, his eyes still open, and there was a large bloodstain on his white dress shirt where the knife had gone straight into his heart. He was, the steward instantly realised, quite dead. Hong Kong has always had foreign residents who found the city incredibly boring Creighton reasoned that while it was possible to enter the carriage without being observed by the steward back in the stockroom, any shouts, the sound of a struggle, would have been heard. The assailant had to have arrived in the few minutes between the steward entering the stockroom and the sudden halt. Within at most two minutes of the train stopping the bar steward had consulted the chief porter and returned to find Purcell dead. Not much time, but enough, obviously, for someone to enter the observation car quietly, kill the man silently and disappear unseen. Yet, nobody had boarded or disembarked the train since it had stopped as they would surely have left footprints in the snow. Creighton came to the obvious conclusion – whoever killed Purcell was still on the Shanghai Express. The chief porter confirmed that, as per Shanghai Express regulations, the connecting doors between first and second class were locked to stop thieves roaming the train. He confirmed all first-class passengers were accounted for. Creighton asked the chief porter to discreetly lock the carriage doors to prevent anyone leaving the Express. Soldiers from the Chinese army garrison at Tenchow were reportedly being roused to dig the train out of the snowdrift. Still, it seemed the passengers, crew and the dead body would be spending some time stuck in the middle of nowhere in the early hours of Christmas Day. Back in his couchette Creighton rummaged through Purcell’s belongings. He glanced at the copy of the China Weekly Review the man had earlier been perusing: WARLORD RAMPAGE IN MANCHURIA SALT PRICES RISE 7% FOLLOWING STRIKE CALL INVESTORS ROBBED IN WUHAN STOCK SCAM PLAGUE ERUPTS IN SHENSI The usual chaos. He moved on. Purcell, like Creighton, had stayed only overnight in Peking and so had packed just the necessary in his small leather valise. A change of clothes, the soiled garments rolled up haphazardly. Also a wash bag with hairbrush and shaving kit, as well as a vial of what Creighton’s nose detected was an expensive eau de cologne. The Guangzhou hotel bomber whose anti-colonial spirit inspired Ho Chi Minh An attaché case contained a sheaf of papers, seemingly share certificates issued by the Russo-Asiatic Bank of Peking. From Purcell’s jacket Creighton retrieved nothing more than a wallet with some Chinese dollars and a few business cards, a box of Grand Hôtel de Pékin matches, and a brass house key. In sum, nothing to indicate who might have thrust an ivory-handled knife deep into Randal Purcell’s chest. The ever-knowledgeable chief porter provided Creighton a list of all first-class passengers and, handily, their details. A German-sounding count sharing with a Frenchman who worked for a Parisian aviation concern. Two ancient Methodist missionaries returning home to America after four decades spent saving souls in the East. A Russian émigré woman who, the chief porter explained with a raised eyebrow, regularly travelled on the Express. A portly Chinese businessman from Amoy and his aged mother returning south. And two elderly Scottish widows who ran a boarding house in Soochow. Champagne, caviar and massages aboard Vietnam’s first luxury train carriage Creighton dismissed the widows as not appearing strong enough to force a knife into a man’s chest up to the hilt, and then decided to similarly dismiss the missionaries. The count, who turned out to indeed be German, had a broken leg in a cast requiring him to use crutches. It seemed unlikely he could have entered the observation car, murdered Purcell, and left unobserved or unheard in such a state. Creighton had also seen the Chinese businessman and his mother in the corridor. He was corpulent and slow moving while she was sclerotic and hobbled precariously. An unlikely pair of killers. The Frenchman was more interesting. He’d been seen entering the Russian woman’s couchette. She, as a woman travelling alone, was the only first-class passenger to secure a couchette to herself. A liaison, but not of much interest or surprise to Creighton, who had seen it all in his long career. The chief inspector took a table in the first-class dining room, ordered a pot of strong black coffee, and asked the chief porter to summon the various passengers. He decided first to talk to the Frenchman called LaRoche – in his mid-40s, with dark hair, grey flecked at the sides, he was trim and stood upright. Creighton recognised the bearing of a military man. LaRoche stood to attention in front of Creighton’s table. The detective motioned to the coffee pot, LaRoche nodded, and Creighton poured for them both. How Hong Kong’s unattached British servicemen found love between the wars “Please, Monsieur LaRoche, this is not a formal questioning, and I am not a policeman of any jurisdiction within 500 miles of here. My name is John Creighton …” LaRoche interrupted him, “Detective Chief Inspector Creighton, I believe, of the Shanghai Municipal Police?” Creighton, slightly taken aback, replied that he was indeed … “I read the Shanghai newspapers assiduously, detective chief inspector. You feature regularly.” “I am simply trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Mr Purcell.” LaRoche interrupted again, “I hear he is assassiné ! Stabbed? That is the corridor gossip.” “It appears so, monsieur , and so I hope you will tolerate my few questions.” LaRoche nodded, lit a French cigarette, offered the pack to Creighton, who declined. The detective filled his pipe from a small calfskin pouch, put a match to the tobacco and sucked repeatedly to get it started. The two men sat, smoked and sipped their coffee. “You live in Shanghai, Monsieur LaRoche?” “No, I am currently resident in Wuhan, where I am attempting to sell the Chinese Air Force some excellent French aeroplanes.” “Have you met with any success?” LaRoche looked slightly pained, “Not as yet, monsieur chief inspector. There is stiff competition. Still, I hope to prevail. Ours are far superior aircraft.” Some like it hot: sipper’s guide to mulled wine, a Christmas favourite “I’m sure, monsieur . Would I be right to hazard a guess that you yourself are a flying man?” “Indeed you are correct. I was in the French Air Force in la Grande Guerre … and yourself?” Creighton waved his hand as if to dismiss the question, “Nought so grand, a simple common soldier.” LaRoche nodded, implying that nothing in war was simple. “And Shanghai, Monsieur LaRoche?” “I am to spend the noël with an old comrade who lives in the French Concession. I have not been fortunate enough to marry and have a family, monsieur . Christmas is a lonely time of the year for a bachelor. I was in Peking to see a business contact at the bourse and then boarded the Express for Shanghai.” “And, if I may ask, when the train came to a sudden halt you were where, exactly?” “Monsieur chief inspector, we are both men of the world, I think. I accept that the chief porter could not know of our differences, but I was forced to bunk with a German! And I believe you know that I left my couchette to spend time with Mademoiselle Rapova, a woman you have no doubt heard of as she is of some reputation wherever Europeans gather to gossip in China. I have no reason to deny this.” Creighton had spied the Russian émigré Madeline Rapova in the corridor and knew the type – a European woman living on her wits, a “China Coaster”. Nothing so common as a prostitute, but a woman who took lovers, offered good company, spent their money and then moved on. And Creighton was, at least before his marriage, a man of the world. He had little interest in what LaRoche and Mademoiselle Rapova had been up to in her couchette. He cared only that they were indeed where they claimed to be when the train stopped. He thanked LaRoche for his candid answers and assured him his private arrangements were of no interest to him. ‘The Chinese are very intelligent’: When Hong Kong enchanted sailors from afar LaRoche stood and rather startled Creighton by clicking his heels to attention, turning military style and exiting the dining car. Creighton then asked the chief porter if he would be so good as to summon Mademoiselle Madeline Rapova. Creighton had no reason to doubt that LaRoche and Rapova had been anywhere but in her couchette as claimed. But it wasn’t every day that he got to see a genuine “White Flower of the China Coast” up close. Rapova entered the dining car in a cloud of heavy perfume. She wore a tight, full-length, black crepe dress with a daring décolletage, a long, double-looped string of pearls gleaming against her white skin. She had draped a black fur about herself that, rather by design, Creighton assumed, than accident, had fallen off one shoulder. Her hair was a light-brown bob with a centre parting and a wave Creighton thought very modern. She had brought her own cigarettes, in a silver case, and inserted one into a long ivory holder. Creighton indicated the coffee pot. “ Mademoiselle ?” Rapova looked dismissive. “Better a vodka, if you please; for my nerves, you understand?” Mademoiselle Rapova lightly touched her cleavage. Creighton detected a vague Russian accent. Creighton summoned the chief porter and requested a vodka for mademoiselle and a double whisky for himself. It was now officially Christmas. The chief porter disappeared into the observation car. Madeline Rapova looked Creighton in the eye, “Chief inspector, I am afraid I have no papers of any international validity to show you. I am, at present, stateless. Being a Shanghai policeman I am sure you are aware of the multitude of my countrymen in a similar predicament?” Creighton nodded. It was impossible to be ignorant of the thousands of exiled “White” Russians in China. “You are currently resident in Peking?” “I am.” Rapova placed another cigarette in her long holder and allowed Creighton to lean forward and light it. She inhaled deeply. Creighton smelled the aromatic Constantinople tobacco contrasting with LaRoche’s more pungent French cigarette smoke that still lingered. “And may I ask why you are travelling to Shanghai this Christmas?” “I was to meet my fiancé, a bullion dealer in the International Settlement.” Creighton raised an eyebrow, “Fiancé, mademoiselle ? Was Monsieur LaRoche aware of this when you entered into your arrangement with him for the journey.” “He was not, chief inspector. Monsieur LaRoche was a … last-minute liaison.” Sex, violence, suicide: Italian love triangle scandal in 1920s China Creighton sat back and studied Rapova – her black jet earrings, fitted kid gloves, burgundy lipstick leaving traces on her cigarette holder. She flicked her ash with some theatricality. “Don’t be so judgmental, chief inspector. The tragic, yet simple, story of this ridiculous Christmas is that I was to be married to a man who, being wealthy and considerably older, was not concerned about rumour and gossip. However, I received a telegram just before boarding the Express that my fiancé had been ruined in a scandal, a stock market scheme operated by a man in Shanghai I had introduced him to. Feeling deep shame he took his revolver and blew his brains out, thereby, among other things, cancelling our impending marriage. You see, I killed my golden goose through a careless introduction to someone I barely even knew.” The chief porter entered with two glasses on a silver tray setting a vodka before Mademoiselle Rapova and a double whisky before Creighton. Madeline Rapova picked up her glass and downed it in one. “Another …” The chief porter looked to Creighton, who nodded. “I am sorry to hear that, mademoiselle ; it is terrible luck.” “Yes, so near and yet so far, as you British say.” “And LaRoche?” “Despite the news I went to the station anyway. I used my last funds to bribe the chief porter to obtain a couchette for myself. I met LaRoche in the corridor and he noticed my distress. We got to talking. ‘Have an escape plan’: the best ways to avoid drinking during the holidays “Eventually he propositioned me … oh, don’t look so shocked, chief inspector, he is, as you well know, a Frenchman and I am a Russian woman of, I think you would say, ‘dubious occupation’. I decided that I would travel to Shanghai anyway and see what possible new fates awaited me. “Making the journey with Monsieur LaRoche was not, in my opinion, the worst way to take the Shanghai Express.” The chief porter returned with another vodka and placed it before Madeline Rapova. “Did you by any chance know Mr Purcell, the murdered man?” “I did not, though I have known many men and not all of them have told me their real names.” “And you and Monsieur LaRoche did not dine this evening?” “We did not … I was not hungry.” “And once we get to Shanghai, mademoiselle ?” “I shall bid Monsieur LaRoche adieu and hopefully depart the train with a small gift. After that I intend to see what Shanghai has to offer me.” “Thank you, mademoiselle . Bon chance .” Rare images of 19th-century Hong Kong from Chinese photographer “And good luck to you, too, chief inspector.” And with that, Rapova knocked back her second generous measure of vodka, rose and wafted out on a cloud of perfume, just as she’d wafted in. As the double whisky warmed his stomach, Creighton found himself thinking that were he not a happily married man in his 50s attempting to get home to his wife and daughters, time spent with Madeline Rapova would be an enticing way to pass a long train ride. Finally, Creighton quickly quizzed the staff of the first-class carriage. The chefs had been in the kitchens all night; the chief porter in his cramped little office along the couchette’s corridor. He had seen nobody leave their cabins after the second supper sitting. Creighton decided the answer lay in the observation car. The bar steward sat down slightly uneasily and told his story again – Purcell was the only customer that evening; he ordered a brandy and smoked a cigar. He had been in the stockroom until the train came to a halt so had seen no one enter the observation car to join Purcell. After the sudden halt he left the stockroom to find the chief porter, returned, and found Purcell dead. How tobacco first hit China Creighton sat in the Chesterfield in which Purcell had been murdered and gazed out of the train’s rear window at the still falling snow. Purcell’s corpse was lying alongside, now covered with a sheet. It was a method he employed in Shanghai sometimes. Sit where a murder had occurred, smoke his pipe, see if anything fell loose, any theories forthcoming. He saw a line of cold-looking soldiers trudging past with shovels. Hopefully they might soon be on the move. The bar steward asked if the chief inspector would care for a drink. Creighton ordered a brandy, as Purcell had earlier. The steward retreated behind the bar. Creighton turned and watched the steward, now with his back to him, reach up to several brandy bottles on a shelf. Creighton had a thought and called out, “Give me the same brandy Mr Purcell ordered, would you, steward?” The bar steward took no notice but kept on reaching for the bottles. Creighton tried again, a little louder, “I say, steward, let me try the same brandy Purcell drank, please.” Again the man made no sign he had heard Creighton, grabbed a bottle, stepped down, turned round and began to pour out a measure. He smiled at Creighton as he poured and then brought the drink over. As he approached Creighton, the chief inspector tried again, “Is this the same type of brandy Mr Purcell drank earlier?” This time the steward, placing the glass before the detective replied straight away, “Oh no, Mr Purcell drank a regular French brandy, but this is Martell, the best Cognac we stock and I thought for a chief inspector … Will there be anything else, sir?” “No thank you, that will be all.” The steward turned and walked away, back to the bar. Creighton went to relight his pipe but found he was out of matches. He called after the bar steward, “A match please, steward.” There was no reaction from the man, who walked behind the bar and began wiping a glass. Creighton got up, walked across to the bar and stood directly in front of the steward. “Steward, be honest. You’re deaf, aren’t you?” The steward looked shamefaced, but admitted he was. “Please don’t tell the chief porter, sir. He’d be sure to fire me, and I have a wife and three children as well as my elderly parents to care for in Peking. There are never any complaints from the passengers.” “Are you completely deaf, steward?” “As a stone, sir. But I can lip read in French, English and several Chinese dialects.” Creighton nodded. He had no wish for the man to lose his job, but this was crucial information. The steward had served Purcell his brandy, then left the bar for the stockroom where he was, it now transpired, unable to either see or hear anything that happened in the observation car before the train came to a halt in the snowdrift. Anything might have happened and he would not have heard. The question then was who had entered the observation car? Creighton was weighing the idea of a second Cognac when the chief porter entered and announced that the army had almost cleared the snowfall and the train would soon be continuing on its way. They would be late, but they should still make Shanghai on Christmas Day. As the train pulled into Shanghai’s North Railway Station, Detective Chief Inspector John Creighton remained in his couchette. He would let the other passengers leave and then meet whoever came to officially take over the Purcell murder case. While waiting he picked up Purcell’s discarded copy of the China Weekly Review and flicked through its pages. Nuts about walnuts: health benefits and getting the most out of them He noticed Madeline Rapova walk past the carriage window. Their eyes met briefly, and she smiled. He nodded to her. Behind came LaRoche, arguing with a porter over his trunk. Only then did Creighton notice one of the main stories in the Review … INVESTORS ROBBED IN WUHAN STOCK SCAM It appeared that several investors had lost money in what was alleged to be a scam run by Shanghai interests in Wuhan. Creighton dropped the newspaper and ran from the couchette. He leapt to the platform and rushed towards the ticket barrier after the Frenchman. He saw the man still arguing with the porter, he glimpsed Madeline Rapova ahead making for the exit barriers. Where did LaRoche sell planes? Wuhan. Where was the stocks scandal that had ruined so many? Wuhan. What was Purcell’s business in Peking? Someone at the bourse – the stock market! He had said he was something-or-other in finance. Creighton caught up with the Frenchman. “Monsieur, I hope you didn’t lose too heavily in the Wuhan stocks scandal?” LaRoche turned and gave Creighton a bewildered look, “Chief inspector, I have never invested in stocks in my life. It is a lottery, and invariably, I have observed, a rigged one.” Creighton looked beyond the Frenchman and saw that Madeline Rapova was through the barrier, had left the station and was in the back of a taxi pulling out into the streaming traffic of Shanghai. Of course! The one woman who regularly travelled on the Shanghai Express, knew every porter and steward; regularly drank in the observation car, and would have spotted any man’s weakness, even that of a humble bar steward. She would have known he was deaf , that he checked his supplies at the same time every night in the stockroom, and that nobody would hear anything when she was in the car, alone with Purcell. Creighton tried to hurry through the seething masses on the platform. He roughly pushed past the still arguing Frenchman and his porter, through the exit barriers. But the crowd of Shanghailanders and Chinese; the latter with their canvas bundles, the former laden down with Christmas presents; the porters with overloaded trolleys; the hawkers selling snacks and candied fruits; the news boys; the tea sellers; the jostling hotel touts; the whole impenetrable cacophony of the International Settlement blocked his path. Kyoto-Nara-Osaka luxury train in Japan offers a window on history By the time John Creighton reached the street, Madeline Rapova was gone, her taxi swallowed up forever by the vast metropolis of Shanghai. Randal Purcell had sold bad stocks. But did he deserve to die? It seemed that he had ruined the fiancé of a stateless Russian émigré who was close to finally finding security in a marriage to a wealthy man. But who then saw that new life crumble, her hopes destroyed. And then by chance, one Christmas Eve she’d boarded the Shanghai Express, her life in tatters, and entered the observation car to briefly get away from the snoring and perhaps renewed grubby attentions of a French aviation salesman. And there, sitting alone having a brandy and cigar, was the man the terrible telegram had told her was responsible for her fiancé’s suicide. She must have recognised him instantly, the man she had once casually, unthinkingly, innocently introduced to her fiancé. The man who had ruined him and thereby destroyed her future. She saw her chance. A woman like Madeline Rapova would never travel without a weapon to protect herself if necessary. Perhaps she argued with Purcell. Told him of her plight. Perhaps he laughed in her face. He was a magician so good, an American pretended to be Chinese to copy him And then the train ran into the snowdrift, jarring to a sudden halt. She fell forward, or perhaps she inadvertently lunged, knife in hand. Either way it plunged deep into Purcell’s chest, piercing his heart and killing him. She was then left to escape back to the oblivious LaRoche, to remain with him until the train reached Shanghai and she could disappear. Creighton could see it all in his mind’s eye – her anger, Purcell’s dismissal of her, the knife appearing, the surprised look on Purcell’s face when the blade plunged in as the train lurched to a stop. Her sense of vengeance. His death. But now she was gone, and it was Christmas Day. Detective Chief Inspector John Creighton just wanted to go home, see if there was any Christmas dinner left for him, sit in his armchair, pour a whisky, and smoke his pipe.