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Author's Chapter Notes:
The identity of the mysterious "business partner" is revealed and things take a nasty turn......

Lucy decided there was only one thing to do. She had to speak to Aunt Jane. The other parts of the train were out-of-bounds and even elevation to the dizzy heights of Head Girl would not save Lucy from punishment if she were caught. Consequently she checked carefully that there was no-one around before she left the school’s part of the train.

Miss Marple was not, in fact, Lucy’s aunt, but it had suited both of them to let the school think they were related when they first set off on their adventures. The truth had eventually emerged but everyone was so used to regarding Miss Marple as Lucy’s aunt that the real situation had been forgotten.

Aunt Jane was sharing a compartment with a dapper little man with a huge black moustache who rose to his feet and bowed as she entered. Lucy was reluctant to pour out her troubles in front of a stranger but Miss Marple waved her objections aside.

‘Monsieur Poirot is the soul of discretion, Lucy dear. You can speak freely.’

Lucy explained what she had discovered. ‘Some of the older girls were at the school when Miss Bubb was temporary Headmistress,’ she finished. ‘It was really dreadful.’

‘So, Mademoiselle Lucy, you need something to put off the so-dreadful Miss Bubb, n’est-ce pas?’

‘Yes, Monsieur Poirot, but I don’t know what.’

‘Fear not, ma petite, you are a young lady most inventive, from the stories your Aunt Jane has told me. And we will also put on the caps for thinking and let the leetle grey cells do their work.’

‘Thank you, Monsieur Poirot,’ Lucy said politely, getting to her feet. ‘I must go back before Miss Annersley wak-, er, notices that I’m missing.’

Lucy hurried back along the corridor and let herself back into the school’s first carriage.

‘And what, may I ask, were you doing out-of-bounds?’ Miss Annersley said, from nowhere Lucy could see. Lucy jumped. She had bargained on Miss A being out for the count for a lot longer, the amount of G&T she’d swallowed. Then she realised what it was.

‘Charity Black! Come out here right now! How many times have I told you not to impersonate the mistresses?’

Charity appeared, grinning, from the first compartment. ‘Well, what were you doing?’

‘I was on school business,’ Lucy said loftily. ‘And it’s nothing to do with you.’

‘We’ll see what Miss Annersley thinks about that. Or Madame,’ Charity retorted.

‘If you sneak on me, I’ll make sure you’re on hobby club duty with Lower IVb for the rest of the term,’ Lucy told her.

‘Ok,’ Charity said sulkily. ‘I’ll keep quiet.’

Organising Kaffee und Kuchen and later Abendessen for the girls and getting them all to the right compartments at bed-time kept Lucy occupied for the rest of the day. Miss Annersley was snoozing again, after a top-up of G&T, and Madge & Co stayed resolutely in their compartment and were no help at all. Luckily she was able to rely on some of the other prefects.

‘Phew!’ Nita Eltringham, Lucy’s particular friend, said as she flopped down on a seat. ‘Those Middles were absolute little devils tonight!’

‘You’re telling me!’ Daphne said. ‘I had to threaten Patience and Prudence with Joey’s tales of her school-days before they would shut up and go to sleep.’

Nina Williams arrived in the compartment. She had been helping Miss Denny with the juniors, who were in a separate carriage further along the train.

‘I’ll swing for those bloody triplets of Joey’s before this journey’s over!’ she said. ‘Budge up, Lucy.’

‘Slang, Nina? That will be a double order mark,’ came a voice from the corridor.

Lucy got up and opened the compartment door. ‘Charity Black! Go back to bed right now unless you want to be put on the first train back to Wales!’

When she was sure they were on their own, Lucy told the others about the proposed take-over of the school. There were howls of indignation.

‘Shush!’ Lucy said. ‘They’re only two compartments down from here. What I want to know is, who is the business partner and how does Miss A know her?’

‘Simple,’ Nina said. ‘I heard Madame telling Joey that it was a shame that Miss Bubb had teamed up with someone as horrible as Matron Webb, but needs must.’

‘Matron Webb! Wasn’t she here in the olden days?’ Daphne asked.

‘Yes,’ Lucy said. ‘Joey told me all about her when I was sent to listen to her Chalet School Legends talk.’

Nina was shocked. ‘Lucy! Whatever did you do that was naughty enough to deserve that?’

‘Well you know that Miss Wilson has always had a down on me since I exposed the exam scam,’ Lucy said. ‘She caught me day-dreaming in her geography class and so she sent me to the talk.’

‘Didn’t you complain to Miss Annersley?’

‘Yes, but it didn’t do any good. Miss A said that Bill would go into a rage if she was thwarted and would come up with a nastier punishment.’

‘There isn’t one,’ Nita said with feeling. ‘Even Miss Annersley only uses that for really bad misbehaviour.’

‘Never mind all that,’ Daphne said. ‘What are we going to do about this take-over?’

Three heads turned in Lucy’s direction.

‘I’ve no idea,’ Lucy said. ‘I’m going to sleep on it and see if anything occurs to me by the morning.’

After a surprisingly good sleep, Lucy woke early. Something seemed strange but at first she couldn’t work out what it was. Then she realised. The train wasn’t moving. It must be in a station, she thought, but which one. She pulled the curtain back a tiny bit but there was no station in sight – just miles of snow. They must be stuck!

She got up and washed and dressed quickly before setting off to find the guard. Thoughts of being cooped up in a train with stir-crazy Middles were horrific. She had to find out what was happening about getting to civilisation. There was no sign of any member of staff, but mercifully the Juniors and Middles were still sleeping.

Lucy decided to see if Miss Annersley was awake and knocked gently on the door of her compartment. She heard a sound which she took to be permission to enter and slid back the door, to be greeted with a truly horrific sight. She stepped back quickly and shut the door, running straight along the train and through to the next carriage.

Miss Marple was seated in her compartment, knitting when Lucy burst in.

‘Aunt Jane! There’s been a murr-der!’

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