Chapter 1: A Talented Amateur

by rabidsamfan and Timeless A-Peel

Beta by Khell, kibbitzing by clevertoad and cuthalion.

Disclaimer: The New Avengers are copyrighted by Canal+, and this is just for fun. The publicity picture which inspired this story is on a recent trading card from Strictly Ink (though you can see it at http://docs. google. com /View?docID(equalsign)d4pccjp(underline)215hr7t95 if you're curious. Replace the parentheses with the named punctuation and take out the spaces. And curse ff.n's document editor for me, will you?) It's the back of card 70. It clearly predates the series, which gave us the idea and a license to play...

"I took three bullets whilst scrambling over the Wall last year..." – Mike Gambit, The Eagle's Nest
Purdey was as surprised as any of her martial arts classmates when Steed (Steed!) put his bowler-topped head into the dojo and interrupted Spence. "Do you mind if I borrow Purdey?"

"Of course not," Spence answered cheerfully. "Should she change first?"

The legendary agent glanced over to Purdey, and she resisted the urge to tug the lapels of her jacket closer together. She had had the good sense to begin wearing a leotard under the shapeless white gi after the first lesson, and it wasn't her fault that the only clean leotard she'd had left this morning was the one which had been tie-dyed in brilliant pinks and purples and yellows during the celebration of the end of finals while she was at the Sorbonne. Still, somehow the garishness hadn't mattered quite so much at six in the morning when she'd put it in her gym bag.

Steed didn't seem to mind, though. He was certainly giving her a friendly eye. "Yes," he answered Spence, although he nodded to Purdey. "This may take some time."

She showered and changed in record time, not sure whether to be glad or sorry that she'd chosen to wear the "Mata Hari" outfit her mother had gifted her with as congratulations for passing the first few hurdles and making Trainee status. It was a beautiful white silk dress, with a matching hat, and she'd been glad to have her "official" identification picture taken in it. But it suddenly occurred to her that the dress was as noticeable in its own way as the leotard had been – and it was clinging rather more than usual since she hadn't taken the time to get completely dry before putting it on.

Luckily, Steed either didn't notice, or was too much of a gentleman to let his glance linger. He took her arm and started her down the corridor. "You understand German, don't you?" Steed asked, as they turned toward the records section and Purdey bit down hard on the urge to pretend expertise.

"I can get by," she said carefully. "I'm better at French or Russian."

"You don't need to be perfect," Steed said. "In fact, if you play it as if you don't understand more than the average tourist, you may hear something useful. I need someone to go over to Berlin and fetch out an injured agent. Preferably someone who hasn't turned up in their lists just yet." He beamed at her. "Interested?"

"Very," she said. "But you do know I've only been in training for a week?"

"That's why you won't be on their lists. Besides, I need a girl."

"Why a girl?"

"Because none of the rest of the trainees can really pass as 'Mabel'." He pushed open the door to the room where she'd come this morning to have her photo taken and gestured her inside.

Purdey arched an eyebrow. "Mabel?" she echoed. "Should be interesting."

The flight to Berlin was barely long enough to get her instructions firmly memorized, and she torched the flashpaper list in the airplane loo just as the pilot announced that everyone should return to their seats for landing. Steed had managed to get her aboard -- with false papers in the name of Mabel Horrocks! -- not an hour after she'd agreed to go, and her stomach was only now noticing what she'd got herself into. I'll have to get used to this, she told herself firmly. Jangling nerves... Jangly nerves? Why would nerves jangle? Anyway, it doesn't matter. I don't need them now. This is an easy job. Go to the hospital, get them to sign Gambit out for transport back to London, and then fly home.

Of course, the tricky part was likely to be convincing Gambit that he should come along. She'd have to talk pretty fast to get him to accept her act as "Mabel" before someone suspected something. Steed had given her a password, of course, but it wasn't going to be easy to find a reason to mention Debussy in the first thirty seconds. Or fifteen... Why not just bring Gambit out the usual way? Steed had been very cagey about his reasons for sending Purdey -- not that he'd had time to elaborate during the mad dash to Heathrow. Go in, get Gambit, get out -- that was the assignment, and Purdey suppressed a craven wish that she would be testing her mettle with the aid of a more experienced agent. One of the West Germans, perhaps, who wouldn't be as likely to use the wrong word in a crisis.

But Steed had said not to let anyone -- except Gambit, who wouldn't need to be told -- know that she was anything but a concerned family member. An aunt, in case Gambit had said that much under the anesthesia -- the trophy wife of a fictitious Uncle John who was laid up and couldn't come himself, commissioned to bring the wayward lad home again. She wondered what exactly had happened to him. Steed hadn't heard the answering machine message for himself, and knew no more than the third-hand tale he'd heard from the real Mabel Horrocks. The doctor had said Gambit was robbed. And so he might have been, Steed admitted, but not unless he was already disabled. More likely something had gone wrong as he came back over the Wall.

She considered the possibilities all the way through customs and on the cab ride to the hospital, only to ditch the lot as soon as she reached the hospital. She hadn't expected it to be so close to the graffiti-encrusted Wall, and her first view of that concrete and barbed wire barrier gave her chills. Better to contemplate the hospital. It was a beautiful old building made of red brick, but on closer inspection it proved to have a faintly shabby air of neglect, and most of the staff appeared to be either as green as grass or eking out their time in harness with eyes turned ahead towards retirement. The exceptions were mostly orderlies, as near as she could see -- tall, beefy men who wouldn't have looked out of place in wartime propaganda film.

Purdey made her way over to the reception desk. The nurse manning it was obviously playing for the retirement team. She regarded Purdey with little interest. Well, no one had said anything about a welcoming committee. Purdey put on her most charming smile.

"Hello," she began, then winced and made a show of digging into the voluminous shoulderbag that she'd been issued along with the fake papers and a "standard suitcase-female". Steed had acquired a touristy phrase book from an airport kiosk and added it to the usual equipment, not out of doubt in her linguistic abilities, but as a prop, and she thought this was the best place to start employing it. The nurse waited with an air of bored patience while Purdey flipped through the pages and then continued in German. "I'm here to see one of your patients..."

"Name?" the nurse asked, using the English word, which Purdey thought was a fairly gentle way to indicate that she meant to put someone out of linguistic misery.

"Gambit," Purdey sniffled. "Michael Gambit. My husband's nephew. I was told he'd been in some sort of incident, and, well--" Purdey rummaged in her bag again, and produced a handkerchief to dab her eyes. She was suddenly very glad of the drama classes she'd been required to take at the Royal Ballet School. Hopefully the high marks she'd usually received were an accurate indicator of her skills. "My husband and I were so worried; I came over as soon as I could, to bring him home."

The receptionist didn't look unconvinced, which was good, but she didn't seem particularly sympathetic, either. Oh, well. Purdey wasn't looking for tea and sympathy, anyway. She waited while the receptionist rifled through some files, opened one on top of the desk, and gave it a once-over. "Ah, ja," the woman said, with dawning recognition. "The young man who was shot."

Purdey had half expected that -- Gambit wouldn't have needed a surgeon for a few bruises. But she wobbled a little, the way she thought that Mabel ought to, and reached out to grab the counter, as if to steady herself. "Shot? No one said anything about him being shot."

The nurse nodded. "Ja, three times. These dangerous thieves we have."

Three times?! "Is he going to be all right?" Purdey asked, glad that being Mabel gave her a good reason for a quaver in her voice.

That elicited a shrug from the receptionist. "You must ask Dr. Buchheim this when he comes on rounds. But according to the file I see that your nephew made it through the night, and there have been no complications with the surgery."

"Oh, thank goodness." Purdey put a hand over her chest dramatically. "Could I see him?"

"Room 305," the nurse confirmed, and signalled for one of the beefy orderlies. "That's in the oldest part of the building. He'll escort you."

"Oh, thank you. You've been so helpful in this difficult time." The nurse nodded, and waved Purdey off in the direction of the stairs. The orderly indicated for her to go first.

"This way."

After trekking through a maze of corridors, they finally arrived at room 305. The orderly opened the door for her, and she stepped inside.

Steed had supplied Purdey with a picture of Gambit amongst the other briefing material. She'd taken a good long look -- she wanted to be able to recognize him quickly -- but since the picture had been a black and white Xerox of what had probably been a color photo, and small enough to fit on an ID card, it had been about as complimentary as a driver's license, and she'd wondered what he'd look like with the colors filled in. She was still wondering -- his face was ghost white, blending in too well with the pillow, and thrown into sharp relief by the dark curly hair –- but it was a handsome face despite the scruff of unshaven beard. High cheekbones and what her mother would call a "strong" nose and chin, eyebrows as dark as the hair and eyelashes that might make a model jealous. His hands were bruised and scraped, but shapely under the traces of a too hasty cleaning. And as for the rest of him – well, no one looked their best in a hospital bed, but Purdey had to admit that the half that was showing above the top edge of the covers was in good shape. Although if he worked out as zealously as her classmates did, that was no surprise.

He was surrounded by machines and tubes, all of which were hooked up to various parts of his body, and Purdey couldn't help but pay extra notice to the bright patches of white where he'd been bandaged up. The chest, the arm... I wonder where the third bullet hit.

Purdey realised she was being eyed by the orderly, and that she'd been standing there gaping a bit too long. "He's so pale," she said by way of explanation. "It's a bit of a shock." Dab, dab with the handkerchief. She was debating whether or not to try and wake him, since his eyes had yet to open, when she saw the flicker of an eyelid. One blue eye slid open, then the other. He stared at Purdey for a moment, confusion written across his features. Purdey stared back.

"Your aunt has come to see you," explained the orderly. Gambit frowned.

"But you're not--"

"Uncle John!" Purdey blurted out, before Gambit could blow her cover. Gambit and the orderly jolted a little in surprise, and Purdey realised her volume was a touch above what was really appropriate in these circumstances. "I know, Michael. He wanted to be here, but you know his lungs are still weak after that bout with pneumonia, and he can't travel with all that dry, recirculated air on the plane, so he sent me instead."

"But I haven't seen you--" Gambit tried to protest.

"Since the Debussy concert last summer in the midlands, I know." Purdey started making her way to his bedside. "But I've missed you all this time, and you haven't even bothered to write. Then I get here and find out you've been shot. Honestly, you look like you've been in a hunting accident."

Gambit's eyes had narrowed just the tiniest bit when she had said the code word, and Purdey felt a wash of relief. Now all she had to do was keep up the act. "Never mind, though. I'm just glad to see you alive." She leaned in to give him an auntly peck on the forehead, but Gambit's hand came up fast around the back of her neck to change the trajectory so that her mouth ended up against his.

"Michael," she sputtered as she tried to pull away, "Uncle John."

"What Uncle John doesn't know won't hurt him," Gambit purred, and pulled her back into the kiss. This time Purdey found it harder to fight, and she heard the embarrassed cough of the orderly almost through a haze.

"I will leave you to, er, talk," he managed, in English, before quitting the room, muttering something about the marital ethics of the British upper class.

As soon as he was gone, Purdey snapped out of the pleasant daze into which she had lapsed as a sharp pain emanated from her neck. She was still trying to figure out exactly what was happening when she heard Gambit's voice, soft and close to her ear.

"What you don't know," he told her, his voice laced with menace, "can hurt you. Fatally, even."

Purdey blanched, and tried to say something, but Gambit clamped his other hand over her mouth.

"You really shouldn't whisper little intimacies in my ear like that, Mabel," he announced to the room at large. "What if someone was listening?" He fixed her with a meaningful gaze.

Purdey's eyes widened. She'd have to be a fool not to understand what he was trying to tell her. Gambit's room was bugged. She nodded slightly to indicate understanding, but not too much, since his other hand was still squeezing the back of her neck, threatening to do much more than knock off her already precarious hat. Gambit had eased the grip a little, but he was still regarding her with a healthy dose of skepticism. He didn't believe her, even with the codeword. Not that she blamed him when the hospital was under surveillance. She'd have to come up with some way of convincing him. Something about Steed, maybe. She didn't know much about the man, beyond rumors and what she'd seen on Orientation Day.

"Uncle John," she tried. Surely he knew she meant Steed? "He really is quite worried about you, although he said you wouldn't believe that -- that you'd think he was just talking through his hat." She reached up tentatively and obliged him with a mini-doff of her own chapeau, hoping he'd recognise the advanced target range model's signature gesture.

Gambit raised an eyebrow at that. "Did he?"

Purdey racked her brains. What else could she say? Steed had been so very cryptic on the drive to the airport. But he had said one thing that might matter. "Yes, but he's still going to leave you the trust fund. You know how he likes to be prepared for a rainy day."

That did it. The hand loosened, and Purdey found she could stand up straight again.

"So, Mabel," Gambit said, after mouthing a 'sorry' at her. "You heard the news and came running?"

"Something like that," Purdey told him, keeping up the charade for their uninvited listeners. "Although I'd no idea you'd been shot. Nothing vital, I hope?"

"The one in the chest didn't do my lung much good. The other two were only flesh wounds." Gambit said it so casually he could have easily been discussing the latest cricket scores. Purdey couldn't help but be a little impressed. An actual agent, working in the field! She only hoped she'd be able to pass the tests.

"Some hunting accident," she put in for the cover. "Or was it a jealous husband? You don't look anything like a grouse."

"Someone thought so," Gambit reminded her, his mouth pursing grimly as his whole face darkened. "Someone who shouldn't have." The cloud passed, and he seemed to remember she was there. "Going to be visiting long?"

"Your uncle thought I'd be able to bring you home on the next flight," she said doubtfully, looking at the monitors. "But..."

"What, all that lot?" Gambit said. "I'm not sure it's strictly necessary." He shifted a little on his pillow, trying to look too, and Purdey saw the green line of the heart monitor pick up its pace. "But you can thank him for the thought. He knows how much I hate hospitals."

"Herr Gambit?" A nurse came through the door, carrying a tray with a cup of water and a dish of pills. She was in her late twenties, perky, with an hourglass figure and a head of glorious red hair. Purdey's hackles went up, and she took Gambit's hand possessively. "It is time for your ... oh," the intruder said brightly, her eyes fixing only for a moment on the lipstick that had transferred itself to Gambit's face before they came up to meet Purdey's. "You have the visitor!"

"It can't be time already," Gambit said sullenly. "I had the last doses at noon."

"Yes, perhaps a bit early, but we are very understaffed. And the doctor, now for to remove the tube for the draining he is coming. You will need the pain pill, ja?"

That's not a very good job of pretending to have limited English, Purdey thought. She sounds like something out of a bad operetta. "Which doctor is that?" she asked, hoping her voice wouldn't betray too much hostility. Or if it did, that the girl would mistake the cause.

"Doctor Wilhelm Buchheim."

Purdey relaxed a fraction. "Oh, that's the doctor who called and left the message for us." She saw the question in Gambit's eyes and continued. "I think he must be the surgeon who operated on you."

"The one who saved my life, you mean?" Gambit said.

"Oh, surely it wasn't that bad," Purdey protested, the way she thought that Mabel should, but her hand tightened on his before she let it go. She felt like he was asking another question as well, one she didn't know the answer to, about how trustworthy the doctor must be. "But we were grateful to him for calling. And it's not like you can go anywhere with that tube still in you."

"True enough." Gambit accepted the pills from the nurse one at a time, and chased them down with sips of water. But once the woman had delivered a grammar-deficient homily about how he should be resting and not chatting with visitors and gone, he tapped Purdey's elbow. "Can I borrow your handkerchief?"

Purdey dug into her purse and produced it, and he used it to wipe his mouth -- but when he handed it back she could feel the shapes of two half-melted pills tucked into the folds of cloth. She started to look at them and then had to hastily convert the movement into a faked sneeze when the door to the room opened again. She tucked the handkerchief into her purse again and turned to face the new threat.

But the elderly doctor who had come in made her think of nothing more dangerous than a beneficent monk, complete with balding head and kind, understanding eyes. "Gesundheit," he said politely. "I'm afraid, however, if you have a cold, you should not be visiting my patient."

"Oh, it's not a cold," Purdey said hastily, kicking herself for the mistake. "I think I must be allergic to the perfume that nurse was wearing."

One bushy eyebrow rose. "She must be one of the substitutes who were sent over from Krankenhaus Benjamin Franklin," he said thoughtfully. "Our regular staff all know better than to use scent while they are working. Particularly near thoracic patients." He nodded to her. "Forgive me, I am Doctor Buchheim."

"Mabel Horrocks," Purdey had been expecting that unvoiced question, and she was pleased with how quickly she came back with the right answer. She accepted the handshake across the bed.

"And Mr. Gambit," the doctor added, taking one of Gambit's wrists and feeling for the pulse. "You do not remember me, I am sure, but we met very early yesterday morning."

"Actually, I do," Gambit said, studying the doctor's face. "You kept poking at things and telling me to breathe."

The doctor nodded. "Very good! And that reminds me -- you entrusted to me this." From a pocket he produced a gold chain with a St. Christopher and a small silver key dangling from it.

For the first time Purdey saw Gambit smile. It was a nice smile, and it changed his whole face, making him look younger and even more attractive. "I thought I'd lost it." He accepted the chain gladly and began to fumble at the catch.

"Let me," Purdey said, taking the chain and unhooking the clasp before handing the chain back to Gambit. "There."

"I am sorry. I would have brought it sooner, but it has been a very busy time. Several of my best nurses have taken ill." Given the dark circles under the surgeon's eyes, Purdey thought that might be the truth.

"That's all right." Gambit slid the key off the chain and handed it to Purdey. "Here. You can make yourself useful, Auntie."

"I can?"

"Well, the doctor's about to throw you out while he pokes some more. So you can pop over to the train station and see what the schedule looks like. Uncle John won't wait for us forever." The IV in his uninjured arm got in the way of Gambit's being able to get the chain back around his neck, but Purdey didn't think that was why he was scowling.

"I planned to take you home on a plane," Purdey answered, frowning. She took the chain and got it into place, hooking the clasp.

"Mr. Gambit is not going to be fit to travel by air for several days, I'm afraid," the doctor said, "Not until there is no risk to the lung. But he is quite correct. I am going to ask you to give us some privacy."

"All right," Purdey sighed. "I'll be back soon." She actually succeeded in kissing Gambit's forehead that time, and he gave her a saucy wink before she left. She couldn't help but smile at the gall of the man--he didn't even know her name.

Purdey thoughts were zipping along at high speed while she found her way back down through the maze of corridors and out onto the street. If Gambit was under surveillance, this had obviously gone beyond a simple retrieval assignment. The nurse was definitely suspect; she didn't fit either of the teams Purdey had picked out earlier and if Gambit was foregoing his pain meds, he must have come to a similar conclusion. Heaven only knew how much he was suffering without them. No wonder he was so pale.

It wasn't until she was in the cab that she realized that she didn't know which train station Gambit wanted her to go to. She pulled out her tourist phrase book, and some pamphlets she'd snagged while waiting for her luggage at the airport to try to figure it out, but the cab driver, when he was consulted, said that there was only one train station that mattered if you wanted to leave Berlin going west -- the Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten -- usually just called the Bahnhof Zoo.

It was smaller than she expected -- nothing like the size of Paddington or King's Cross -- and crowded with not only travellers but also knots of young people clad in things that had been bright once, but had grown shabby through too much wear. Some were blithely ignoring the world around them, some begged for coins, and some were eyeing the regular commuters like lions contemplating a herd of gazelles. Purdey held on tight to her purse as she waited in the line to the wickets where she could ask for a copy of the schedule. When she reached the counter, she made a snap decision, and purchased several sets of tickets for as many departure times as possible over the next few days, regardless of destinations, as long as the trains were heading west. If Gambit was up to it, she wanted to get him out of that hospital as soon as possible, out of Berlin ideally. She had a feeling they might need to keep their options open, and besides, what good was an expense account if you didn't make use of it? The man who gave her her tickets looked at her a little oddly but didn't comment. By now he probably thought that all tourists were mad.

The thick packet of tickets safely stowed in her purse, she set out on her other, implicitly-assigned task. The key. Obviously to a locker of some sort.

It didn't take Purdey long to locate Gambit's locker--125, as it said on the key. Inside she found one gray suitcase, and a small carry-on. The man travelled light, she had to give him that. Putting the carry-on over her shoulder, she got a good grip on the suitcase, and made her way back toward the entrance to hail another cab.

On the drive back, Purdey's curiosity got the better of her, and she decided to do a little snooping. After all, she was justified in knowing something of the man that wasn't in the files, and since he'd already gotten a kiss out of her, she thought he owed her at least that much. The suitcase was too awkward to open in the back of a cab, but the carry-on rested perfectly in her lap. In one fluid motion, she had it unzipped and was rifling through it. A few mundane items--toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, shaving kit. Some sort of magazine for people who collected weapons--crossbows, blow-pipes. Purdey flipped through it and quickly lost interest. No codes or anything, unless the star Gambit had put by some little miniature crossbow used by vampire hunters was meant to indicate something other than "I want." She doubted it, and decided that Gambit had better have some other hobbies if they were going to get on at all. That was when she found the book on syllogisms. Philosophy. Maybe they'd be all right after all...There was also a second, smaller book. Slim, black, no writing on the outside. Some sort of address and appointment book. Purdey opened it to a random page, and read a few of the names, complete with telephone numbers and notes, presumably about each person. It didn't take long for Purdey to realise that all the people listed were women. One entry had been a Ph. D. student of Greek history and literature. Purdey was surprised to feel her eyes narrow and her lips purse angrily. She found herself concocting a few unpleasant fates for Miss Greek Student. She briefly considered throwing the little black book out the window, but realised that would only lead to questions. She popped it back in the bag. There was also a 4x6 envelope with all of the required "top secret" and "button-lip" insignias. Purdey let that be. She had the clearance, but not the "need to know," and with the regulations echoing in her head from yesterday's class, she wasn't about to risk her nascent career for idle curiosity. If Gambit wanted her to know, he would tell her. She zipped the bag back up. After that book, she wasn't really interested in finding out anything more anyway.

She made a brief stop in the waiting room. If Gambit and the doctor were still busy, she'd need something to keep herself occupied, and she wasn't planning on dipping into the little black book again. There was the usual stack of magazines, and Purdey rifled through them in search of the German equivalent of Vogue. She found several issues of something called Brigitte, which seemed a close substitute. They were all hideously out-of-date, of course. Purdey marvelled at the seemingly universal creed that no waiting room be blessed with any publication less than six months past its relevance. Sometimes she swore doctors ordered the things special from the back issue bins.

But by the time she returned to the hospital room, Gambit was alone again. Some of the machines had been unhooked, and he didn't have an IV to worry about, but the EKG was still connected and blipping softly, its wires vanishing under a fresh nightshirt that hid the worst of the damage. His color was better than it had been though, and his eyes opened straight away.

"Mabel!" he greeted her, looking nearly as delighted as he'd been to get his chain back again. "You came back!"

"Of course I did," she said, shaking her head at him and resisting the urge to smile back. "I left my suitcase here, remember? Speaking of which..." She held up the things she'd picked up at the train station. "Anything you wanted right away? Magazines? Books?" She hadn't meant to stress that last one, but she was still bothered by the slim tome, and bothered that it bothered her.

Gambit regarded her quizzically, but he beckoned her closer and took the smaller bag as soon as he could reach it. "I'm not up to reading just yet," he said, as he checked the contents.

"You look better, though," she said, making a conscious effort to be less hostile. He'd be asking her what was wrong otherwise and she had no intention of explaining.

"Dr. Buchheim decided to use Novocain on me to get the tube out, since he had to poke around the incision," Gambit said, and looked up long enough to grin at her again. "I can't feel a blessed thing anywhere near the stitches." He pulled the shaving kit out and tucked the bag down beside his hip. "Ah... here. I could use a shave. Plug it in for me, will you, Mabel-love?"

Mabel-love? But he winked at her in a way that wasn't so much flirtatious as it was sharing a secret. She took the cord of his electric razor and found an outlet near the headboard.

He switched on the razor and began to run it over his chin. "There -- that'll scramble any bugs so we can talk. Did you get a schedule?"

"Better. I got tickets, starting tonight and going forward for the next few days. I didn't think anyone could be watching me yet."

He nodded. "Probably not. Any questions on your side? I can't keep this going forever."

Purdey remembered the handkerchief. "Why aren't you taking the pain pills?"

"Keep from saying something under the influence. Something incriminating. Plus, I'm not entirely certain they're just pain pills. Might be a truth drug. Either way, I'm not risking it. I've already taken enough chances, and who knows what's come out under anaesthesia, or while I've been sleeping." As if the mention of sleep were too much he had to pause to yawn.

"You need your rest," Purdey told him. "Look, we can't possibly get out of Berlin until this evening. Take a nap now. I'll keep an eye on you, and if you start blurting out top hush information, I'll be sure to give you a poke."

"Thanks." That smile again. Purdey felt her knees wobble a bit. "Keep an eye on that nurse while you're at it. I don't trust her as far as I can throw her." He finished his face. "That's all our time. I'm not going to risk any longer. I'll be a little more coherent after I've slept." He indicated the razor. "Ready?" She nodded, and he switched it off and went on talking as if he were in the middle of something. "...but you know how bad Uncle John is about sending letters. Last I heard from him was a postcard saying he was nearly well and that you were thinking about taking on a new job. You do have a new job, don't you?"

"Very new," Purdey answered, catching his slight emphasis on the word. "First pay packet next Friday."

Gambit's eyebrows climbed into his hair. "That's new all right," he muttered.

"Yes," she went on, pretending blitheness. "But I'm told I'm going to be very good at it. Now. You should really close your eyes and get some rest."

"But..." he began.

"Nap first. Then we'll talk." Purdey pushed him against the pillow, and confiscated the razor.

"Don't I get a goodnight kiss?" he asked, pulling the covers up to his chin.

"I want you to sleep, " Purdey informed him, but she kissed a fingertip and touched it to his lips anyway. "Sweet dreams."

"You may depend on it," he said with a grin, and in seconds he was out.

A couple of hours passed, and Purdey didn't leave Gambit's side, much to the annoyance of the pretty nurse, who checked in on the patient a few times more than was strictly necessary, especially since the place was so understaffed to begin with. She treated Purdey with what she obviously thought were friendly smiles, but they sent chills down Purdey's spine, and she scooched her chair a bit closer to Gambit's bedside.

The joys of flipping through the magazines palled fairly quickly, but that was all right -- it gave Purdey some time to think. Gambit looked quite serene when he slept; ironic considering what he'd been through. Shot. Just like her father. Only Gambit had lived to tell about it. She sighed at the memory. She hadn't thought much about the ramifications of her late father's occupation until recently, since she had joined the Ministry. It was hard to reconcile the warm man she had known with the cool professionals she'd passed in the corridors, men who could kill you without batting an eye. Her father must have killed people, but she couldn't wrap her head around it. Gambit obviously had, too, considering the grip he'd gotten on her neck. He could've incapacitated her easily.

Presumably Purdey would have to do the deed some day. She was prepared for the eventuality, and people did say she took after her father in many ways. Although she was fairly certain he hadn't greeted his Mata Haris the way Gambit had her. She grinned. Her mother wouldn't have stood for it, that much was certain.

That brought her back to the kiss. At least she was getting a few perks out of the job, even if Gambit's prowess was obviously due to a lot of practice.

Eventually, the orderly turned up again, bringing Gambit's dinner. Gambit's eyelids flickered open as the man shifted around the bedtable and set the tray in front of him. Purdey rose and made her way over to Gambit so he wouldn't have to sit up unassisted. "Still here?" he managed through a half-yawn.

"Someone has to tend the bedside. It was the reason Uncle John sent me out." The orderly cranked up the head of the bed and Purdey rearranged pillows so that Gambit could face his dinner. But she waited until the orderly had gone before she took the warming cover off the tray. Underneath was a bowl of some kind of porridge, served with a packet of sugar and a small dish of butter. Gambit scowled at it, and Purdey got the impression he didn't trust it anymore than he did the pills.

"It doesn't look like much," she admitted.

"Doesn't taste like much either," Gambit grumbled, poking at it with a spoon. Then he brightened a little. "You haven't eaten, have you?"

"No," Purdey's stomach rumbled and she felt her cheeks going pink. "Not since breakfast, actually."

"Dr. Buchheim said he wanted me to get out of bed for a while, to start getting my strength back. There's got to be food somewhere in this place. Why don't I go with you and keep you company while you have some real food? I'll admit I'm going a little stir-crazy here."

Purdey grinned. That was one way of getting out of range of the listeners. "What the nurses don't know won't hurt them, but do you think you can make it that far?"

"I don't see why not," he told her, already removing some of the wires from his body, before swinging his feet out from under the covers and making an attempt at actually standing. That didn't go too badly but when he tried to lean over to hunt out his slippers he paled and Purdey had to reach out and steady him before he pitched forward. He looked at her ruefully, and sat down again. "Standing straight up isn't too bad, but, bending down's a whole nother matter. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to help me into my trousers." He gestured to the suitcase she had retrieved earlier. Then the grin came back and his eyes swept over her speculatively. "Unless you'd like to get into them first, Mabel-love." The touch of Cockney in his accent got stronger on the last sentence and Purdey raised an eyebrow. She wasn't entirely certain he was playing a part for the listeners. My, you don't waste any time, do you Mr. Gambit?

"First things first," she told him, all business, and went to fetch a pair of trousers.

Gambit wasn't sure whether he was amused or disappointed when the girl didn't try to sneak a peek up the skirts of the hospital nightshirt as she maneuvered his feet into the legs of the trousers and got the hospital slippers into place. A bit of both, perhaps, although he found himself approving of her more and more. Most girls would have hemmed and hawed before helping a total stranger into his trousers, even if he did handle the tricky bit himself once she'd got the waistband high enough for him to take hold without having to bend. And at least she'd been careful about maneuvering around the bandages on his left calf. That bullet hadn't left much more than a deep nick, but it was still sore.

Being upright and even half-dressed felt wonderful, though, after however long he'd been flat on his back in that bed. But he had things he had to remember to do, and he couldn't risk doing them while she was in the room. "Tell, you what," he said. "Why don't you go commandeer a wheelchair from the next ward over while I wash up?" He didn't want to advertise the excursion to the nurses on this ward if he could help it... For one thing, he was pretty sure at least one was a spy, and for another, Buchheim's notions of a little appropriate exercise had been sitting up in a chair for a half hour. Not that he was going to tell "Mabel" that.

She measured the distance to the loo door with her eyes and then studied him thoughtfully. "Do you need help?"

He grinned at her. "Not since I was three. Go on, Mabel-love. If I do need help I'll ring for the orderly."

While she was gone, Gambit pulled the carry-on bag out from under the blankets, and extracted the "Top Secret" envelope that he needed to protect. He considered his options, then settled on the girl's purse. Knowing that somewhere out there the spirit of John Steed was raising an eyebrow and clucking its tongue at the idea of a gentleman violating a lady's privacy, he went over to sit in her chair and reached for the bulky bag. It wasn't as though he'd made the same claim--they didn't breed gentlemen in the neighborhood where Gambit had grown up, and the merchant Navy's contribution to his vocabulary hadn't helped matters. Ah, well. Variety, and all that.

In amongst the feminine clutter in the side pocket he spotted the handkerchief with the pills and wondered if they'd be any use to the science department back home. He couldn't help but notice the thick packet nestled in next to the wallet. The insignia let him know it was the aforementioned railway tickets, and judging from its girth, his unexpected rescuer hadn't skimped. It looked as though she had covered every departure from Berlin between now and Christmas. He managed a small smile at the enthusiasm. The new girl obviously hadn't joined the ranks of the more jaded Ministry professionals, and he had the feeling she never would. She doubtless had the kind of optimistic idealism that made the best agents worth knowing. His own idealism was feeling a bit battered at the moment, but with any luck nothing would dent hers any time soon.

I'll bet she and Steed will get along like a house afire. If they don't set fire to the house between them!

No time for woolgathering. He needed to hide the envelope -- preferably somewhere she wasn't likely to notice its presence or accidentally come across it in the next few hours. The main section of the purse was huge, large enough to fit one of the magazines from the pile by the chair without making a lump. The magazines were all in German, which gave him a moment's pause, but the mailing labels and the battering they had taken convinced him that they had come from the hospital. He took the top one and checked. The envelope fit inside it quite neatly, and the whole thing tucked at the bottom of the main compartment was nicely hidden by makeup and hairbrush and tourist phrasebooks and pamphlets. Gambit allowed himself a brief sigh of relief. He could protect the evidence and leave the girl ignorant about it--at least until he was completely sure of her.

The same orderly that had been Purdey's embarrassed escort made a half-hearted attempt to stop them, but since they weren't actually leaving the hospital, and he was already a little leery of exactly how legal their relationship was in most countries, he let the mad English pair go. Besides, the girl had smiled at him so nicely he'd ended up giving her directions.

The cafeteria was on the fifth floor and was meant for staff, but Purdey walked in with the self-assured air of someone meant to be there, and no one seemed interested in kicking them out. She guessed that the need for substitute staff and long hours had everyone discombobulated, and was thankful for small blessings. Like the rest of the hospital, the cafeteria was slightly shabby, and had an air of hot grease and salt, but the food looked edible. Probably. Purdey parked Gambit by a table and went through the line, filling up her plate and getting Gambit a few things to substitute for the gruel. Mashed potatoes, aspic, and some goulash with mysterious gravy seemed safest -- the most porridge-like, anyway -- and Gambit didn't protest her choices. He fell on his food like it was manna, and for five minutes the only reminder she had of their situation was the way his blue eyes kept making a quick scan of the room, before returning to her or to his plate.

She was still working on her Buletten, a tasty sort of meatballs, when he settled back in his chair as if he'd taken the edge off his hunger. "I think we're safe here," he allowed softly. "As long as we don't do anything too out-of-character, I think they'll let us be, and there's no chance they'll have had time to bug the whole place. So," he took her hand in a way that wouldn't look quite so formal as a handshake to an observer, but did the job. "Let's try this again, without the covers. Mike Gambit. I haven't been Michael since school days. And for the record, I'm not usually so, er, pushy when it comes to girls, but you've probably noticed that I'm not too certain about some of the nurses they've been sending in, and it seemed the best way to get a good grip on you before you tried something."

"That's all right," Purdey replied, "I should've known better. I'm a bit new at all this."

"So you said. Training still, eh?" Purdey nodded. "I didn't think I'd seen you about. You'll pick it up. But I still don't know who you are. I can't very well go on calling you 'Mabel.' You might not mind it, but I'd just as well keep thoughts of you putting on my trousers and my dear, pajama-sending aunt separate, and I doubt ' hey you ' would go over too well."

Purdey rolled her eyes a little at that, but introduced herself nonetheless. "I'm Purdey," she told him, and waited for the inevitable question. Three, two, one.

"Just Purdey?" Gambit wanted to know, eyebrows knitted. "No miss, missus?"

"Just Purdey," she confirmed. "And I'm not married." She wasn't quite sure why she'd felt that last bit of information needing clarifying, but she could tell Gambit was pleased by it.

"Well, I won't have to worry about any jealous husbands, then. Always a good thing. Which reminds me. Another thing you should know--I usually know the girl's name before she's been on trouser duty, and it's usually going the other way, if you catch my meaning." The eyebrows waggled.

"I think I can piece that one together, thank you," Purdey told him dryly.

Gambit regarded her for a moment. "You're not like other girls, are you?"

Purdey smiled sweetly. "What tipped you off?"

"I could write a book, but there'll be time for that later. Right now we need to talk about why I'm here."

Purdey frowned. "To recover, why else?"

"And what am I recovering from?"

"Bullet wounds," Purdey answered, not understanding why Gambit was going through this. "I can see that much. Steed said he had a hunch that you must have had trouble getting back over the Wall."

"Ah yes, good old Steed and his hunches." But the tone of voice didn't match the words. Purdey could sense that Gambit was fairly ambivalent about something – whether it was Steed or the hunches she couldn't say. "And did Steed happen to mention any hunches about who was playing target practice?"

"He didn't say. But it would have been the border guards, surely." Purdey retorted, but felt herself freeze when Gambit shook his head. "Wasn't it?" she added quietly.

"The arm and the leg probably--the flesh wounds. I've got to say that those boys take their bribes seriously, and they didn't even take a potshot my way until they had to. No, if that'd been all I had to worry about, I could've patched up and flown back to London myself. But the first bullet, the one my lung took issue with? That one came from the Western side of the wall."

Purdey gulped. "You mean...?"

He turned his attention to the food. "Welcome to Berlin, 'just Purdey'. You've just walked straight into the sights of the man that wants me dead."

"Dead?" Purdey choked, and moved to check behind her.

"Don't look," Gambit hissed, taking her hand and putting it to his lips to get her attention. He hadn't managed to put a name to the face he'd recognized over in the corner, but he knew the last time he'd seen it he'd been on the other side of the Wall. "I'm fairly sure that the man who shot me's not here--at the moment, anyway. But he's got friends and we've got company. Start looking around like you think you're being watched and he'll wonder why." Purdey mentally kicked herself for an amateur's mistake. "That's better," he told her from the cover of her hand, and then seemed to realise he was still hanging on, and released it.

"Do you have any idea who it is?" Purdey queried. "And how can you be sure it's a man? We are liberated now, you know."

Gambit smiled. "And I'm all for it, especially if it means more girls like you. But I know it's a man--I'm pretty sure I got a glimpse of him once – and he's got to be a double agent. We had a chap who defected a few days back, and I've been on retrieval duty on the other side ever since. But someone tipped them off--someone who knew I was inside. Still, he made a mistake when he went after me."

"Why is that?"

"I'd picked up something, just to get a better look at it, and now I can be fairly certain that it's evidence against him." His eyes went distant and thoughtful. "Come to think of it..." he began, but didn't finish the thought.

After a moment, Purdey said, "So you have no idea who it is? The double, I mean?"

Gambit shook his head. "No, but I mean to find out, and I've a feeling if he's going to do his best to keep me from doing it. Which means," he added pointedly, "that chances are good that I can't try to leave Berlin if I don't want bullet number four to find its way to someplace they can't operate."

"But if you stay you'll be in danger, too. He'll try again," Purdey protested.

"I expect him to: that's part of the job." Gambit favored her with a cocky grin. "Still glad you signed up?"

Purdey set her jaw grimly. "I knew what I was getting into when I started. More than most. My father was in the business. He was shot as a spy, going on for nine years now." She studied the food on her plate, her shoulders tense as she waited to find out how Gambit would react.

Gambit winced, and pushed his potatoes around with his fork. "I'm sorry," he told her quietly, accepting it.

After a moment she looked up again, composed. "I've had a long time to get used to it. And he was a brave man."

Gambit smiled, a little crookedly. "Braver than I am. I can't imagine mixing this job with a wife and kids."


He shrugged. "There'll be time enough for all that when I decide I'd rather fly a desk. Of course, it might be tricky raising six kids on a houseboat."


"Okay, if I get started late I might have to stop at five. Depends on the girl -- she'll have to be the right one." His eyes twinkled at her. "Want to volunteer?"

Purdey gave him the glare that deserved. "If you want six kids, you'd best get started now," she told him.

But Gambit shook his head. "Nah. It wouldn't be fair."

"Fair?" Purdey asked.

"To the wife and kids ... it's one thing to lose someone to a common danger ... step off a curb, get hit by a bus, that sort of thing. It's something else entirely to find out that they were dancing in traffic when the bus came along." His eyes were looking at something in his past, and Purdey put a hand on his.

"Your father?"

He came back to her with an effort, his eyes sad above the smile. "His ship sank before I was born. But it was a common danger, then. The war and all. Uncle Jack and Auntie Mabel took me in."

"The real Auntie Mabel?" Purdey asked, wondering what had happened to the mother he didn't mention.

"Yes." Gambit ate a little more, but his mind wasn't on the food. "I'm glad she didn't come though. There's no way she'd listen when I told her to go home."

Purdey frowned. "Wait..."

"You haven't been here long," Gambit went on, oblivious to Purdey's growing indignation. "They might let you go."

Purdey blinked. "You want to send me away?"

"I don't want your blood on my hands," Gambit told her grimly. "You're much too young to die. And much too beautiful. Forgive the cliché."

"But you can't face these people on your own. You can't walk more than a few feet without getting wobbly. And besides, there's no guarantee they'd let me go, even if I tried. No." She held up a hand to quell Gambit's protests. "You need me, Mike Gambit. You may have the training and the experience, but I can do the legwork."

Gambit glanced beneath the tabletop. "Yes, you've definitely got the legs for it," he quipped. "Very nice."

"I can also kick," she told him, "and I've a very good idea where you're most sensitive, thanks to playing dress-up earlier." She couldn't help feeling triumphant as Gambit moved his gaze rather quickly. He went back to his plate, but she had the impression that he was relieved that she had insisted on staying with him.

"You're not going to take no for an answer, are you?" he asked, with a hint of admiration.

"You're a fast learner," she told him. "So what's our first move?"

"First? Get out of here. Find someplace we can talk without a few extra ears around. Aunt Mabel is going to fulfill her nephew's request to get out of the hospital, and into a decent hotel somewhere. Of course, Mabel will have to take over some of the nurses' duties, but she's more than willing."

"How thoughtful of me," Purdey said in a monotone.

"You're that sort of girl. But it's not all for fun. It works in our favour," Gambit explained. "They've already seen and heard enough to convince them that you're on to Uncle John for his money, but have taken more of a liking to the nephew."

"You mean lovers?" Purdey raised an eyebrow.

"It'd even give us an excuse for creeping around. Wouldn't want uncle John to find out and cut off the finances, would we?"

"Wouldn't we?" But Purdey couldn't deny it was a good idea. And she had to admit there were worse fates than playing Gambit's other half. She still hadn't quite forgotten the effects of that kiss...

"All right. I'm game," she told him. Gambit grinned.

"I think I'm going to enjoy this assignment," he told her, and took another bite of his dinner.

She sighed. "I'll have to go back to the train station and turn in some of these tickets though. I don't have a lot of cash left."

"How many tickets did you get?" Gambit asked, not wanting Purdey to suspect his earlier prying.

"Plenty," Purdey answered promptly "Steed said to get you and get out, so I bought tickets for more than half a dozen departures, just in case. First class."

Gambit paused with the spoon halfway to his mouth. "First class? I can tell that you and the boys in accounting are going to be firm friends. They're still on me about that Range Rover I bought in May." He frowned a little. "No, you'd best hang onto them. Now that I've got my suitcase I've still got some cash left, and once we get clear of this damn hospital smell I'll be able to think things through. If we've got the tickets then we can change plans in a hurry. Any of them for tomorrow?"

Purdey did a quick check in her head. "Yes, three during the day. One at noon, and a couple more after that. And some go onto the next day. And I've one that leaves this evening, and a couple for trains in the wee hours. I didn't know when you'd be ready to travel, so I thought I'd try a bit of everything just in case."

"Well, Buchheim said he'd come by again before he left for the day, so we can try to get me out of here then."

Purdey crossed her arms. "You won't be ready," she said with conviction.

"Probably not," Gambit agreed cheerfully, "but if he doesn't agree it won't stop us. I never was one to follow doctor's orders. There's a hotel I know where the money problem won't matter. The owner's friendly with Steed, so it should be safe. He checks for listening devices and such. Runs a clean ship. We can settle there if we have to and lie low for a few days. We might even be able to turn the tables round on the double once I get my hands on the means to shoot back." He looked grimly pleased at the possibility. "But even if we do manage to get out of here, that doesn't mean we won't be watched, so stay in character, even if you don't see anyone suspicious; remember we're both despicable people who are playing dear old Uncle John for all he's worth."

"They do say it's more fun to play the baddie," Purdey acknowledged. "You had better finish up. I think those nurses are coming to retrieve you."

Gambit bit back a sigh as the nurses hooked him back up to the monitors. At least the new girl had managed to collect his trousers before they could be taken away for bad behavior. Purdey. What kind of a name was that for a girl, anyway? Then again... He watched her discreetly sliding his suitcases into protective custody under her chair. She had to bend over to do it, and that was worth watching. But her face was worth watching too, when she straightened and sent him an ironic message with one eyebrow. Beautiful, she was, and elegant, and expensive, like the gun of the same name he'd had a chance to use just the once at Steed's skeetshooting club. I bet she kicks like it did, he thought, considering her long legs.

She's smart too. He wouldn't have thought of buying first class tickets out -- but oh, that was a good notion. He'd be able to stretch his legs out in a first class compartment. Maybe even sleep, which he wouldn't dare do in a second class coach. For a moment he toyed with the idea of going straight to the station and running for it as soon as the nurses changed shifts. Steed could send someone else in to hunt the double agent. It was a temptation. God knew he was tired. The nap he'd had earlier had barely put a dent into his weariness. But it would be faster -- and easier -- to bring out the hunter if he stuck around to be the bait. Wouldn't it? It all depended on Purdey. Why did Steed send a tyro like her after me? Why not a pro? She's not much better than a talented amateur right now. She was from Steed, that at least he was sure of. No one else knew about the Trusty Umbrella Fund -- that was a very private joke between Gambit and Steed, and Purdey didn't seem to understand the reference except as something she'd been told to use as a password.

He's probably riding his instincts again. Steed had a habit of doing that -- acting on what his gut told him and not the evidence, heeding those unexplainable, indescribable hunches that often saved an agent's life -- and the most frustrating thing about it was that he made an annoying habit of being right. And it had to be admitted that Steed had had good luck with talented amateurs in the past. At least he sent a pretty girl.

Gambit closed his eyes, nodding at the admonitions of the nurses and wishing them a hearty trip to hell. They'd got him into bed, hadn't they? Now if it were Purdey fussing over him, that might be tolerable. One of them was giving her grief too, telling her that visiting hours were over, but even without opening his eyes he could tell that Purdey was digging in her heels. A sudden pinprick in his arm told him that he'd gotten careless. "Damn!" He looked and found that the redheaded one had managed to get a hypodermic into him. Acting on pure instinct, he threw a punch that caught the edge of her jaw. She yelped in surprise, falling backwards onto the floor, as Gambit yanked the needle out of his arm and gave it a quick sniff. Morphine – and something else. Gambit muttered a few words that would've made the nurses blush if they hadn't been so busy running around frantically, tending to the fallen nurse, shouting for the doctor, and laying restraining hands on him. The redhead was rubbing her jaw and fixing him with a poisonous stare. Out of the confusion, Purdey suddenly materialised beside him, and he couldn't understand why she looked so pained.

"Needle," he told her, safe in the knowledge that all the noise would drown out their voices. "She's drugged me."

Purdey looked a little less upset at that, but something was still on her mind. "Did you have to hit her?"

Gambit paled slightly, taking in the drawn features. He'd forgotten how new she was, that any violence she'd encountered had been within the confines of a training room with friends you took out to the pub afterward when you bested them in a bout. But this wasn't training. He knew Steed had reservations about using force with ladies, and it wasn't as if Gambit was a big advocate of it either. But sometimes you just had to do what worked. "Yes," he said finally, having worked through the growing fog to an answer. "Otherwise she'd have pumped me with enough of the stuff to keep me comatose 'til next week. She's got plans, and I don't want to hang around to find out what they are." Purdey nodded, and put a hand on his shoulder to keep him from sitting up.

"She won't get past me," Purdey assured him, "but if that was morphine, you won't be able to go much of anywhere in a minute."

Gambit's senses were dulling. He managed to find Purdey's hand--or she found his, it was hard to tell--held onto it like the salvation it was. "Don't leave me," he told her.

Purdey smiled. "Never. Now I'm here, you're stuck with me."

"Good," he managed just as Dr. Buchheim entered.

The doctor viewed the confusion with a critical eye.

"What is going on?" He caught sight of the red-headed nurse, now being helped to her feet by her colleagues.

"He hit me, Herr Doctor," she accused, pointing at Gambit, who was struggling to stay awake.

"Damn straight," Gambit growled. "Go around sticking people with bloody needles when they're not looking..."

"Michael," Purdey cut in, in such perfectly chiding tones that Gambit stared at her along with everyone else in the room. She patted his shoulder and addressed Dr. Buchheim, radiating an air of assured authority that the real Aunt Mabel would have envied. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I'm afraid that the situation is starting to get to my nephew. All the excitement, the shooting. The nurse startled him and he lashed out. I'm sure that once he's himself he'll be quite sorry for any damage he might have done."

"I see," the doctor said with a raised eyebrow. "That is to be expected, I suppose, after such an ordeal. The mind takes time to catch up with the body."

Purdey nodded in agreement. "Yes, and Ste...My husband's brother, Stephen, he told me Michael's had a bad experience in a hospital before. That's why John sent me to take him home. If you don't mind, doctor, I'd like to stay on for the night. I know visiting hours are over, but poor Michael seems calmer with me around, and I promised my husband I'd look after him." Doctor Buchheim tried to respond, but Purdey was on a roll, and Gambit listened with hazy admiration to the way she spun out the lie. "I've gotten a good deal experience in nursing, taking care of John with his pneumonia and all. And you are understaffed aren't you? If his condition changed, I'd be certain to call someone. I wouldn't want to put Michael's life in danger. But I really can look after him." She shifted her grip, took hold of Gambit's wrist. He could feel her fingers seek out a pulse. "See?" she persisted, like a six-year-old asking for her parents to watch her jump off the high-dive.

Doctor Buchheim rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Distantly, Gambit heard the man ask Purdey some medically pertinent questions, which she answered quite satisfactorily. At least it seemed that way. It was getting hard to concentrate.

The doctor looked to the other nurses, who nodded reluctantly. Gambit had calmed down with Purdey by his side, and the young woman was fixing him with a wide-eyed stare that could sway even the most determined rule-enforcer. He sighed. "Very well, Mrs. Horrocks. You may stay tonight. But I must insist that you find a hotel and get some rest tomorrow, for the sake of yourself and the patient. Am I understood?"

"Yes, thank you," Purdey said gratefully, curving her arms around Gambit once more. "Did you hear that, Michael?"

But Gambit only sighed and closed his eyes, the drug finally taking more from him than he had to give. As a result he didn't see Dr. Buchheim shoo the nurses out of the room, a slight smile on his face as he observed his patient falling asleep in Purdey's embrace.