Author's Note: Just addressing something I've always wondered about. 'Et alia' is the Latin for 'and others' without a specific subject gender (neutral as opposed to the masculine 'et alii' or feminine 'et aliae'). Thanks to my Dad for taking one look at Steve's car in the film 'Send For Paul Temple' and identifying it instantly!
Steve's MG made its way smoothly down the narrow lanes towards Evesham, Paul Temple at the wheel. Steve herself was sat in the passenger seat, enjoying the early evening breeze playing through her hair. Summer was on its way and the evenings were warm enough to keep the roof down.
Temple was silent, watching the road and Steve knew he was mulling over the recent information he'd been given by Sir Graham, pertaining to the case they were knee-deep in. There were two murderers on the loose and while the net was closing in on one, the other had completely eluded Scotland Yard's attempts to unmask them. Steve and Temple were heading back down to Bramley as Temple had some reference material there he'd need.
As the sky darkened, Steve allowed her mind to wander. Temple suddenly blinked rapidly, coming out of his thoughtful trance, and turned to her.
"What was that, darling?"
Steve laughed and shook her head. "Did I say that out loud? I was just thinking."
He smiled, keeping his eyes on the road. They were only a few miles out now, and he was looking forward to getting some rest before heading back up to London again the next day. "Well?"
She shrugged lightly. "Just wondering why we've never had children."
Temple paused for a moment, then imitated her shrug. "We've never really thought about it before, or had the time." He turned a curious gaze on her. "Why?"
She touched her hand to his arm reassuringly. "It was just a thought that occurred; nothing serious."
He chuckled, covering her hand briefly with his, then resting it back on the steering wheel. "You do pick your moments, darling, don't you!"
Smiling, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "You know me." Pulling back, she turned to watch the trees lining the lane as they passed and the two of them slipped back into a comfortable silence.
Before long they reached the little bridge at the end of the long drive up to Bramley Lodge. There was a car parked up a short distance from it, and Temple frowned. "Hello, what's this?" He slowed the car down, and Steve took the opportunity to check the number plate.
"Paul, it's that car that followed us from Lewisham back to the apartment the other day!"
"Well then, we'd best have a chat with the driver." He pulled the MG over and noted it was a Triumph Gloria – a couple of years old with some dents in the front. There was a dark figure in the driver's seat, and as he switched the engine off and stepped out of the car, Temple realised they didn't move.
"Stay there, Steve. Something's not right." In all fairness the figure may just have been sitting quietly but he didn't want to risk Steve as well as himself if there was something wrong.
"Be careful, Paul." Nodding, he approached the driver's door and opened it slowly, eyes on the figure the whole time. As he did, the figure slumped forward and he could see the gunshot wound, blood spreading across the back of the jacket. A glance at the face told him everything he needed to know.
"Good grief, it's Sergeant Townsend! He must have been trying to warn us – he told me he wanted to meet me when we got back to London!"
Steve was itching to join him, and carefully stepped out of the MG and over to his side. "That must have been why he was following us that evening – either he knew something and was put off coming in when he saw Doctor Fields was there, or there was someone else on our tail."
Temple looked over at her. "Good thinking, Steve – I did notice a tail that night but then you said you saw this car and I assumed it was just this one." Before she could say anything else, something caught his attention. She opened her mouth and he cut her off. "Shh, listen."
She tilted her head to one side and heard it; the faint sound of ticking. "Paul...that doesn't sound good."
Gingerly, he went round to the front and opened the bonnet. A series of wires surrounded a piece of machinery and even if he couldn't identify the type he knew exactly what it was.
He grabbed her hand and they made a dash for it, heading away from the two cars and bridge. The latch on the bonnet had triggered the short timer and just when they were far enough away, the explosion went off and they went down in a heap, Temple moving to cover his wife with his body. The sound echoed around like thunder, and the heat washed over them causing his lightweight coat started to smoke. He rolled off Steve, checking she was all right, and sitting up to pat at the patches of fabric.
Steve sat up next to him, looking out over the chaos in dismay. There was nothing left of the Triumph, and her MG was reduced to a mere lump of charred fabric and metal. Twisted metal from the Triumph was scattered in a circle radiating out from its original position. The grass was on fire to one side of the bridge. "My car..." she murmured.
Temple put his arm around her and tucked her into his side. "That, my darling, is why we've never had children."