This is a crossover between the Dr. Who universe and the Narnia stories - all characters etc. belong to various people who aren't me, there is no intent to infringe on their rights. Comments, warnings about spelling mistakes, etc. etc. gratefully received.The Problem of Susan
Marcus L. Rowland
“Did I fall asleep?” asks Susan Pevensie.
“For a little while,” says the handsome RAF captain seated across the railway carriage. He has an American accent, and she wonders if he’s a Hollywood actor, come to Britain to fight the Nazis. Even in 1943 there are still some around, though many have gone to the Pacific. “Are you okay?”
“I had a really odd dream.” She doesn’t want to discuss it. There were talking animals, and witches, and magic. Like the games she and her brothers and sisters used to play, and she doesn’t want to seem a child. “Got a cigarette?”
“Aren’t you a little young to smoke?”
“I’m seventeen.” She adds on eighteen months.
“Sure you are….” He obviously doesn’t believe her.
“Well, sixteen and a half.”
“Does it matter?”
“Legal smoking age is sixteen,” says the captain, “and even that’s too young to make decisions that’ll eventually kill you. I’d make it eighteen or twenty-one. I’ve got some bubble-gum if you’d like that.”
“No thanks.” He’s obviously some sort of puritan. She reaches into her bag and looks for her own cigarettes, doesn’t find any. Instead she gets out her compact and lipstick, and spends a minute or two adjusting her makeup. And yes, she’s sulking a little, but he probably doesn’t notice.
As she finishes the train slows for yet another station, and the captain says “This is my stop,” stands, stretches, and reaches up to the luggage rack, lifting down a canvas duffel-bag and a polished wooden box, the size of a large hat-box, with brass locks and handles and a leather shoulder-strap. The duffel is marked with the initials J.H., the box with an inlaid hexagon containing the letter T, both difficult to see since the wood and logo are both very dark.
As the train draws into the station and stops he slides down the window, reaches out and turns the handle to open the door, hands the duffel bag out to a uniformed chauffeur who seems to waiting for him, takes the wooden box, says “Goodbye, Susan,” and walks off with the chauffeur. There’s a big black Bentley waiting for them, with the same T in hexagon mark on the door.
As the train leaves the station she wonders how he knew her name. But her bag’s on the rack, her name visible on the label. It isn’t really much of a mystery, and she soon forgets him.< T >
Six years pass, and Susan grows distant from her family, especially her brothers and sisters. At first she’s annoyed by their childish tales of a magical world inside a wardrobe; later, when they’re barely on speaking terms after she’s left school, she starts to dream of… that place, and the lion that rules it. Gradually she has to admit that the memories are getting stronger, not weaker. Could she have forgotten something real? She plans to ask them the next time she sees them. Then there’s the train crash, and that chance has gone forever. Her parents, brothers and sister are dead, so are Scrubb and Pole.
She inherits a little over four thousand pounds, mostly invested in bonds which pay a steady return, and the leasehold of their flat. If she leaves the money where it is the income will comfortably cover the rent and basic living expenses, but she’s not exactly an heiress; at best it gives her a breathing space to find a better job, maybe take a holiday. The effects the police return to her include a key she doesn’t recognise; looking through her father’s papers she eventually discovers that his bank statements include rental of a safe deposit box. It takes a couple of days to get a letter from his solicitors, giving her access as part of the probate process, then she goes to the bank and investigates.
There’s a few hundred pounds in the old white pre-war banknotes, but she’s not sure if they can still be used, some papers, and a jewellery case containing three necklaces, two rings, a delicate coronet of gold and silver flowers, and two bracelets. At first she doesn’t recognise the jewellery, it looks very expensive, but suddenly memory stirs. She remembers wearing the coronet and one of the rings… but the memories come from her confused dreams of Narnia. All of it’s too grand for everyday wear, but there’s a small locket that doesn’t seem too ostentatious. She works the catch, and finds a miniature picture inside, a tiny oil-painting. It’s herself as an adult, wearing medieval-looking green robes and the coronet. She tries to remember…Summer in Cair Paravel, the year before they hunted the White Stag. A group of centaur artists had come to visit. She’d spent hours posing, chafing in the heat and wishing she’d insisted on a lighter dress. They’d made the statues the children found when they returned to Narnia nine hundred years later, also paintings and smaller miniatures. One of them gave her the locket, but it had vanished when she returned to England and was twelve years old again.
Now, impossibly, it was here. She puts the locket on, puts the rest of the jewellery back in the case, and turns her attention to the papers.
Ten minutes later she knows she was adopted in 1929, a year before Edmund was born, three years before Lucy. She would have been one, Peter would have been two; she doesn’t remember anything that far back, and if Peter did he never mentioned it. It’s too late to ask now. The names of her real parents aren’t anywhere on the papers. She’s described as ‘The female child (Susan),’ her origin isn’t mentioned. She realises that she’s never seen her birth certificate – a quick search through the remaining envelopes confirms that it’s nowhere to be found – and that this paper is probably the closest she’s going to get to one. Reading through again, she notices something she should have spotted earlier; the witnesses are Professor Kirke, who owned the house where they found the wardrobe, if that really happened, and aunt Polly, his wife. If she can find them they might be able to tell her more.
She takes the bank notes with her, and asks the manager about using them – they aren’t legal tender any more, but if she fills in some forms the Bank of England will make sure that they aren’t forgeries, then eventually give her their face value in modern notes. It generally takes a couple of weeks, and of course she’ll have to deal with the taxman eventually. A teller counts the notes as she fills in the paperwork; nearly six hundred pounds, enough to buy a good car. Before the war it could have easily bought a small house, and she wonders why her parents stayed in the flat.< T >
Susan remembers Kirke living in a grand old country house, but heard that he had to sell it; his new address is in her mother’s diary. There’s no phone number, and Directory Enquiries say that they don’t have a telephone. It’s in the country twenty-odd miles from his old home. There’s something familiar-sounding about the name of the village, but she doesn’t remember properly until her train pulls into the station; it’s on the line from London to her school, and she passed it six times a year for seven years. It’s the line her family were travelling on when they were killed.
The house – actually more of a cottage – is a mile or so from the station. She finds it locked, and sits down to wait on the doorstep. After half an hour she hears cheery whistling, and looks up to see a postman making the afternoon delivery to the next house. Village postmen know everyone on their routes, of course.
“Excuse me,” she says, getting to her feet, “do you happen to know when Professor Kirke will be back?”
“Professor Kirke? Hadn’t you heard?”
“Well…” he seems to consider for a moment, then says “There was a bit of an accident.”
“Two weeks ago. They were going up to London for the day, the train…” The rest of what he says is lost in the roaring in her ears as she faints.< T >
She comes round to find a small crowd gathered around her; the postman, a bobby, an elderly woman in dark mourning clothes, and three small children. “What happened?”
“You fainted, Miss Susan,” says the woman, and Susan finally recognises her; Mrs. MacReady, Professor Kirke’s housekeeper. “You poor thing… didn’t you know the Professor was on the train?” They’ve obviously been talking while she was unconscious.
“No, nobody told me. I never looked at the list once I knew about my family.”
“No reason why you should, Miss Susan. Come inside, I’ll make you some tea.”
“Are you sure you’ll be all right?” asks the postman.
“I think so,” says Susan. “Just a bit of a shock.”
The tea is just the way she liked it when she was twelve, with too much milk and sugar. Right now that’s exactly what she needs. She’s sipping it when the obvious question crosses her mind. “How did you recognise me? I was twelve the last time I saw you.”
“Your parents kept in touch with the Professor. They sent photos every now and again.”
“My parents?” She hesitates for a moment, then asks “Which ones?”
“How do you mean?” There’s something in Mrs. MacReady’s eyes. She knows exactly what Susan means.
“I know I’m adopted. I found the papers in father’s safety deposit box.”
“I don’t really know much more than that myself,” says Mrs. MacReady. “It was a friend of the Professor that arranged it, Captain something or another. I remember he said you were a foundling.”
“Foundling? Found where?”
“I really don’t know. It was something to do with some Institute, the Professor was a consultant for them, that Captain… Harper, maybe… No, that wasn’t quite it. He worked for them.”
“Can’t you remember anything about him?”
“I haven’t seen him since the war. He was ever so handsome, and had a lovely accent, like a movie star.”
“That’s right, love. Captain… Captain Harkness, that was it! He was in one of those Eagle squadrons, Americans who joined the RAF before Pearl Harbour. I heard he’d been shot down by the Germans during the Blitz, but that can’t have been right, I saw him after that.” She refills Susan’s cup from the pot; this time Susan adds the milk herself, and only one spoon of sugar.
“Maybe the American Embassy can find him. What about the… institute, I think you said?”
“Some sort of scientific thing, I never paid it much heed. I think the Professor said it was Queen Victoria that founded it.”
“Queen Victoria? Not Prince Albert?”
“Why Prince Albert?”
“He was a patron of the sciences,” says Susan. “I didn’t think Victoria was nearly so interested.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Do they have an office somewhere?”
“A couple of times the Professor had me post letters to Captain Harkness. It was a post office box, somewhere in Cardiff.”TBC
Note: The title of this story was originally used by Neil Gaiman, and has become a common term for discussion of Susan’s exclusion from the later stories of the Narnia sequence.