Stopping by Geneva had always been part of the plan, ever since I discovered that getting there and back on a regional train from Lyon would be trivially easy and I wouldn’t have to spend a single Swiss Franc. My difficulties in getting there stemmed from an entirely different source – a punky-looking woman with a magnificent ‘fro who’d snuck into the seat behind mine. Wasn’t expecting that.

What I did expect, regular as clockwork, was the scarred man traipsing up the aisle and sitting in the table seat opposite mine. He looked way too pleased to see me.


‘There we are!’ he leaned in and grinned, ‘now we can continue our talk in far more civilised surroundings!’


‘What’s so uncivilised about the tram?’ I muttered.


The scarred man’s mood darkened, ‘enough with the games, Englishman. A gentleman paid you a visit in your hotel yesterday. What did you two talk about?’


‘You don’t know?’ I stammered. So Valerian wasn’t in cahoots with the scarred man? I shifted in my seat in a feeble attempt to look self-confident, ‘I mean…wouldn’t you like to know?’


‘What did I say about the games? I said enough with the games and yet here you are. Playing games. You insufferable game-player, you!’ the scarred man threw up his hands, ‘now hand over the Key and I’ll promise to inflict you only with a severe maiming.’


I looked him up and down – he seemed only marginally fitter than I was, ‘you couldn’t do it yesterday, what’s so different today?’


‘Oh, I doubt there’d be any interruptions this time,’ the scarred man glanced around the eerily empty carriage, ‘also, I brought friends.’


That was when the punky girl with the ‘fro wrapped a piano wire round my neck.


I sputtered and gasped, my sight turning red. I had but seconds to live. Luckily I’d picked the seat with a squeaky headrest. I clawed my grasping fingers round and unscrewed the headrest from its hinges. The punky girl was tugging on my neck so hard that the headrest headbutted her square in the face.


I was free! But only for the moment. I coughed, hacked and wheezed up the aisle towards the doors, yanking the emergency release valve. The door fell away and clean, crisp, alpine air whacked my face at a hundred kph. The mountain pass beneath me looked scarily steep.


A pistol safety clicked off behind me.


‘Full marks for creativity, Englishman,’ the scarred man had both hands on the gun he aimed at me, ‘but you really think you can survive hurling yourself off a moving train?


I had to think of an action movie quip, stat, ‘no, but maybe you…! I mean…neither could…! Oh, never mind!’


I grabbed the scarred man with both hands and shoved him out the door. Fortunately for my conscience (if for no other reason), he landed face-first in a conveniently-rushing-past bush.


‘Mos!’ the broken-nosed punky girl yelped, rushing to the door. She stopped to glare at me.


I shrugged, ‘you can save him or you can kill me, but you’ve got to pick one!’


She carried on glaring at me. Luckily, she picked the first option and leapt off the train after the scarred man, whose name was apparently Mos. It was better than nothing, I guess.


So with the baddies stuck up the Alps and out of my hair for a while, I was free to enjoy Geneva! Home to chocolates, clocks, pikemen, Calvinism and copious vaults of dodgily-acquired cash. Scrupulously neutral in all endeavours, including woman’s suffrage until the 1980s. Very bracing.

Fun fact: one day, Rousseau returned from an afternoon siesta outside Geneva’s walls to find the gates shut tight for the night, and decided rather than wait till morning to get in he’d go to Paris and become a philosopher instead. Because that conclusion clearly follows from the premise.

Don’t tell the Swiss, but I managed to sneak in some contraband…

Not sure what the Reformists themselves would have made of this IDOLATRY, but it was very well sculpted.