“I lifted some pre-1997 currency from the museum,” said Tim. “Shall we go in for tea? . . . or coffee,” he added, glancing toward Atef.
Atef, with his hands in his pockets and eyes wide to the scenery, turned and locked eyes with Tim at the comment. “I’ve English blood as well, you know,” he quipped.
“Yes,” said Tim, captured by the reasonable sameness of Atef’s complexion now to his own. “You’ve told us about your great-grandfather and his . . . dis-royaled English bride. Besides, the museum archives are chock full of photos and recordings of them, and paparazzi news of their constant whereabouts. They were quite the item for their time—a Muslim marrying a once-royal Brit, and conceiving children—step-brothers to the still royal Duke Andrew and Prince Harry. The royals weren’t so keen on that. In fact, there were rumors, as I have read, that the royals entertained plans to off them before the conception of a child. One such rumor happened near here. The crash in the tunnel. They survived, of course. The birth happened, and you’re here through the grace of God and the generations of their relationship.”
Fuming at the collar, Atef responded, “I’ve a mind to turn you in to the museum for thievery of that currency after this weekend,” he said, reaching for Katie’s arm, walking past Tim to the Cafe.
“Well, that was pleasant,” said Katie, pushing the door open, taking in a deep breath of the rue. “Now what? Something Chris’masy, I hope.”
“Now,” said Tim, “we steal a motorcar!”
“Beg your parden,” said Atef.
“Tim, are you mad?” Katie said. “You’re sporting with us, of course.”
“No,” said Tim. “We need a car to get around. We can’t just walk in and rent one. Haven’t any credentials for this time period, you know. It’s an adventure, can’t you see! Can’t buy a car either, I’m afraid. . . . I did lift this from the museum, though.” He produced a thin piece of metal from his pocket.
“A lock pick?” said Atef, turning a slightly whiter shade of pale.
“Night’s coming on,” said Katie. “Cover of darkness should help us, right?”
Tim stared straight into her eyes. “You’re enjoying all of this now, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yes,” she responded, flashing a smile. “I am. When this is all over, we’ll just return home. If we steal a car, who’ll know about it to turn us in when we’re safely home? Who would we be turned in to? There are no laws against stealing from the past. It’s quite exhilarating, actually!”
“The museum knows about your developments” countered Atef. “Don’t they? You could lose your position.”
“No,” said Tim. “They know nothing about my advancements.”
“Could we get on with this then,” said Atef, and the three finished their tea.
Shouldn’t we be thinking about a hotel,” said Atef, one hand tight around a door grip, the other flat against the empty seat next to him.
Tim swerved the Fiat onto the Champs Elysee.
“What time is it here, anyway?” asked Atef.
“It’s . . . 12:15,” said Tim, glancing at his Toshiba. “It’s Sunday the 31st now.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a more rare time,” said Katie, looking directly at Tim, her window down all the way. “I almost wish the world were always in black and white. There’s something marvelously magical—even mystical—about it. And, I can look forward to some shopping tomorrow.” She smiled at that.
Slowing down before the Place de Concorde, Tim turned onto the Cours la Reine, alongside the Seine River. “It’s like anything, I suppose,” said Tim. “Too much of a good thing eventually grows stale.”
“Sorry to interrupt you both, but it’s quite late, you know. We should be thinking about a hotel, and Katie, could you please roll that window up some? It’s becoming rather chilly back here.”
Katie raised the window about three inches.
“How’s a suite at the Ritz sound for tonight?” asked Tim, turning to Atef’s image in the rear view mirror. “We’re not far from there, you know.”
Atef stared into Tim’s eyes in the mirror. “The Ritz?” Atef said with interest. Sounds quite good actually! My . . . family operated the Ritz at one time, long ago.” He turned to stare out of his window at the dizzying mix of Parisian architecture, lights and shadows. “The Ritz?” he mumbled quietly.
“Yes,” said Tim into the mirror. “Your great-grandfather again, right?”
Atef, lost in thought, said nothing.
The Couer la Reine became the Cours Albert, and Tim pulled over to the side just before the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Checking his Toshiba, he smiled nervously. “12:23,” he mumbled, turning to look out of his window at the lanes behind them..
“Tim?” said Katie. “What are you doing?”
Atef, deathly silent, glanced from the back of Tim’s head to the road. “No,” Atef mumbled. “It’s not possible!”
A black Mercedes, traveling recklessly fast, appeared along the Cours Albert as if wishing to dive through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel and out the other side. “The archives were accurate,” whispered Tim. He punched the gas and released the clutch.”
“Tim!” Katie screamed.
Atef tightened his hand on the door grip.
The black Mercedes, swerving to avoid Tim, smashed his tail light. Passing Tim in a blur of motion, it smacked into a center pillar and spun quickly out of control, coming to rest against the tunnel wall.
“God save my soul for this,” Tim mumbled, his foot glued to the gas. He had managed to swerve around the spinning Mercedes. Glancing briefly over Katie’s shoulders and hair, he saw Atef fade into nothingness.
In seconds, the Fiat Uno soared out of the tunnel with a sudden swoosh of air, sound and light. Gripping the wheel, Tim squinted his eyes over and over until the street came back into focus. Dizzied, he braked the car over to the side of Kennedy Avenue.
“Tim,” said Katie. “You really must slow down. You’ll get us both killed driving like that!”
Tim looked at Katie, then into the empty backseat.
“Are you all right?” she asked, staring at him with concern.
He rubbed his face into his palms, then looked at the blur of cars and lights along the avenue. “Don’t feel well all of a sudden,” he said. “A bit dizzy.”
“It’s no wonder,” said Katie. “Driving like you were! Was it all that wine?”
“Don’t know what it was,” he lied. “What have I done?” he mumbled. “Do you feel all right, Katie?”
“A bit tired,” she answered, “but all right.” She rolled her window up all the way. “Tim, maybe we should call this off right here. We had a good day. We had Paris. We walked around and ate well. We enjoyed ourselves.”
“Have you changed your mind then,” said Tim. “About the divorce?
Katie looked away from Tim’s eyes, then back.
A distant police siren grew louder.
“No,” she said. “I’m glad we came here. I’m glad you got your wish to try one last time to rekindle the flame, but . . . it’s just not working for me anymore. We’re not the same as we were. We’ll still see each other. You’re still father to Kristin and the boys.”
The police car, finally within view, passed by them from the opposite direction, its siren obnoxiously loud.
“Tim, some things just can’t be changed. You have to find the strength to let go!”
“Yes,” said Tim, staring into Katie’s light-green eyes. “Let’s go home now. But, Katie, you’re wrong. There’s always hope.
“Perhaps,” said Katie. “Perhaps.”
. . . One police official said last week the second car theory was “highly favored.”
The probe has also focused on photographers who pursued the Mercedes, as well as the driver Paul, who was speeding and was legally drunk at the time.
About 100 witnesses have been questioned, including the fourth and only surviving person in the Mercedes: bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.
Rees-Jones, who suffered serious facial injuries, returned to Britain last week after two interviews with investigators. Suffering from amnesia, he told them he could remember nothing about events immediately before the accident or the crash itself.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
I wrote this story in the fall of 1997, within two-three months after the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her controversial “beau,” Dodi Fayed. It was, in fact, rumored at the time that Diana was with child, and that the royals had seen to it that the relationship would travel no further.
At that time, I submitted the story to Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine and received a handsigned note from their Hugo Award-winning editor, Gordon Van Gelder, cordially rejecting the story and wishing me the best of luck with it. Although it would have been a thrill to be included in the legendary F & SF Magazine, oddly, this has become a cherished rejection letter for me.
I love this story. I always have, and after all this time, I admit that I just wasn’t telling it right. Part of the problem was that, even with the massive television and print coverage, that even eclipsed Mother Theresa’s death on the same day, many of my friends and acquaintances did not own televisions or did not follow the story. My story, at the time, relied on a knowledge of the events of the accident. I suspect that even fewer, today, recall those events.
So, I revised “Christmas in Paris” extensively in regards to clarifying those events so that more people could understand and enjoy the story.
Most notably, I added the factual news story from ABC News, Reuters and AP for background info. To this day, I believe, the Fiat Uno and it’s driver have not been found. Rees-Jones, as far as I know has remained silent since his first interviews and claims of amnesia.
Just today, Diana’s first son, Duke William of Cambridge, and his bride, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, named their first born son George Alexander Louis. Prince William is second in line to the throne and, now, Prince George is third in line. In honor of that news, and the whimsical notion of “Christmas in July,” I’m offering this newly revised version of my story.