Death and Chocolate;Doctor Who;Sarah Jane Smith;Lis Sladen;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
Death and Chocolate
Written by Jeri Massi
Sarah Jane Smith, swinging her tiny purse by its strap, entered the Doctor’s laboratory to find the tall, white-haired scientist waiting for her, his feet propped up on the edge of the workbench, his body perched precariously on a stool that he kept tipped back.
“You look very self satisfied,” she said at once. “Like the cat who got the cream.”
“I am self satisfied,” he told her. His smugness was almost comical. “I am extremely self satisfied.”
She came around the stool where he sat with his long legs stretched to the table edge.
“Found a new planet?” she asked.
“No,” and his voice was patient.
“Cured a disease?”
“Cured half a dozen before lunch. You missed it.”
“Phhh,” she said. She looked around the cluttered lab and cast a cautious eye at his TARDIS. Perhaps, she thought, he had rung her up to suggest a trip abroad. Out into time and space. She wasn’t ready for this. But at the moment he seemed perfectly content to sit tipped back on that stool. And the tall blue police box that was his time machine was silent and locked up.
She came around him on the other side and tossed her purse onto the workbench. “Well you’d better tell me because a busy journalist like me takes precious little interest in asking questions of anybody with that smug look on his face.”
For answer, he thrust a hand into his velvet smoking jacket and withdrew two small white envelopes. He held them up in triumph.
“What are those then?” she asked.
He flapped them back and forth, and a rich perfume touched her senses. For a moment it filled her with both anticipatory hunger and sudden realization. Her face lit up as she exclaimed, “No kidding! Invitations to the Chocolate House tour!”
“Those of us who have been invited choose to call it the Royalty House Tour,” he told her. “As that is what it’s properly called. And it’s not just the tour, Sarah Jane. It’s an invitation and two passes for me and my chosen companion to spend a weekend there, getting to know the place.”
She came at him so fast that he nearly toppled backwards off the tipped stool.
“Chose me!” she exclaimed. “Oh I’d love to go!” For a moment her anguish at thinking he might really be teasing her flashed across her face with genuine pain. “You don’t want to take the Brigadier or some chum from UNIT---“
“Chum from UNIT?” he asked. “Chum?”
“So you ought to take me!”
He swung his legs down and deliberately stood. When he did get up, he was a foot taller than she. “Of course I ought to take you, but the understanding is that we are a couple; a pair---“
“Well that’s all right, isn’t it? We’ll go as father and daughter.”
“Father and daughter?” Genuine surprise flashed across his lined face. Then he scowled. “What do you mean father and daughter? I’m still in my prime!”
“Then we could get a suite. Please take me with you! I’m dying to go!”
At her earnestness, his eyes softened. “Well of course I’ll take you with me. That’s why I called you here, to ask you to come along.”
“Oh Doctor, that’s wonderful! Thank you! I’m dying to take one of their tours!” She was so happy that she seized his hand in both of hers. “Oh maybe I can do a story on it.”
His eyes twinkled at her delight, but as she left him to fill the electric kettle for tea, his face took on a faintly quizzical expression.
“And just think,” she said as she opened the tap at the lab sink. “All that free chocolate. I’ve heard that you can have as much as you like while you’re there---“
“You know, I cannot understand the incredibly addictive draw that chocolate has on even the most sensible of young women,” he said.
“Oh I love chocolate. Especially well made chocolates, and they’re ever so expensive---“
“Yes, but why?” He stepped after her to get the mugs from the shelf over the sink. “What’s the attraction?”
She turned and shot him a puzzled look of her own. “It tastes so good! What else?”
He gave a slight shake of his head and started looking for the canister of tea. “I’ve never had time to investigate it, but there’s a magnetic draw of chocolate for human females. Perhaps I’ll look into it before we make the trip. Or perhaps while we’re there. It’s this weekend. That’s the best I could do. Hope you can get away on short notice.”
“I’ll make a point of getting away for this. You don’t snag a pass to the Chocolate House more than once in a lifetime!”
“Royalty house!” he exclaimed.
She suddenly turned. “Hey,” and now her voice was uncertain. “What gives? Why are you keen to go up there? You got your nose into some sort of trouble?”
He set the mugs down on the workbench and started a search for the sugar. “Sarah Jane, you have a suspicious mind. As a matter of fact---“ He straightened up with the sugar tin in hand. “The Brig wants me to go have a look ‘round.”
“Oh, that financier, the one who committed suicide a couple weeks ago. When he was found there was a box of the Royalty House chocolates in his room. Matched the scenario of another poor fellow who did himself in a few weeks before. Box of Royalty house chocolates nearby.”
“That is odd.” And now she looked concerned.
“Well not really. Plenty of suicides have occurred, regrettably, in the interim between these two, with no Royalty House chocolates in view. When you’re testing with a sample size of only two there’s a lot of room for coincidence.”
“Had they eaten quite a lot of it?”
He shook his head. “The first fellow had eaten about three pieces and the other had taken the lid off the box and then set it down. Perhaps a feeble means to distract himself from his suicidal thoughts. Or just a final, failed comfort before death.”
Her journalistic instincts came to the fore. “Was the chocolate analyzed?”
“Yes. Nothing amiss. And boxes from the same lot had been shipped to other well-to-do chocolate fanciers who showed no ill effects---no inclinations to do themselves in. The police wrote it off, but by then the Royalty House had been called in, and they issued invitations to anybody who might need them. Very cooperative. So the Brigadier received a pair of passes.”
“And the Brigadier just handed them off to you?”
She had forgotten about the kettle, so he walked past her and retrieved it. “The Brigadier, my dear Sarah Jane, has no interest whatsoever in chocolate.”
“And you do?”
“Well my interest is not as keen as yours, but I do fancy a weekend in the lap of luxury. The Royalty House keeps a fine table, manicured grounds, and the sort of wine cellar that you can only read about.” He poured the hot water into the teapot.
“But look here, are the police sure it was suicide?” she asked.
“Absolutely. Self inflicted gunshot wound in the first, and fatal jump from a fourth story window for the second, alone in his rooms, doors locked.”
He closed the lid over the round, cheerful pot and carried the kettle back to the sink.
She turned to say, “But somebody must have suspected the chocolates.”
“Not really. Both men were worth millions of pounds and handled the portfolios of dozens of corporations and fortunes. It was necessary to explore every link, every similarity. Recent discoveries about alkaloid components of chocolate prompted the police investigation to consult UNIT, as we have better forensic methods than anybody else. But the chocolate came out innocent.”
She tilted her head. “Are you sure? You don’t think Royalty House pulled a switch on you? Substituted normal chocolate for poisoned?”
He put his fists on his hips and adopted the air of a skeptic. “You know, you’ve read too many detective novels, young lady—“
“Bosh, I haven’t read any. Not lately.”
He relaxed and came to the tea pot. “Royalty House Chocolates has a large clientele and was quite anxious over being put in an unfavorable light. They quite literally swung the doors wide to allow investigation, and they carried out their own, in-house audit of materials and processing. If anything, they encouraged thoroughness.”
She folded her arms as he poured out the tea. “So you’re satisfied.”
“My dear Sarah Jane, you can indulge your sweet tooth as much as you like, and the worst consequence will be stomach ache,” he told her, and he forgot himself and tweaked her nose as he recalled her earnest desire to come along. “So pack along some peppermint, just in case.”
“Doctor?” a familiar voice called.
“He’d better not forbid you from going to Royalty House,” Sarah Jane exclaimed in a whisper.
The Brigadier entered. At sight of the Doctor’s young visitor, UNIT’s commanding officer became slightly more formal. “Miss Smith, what a pleasure to see you again.”
“Thank you Brigadier. I was just leaving---“
“Miss Smith is going to accompany me to the Royalty House Tour this weekend,” the Doctor said.
Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow. “Do you think that’s wise, Doctor?”
“Why not?” Sarah exclaimed, ready to defend her rights as a woman.
The Brigadier tossed a small, cheaply bound paperback book onto the workbench. Both Sarah and the Doctor leaned over it to see the cover.
“New information,” the Brigadier said. “From a disgruntled former Sales Vice President.”
Sarah Jane read the title out loud: “Sweet Sorrow, an Account of the Tears I Shed at Royalty House, by Stephan Ischink.”
The Doctor took it up. “Looks like a rag.”
“Self published,” the Brigadier acknowledged. “But it does blow the lid off, at least on the private life of the Chief Financial Officer and founder of the company, Jack Highlers.”
“Not the chocolates themselves?” the Doctor asked.
“No, more an account of philandering, abuse of workers, deception, and misuse of funds. The author was a highly placed officer in the company, and Highler stole his wife right out from under his nose; covered up everything for years and lied his way out of one compromising situation after another. This chap finally got wise and secured a divorce. He left the company and has documented the moral lapses of the founder---“
“But has not indicted the quality of the product,” the Doctor added.
Lethbridge Stewart shook his head. “No. There’s some interesting background information that lends doubt to the official story of how the company grew, but they never adulterated the chocolate or produced anything unsafe, not as far as Ischink writes. The processing of the chocolate has always been sanitary and proper.”
The Doctor set down the book and Sarah took it up and turned it over in her hands.
“Well, I can thumb through it if you like, but I don’t think scandal caused the suicide of those two men,” the Doctor said. “There was certainly no indication of that type of link between them and Royalty House. Neither one was especially a playboy.”
“Brigadier, could I borrow this?” Sarah Jane asked. “I promise to bring it back.”
Lethbridge Stewart inclined his head. “If it’s all right with the Doctor, yes Miss Smith. You may borrow it for a day or two. I’ll be seeing you at Royalty House, no doubt.”
The Doctor lifted his eyebrows. “You’re going up there this weekend?”
“Just to close things up in the investigation. Assuming that you don’t unearth anything.”
A sly smile crossed Sarah Jane’s face. “Come on, admit it, Brigadier, you’re addicted to chocolate!”
He tried not to smile, and he cocked a lofty eyebrow at her. “I assure you, I am quite indifferent to chocolate, Miss Smith.”
Her mouth opened. “You’re joking!”
“Not at all. It’s very nice with coffee after a large meal, but I probably eat less than two ounces a year.” He nodded at both of them. “Good morning to both of you then.” And he went out.
Sarah took up her tea, her eyes thoughtful. “Just leaves more for us then,” the Doctor said. He glanced at her with renewed interest. “Are you really going to read that book, Sarah Jane? A lot of corporate executives attract reprisals for their private lives. It’s the stuff of tabloids.”
She took up the book again. “I follow rules of strict journalism, Doctor, but it’s always interesting to get the real lowdown on the rise of corporate entities. I might not print everything I find out, but if there were any real harm down, perhaps some honest journalism will help anybody who’s been hurt.”
She offered him a brief smile as a new idea crossed her mind.
* * * *
The bar at the inner city pub had filled with the lunchtime crowd. Clutching her purse and the slim paperback book, Sarah Jane squeezed her way through a mass of young, nervous men in gabardine suitcoats. They sucked on cigarettes and jetted out smoke in straight, forceful lines from their mouths. They eyed her as she passed through, and she decided that they were in sales: edgy from too much caffeine, and overly competitive and anxious from the current drab economy.
Another group of denim and leather clad men, leathery faced with work roughened hands, had taken over a larger corner as they drank their pints and chewed on chips and steaming planks of fried fish. The main objective just then was eating: people on lunch breaks who had to get back to loading docks or sales floors or telephones. At last she found a place at the bar. A tall, laconic man with a broad chest but thin, almost feminine arms nodded at her from the taps. “What’ll it be, Miss?”
“Half pint, please. Pale ale if you have it.”
He nodded, took a glass from an overhead rack and pulled down a tap.
“Does Stephan Ischink lunch here?” she asked.
Without looking up, he nodded. He wiped the bottom of the glass and brought it to her. She fished for money in her purse, and she saw his eye fall to the cover of the book. A light of recognition crossed his features. She handed him a ten pound note. “Is he here now?”
“He’s at your shoulder,” a voice at her ear said.
Sarah looked up and saw a tall, wiry man with graying hair. “I’m Stephan Ischink. Can I help you, Miss?”
“How do you do? I’m Sarah Jane Smith,” she said. She offered her hand, and he shook it.
“I see you’ve been reading my book.”
“Is there a place we can talk?” she asked.
“I’ll get us a snug.”
He walked away with a slightly unbalanced gait. It reminded her of an adolescent boy who was still growing, as though Ishinck were a man not entirely sure of his physical space in the world. It was a walk that was oddly innocent, she thought, boyish and a bit ungainly.
He nodded to her from across the room, and she followed him into a tiny alcove with a door and a bench that hugged the corner. They sat down.
“So you’ve read my book,” he said.
“Not yet. I’m a journalist. I’ve managed to get into Royalty House for a weekend holiday, and then a friend gave me your book. I thought it might be faster to see you before I go. Perhaps you could tell me watch to watch for.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Watch for? Jack Highlers is beyond recruiting you into his sales machine these days young lady. I should think that you’re safe enough from that.”
“Sales machine?” She was puzzled.
“The legions of earnest young men and women who believed they could get a piece of the Highlers empire for themselves, win the friendship and confidence of Highlers himself, and hobknob with the rich and famous, all by selling thoroughly mediocre chocolates door to door.”
Her mouth opened in surprise. “Royalty House chocolates are some of the most exclusive chocolates in the world! There’s not even enough of them made to sell them door to door!”
He nodded, his eyes patient. “These days, yes. In those days---20 years ago, the company name was Harbor Chocolates---“
Recognition dawned on her. “Harbor, yes! I remember those! You could pick them up from vendors sometimes.”
“Remember the taste?” he asked.
“No, not really.”
“That’s because there wasn’t any. Harbor chocolates were the bottom rung, but Highler had an army of willing and energetic souls to sell them close to train stations, stores, parks, and museums---and door to door.”
“He built Royalty House from Harbor Chocolates?” She was impressed.
“He built Royalty House from the sweat and toil of naïve young people who worshipped him and really believed that they could prove themselves and earn their way into paid staff positions,” he said. Then he added, “But Highlers is beyond that. I mean, I’m sure he’s overworking and under paying people in some capacity, but I can see that you’ve got a career and enjoy it. I expect that your safe from seduction on that level.”
“I heard somebody say that Jack Highlers took your wife from you,” she began. She watched his face, looking for defensiveness or hostility.
But Ischink remained calm. “Yes. He took her, had her for about ten years to do with as he liked, and then shipped her off, out of the way, to a cottage near the coast.”
“Alone?” she asked.
“I’ve heard that she shares the place with a woman retiree of Harbor Chocolates. The official story is that they’re friends who room together. Whether that’s true, or whether the relationship is more than that, or whether the other woman is keeping some kind of guard over her, I don’t know.”
“And you’re not inclined to check?”
“I did check. She told me never to call her again and she said that she’d left me for Highlers because I wasn’t really a man and I’d married her under false pretenses and she knew I’d had an affair with another lady who sold chocolates. She still has some contact with our daughters, and she seems fine. So they tell me.”
“And had you had an affair?”
“No, of course not. I wanted to save my marriage, not destroy it. Highlers did his best to put me and one of the other street sellers into compromising situations, but we never did what he intended. The young lady that he’d selected was a good friend to me, but she had very high principles and would never think of having an affair. It was out of the question.”
She took a sip of her beer and said cautiously, “You’d think Highlers would have realized that.”
“Highlers never comprehended moral integrity.” Now he became more resolute. “But look here, what kind of story are you looking for? The history of Royalty House? A review of my book? An expose of the Highlers dynasty?”
She became slightly evasive. The fact was, there was no story in what he was telling her. It was tragic (assuming it was true), but not worth going into print in a hard news paper. Yet an odd reluctance and a fascination held her.
“I’m trying to get the picture,” she said, a vague answer that sounded very journalistic and often worked. It worked now. “Were you a street vendor for him?”
Ischink nodded. “Highlers called it ‘Open air clerks’” And he laughed. “Yes, I started at age 17, selling to school friends and did pretty well. So I launched out and sold them while I was studying business courses. I met my wife when she joined our cadre of Open Air Clerks. We worked together well, and we married within a year.”
“So you did well selling?” she asked.
“Better than most. Then we went to an awards dinner, and Highlers told me he was impressed with my record and my attentiveness to my education. He brought me onto staff. I worked like a slave for him, and he promoted me about once a year until I reached the level of Vice President. But by then I realized what had been going on all those years. He’d turned my wife against me while pretending to be my friend. He even offered to intercede between us when things were bad, and I let him. I was honored.” He shook his head. “I believed him for a very long time, Miss Smith.”
“How?” she asked. “You couldn’t see what was happening? What he was doing?”
Ischink sighed. “Not the art of lying, but the art of having other people believe you whether you lie or not was Highlers’ specialty. It was control. And I was under his control for a long time.”
He reached into his jacked and extracted a card. “If it’s the chocolate you’re interested in, look up this man before you go.”
She took the card and looked at it. “Clarence Lawman, Chocolatier,” she read aloud. She glanced up at him.
Ischink nodded. “Another survivor of the Royalty House slave market, and a man who really knows chocolates. He can give you information on the operations and manufacturing side of the process.”
* * * *
“I might have known you wouldn’t use the time to pack,” the Doctor called as they tore around a curve in Bessy, the Doctor’s vintage Edwardian roadster.
Sarah Jane held her hat down to her head and called, “I was packed in ten minutes. That was easy.”
He shot a sideways glance at her as they sped away from the congestion of city traffic. “Regular news hound are you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“And this Clarence Lawman fellow is expecting us? I’d rather be straight on the way to Royalty House!”
“We won’t miss the evening meal if you let me do the talking!’ she shouted over the rushing air in the open car. “But we ought to hear what Mr. Lawman has to say!”
“All right. Better watch that map. Tell me where to turn next!”
Within minutes they were pulling down a narrow lane of shops on a street overly done to look picturesque. Sarah Jane frowned and wondered if there was any point in interviewing Lawman. But one of the shops was still open in the growing twilight. The lamps inside threw golden light through the many glass panels of its bay display window.
The Doctor smoothly slid Bessy into a parking spot. They hurried out of the car and went inside. As Sarah pushed the heavy glass door open, a tiny bell overhead tinkled, and the sweet, gentle fragrance of a confectioner’s shop wafted over her. Wiping powerful, thick hands on a towel, a short, square man with reddish cheeks and white hair emerged from the back room.
“Are you Miss Smith?” he asked. “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”
Sarah quickly made introductions. “I’m Clarence Lawman,” he said. “Come through to the back. It will be easier to explain things.”
Lawman, Sarah Jane thought, had the ruddy cheeks, blue eyes, and snow white hair of a Christmas elf. But the effect was offset by broad shoulders and a powerful build. He led them into a wide, brightly lit back room that was the size of the front room shop.
The Doctor stared around at the gleaming stainless steel fixtures and white cabinets, deeply impressed. Lawman understood the look.
“Yes, I specialize in hand crafted chocolates,” Lawman said. He nodded at a 50 liter tank, a long, shallow, open trough, and a cylinder that lay on its side. All of these were connected by pipes, and everything was stainless steel. The cylinder, Sarah Jane noticed, sat on rockers and could be separated from the piping by a series of clamps.
“I’m sure you understand chocolate processing, Lawman said, almost apologetically. “But I’ll explain how it works.” He gestured for them to follow, and he opened another door, revealing a narrow room in which stood two large vats on high legs. The smell was intense and not quite sweet, but not objectionable.
“Roasting and winnowing,” the Doctor said.
The chocolatier nodded. “Yes, I buy the beans straight from the traders,” Lawman said. “I shovel them into the roaster by hand and then transfer them to the winnower myself.”
“You personally roast and grind all the chocolate that you sell?” Sarah Jane asked.
His ruddy face broke into a smile. “Oh no, Miss Smith. I also buy high quality cacao liquor, cacao butter, and cacao powder for my shop. I put it through a mixing and conching process to enrobe caramel and fruit centers. But what I process back here through roasting, winnowing, and grinding is for exclusive customers: men and women with palates sophisticated enough to appreciate hand processed chocolate from bean to confection.”
“But I thought all the chocolates you sell are gourmet,” she asked.
He smiled briefly. “Gourmet is a broad word, young lady. Most palates can be refined enough to make distinctions between what is broadly available and what a good chocolatier sells. All of my chocolates are considered gourmet. But a very few people, who train their taste buds over a long period of time, can gain a special discrimination and appreciate the extra care that I put into my hand roasted beans.”
“And they pay for that special care?” the Doctor asked.
Lawman nodded. “Oh yes, Doctor, they pay very well. Exceedingly well. A single box of chocolates that I take from the trading floor to finished project can bring the same price as an excellent piece of jewelry.”
“I say, that is lucrative,” Sarah Jane exclaimed.
He suddenly laughed. “Yes, but I earn every penny, Miss Smith. When the beans are roasting, the temperature has to be perfect. Any deviation in temperature will ruin the batch forever. It can be very nerve wracking.” He nodded at the winnowing vat and then at the stainless steel processing still in the larger room. “And so it goes until I have a finished project.” He crossed to the far corner of the room. “Would you like a cup of tea? Let’s see---Stephen said that you were asking about Royalty House.”
“Tea would be lovely,” Sarah Jane said, and she and the Doctor followed him and accepted high stools for chairs while Lawman filled and plugged in a tea kettle on a high, rickety table in the corner. “How do you and Mr. Ischink know each other?” she asked.
“Oh,” and Lawman’s voice became careless. “We worked together a bit in trying to investigate Royalty House. Foxhole friendship, one might say. Stephen is a good man. Lost his wife to the founder of the place---“
“Yes, I’d heard that. Have you dug up anything on the quality of the chocolates?”
Lawman shrugged. “Once upon a time, yes. Grit in the product showed a lack of conching. He was selling overpriced chocolates and adding food dye to make them a similar color to truly gourmet chocolate. The problem---“ And he rummaged on the lower shelf of the flimsy table until he’d hunted up three cups. He stood with a slight grunt. “The problem is that when people buy upper tier chocolates, they are very much buying a look, a presentation, a name, even an emotional high that comes along with the idea of the romance of chocolates or the pleasure of eating them.”
“So they got away with it,” the Doctor said.
“Still, overcharging isn’t a serious crime,” Sarah Jane said.
“Well, it can be Miss. Questions arise about fillers being added. And within the chocolate industry I wanted to raise concerns. Our guarantees have to be worth something. He was promising the industry standard of historic ingredients: Chocolate, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cream, pure vanilla extract, and sugar. Nothing else. But when I tasted grit in the product, I was certain that he was adding lecithin---“
“A stabilizer,” the Doctor said.
“A cheap stabilizer, Doctor,” he added. He glanced at Sarah as he poured tea. “If you want to know the difference between a common chocolate and a gourmet chocolate, Miss Smith, it’s lecithin. Gourmet chocolate must be conched for hours---“
She tilted her head. “Conched?”
“Sort of like kneading, except the chocolate is a liquid and not a dough. It’s swept through and through with paddles or rollers, and then the chocolate is channeled into an enclosed tub and rolled back and forth with a gentle rocking motion. All of that is called conching. It cannot be rushed, and the longer chocolate is conched, the more thoroughly the pure chocolate will emulsify fine particles of sugar and any solids in the cream. You get a silky end product that will coat the tongue and produce a good impact on the senses and emotions.”
“How long does conching take?” she asked. She swallowed as she felt her mouth start to water.
He nodded to the front room. “For gourmet chocolates sold through the shop, I conch for three days. For the specialty tier that I process from beans, I conch for five days.”
“And lecithin provides a short cut?” the Doctor asked.
Lawman nodded. “You can get conching down to a few hours and still get a product that tastes somewhat like chocolate,” he said. “As long as you add lecithin. But there is no such thing as a gourmet chocolate that has lecithin in it. I never use it, but I can detect it.”
“Did you report him?” she asked.
“I published a report within the industry. But by then Jack Highlers was buying out independent chocolatiers and smaller processing facilities and adding them to his label. I couldn’t be sure of what I was getting in any single box of chocolates. He had some skilled processors working as they’d always worked and just wrapping the end product in something that said ‘Royalty House’.
“Still, you could have had samples tested,” the Doctor said.
Lawman nodded. “I did. Never got a positive response back for fillers or lecithin.”
“So you were mistaken,” Sarah Jane said.
‘I don’t think so.” And his voice was calm. “I think, Miss Smith, that you have not tapped into how extremely powerful and influential Jack Highlers is. He is not selling quality. He’s not even selling an honest product. In fact, I don’t think he even knows all that much about chocolate. But he is making money---“
He cut himself off as the unmistakable crash of a rock through the front shop window interrupted him. Instantly, all three of them leaped up.
“Doctor, see to the back door please; there’s a hallway beyond the two vats,” Lawman said, his voice calm. “I’ll see to the front. Miss Smith, if you’ll ring up the police I’d be grateful. The phone is on the table.”
The Doctor rushed out, into the narrow room that housed the vats. Sarah heard a door beyond the vats open as he found the exit hallway. Lawman stepped quickly but cautiously into the front room. He switched off the front lights in front at once, a hopeless attempt to make the shop window less inviting as a target. Sarah plucked up the phone, but just then a figure, a man in black jeans, stepped out from the doorway that led to the vats. He closed the door to prevent the Doctor from coming back into the work room.
Just at that moment, Sarah realized that the phone was dead.
“How did you get in here?” she asked, but she knew it was a useless question as she asked it. He’d come in through the back door and had been waiting in hiding in the long narrow room with the vats. The Doctor had rushed right past him.
He swiftly closed the door to the front, and Clarence Lawman shouted, “Sarah, is somebody in there?”
“What do you want?” Sarah Jane asked. Then she shouted, “Doctor! Mr. Lawman, help! Help me!”
Lawman must have set his broad shoulder to the door barricading him from the workroom. It shuddered under impact, but it held.
“Look what do you want?” she asked the intruder. He wore black jeans and a black sweater, and his face was pockmarked with acne scars. “They’ll break down those doors in a minute,” she told him. “You don’t have much time!”
“I don’t need much time,” he said. He fished in a side pocket and drew out a knife that opened with a snick. He came around the chocolate still towards her.
I appreciate comments from readers. Please tell me what worked for you in the story and what did not work. Did any part move too slowly? Was the story hard to get into? Were any of the characters not true to the television series? I appreciate all input.