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
The ringing of the telephone roused the Doctor from his doze. The fire had burned low, and Sarah Jane remained deeply asleep, curled up against him. For a moment, even with the annoying distraction of the telephone shrilling at him, he gazed at her with a helpless, troubled tenderness. Then he slipped out from her and strode across the room to take the call.
She whimpered and looked around. He'd never heard her whimper before.
"Oh who's calling now?" she asked nobody in particular. And then as he picked up the receiver and hesitated, she curled up on the sofa like a cat resettling itself and immediately dropped into sleep.
"Hallo!" he snapped into the phone.
"I need you out here," the Brigadier barked at him.
"What, right now?" He looked around and then tried to think. "It's about two a.m. isnít it?"
"Yes. Do you know where the UNIT vehicles are parked?"
"Yes, far end of the visitor parking area."
"Meet me there."
"All right, give me fifteen minutes."
"Say nothing, Doctor. Not to anybody. Not to Miss Smith."
The Doctor was surprised. "Look, what the devil is wrong? What's happened?"
"I'll tell you when I see you, but I mean this. Not a word."
"Well I have to tell her that I'm leaving--at least leave a note. She'll be worried if she gets up in the morning and finds me gone."
"Tell her I've sent you into the town to work on a leak in the power station."
"Just tell her that."
"Very well. I'll see you shortly." He cradled the receiver. Muttering something about "thick headed military thinking and all that secrecy nonsense," he patted his pockets to make sure he had his key, and then he crossed back to Sarah Jane. She had her face to the back of the sofa and was sleeping deeply.
"Sarah Jane," he said quietly. She didnít respond. Her breathing was slow and deep. He frowned and used his thumb to peel back her eyelid. The corneal reflex was low normal. As though she were in a natural deep sleep or perhaps had been sedated. He couldn't decide.
At last he retreated to his room, to the writing desk, found a piece of note paper, and quickly jotted a note to her. Then he rummaged in his pocket until he produced a safety pin. He came back into the front room and pinned the note to the sleeve of her robe.
His eyes still pensive, he brushed her hair back from her forehead, but she didn't react. "This is not right," he said to himself, but she remained peacefully asleep. She was slightly pale, but people often did lose a bit of color in deep sleep. At last he made the decision to leave. He could not define a provable problem. She was as deeply asleep as any young woman might be after a long day, a great scare, some stomach upset, and too many chocolates.
He went into her room, retrieved her blanket, and spread it over her. Then at last he threw one look at the fire, which had gone to coals, and he went out. He made sure that the door was securely locked behind him. To avoid being seen by the staff at the entry, he chose a side door in a back hallway downstairs and let himself out.
There was no moon, and under a velvet and clear sky, he hurried from the comparative brightness of the lights around the building, across the grounds towards the car park. The UNIT vehicles had commandeered the far end.
Still muttering in annoyance, the Doctor brushed heedlessly past one of the tiny information booths where, during daylight hours, a helpful guide sat behind the glass and dispensed directions to travelers. Just as he strode past, he sensed a slight motion as though part of the booth were detaching from itself.
He realized his danger and leaped sideways. A crowbar glanced off the top of his shoulder.
He shouted and sidestepped again as two figures rushed him. The crowbar arced through the air again in a smooth curve, and he heard desperate breathing. He dropped under the swing and then leaped to the side. His two assailants nearly bumped into each other and then charged him.
As the crowbar arced again in a wide swing towards him, the Doctor ducked under the swing, closed the distance, and grasped the crowbar right at his attacker's grip. He meant to throw the man over, but the other man cried out in amazement and dropped the weapon. It nearly slipped from the Doctor's hand, but he caught his grip, continued the curve of the swing, and would have brought it around to smash into both men, but they rammed into him with their shoulders. He fell backwards to the wet grass and rolled to his feet., the crowbar ready. They didnít say a word but apparently reached the same decision, for as he came up, they started to run in the other direction.
"Oh no you don't!" he shouted. He chased them. But he was wearing shoes designed for hallways and carpets. And he was unfamiliar with the terrain. Just as he slipped and would have fallen forward, he swung the crowbar desperately. It smacked the nearer man in the upper leg, and the fugitive let out a howl of pain and fear, and then the Doctor hit the dewy grass. His would-be attackers disappeared into the night, away from the lights of the building.
* * * *
"What kept you?" Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart asked as the Doctor limped up to the small caravan of jeeps and lone military truck.
The Doctor held up the crowbar with his good hand. "This kept me, Brigadier. Very nearly brained me, might I add."
The Brigadier took it in amazement. "You're joking!" He looked it over. "Somebody came at you from behind?"
"Yes. Somebody rather desperate to keep me from this rendezvous. I want you to send a man up to watch the door to my suite. Tell him not to disturb or frighten Sarah Jane, but I have a bad feeling about this place."
"Oh, you think so?" And the Brigadier made the irony in his voice apparent. But he turned and called, "Mr. Benton!"
Bent over the hood of a jeep with a map in the beam of the headlight, Benton and a group of soldiers straightened up. Benton hurried over. "Yes sir?"
"Get a man up to the main building to watch over the Doctor's suite. He was attacked on his way over here. I want to assure that Miss Smith is kept safe."
As he hurried back to the jeep to make the assignment, the Brigadier looked at the timelord. "It's a good thing you're fast on your feet, Doctor. This would have killed you if it had landed."
The Doctor glanced at the crowbar ruefully. "Itís a good thing the men who tried to brain me didn't know what they were about, Brigadier. Or they would have succeeded."
"Amateurs, you mean?"
"Yes, luckily for me. But if Royalty House sent them after me in a panicked attempt to stop me, then I'm certain the next attempt will not be from amateurs."
"They've got the phones bugged then," the Brigadier said.
The Doctor nodded. "Obviously." He glanced at Lethbridge Stewart. "What's it all about, then? What's happened?"
Lethbridge Stewart set the crowbar into the back seat of his jeep. He glanced at the timelord. "I'm not certain of the number even now, but in their search for more forensic evidence about the lad's body that was found earlier, the police have uncovered a positive boneyard up in the fringe of trees."
"Oh no!" and the Doctor's words were genuine. Then he asked, "Frozen as the first had been?"
"No, not this lot, not so far. These were handled by pros, it seems. Quicklimed. The pathologist chap canít give me a range yet. He says that one or more have been up there for over a year, possibly two, and others are more recent."
"The same---the same--" the Doctor searched for words. "Abuse before death?"
"He cannot say for certain. He thinks it very possible. There are certain forensic indicators present that they associate with such crimes against young people."
The Doctor let out his breath. "Clearly the police have a sociopath, or a band of sociopaths on their hands." He looked over the dark, rolling terrain. "I'm not sure they're equipped for it. That's where UNIT comes into it."
"Is there anything unusual or inexplicable about the crime scene?"
"Not so far as I know. But we did stumble into the middle of it, and the facilities up here are hardly adequate to the task."
The Doctor spoke judiciously but made his point. "Brigadier, I want whoever has done such things brought to justice. But if you swing open the doors to UNIT's science lab because of the horrific nature of a current unsolved crime, you'll never get the police out of your business. You do have a charter and a purpose, and if you sidetrack yourself, you may fail in the purpose assigned to you."
"Look, if there are thirty children buried on that hill, then Britain is on the verge of a national calamity," the Brigadier told him. "Geneva has been in contact with me. They will make the final decision. But as UNIT has a history of pushing aside British military and civil authority when we are on a case, it has been decided that we can boost our ratings here if we help with the forensic evidence."
"I hate to bring this up now, but what about the chocolates, then? I originally came up here because of two suicides possibly linked to the chocolates produced here."
Lethbridge Stewart let out a breath, an expression of mild scorn. "You came up here on a lark to get into the wine cellars of this place. Last I knew, you were just about convinced it was all coincidence. So what have you found? Any indications of tampering?"
"I canít lay my finger on anything, but I'm a lot more concerned now than I was."
The Brigadier became concerned. "Why is that?"
"Something not right about a lot of it. Look, have you eaten any of the chocolates?"
He nodded. "Maybe eight to ten pieces over the last two days. They're actually not very good."
"Any vomiting, any drowsiness?"
"No effects at all?"
Lethbridge Stewart shook his head. He hesitated. "You know, Benton's pretty keen on them. I think he's been through a couple of boxes. Mr. Benton!"
Benton approached again. "Are we ready to go back to the site sir?"
"Momentarily, Mr. Benton. The Doctor has a few questions for you."
The young Warrant Officer looked at the Doctor. "Yes Doctor?"
"You've been eating the chocolates, Benton?"
"Yes sir. About as much as I can hold. They're all free."
"Any ill effects?"
He shook his head.
"Have you been ill at all since coming here?"
"No, Doctor. I feel fine."
"No tiredness? Languor?"
"It would be perfectly natural for him to be tired," Lethbridge Stewart cut in. "He's running the men."
"But I havenít been that tired, sir," he said. "Physically, I feel fine."
"Physically?" the Doctor asked. "What about emotionally?"
"Oh really, Doctor!" And now sarcasm was evident in the Brigadier's tone. "He's not our great aunt Nancy."
"I want to know!" the Doctor insisted.
"Well I donít like this place, Doctor," Benton said. "I mean, there's been the shock of the first body, and now this---all those deaths. And what that Dave Highlers did to Miss Smith. And the workers here---if you get to talk to them---the ones that came on staff from door-to-door sales. There's an oddness---almost a bizarre--well, culture here."
"What sort of bizarre culture?" the Doctor asked.
"Some of them seem to think that Jack Highlers isnít just their boss. Itís like he's their god."
"This place is clearly designed to overawe," the Brigadier said. "Highlers has succeeded with some of his weaker willed work force. Come on, let's get up to that burial site. We've got more urgent things to worry about."
* * * *
The sun was high and the late morning unseasonably warm. Yet a fresh breeze still blew, and birds, delighted with the warmth and a landscape bursting with life, darted from tree to tree, singing and chasing each other. The Doctor trudged up the flagstone walkway alongside the palatial office suite of the main building. As he walked, he glanced up at the great window of Jack Highler's office.
Reduced to a silhouette by the angle of the Doctor's gaze and the comparatively dimmer light inside, Highler's head leaned forward and then bobbed for a moment. He was conducting a meeting. The Doctor stopped and watched, and his eyes narrowed. His gaze measured the distance from the silhouette of the man to the end of the building. He stepped off the flagstone path, backed up to get a better view and thrust his hands in his pockets, his eyes taking the measure. For just a moment he pursed his lips, and then as though making a sudden decision, he abruptly turned and strode down the flagstone walk.
When he reached the familiar hallway that led to his suite, he saw the UNIT soldier standing at the ready, just across from the door.
"Well, what did Miss Smith say when she saw you?" the Doctor asked.
"Miss Smith hasn't left the room yet, Doctor," the soldier said. "I donít think she knows I'm here."
"What?" Surprise and sudden concern cross the Doctor's eyes. "Itís after ten!" He found his key and quickly unlocked the door. Leaving the soldier in the hallway, he rushed into the sitting room and found Sarah Jane, still in her robe and pyjamas, just sitting up and shaking her head at the noise he'd made in unlocking the door.
"Sarah Jane, are you all right?" he asked.
She sat up and managed a smile at him. "I'm fine. What are you striding about for? Is that mud on your jacket?"
"It's after ten. You've been sleeping for 14 hours!"
"Oh, and it felt grand," she said. "Have you ordered coffee?"
"Let me tell the soldier that it's all right." And he hurried back to the door and opened it.
"Soldier?" she asked. She swung her feet onto the floor.
He closed the door and returned to her. She looked up at him. "What's a soldier doing at my door? And did you order coffee?"
"I'll order coffee in a minute," he said. He sat next to her. "We have to leave. Right away. Right now."
This decree woke her up instantly. "Whatever for? I've hardly looked into anything! I've got plans for today: talk to the staff, get the latest gossip--" She narrowed her eyes. "And find out some more about that Dave Highlers! There's something not right about him!"
"Sarah Jane, we cannot stay here. It may be dangerous."
"Not with all the soldiers here." She suddenly realized that there was a note pinned to her sleeve. She pulled it free and glanced at it. Then she looked up at him. "Say, where did you go? Why have you got mud on your jacket?" And she looked at his shoes. "And all over your shoes. What have you been doing?"
"I honestly cannot tell you. I've got orders to keep silent. But I will tell you that I was attacked last night. Two fellows with a crow bar who tried to brain me."
"What? Are you all right?" And now her eyes widened.
"Yes, perfectly. But they got away and I didnít get a look at them."
"But where did you go?"
He shook his head and returned to his point. "We have to leave."
She took in her breath. "I donít want to leave until I dig up some more information. You're right when you say there's something wrong about this place. I should have gotten right to it yesterday. But I wonít let the opportunity pass today."
"I have to get back to the lab at UNIT," he said. "I canít leave you here."
"Are the UNIT soldiers still going to hang about?"
He paused and then nodded. "Then I can stay," she said. "They'll look out for me, especially if you put a word in the Brig's ear."
"It isnít safe. And how will you get back to London?"
She shrugged. "Oh, I can hire a car." But she pushed her point. "Where did you go? Were you up at the site where they found that poor boy?"
"I really cannot discuss it, Sarah Jane. There's a question of human dignity involved, an order of appropriate people being told matters before I can say anything."
Her eyes suddenly searched his. He caught himself as he realized he'd said too much. As a journalist, Sarah Jane knew exactly what sort of situations demanded a protocol of notifications.
"All right," she said after a moment. "I wonít ask any more."
"And you'll come with me?"
She shook her head. "I still want to do my digging. I'll be careful. And if you like, I'll leave before dark tonight. Perhaps if any of the UNIT men go back tonight I can arrange to caravan with them."
He stood and went to the telephone. "Well, I'll order up some coffee and breakfast." He picked up the receiver and found her at his elbow. Her eyes were enormous and worried. "Youíre not angry with me are you?" she asked.
"What? Of course not." And as she was clearly fearful of having angered him, he set down the receiver and put his arms around her. "I'm never angry with you. Even when I ought to be!" And then he smiled at her and tweaked her nose.
Satisfied, she left him to make the call while she went back to the room to find clothes for the day. She missed his concerned look after her.
No sooner had he cradled the receiver than somebody knocked at the door. The Doctor crossed the room and opened it.
"Are you and Miss Smith packing up?" the Brigadier demanded.
"She wants to stay until tonight. I cannot persuade her otherwise. But I'll be ready within half an hour. I'll go down with you if I may and leave Bessy for her."
He expected the Brigadier to be annoyed about Sarah Jane's obstinacy, but instead UNIT's commander strode into the room and said, "Well we've got another problem. The blasted police wonít initiate a search of the facility."
"Local magistrate says there's no link to Royalty House itself and refuses to issue a warrant. And the police here are backing him up. Insist there's no likely tie."
"What do you think?"
"I think when two dozen bodies are dug up on anybody's property that there ought to be a full-scale investigation! I've called down to the Met to find out what my options are. But as of this moment, Royalty House insists that UNIT's business here is strictly the suicides and nothing else."
"You'd better keep your voice down if you want that matter kept secret," the Doctor warned with a nod at Sarah Jane's door. "The problem is, there may be no tie to Royalty House itself, as an entity."
"Are you forgetting that two men tried to brain you last night?"
"Not at all. Come in and sit down." The Doctor led him inside. "If only one or two people here have been behind these deaths, it stands to reason that they would have easily gotten wind of the discovery and then kept an eye on me to stop me from helping the investigation. They all know I'm with UNIT and that I'm the scientific advisor."
"Is that what you think?" The Brigadier pushed his hat back and looked at him as the timelord threw himself into the easy chair.
"There are several possibilities and that's one of them," the Doctor said. "What's likely, if that is the situation, is that Royalty House will try to cover itself from any unfavorable exposure. In other words---"
"In other words even if Royalty House as an entity had no hand in those deaths, they may still obstruct us." And the Brigadier finally doffed his hat and threw it onto the cushion alongside him. "And that's the world of corporation morality."
"So what do you plan to do?"
Lethbridge Stewart let out a breath of exasperation. "I put in a call to see Jack Highlers. I'll try to negotiate with him to open the place up for searches if the police will just conduct them."
"You're working on this harder than the police---"
But Lethbridge Stewart shook his head. "The police are working on it, but not this angle. They just donít believe that Highlers or his company could have any knowledge of it."
Somebody knocked on the door, and at the same moment Sarah Jane emerged from her room, dressed for the day.
"Good morning, Brigadier, come for breakfast?" she asked as she swung open the suite's door and let the attendant wheel in the breakfast cart.
"Well, I donít mind a bite to eat, now I'm here," he said, standing. She looked fresh and pretty and business-like.
"And I'm going to have a good look round this place today," she said. The attendant left them, and she closed the door after him. She glanced at the Brigadier, and she made her voice pert, "And I'm not leaving until tonight!"
Unruffled, the Brigadier started removing covers from the dishes. "As you like. The Doctor is going to leave you his car, arenít you Doctor?"
"Yes, certainly," the Doctor said.
Sarah Jane calmed down. "Well that's all right then. Let's have breakfast!"
* * * *
An hour later, wearing her "charming tourist" face, Sarah Jane wandered down to the entry area and the massive reception desk where the room clerks manned their posts and the liveried porters awaited.
"Hello Miss!" one of the clerks said instantly as she approached. "Checking out already?"
"No, I was hoping for a tour actually," she said. "I saw the processing area yesterday and was hoping for a bit more."
"Well, we donít normally run the grounds tours on Sundays, but I'll see what I can do." He picked up an intercom receiver, spoke a few words, and nodded. As he set it down again, he said, "Somebody will be here shortly."
Sarah Jane knew full well how to be fascinated with every detail of the place. As a man of her own age, wearing a coat and tie, hurried across the floor to meet her, she greeted him at once with a question: "Hello! You know, those chandeliers are so lovely; were they made for Royalty House?" And she pointed upward.
He beamed, at once on familiar ground. "Actually Miss, three of them came from an estate sale of a grand old house about thirty miles from here. Mr. Highlers purchased them at a very low price and then had the others made as imitations."
"All that crystal!" she exclaimed. "It must have cost a fortune!"
"Actually, the imitations are made from a special Plexiglas," he told her. "But can you tell which three are the crystal chandeliers and which are not?"
She gazed attentively at the high ceiling and realized that the yellowish light, the distance from the floor, and the intersecting light from other lamps and the high windows would all work to reduce the clarity of the reflection of the chandeliers. Even an expert would have difficulty determining which were genuine and which were not from this distance.
But she played along. "I'll guess the very center one and that one and that one," she said.
He laughed. "Actually it's that one over there, and those two," he told her, pointing them out.
He liked talking about the dťcor. As she had noticed on the first night with the porters, there was a genuine, almost child-like pride in him about the place, as though her were a part owner. "Now what about this lovely floor?" she asked.
* * * *
"So you've got an appointment to see Highlers?" the Doctor asked as he and the Brigadier sipped coffee.
The Brigadier glanced at his watch. "Yes, not for over an hour. And if it's anything like last time, he'll keep me waiting."
"Standard operation to put nosey visitors in their place," the Doctor said. "I think I'll come with you."
"It delays your return to UNIT, but very well." And then the Brigadier lifted an eyebrow and his glance became suspicious. "You on to something?"
"Maybe. What do we actually know about Highlers?"
"Rags to riches story, allegations of adultery, definitely markets his products based on a grand appearance. He's ambitious, a risk taker---"
The Doctor glanced around the magnificent room and nodded. "And more of a business man and marketer of goods than a chocolatier."
"He can buy expertise in chocolate making. He's done very well."
"Yes, started with a version of chocolate so cheap that according to modern market guidelines, it wasn't chocolate at all. Rather, it was a chocolate-flavored confection---"
"The Harbor Chocolates, you mean? He built the whole business on those bars."
"And even now, his stuff is not all that good, not compared to the real thing that Clarence Lawman puts out."
"Well you've been getting your nose wrapped around chocolate, havenít you?" the Brigadier asked. He stood, carrying his coffee cup and crossed to one of the filled glass bowls. He popped first one chocolate and then another into his mouth. He shook his head. "Tastes all right to me. Frankly, I would like a Cadbury better than this, but itís not bad."
"But you donít really care for chocolates," the Doctor added.
The Brigadier returned to the sofa and sat down. "Not really. Never saw the allure."
* * * *
"And these are your news archives?" Sarah Jane asked as the young man, whose name was Mr. Evans, led her into a large but cramped room filled with shelves of cuttings archives, reel-to-reel canisters, advertising posters, and numerous copies of a single paperback book. She took up one of the books and glanced at the title: THE BEST CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD, AND HOW I FOUND IT. She flipped it over. "Mr. Highlers himself wrote this?"
"Oh yes miss," said the youthful and eager Mr. Evans. "He knows everything about chocolate!"
"You know, I used to live in a village with a confectioner who swore to me that Mr. Highler was really a businessman," she said. "He spoke very disparagingly of Mr. Highlers." As she saw Evans' face fall, she added, "But the more I see here, and the more I taste those delicious chocolates, the more I think he may have resented the success of Royalty House."
The young man brightened. "And those are right thoughts, Miss Smith! Oh, you wouldn't think there'd be such rivalry and bitterness in a business as sweet as chocolate, but it's very nearly cut throat, I assure you. We're very lucky to have Mr. Highler piloting our great ship!"
This statement puzzled her so much that it showed. "I'm sorry?"
"Leading us to our rightful place in the industry," he told her. "Now people think that Hershey---Milton Hershey over in the States---that he did a great thing with chocolate---"
"Yes, he built a town for his workers, established an excellent orphanage and school, endowed libraries, hospitals, and churches---"
"A drop in the bucket. Milton Hershey was hardly able to keep the place going! A pittance here and a pittance there!" he exclaimed.
"Well, he believed in a moderate lifestyle," she began.
"Of course! He had to, didnít he?"
She decided to keep her mouth closed. Evans continued: "Milton Hershey had some good ideas, but he didnít know what to do with them. Now Jack Highlers, he's the man with the plan for the future, and the future is chocolate!"
"Say," she asked suddenly. "Could I watch some of these reel to reel films? What are they?"
"Training films," he told her. "For our sales people."
"Were you in sales?"
He nodded, and for just a moment Sarah Jane thought that a wince crossed his features, but then it was gone. "That was a long time ago," he said.
"But that's how Jack Highlers won his place in the chocolate world, wasn't it?" she asked. "Convincing consumers one at a time to buy his chocolates? I'd love to understand how he did it."
"Well, I could show you the introduction to the company that we used for new sales people. We used to show that all the time on tours. Let me set up the equipment."
* * * *
Twenty minutes later found Sarah and Evans seated on folding chairs in the cramped room, the film projector between them. She stood and dimmed the lights as he got the reels turning. After the leader tape ran through, she saw a large auditorium filled with young people, mostly male, all in white shirts and narrow blue ties. They carried large blue notebooks.
At first it seemed like an ordinary sales training film, and as she watched a thirtyish version of Jack Highlers take the podium to speak, Sarah Jane wondered if in her curiosity she had sentenced herself to an hour of sheer boredom. But as Highlers spoke, she became more attentive.
"We have a way in this company of expressing approval," he told them. "Now when I say something you fellows---and ladies---like, you hold up that blue training notebook of yours in one hand, and you say, 'That's right!' Let's all try it." There were nervous giggles throughout the crowded room.. Highlers took in a great breath and yelled, "Come tomorrow, the sun is going to shine!"
"That's right!" a few of them called, and they thrust the notebooks halfway into the air and then ducked them down again.
"What? Wait a minute, that's not how a salesman gets a sale," he told them. But his voice was kind. More embarrassed tittering, and one person dared call, "That's right!"
Highlers burst out with a laugh. "Now look young people. Let me help you with a little quality I call determination," he said. "You see that door way back there? Way in the back?"
About four hundred heads turned to see the back double doors. They turned back to him and nodded.
"Now this room is packed wall to wall," he said. "But I'm determined to get back to that door, so here I go. On nothing but determination!" He came around the podium, leaped to the floor, and then started climbing directly over the seated young men. The entire crowd burst out laughing.
"Here I go! Iím a third of the way!" he shouted.
"That's right!" several emboldened people called from the edges.
Instead of shrinking away in surprise as they had done at first, the young men and the few young ladies started to help him climb over them, and he rapidly crossed the crowded seats that way. "Halfway!" he yelled.
"That's right!" more of them shouted.
He finished the odd journey and stood at the doors. "Well? Donít all of you want that determination?" he asked.
"That's right!" most of them yelled.
The film cut back to the podium to show that he had returned. "Now what you need is determination!" he yelled at them. "You've got a fine product, and a low price, and all it takes to make a living with these chocolates is determination!"
"That's right!" they all shouted, and they held up their blue notebooks.
"And you make a four percent commission on everything you sell, and that's plenty!" he shouted at them.
"Is that even legal?" Sarah Jane asked aloud.
Evans had been staring in rapt attention at the projection. He started at her question. "I'm sure it is, Miss."
"You know it's all so fascinating," she added.
"This is the best part, when he talks about his father. His father was a drunkard you know, who abandoned him."
She nodded and became silent. As the film displayed Highlers talking about his drunkard father, she did some rapid calculations in her head. The highest priced bars at that time, if they had been all that a salesman sold in a single day, would have brought in less than ten pounds commission value if he had sold an entire case of them in one day.
She frowned and recalculated. No, it seemed correct. Nobody could have earned an income above poverty level if he had sold Highlers' chocolates full time. The low price that had undercut competitors had also kept the sales force on starvation wages.
"What else was provided to the sales people?" she asked.
Evans turned shocked eyes to her. "Donít you want to hear the rest about his father?"
"Yes, absolutely. I apologize," she said. He nodded and looked back at the projection. She cast a glance at him. Surely he had seen this film dozens of times if they had once shown it to tourists as part of the tour. Yet here he sat, as attentive as though he had never seen it at all.
She glanced away without turning her head. A stack of the sales paperbacks sat alongside her. Evans had his eyes fixed on the film, and she carefully took up one of the books and slipped it into her purse. It barely fit, and even so, anybody looking closely would see that she had something large and rectangular shoved in there, but she doubted that Evans would notice.
* * * *
"Well here we are," the Brigadier said as he and the Doctor stood in Highlers' magnificent office. The executive secretary went out and closed the door. "He's determined to keep us waiting. Twenty minutes, last time."
The Doctor didnít hesitate and strode across the plush carpet. "If it's twenty minutes this time, we shall be very lucky," he said.
"Doctor, youíre not going to search his desk? I absolutely forbid it!" Lethbridge Stewart exclaimed. "Come away from there!"
"I'm not going to search his desk, Brigadier," the Doctor said. He went to the wall behind Highler's desk and lightly rapped on it with his knuckles. "Hmm, sounds solid enough."
"Oh really! As though he needed secret passages in a place like this!" the Brigadier exclaimed.
"Haven't you noticed that this room is far smaller in here than it appears from outside?" the time lord asked. "There's a good twenty feet of clearance not accounted for."
"There could be a maintenance room back there."
"Not behind the executive office." Disappointed, the Doctor rapped across the wall in several places, working his way behind the massive desk. But he could not distinguish any echo in the wall. He changed direction and rapped downwards. "Very solid, to judge by the sound, but of course, a good layer of batting in the wall would muffle any hollow echo." He tapped just below waste level and stopped, arrested.
"What is it?" the Brigadier asked.
"Shh." The Doctor went to his knees and rapped, his ear the wood. "Yes, batting canít quite hide that. Something metal but very hollow. Very likely a sink."
"Well he may have a private washroom back there."
The Doctor was behind the desk. He turned and peered under the center drawer. "What's this. I wonder?"
He pressed a button. Then he stumbled backwards as a door-sized panel in the wall suddenly moved towards him. It stopped. He stood up.
"Like a door" the Brigadier exclaimed.
"It is a door." He Doctor grasped it one either side, and it slid to the right far enough to allow him to move past it. He glanced at the Brigadier. "You coming?"
The Brigadier crossed the room and joined him. The Doctor entered far enough to let the Brigadier peer inside.
"Is it a passageway or a room?" the Brigadier asked.
But just then the door across the room rattled and swung open. Jack Highlers, followed by two men, entered the office.
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.