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
Special thanks to Matt Holmes, technical advisor Another slug shattered the glass on the far side of the car and smacked into the frame of the open rear door. The Doctor ducked down and scrambled back to the rear wheel for cover.
"He's certainly got the advantage," the time lord whispered. "Any chance of a smoke bomb, I wonder? To obscure that infrared site?"
The Brigadier doffed his cap and passed it over. "Here, use this to distract him."
"You're not going to try a sprint are you? You'll be cut down!" But the Doctor took the hat and his eyes searched the ground around them for a stick.
"Not at all. I just need a moment."
The Doctor found a slender twig and propped the hat on it. He lifted it slowly over the boot of the staff car. A slug caught it and hit the earth a few feet behind them. As the Doctor pulled it down and then slowly lifted it again, the Brigadier got the front door open. The body of the corporal fell across his shoulders.
"Sanders, I'm sorry," he said, and he drew out a pen knife and leaned further across the front seats. The Doctor saw the body of the soldier, hung across the Brigadier's back, move as a slug hit it. But the body stopped the bullet. The Doctor attended to the duty of creating a diversion with the ruined hat. A hail of bullets in rapid succession pelted the car and the earth around them. The windows shattered and ricochets bounced into the trees.
A ripping sound have evidence of the Brigadier's work as he cut away the covers from the front seats. He eased himself out and pulled the body of the slain corporal to the ground.
"Right, here's the knife," and he passed the blade to the Doctor . Then he withdrew his silver cigarette lighter, lit it, and applied it to the stuffing he'd exposed. A sudden tongue of flame caused both of them to jump away, and a bullet whizzed through the flame with a streak. But suddenly the flame died down to a smolder, and a choking wave of smoke billowed up through the car and poured through the smashed windows. The Doctor quickly cut open the back seats, took the lighter from the Brigadier, and lit the stuffing. Oily black smoke obscured the car and created a curtain over them.
The Brigadier drew his sidearm and they nodded to each other.
"Right, let's go. Keep your head down," Lethbridge Stewart said, and they ran in a crouch away from the car. Bullets spattered the ground around them, but within seconds they were through the trees on the other side of the road. They straightened up and ran more easily.
"We ought to find good hiding in here," the Brigadier said, trying to keep his voice low as they jogged into the unfamiliar cover of forest. "We'll have to get under the brush and stay hidden."
"How long until help comes?"
"Benton will call in between now and dawn, and when he gets no answer, he'll come looking with the UNIT chopper. But it could be anywhere from sunrise to mid-morning before we get help."
The Doctor nodded. "Let's find a place to go to earth, then" he said. "But I think we have our answer about Jack Highlers."
* * * *
The sun had not quite risen. For Sarah Jane, this was an unusually early time to prepare for the day. She stood at the sink and splashed cold water on her face. But she could not put off the effort to look at herself in the mirror any longer. She tried to lift her head to face her reflection, but before she got a glimpse she looked down again.
I can't have any yet, she told herself sternly. It's too early. I'll use them all up.
Resolute, she turned to the tub and shower and opened the taps. A hard spray of hot water jetted down. She cooled it slightly from the cold tap and then hurriedly removed her nightclothes and stepped under the shower head.
She made herself attend to everything as though it were a normal day. She washed thoroughly, dried off, dressed for a busy day of interviewing, and fixed her hair. By the end of the familiar morning ritual, her hands trembled. She could not bear to apply the make-up, as that required a full-face look at herself in the glass. So instead, she went to the small kitchen, put the kettle on, and made toast. And then, without preamble, she leaned over the sink and let out a sob. She covered her face with her hands.
After a long moment, as the kettle whistled, she tried to make herself go to it, but she couldn't. She couldn't move. "What will I do?" she asked nobody. "What have I done?" And she put a hand to her mouth and started to cry. "What have I done? What have I done?"
She caught herself back from tears and then made herself turn down the flame and remove the kettle. But without making the tea she hurried back to her room, found the chocolates, and quickly ate two. She tried to count a minute after that, but before the minute elapsed she ate a third. Then she could pause. She counted out a full minute and ate a fourth. And then, after a moment or two to collect herself, she went and made the tea. She took a few sips, then returned to the washroom and applied her make-up easily, her hands no longer trembling. She looked, once again, like the familiar Sarah Jane Smith.
The start of the business day was hours off, but she decided on an early start. As was her usual habit, she retrieved her notebook and reviewed what she had entered from the previous few days. And then, longhand, she wrote for the next two hours, adding information to her notes, supplying sections of information and analysis, and listing her follow-up questions and the names of people to contact.
* * * *
"Looks like somebody made himself a proper nest up here, sir," one of the soldiers said to Benton as the big Warrant Officer approached the hilltop. Down below, wispy smoke still wafted up from the ruined staff car. The soldier crouched and pointed to a small pile of rocks.
"He put them together, maybe as a gun rest, and lay flat right there. You can see the grass is still bent from the weight." Then he pointed to another place where the grass was also bent. "Might have had a partner. Or just a rucksack."
Benton crouched down and nodded, eyes grim. "Corporal Sanders got it. He's been hit a couple times, but the first one killed him. Through the throat."
"Any sign of the Brigadier and the Doctor yet?" the soldier asked.
Benton shook his head. "No knowing yet if they were kidnapped or simply escaped. I have the men searching the woods down there and calling out. Looks like an ambush gone horribly wrong. I suppose the intent was to shoot them and drive the car off to some hiding place." He threw his glance down at the car. "But they set the seats on fire. For cover, I suppose. Let's hope the sniper and anybody with him decided not to go into the smoke."
Just then a loud hallo from down the hill caught their attention. Two of the solders, waving with broad waves to signal their platoon leader, approached with the Doctor and Brigadier between them. Other soldiers were coming in from the trees, the search over.
"Thank goodness! Finish your survey here," Benton told him. He stood and jogged down the hill.
"You and the Doctor all right sir?" he asked as he hurried up to the hatless Brigadier.
"Right enough, Mr. Benton. And I've made a decision. Keep a few men around Royalty House. Say it's to help the police. They're short handed with these recent discoveries."
"Not going to push for an arrest on grounds Highlers tried to have us killed?" the Doctor asked.
Lethbridge Stewart shook his head. "We donít have any evidence of who's been behind it. Highlers could just as easily argue that the unknown murderer---"
"Or murderers," the Doctor added.
"Or murderers of those children took shots atus to halt the investigation." He turned to Benton. "I want surveillance on that place. Round the clock. Who goes in and who goes out. Especially Jack Highlers---"
"Or his son, Dave Highlers," the Doctor added.
"Yes, and his son," Lethbridge Stewart said.
"Right sir. Shall I put in a call to Miss Smith, sir?"
The Brigadier cocked an eyebrow and the Doctor looked alarmed. "Miss Smith should be safely in London by now," the Brigadier said. "She made the trip hours before we left."
"Well, she was quite overwrought last I saw her," Benton told him. "I just wondered, given that this happened to you two, if we shouldn't check."
"Put in a call to her right away," the Doctor said. "And then tell me what you mean by her being overwrought."
Benton nodded and hurried to the RT in one of the jeeps.
* * * *
"Hello, Mr. Ischink, I do hope I'm not calling you too early." The clock was just ticking over past nine. Sarah Jane checked off his name from her list.
The voice on the other end of the line replied happily and enthusiastically. "Not at all Miss Smith. What did you think of your weekend in paradise?"
She had to catch herself at his words. In an instant, the sense of normalcy she had created for herself over the last two hours evaporated. But she forced certainty into her voice. "Quite an eye opener. I did have a bit of a run-in with Dave Highlers----"
"Oh, I never even got to tell you about him. You ought to stay away from him, young lady."
"I promise you, I intend to do just that. But I want information on him."
"He's a sociopath."
She forced a laugh at the bluntness. "More detailed information. I'm hoping to get you to myself for an hour or so today. Is that possible?"
"Of course it is. I'll see you at my favorite pub? Is that all right?"
"Yes, Mr. Ischink. I'm delighted. Thank you so much."
She cradled the receiver and looked around. The cheerful flat now felt like a prison. She gathered her notebook and purse, and then went to the bedroom and took up four of the chocolates. A moment's searching through the drawers in her bed stand produced a tiny travel sewing kit. She upended the contents of it onto the stand, shook it out, and dropped the four chocolates inside. Then she snapped it closed and dropped it into her purse.
As she strode back to the front room, the jangle of the telephone caught her, and she scooped it up. "Yes?"
"Miss Smith, this is Mr. Benton," a familiar voice said.
"Yes, what is it?" she asked. "Is everything all right?"
"Just checking on you, Miss. Brig's orders," his voice quickly added, as though he thought she might be annoyed.
"I'm fine, thank you Mr. Benton," she told him. "Just going out to start the day with a bit of shopping."
She kept her voice cheerful. "Thank you for calling. Goodbye." She cradled the receiver and hurried out.
* * * *
"Look, Miss Smith doesnít cry easily," Benton called as he speedily guided the open jeep towards London. In the back seat, the Doctor and Brigadier were gratefully drinking hot, sweet tea shared out from a thermos and munching dry rations from one of the rescue kits. "Something happened to her but she wouldnít say."
"That's not like her either," the Doctor called back over the wind and engine noise. "Sarah Jane always says exactly what's bothering her."
"Unless she's ashamed," the Brigadier said suddenly, with an amazing insight.
Benton shot a quick glance at the rear view mirror, and the Doctor looked over at UNIT's commander. The Brig had the cup from the thermos, and the Doctor was drinking from the thermos itself.
"Ashamed of what?" the Doctor asked.
"What makes a young woman with high ethics, personal integrity, and a rigorous mind ashamed?" Lethbridge Stewart asked back. "Even to the point that she won't tell her friends?"
"Something low enough and rotten enough for that Dave Highlers to do!" Benton snapped. "And then he added, "Sir."
"Look, she would tell me," the Doctor insisted.
"You were already gone, Doctor," Benton called.
"She drove right past us and never stopped," the Brigadier said.
"She never saw us!"
"As you like." The Brigadier wouldnít look at him.
"I'll find her, and she'll tell me," the Doctor insisted.
"Would you please try a little subtlety?" And the Brigadier glared at him. "You canít go to her door and demand to know what Dave Highlers did to her!"
"Why are you an expert on women all of a sudden?" the Doctor asked.
"I do have a daughter, Doctor. She lives with her mother." And the Brigadier looked at him with serious eyes. The glance subdued the Doctor.
"Well what do you suggest?"
"Ring her up from the lab at UNIT. You have to get your car back from her, right?"
"By Jove I do!"
"Then phoning her is the most natural thing in the world. Just be calm and kind. Offer to take her to dinner. She'll probably tell you if she senses that she can confide in you."
The Doctor was amazed. "Of course she can confide in me!"
"Something is obviously wrong. Approach her with a light touch."
Annoyed, the Doctor raised the thermos to his lips. "Of course I'll use a light touch. I have a very light touch when the need arises!" Just as he started to drink, the jeep hit a bump, and a wave of hot tea splashed into the Doctor's lap. "Ouch!" the timelord roared and jumped straight up. The contents of the thermos flew over Benton and the Brigadier. "Ouch!" Benton shouted as hot tea hit the back of his neck, and the Brigadier barked, "Sit down before you get us all killed!"
* * * *
Her face in the glass of the pub's front door had that cheery professional smile, and the few glances that she got as she entered the pub boosted Sarah Jane's confidence. She smiled brightly at one or two of the men who were diligently working their way through chips and planks of fried fish, and they smiled back. But Stephan Ischink, smiling as he stood from one of the high stools at the bar, suddenly became concerned.
He took her hand in both of his.
"Thank you for seeing me again, Mr. Ischink---" she began cheerfully.
"It looks like somebody up in paradise got to you, Miss Smith."
"What?" She couldnít stop the sudden quiver that ran from her extended hand up to her shoulder.
He stepped closer, still holding her hand. "Did David Highlers hurt you?"
She felt her eyes widening. She was losing that journalistic front that could preserve her through anything. She stared up at him, increasingly taking on the persona of a small and frightened child.
"Nobody has a right to hurt you," he said, his voice low and serious.
"Nobody hurt me," she told him, but now her lips were trembling. "Nobody hurt me." She clamped down on herself before it turned into a mindless repetition. She felt that she might suddenly burst into such a chant. Anything to drive back those eyes and that voice that had instantly known her more than she could bear. She struggled against herself and made herself speak like a journalist. "I came to ask you several questions. I have to have some answers." If he would only look away from her, she could readjust, she thought. One glance away, and she could pick up the journalist persona again. And then she realized that she was gripping his hand, as though she were terrified. She made herself loosen the grip, but it took an effort.
"Come this way," he said. "I think our snug is open." And he led her back to the tiny alcove they had shared before. As soon as his eyes left her, she regathered her will and her sense of purpose. "Just do this. Do this," she whispered. "If you lose, you'll still win. Do this and win."
As they sat down at their tiny, sheltered table, she spoke before he could. "You're right to ask me about Dave Highlers. What's his story? Do you know?"
Ischink nodded. "It didnít figure much in my book because that was a story about how I lost my wife. By the way, I understand that your copy was stolen. Here's another." And he passed a new paperback to her. Then he continued. "Dave was just a teenager when I first got on Royalty House management staff. I can tell you that he was an angry young man. Used to play off the younger sales associates against each other. They were within a few years of each other, and Dave could buy himself as many friends as he liked and get them into good positions."
"What do you mean play them off?"
"Have them gang up on the loners or the awkward fellows. He had an inner ring that used to beat up the low sellers, or anybody that offended him."
"And his father allowed this?" She opened her notebook and began to write. At first both she and he saw the trembling in her fingers, but she steadied as she wrote, and Ischink stayed on topic.
"I donít know how much Highlers senior knew at first," he said. "I do know that when I lost a few good sales people, I brought the problem to Jack Highlers. He told me he would look into it."
"And did he?"
"Not that I know of. But then something happened. Young Dave wanted girls, you see. He was at that age. And his father's view of women----well----I suppose I donít even know how to go about explaining this----"
"I read about it," she told him, and now her voice sounded sharp and clear and decisive. She was relieved. "Women are viewed as subservient. Dangerous, in fact, if they should gain leadership qualities."
"That's a good assessment." And he inclined his head. "But you donít know the half of it. At the courtesy and deportment training classes, women were made to pass an inspection. They were humiliated by senior staff. If a woman's hair were not feminine enough, she was brought onto the stage and the errors pointed out. If her skirt were too tight, she was paraded before the audience and made to walk and sit to show the problem. And then they were all expected to be at the rallies for Highlers----"
She was writing speedily. "Rallies? Like the training meetings?"
"Women only, Miss Smith. The women were coached to sing to Highlers as he entered the room. They had women-only cheers that they did for him. One time, they made him a throne. He would come in, supposedly to talk about the latest sales issues and the numbers, but over time it became a bizarre sort of parade. He would throw money to them, and give out presents. He knew quite a lot about many of them, and he would talk about their financial needs from the microphone, even their marital problems, and praise them and hand out prizes."
"And nobody walked out?"
"They were young, and they were under mind control---"
She stared at him. "Mind control?"
"Surely you realize that all the training meetings, the long hours, the constant harangue to keep up sales, the emotional high that he creates: it's all mind control. And Dave Highlers saw all of it. He learned very quickly that women were for adornment, and status, and control."
Now Ischink's eyes were on her, and she knew it. But she pretended to focus on the notepad as she rapidly wrote.
"So what happened? What did Dave do?" she asked.
"I'm not sure. We had an executive vice president. He had a daughter. There was a scene in Highler's office, and a good deal of shouting. Nobody knew what was going on, and I was too decent to listen at keyholes. But in the end, Jack Highlers announced that Dave would be exploring options to start a second processing facility down near the coast. Small, out of the way town called Bolingbrook."
"I never heard of it," she said as she wrote.
"Neither had anybody else. It was a leftover, outdated fish processing town within bicycling distance of the coast. There wasn't the remotest chance that Dave or anybody else could start up a chocolate processing plant there. But he went. And he stayed for two years, while his father presented glowing reports of him and the work he was doing. At last the daughter of the executive vice president married and moved away. The next week, Dave was recalled to Royalty House, and Jack Highlers declared the second processing plant no longer feasible."
"When did all this happen?" she asked. "When did Dave come back from Bolingbrook?"
Ischink frowned in thought. "Not long before I finally broke free----maybe not quite two years ago."
"What did he actually do down there?"
"Anything he liked, I imagine," Ischink said. "But it was far enough from Royalty House to keep the executives with young daughters happy."
"I have to go down there," she said, half to herself.
"Alone?" he asked.
Her voice came out high and sharp. "Yes, alone. Because we're not subservient or stupid like they say!" It startled her, and she realized that she was on the verge of tears, but tears of sudden rage.
"I know that," Stephen Ischink said quietly. "Has Dave Highlers frightened you?"
"Dave Highlers is a monster," she sad. "Youíre right about that. And I can stop him, if itís the last thing I do." And then her eyes filled up, but her anger gave her the strength to blink them back. She stood up.
"I'll walk you to your car, Miss Smith. I insist," he said. She was to overwhelmed to decline. And so he walked through the crowded pub with her, out into the bright spring sunshine.
"Perfectly splendid day," he said.
I'll never know splendid days again, she thought. Ever.
As they approached her blue convertible, Ischink noticed the paper sack on the floor of the passenger side. "Buying confections?" he asked. The open bag allowed a brief inspection, even from where he stood. "You've got an awful lot of chocolates in there: Cadbury, Russell Stover, Godiva---"
She made herself smile mischievously at him as she got in and closed the door. "Got to do my research quite thoroughly. Good day to you, Mr. Ischink. Thank you again!" And she drove off.
* * * *
"Well, what have you found?" the Brigadier asked as he entered the lab. The time lord was propped over a spectroscope, his lined face uncharacteristically tired.
"Nothing," he said. "These are chocolates from the box found with Morales, and these are samples from the box found with Rogers---"
"The bloke who jumped? The financier?"
"Yes, the bloke who jumped. All normal. Here's a sample taken right from the stomach of Morales. He ate three of them before he shot himself. Again, all normal."
The Brigadier let out his breath. "What are we missing?"
"I have to admit, our reasons for suspecting the chocolates are purely circumstantial," the Doctor said.
"Well, Jack Highlers wants to shut us up for some reason," the Brigadier said. "Especially you. You've seen something or can figure out something or understand something that frightens him."
"I wish I knew what it was." The Doctor reached for the telephone on the edge of the work bench. "I'd better ring up Sarah Jane. If Benton's free, he can drop me at her flat so I can pick up Bessy."
"Then, Brigadier, as I can find nothing in the lab, I plan to start interviewing members of that Donation Society," the Doctor said. He punched up her number on the keypad.
"Why not take Miss Smith with you?"
The Doctor nodded, the receiver to his ear. "Hope to. Hallo, Sarah Jane? Look, I'm hoping to come pick up my car. What's that" He frowned. "Well, yes I think I can lay my hands on one. Whatever for? No, I'm not trying to intrude." He made his voice patient. "And yes, I respect your ethics. I know you wonít print anything before the time. Well, if you've got police contacts---"
The Brigadier frowned. "What's she on about?"
The Doctor shook his head. "Well I can certainly do that," he said into the receiver. "I thought you might go with me----Ey? What's that? Well yes I can slip it through the letterbox. And I see you are busy. All right then. G'bye." He cradled the receiver and shot an amazed look at the Brigadier.
"She wants a photograph of the dead lad. The only dead lad that she knows about---"
"The first one. Whatever for? She cannot publish anything until---"
The Doctor held up his hand. "She says she has journalistic contacts with the local police and wants to run some ideas past the pathologist down here."
The Brigadier narrowed his eyes, not entirely convinced.
"Sarah Jane Smith is not in the habit of telling lies, Brigadier," the Doctor exclaimed.
"What's that about the letterbox?"
The Doctor sighed and ran his hand down the back of his head. "She told me the keys are in Bessy and the alarm is on. And she says I should slip the photo in through the letterbox."
"She's avoiding you."
"Seems like it. But why?"
"You---you didnít offend her, did you?"
The time lord scowled. "Donít be ridiculous. When Sarah Jane gets annoyed she has a good row over it and gets past it." He strode across the lab towards the coat rack. "I'm going over there. I'm going to sort this out." He turned and saw the Brigadier's steady, doubtful gaze. "Yes, with a light touch, Brigadier!" he roared. He strode out.
* * * *
At last the forceful spasms from stomach to throat stopped, and Sarah Jane, gasping in her breath, lifted her face from the kitchen sink. There had not been time to rush to the toilet. She opened the tap and the gushing water rinsed the brown vomit down the drain. For a moment, a fresh stomach cramp and a sense of weakness kept her bent forward. Her face was flushed, and she knew it, her stomach outraged from the cramping and the sudden evacuation of everything. She was both hungry and nauseated, but the nausea slowly passed.
She took in a slow deep breath, waiting for any sign of more stomach cramping. But she was all right, just weak and shaken. She reached over to the stove and put the kettle on. The open boxes of chocolate, all five of them, sat in their orderly row across the breakfast bar. All useless.
"That's probably what did it," she said aloud. Her own nerves, her desperate hope that there might be a substitute she could use, and too many chocolates eaten in her desperate attempt to make the Royalty House batch last longer. She leaned against the wall by the stove as the kettle heated up. After tonight, there would be only two doses of the exclusive brand left---enough for one day. And she had to get to Bolingbrook.
The tea kettle was building up steam. As it broke into a cheerful whistle, she took it off the flame and made tea. She carried the small ceramic pot over to her sofa and coffee table, set it on her notebook, and fetched a cup and the sugar bowl. The simple pleasure of making tea soothed her for a moment. She felt her mind coming back to normal, or as close to normal as she could now get. With a sigh of gratitude, she sank down onto the sofa and took up the cup. The first sip soothed the remaining cramps in her stomach.
I can still enjoy tea, she thought. Some of the time, anyway.
Somebody knocked. Alarmed, she stared at the door. Who would be knocking for her in the middle of the day? She froze and then decided not answering was best, but the knock was repeated.
"Look Sarah Jane," a familiar voice said. "I know perfectly well youíre in there. I heard the kettle as I was coming up the steps." And as confirmation of his identity, a photograph was slipped through the letterbox. She stood and crossed to the door. It was the picture she had requested.
"Have I done anything to offend you?" the Doctor's voice asked. And then his tone became demanding. "Look, I want my keys. I insist upon them!"
She opened the door. "Nothing's wrong!" she snapped. "And I told you; your keys are in Bessy!"
His eyes filled with a kind of horrified concern. "You look terrible!"
"Well thank you very much!"
He took her face in his hands and felt the glands in her throat. She wanted to order him not to do that, but as his eyes looked at her, she felt tears building up inside.
"Why donít you invite me in?"
"I have to go on a trip."
"What? Already? Where?"
"For a story."
He pressed his hand to her forehead. "Sarah Jane, you're not going back up there?"
"No," she tried to say, but her voice wasn't there, so she only mouthed the word.
"What's happened?" he asked. He put the back of his right hand against her cheek, then at her temple, and then her forehead. His eyes were concerned. They looked right into her eyes.
"You donít mind doing that?" she asked.
"Doing what, my dear?"
"Looking at me, full in the face."
"No, of course not." He stroked her hair. "Why donít you tell me what's happened? Canít I come in?"
"No." And though her voice was shaking, the tone was sure. She stepped out into the hallway. He had a quick glimpse of a row of chocolate boxes lined up on the breakfast bar inside, and then she closed the door behind her.
"Has somebody harmed you?"
"I'm working on a story, that's all." And then suddenly, her voice became pleading. And she caught his arm, a sudden gesture of supplication. "Please," she said.
"Yes, anything. Anything."
She looked up at him, her eyes wet. He could see that she was holding back tears. "Thank you for that---"
"For what, my dear?"
"Coming. And---looking at me. Looking at my face."
He carefully put his arms around her. For a moment she tried to stay rigid, as though afraid to yield. But then she buried her face in his waistcoat and hid her eyes. He tightened his arms.
"Come with me," he whispered to her. "Whatever's happened, we'll figure something out. Whatever's been done, we'll find an answer. Come with me."
"No, I, I want you to know I'm grateful to you. I'm very grateful to you. Donít forget that."
"Come with me and remind me," he said.
She made herself open her eyes and look up at him. "I have to go somewhere tomorrow. But then everything will be all right. The day after tomorrow, I'll be all right."
He held her tightly, her head resting between his hearts. "I could go with you."
"You have a job to do, and I have a job to do. But if I donít see you day after tomorrow, I'll send you an update in the post. I'll put it in writing for you." And her eyes became wet again, but she seemed resolved, much more sure of herself than when she'd first looked up at him.
"All right." Reluctantly, he loosened his arms.
"And remember that I'm grateful to you." And then she ducked inside the flat and closed the door.
* * * *
Out on the street, the Doctor switched off the car alarm from the control he carried with him and climbed into the jaunty roadster. He touched a button and Bessy roared into life. But for a moment he didn't move. Then, frowning, he pulled a UNIT cell radio from his pocket, pulled up the antenna, and pressed the quick call button to the Brigadier.
"Brigadier, this is the Doctor."
"How is Miss Smith?"
"None too well, I'm afraid. Something has happened to her. She says she 's leaving town for a short trip."
"Do you want me to have her followed?"
The Doctor hesitated. At last the Brigadier said, "Doctor?"
"No," the Doctor said at last. "She may never forgive me if we do something that drastic. I have to let her take care of her own business. But something is dreadfully wrong."
* * * *
The next morning, Sarah Jane rose early, more aware of what she needed to do to get through the first hour of the day. She showered and dressed, ate the morning dose, and double-checked her bag to make sure that the next doses were safely packed. Then she scooped up her notebook and the photograph of the dead boy, gathered up her purse and overnight case, and hurried out. If she thought only about the present, she was all right. Right enough to carry out her program, anyway.
Within minutes, she was speeding away from the dark, pre-dawn city, with the top up on her convertible against the early chill. For several hours she neither thought nor spoke nor played the radio. There was only the quiet road, and very little traffic.
Shortly before noon, she came into Bolingbrook. Ischink had not exaggerated the remoteness nor the bleakness of the town. It was no place that could host a processing plant. Old buildings, some timber, some brick, and one or two of concrete, overlooked narrow lanes. She found her way to the police station and went inside.
A sergeant behind a desk looked up in some surprise as she entered. Behind him, several doors sealed off whatever offices were back there.
"Good morning Miss," he said. "Lost your way?"
"Good morning," she said. "I've come to ask about a missing child."
"Missing child?" Concerned, he stood up. "Yes Miss."
She produced the photograph and handed it to him. "This young boy was found a great distance away from here, Sergeant. He was wearing clothing that put him as being from this area. Do you recognize him?"
The uniformed man touched a button on an intercom on his desk. "Inspector, you'd better come out here."
In a moment, a gray haired man in a rumpled tweed jacket appeared from the back. He nodded to Sarah Jane and looked at the Sergeant, who said, "This young lady's brought us an update, sir. At least, I think it's him."
The Inspector looked at the photograph and then looked at Sarah Jane. "Just tell me this, Miss," he said. "Have you run into a fellow named Dave Highlers in connection with this picture?"
She blinked and nodded. The two men glanced at each other. "Come inside," the Inspector said. "I'm Inspector Jaffe. This way, please."
She followed him through one of the doors into an office that was almost bare, apart from a stripped down desk, a filing cabinet, and a chair.
"The child is Steven Brentson," he said. "He disappeared from his home over two years ago. The story we got was that he'd run away. Complete with run away note. Very convenient."
He withdrew a pipe from his pocket and put it in his mouth without bothering to fill it. He eyed her. Sarah Jane opened her notebook and handed him a piece of paper. "That's the name of the pathologist who has the body," she said.
"How do you know Dave Highlers?"
"He locked me in a greenhouse after causing me to believe it would fill with poison gas."
Jaffe let out a snort and bobbed his head. "That's him all right. But how did you put it all together?"
"Somebody told me he'd lived here for a couple years, and the pathologist said that the boy had been dead for a while---frozen."
"Ah," and now the Inspector nodded. "One of the old processing plant freezers. We looked high and low, but there are so many around here itís hard to know where they've all been stored away." Then he said, "Highlers had a live-in relationship with the boy's mother. Believe it or not, he was jealous of young Steven. And Steven just a lad of nine or ten! We were called out more than once from neighbors who swore up and down that Highlers was trying to harm the boy. Beat him a couple times. But the mother wouldn't swear out a complaint. Always said everybody was out to get her. And then young Brentson disappeared and left a very convenient note behind."
She lowered her eyes. "The child had been abused. Quite severely. In---in every way."
"Does Highlers know youíre here?"
"Nobody knows I'm here."
"I want you to leave your contact information with us," he said. "I'll get in touch with this pathologist who has the body, and we'll get Steven's mother up there to identify it."
"She and Dave Highlers no longer see each other?"
"I have no idea, Miss. But Iíd like you to get away from here for your own safety. I'm going to keep your name out of this."
* * * *
The interview ended within thirty minutes. As Sarah Jane exited the building and found her car on the narrow, deserted street, she realized that she had accomplished the mission she had set for herself. She hesitated before opening the door. There was nothing left now. A day or two on the chocolates while the monstrous fear and self loathing rose within her, and then no safeguards, nothing to check it.
She missed the man walking by, and then froze as she felt three strong fingers press against her throat, right at the windpipe. "I'll kill you if you move," he said. It was Dave Highlers. "I know what youíre thinking. Decide now. Do you want to live, or die like Morales and Rogers?"
He pressed the three fingers in, and she felt the ease with which he would end her life. "I want to live," she heard herself say. "But I have to have the chocolate."
"Shut up. And speak only when I give you permission to speak. Walk away from the car."
She stepped back from the car, and he seized her arm. "Come with me, and donít make a fuss, or I'll just leave you here, alive, without any hope. I have what you need, but youíre going to pay a terrible price for betraying me."
His fingers gouging into her arm, he half led and half pulled her down a narrow alley between two buildings. Then he shoved her through a gate in a high, rotting fence. She found herself in front of a row of dilapidated flats, all single story. "Go up there." And he pushed her towards one of them. He threw her into the door and held her to it while he knocked.
At a call from inside, he pushed her into the front room of a dim, rank place that smelled like old tobacco and urine.
"This is Patrick," Highlers told her. "Our sales representative for Bolingbrook." And he grinned. A young, acne-scarred man stood up from a bean bag sack on the floor and stared at her. "Who is she?"
"You donít know and you never saw her," Highlers said. "Now go take a walk. She and I have some business."
Patrick nodded and, without even taking up a coat, he hurried out the front door.
Highlers pushed her against a small stove. "So what were you thinking?' he asked. "Betray me and then suicide?"
"I---I donít know," she told him.
"Is that what you want?"
"I donít know. What have you done to me?"
"All right. Here." He withdrew a revolver from his belt, opened it, and shook out all but one bullet. "But I'm not doing it for you. If you want it, you do it. Take it!" he pushed it into her hand and jerked her hand up under her chin. "Go on, pull the trigger. If you canít take living. Pull the trigger, you stupid girl. It doesnít matter to anybody if you live or die."
She gasped and looked at him.
"Donít think the police will ever link Stevie to me," he said. "I know that's what you wanted. You revengeful idiot. Steven ran away. Somebody killed him. I had nothing to do with it." He grabbed her hair in back and pulled back her head, his other hand forcing her gun hand to stay in place with the muzzle under her chin. "Pull the trigger!"
"I can't," she gasped.
"Are you going to beg me?"
A flicker of surprise crossed his eyes. "Still saying no. Still resentful. Still clinging to----what?" he demanded. She didn't answer. He shook her by her hair. "So do you want to live?"
"Yes," she said.
"You need the chocolate?"
And you'll do what I tell you?"
She barely hesitated. "Yes."
"Oh for pity's sake, stop blubbing. I deal with snotty women all the time." He snatched the gun away and thrust it back into its holster on his belt. "I'll give you chocolate, Sarah Jane. I've brought a whole box just for you." And he threw his eyes to a red and black box on the counter top by the filthy sink. "But first, I'll have to punish you for betraying me." He deftly turned on the front burner. The gas flame sputtered to life.
She stared from the blue flame to him. "What are you going to do?"
He pulled out the gun again. "You can choose the gun if you can do it. That's an option."
She shook her head. "No."
"Then shut up." He thrust it back in its holster and seized her wrist. "I ought to put your hand in the flame." And, as though ready to do so, he pulled her hand out, high over the flame so that he needed only to lower it.
"Please---" she began. "I said I would do what you tell me. Anything."
"Oh I'd like to teach you a hard lesson first, but today I'll have to settle for something that Doctor fellow wonít notice."
He transferred her wrist to his other hand and opened a drawer filled with a tangle of silverware. He withdrew a butter knife.
"Perfect." He set it onto the stove top and thrust the flat side into the flame. She stared at it as the gas flame bathed it with a blue glow. She took in a shaking breath.
"If you scream, the deal is off," he said. "No chocolate, no relief, no gun. You can go drown yourself for all I care. From this moment on, youíre not to scream. No matter what I do. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she gasped.
He watched the blade of the knife in the blue flame, and she whispered, "Why are you doing this to me? Why did you want to do this to me?"
"I'm going to control you, and through you, I'm going to control the Doctor," he said.
"You're still fighting me, aren' you?" He seized her hair in back again. "You still don't know that you're beaten. Don't dare look away from me!" he shouted. She met his eye. "By the time I get through with you, Sarah Jane, you'll do everything I say. And remember, if you scream or call out, no chocolates for you. So mind me and be quiet." He shook her head. "Right?"
She stared into his eyes, transfixed. A faint odor from the overheated knife in the flame touched her senses.
"Answer me!" he shouted. "Will you be be quiet to get the chocolate?"
She nodded and, with an effort of her will, stopped pushing against him. She forced her body into stillness.
"I won't scream." she promised, her voice a whisper. "I'll be quiet."
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.