Death and Chocolate;Doctor Who;Sarah Jane Smith;Lis Sladen;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi

Death and Chocolate


Episode Eight

Written by Jeri Massi










Rolande Devon cast a faintly skeptical look at the Doctor as the time lord entered the overly furnished lounging room.

"So you've tracked me down have you?" the famous raconteur asked. "I assumed you were a reporter at first, but now I see youíre looking for a leg up. Sorry old boy, you're past it---"

"I'm sorry; I've no idea what you're talking about," the Doctor said. "I told your man to tell you I'm with UNIT." He glanced around at the horrible velvet upholstery on everything and without being invited, sank down onto a sofa that was far too low for comfort. Outside the paneled room's single tall window, sunlight beamed down on an immaculate lawn.

Devon flicked his cigarette ash towards the ashtray at his side and did not notice when he missed. Light gray ash settled over the velvet arm of his easy chair and the sleeve of his dressing gown.

"Show business, old boy. I canít help you---"

"I have come here because I am seeking information about a Donation Society," the Doctor told him.

"Youíre looking for a donation?"

"I want to know why you exited membership in the Royalty House Donation Society that benefits the Hospital of St. Nicholas. I am investigating that particular charity."

Devon's glance became a shade less laconic, and he took a meditative draw on his cigarette. Finally, in a tone that was not hostile but very firm, he said, "Why do you want to know?"

The Doctor frowned and would have snapped out a reply, but the music hall actor said quickly, "A man on the stage has a reputation to maintain---uh---Mr.--"

"Doctor," the Doctor said.

"Doctor. I have been quite generous with my 'nuevo wealth', and my list of charities is quite large. But if it gets about that I declined membership---"

"This is strictly confidential, I assure you. As I said, I am part of a UNIT investigation---"

Just then, a flaxen haired little boy, somewhere between six and eight, raced into the room. He held a flimsy cardboard and balsa wood airplane at shoulder height. "Look Dad! I put it together!"

Devon's front of cold disdain disappeared at once. "What a smashing plane, Sean! Give it here for your old Dad!" He took it up in his free hand and experimentally passed it back and forth in front of his face a few times. "I say, that's a nice even job! You're ready for that next model set arenít you? Maybe we can find one later today." He passed it back to his son. "Have you still got the catalogue?"

"I can find it!" he exclaimed as he took the flimsy craft from his father.

"All right, Sean. We'll set out after lunch, then. Write down the model number for your old Dad. I canít keep up with those lists they put out."

The boy ran to the Doctor with the plane. "Have you ever seen one of these?" he asked.

The Doctor took it and admired it. "So you put that together yourself eh? And the decals too? Very professional job!" He handed it back.

"Thanks then!" And he ran out with it.

The Doctor looked up to see Devon looking at him. "My son," he said simply.

The Doctor made his voice polite. "Wonderful boy. Interested in flying, is he?"

The other man inclined his head. "But about your question, Doctor. I still must ask why."

"Because we have linked a couple of suicides to the Donation Society, Mr. Devon---"

"Just Rolande." And he waved it away and thought for a moment. The Doctor realized that behind the lackadaisical mask of the raconteur was a thoughtful man. Devon pulled at his chin and then said, "It's a bit odd. I mean, they were a bit odd."

"In what way?" And the Doctor leaned forward.

"Well, the Donation Society tea with the hospital people went quite well. But then I went up there to Royalty House with my son. We were invited for a fortnight. The whole thing put me off."

"Why was that?"

Devon became slightly troubled, his good looks showing his mind as transparently as glass as he became less guarded. "The men---A few of them. Especially one of them. With Sean."

"Yes?"

Devon met his eye. "I went through public schools you know. You know what I'm talking about when an older boy suddenly pals up with a younger boy. We had that there. I learned to spot them. I mean, back at school there were the ones who'd try to bully you into it. But the best ones---and by that I mean the ones who got away with it----were very natural about being interested in you, sticking up for you, letting you talk things out. Then they'd want it, and they called it 'playing the game' or 'being a good sport'."

"You saw behavior like that at Royalty House?"

"One of the men who'd come up from Sales and was clerking for the place. He took an interest in my boy. It should have been innocent. It seemed innocent. But not to me."

"What did he do?"

"Well, he spoke more to my son than to me, for one thing. To the point that it seemed that he was going out of his way to say just a word or two to my son. And it was that same, smooth way of making friends. Yet---yet he wanted to impress Sean, like an older boy might do to a younger. Make Sean admire him. I didn't like it." He shifted restlessly in his easy chair and with a nervous gesture tugged on the lapel of the dressing gown. "I'm determined that my son shall have an innocent childhood!" He seemed to be saying this to himself. Then he glanced at the Doctor. "So it was nothing to decline membership. I never hesitated. They rang me back a few times, but I put them off and then referred them to my agent. At last they gave up."

He let out a sigh and lifted his eyebrows. "I'm afraid that's not much help to you. Nobody up there struck me as suicidal. And I never saw evidence of what I suspected, but I wanted to steer clear."

"On the contrary, you've been very helpful," the Doctor said. "What about they chocolates?"

"Oh, they had them everywhere at the headquarters, but I have to stay fit in my line of work. I had a couple pieces, and I allowed Sean a couple, but too many sweets are bad for a little boy. And they seemed to make him a bit manic. The sugar, I suppose. He had one crying fit one day, and that night while he was asleep I dumped out all that candy. Told the housekeepers not to bring any in. Not good for him."

"No, it's certainly not," the Doctor agreed. "He didnít ask after it?"

With a knowing grin, Devon shook his head. "I kept him too busy. My boy has an active mind, so we did a good bit of walking 'round the countryside up there. Had a nature's guidebook with us and tried to collect one of every little creepy crawly listed. Taught him a bit about boating. Visited one or two scenic spots." He took another long draw on the cigarette and his large blue eyes became slightly resentful. "And d'you know that clerk wanted to come with us? Dropped hints."

"Do you remember the clerk's name?"

Devon shook his head. "Sorry. Donít know that I ever bothered to read his name tag. I wish I could help you more, but that's the lot of my recollection of Royalty House."

With an effort, the Doctor stood up from the low slung, velvet sofa. He groaned at the effort and then smiled ruefully at his host. "I would keep my son away from the Royalty House culture if I were you, Mr. Rolande. And one other thing."

The younger man stubbed out the cigarette and then stood up to see him out. "What's that?"

"Invest in new furniture!"

* * * *

"Now don't mind me," Guy Trummel said as the Doctor settled down on a patio chair on the edge of the swimming pool. Trummel, up to his waist in water and clad in waders up to his chest, ambitiously snapped his arms back over his right shoulder and then cast the fishing rod forward with more energy than skill. At the other end of the pool, a green float that said LILYPAD in large letters remained undisturbed. Not far from it, a brown float that the Doctor took to be representative of a submerged log was also undisturbed.

Trummel's valet brought the Doctor a whiskey and soda on a silver tray. The Doctor accepted it with a nod of thanks. He sipped it and watched the middle-aged Trummel. The paunchy millionaire would only talk while reeling in his line, which he now started to do. "Oh, I went to the Donation Society Tea. Very touching you know, with the children, but I'm a careful man, Doctor. I got rich by exercising great care in my finances. And I'll tell you---oh blast it all to pieces! Threre's a knot here. Robertson!"

Trummel walked through the water to the side of the pool as the valet produced a pen knife and obligingly cut the line for him, cut the hook and weight, and made repairs. Trummel looked up at the time lord. "I can tell you, that most people go wrong by careless management of finances."

"And you found the Hospital to be careless?"

"Not them. They have no control over their donations from the Royalty House Donation Society except to say 'Thank you very much'. It's that Highlers fellow. He has sole control of the fund drives and the donation receipts. And there's no doubt he's turned over a pile of money to St. Nick's, but I want to see accountability!"

He nodded in thanks as his valet passed him the rod and reel. Shaking his head as he walked through the water back to his place, he said at last, "I didnít trust Jack Highlers. I'm a rags to riches man myself, Doctor. I'll tell you, there's a difference when you know you're the real thing."

He threw another awkward pass of the reel over his right shoulder and cast again. The weight dropped into the water a few feet in front of him. "Oh blast it!" he exclaimed. He began to reel in the loose line again.

"What's the difference?" the Doctor asked.

"I'm not quality," Trummel said without a trace of either humility or pride. "And I know it. I have brains but precious little class, so I walk more softly than that Highlers fellow does. When I'm with the Big Boys---"

"Big boys?" the Doctor asked.

"The well bred." He inspected his line. Then he afforded the Doctor a glance. "It takes brains and determination and all that to go from nothing to something in the world of finance, Doctor. But it also takes humility. I have been humbled by my mistakes in business. And I've been humbled by men who believe they are my betters. I could swear that Jack Highlers knows no such thing. But he wanted the power to run the Donation Society."

"And you didnít approve?"

"No." He looked over the rod with care. "I'm a bit of a snob myself in those matters. I want a man who has either a history of solid charity management or else a board of trustees to keep him accountable. Highlers had neither. And I donít believe his rags to riches story."

"Did you eat any chocolate while you were at Royalty House?"

"Never touched them! They sent me a few boxes, though. One a week for several weeks. Got to be rather a nuisance. I wrote and told them to stop."

"And you never ate the chocolates?"

"Allergic to chocolate!" And Trummel shot him a grin. "I don't touch the stuff."

"Look here," the Doctor said. "Suppose I give you a few pointers on your casting?"

* * * *

Night was spreading its wings over the city as the Doctor drove back to his lab. His eyes remained pensive and perplexed. The soldiers waved him through as he sped up the private lane onto the grounds of UNIT HQ. First shift had ended, and most of the cars were gone. All of the office and ancillary staff had departed for home and the supper table. And the second shift watch would be in roll call and briefing for the next forty to sixty minutes. But as he swung Bessy into a vacant slot in the car park, he saw that Sarah Jane's small convertible sat waiting in the visitor's section.

Quickly, he climbed out of Bessy and hurried into the building.

He entered the lab quietly and stopped in the doorway. Her back to him, crouched down, Sarah Jane Smith was looking through the lower cupboards. She opened each door, thrust her arm in as far as it could go, and moved things around inside. Then she carefully closed the door and moved to the next door. And she was doing all of this quietly, with the attitude of somebody not wanting to be overheard or observed. He took a silent step closer to watch her over the lab workbench. She wore driving gloves. He frowned at sight of them.

She searched rapidly but thoroughly and never stood to ease the stress on her legs as she stayed in a crouch. At last, the search unsuccessful, she stood and began to open the overhead cabinets.

"Sarah," he said.

She jumped and turned, her face white.

"What are you looking for?" he asked. "Have you lost something?"

He came around the workbench. She didnít answer and tried to step around him, as though she was tempted to get to the door before she answered. Surprised, he caught the wrist before she could get away, not roughly, but she screamed with sudden pain and shrank down so suddenly and in such agony that he thought she might fall.

"Please donít! Donít hurt me!"

"I'm sorry! What is it?"

But he'd really hurt her. For a moment, the color in her face drained out. He would have helped her, but she cried out again. "Please, please don't ! Don't."

"Sarah," he said again, with a tone that stopped her. He didnít try to touch her, and after a moment she collected herself. But she wouldn't look at him.

"Did you come looking for something?" he asked. "Have you hurt yourself?"

She hesitated for just a fraction of a second, and he realized that she had not come because she was hurt. She had come for another reason. But she said, "Yes, I burned myself on the stove. I knew you would have some sort of dressing for it."

"Well let me see."

She threw her glance down at her left hand, covered by the glove.

He touched her wrist to get the glove off, and she didnít pull away, but pain and fear crossed her face. "Itís going to hurt when you take off the glove." She caught her breath as though to steel herself. She was tremblng.

"It's not bandaged? You put a glove on over a burn?"

"I didnít have a bandage."

"Where is it burned, on the palm?"

"Yes. It's a large burn."

"Well, why did you put on a glove? Come here. I'll cut it away for you." He brought her to the edge of his workbench and rummaged in one of the lower shelves for the first aid kit that Jo had wisely made. As the lab was often filled with blue arcs, smoke, live electricity, and sparks, Jo had included a great deal of burn remedies.

He opened the kit and withdrew a pair of scissors. With great care, he cut the glove up the back and heard her let out a sigh of relief as it loosened. As gently as he could, he tried to ease it away from the palm, but it was sticking to the wound. He led her to the sink and opened the cold tap. Already he could determine that even cold water would elicit pain.

"Hang on," he said. He went back to the kit and retrieved the lydocaine spray. He sprayed as far into the palm as he could and waited a moment.

"That's better," she said quietly.

"All right. Donít be frightened, my dear. I have burn medication that you've never dreamed of. But itís a dreadful burn."

He ran a gentle stream of cold water over the glove until it was loosened enough to pull away. Then he pulled it off her fingers. He closed the tap and looked at her upturned hand.

"You leaned on a burner?" he asked. "With all your weight?"

"I didnít notice it," she said faintly.

He pulled back the first two fingers to expose the palm further. "There are third degree burn patches, a pattern of first degree, second degree, and third degree skin destruction," he said. He stopped himself and changed course. "I'll get this sorted out for you. Let's get it numbed first, and then I'll remove the damaged tissue and apply a good coat of ointment and artificial skin."

"Artificial skin?"

"Yes, a nice invention from a century ahead. Just the thing for nasty burns. Come on." He glanced at her, but she still wasn't looking at him. "What about your other hand?"

"No, that's fine. Just this one." Her eyes were wet and her voice shaken. And she nodded at the burned left hand. With exposure to the air, the numbing spray was wearing off quckly.

He sat her on a lab stool, turned away from the workbench, so she wouldnít see him cutting away the bits of dead tissue from the wound. Then he extended her arm, hooked his arm over it to keep it steady, screwed his jeweler's glass into his eye, and gave a quick injection to the back of the hand to numb it thoroughly. She gave a gasp that was fear more than real pain and instinctively clutched at his side. "It's all right. All done with that," he said. After a moment, she relaxed further.

With tweezers, he carefully removed the dead bits of skin and painted in the antiseptic to keep the wound clean.

"It almost looks like you gripped something very hot," he said. "was something lying on the stove?"

"Yes." Her voice was still shaken and weak. "Now that you mention it. There was a butter knife on the burner. I leaned on it as I reached over the stove, and it hurt. For some odd reason, I snatched up the butter knife. I was afraid it might cause a fire. Silly, stupid thought---I think a lot of stupid thoughts."

He threw a glance at her over his shoulder, but she was sitting with her head and gaze turned away, as he had positioned her.

He went back to work. "Why, youíre one of the most sensible girls I know, Sarah Jane," he said. "Feel any pain?"

"No. It's better, thank you."

He worked for a few seconds with great care, painting in the antiseptic and looking for any skin that had to be cut away. "This must have been excruciating. I'm surprised you didn't go to hospital. But it's better that you found me. I'll make a better job of it for you and get rid of the pain." He paused and let the relief sink in for a moment. Her arm as less tense now that the pain was becoming more distant to her. "A burn is a terrible thing," he said at last. "There's constant torment in it. But I'll fix it for you. Nobody should be in torment. Especially a good girl like you. Now for that artificial skin. This will keep your hand comfortable."

He felt her touch the elbow of his velvet jacket with her good hand. She stroked it briefly, a shy touch that was unlike her, normally.

"And your hand will be as good as new in a few days, my dear," he added. "And not scarred. You'll be able to do all the things you're good at----journalism, and helping me to understand the things I often overlook. I donít know what I would do without you, Sarah Jane." He painted a long stripe of the healing liquid over the burn.

He felt her touch his sleeve again, probably the side of her face to the back of his shoulder. He glanced at her. Tears streamed down her face, and she was afraid. But as he made no remark on being touched, she rested the side of her face against his shoulder for a brief moment. He turned to his work and carefully painted over the hand with the liquid artificial skin. "Fold up your fingers, but donít clench them," he said.

She did.

"Any pain?"

"No, no pain." Her voice was relieved.

"Well, we'll have to let that dry for a few minutes." He straightened up and removed the jeweler's glass. Then he turned and looked down at her. This time, he caught her gaze. He made his voice quiet. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

Her eyes filled up, but she didn't answer. He held her gaze with his, his eyes kind. He didnít look away. After a moment, she became calmer, but not less sad. "How can you look right at me?" she asked.

"Because I find you delightful to look at, with all your facial expressions and the way you talk back to me when you're giving me sauce." He stroked her hair. "And I care about you," he said. "I thought you knew that. You're one of my dearest friends."

"Thank you for looking at me. Sometimes I can't look at myself."

"Listen, you're exhausted. Why donít you bunk in here at UNIT for tonight? There are guest quarters open. We'll make you comfortable, and I'll be nearby."

"You canít spend your time worrying about me. You've got those 25 bodies to think of. They are the highest priority."

Her words startled him. "How did you know about them?"

The question surprised her. "Oh!" She thought for a moment. "My informant at the Met let it slip."

He lifted her chin. He would have made his eyes stern, but he couldn't, not before her open sadness. "Sarah," he said seriously. "That was a dangerous slip. I know that you'll keep it quiet. But nothing must endanger this case. This is a national tragedy. Whoever told you has committed a serious breach of police integrity."

"I intend to protect the dignity of those children," she whispered, and for a moment, the sadness in her eyes was replaced by something else, an expression he had never seen. "And if I find anything, I'll help you. I donít care about the story. I want them punished. They have to be stopped."

"Who?"

"Whoever did this to them." She hesitated. "Haven't you come close to solving it?"

"Not yet." He frowned. "Did you go back to Royalty House last night? Have you just come back?"

"No, I've not been anywhere near Royalty House."

"Are you sure?"

Now she became angry. "If you don't believe me, check with the soldiers! Aren't they up there?"

"Yes, a few, keeping a watch. All right."

But the spell of his tenderness with her was broken. The covering on her hand was dry. She stood up from the stool. "I have a great many stories to investigate. I was out on business today. I'll be out again. It may be a few weeks this time." She pulled off the glove from her right hand and threw it into the waste bin under the workbench.

"I wish you would tell me the truth about what burned you," he said. "You never got that burn leaning on a stove. You gripped something that was superheated. And you held on. Why?"

"As you like." And, head down, she strode to the door.

"And what were you really looking for here?" he asked after her. But she strode out. She caught herself at the doorway and looked back at him, her eyes filled with that same sorrow and new pain at his words. "Goodbye, Doctor. I'll keep my promise." And then she hurried out.

The intercom line in the phone beeped, and the Doctor scooped it up. "What is it Lethbridge Stewart?"

"Come up and get a bite to eat. I've just had a lengthy phone interview with the police up by Royalty House. We're in trouble."

"I'll be right there!"

* * * *

"What's bothering you?" the Brigadier asked as the Doctor entered the large office. He threw a nod over to a low filing cabinet. "Some of the men brought in takeaway. Help yourself."

The Doctor nodded and quickly filled a plate from the assorted containers of Indian curries. "I just discovered Miss Smith rooting through my lab," he said.

"Well, of all the cheek----"

"Or desperation. Her left hand has been badly burned."

"She wanted a pain killer?"

"I'm not certain what she wanted. She's been behaving oddly ever since Royalty House. Went to her flat yesterday and she had lots of expensive chocolates all lined up. Said it was for research."

"Oh, and did you help he research them?" And Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow.

"Hardly, She wouldnít let me into the flat. And she's been somewhere. And she knows about the bodies---"

"What?"

The Doctor nodded and, carrying his plate, threw himself into one of the chair. "Said an informant with the police told her."

"I've got to report that back to them. They cannot afford leaks---"

"If itís true."

"Well did you tell her about the second discovery of bodies?"

"No."

"And I certainly didn't. And very few other people know."

"Whoever put those bodies there knows."

"Well, and that's part of my other news." And the Brigadier produced a thick file folder and pushed it across the desk. "Pathologist on the case has rung up. Still not enough to identify the bodies, but he's certain they were not all killed by the same person. Nor were they buried by the same person, nor were the same tools used to bury them."

"Two people, or more?"

"More. He says between five and ten people at his best guess. He reports that a few of the bodies were impacted by spades after they had been interred----"

"So somebody came to dig fresh graves, hit upon a body already taking up space, and had to move to another nearby spot to dig," the Doctor said.

The Brigadier nodded. "He says he's marked out the grave sites and it looks to him like one-at-time, two-at-a-time, three-at-a-time burial patterns, with the bodies grouped together. There's one five-at-a-time."

"So somebody comes to the deserted spot, buries three corpses all next to each other in the same grave," the Doctor said. "Then he goes away. "A few weeks later, somebody else comes with a couple bodies and digs a grave, but not in reference to anything else that's been dug. Maybe he hits an existing grave, so he covers it up again and moves over a few feet to dig."

The Brigadier nodded. "The pathologist has called in a burial site archaeologist to supervise the site and investigate it. But there are other grouping variables that match the distribution differences."

"What do you mean?"

"Types of rope used, types of knots tied. Other methods of burial. One group buried together will have the same rope, knot, burial characteristics as another group buried a few yards away. But a third group will have its own characteristics. Like that."

"A group of killers acting independently but sharing a burial site?"

"He is certain that we are looking at several male perpetrators who all viewed that area of trees as suitable for disposing of bodies. Surely they knew something of each other, but their confederation could have been either tightly knit or loosely knit. They may or may not know each other's identities."

"Well at least it's progress," the Doctor said. "What about the trouble you mentioned?"

Lethbridge Stewart grimaced. "Highlers has lodged a complaint."

"Against me?"

"No, against UNIT. Says we were invited in, given a free hand, and now we wonít go, even though we've turned up nothing to link him to those suicides."

"Can you stall?"

He shook his head. "Not with the constabulary up there agreeing with him. Weíve got a good tie with the police pathologist, name of Hart. He's keeping us in the loop and is looking to us for help. But the uniformed bunch want us out as well. They say we are unfairly prejudiced against Royalty House and the local people feel harassed by the presence of soldiers." He shot the Doctor a rueful look. "Remember, Royalty House employs the vast majority of the people around its gates."

The Doctor nodded. "So what does Geneva say?"

"Highlers has made his complaint rise rather quickly to my superiors," the Brigadier said. "Geneva has told me to pull back the soldiers. Unless we can think of some less visible way to maintain a watch, we're out of view of Royalty House." He stood up.

"Where are you going?" the Doctor asked.

"To the police here. I want to know who is saying what to journalists. And I want to see what the forensics department can tell me. Are you still looking at the chocolates?"

"Yes, but I've found nothing so far. No additives, anyway."

"Well chocolate itself could never make healthy people suicidal."

"You'd think not." But the Doctor's eyes were troubled and distant.

"What is it?"

"I feel certain that weíve seen the answer. It's probably the simplest thing. But we're not recognizing it for what it's worth."

"We have the contents of the chocolates that were with the men when they killed themselves. The answer must be in those boxes."

"Maybe we're looking at them the wrong way, then."

"Well you work on that. I'll see you in the morning. Enjoy your dinner." And, taking up his hat, the Brigadier strode out.

* * * *

In the early morning mist, the straining sound of gears unwillingly shifting cut across the fallow fields. The noise startled flocks of birds from the dewy hedges and lower branches of the trees. In the distance, across the golden and grey-crowned fields, the roofs of Royalty House, topped by the steeple-like tower of the main building, lay like a veiled jewel under the rising sun. A rich and mellow voice, untrained and wandering over the proper notes as it belted out the solemn words of an old ballad, rolled across the fields and up the lanes as an aged bakery lorry lumbered into sight of the great chocolate headquarters.
Alas what meaneth man,
with care and greedy pain:
To wrest to win a worldly fame
which is but vile and vain.
As though he had no cause to doubt,
the drift of his desire,
Not pleased though he rule the route,
but still to court higher.


"Oh give it a rest, John!" a voice exclaimed. "That's the tune the old cow died on!"

Inside the lorry, which had open doors on either side, a gray haired man at the wheel grinned down at the young man who sat on the floorboards. "What then? Don't like good singing? That's a song that won the Crusades for us!"

"We didnít win any of the crusades," the younger man snapped. "Unless you count bringing home plague as winning!"

"And salt, and spices, and the Greek text of the Scripture, my lad." And as if in appreciation for the wonders worked by the crusades, the gray haired driver gave voice to another stanza:
But God that is most righteous,
hath seen our fatal fall:
And spread his mercy o'er vs,
to shield us from the thrall.
Whose mercy is so infinite
to such as were oppressed:
He hath restored them to right,
and hath their care redressed.


He gasped and slammed on the brakes so hard that his unhappy companion was slammed under the dash and nearly tumbled out the open door on the passenger side. Quick as lightning, the big driver seized his collar and dragged him up from a tumble down the two steps.

But the kindness went unthanked. "What are you playing at!" the young man roared, clapping his hands to his head. "Do you think that was funny?"

"I'm sorry lad. I didnít mean it. Look!" And he pointed through the windscreen. His companion got up on his knees and looked.

"Heaven help us!" the driver exclaimed.

Hung from a high branch over the middle of the lane, a man, clad in the white shirt, blue tie and blue trousers of Royalty House, hung limp, his head over sideways from a noose. His hands were free, and his shoes had fallen off and lay in the lane.

* * * *

By the time the call came in to UNIT, the Brigadier was closing up the extended morning briefing from the uniformed brigades that had been recalled from Royalty House. It was after ten. He took the call in none too happy of a mood, and the news from the pathologist who had been so helpful didnít improve things.

"I don't know what to say," he said into the receiver after he had listened without interrupting. "It's all nonsense of course, and it's going to delay you further. If Highlers makes a charge, we shall answer it, of course." He clapped the receiver into its cradle and went to find the Doctor, but his personal aide met him in the hallway with a note.

"Message for you sir. Quite urgent," the young man said as he passed over a white slip of paper. "It came in last night, after you'd retired."

"Right, I'll look at it as soon as I have a moment!" And he hurried past.

"But sir---"

"Doctor!" the Brigadier called as he hurried down the steps. "Are you in here?" The Doctor glanced up from the workbench and frowned. "What is it now?"

"A dead body---a grown man. Lynched just off-site from Royalty House. It's one of theirs sales clerks and they say UNIT soldiers did it."

The Doctor sighed and stood up. "Hardly likely----"

"But we'll have to marshal a count of the men and their locations throughout the day yesterday! Blast!" And Lethbridge Stewart thumped his fist onto the workbench. "A delay in what we really need to be doing!"

"What's that you've got?" And the Doctor nodded at the white paper.

"Oh, a telephone message. If it's Geneva, I'm not in." And he looked at it. Then he read it aloud for the Doctor's benefit:


From Inspector Jaffe of Bolingbrook. Dead body found at Royalty House likely that of Steven Brentson. Am trying to confirm. Suggest you call at once.


"That's our first break," the Doctor said. "But how did he get wind of this so soon?"

"Miss Smith?"

"She was at the Met yesterday."

"Burning her hand?" And the Brigadier arched an eyebrow. "I'll ring up Jaffe. He's got his number here. Come along if you like. We'll talk on speaker phone."

As they walked up to the Brigadier's office, the Doctor said, "Where is Bolingbrook?"

"Well from the number he left, I would guess it's close to the coast." The Brigadier glanced at his scientific advisor.

"She would have no reason to go----"

"Unless that blasted leak at the Met who told her about the other bodies spilled something else that we donít know. Didnít you say she asked you for a photo of the dead lad?"

"Yes, I took it to her night before last."

"Then she had a contact with Jaffe, before she ever went to the Met."

"Or she wanted it to show around there, and somebody told her something that sent her to Jaffe."

They looked up in time to see Benton striding towards them. The burly Warrant Officer stopped and saluted with that expression he always had when he knew he was about to say something the Brig would not like.

"Well what is it man?"

"Geneva's rung up, sir. They want a report on our activities at Royalty House. Without delay."

Before the Brigadier could break out into any type of strong language, the Doctor said, "I'll call Inspector Jaffe."

Benton's eyes lit up in sudden recognition.

"Do you know that name, Mr. Benton?" the Brigadier asked sharply.

"Well, yes sir. The pathologist has rung up again. He says an Inspector Jaffe's come up. From a town near the coast. He had a woman with him, assuming it to be the dead lad's mother. They thought they could identify the first victim's body."

"And?" the Doctor asked.

"Well, the pathologist said that the woman claimed it was not her son, not at all---"

"A dead end then." And the Brigadier's tone was grim.

"But the police inspector believes that it is," Benton added. "It caused quite a scene. The woman became near hysterical claiming it was not her child and the police had never done anything, and now they thought this body would get them off the hook, and on like that."

"What did Inspector Jaffe say?"

"That he thought it was the lad, a boy named Steven Brentson. He told the pathologist not to inter yet."

"We've got to reach Jaffe," the Brigadier said.

"He's on his way home, sir. It will take a few hours."

* * * *

At Royalty House, the grounds lay quiet and serene as the night slowly gathered over the manicured and cultivated grounds. With the weekend rush over, few visitors strolled the patios or flagstone walks between the patchwork flower beds. Down in the underground area of the processing floor, two men in white coats stopped in front of a reinforced door and passed magnetic cards before a reading device. It lit up, and they heard a bolt shoot back automatically.

Inside, a small meeting room with a few chairs scattered before the platform greeted them as they hung back by the door. It closed with a loud slam that gave them away. Three other men sat on chairs near the platform, and Dave Highlers, seated on top of a wooden packing crate on the platform itself, had a smile fixed on his face. Every few seconds, he kicked a heel back into the crate. He twisted a short length of bicycle chain in his hands. But his voice was anything but friendly.

"Stop quivering at the door! The whippings havenít even started yet. Get up here."

The two men came forward.

"What's put you two off your feed?" he asked.

One of them spoke. "Did you--did you lynch him? Was it you?"

Highlers moved faster than one would expect from a man in a relaxed position. Instantly, he was off the platform, and he whipped the chain against the unfortunate man's leg. As the object of his wrath shouted and tried to wrest himself away from the grip on his collar, Highler's shouted, "Donít make a sound, or Iíll turn you over to them so fast, you'll be hanging from some rafter in a jail before you know it!" He cut the chain through the air three more times into the man's leg and then let him go with a shove. The man dropped to the ground, unable to use the injured leg. But he didn't scream.

"Leave him!" Highlers shouted. He stepped back onto the platform. "Who was it who used that plot for burial? What did you fools think? With all the woods and all the fields about us, what in the devil's name possessed you to use that plot of earth?" And he smacked the chain into the wooden crate. From inside, a tiny gasp of surprise and fear, muffled by the wood of the crate, escaped. He ignored it. He stared at the remaining men who were standing.

"I donít know what you mean," one of the men gasped. "What are you talking about? I donít know anything about this!"

Highlers stepped off the platform again, and the others cleared off from their member who had spoken. "Come here."

"Look, Mr. Highlers, I donít know what you mean----no, don't!" He would have run for the door, but the chain wrapped around one of his legs at the knee. With a jerk, Highlers pulled the knee out of its alignment. "Oh donít!" the man screamed as he fell. Highlers kicked him.

"Go ahead, say it again. Say you donít know what I'm talking about."

The man rolled back and forth, clutching his leg. "I never meant to hurt him! It was an accident. I'm not like the others. I never meant to hurt him!"

Highlers kicked him. "Shut up!"

He looked around at the others. "Well what's your answer? Why did you use the exact same plot of land, you fools?"

"Because we thought it would be safe," one of them muttered. "We knew you would pick a safe spot."

"One honest idiot among the sheep," he said. "Well itís not safe. Your little toys have been discovered. And UNIT!" He spat out the name like it was poison. "UNIT is still investigating! Still looking into it! Even though we've gotten them off the grounds. They've walked away with materials. Samples. From the bodies and from the burial and from us."

"Who are they?" the man who had spoken the truth asked. "Why would soldiers be interested in us?"

"Oh that's a story and a half," Highlers said. "They investigate the edge of science and inexplicable phenomena. And they've got a do-gooder Brigadier up top who isnít going to look aside from 25 boys and girls dug up on our property!" He strode up to the platform again and added, "And a science officer who has the means to dig out ever so many facts from one speck of dust."

"Should we do a bunk?" one of them asked.

"Oh no. As usual, I have a plan." He kicked the crate and then pushed the lid off. "This is our weapon. Took me a while to get it fit for service, but now it will work. Stand up!" he exclaimed.

But as whatever was inside could not, he reached in and pulled up a young lady by the arm. Her face shone with sweat from having been imprisoned in the crate.

"What do you want?" he asked her. "Air and light? Or chocolate?"

"Chocolate, please," she gasped.

"More than air and light?"

"Please, just give me the chocolate. I only need four pieces---"

"You'll need five by this time." He dropped the chain and reached into his jacket pocket and produced a handful of the chocolates. "If I give you these, then you have to stay in there for another ten hours. Ten hours locked in a wooden box, Miss Smith. Which shall it be? Freedom, or chocolate?"

"The chocolate please!"

"No, I donít think so." He suddenly jerked her closer. "You know what I want. You promised before. Say it now."

"I'll say what you want. I'll do what you want," she begged. "Only please, please give me the chocolates."

"What do I want?"

He dropped the chocolates back into his coat pocket, and she gasped in fear and would have reached for them, but with his hand wrapped around her arm he kept her back. He drew the handgun out and put it under her chin. "You kill the Doctor. Or you'll never get any chocolate again. Ever."

"I'll do anything," she begged. "Anything! Please give them to me"

"Say it! And stop that blubbing!"

"I'll kill the Doctor. I'll do it, I promise!"

He laughed and pulled her closer. He holstered the gun, pulled out the handful of chocolates and with a rough, ungentle accuracy, pushed them into her mouth. Not even heeding the rough handling from him, she closed her eyes in relief and then nearly gagged as he pushed them too hard.

"No donít spit them out. There's no more right now," he said, and he laughed. She managed to wolf them down without losing any, panting as she made quick swallows to force them down her throat.

He threw a glance over his shoulder at the men in the room. "You see, gentlemen, there's nothing out of our control," he said. "If we cannot reach them through the chocolate, we will reach them through their loved ones who must have our chocolate. In the end, we will still take over. Miss Smith will kill the Doctor with this gun, at close range, thus earning for herself a lifetime supply of our exclusive brand, and that will end this chapter of difficulty."



Click here for Episode Nine!
Back to Jeri's Doctor Who Fiction page!

E-mail jeriwho
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.
jeriwho@pipeline.com