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 Brigadier had time to put leave a call for Inspector Jaffe's down at Bolingbrook before rushing out again to consult with the police's psychiatric advisor. His driver had the address, and within thirty minutes they were navigating the traffic in Harley Street.
As soon as he spied the proper building, he let himself out to allow the soldier to find parking. He had turned the books over to the Met just that morning, but they had rushed the publications to one of their top consultants. He entered the building, and after a few minutes of scanning names on an impressive, carved marquee in the lobby, he found his way up a lift to a plushly carpeted but narrow hallways upstairs. He found a door and entered, and as there was nobody at the reception desk, he called out.
A very young woman, shorter even than Sarah Jane Smith and wearing beautifully tailored trousers, a jacket, and a multicolored scarf at her throat came out of an office door and beamed at him.
"Good day Miss," he said. "I am looking for Dr. Throgmorton."
"Oh that's me, Brigadier," she said in an American accent. She beamed up at him again, like a teenage girl. "Please come back!"
She led him into a small but well furnished office. He accepted a comfortable chair, and she took her seat behind a desk that was nearly the size of a double bed.
"I read through the publications that you sent," she said. She leaned back in her throne-like, swivel chair. He glanced at the wall of books behind her and wondered if she had possibly even lived long enough to have read them. "I must say, I was quite alarmed," she added. "I understand that your organization investigates the inexplicable, working on the theory that there may be extraterrestrial life that is aware of earth."
"Well, our work is complex, Dr." he began.
"I just want to know what spaceship dropped this Jack Highlers fellow off here!" she exclaimed, and she burst out with giggling. She leaned back in her chair, laughing with a contagious and oddly innocent merriment. "Boy, what a piece of work! A piece of work!" She looked at him in open merriment, her blue eyes dancing. She had a few freckles on her cheeks, and they contributed to the image of youth.
"But what do you think? Do his works indicate any danger?"
"Well, you wouldn't want your daughter to marry him!" She picked up a pen and chewed the end for a moment. Then she said, "His books don't openly advocate violence." She leaned back again. "But they advocate an element that is often part of the mix that leads to violence. I think I should talk about gender, and what it is."
She shook back her hair, which was loose and short, an almost pixie-like style. She tugged an ear ring and said, "Gender is a mix of the biological and the social, Brigadier. Or we could say that gender is based on both the biological and the social. There are some clear cut differences between men and women, even getting down to the way we tend to process information and evaluate situations."
"Yes, I think I see that."
"Well, I'm a behaviorist, but for this topic, I'll default to Jung. All healthy people have all the components of being human: assertion, timidity, aggression, adaptability, the desire to be loved, the desire to carve out a niche, and so on. There are some timid men, and there are some assertive women. Jung writes that men view themselves and their world through a sort of filter that he calls the animus. Women have a feminine filter called the anima. Little boys tend to want to play with trucks and cars and maybe guns and tomahawks. Little girls usually drift towards dolls and maybe stuffed animals. Gender makes itself known in the early years even if it's not especially cultivated. But, all the same, all children like tag, and hide-and-go-seek, and looking for monsters under the bed. As a child matures, the filtering of his or her mind can adapt to expectations or goals about gender."
"So what does this mean?"
"Well, Jung and many others believe that a healthy human being is one who integrates all the components of being a human being and gets everything to work dynamically with the animicus or animica. Men who despise crying or refuse to show affection to their sons on the grounds of it not being manly are not healthy. Neither are women who play the helpless female and manipulate the men around them to get what they want."
Now she became serious. "To teach young people not to integrate themselves with----well, let's call it all the virtues: the ability to yield, or to confront, or to be brave, or to leave well enough alone, to comfort, to sympathize, to challenge---is to teach them to lie to themselves and damage themselves. I mean, let's face it---" Forgetting that he was a visitor, she swung a stockinged foot up onto her desk in preparation for leaning tipped back in her chair. "Oh! Excuse me!" She whipped the small foot out of sight. "Where was I?"
"Yes, the danger!" She leaned back in the chair, without putting her feet up. "Gender is a means to an end. It provides a starting point and a reference point in most people. It includes truths about what each of us is, but it's not the sum total of what defines a person. If somebody declares that gender is an end in and of itself, and that normal human development must stop because of gender lines, then we have a problem of non-integration." She nodded her strawberry blond head at the pile of books. "There are poor men in London tonight who wash dishes for eight hours at a stretch and go home to wives and children and provide for them. There's nothing unmanly in what they do. And there are young women who have run track right out of environments of poverty and despair and become international athletes. But the heart of the matter---" And again she became thoughtful.
"Yes?" She had his attention.
"He's really teaching young men to despise women," she said at last. "It's subtle at times---sometimes not subtle. In his books, when a man behaves in way that Highlers has determined is feminine, the man has shamed himself. But if a woman behaves in a way that he describes as masculine, she has diminished manhood---over reached her station. And there is a real premise in his writing that men make morality, and women must abide by the morality, and that's dangerous. Men and women alike must be moral players in life's game. And women must challenge immoral actions and take responsibility for their morality---whatever that may be. Issues like that transcend gender. Right and wrong are big ideas and affect lives."
Now she was serious and intent. He realized that she was attractive. And brilliant beyond his reckoning. And young.
"But are these books dangerous?" he asked.
She tugged an ear ring again. "Well, they're not criminal. But predatory crimes against others often include what we call 'rigid gender expectations'. It can happen in either gender: a woman marries for money and then comes to hate and perhaps murder her husband because she expects him to lavish gifts on her in order to live up to her love. Or she may be abusive or neglectful of her children because she resents her husband's attention to them. She has a skewed view of her gender and her gender role. But more often, the police are called in cases that involve men who will beat their wives for being late with dinner, or burning the pot roast or talking back to them."
"Yes, I could see that Highlers has an authoritarian view of marriage---"
She lifted her thin eyebrows. "Boy does he! But there's one more thing---"
He looked at her.
"A culture that makes gender an end in and of itself is always in danger of certain crimes. We see it in samurai history, in isolated Moslem cultures along the ancient Silk Road, in Nazi culture. When women cease to have value, and male dominance is given an extraordinarily high level of cultural esteem, then the incidence of men preying upon children---especially boys---increases."
"Why?" he asked.
"My guess would be that heightened expectations of being treated with deference create arrogance and a detachment from the necessary sense of mercy and compassion required to build a society," she said. "Expectations of being served by others or treated in a certain way are big motivators in violence, Brigadier. Certain, susceptible men with esteem problems will do things to prove to themselves that they can control somebody. Their disassociation from a sense of community--which is always based on a sense of need and cooperation---makes them more like loners. They lose their place in a community that is almost entirely competitive for status. The commodity in such a culture is power, and some men will obsessively seek power where ever they can find it." She shook back her hair again with the impatient shake of a child. "We all want power, and the claims of a healthy and constructive community normally cause us to restrict our drives to be in control. But in a culture of such rigid gender expectations, people---men---are pushed and pushed to claim power. Some will abandon empathy for others in their drive to gain some type of power."
She pushed the books away, a gesture to say that she was finished. "To a woman who can read the Torah and has a medical degree from USC Berkely, Highlers books are a joke. To a young man with no real education or experience, they could be the side path that forever distorts his view of himself, women, marriage, and children," she said. "It would take more than just these books to turn a normal young man into a predator, but if you showed me a young man who preyed upon children, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find these books in his library."
* * * *
For a long moment, Dave Highler tightened the scarf by slow degrees at her throat. She closed her eyes and didn't know why. "Are you ready?" he hissed "To give me my authority?"
"Shall I kill you?"
"That's up to you. You make the decisions."
He abruptly slipped the scarf away. "I want you on my arm tonight," he said. "There's a reception. I need an escort."
"Come on." Not as roughly, he pulled her down the hill towards the brick bungalow. She forced steadiness into her knees to keep from stumbling.
The two men he had left in charge were standing in the doorway, staring up towards the hill. They were startled and ducked back inside as he approached with Sarah Jane. "It's all right," he said with a sneer at the fear of being caught at the doorway. "Miss Smith and I have come to an agreement. Unlock the handcuffs. She has business to attend to." He left her at the doorway and strode into the single-room shack. "What about the radio? Any news?"
"That Brigadier fellow is due back at UNIT any minute," one of the men said. "They have news for him."
"We couldn't make it out."
He sat down before the speaker and waited. The two men shifted from foot to foot. Sarah Jane, freed from the handcuffs, glanced around the room. The cot was against the far wall, and on the wall next to it, a large metal rack of shelves sat packed with tools, jars of cleanser and solvents, and second hand bottles that had been roughly labeled in crayon: AMMONIA, and BLEACH. The battery lantern had expired, and a kerosene lamp sat on a rickety table at the foot of the bed, casting its wavery light over the radio speaker.
"He's coming," Highlers said. "It's a meeting. You two go outside and wait. And you---" He glanced at her. "Don't distract me. Don't make a sound." The two men went out and closed the door.
* * * *
"What do you mean missing all day?" the Brigadier roared. "How did she slip through? What do those men think we're playing at?" He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a clean glass.
"She did some sort of switch, sir. In the cinema," Benton said. "A different young lady left, wearing Miss Smith's coat and hat. Our man followed her. He didn't realize for several hours that he'd been fooled. We've lost her."
"She's gone to that Royalty House!" Lethbridge Stewart snapped.
"But how do you know sir?"
"Because she shot the Doctor! He's lying like blazes to cover for her, but I know she did it."
"But the Doctor is her friend---" Benton began.
"Then heaven protect us against such friends!"
"But sir, what about our undercover agent? the Masque?"
The Brigadier glanced at him. "What do you mean?"
"We got him in at Royalty House. He's up there now, in disguise. Does she know who he is?"
"She jolly well does!" the Brigadier exclaimed.
"If she reveals his identity, we're sunk, sir! You'll be ruined for disobeying orders. You'll be in disgrace!"
"I know that, man! Be quiet!" he roared. Benton stopped instantly. Lethbridge Stewart calmed down. "I said I would take the risk, and I will. Perhaps she won't be at the reception."
"And sir, there's this message from Bolingbrook," Benton said. "Inspector Jaffe went missing last evening. He was discovered this morning. Auto wreck. Brake lines had been cut. He survived but he's in hospital. But the dead boy's presumed mother----"
"Steven Brentson's mother?"
"She's gone missing sir. The police down there assume the worst."
* * * *
Sarah Jane stiffened at these words as they came over the speaker. Without looking up, Highlers spoke: "She was just a witless cow, always wandering about looking for greener grass somewhere else," he said. He looked up at her. "Do you know this undercover agent, the one they call the Masque?" he asked.
"Well?" he asked.
"I know what he looks like," she said. "But surely he'll be disguised."
Instead of shouting at her, he asked a question. "How much can he change his looks?"
She had to think for a moment. "He has a skill of applying tissue thin layers of latex to his skin. He can give himself wrinkles, make his nose and chin look larger, alter his hair color and even appear to have thinning hair."
"But he cannot hide his physique, his carriage. You'll have to pick him out. I'm giving you an order."
"I'm going to unmask him. In public. That will take care of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart!"
He stood. "Call the two men back in. They can take notes on any future broadcasts. You have to get ready for that reception. It starts within the hour."
And so, thirty minutes later, after being dragged to the edge of her own grave and then brought back, Sarah Jane Smith found herself in luxuriously appointed quarters in the main building, with an evening dress laid out for her, courtesy of the house. She had everything she could ask for to prepare for the grand reception. She showered and dried her hair, applied cosmetic to cover the paleness that had become a part of her, and donned fresh undergarments and the dress.
Her hands were shaking.
She went the door. He was already there. "David, I need chocolate---"
"How do you ask?"
"May I have chocolate, please?"
"You'll get chocolate when I say you can have chocolate."
"I don't think I can get through the reception---"
He tightened his hand on her arm. "Don't make me hurt you, Sarah Jane. No chocolate. Not until I say so. You have a job to do."
He led her down to the elevators. Though he did not jerk her along, his fingers bit into her flesh hard enough to leave bruises. She didn't protest. They came to the wide, grand hallway with the false chandeliers. Up ahead, she saw light spilling from open double doors. Strains of music reached them, and the low murmur of people laughing and talking. A cocktail party.
"Hang on a bit," he said. He led her to the front desk and took up the desk phone. "This is Dave Highlers," he said. "I want every security man up at the main building. Position yourself around the main hall, outside and inside the building. You're to wait for my signal to come in and detain a trespasser."
He paused. "Then he said again "Yes. Wait for my signal." Then he cradled the receiver. He looked at her. "Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and this undercover agent of his will learn not to play games with me! Come on!" He took her arm and led her back towards the large reception room. Before she saw anything else, her eyes fixed on the bowls of chocolate that dotted the tables.
"These chocolates are duds," he whispered to her. "Keep your wits about you, and find him, and I'll reward you."
She looked up at him. "And then what?"
"Why are you asking that? I own you. Don't go back to resisting."
They entered the open doors. People, primarily those of a slightly older generation, stood in small groups talking and laughing. Close to the large French windows on the west wall, a five-piece orchestra played softly. At a sprawling buffet table, men and women helped themselves at platters of meats and cheeses.
One tall man, his blond hair cut into an aggressive crew cut, his massive shoulders bulging under the sleeves of a black dinner jacket, stood between two similarly styled men. All of them had slightly battered, but roughly handsome faces. She recognized them at once. It was Scottish Jerry, the up and coming Great White Hope of boxing in England and Europe.
She gave a start and suddenly looked uneasy.
"What is it?" he asked.
"You don't recognize the men on either side of that tall bloke? They're UNIT solders," she said in a low voice. "In plain clothes. Look at their hair cuts! They're military. If they see me, David, they'll alert the Brigadier. He'll have me arrested!"
But sudden realization dawned in his eyes. "So he---the one in the middle---"
"That's the Masque. Do you see the faint line of color change along his throat? That's the latex he's applied over his face. That puffed out lower lip isn't real. His two mates are eating, but he's not. I suppose the latex layers won't let him move his facial muscles enough to chew."
He turned to her. "You stay right here. Don't move! My men are in place by now!"
He strode away and then stopped and came back to her. "If you try to leave this room, I'll kill you," he said.
"Yes, David." Then she lowered her voice. "But maybe I could have chocolate soon."
"Not another word about that! I'll make you wait all the longer! Now stay here!"
He strode across the crowded room and shouldered his way up to the buffet. Then he shouldered his way between the two men who flanked their tall, broad companion.
The tall man was taken by surprise. "Are we in your way, mate?" he asked.
"You've been in my way ever since UNIT set foot on these grounds!" he exclaimed. "Well tell this to your Brigadier!" And he grasped the big man by the lower lip and pulled with all his strength.
Out on the dark grounds, close to the French windows, two of the security men were having a debate. "How the 'eck do we know what the signal is?" one of them asked his fellow. "I mean, is it a whistle, a flash of light, an alarm?"
"Just pipe down and do as your told!" his partner said.
"We're in for it if we muck this up. His father is never this unclear. You always know with Jack Highlers just what he wants!"
Just then, the nearest French window shattered as Dave Highlers came crashing through it. Luckily for him, he hit the thorny hedge, plowed over it, and rolled onto the grass.
"Was that the signal?" the security guard asked.
A tall man with a Scottish accent appeared at the smashed window and bellowed several loud words of ancient origin at the fallen man, shaking his fist at him. Then, still angry, he started to climb out while his two friends encouraged him.
Bleeding from cuts along the sides of his face, Highlers shakily stood up, saw the tall boxer climbing down to come after him, and shouted at the security men. "Stop him! Throw him out of here!"
At sight of uniformed men coming to manhandle their beloved pal, the two crewcut men started to clamber out the window after him to defend him. But it was just then that one of them saw several security men burst into the reception through the open doors.
Inside the large room, everybody gaped at the ruined French window, stunned at the display Dave Highlers had made for himself in grabbing the United Kingdon's boxing champion by the lower lip and pulling. When the security guards rushed in and made for the boxing assistants, more than one person decided to intervene. And the two assistants were more than willing to defend the honor of Scottish Jerry.
Sarah Jane saw the confrontation rapidly descend into a brawl. Women screamed. A wave of pink punch swept over several people as the boxing assistants flung its contents over the Royalty House security men. Bystanders got in the way as they tried to explain that Dave Highlers had openly attacked Scottish Jerry. The security men elbowed them out of the way, and the boxing assistants pushed over the buffet table. An elderly woman tried to go towards the doors, and when one of the guards unwisely tried to stop her, a young man shoved him away. In a moment, as it became clear that security wanted to make everybody stay in the room, several men joined the side of the boxing assistants, and the pushing and shoving turned into a real fight.
The doors were now clear as the security guards all focused on reining in the brawl at the overturned buffet. Sarah Jane slipped out. She raced up the hallway. Her car keys were in her room, but she didn't even weigh her chances of getting them and making a getaway. She had to have more of the chocolates.
She took the lift to the next floor, ran into the hallway, and began trying doors to see if any were unlocked. None would yield. She ran to the lift and pushed the button to try the next floor up. As the lift doors opened, Dave Highlers leaped out and seized her by the arms.
"You did that on purpose!" he screamed. "How dare you? I should have thrown you into that grave!" He pushed her back into the paneled wall. He grasped her by the throat.
"I've defeated you!" she gasped. And then she stopped.
"Defeated me? What are you talking about?"
"From the beginning. It's been my game, not yours. You've lost. They're onto you."
He shook her. "What are you babbling about?"
"I never shot the Doctor. He told me what you've done to me. That you've engineered the chocolate to take over dopamine production and cause dependency in people who are susceptible. The Brigadier knew about the listening device in his office. Everything said in that office was staged. UNIT's been moving in on you all along! You're finished. You've killed Steven's mother, but Jaffe can identify the body."
"Jaffe doesn't know anything!"
"I had a tape recorder in my pocket when you took me up to the mass grave. I got everything you said on tape."
The wrath in his eyes didn't hide the sudden dread her words evoked. "Where is it?"
"I won't tell you."
He shook her by the throat. "Tell me!"
"No. You can only kill me! I can't live any longer."
"Oh yes you can!" He released her throat and pulled her by the arm to the lift. "We're going down to the special processing area. We have wire cages in there to store the crates under lock and key. I'm going to lock you in one of those cages, where you can see and smell the chocolates, but you won't be able to get to them. And I'm going watch you go insane, Sarah Jane Smith. If the Doctor and the Brigadier are wise to me, where are they? Why have they abandoned you here?"
"The Brigadier tried to keep me in London---"
He shoved her into the lift and closed the doors. He pressed the button for the basement floor. "So that was real. Once you'd played you're part, they wanted you to stay where you'd be safe. That wasn't very smart of him. He hasn't grasped how completely some people will get dependent on our chocolates." He glanced at her. "By the end of the night, you'll beg me to let you tell me where that tape recorder is."
"No," she said again.
"It's too late for you. You're going to go insane. Like Morales. And Rogers. But you won't find a high place to jump, or a gun to end it."
"It was too late for me the day I first set foot here," she said. "But you're finished. They know about the chocolate. They'll find the tape recorder. The Brigadier has the books your father wrote. It will all come out to the public. They'll close you down and arrest those men."
He reached into his jacket and withdrew a long steel wand. He pushed a button, and a blade snicked into place. "I'll cheat them of their prey," he said. "Maybe dear old Dad won't mind lockup, but I'm going out with a blaze of glory." He put the tip of the blade under her chin. "But you'll go before me, and not until I have the pleasure of watching you rage, and cry, and tear out your hair, and cut your hands to ribbons as you try to claw your way out, and foam at the mouth, and beg on your knees for me to give you more chocolate, and I won't do it." He wrapped his other arm around her and pulled her in. "I am going to watch you lose your mind, and your dignity, and that pretentious, over-achieving fašade that you wear. You'll be begging me for death and chocolate before the sun comes up." He glanced down at her hands. "You're shaking already. You won't last long."
The lift stopped, and he pulled her out into the hallway of the processing area. She realized that she could smell the chocolate that she needed. He read her sudden awareness.
"Yes, you can smell what you need," he said. "You're sweating. It's maddening, isn't it? Come on then---"
A fist hit him dead on the nose. It snapped his head back, and he collapsed. Sarah Jane didn't look to see who had rescued her. She leaped over Highlers and would have run into the packaging area to find the chocolates, but two powerful arms caught her.
"Please, don't do this to me! Let me go!" she cried. "It's too late! It's too late!"
"It's not too late," the Doctor said. He had her. He glanced at the Brigadier, who---rubbing his knuckles---leaned over Highlers and plucked away the switchblade.
The Brigadier glanced at her. She was struggling to get away, to find the chocolates. "Get her away from here," he said quietly. "Go on."
She turned frightened eyes to him as the Doctor tried to control her. "Oh please, Brigadier, please don't have me locked up, Brigadier---"
"I won't," Lethbridge Stewart said. "The Doctor is going to look after you--to help you."
"Please just let me get to the chocolates, just to calm down--"
The Doctor pressed something to her arm. "Listen, this won't work for more than a few injections. It's going to bypass the dopamine pathways and disassociate you from the cravings."
She felt a sting. "No, just let me have one more dose, please---"
"We used hypnosis before," he said.
"It stopped working. It's too late!" But her struggle diminished. She was exhausted, and though she felt the powerful draw in the scent of the chocolates, her decision to struggle was suddenly hazy and uncertain. He picked her up.
"We're going to get right away from here," he said. "The UNIT helicopter's on the green."
He hurried down a passage with her and found the loading dock doors. He turned and pushed one open with his back as he carried her outside. The fresh night air revived her, but she didn't renew her struggle. "The tape recorder. I had one---"
"All right," he said.
"He told me what they did. He named the men. It's on the tape."
""Where is it?"
"In the brick bungalow, where the RT set is. Behind the cleaning products on the shelves." She could hear the beating of the chopper blades as he carried her towards the helicopter. A fresh burst of tears and new sobbing shook her. "They're going to destroy it all----"
"Not the tape recorder. I'll radio back----"
"Yes," he said. "It's going to be destroyed."
Strong hands helped him lift her inside. He climbed in after her. "You defeated him, Sarah Jane. And he's not going to have the last word about chocolate."
"Please, if you would just let me have a few pieces---" she begged.
He gave the pilot a quick thumbs up, and they ascended into the dark and velvet blackness.
"You can't take me away from them, please, Doctor!" She struggled and nearly jumped to the open side of the craft.
He caught her head in his arms. "Sarah Jane, I brought you to this terrible place, I'll get you out. I'll get you through this. You're only a few days from being almost well again." He held her so tightly that she had to stop struggling. For a long moment, there was only the beating of the helicopter blades, a raw smell of fuel, and a sudden cold wind as the pilot reached a suitable altitude and darted the chopper away from Royalty House in a straight line. The haziness from the injection overcame her, and her struggling stopped.
* * * *
The bedroom was cooler than what she preferred. But as Sarah Jane awakened and focused on the oiled paper that served in lieu of glass on the window, she felt the peace of this wild, oddly gentle place seep into her. It was like greeting an old friend: to have a few moments before the daily cravings started again, when she felt like her old self and felt that joy of life in her and around her again.
Every morning, the sense of being herself again came for a little longer and with greater power. But she knew that the Doctor, glad as he was to see the progress, would keep her here for weeks longer. But what David Highlers had never been able to wrest from her through force or addiction, the Doctor could gain simply by asking and explaining. She had to trust him now, he had told her. She had to let herself remain under his guidance and care.
His odd concoctions of Chinese herbs, the acupuncture, the hypnotic suggestions that helped her focus on things outside the cravings had helped. She had never been reduced to the insanity that Dave Highlers had described. But, at this point, nothing completely stilled the cravings that she still felt, nor the bitter moments of bleak despair, nor the sense of being loathsome that sometimes came over her if she looked into a mirror. She simply coexisted with them.
Before she could focus on the struggle that lay ahead in the new day, she heard voices from the front room and instantly became curious. She sat up under the heavy covers. As of yet, there had been no visitors. But though she could not hear words, she sensed from the Doctor's voice that he was not entirely pleased.
A hand rapped on the door, and a very young, very short woman with a medical bag entered, the Doctor behind her. He was frowning, but in Sarah Jane's presence he reined himself in.
"Good morning, Miss Smith," the young woman said.
"This is Dr. Throgmorton," the Doctor said. "The Brigadier has sent her down to check on you."
"Yes, just a quick check now that it's been three days, to see how you're doing!" And she set the bag on the wicker stand by the bed and pulled out a stethoscope. She saw the time lord still standing in the doorway. "Oh my goodness, are you still here?" she asked him. "You could make us tea."
And without really pushing him, she got him out the door and closed it.
She came back to Sarah Jane. "What an odd little place this is," she said. "Out here in the marshes like this. We came in by jeep."
"Yes, it's far from everything," Sarah began. "Are you a doctor?"
"Oh yes. I'm just a short doctor. May I take your pulse, Miss Smith?"
"Yes." Sarah held out her wrist, and the young lady took it up with an expertise that validated her claim.
"That's a pretty good pulse. Let's see your eyes." She looked into Sarah's eyes, and Sarah started at the two blue eyes that looked at her so openly and directly. She still wasn't accustomed to being looked at.
"Well, you have a beautiful soul down there," Dr. Throgmorton said. "It's in very good shape." She put the prongs of the stethoscope in her ears. "Let's just make sure that the ticker is fine."
Sarah sat up straighter and let her slip the sensor between the buttons on her pyjama top.
The young MD's eyes became thoughtful. "Hmm." She moved the sensor. "Pretty good," she said as she listened. "May as well get the lungs. Do you mind leaning forward?"
"No, of course." And Sarah Jane leaned forward and let her apply the cool sensor to her back. "How about a cough?" she asked. Sarah Jane coughed.
"Yup, that's right. Sit back, please. We'll have one more listen to the heart. I thought I heard something."
Sarah Jane sat back again, and the short, youthful woman again applied the sensor. "Oh yes, I thought I heard that." She nodded, satisfied, removed the sensor, and pulled the prongs out of her ears.
"Heard what?" Sarah asked.
The young woman slipped off the stethoscope, folded it up, and stuffed it into the bag. "Mercy. That will keep you going when the chips are down."
She pulled up the white wicker chair, sat down, and took Sarah Jane by the hand.
"You can hear Mercy?" Sarah asked.
"Oh, we can hear lots of things through those contraptions," she said easily. "But if we told everything we know, we'd put ourselves out of business!" She kicked off her shoes and put her small, bare feet up on the edge of the bed. She leaned back, still clasping Sarah's hand. With her other hand she absently tugged an ear ring.
"You're a very unusual medical doctor," Sarah said.
The young lady beamed. "That's good, because just now I'm examining a very unusual journalist. Do you feel ready to answer questions, Miss Smith?"
"This isn't to punish you, Miss Smith, but to try to understand your mindset so that I can determine your competency," she said.
"We've established that you never visited the Met. How did you find out about the 25 bodies?"
"Dave Highlers told me as he was burning my hand. He thought I knew. He said if I defied him, he would kill me and freeze my body, then throw me into their grave once the investigation had abandoned the site."
She nodded. After a moment she asked, "Did you leak the news to the papers?"
"Yes," Sarah Jane said.
"What was your reason?"
"The police local to Royalty House were unwilling to consider that Royalty House may have had a role in the murders. And they and Jack Highlers were forcing UNIT out. I knew all those children could not be local. I wanted to force the matter to the attention of other police forces. I knew they would insist upon a thorough investigation."
"You couldn't wait for Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart to make that decision?"
"I'm sorry," Sarah Jane said at once. "Will I face charges?"
"No, not at all." And her grip on Sarah Jane's hand tightened. "Don't be afraid of such a good man as the Brigadier. He's very concerned about you. But I have to know how rational your decisions were. The Highlers defense may try to indict you or depict you as being out of control."
Sarah nodded. "I felt that my time was running out," she said. "I had moments where I wanted to be dead to stop the craving and the self-loathing. But I never actually wanted to perform the action of killing myself." She hesitated, and then added, "But I was certain that eventually I would do what Morales and Rogers had done. So I had to act quickly and keep things moving."
"And you always suspected Dave Highlers?"
"From the day he locked me in a greenhouse and made me believe that poison gas was filling the room. I saw that he liked degrading people. I knew he was a sociopath."
"What prompted you to mail those books to your own people? Why hide your identity?"
Sarah was surprised. "How did you know it was me?"
The young MD giggled with great appreciation. "Well, the note was faked. You misspelled easy words and spelled all the big words correctly. And the person who wrote the note knew who to send it to and who to ask for. It clearly was an inside job."
"I thought I had to play both sides, I suppose," she said. "For as long as I could get the chocolate, survive on it, and find out who had killed those children. I wanted UNIT to know what was going on, but I knew that I had to get inside Royalty House, without Dave Highlers realizing that I was gathering information." She paused. "And I did need the chocolates. Anyway, I thought I did."
"Well, the tape recorder has been found, and when you're ready to testify, I think there are several police departments who will be very anxious to get your testimony." She smiled. "So you have to focus on getting better."
Sarah nodded. "I want to." She did not add that she still had moments when it seemed impossible to be free of the cravings. Suddenly timid, she asked, "Am I normal? Am I healthy?"
Dr. Throgmorton beamed at her and squeezed her hand. "You're not only healthy, you're a humanitarian!" And then she laughed with merriment. "Dave Highlers never figured that out!" But as Sarah was still concerned, her visitor softened her voice and said, "You give every evidence of being a strong woman with a strong sense of empathy and morality. You have been emotionally battered, and just like any strong person who gets beaten up, you need some time to recover and adjust to all that's happened. But yes, you are healthy. And I admire you."
There was a rap on the door, and the Doctor appeared. He had tea. He was on his best manners again. "The Doctor helped me early on," Sarah Jane said. "When I was nearly insane from the craving, and they said I had to kill him."
He set the tray on the large chest of drawers. "Miss Smith was never going to kill me," the Doctor declared as he poured hot tea. "No amount of rewired chocolate would make her do that. We had to keep her going, though, while I pretended to be in hospital. So I planted a hypnotic suggestion in her mind."
"Well you must be a crackerjack hypnotist," Dr. Throgmorton said.
"Yes, I am," he told her. He suddenly smiled. He passed the first cup to his patient and then poured for their visitor.
"He helped me focus on the very next moment," Sarah added. "That worked for a day or two. Just get to the next moment and not think of anything beyond that. It helped."
"But you still ate the chocolates when you could get them?" Dr. Throgmorton asked.
Sarah nodded. "I wanted them every moment, but when I couldn't get them, I was able to follow the plan I had made for myself, to get the information about what had happened." She hesitated and said, "But getting more chocolate was always in my mind. There was never a moment when I wasn't thinking of it."
The Doctor passed a cup of tea to their young visitor and sat on the wicker bed stand. "It was two cases, really," he said. "The dopamine replacement chocolates were aimed at the well-to-do, the powerful, or anybody who posed a danger to Royalty House. That was Jack Highlers' method of taking over the business world. And he used St. Nick's hospital as a front to pile up money for himself to extend his empire. He did donate large quantities of money to the charity, but he siphoned off a good bit more for himself."
Dr. Throgmorton nodded. And he added, "When some of the men tried to break free--or ran out of personal funds to contribute----they were shut out of the loop. Apparently there was a subscription service of the chocolates. When Morales and Rogers received ordinary chocolates, they committed suicide. They couldn't live without their fix." Sarah Jane shuddered, and Dr. Throgmorton tightened her grip on her hand.
"The predatory child killings were tied to the cult-like culture of Royalty House," the Doctor said. "It was a haven for such behavior."
"But why did some people get addicted and others did not?" Dr. Throgmorton asked the Doctor. "If it affected dopamine production, it should have had a wider efficacy."
"Most of the chocolates weren't doctored," Sarah Jane said. "They picked out who they wanted to assault with it."
Their visitor nodded but said, "But they did assault some people who were almost unaffected."
The time lord thought of the best way to explain it. "Chocolate----even ordinary gourmet chocolate----reaches the dopamine producing center of the brain through several avenues, or pathways," he said. "There's theobromine, phenethylamine, and other minute amounts of certain alkaloids that can excite dopamine production. These components have a synergetic effect. Highlers developed a method of time releasing the natural components of chocolate, keeping the trace alkaloids intact once they passed through the stomach wall. It heightened the effect on the central nervous system considerably."
"So why were some people unaffected?" she asked.
He lifted his eyebrows. "Good digestion. The chocolates only worked in the way he wanted for those people who did not break them down effectively in digestion. It's the same distribution that applies now. Some people have no special affection for chocolate because they don't experience the lift it gives them. Their stomachs break it down too quickly for the alkaloids to pass through the stomach wall and affect their central nervous system."
The young woman's eyes lit up with understanding. "But for susceptible people, the chocolate eventually replaced dopamine production in the brain; hence the dependency. Just like cocaine."
"More effective in that sense," he added. "The chocolate was effective along several pathways. It shut down the brain's normal dopamine production very effectively. Dependency was severe."
"What does dopamine do?" Sarah asked.
"Its release is what signals pleasure," her visitor said. "Even the ability to relax---"
"To be comfortable with yourself," the Doctor added. "To feel at home, to feel loved."
"And you really think I'm going to recover?" Sarah Jane asked.
"Yes!" they both exclaimed. They looked at each other. The Doctor nodded at their visitor, and she said, "Your brain will resume dopamine production, Miss Smith. If you've been sleeping better, then that's one sign that your body is balancing itself again."
"Yes, and we can help it along," the Doctor added. "Aligning the energies and helping the mind to focus properly."
Their guest stood up. "Well, it usually takes about three weeks for the nervous system to get its engines going at full bore," she said. She set Sarah Jane's hand on the covers of the bed. "I'll report that you're doing very well. And you do have one great advantage."
Sarah looked at her. "What's that?"
"The chocolates, and the system of processing them, have been destroyed. So the primary temptation is gone. Royalty House has been closed down, and Jack Highlers and that sadistic son of his will be spending the rest of their days in prison."
"In a UNIT security facility," the Doctor added. "The world will not hear from them again."
Their visitor took up her bag and then paused. "Why did Dave Highlers pull on that man's face?"
"The Brigadier had been stringing him along with a tall tale about an undercover agent called the Masque," Sarah Jane said. "When the Brig realized I was at Royalty House, he knew I was in danger. He tried to save my life by making David believe that I could spot the undercover agent. I realized what he was doing, and I played along."
Her face brightened. "And you told him that the Scottish boxing champion was the undercover agent?"
Sarah nodded. The young Dr. Throgmorton burst out into her contagious, merry laughter. She slapped her leg. "Well you are a real piece of work! Oh that's terrific!" Her laughter called forth a sudden smile from Sarah Jane, an unexpected rush of light hearted humor.
The Doctor would have seen her out, but the young MD waved him back. "Oh I'm fine. Enjoy your tea. I'll be back in a week to stay updated!" She turned her merry blue eyes to Sarah Jane. "I look forward to seeing you again, Miss Smith!" And she went out.
The Doctor was amazed. He glanced at Sarah. "As though I cannot take good care of you!" he exclaimed.
"You cannot sign off on me," she reminded him. "I'm a real case, you know. A patient."
He set his tea on the wicker stand and rested his hand against her forehead. He looked into her eyes, deeply. She was going to ask him, half teasing, if he saw her soul, but then under his gaze, a quietness entered her. "You have to struggle, to the last degree of yourself, to know what you are," he said. "Do you know? Do you understand, now that you've fought with everything that was in you?"
She hesitated. He wasn't in a hurry for the answer. He looked at her and waited, his eyes very still, and she relaxed and answered truthfully: "I don't know."
"But you will know." He didn't move his eyes from hers, and she realized, first that she had won a new admiration from him. And second, there was a part of her that he understood better than she did, and he revered this sacred part of her, this invisible, relentless component that had fought almost to its own extinction because 25 bodies of children had been uncovered.
His eyes remained quiet, and now she saw how old he was, and how wise. "The understanding will grow in you. Cultivate it," he said quietly. "You've gained a knowledge that few people can grasp, only the brave. Don't let it go."
And then she knew, with complete certainty, that she would recover. The cravings and dependency would diminish. She would be the person she was meant to be, not by her will or even his will, but because a certain rightness had decreed it.
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.