Night Terrors Episode Seven
With great care, the Brigadier examined the silver helmet on the dead man. "Looks like it was custom fitted," he murmured as Sgt. Benton and Captain Munro looked on. "Hand me a pen knife, will you?"
Munro fished a small pen knife from his pocket and opened it. He passed it to the Brigadier. Lethbridge Stewart slipped the thin blade into a seam of the helmet and tried to force it open. "There are catches in there---I see. This should work." He slid the blade up the seam and twisted. Part of the helmet gave way. He slid the blade higher up the seam did the same thing. Then he passed the knife back and opened the helmet, like a man swinging back a lid.
The action revealed the face of the dead man. He was young, about the same age as Benton, and had rugged features. His features suggested a certain toughness, though he was clean shaven. His hair had been cut in military fashion.
"Army bloke?" Benton asked.
"Possibly. But if so, why fire off shots at UNIT soldiers?" Munro asked.
"And if he was the chap who strung up Mr. Cording, then why do that?" the Brigadier asked. He glanced at Munro. "Get Jennings or whatever his name is. He knows everybody in the valley. Let's see if he recognizes this man."
Munro nodded and stepped out. They were in the undertaker's small prep room. The fully clothed body had been laid out on a steel gurney. Although the front of the undertaker's business presented a slightly Victorian air of comfort, solemnity, and dignified propriety, the back room was thoroughly modern and antiseptic. There were two large, galvanized sinks, a refrigerated unit, and even a microscope on one of the long work tables. It was apparent that the small facility could be used for investigative work by the local authorities.
Jennings entered. He was slightly intimidated by this array of tall strangers, but his habit of courtesy had not left him.
"Yes, Captain?" he asked the Brigadier.
"Mr. Jennings, I wonder if you recognize this man?" Lethbridge Stewart asked. He nodded down at the body.
"I'm sure that he was not a local resident," Jennigs said. "But I think that I have seen him. In fact, I believe that I saw him coming out of Mr. Cording's office a few weeks ago. He caught my attention because he was a stranger. And, well, such an imposing man."
The Brigadier was interested. "You're friends with David Cording?"
"Not especially close friends. But you see, with the suicides---well, Mr. Cording took on the expenses for the funerals. Most of the relatives are employed by him. Nearly everybody who works in the valley works at the factory. He took it upon himself to bear these expenses."
"And this man? He showed up at the time of the suicides?"
The older man shrugged with a deprecating smile. "I saw him only once. It was after the third or fourth death. It was late, and I drove up to the factory to settle some of the procedural questions with Mr. Cording. As I came into his office, this man was leaving. He was wearing a suit and tie, then. He was startled to see me, but Mr. Cording did not make introductions. I rather assumed he was some sort of investigator."
"And why was that?" the Brigadier asked.
"Well, as he was leaving, before they saw me, he was telling Mr. Cording that his chaps would not rest until they had found the cause. I had been sitting in a chair in the front room, and when I stood, they both stopped talking. They shook hands and then he left, and Mr. Cording got right down to business with me."
Munro was puzzled. "The cause of what?"
"Well," and Jennings hesitated. "As there had just been another death, I took him to mean the cause for the suicides. Maybe the factory accidents, for we've had plenty of those as well."
The Brigadier walked along the body and took up the right hand. He turned it palm up. "What do you make of those, Mr. Jennings?" He nodded to a series of three intersecting lines that had been gouged into the edge of the palm, just under the little finger.
Jennings studied the markings, examined the entire palm of the hand and the area between thumb and forefinger, and then took up the left hand and examined it.
"Well, I am not a forensic scientist, nor a pathologist," he said. "But I would say that this man held a stout twine or cord wrapped around his hands and pulled on it very hard---perhaps reining something in."
"Perhaps attempting to strangle a man who tried to get away?" the Brigadier asked.
"Perhaps, sir." Jennings became concerned. "You need a proper pathologist, really."
"I have two people eminently well qualified for pathology work, and they've both disappeared into that blasted forest," the Brigadier said.
* * * *
"You admit that you were one of them!" Johnny O'Haire roared.
"Yes," the Doctor said. He didn't try to get up. There was no escape.
The Doctor had fixed his eyes on Johnny O'Haire, so the sudden sight of Liz as she slipped between them startled and horrified him. Just as Johnny O'Haire swung down to finish the time lord, she slid between the point of the pick axe and the Doctor.
"No!" the Doctor shouted. He jerked her down onto himself, but he would have been too late except that Johnny O'Haire himself aborted the swing at this unexpected interruption. He spun the axe off to the side. It nearly flung him off balance, and he quickly regained his footing. The point of the blade sank into the wall.
Liz was the only person unafraid of what had nearly happened. She had not doubted that the woodsman would miss her. As he regained himself and wrenched the pick axe free, she sat up on her knees, keeping herself between him and the Doctor.
Johnny O'Haire took a fresh grip on the sturdy handle of the weapon. His eyes blazed at the Doctor, but his manner with Liz was not one of outright anger.
"Stand clear of him," he said, his voice calm and dreadful.
"I can't," she told him.
"Liz, move away," the Doctor said. For his part, he did not dare move for fear of provoking a fresh attack with Liz between them.
She looked up at the woodsman. "Johnny O'Haire, I didn't resist you when you took me away against my will. And I didn't resist you when you brought me into the lair of Gall Farraneagh. I made myself trust you and listen to you."
"Then move away now," he said.
Her eyes were large, but she shook her head. "Trust me and listen to me. It's only fair. If you must kill the Doctor, you can kill him at any time: five minutes from now, or an hour from now, or tomorrow, or the day after. But if you kill him now, then you can never bring him back: even if you realize that you acted hastily."
"He's condemned himself out of his own mouth," Johnny O'Haire told her. "He it was who turned a human being into that eater of blood. Against the lad's will. It wasn't enough that he should die, but that this sglimeach had to condemn him to everlasting evil and misery!" And he brought up the pick axe again, ready to strike. "Stand clear I say, for surely with one strike I save you from him and whatever other evil he intends."
"Liz, step out of the way," the Doctor said. "He may not be able to contol himself."
She afforded her colleague a swift glance over her shoulder. "Oh nonsense," and her voice was sharp. She turned back to the woodsman, but she didn't move away.
"Would you have me kill you as well?" Johnny O'Haire asked her. "All to save this inhuman wretch?" His voice, not threatening, was pleading.
"I would do a great deal to preserve your honor and dignity, Shepherd," she said. "If you won't listen to me for his sake, then listen to me because I believe that you are unwilling to rashly kill anybody. If you have to kill him, then kill him when you're not angry, when you can calmly assess that this is what you have to do. Johnny O'Haire has no need to act from rage."
These words seemed to have an effect, for though his eyes were fixed and grim, he hesitated. She didn't move, and she didn't take her eyes from his face. At last he lowered the mattock. "Take him out of this house," he said to her. "For I will listen to you before I do anything." And then to the Doctor, "And to you, sglimeach, if you flee into the woods I shall hunt you down quick and finish you. For the moment, you stay alive because she has pleaded well for you, and I have a regard for her."
* * * *
"Oh, I'm so glad you've come!" the young woman exclaimed as she lowered the window on her side of the car. The two stooped and middle aged men peered in at her in some concern. Other than the three of them, and their two vehicles on the side of the road, the landscape was silent. There were no other travelers.
"My dear young lady," Broadshire exclaimed. "Have you been stranded here all alone? Alone in your car on the side of the road?"
"Oh, just the last hour or so," she said. "I'm on my way back to university. I'm not sure what's wrong with it. It just started pouring out black smoke from under the bonnet."
"Well," and Broadshire scratched his head and looked at Knightford, who shrugged and looked especially helpless and bewildered. Broadshire turned to her. "I'm afraid we're not car mechanics, my dear. But we can get you up to the next town. You'll probably want something to eat. I believe they have a little tea shop there. Can we give you a lift?"
"Oh that's ever so sweet of you," she said. She looked back at the van in which they'd come. "That's your van?"
Broadshire bowed to her. "You may not know it, Miss, but you are speaking to the head librarian of the tiny little village that lies way at the bottom of the next valley over. That is not a mere van. It is our book mobile."
She laughed at his mock solemnity. "I see." She gathered up her purse. She was a youthful, sprightly girl perhaps just past twenty. A slight hunger lighted up Knightford's eyes as she got out of her car, as well as a look of triumph and satisfaction.
"This way my dear," Broadshire said. "We'll have you taken care of in no time."
* * * *
"Well," the Doctor said. "That's as close to the end of a pick axe as I'd like to come."
There was a hand operated water pump outside that emptied into a long trough, and a crude bench had been set alongside it. The Doctor sat on this. Liz stayed standing. Her own eyes were serious, frightened, and yet grim.
"You said you created Gall Farraneagh," she said. "How?"
"Look, my memory has been blocked in several ways, Liz." He peered up at her, aware of how shocked she was at his revelations a moment ago. "I dreamed it, though, and it came back to me. I didn't mean for this to happen."
"I was a lad myself. There were two of us. School chums, you might call us. I suppose the other fellow led me around a good bit when we were that young. You have to understand." And his voice became urgent again. "Humans looked like us. They shared so many similarities. We were horrifed at what we saw among them---"
"Death," he said. "You all die so young. To us it was very young. We thought your aging process was something gone haywire. He and I sneaked our way into the labs of the school masters several times. We found ways to project ourselves to earth for short visits. Sort of forced open a pathway through the vortex. It was sheer madness."
"Doctor, get to the point!" she snapped.
"Well, we came on a visit. It must have been here, I suppose, though the landscape has changed over the centuries. There was a young man cast out from his village. He had a form of hemophilia, and they attributed it to some sort of mark of the devil, or some predilection for human blood. He and his younger brother shared a miserable little cottage." He nodded back at the cabin. "I suppose it was here, where this cabin is."
She looked at the cabin and then back at the Doctor. "Johnny O'Haire?"
"The healthy brother. We discovered them, and we decided that we could cure the illness of the older boy. We hardly knew what we were about."
"You experimented upon a human being?" she asked. "To see if you could cure him?"
"We thought we could save his life. We didn't properly understand human death. We thought it was something that had to be prevented, at any cost. That it was like a riddle that we could solve---"
"And so you interfered with a human life span?" she exclaimed. "What did you do?"
"He was dying, right enough. I was at a complete loss, but my school mate identified the illness as a flaw on a gene on chromosome four. It was coding incorrectly for a coagulating protein. We thought that we could engineer a change. We need only correct for a single allele. That was the original plan, and that was what I agreed to, without reservation."
"Original plan?" she asked.
"Well his body was wasted. A great deal of damage had been done. So my friend thought we should introduce a regenerative process into his metabolism. That was a good bit trickier. I didn't want to make the attempt. But neither could I look at this dying young boy and believe that I might possibly save him and yet withdraw. How could I refuse? It was a terrible choice." For once, his eyes pleaded with hers, seeking her understanding. "That was the first time I ever saw real illness, a lingering death, the wasting of disease---"
"And you were sure you could set it all right?" she asked. "So sure that you went ahead and introduced an experimental process on him---untested, unproven, purely hypothetical?"
"I was sure that I ought to at least try. That we ought to try. And my friend was very sure of himself. He worked very hard and very quickly. He was so certain that he could pull it off that I let him go."
"And created Gall Farraneagh," she said. "You turned a human being into that monster?"
"Look, we thought he died," the Doctor told her. "We thought it was over. We got to him too late. He received the injection from my friend only seconds before he expired. When he'd breathed his last, we checked him, but there was no sign of regeneration such as we understood. Until a few moments ago, I've always assumed that he had died. But now in retrospect I suppose that he had not."
"When he died---died according to you---you simply left."
"Our time was running out. It was leave or be marooned forever."
"And the other boy, the brother. You just left him behind?"
"We had to."
She stepped away from him. "What a curious view of mercy you have," she said. "Come just in time to do nothing but raise false hopes, launch a completely untested experiment on a sick boy, and then when the plan doesn't work, leave quickly."
He stood up. "Look, I am very sorry for my foolishness---"
"Foolishness? It was arrogance! It was sheer pride. You had no understanding of human metabolism, human genetics---Did you really create that monster?" And her voice halted. "He's been alive for centuries. Trapped as a living thing."
"I am sorry. I can only say that I did resist the idea of regenerating him---"
"Yes, and then allowed it anyway!" she shouted. She was suddenly furiously angry with him. "You know, it's only your own supposition and point of view that you're superior to us, Doctor! We don't need to be improved by you!"
He closed his mouth. She was surprised at her own anger. After she'd caught her breath, she asked, "Johnny O'Haire has lived for centuries, too. Why? How?"
His voice was quiet. "I don't know."
She put her forehead in her hand for a moment.
"Liz---" he began, but she didn't regard him, and he stopped himself. At last she looked up at him. "Johnny O'Haire will kill you," she said at last. "Unless he gains some reason not to. What happened to the friend of yours? The one who changed the original plan and actually gave the injection?"
"He went wrong long ago. He's a criminal, actually---"
Liz's voice became cold. "Surely not like you," she said. "Not a person who would steal a time machine?"
The Doctor bowed his head. "I was only exiled by my superiors, Liz. He will be unmade if he's captured. He and I are deadly enemies now."
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. I don't expect I shall ever know. He must hide from the High Council of the Timelords. I'm sure that he's not powerful enough to resist them."
She didn't answer, and he didn't speak. At last she looked to the cabin, and she said, "I'll talk to him. I'll try to intercede. He's a great hearted person. There may be a way out."
And she walked away. The Doctor sat down, his eyes following her.
* * * *
Inside the cabin, Johnny O'Haire stood in the same place, the pick axe on the floor at his feet, its handle leaning against his leg. Liz entered and closed the door. She looked at him for a moment, but he did not speak. His eyes were down, his head bowed.
She crossed to him. "Aoghaire," she said. "Shepherd." Her voice was gentle.
He looked at her. Liz knew that the best way to persuade him would be to directly and openly appeal to him: to plead rather than argue. She walked up to him and rested her hands on his shoulders in the attitude of a supplicant. She knew that he would understand this. "Can you listen to me at this moment, or do you want me to go away for now?"
"You may speak," he told her, and his tone was sad but not resentful. He was not angry with her.
"Shepherd, he was young and foolish in those days."
"Some of us have no allowance to be foolish," he told her.
"I know. And others are well born, with money and education and peers, and they are allowed to be foolish. Life lets them get away with it. Neither you nor I govern those matters."
"No," he said, and now his eyes looked at hers. "But their foolishness costs others great pain."
"I know. And yet he has saved many human lives since those days. And he bitterly regrets what he did to you. He was ready to let you kill him."
He didn't answer her.
"Shepherd, he truly did not understand what he was doing at the time. And it was his friend's plan more so than his. But he was too easily led."
"Do you not know what they did to me?" he asked. "We lived. And we lived. And we lived. My own brother was buried and came up from the earth as that monster, Gall Farraneagh. And I was appointed to kill him if I could, and to protect the valley if I could not kill him."
"Who appointed you?" she asked.
"Another one of them. He came to me when I was alone. When I told him all that had happened, he likewise changed me. My life, he told me, would be linked to Gall Farraneagh's life. And I would grow into special knowledge. I would be able to protect the valley and contain him, so long as I made myself fearless and hammered my will to choose to protect these people as my lambs. And this I did. I had lived apart from the others because my brother was ill. But over the years I remade myself and changed from being an outcast to being their protector. Their Shepherd."
She had no answer to this direct account. He was, she realized, both great and humble.
As she did not speak but neither moved away, he continued: "It was the best plan. But I have lived too long. I was ready to die and go back to the dust centuries ago, and still I live. And Gall Farraneagh still lives. When he was a human being, he was my brother. How can I kill him? He never wanted to become what he turned into."
His tears suddenly trickled down his face. He didn't cry as a twentieth century man, for he didn't hide his eyes. He sobbed openly, looking at her. "I don't want to kill the stranger. I want him to have never come. I want to have died as an impoverished boy."
She still met his eye, her own eyes kind and direct. She felt great sympathy for him, and great admiration. "Gall Farraneagh isn't the only evil in this valley," she told him. "You have protected people from many evils, not just the one."
"That's what has given me hope at times, but my life is hopeless. Out there---" And he looked away and waved his arm outward to indicate the direction of the village. "Since I taught them not to make sacrifices of their women, and since I became their protector, there has not been a door closed to me, for they love me." He looked back at her. "But there has never truly been a door open to me, either. For I, alone of all men, am cut off from the joys that a man should have. There could never be a wife for me---and aye, as I became what I am, I lost the desires of my youth---but never the voices of my children, never the baptismal font and the proud display of God's blessing. Nothing but the silence of this place, the never ending task, but never the welcome and joy a man has when he has his own. I should have had a wife, and children, and then grand children. People say this whole valley is mine, and it is, but truly I have never had in possession one thing in this entire valley! For my life, more than any other person's, has been taken by Gall Farraneagh!"
She couldn't speak. She had often pondered the idea of immortality, but now she saw what he had suffered.
"And yet you want me to spare him," he said, looking at her with a hint of reproach in his eyes.
"You're wiser and stronger and better than I am, Johnny O'Haire," she told him. "I'm not able to tell you what to do. But I can ask---that you spare him. With all my heart, I want him to be spared, but all I can do is ask you."
In spite of his grief, he was startled at this frank confession from her. He hesitated and then he composed himself. "Let him be spared, then. The wrong was committed long ago, and perhaps he is wiser now." But even though his emotions had calmed, his tears still trickled down his face.
Liz addressed his grief directly. There was no other way with him. "I'm an outsider, Johnny O'Haire. I'm not a person over whom you've been given charge. And yet, I'm ready to assist you."
He looked down at her, his expression slightly puzzled. She didn't move or take her eyes from his. And then suddenly his eyes changed as though he were seeing her for the first time. "All I want to do is stay here, with you," she said. "I want to understand Gall Farraneagh, and you, and this terrible illness. But with you."
His expression became quiet. For a moment she was reminded of when she had scolded him and he had become very solemn. Then he said, "You are a high born woman. And educated. Your life is outside this valley."
"I'll stay for as long as you'll have me stay," she said. "Here." She looked around the front room. "With you. So that there's no more silence, and there can be a welcome, just for you. But I want to know and understand what made Gall Farraneagh the way he is, and what made you the way you are, and how you've made yourself endure it."
He stared at her for a very long moment, almost as though he were holding his breath with suspense. At last he said, his tone of voice very kind and gentle, "Elizabeth, are you giving me your life for the life of the Stranger? Is that your thinking?"
"You'll know," she told him. "I'm sure that you can see people's intentions. Look at my eyes and tell me if that's what I'm doing."
He did. He saw that she was not merely trying to appease his anger. But his voice was still grim and weighty. "Johnny O'Haire has lived too long, and he is ready to die. And Gall Farraneagh has been awakened and made angry. There shall surely be another great fight soon, and then both Gall Farraneagh and Aoghaire will die in combat."
His eyes were so grim, and yet so kind, that they muffled her voice to a whisper. "All right. Nothing is certain. But you don't need to die alone, and you don't need to die cut off from all mankind. Your own door was opened to me, and I came in. You don't have to send me away."
If anything, her words made him more solemn. "Elizabeth," he whispered. "I will surely die. Gall Farraneagh must perish, and Johnny O'Haire shall perish in his death. So I could only leave you in bereavement."
"Or I could give you the welcome and the care you've longed for. Are you afraid to die?"
"No. For I have lived too long. And I want to fulfill my purpose."
"If you're not afraid, then I won't be afraid for you. But you shouldn't be alone. And I'm here." Liz met his eyes directly again, her eyes as earnest as she could make them. She spoke in the terms that he understood. "What if I'm a part of your purpose? Somebody to comfort and assist you before the next struggle? I'll do that for you. I promise you, I will."
He suddenly framed her face in his hands. "I would cherish you," he said. "While I could."
Somebody suddenly pounded on the heavy wooden door, and Liz felt him jump. But he quickly regained himself, though his eyes were set with regret. Adopting an air of resolution, he stepped around her to answer the knock.
The Doctor stood on the step, half supporting and half carrying young Parsons. The young man was covered with blood, his clothing shredded from the shoulders to his knees.
"Get him on the table, where the light is best," the Doctor said. Johnny O'Haire did not argue. He lifted the young man and carried him to the rough table. Liz ran to the blanket that curtained off the door to the back room. She pulled it down and spread it over the table. The woodsman set the young man onto this.
"Is there any type of first aid kit or medicine?" Liz asked. The young man's pulse was faint but steady, and when she pulled back his eyelid she saw that the membrane was paler than normal but not whitish. His eyes were still focused. Johhny O'Haire swiftly fished through the cupboards against the back wall. He produced a very ordinary household first aid kit, and then he pulled out a small mountain of torn muslin, some of it folded for large bandages and some of it rolled from long strips.
"The wounds will want washing," he said. "This is the work of Gall Farraneagh." He rushed to his assortment of herbs that were hung upside down near the stove.
The Doctor had been pulling the shredded clothing from the young man and looking at the wounds themselves---long slashing wounds in groups of four. "I thought Gall Farraneagh attacked only women."
"Until today, Stranger. Get away from him."
"Johnny O'Haire---" the Doctor began. The woodsman came around from the herbs with a broad butcher knife. He whipped it at the Doctor and missed by less than an inch. Liz looked up, horrifed, but the miss had been deliberate, a warning. And Johnny O'Haire said, "Keep your profane hands off of him. He shall not be given to you and your accursed curiosity."
The Doctor backed away instantly. This was no time for a fight. Liz fixed her eyes on him for a moment as she worked, sorry for the scene but understanding Johnny O'Haire's refusal to let the Doctor touch a wounded human being. As the Doctor did not move, Johnny O'Haire went back to his tasks.
"Can you hear me? What attacked you?" Liz asked Parsons.
"I barely saw it. It came from the back. Suddenly that smell. I thought I was a goner."
Liz knew that stench, and she wondered at how he had survived---how he had retained the presence of mind to fight. "How did you get away?"
"It landed on my back. I crashed into a tree, and we both flew off. Once I got a whiff of air, I pulled my knife as it charged me. I saw his claws. He's like a man---but hairless. Skin is cold---"
Johnny O'Haire quickly opened the small hatch in the belly of the stove and shoved an oblong block of wood into the glowing interior. He lifted away the metal plate on top and slid the heavy kettle over the flame.
"He's torn about the shoulders," Liz said. "Down his sides. You must have driven it off before it could really open you up."
Parsons tried to nod. "He ran onto the knife. We wrestled after he was stuck. The smell of him----"
"I know," she said. She finished stripping the shreds of clothing away. Johnny O'Haire had his own ideas about medicine and first aid, and she did not interfere. He brewed a strong broth from the hot water and herbs, and while it steeped, she helped him clean the wounds with a solvent of his own concoction and then with conventional antiseptic when the home made supply ran out. They worked quickly, and Parsons endured the scrubbing as well as he could.
"Some of these are deep," Liz said. "And ragged. He needs stitching up in places."
"There must be an all-terrain ambulance somewhere," the Doctor said.
Johnny O'Haire turned to him. "Cold blood," he said. "There is. You shall prove yourself one way or another. Ride for help to David Cording. He can send the gleashtan lheihys. It can travel in these woods. Make no delay."
"All right," the Doctor said.
Liz quickly straightened. "Doctor!" she exclaimed. He stopped and turned. "The illness, the suicides," she said. "I think it's some type of sleep disturbance."
"Yes, that's quite possible. I'd better hurry." He strode out.
"Doctor, be careful," she called after him. "That thing is still out there!"
"It's badly wounded," Parsons gasped.
"That's why the gashes are fewer than would happen otherwise," Johnny O'Haire said. "How badly, young Parsons?"
"I thought I'd killed him. It was a gutting twist. He jumped right into it."
"Nay," Johnny O'Haire said. "The most dreadful cut in the world will not kill him. Not for long. But he fled, then?"
"Yes, after a bit of a struggle."
"You saved your own life. And perhaps spared the valley from this mad rampage of his. At least for a day." He helped Liz with the bandaging.
"When we have finished," he said as they worked. "We shall wrap another band on him, tightly." He nodded to the steeping pot of herbs. "When the kiangleyder broit is cool enough, wet the inner wrappings with it, and bind him again. It prevents the blood, and it preserves the wound from rotting. In an hour, give him the aaghleaysheyder in small doses until he is sleepy."
"Are you leaving?" she asked. They finished, and she pinned the bandages in place as Johnny O'Haire stepped ovwer to the pegs near the door and removed his padded coat from its place. He jammed his hat onto his head. He set the bottle of elixir onto the edge of the table. Then he took up the pick axe. "I must track Old Gall. We must soon fight, for he cannot walk abroad like this. The risk is too great, and I must hazard myself to stop him."
"Will you be back?" she asked.
"I hope to come back. But it will certainly not be before sunset." He stopped. "Will you wait here for me?"
"Yes," she told him.
"They will not take you away when they come for the lad?" he asked.
"I will stay here. I can continue some of my forensic work. And the Brigadier will not offend you again. He will not order me to leave."
Johnny O'Haire nodded. "Thank you," he said. He took up the pick axe and hurried out.
* * * *
Finding the way out of Johnny O'Haire's ravine was much easier than Finding the way into it. Ninety minutes later, the Doctor was guiding the motor bike at high speed towards one of the UNIT pickets. A group of three men were busily trying to set up a boosting antenna to aid in their radio transmissions. One of them stood on the shoulders of one of his colleagues, braced against a thick tree. They were trying to tie a tall antenna into place to improve their reception. Every now and then, they covered their heads with their arms and then shouted up at some distant trees. But as the Doctor approached on the motor bike, they saw him. The fellow up in the tree shinnied down, and all three soldiers ran to meet him.
"Are you under fire?" the Doctor asked, as he looked at the distant copse of trees.
One of the soldier's scowled and nodded in the same direction. "Some young kid up there has got a slingshot. He thinks it's right funny to shoot walnuts at aus s we're trying to set up the antenna."
Before the Doctor could think of some comment about this revelation, the soldier who had been up the tree said, "The Brig's been looking all over for you, Doctor."
"Yes, all right. Look, there's a wounded lad down in Johnny O'Haire's cabin. We need an ambulance to bring him out. Get one out here as quick as you can. I'll draw you a map."
One of the soldiers quickly pulled out a notebook, but as he passed it to the Doctor, a sudden walnut zipped into the space between them and bouncd to the ground.
"You'll be sorry if we come up there!" one of them shouted back at the trees where the young sniper was hiding.
The soldier with the notebook said, "There was a fellow with a silver helmet. Got himself shot dead out in these woods when he attacked Sgt. Benton. The Brig needs you to look at him."
"All right. Is the body in the village?"
"Right. I'll find it." He passed the sketched map back to them. "Don't waste any time. Get someone out there." And he drove off. A walnut pinged off the rear fender as he rounded a mound of leaf-strewn earth and sped towards the village.
* * * *
It took another ten minutes to find the road and then another twenty to negotiate his way down the hairpin turns of the north ridge. He first passed the factory, and on his way to the village below, the rural ambulance passed him on its way to the UNIT outpost. The driver, intent on his mission, offered him a quick wave and went by.
The village itself was silent as the Doctor drove into the single main street. Nothing moved aboutHe skidded to a halt, switched off the engine, and dismounted. In front of the tiny post office, a woman lay on the cobble stones. He rushed over to her. She was breathing and unharmed, other than a bruise on the side of her face from where she had fallen against the wall of the post office and slid to the ground. As he lifted her to a sitting position, she opened her eyes dreamily and focused on him. She was unharmed but groggy. He helped her to sit against the side of the building.
The unearthly silence of the village was beginning to suggest an amazing phenomenon. The Doctor found the undertaker's establishment and went inside.
The front rooms, heavily padded with thick draperies, plush furniture, and thickly padded carpet, were absolutely silent. The Doctor strode through a consulting room, a large room for public gatherings, and at last he found a door that went into the more utilitarian back rooms.
He came into a plain hallway with a linoleum floor. Nobody was moving about, and he heard no voices.
"Hello?" he called uncertainly.
He first tried the doors off to his right, but these opened onto discouragingly familiar rooms designed for making tea and seeing to the comfort of clients. He tried the doors to the left and entered the prep room.
The Brigadier lay sprawled on the floor. Nearby, Sgt. Benton was also prone and unconscious. An older man in a perfectly clean and orderly suit---undoubtedly the undertaker himself---lay stretched out near the refrigeration unit. The Doctor glanced at the table. Whatever they had been examining, whatever body had been brought in, was now gone. There was no body, no helmet, no weapon, and no sign of the dead man.
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