"Look, I heard her say she had blood on her hands!" the Brigadier shouted as the Doctor guided Bessy after the two police cars. Lethbridge Stewart had his hand clapped over his hat against the air stream created by the open car. "You heard her, too!"
"You cannot possibly think that child killed anybody, let alone a police officer!" the Doctor shouted. He swiftly piloted them from the long, hedge-obscured drive of UNIT and onto the main road.
"Of course not. I have great respect and admiration for Miss Smith. But something happened to her. I think she was there. He had her camera, and she remembers blood on her hands."
"Maybe it was her own blood!" But the Doctor knew he was just guessing, now.
Lethbridge Stewart shot a glance of exasperation at him. "She's not cut! Not that it appears. She has no memory of being wounded, has she?"
The time lord did not take his eyes from the road, a sign that he was troubled. When he was happy, he seldom watched where he was going as he drove. "No, but there was no blood on her clothing, none at all, not even on that wool jacket that she's wearing."
"Well, if she were involved in something last night---"
"She's still wearing what she wore yesterday! She and I lunched together yesterday. When she came to see me at the lab this morning, I noticed right away that she had on the same outfit. Whatever happened to her, she never changed her clothes, and yet there's no evidence of any blood on her."
"But she said there was blood on her hands."
"Something happened to her, Lethbridge Stewart. I'm not denying that. But she didn't kill a man, and Sarah Jane wouldn't stand by and let a man be killed." He expertly cut a tight turn that obligated his passenger to hang on for dear life as they swerved into the car park at the lock up. "Something's happened to her," the Doctor said. "I mean, something was done to block her memory."
"Hypnotism," the Brigadier said as the Doctor pulled into an empty slot and set the brake. "Sounds like the Master. Think he's involved?"
The Doctor shook his head. "If it were the Master, she would be dead, not hypnotized. And he was a pretty clumsy mesmerizer. It was always so traumatic to his victim. The person either broke free or went mad trying to break free from the influence." He swept his hand through his white thatch of hair. "But whoever closed Sarah Jane's mind did so like a skilled surgeon. She's had a few confusing flashbacks, but there's no real struggle in her to reclaim the memory for herself." They climbed out.
The Brigadier pulled his briefcase from the back seat. He was puzzled. "What does that mean?"
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck as they hurried on foot to the building. "Either she gave some sort of mental assent to being hypnotized---well, like if she believed she should be made to forget whatever happened---or else she trusted the person who hypnotized her enough so that the process wasn't traumatic to her sense of self---her ego." He lowered his hand from his neck as his eyes scanned for the doors that admitted the general public. "Either way, it was still done by a pretty skillful person. Or maybe a highly specialized machine. Neither's likely in this era on Earth."
"Can you help her?" the Brigadier asked.
"Yes, but I've got to get to her."
"UNIT has assisted Scotland Yard before." The Brigadier swung up his briefcase, to show him that they were armed with ample evidence of the favors owed to them. "I've never had any dealings with this March fellow, but I can call in a few favors from those over him. Let's go."
* * * *
Without first being booked, Sarah Jane was led by the young woman constable into a large, undecorated room that was furnished with a table and four chairs.
"What if I want a solicitor?" she asked. The young woman did not answer, but March entered in time to hear the question.
"What do you want a solicitor for?" he asked. "You're not afraid of the police, are you?"
"I'm afraid of bullies."
"Well." He sat down in one of the chairs and indicated that she should sit across from him. "We haven't properly booked you, Miss Smith. Maybe we'll let you go if we think you didn't have a hand in it."
"I didn't!" she snapped. She sat down. "This is ridiculous." But her eyes were large. He switched on the tape recorder that sat at one end of the table.
March straightened up. He had gray eyebrows, but otherwise, his face was not old. Just faintly starting to sag along the jowls, the first sign of youth fading to middle age. But his eyes were sharp, and his expression aggressive. "He had your camera round his neck! How did he get it?"
The same sense of helplessness rushed over her. It was a horrifying, worrying thing to know that a dead man had obviously interacted with her, and to have no idea when she had met him or seen him. She barely held her voice back from shaking. "I don't know."
The answer exasperated him. "Oh here we go."
He suddenly leaned towards her. His eyes held the fixed, attentive look of cat about to pounce. It was unnerving in the face of a man. "I know all about you, Sarah Jane Smith. You know what the blokes call you? That nosy Parker. They don't like you. They don't like you one bit. And I don't like you, because I know you can play the pretty girl quite well, and all along you're trawling for some bit of information to blow up to the public." He met her eye, saw that she was frightened, and then he sat back in his chair, across the table from her. "So don't play the tears card with me. Tell me how he got your camera."
She tried to keep her jaw firm. "I don't know."
* * * *
The Doctor was not good at waiting at the best of times, and sitting in a grim and gloomy, grey-walled public area that was barricaded from the real business of the police force by several massive doors and one tiny window was far from the ideal. A sergeant occasionally peered out from the window to announce who could go through.
Several times the Doctor marched up to this narrow box cut into the heavy wall and demanded entrance, but the sergeant at the desk behind the window was unwaveringly bland and actually obliging in a way that they both knew was completely fruitless. He promptly agreed several times to ring through to March's office, and did so, but to no avail. Superintendent March was tied up.
Finally, there was nothing to do but sit in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs and sulk. Everybody in the room was sulking--or else worried for somebody else, and their only diversion had been a sort of miserable pleasure in watching him achieve nothing. Some of them, he noticed, seemed to be in sympathy with him, but others were annoyed. They all had to wait for the good pleasure of the police, and his stamping and nagging did not entitle him to special treatment. No more so than his odd attire or towering height.
As for the Brigadier, he had disappeared behind the solid door upon announcing himself to the bland desk sergeant, and had stranded the Doctor with the reasoning that if Sarah Jane were released right away--or at least allowed to have a visitor----the Doctor should be on hand.
Two very long hours ticked by, and the Doctor fumed and paced and tried to take it out on the desk sergeant but could not get past that helpful and useless exterior, so he at last sat down and waited. But he would periodically erupt into a commentary to himself out loud about police forces, police states, police history, and police actions, and the overall lack of suitable service rendered by police across the galaxy but on earth in particular, and especially in London.
"Hullo, you talking to yourself?" a voice asked at his shoulder. It was the Brigadier.
The Doctor stood up. "It's about time! Have you seen her?"
Lethbridge Stewart lifted an eyebrow. He shook his head. "Still in the interview room. I did what I could, but it was a police inspector who was killed. They're going to be heavy handed with anybody linked to it, and he did have her camera. They're determined to keep her at least 24 hours---"
"Breaking her down?" the Doctor asked. "Is that what they're doing?"
Lethbridge Stewart lowered his voice. "I let the Chief Superintendent know that we would follow up with pressure against those responsible if she should be treated harshly. He promised to oversee the case." Then he spread his hands. "But they want her for 24 hours."
"You didn't tell them about the blood statement, did you?"
"No, I'm sure she'll tell them, eventually."
The Doctor again put his hand to the back of his neck. "This is no good. She's in there, being broken down by that perfect beast, March---"
"Look, the best help we can give her is to find out who did kill the Inspector," Lethbridge Stewart said. "Maybe sort out for ourselves what happened last night."
"We don't know where they were." But the Doctor's eyes were suddenly hopeful.
"I got an address from them. Inspector Cole's last known location was a house the police have had under surveillance. I got permission to take a look. It's being treated as a crime scene, now." He put his hat on, a sign that they should go and get to their business. "Look if she mentioned blood, don't you have some better equipment we can use to see if we can find traces of blood? I'll tell you this: if we pull some sort of rabbit out of the hat for them, they'll bargain with us."
"Yes, I do. I have a protein sniffer that I can set for blood proteins. Some proteins are uniquely configured for humans. Let's go get it from the lab and search out this crime scene of yours." But the Doctor shot one worried look at the massive door that barricaded them from Sarah Jane. Then they hurried out.
* * * *
One of the key fears in Sarah Jane's mind at the start of the interview process had been that they would lock her into a miserable, windowless, sealed off cell: one of those ten foot by six foot cells that was only slightly larger than a grave. But after four hours of grilling sessions and intermittent waiting periods that were nerve wracking from the sheer suspense, Sarah Jane was thankful to at last be properly booked and led to a cell. Anything to get away from March, his face in her face, his voice barking right into her ear.
She had gone and blubbed, too. It hadn't taken very long. But by the end of the interviews, she was too emotionally exhausted to even care. She was put into a cell, and the heavy door was slammed closed. But before she could really decide whether to cry or just fall asleep, a tray was brought to her, with a cup of tea.
She drank all the tea first, to get her calmness back. And then she realized that she should eat, just to protect herself against any delays in getting her next meal. The food on the tray was actually quite good, but the best that she could manage was the bread roll and the square of cake. She neglected the stewed chicken and limp vegetables. After she passed her tray back, a uniformed woman escorted her to a loo and wash room rank with the smell of ammonia and the acrid residue of cigarette smoke. By the time she returned to the tiny cell, it was very late in the afternoon, though one could not really define the time in lockup.
But now that March was gone, nobody was unkind to her or even all that stern. The matron told her the time when she asked. She was then asked if she needed to see the nurse for any reason, and she said no. And she was asked if she would like the communication grate in the cell door left open, and she said yes. It was only a tiny square, not even big enough for a man to put his fist through, but it was something to let in the sounds of people.
Sarah Jane felt very lonely and very small, but there was one relief: March would not get her again until tomorrow. She lay down on her side on the hard cot and pulled her feet up. The next thing she knew, another tray was brought, and now she was hungry. She ate, was led down to the wash room again, and returned, and now it was truly night. The hallways were quieter, and though there was some chatter from the cells, and a sound of a drunk man singing from far, far down the hallway, things seemed to be settling down.
She had no light switch in her cell, but the overhead light dimmed from its daylight brightness without really going dark. She lay down. The matron called in and asked how she wanted the grate, and she asked that it be left open. In lockup, she thought, your entire life revolves around meals. Meals, the loo, waking, sleeping, and whether or not the grate is left open.
I'm going to write a story about this, she thought. After all, I am in lockup now. This is for real.
She thought about big-bosomed women with bleached hair and blouses that had the sleeves cut off. Cigarettes dangling from their mouths and tattoos on their shoulders. They'd ask what she was in for.
"They think I murdered a bloke," Sarah Jane would say. She'd hook her thumbs in her belt loops and try to look nonchalant.
"And did you?"
"No, but they don't believe me."
But the real crooks. They believed her right away. All the muscular, bosomy women with cigarettes and tattoos shook their heads in grim resignation at the stupidity of the police. Of course everybody in stir said they were innocent, but an idiot could see that Sarah Jane really was innocent. Except for the police. And that moronic Superintendent March. To cheer her up, they told her countless stories about all the ways they had fooled him until he'd nicked them at last.
She made herself more comfortable and rolled onto her back. The daydream was getting interesting. She slid her left foot up to her backside on the hard cot so that her left knee was up, and then she kicked her right foot up into the air and rested it on her left knee. She laced her hands behind her head. Then the biggest of the bosomy tattooed women asked where she'd actually been the night of the murder, and once again Sarah Jane had to say she didn't know. That made all the convicts mad at her. Had she been on a jag? No. She didn't do jags. Well then, where had she been? It was no use lying about it now. Just tell us where you were. We don't grass on each other. Tell us you nosy Parker blubbing woman. What'd you get tangled up for if you couldn't take it? You nosy Parker. Why do you have to hound us with your urgency to make a name for yourself? Just tell us where you were.
It wasn't interesting any more. She unlaced her hands and rolled onto her side. She curled up tightly, and the last thing she heard before she fell asleep was the grate being closed for the night.
* * * *
Two uniformed men stood in front of the large, moderately expensive house where Sarah Jane and Inspector Cole had last jousted each other with words. The foot patrols had obviously been apprised of the two UNIT men having a look, for they offered only brief nods to the Brigadier and the Doctor and allowed them to enter the house itself. The apparatus that the Doctor carried, which was a plate-like sensor on the end of a long rod, looked almost exactly like a minesweeper. It drew a second glance from them, but they did not prevent him from entering with it.
The front door was open. It had been kicked in, to judge from the shattered piece of frame work around the groove where the tongue of the lock normally fitted.
"That's a lightweight door," the Brigadier observed. "Facade on it makes it look like oak, but it's hardly as substantial as hard wood. I think it's pine." He swung it to and fro a couple of times and glanced questioningly at the Doctor.
The time lord had his keen eyes riveted on the front room itself. "Not quite finished, is it?" He stepped past the Brigadier. "No pictures, no decor."
"Draperies," the Brigadier observed.
The Doctor was agreeable. "Yes. No plants. No throw rugs."
The front room was carpeted, and there was a single sofa against one wall. Across from it, a single overstuffed chair had been placed to allow a walkway behind it to the kitchen and dining area beyond.
"It is rather sparse," the Brigadier observed.
"No lamps, either," the Doctor said. They looked at each other. The room was, in fact, starting to dim as the day closed.
"There are probably light switches for overhead fixtures." The Brigadier squinted and strode to a corner and from there to the short hallway that led to the back. "Here we are." He flipped a switch and an overhead hallway light came to life. "That's better."
"Hardly." The Doctor had the protein finder held in the crook of one arm, with the dish-shaped sensor pointed down. He put his other fist on his hip. "You know what?" He looked at his companion.
Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow. "What?"
"This place has never been lived in. Who's the owner?"
"A dead man. That's what started the investigation. Disappeared the day he was supposed to show the place to prospective buyers. The police are treating it as a suspicious death."
"And the prospective buyers?"
"I don't know. The police were not forthcoming."
The Doctor hefted the device from the crook of his arm and caught it in both hands. He flipped a toggle on the handle. "Let's see what we can find."
He passed it in a wide sweep across the carpet. It emitted a low humming sound that did not alter.
"Do try to be methodical." The Brigadier's voice was courteous and acidic.
"Right." The Doctor trudged back to the threshold, kept the plate of the machine low, and swept it back and forth as he carefully stepped into the room and checked in a pattern of short sweeps from the front wall to the side of the steep staircase that led to the second story, and from there to the hallway. The hum of the machine never varied, until he came close to the front draperies. And then the humming was interrupted for a moment.
"Is that a signal?" Lethbridge Stewart asked.
Puzzled, the Doctor swept the carpet area in front of the window, but there was no change. Then he turned the detector so that the sensor faced the curtain. The humming was again interrupted. "This could be blood," he said. "It's an inconclusive indicator. Could be some sort of facing that's got a protein in it that's close enough to blood protein to set it off."
"Do you think so?"
"No. But if it's blood, it's old blood. It's started to break down."
"I don't see any blood." The Brigadier stepped closer to the draperies.
"Well, you wouldn't. Somebody went and cleaned them. But there's still a residue that this device will catch." He looked at the Brigadier. "But it's old. If it is blood, it's blood from a couple weeks past. Not from Inspector Cole."
Lethbridge Stewart stepped back. "Maybe there's more."
The Doctor swept the scanner back and forth, but there were no other signals in the front room. As he started down the hallway, with the Brigadier behind him to let him sweep, the scanner suddenly emitted a high trill that repeated several times.
"Now that," the Doctor said. "Is blood."
"Not fresh blood, anyway, but it's seeped down through the carpet into the pad beneath. Hold this." He passed the device to the Brigadier and fished in his jacket pockets for a moment. "Here we are." He withdrew a scalpel and a clear plastic pouch. "Always come equipped for forensics when you go looking for blood, Brigadier."
"Hm. I'll bear that in mind."
The Doctor knelt down and quickly excised a small square of the carpet. He next excised the padding. "Yes. It's even stained beneath." He put the samples into the pouch, sealed it, and returned the small tools to his pocket.
He stood up. "Now we're on to something." He took the protein scanner.
They continued down the hallway and into the small, efficient kitchen. Everything was clean and sparkled, unused and perfectly new, but the room had that empty, desolate look of a place never lived in. The sensor went off again.
"This is hard flooring," Lethbridge Stewart said. "Without a trace of blood on it."
"It's that new vinyl flooring," the Doctor told him as he again passed the scanner over and knelt down. "It's moderately porous. Scotland Yard might not be able to make anything of the traces that are left, but my equipment at the lab can."
Cutting up a square of the tough vinyl flooring was slightly more difficult, but he managed it. He had to work on hands and knees while the Brigadier waited. The interior of the house was getting darker. The Doctor stood up, sealed the bit of flooring in plastic as he had done with the first sample, and put the evidence in his pocket. He wiped the back of one hand across his forehead.
"Look, we've no torches, and the I'd be willing to bet there are no lights upstairs," the Brigadier said. "What about doing a quick recce up there, just to make sure there's nothing really obvious that the police might have missed?"
"Yes, all right. It will be too dark to see, soon. I ought to keep a torch in Bessy for jaunts like this."
They retraced their steps to the front room, which was now gray from the fading light. Out the front window, through the sheers, they could see the dark silhouette of the constable as he stood watch, his back to the house. The staircase opened up almost at the front door. It hugged the wall on one side, but up above it seemed to lead to an open floor on either side.
"Steep stairs!" Lethbridge Stewart observed.
"The efficiency of modern design, Brigadier. Not enough floor space for a gradual ascent. Let's try this." And the Doctor, on sudden inspiration, swung the face of the scanner up towards the wall that the staircase hugged.
He climbed with it for a step or two, holding the plate to the wall, and then suddenly the sensor went off again with its trilling signal. He swept it and down the wall as well as he could up and then stepped up higher. The signal varied and continued. "There's been blood sprayed all over this wall. Different types."
"Well let's see what's up there, then," the Brigadier said. He put his hand on his sidearm and would have gone first, but the Doctor prevented him with an outstretched arm, shot him a disapproving glare and led the way up into the darkness.
* * * *
Sarah Jane was in a muddle of dreams about the interview room, Superintendent March's eyes, round and getting bigger with the instinct to pounce as a cat's eyes would do, and the harsh words of a red haired man who spoke in disgust to her. His anger hurt because she knew deep down that he was a good man. And then there was a red haired man who understood her and spoke kindly. He was so kind that she gave him something. But she couldn't remember what: some sort of thread that ran directly into her heart. No, it fastened on her throat and went into her breathing. But it was all right. He would never use it harshly.
Then suddenly, she dreamed that a man walked into a shop. It was a very old shop, a butcher shop, she realized. Timber walls and heavy rafters. There were glass cases, and behind them a heavy plank surface. She was looking down on them. There were rabbits hung upside down from pegs across the room. The man pointed up at her and said, "I'll take that one."
"Yes, she'll be very nice, if your other ingredients are fresh," the butcher said, and he took up a stick with a hook on it to detach her from her peg.
"Red wine, I think," the man said.
The butcher cast a more judicious eye up at her. "Or white. There's a delicate fragrance there that ought not be overwhelmed." She couldn't move her hands or her feet. The hook reached behind her to bring her down.
She jerked awake, and the hardness of the narrow cot told her where she was. The faint smell of the lockup: cleaning solution and a hint of stale urine, confirmed it. The tiny cell, though, was not perfectly dark. The light fixtures overhead did not go completely dark.
She heard the sound that had first awakened her. A slipping sound along the edge of the metal frame was attended by a rattle of her cell door. All caution, she sat up and lowered her feet to the floor. The door rattled again, faintly, as though something were on the other side, exploring it.
There was a scraping at the seam of light between the lower edge of the door and the floor. She thought that something was trying to grip it and pull. The door rattled again, but a soft rattle. Somebody was trying to be quiet as it inspected the door. Sarah Jane crept even closer and put her face on the floor so that her eyes were right at the seam under the steel bands that framed the heavy, varnished wood.
But the seam was not large enough to admit much of a view. She could not even make out shoes or boots, but there were two blots against the light on the other side. Somebody or something was there, examining the door. There was a pause, and she wondered if whoever was there realized that she had been awakened. The entire seam was shadowed as something bent closer, and she heard an intake of breath, a snuffling. The door rattled again, and then it became quiet,. The light in the seam was returned, but she heard a slight push at the lower hinge as this mechanism was examined. The two shadows that were its feet moved and the door rattled again, and now the point of origination of the vibration was at the heavy lock, opposite the hinges. There was a short rattle, followed by abrupt silence. And then, worst of all, a clicking sound began, right in the lock itself. She heard the tumblers moving. Something in the lock fell into place, and the door was pushed, but it only rattled, not yet unlocked. After a moment, the clicking began again.
"Who is it?" she asked. The cell was suddenly her refuge. Whatever was out there, she was certain that she did not want it entering the cell.
"Who's there?' she asked again.
The door suddenly gave with a snap as the lock sprang open. It was gently pushed towards her. And on the other side, something softly took in its breath with sudden expectation.
* * * *
"Can you hear me, Lethbridge Stewart?" The Doctor's eyes were unusually concerned as he peered down at the Brigadier. "Oh there you are," the Doctor said, trying to hide his relief as the Brigadier opened his eyes.
The dark eyes of Lethbridge Stewart were wide with some type of astonishment.
"It's all right old chap. I've carried you outside. Something happened to you up there. Vapors, maybe. You blacked out."
The police constable trotted towards them, uncertain about offering assistance.
The Brigadier was breathing, but he suddenly seemed to choke. He waved a hand towards the Doctor, and the Doctor quickly slipped an arm behind the prone man's head and lifted him to help him breathe. Lethbridge Stewart let out a strangled gasp, and exhaled as though he could not properly draw in breath. The sharp exhalation flung out a spray of blood. He gasped in air, and then gasped out more blood, a broad sheet of it that spattered the Doctor's coat and shirt.
"Call an ambulance! Quick man! Get an ambulance!" the Doctor shouted. "His lungs are filled with blood!" The constable quickly fumbled out a radio and spoke urgently into it. The time lord rolled his companion so that the Brigadier would be partially on his side. More blood pattered from the gasping man's mouth, and the Doctor saw that the back of Lethbridge Stewart's collar was drenched with blood as well.