“You want to stay with the Tylers?” the Doctor asked halfway through the woods. “Any particular reason?”
Leela said, “I like them.”
“Fair enough. I suppose I could leave you in worse hands. And a time fissure – might do no harm to have someone sensible around to make sure nothing else happens. Make sure you do what Mrs Tyler tells you and behave.”
She smiled at him, kissed him goodbye and ran.
“Ah well,” said the Doctor and headed back to the TARDIS and thought about how to undo the damage to K9. “I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. I hope.”
And as John Tyler, his Gran and Professor Colby pulled themselves out from under the kitchen table, it was to find Leela slipping in the door to join them.
There was not much left of Fetch Priory, only a blackened area of scorched ground, stone and rubble, dipping in the middle as if was about to sink into the earth. The bright sunshine emphasised the savage difference between it and the bright green of the grass and the leafy woods around it.
Adam Colby walked nearer. It had been cordoned off, which suggested that Mrs Tyler had been right last night in saying that the authorities could work out for themselves that someone had blown up a large building (and if they couldn’t, they weren’t worth informing). However, there was no one present. He abandoned his current purpose for a moment to lean against the nearest tree and contemplate the view.
There, in front of him, if he cared to look at it in a symbolic light, was his previous life and certainly his equally shattered preconceptions. Best not, though. It was pretentious to say the least and self-important and ignored the important fact that there were a good number of people who’d died last night and were now buried under this mess.
What he did want to ask himself was how blind he could be, not to sense anything of the undercurrents that had been present there. Because they had been impossible in his view, he had refused to see any of it, had not noticed anything out of the ordinary about the Priory or his colleagues. He had thought the only impossible thing there was the skull itself and he’d had difficulty enough with its improbable age.
He had assumed everything was normal – or as normal as a house full of scientists and a psychic help could be – because there was no other option. He had the feeling he’d made other assumptions, too, seeing the world as he thought it ought to be rather than the way it was. Assumptions about Thea, for instance, although he’d rather not dwell on that this morning. It was an uncomfortable feeling.
“It is not wise to feed your grief,” said a new voice from beside him and he turned to see Leela. Her tone was softer than her words and he smiled.
“Oddly enough, that wasn’t what I was doing.”
“Why are you here, then?”
He straightened himself. “Thinking. For a scientist, one must admit I’ve not exactly been open-minded.”
“But you believe in Science. That is good,” she said. “The Doctor taught me that.”
“Did he? Right now, I don’t know what I believe.”
“He also says that confusion is healthy,” she added.
He gave a laugh at that. “I bet he does. I’m merely trying to make my mind up whether I should join a coven or convince myself the whole thing was some delusion. It’d only take a day or so, I’m sure.”
“That does not sound wise,” she said and her disapproval sounded in every syllable.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “Anyhow, none of that is actually why I’m out here.”
“What are you doing, then?”
He faced her. “Looking for Leakey. It struck me when I woke up at John’s this morning. I’ve no idea what happened to him. If he wasn’t hurt, he’s probably run off somewhere, scared out of his wits.”
“Who is Leakey?”
“The guard dog,” he said. “Care to help?”
She nodded and they walked along, Colby whistling for the dog and calling out while Leela surveyed their surroundings with the trained eye of a hunter.
“What are you going to do now?” he asked, in between their efforts.
Leela said, “Mrs Tyler says I may stay with her for now. And she is wise in her ways. There is much to be learned from her.”
“Somehow,” said Colby, “that’s a terrifying thought.”
She frowned in puzzlement.
“Professor,” said a uniformed police constable, heading towards them through the trees. “Professor Colby!”
He crossed over until he reached him. “Constable… Althorpe, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. Sergeant Hall sent me to bring you back to the station. He wants to ask you some questions.”
He gave Leela a wry glance. “Does he now? I suppose he wants to know why my workplace and my ex-colleagues are now a big smoking gap in the landscape and I’m still alive?”
“I couldn’t say, sir,” said Althorpe, but he looked taken aback.
Leela eyed Colby with disfavour. “It is not amusing.”
“No, that’s rather the point,” he said. “All right, all right, Constable, I’ll come quietly, but if you could do me one favour first, I’d be grateful. You see, I was trying to find Leakey.”
“He means a creature,” explained Leela.
Adam swallowed more inappropriate amusement. “The dog. I’m worried about what happened to him last night.”
“I could look,” offered Leela.
The constable faced her and blushed, presumably at her outfit. “Are you the young lady that’s staying with old Mrs Tyler, Miss?”
“Then the sergeant wants a word with you as well. He’s spoken to John Tyler and now he says he needs to speak to you two.”
Colby sighed. “Fair enough, I suppose.”
“I could come back and have a look,” the policeman offered. “I’ve got to keep an eye on the Priory – what was the Priory – anyhow. No trouble to have a poke round, see if I can spot the animal.”
Leela paused suddenly. “Shh.” She remained very still as they both watched her in puzzlement and then she smiled to herself and disappeared into the bushes. “He is here!” she shouted back moments later.
“Oh, well, that’s something,” said Adam. The dog gave a bark and bounded out towards him. He crouched down, patting him. He seemed to be unharmed. “Good dog.”
Leela rejoined them, a satisfied look on her face and they headed off down to the village, although they had not gone far, when Leakey stopped and sat, refusing to budge.
“Still on guard,” Colby observed, with a glance up at the other two. “Stupid dog. Constable, if you’d still keep an eye on him?”
He smiled. “Certainly, sir. I could call in at the butcher’s on the way back, see if he’s got anything he could spare. Must have had a fright last night, poor creature.”
“Hear that?” Colby told the dog. “And you’ll have to get unattached to the place, you know. There’s nothing left of it.”
“Now,” said the rotund sergeant, once they were seated on wooden chairs at the rickety table in his tiny room. “I’d like to know exactly what happened up at the Priory last night – and why you didn’t send for us immediately, Professor Colby.”
Leela surveyed the police officer. “You would not have been much use if we had. The Doctor defeated our enemy and destroyed its hiding place. There was no more action to be taken.”
“Professor Colby?” he said, trying his best to ignore her.
He raised his gaze. “Oh, I think she covered the essential facts.”
“Mrs Tyler said there was no point in telling you and we might as all get to our beds,” added Leela. “She said she thought you would notice if you were any use at all.”
He pulled at his tight collar. “Yes, well, I’ll be along to talk to Mrs Tyler once I’ve finished my enquiries with you two-.”
“You’re a brave man, then, Sergeant,” commented Colby.
He glared at him and then cleared his throat. “Be that as it may, the point I’m making is that some people might find the fact slightly suspicious, Professor Colby.”
“Oh, really? You think so?”
He put his pencil down, his expression darker. “And what’s more, you don’t seem to be taking this as serious as you ought, given the wanton destruction of valuable property and Dr Fendelman’s whole project, not to mention a number of missing people presumed to be dead. Now, I suggest you stop being so high and mighty and answer my questions.”
“It’s not easy,” he said, making the effort and dropping the sarcasm, although elements of this seemed as unreal as anything else. “There is no simple explanation as to what happened.”
“No,” said Colby. “Nothing any sane person would be prepared to believe. Or are you willing to credit mad scientists, aliens, missing planets, an entity that feeds off death itself, sergeant? Not to mention a great deal of salt and a coven led by my former colleague, Max Stael and an unlikely and ancient skull called Eustace.”
The sergeant said. “I did ask you to take this seriously, sir.”
“He speaks the truth,” said Leela dangerously. “You are stupid if you do not listen.”
He looked at the professor again. “Can’t you keep her under control, sir? And if you must know, John Tyler told me that Dr Fendelman blew the place up in the course of his experiments, only his Gran, working up there, suspected something was wrong and although they couldn’t talk him out of his course of action, they did persuade you to leave.”
“I’m impressed,” said Colby. “That is a simple explanation.”
Leela frowned. “It is not the truth. We killed a powerful enemy last night. The fight was difficult but we won. But he was right to say that it was too late to save anyone but the professor.”
“I said,” put in Colby, before the sergeant exploded. He had gone even redder than usual, so it looked possible. “My colleague Stael was apparently the leader of a coven that included Ted Moss and no doubt your other missing villagers. Let’s just say he had some odd ideas about things and he killed Fendelman and Thea.”
He jotted down some notes. “And then blew himself up, sir?”
“Technically,” said Colby, “the Doctor seemed to think it was more of an implosion.”
He gaped at him.
“This one is a fool,” said Leela, getting to her feet. It was an act of dismissal. “There is no use in telling him anything.”
The sergeant glared again. “I didn’t say you was free to go yet, Miss. Now you’re telling me a lot of odd stories, but John and the professor here seem to agree on certain fundamental facts, so I’ll be patient. There’s been stories about something funny going on down at the Priory for some time.”
“Now he tells me,” murmured Colby.
Leela sat back down and folded her arms on the table, looking bored.
“So, if you could try and explain to me again what happened, without any of that nonsense about aliens and what-have-you, I’d be grateful.”
“Yes, I’m so sorry. What was I thinking?”
“You say that this Stael was running some sort of coven. You should have informed us sooner.”
Colby began to feel a strong dislike of the man. “Call me stupid, if you want – it’s probably true – but as it happens, I didn’t know myself until he started waving a gun around and tied me to a pillar.”
“That is where we found him,” put in Leela, seeing a chance to be helpful. “Now can we go?”
The sergeant flicked back over his notebook.
Colby watched. “That’s Stael – S – T – A – E – L, Sergeant.”
“Sir,” he said, ignoring him. “Now, we seem to be getting somewhere. You say he killed your colleagues. If you’d explain in a little more detail -.”
He opened his mouth and couldn’t get the words out. “Oh, God,” he said, and it was almost genuinely a prayer. He’d thought somehow he’d been dealing with this and of course it had only been the cushioning of shock, or maybe the unreality of the thing that had kept it at a distance. Now he was sitting in a shabby and dark police station with a solidly real sergeant asking him questions and if he answered them, it’d all be undeniably true, not only impossible monsters, but Max shooting Fendelman in front of him, the coven members dying one by one as they faced what Thea had become – or the thing that had destroyed her.
“Professor Colby? I do need to know what happened. We’ve got eleven missing villagers and then there’s your colleagues -.”
“Yes, yes,” he said, with an effort. “I know. Just give me a minute.” He clenched his fists to hide the trembling and wished the other two weren’t looking at him. The panic of it; the wish to deny was more of a physical thing than he could have imagined. He waited, feeling too nauseous to do anything else. Still, he thought, at least it wouldn’t be the first time someone had done that in this room.
It is true,” said Leela for him. “That was how it was when we found them.”
Colby lifted his head. “Yes. Max shot Fendelman when he worked out what he was trying to do and he gave Thea to that creature.”
“And then you nearly got us all killed trying to save him,” added Leela with disgust. “You should rather have taken a knife to his heart.”
He choked back sudden laughter, feeling that it would be only too easy for it to become hysteria. “I thought we’d done with that last night. And don’t say things like that in front of the sergeant. He’ll get the wrong idea.”
The sergeant was still endeavouring to ignore everything save the answers he wanted, but clearly it was getting more difficult by the minute. “What about Stael then? Caught in the explosion?”
“He shot himself,” said Leela.
The sergeant slammed the notebook and pencil down. “Miss, if you can’t keep quiet while I’m asking the gentleman questions, you’ll have to wait in the cells.”
“I should like to see you try,” she returned, her eyes alight at the challenge.
Adam merely put his head in his hands, not really having had the chance last night to register what the other gunshot had been. It shouldn’t make the thing worse, but it did.
“And what do you mean by creature?” the sergeant continued. “I’m not sure I follow any of this.”
Leela said, “We have already told you. Our enemy, the Fendahl.”
“I thought you said that Dr Fendelman was shot -.”
“No, it was a creature, not a human. Like a giant worm.”
Hall faced her. “Miss, you’re doing it again.”
“He is upset and you are not helping,” she said. “I said you were stupid.”
The sergeant flushed crimson, but before he could say anything, the door opened and another constable (probably the other constable) entered. He paused at the violent glare he received from his superior and then said, “Sir, the army man is here. He wants a word with you about what’s been done so far and when I said you were talking to the professor and the young lady he said he’d want a word with them, too.”
“Right,” said the sergeant, looking relieved. He got to his feet, but he turned back to the other two. “You’d better have a think about telling the truth. If it weren’t for John Tyler’s story matching with the essential points, I’d be arresting you, professor, if only for obstruction of the law. Her for any number of things!”
“Professor Colby, is it?” said the military officer who was the next person to enter the room. He was a tall man with dark hair beginning to go grey. Almost the only distinctive thing about him on first sight was a certain weariness to his movement and speech. Considering his rank, that was probably deceptive. “I’m Colonel Crichton. There’s no need to be alarmed. I’m not here as part of the conventional army: I’m currently in charge of an international organisation that investigates anything out of the ordinary – particularly anything extra-terrestrial. From what we’ve heard, we’re of the opinion that Fetch Priory may come under that heading.”
Colby glanced at Leela, who was listening to the newcomer with more patience than she had given the long-suffering sergeant. “Are you serious? You believe in aliens – life on other planets and little green men? No, wait, giant marauding worms in this case.”
“Yes. In theory,” said the Colonel. “I’m assuming that you’ve had a more practical experience?”
Leela said. “I tried to tell that other. It is over. The Doctor killed the creature and there is no more to be done.”
“What did you say?” said Crichton, leaning forward in sudden interest. “He’s not here, is he?”
She stared back at him. “Do you know the Doctor?”
“Only by reputation,” he said. “I’d very much like to have a word with him.”
Leela said, “He is gone.”
“So, it’s just us,” said Colby. “Do you want to hear our story? Sergeant Hall was a little put out when we tried to tell him some of the more unbelievable aspects.”
He sighed. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner – I’d rather you hadn’t told him anything at all.”
“Do not worry,” said Leela. “That one is stupid. He did not believe us.”
Crichton asked that they accompany him back to the site of the Priory and, despite his casual request, Colby suspected that refusing wasn’t an option. He found that this time, approaching the remains was worse. It was the old, familiar scene, but the building had been ripped away, leaving the landscape out of joint. He could see right through, down to the village from where he was standing and yesterday his view would have been blocked by a centuries-old house. He experienced a return of his earlier panic and nausea, hanging back behind the rest, unwilling to get any nearer. He gritted his teeth and hoped it didn’t show.
Crichton frowned and called over to the nearest of the UNIT troops. “Reynolds, what are you doing?”
“I think,” said Colby, following his gaze and giving a smile, “that Constable Althorpe must have passed on the dog-feeding duties once your men arrived.”
He returned a look of irritation; the lines of his worn face furrowing further, but Leela distracted them both, pointing towards a man in a dark grey suit walking towards them.
“Who is that?”
Crichton looked over in the direction she indicated. “I’ve no idea, which probably means the man has no business here.”
Colby watched the newcomer approaching. He looked incongruous in this setting; a lost commuter with his impeccable clothes and a briefcase in one hand and a bowler hat. Yet he strode towards them with confidence. “He seems to think he does.”
“David Belfort,” he said, in answer to Crichton’s demand to see his ID before he stepped into a closed site. “I’m here from the Ministry to oversee the operation. Didn’t they tell you?”
Colby looked at him again. He had dark hair, dark eyes, as unremarkable as the rest of his appearance, barring his presence in these surroundings. “Which ministry? The Board of Agriculture, perhaps? Just in case we scare a cow or step on a daisy?”
“Crichton,” said Belfort, “I’d appreciate it if you kept civilians out of things that don’t concern them.”
The military officer only said, “They’re part of the investigation. I’m more interested to know what you are doing here.”
“My good man, if you doubt my authority, you need only put one call through to -.”
“He lies,” said Leela, watching him in stillness. “Do not trust him.”
Crichton folded his arms. “I ask again, who are you and what are you doing here?”
“She’s wrong,” said Belfort. “It’s true enough, in essentials. The government feel that it is about time that UNIT and Torchwood worked more in tandem than they have done in the past. After all, the old regime is over, isn’t it? A bright new future opens before us and this is merely the beginning. Out of the ashes of Fetch Priory rises a beautiful friendship, or something along those lines.”
He merely said, “I see. I don’t think I share your enthusiasm. It's not a compliment to UNIT.”
“One has got to look to one’s own borders,” Belfort murmured. “One can hardly have an international military organisation running riot in Britain.”
Crichton glanced at Leela. “Do you think he’s telling the truth this time?” He was still saying little, but he sounded as if he had bitten into a lemon.
“I am not sure,” she admitted. “He is still concealing some things.”
He nodded. “That’s only to be expected, considering the source. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this far, it’s that.”
“So,” said Belfort, choosing to pretend the exchange had not taken place, “these two are helping with your investigations, eh? Then this must be Professor Colby. Yes, I’ve done my homework, rest assured. We know all about the recent activities at Fetch Priory. What I’d like to know is: who is she?”
Leela raised her head. “I am Leela of the Sevateem and I hope that you are not one of my ancestors!”
He frowned. “What? And why isn’t the woman wearing any clothes? You’re supposed to be conducting a discreet investigation and she’s walking around like that.”
“Discreet?” echoed Colby, glancing back over the soldiers, the remains of the Priory and Belfort’s own appearance. “In what way?”
Leela looked down at herself, hurt. “I am wearing clothes. The Doctor liked my new dress.”
“Ignore him,” said Colby, directing his contempt at Belfort as he took her hand briefly. “He’s only trying to be unpleasant.”
Belfort gave a sudden and unlikeable smile. “I knew it. The Doctor is here and you’re trying to hide him.”
Before anyone could react, they were interrupted by Leakey, who came bounding over towards Colby, causing Belfort to stumble, not having seen the animal. As he wagged his tail, Colby crouched down to pat him again, for the moment rather glad of dealing with uncomplicated dogginess rather than any of these other problems.
“He seems to have perked up no end after that nice bit of chop the Constable brought for him,” said what must be Private Reynolds, joining them. He was a round-faced soldier with light brown hair with strands that glinted gold in the sunshine and he grinned at them all, oblivious to any undercurrents. “He’s a splendid fellow. Is he yours?”
Adam looked up. “No, not exactly. We’re just two dumb survivors.”
“Never mind the dog,” cut in Belfort. “The Doctor!”
Leela darted a look towards him and before anyone else knew what she was doing, she caught hold of the Torchwood operative and raised her knife to his throat. “What do you want with the Doctor? Tell me, or I shall cut your throat and watch your life-blood flow from your body.”
“Crichton,” he croaked.
He folded his arms. “Perhaps the simplest thing to do would be to answer the girl’s question?”
“Shall I kill him?” offered Leela.
The Colonel shook his head. “They’ve got some sort of pointless vendetta against the fellow. Let him go. The Doctor’s not here, as you say, and he can do him no harm.”
“And if you ever do, should he return,” said Leela, not releasing him yet, “I will kill you. Slowly and very painfully. That is a promise.”
Crichton looked vaguely alarmed and Colby felt as if he ought to offer some explanation, although he wasn’t sure what. “She’s the Doctor’s friend. She stayed behind because -.” He broke off, because beyond what she’d said about learning from Mrs T, he didn’t know why.
“So, we’re both too late, are we?” said Belfort, straightening his tie in an attempt to look casual, but he couldn’t manage it without his hands trembling. “The Priory exploded, the bird flown and only a spot of mopping up and dull paperwork left for us?”
“It seems so.”
Belfort smiled. “Then I won’t get in your way, Colonel. I’ve a few questions of my own to ask, but nothing more.” But his gaze flickered to Leela briefly. She glared back at him. Colby hadn’t to admit, he didn’t like the look of it either. Then the man raised his hat and moved away.
“I do not trust that man,” said Leela. “You should have let me kill him when I had the chance.”
For the moment, Crichton said, there wasn’t much for them to do, but he asked them to wait if they would and even said he’d send out a soldier for sandwiches presently.
“I do not think I understand,” said Leela. “You worked here and did not notice the evil?”
He sat down next to her on the grass. “We were merely getting on with the job, Thea and I. We didn’t worry too much about what Max and Fendelman were doing with the computers. Or at least, I didn’t.”
“Then you are not very observant,” she decided.
He shrugged. “I don’t believe in evil. Or I didn’t, I should say. Or aliens, for that matter. I had trouble enough with Eustace.”
“What is Eustace?”
Colby grinned, mostly at his stupidity in still referring to it in that way. “The skull.” It was a good question, he thought, because the others had, hadn’t they? They had, but he’d remained pig-headedly determined not to believe it. Fendelman’s dying words were enough to cause Max to shoot him and Max seemed to know more about it than anyone else. “Fendelman said we’d all been used. Mankind had been used. But he meant us, too. We’d been used. Thea – she had some sort of link to the skull, I don’t know how. You saw what it made of her. She said to me, before, that she had planned it all and I thought she was ill, talking nonsense, but she was linked to it. It planned it all, she meant. She must have done. It took her and it used Fendelman through his computers and his theories. Max saw it as a source of power -.”
“I think I understand.”
He turned, facing her now, as if she might somehow have the answer. “I’m not sure you do. What about me?”
“Maybe it did not use you because you do not believe in impossible things?” she suggested and he had the feeling that he was being lightly mocked.
Colby shook his head. “If it was that well-planned, I was part of it, too.”
“Then I am not certain I do understand. Does it matter now the creature is destroyed?”
He didn’t blame her; he didn’t fully comprehend any of it himself yet, but nice as it might be to imagine he was somehow immune to its influence, it was another delusion and he was trying to walk about with his eyes open for a change. “Damn it,” he said, realising the obvious. “My stupid ambition. It had got all it wanted from me, or I suppose I could have been as crazy as the rest.”
“It’s not important. And maybe you’re right, anyway: at least a closed mind will keep some undesirable things out, eh?” But he was thinking of the others again, a frown on his face. Fendelman was still only half-crazy, wanting the knowledge, the incredible answers to his questions. Max – he was more disturbed now at the memory than he had been then, now that the truth was taking hold – Max had been completely mad. Wanting other people to worship you – that was absolute madness, no doubt about it. And he knew that he’d let Fendelman talk him out of reporting the first death for a reason that had no good in it. He wondered about Thea, but it was in some ways hard to know if she had ever truly been there.
“It is pointless to worry over what is past,” said Leela, watching him in incomprehension. “Oh. There is that man again.”
“Where are we going?” asked Colby, as Belfort led him towards his car. “Can’t we talk here, if we must talk? I’ve already told my story twice today and I wish you people would compare notes.”
Belfort said, “Not very far, professor, but I’d rather we could speak where we won’t be overheard.”
He was beginning to wish he’d taken Leela up on her offer to come with them. “What’s the point? There are enough rumours flying around the village as it is.”
“Trust me, professor. I mean you no harm.”
Colby glared at him as he got into the passenger seat. The other man was no taller than he was and slighter, if it came to it. “I’d like to see you try.”
Belfort had rented out one of the holiday cottages, only a mile away, barely worth getting in the car for. It was evidently a while since anyone had used it, since it smelt damp and the furniture was sparse, old and in some cases, broken.
“Very nice,” commented Colby.
He ushered him into the main room. “Better to be away from UNIT. I’m sure, like myself, you’re loyal to your queen and country, professor.”
“Really? I thought us intellectuals were all dangerous lefties.”
He smiled again, as if the sarcasm had been amusing. “How much did you know about Dr Fendelman’s work, Professor?”
“Nothing much,” he said. “And, as it turns out, even less than I thought. Why?”
He said, “Well, in some senses, you might like to think of us as your employers, and if you knew something about the results of his work, well, we should be extremely-.”
There’d been funding; guards Fendelman could send for at will. Colby leapt out of the rickety wooden chair he’d taken and pulled Belfort up, gripping him by his collar. “In what sense?” He shook him. “Come on, what are you trying to say?”
“There’s no need for all this violence -.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t there? Because if you’re going to tell me it's true in the literal sense, I may have to kill you.”
“In that case,” he said with difficulty, “Let’s move onto another matter. I don’t think anyone’s going to be too happy to hear that you blew up the Priory, Professor Colby.”
He frowned, but he released him. “Who says I did?”
“I’ve been asking questions of my own,” he said. “I know how to persuade people to part with valuable information.”
“Money,” he said with a sneer. “What now, Mr Belfort? Did someone sell you a fairy story down the pub? You’ve only yourself to blame for being taken in. Flash a few quid around and of course someone will tell you exactly what you want to hear.”
He smiled. “Someone followed one of the coven members up there. They were a little late to persuade their friend out of his rash course of action, but they did see and hear some interesting things before they ran. I gather that the blame might be laid at the Doctor’s door, but he’s run away and now there’s only you.”
“You’ll never prove it,” he said. “Anyway, I’m sure I can explain to the nice soldiers up at the Priory. What do you actually want, Mr Belfort?”
He paused. “I could ruin you.”
“Are you threatening me?” he countered with disbelief. “After last night, you think you could scare me?”
There was a knock at the inner door and they both turned as Colonel Crichton entered. “Excuse me, Belfort, but I was looking for the Professor. I could use him up at the Priory. You don’t mind, do you?”
“I think we’d finished,” he conceded.
Colby clenched his fists. “I’m not sure I have. He seems to think his organisation was behind Fendelman’s work.”
“If we’re going to start telling tales,” said Belfort, his dark eyes bright, suddenly very like a rodent’s, “I ought to mention that Professor Colby neglected to inform you that he is responsible for the destruction of Fetch Priory. It’s an untidy operation, nothing much to do, and very little to say that politicians will believe. If you wanted a scapegoat, Colonel, you have one. And, after all, we all know you’re not in the same league as your predecessor -.”
He looked down briefly and then pulled out his revolver. “You know, it’s a funny thing, Belfort, but I was thinking to myself the other day that I’d be tempted to shoot the next man who said something along those lines and since it’s you -.”
“Personally, I was going to punch him,” said Colby, “but don’t let me stop you, Colonel.”
He directed one last look of disgust at the Torchwood employee. “I suspect we’d better be on our way, Professor. But, Belfort, come anywhere near this operation again and I will shoot you. I’ll find some way of explaining it afterwards, I’m sure. Colby?”
“This is outrageous,” said Belfort. “You have not heard the last of this.”
The Colonel glanced back at him. “Just be grateful I didn’t let that girl come with me.” He turned to Colby. “She came to tell me – worried about you, it seems.”
It was Colby’s turn to be worried next. Leela had gone back to Mrs Tyler’s cottage while he’d still been helping UNIT, since one of the other officers had wanted the Priory mapped out so they could examine the remains with a more informed attitude. Now, he was rather needlessly walking Leakey before it became any darker, heading through the woods, not so far from where he’d found the dead hiker – and, yes, he told himself, it would be good to get away from here somewhere, find a job that wouldn’t end up with such morbid attachments – when he spied movement through the trees.
He assumed at first, it must be one of the soldiers, but then knelt down, putting a warning hand on the dog’s back as he did so. The man he’d seen was hiding behind a tree, and he was soon joined by someone Colby recognised: Belfort.
“Stay,” he whispered to Leakey. “And quiet.”
Cautiously, he crept forward, keeping low and out of sight, but getting near enough to hear the conversation in low tones.
“You brought the weapon?” Belfort was asking his unknown associate. “She won’t be taken easily and I will have her. She’s a friend of his and, what’s more, she seems to be from the future. Who knows if she’s even human?”
Colby backed away, having heard more than enough to enlighten him. The other two were gone before he’d even returned to the dog. “I knew I didn’t like that look of his earlier.”
He hurried back to the Priory site, running up to the nearest soldier. “Is the Colonel still here?”
“I think so,” he said. “I’ll get him for you, shall I?”
He followed him, still hanging onto the dog. “No time. This is urgent!”
The Colonel gave the order for Mr Belfort – or any identified stranger on the grounds – to be detained on sight, something which Colby suspected gave him a certain pleasure, but it was impossible to tell.
Then he, along with Reynolds and the dog, set off for Mrs Tyler’s cottage.
“The door’s damaged,” said the Colonel, leading the way up the path. “Quiet. He may still be in there.”
Leakey barked and tugged at the lead, which rendered the order useless, or at least so Adam reasoned, moving in ahead. “Mrs T? Leela? Is everything all right?”
“You get out!” Mrs Tyler was in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere, brandishing the shotgun.
He raised his hands. “Mrs T, it’s me. And if that’s still loaded with salt -.”
She lowered the gun. “Of course it’s you. So I see. You’re late. He’s been and gone and taken the girl. I were too slow. Maybe I am getting too old for this.”
“Never,” he said, helping her to a chair.
She looked up at him and beyond him to the Colonel. “Well, don’t stand there, useless creatures. Go and get her back.”
“Were they in the car, Mrs Tyler?” asked the Colonel, carefully polite. Colby grinned to himself, since the Colonel had obviously made the acquaintance of the Priory’s domestic ‘help’ during the afternoon.
She smiled to herself. “Oh, he were, but that contraption won’t get him far. Don’t hold with them things. Unreliable.”
“He was in the car,” the Colonel said and moved outside to reach for his walkie-talkie and inform the troops.
Adam sat in the other chair and surveyed her carefully. “What do you mean, they won’t get far?”
“I see’d it,” she told him and then pushed him away. “Go on, don’t waste time here.”
He nodded and took her advice.
“We need to set up a road block,” the Colonel said. “I’m damned if I let the man get away with this. As if this sort of business isn’t difficult enough as it is, without creatures like that hanging around.”
Colby frowned. “Mrs T says there’s something wrong with the car – they won’t get far. How about trying that cottage of his first?”
He cast him a doubtful look. Evidently he believed in aliens but not yet in psychic charladies. Colby was still much more inclined to believe in Mrs Tyler than aliens. “If you want. Reynolds, go with him. I’ll see if I can catch him on the roads.”
Colby, Reynolds and Leakey made an odd team, but at least this time the dog didn’t dig in his heels. They reached the rented cottage, keeping their distance for the moment.
“I think there’s someone there,” whispered Reynolds. “Don’t think it’s him, though.”
Colby squinted through the darkness. “No, it’s the other one. Come on!”
As Reynolds and Leakey pinned down the man outside, he entered the cottage cautiously, unsure what he might find. It was dark and he stumbled over something in the hallway and he cursed under his breath, knowing that if Belfort was around, he might as well have shouted out his presence.
He pushed open the door to the main room. There was still no light, but given the state of this house, there might simply be no electricity. Something struck him across the front of his legs as he walked in and he fell with a shout, turning round hastily to meet his attacker.
Nothing happened immediately and he looked at the space beside the door, his eyes accustoming to the darkness. “Leela?”
“Professor? Is that you?”
He grinned to himself, glad to see that she was relatively unhurt and still trying to fight back. “First you kick me and then you start being polite. Better call me Adam.” He got to his feet and reached her. “Is he here?”
“No,” she said. “His – his -.”
“Yes,” she said in relief. “His car did not work properly and he left that other one here to watch me.”
He said, “Don’t worry. Reynolds and Leaky have got him.”
“Good,” she said and sank into a sitting position.
Colby knelt in front of her. “Where’s your knife? I’ll get you untied.”
“They took it,” she said, the anger sounding in her voice. “He is a coward. He had a weapon and he shot me before I had even seen him. I do not know what happened after that, but my head hurts and I feel sick and if I see him again I shall kill him!”
He smiled again. “Then you sound all right to me. I’ll go and see if there’s any sort of knife in the kitchen.” He left her and explored the kitchen, not easy in this light. It seemed to be in a worse state than the rest of the place from what little he could see, but he found a vegetable knife in a drawer that wasn’t completely blunt.
When he returned, he crouched back down beside her and made a start on trying to cut through the ropes, returning the favour, he thought.
“Where is he?” she asked. “That evil, cowardly one? I shall slay him for this; I shall cut out his heart and make him eat it!”
He paused and looked at her. “No, you won’t.”
“I shall! I will make him regret this!”
He laid aside the knife. “No. Unless you promise me that you’ll leave him to the Colonel and his men, I’m not untying you. And even you can’t get out of this alone.”
“Why?” she demanded, losing some of her fury in puzzlement at his behaviour.
He moved nearer still, trying to explain. “Because right now he’s in trouble. He injured you and tried to abduct you and I’m sure the Colonel can find some way of dealing with him for that. If you kill him, it might serve him right, but you’ll have to spend the rest of your life as a fugitive or locked up in a cell.”
“I am not afraid of that. And I would know that he was finished!”
He picked up the knife again. “Promise me. I don’t care what you are or aren’t afraid of. I don’t want to see that happen to you. I like you. Now, promise?”
“Yes, I shall give you my word,” she said more quietly, “but if he ever tries such a thing again, I will not be held back from ending his worthless life. I will choke it out of him breath by breath -.”
Colby set about cutting the ropes again. “Nearly there. And don’t worry, you’re safe enough now.”
There was a long pause after that and eventually she said, in confusion, “I am not afraid. I am angry!”
“Oh, of course.”
She said, “Are you certain the Colonel can punish him for doing this to me?”
“I should think so. The law doesn’t encourage this sort of thing.”
As he finished, she sat up properly, rubbing her wrists now that she was free. “He said that he could do this to me and no one could touch him, because I did not really exist, not here.”
“Oh, you exist all right,” said Colby, grinning at her. “Don’t doubt it for a minute.”
She sighed and then let him help her up. “I am grateful,” she said. “But I wish you would let me kill him!”
“I’m not too fond of all this talk of death,” he said and they made their way back out of the cottage.
The Colonel did get Belfort. He handed him over to Sergeant Hall and the local constabulary, rather carelessly when the local reporters were present, and the let the usual channels of justice take care of him. Torchwood, he said, wasn’t going to go public merely to rescue one employee.
He was also cautious but helpful about providing papers for Leela - a passport, for instance - who, as Colby pointed out, certainly did exist, no matter what the records said.
There was only one thing left to be sorted.
“Leela,” he said, catching her on the way out of Mrs Tyler’s cottage. “I was looking for you. I’ve been sorting out of few things – got a friend to put me up for a bit and I’ll be leaving later.”
“Then I wish you well.”
He smiled. “I hadn’t quite finished. I’ve arranged to go out on another dig shortly, to Africa again. Nothing that’s likely to get me a chance of winning the Nobel Prize this time, but I think that’s probably for the best -.”
“What is this noble prize you seek?” she asked.
Colby laughed. “When you put it like that, that’s a very good question. Anyway, it’s a start -.”
“Then, as I said, I wish you well.”
He shook his head. “Will you let me finish? I was going to ask if you wanted to come. On the dig, that is. I don't think my friend would have room for you.”
“Me? You mean it?” She broke into a wide smile.
“Who else? Thought you’d be handy for scaring off the lions.”
“You wish me to come with you?”
“Then I shall be glad to,” she told him, still smiling. Her blue eyes shone with pleasure.
He grinned equally widely, unable to help it. “You know, you could kiss me again, if you wanted to.”
Leela did. More than once.