Chapter 1: Part I
The prison is deadly quiet, as if the air itself were holding its breath. Every hallway is draped in shadows and solitude, as if no one dares to move within those walls.
Along one corridor, small sounds leak through the air. A man breathing, a heartbeat, the soft patter of careful footsteps. He looks like a prisoner—but of course, that’s impossible; all the prisoners have been locked up for the night, the guards have seen to that. But there are no guards to notice he is around, no cameras following his motions. There is no one, and so the escaped prisoner continues unimpeded.
Suddenly, he stops. Holds his head, squeezes his eyes shut, as if he can find something there, tearing him apart from the inside. When he opens his eyes, there is fire inside of them. His face contorts in anger, and he is fighting a mental battle of wills. Because a part of him knows, oh yes, he certainly knows. He’s not sure how, but it’s clear to him, clear in his mind, what has happened, and he is going to kill them for it. He’s going to kill them all and he won’t spare a single person.
But wait, calls the other part of his mind. The rational part. The part his friend has opened up for him, that calm, relaxing part that struggles to keep his anger in check. You cannot know for sure. How can you know? You have to check. And if it’s true, if it’s really true, then you have to run. You have to run and make sure everyone else knows, because they’ll try to cover it up, they’ll try to pretend it didn’t happen.
A woman is running towards the prisoner. He ducks down another corridor, but he probably doesn’t need to. She doesn’t notice him. She is in enough distress that he could have been standing directly in her path playing the trumpet and she wouldn’t have noticed. He watches as she stops just a few feet away, and unlocks a door.
There is shouting inside the room she has entered. The escaped prisoner knows what it’s about, he knows why she is upset, the same way he knows what has happened in that room. But that rational, calming part of his brain still doesn’t accept the truth. He needs to see it. He needs to know for certain before he can figure out what to do.
He is a big man, and he should not be able to creep, but he does so with surprising stealth and agility. He creeps over to the door, leans in. And even though a part of him knows what he will see inside, he is still surprised to see it.
He cries out, in rage and anger and disbelief. He does not notice anything or anyone else in the room, all he can see is that truth, that truth he has been trying so hard to convince himself is not the case, that truth which tears at his mind and tortures his soul. He can feel the two parts of his psyche fighting one another for dominance, and he isn’t sure which one will win.
One minute later, the escaped prisoner is dead.
Gil Grissom arrived at the crime scene with Nick Stokes and Warrick Brown in tow. The policeman beside him was talking a mile a minute, trying to get him up to date.
“Prisoner’s name is Samuel Grandon. He’s been here for five years serving a life sentence for triple homicide. According to the warden, the prisoner was caught escaping. When the guards found him, he began to get aggressive, fight back. She assures me that they only shot him in self defense.”
Grissom leaned over the body as he put the rubber gloves on his hand. “How many guards were around when they apprehended him?”
The policeman hesitated. “She didn’t say.”
Nick looked over Grissom’s shoulder. “Must have been posing quite a threat to put five bullets into him.”
Grissom looked up. “None of the guards that I saw had any serious injuries.” He stood up, took a look around. “And considering this appears to be their medical center, I doubt they have anywhere else they could have gone.”
“You said the vic was trying to escape,” Warrick pointed out.
“That was the story, yes,” said the policeman.
“Then why come here?” said Warrick. “Why not make a run for it?”
“For that matter,” continued Grissom, “why were the guards inside the room? The entry wounds are in the front, which implies that he was shot from inside the room as he walked through the door.” He looked back at Warrick. “If he were pursued here, the entry wounds would be in the back. I’m not sure these guards were chasing him at all.” He pointed to the bloodstains on the floor, covered in footprints.
“These footprints are leaving the room. There’s nothing to indicate that guards were pursuing the vic from behind. From the evidence in front of me, it appears the guards were already here.”
“You think he wanted revenge?” Warrick asked. “Came looking for his jailers?”
“If you were a prisoner,” said Grissom, “and you wanted to find a barrage of prison guards, would you automatically think to look in the medical center?”
Warrick said nothing.
Grissom frowned, examining the various beds and medical equipment around the room. “If I were to guess, I’d say he was visiting someone.” He turned back to the police officer. “Was there anyone else in the area when you arrived? Any prisoners receiving medical treatment?”
The policeman shook his head. Grissom considered the information, then turned back to the crime scene. Warrick was examining a bed with leather restraints. “Seems a bit excessive,” he said.
“Probably not,” Grissom replied. “I’m guessing the prison use the restraints for detoxing prisoners who are getting over an addiction.” He paused, then added, “better check for traces of blood, just in case.”
Warrick sighed. “This is a hospital, you know,” he said. “A hospital inside a maximum security prison. There’s going to be blood everywhere.”
“Yes, but a stabbed prisoner probably wouldn’t need to be restrained,” Grissom reasoned.
From outside the room, Nick Stokes gave a yell. Grissom turned around and headed towards him, as Warrick began to spray for signs of blood. Grissom found Nick squatting down, swabbing at the floor with a q-tip. “Looks like someone forgot to clean this up,” Nick said, dropping the q-tip into an evidence bag. Grissom looked at the ground where Nick indicated. There, he could see a splatter of blood that looked like it had been flattened and dragged down towards the end of the corridor.
“I think there’s a second body that got cleaned up before we arrived,” Grissom said. “The only question is where and why.” He looked down the corridor, and spotted another blood spot a little ways away. He turned to Nick, who had spotted it as well, and the two began chasing after the scattered blood.
They had made it all the way out a back entrance to the prison yard before their trail ran cold. Both men looked around for obvious hiding places, or even mounds of freshly turned dirt, but found none. Then Grissom looked directly ahead, at the dumpster, and he knew exactly where the second dead body had been stashed. Nick had clearly worked it out as well.
“In the dumpster?” Nick asked.
“In the dumpster,” Grissom confirmed.
They both got on opposite sides of the dumpster and propped the lid open, but all they found were garbage bags. “Well,” Nick said, “no dead body, no smell of decomp.”
“Check the bags,” Grissom instructed as he began untying the big black garbage bags.
Nick scrunched his nose at the smell, but began going through the bags on his side, untying them and looking through their contents. He was hoping he wouldn’t encounter any severed limbs, but didn’t rule it out as a possibility. When you investigate murders in Las Vegas, you have to be prepared for anything
Out of the corner of his eye, Nick Stokes could see Grissom suddenly freeze, trash bag open in his hands. He didn’t say anything, but his face suddenly turned grave.
Nick ran over to his boss, and found himself looking at the face of a very thin young man in a prison uniform, with pale skin and spiky brown hair. Grissom looked at Nick.
“Guess they thought nobody would miss him if they just threw him out,” Nick said.
“Guess we found who those guards were really guarding,” Grissom replied.
Sara Sidle met Grissom the next day at the prison. She had been with Catherine Willows investigating a burglary case the previous evening, but had been reassigned after the second victim had been found.
“You’re the person who investigated his initial crime,” Grissom told her as they walked towards the warden’s office. “Homicide about three or four months ago. A woman named Katherine Marshal found dead in her apartment. Remember?”
Sara did remember. The whole case had left her feeling slightly uneasy. She was certain that the man they found at the crime scene, who only gave his name as John Smith, had been certifiably insane. He had babbled incessantly, continually tried to convince Sara that historical events did not occur the way she knew they had, and kept mentioning words that Sara was pretty sure he’d just made up.
“John Smith,” Sara said. “I remember. I was surprised that he didn’t plead insanity in court. I thought pleading insanity was set up for people like him.”
“Insanity aside,” said Grissom, “he wasn’t in very good shape at the end. Multiple lacerations in the stomach, severe electrical burns along the torso, and bruising around the neck. It appears he was in the hospital ward being treated for his injuries when Samuel Grandon entered and was shot.”
“Samuel Grandon,” Sara mused. “That’s Sammy the car salesman from five years ago, wasn’t it? That case made the national media.”
“The very same,” said Grissom. “Multiple homicide, arson, and armed robbery. Sentenced to life imprisonment.”
“Any relationship between the two vics?” asked Sara.
“They did share a cell,” said Grissom. “Although whether their relationship went farther than that has yet to be determined.”
Sara tried to process the information she’d received into a possible scenario. “Maybe Sammy was abusing Smith, so much so that Smith landed in the hospital. If the prison staff thought that Smith was in any real danger, that would explain why the guards kept such a close eye on him while he was recovering. Somehow, Sammy managed to escape, decided to finish Smith off before he left, but wasn’t expecting the armed guards in the hospital ward.”
“It’s a good theory,” said Grissom. “But it doesn’t explain why we found Smith’s body in the dumpster, or why they cleared away all evidence of his existence from the crime scene.”
Sara thought about this for a moment. “Had rigor mortis set in when you found Smith?”
“No,” said Grissom. “Although it had begun to set in for Sammy, which means that Smith died after Sammy.”
“And time of death?”
Grissom hesitated. “We couldn’t really get a good fix on that,” he said. “All signs seemed to indicate that he’d died only a few minutes before.”
“But that’s just ridiculous,” said Sara. “You can’t clean up a crime scene in just a few minutes. And you told me you were sure they’d cleared out any evidence that Smith existed.”
Grissom thought for a moment. “When you met him, did Smith strike you as being sickly or unwell at all?”
“No,” said Sara. “Deranged. Crazy. But definitely not sickly. The man couldn’t sit still. He kept bouncing on his feet or pacing the interrogation room. And he was incredibly cheerful. If he were suffering from any sort of chronic pain, he definitely knew how to hide it.” She glanced over at Grissom. “Why?”
“It’s certainly one thing that changed since the time you met him,” said Grissom. “The body looked emaciated and sickly. I assumed it was some sort of chronic illness, but it looks like something that happened since he went to prison.”
They stopped outside the warden’s office, and Grissom knocked on the door. Miss Verity Cordman, the prison warden, ushered them inside and shut the door behind them. Before they had even entered the office, she began explaining how Sammy must have escaped, how he’s always been trouble—likes to beat up the newbies the moment they come here—how he’s been getting increasingly paranoid and angry with the prison staff, as if they were doing something specifically to offend him.
Grissom cut her off. “Miss Cordman, can you please explain to us why we found the body of one of your prisoners in a garbage bag in the dumpster outside?”
Verity Cordman froze. She didn’t say anything for several seconds. Sara could feel the thoughts turning over in her head. Definitely hiding something. But Sara had known that from before she entered.
“It was Sammy,” said Verity Cordman. Sara could hear a slight tremor in her voice as she said it. “I told you, he was always a bad one. Must have killed the prisoner earlier, hid him. That’s why Sammy was trying to escape. Because he knew we’d figure it out.”
“So you’re saying that Smith died before Sammy?” Sara clarified. She knew the warden’s time scale was off, but wanted to see if she’d keep her story straight.
“I know it doesn’t look like it,” said Verity Cordman, “but I swear it’s the truth. Dr Smith was definitely dead before Sammy found him. Ask anyone. If Smith were real, it’d all match.”
“Before Sammy found him?” Grissom asked. “I thought you said that Sammy was the one who killed Smith.”
“Okay, fine,” said Verity Cordman. “Yes, Sammy came looking for him. Maybe he wanted to finish the man off, I don’t know. But we don’t usually have a prisoner abuse problem in this prison. This was just a special case, all right?”
“Abuse problem?” asked Grissom.
“From the other prisoners,” Verity put in, a little too quickly. “We try to keep them in line, but what with budget cuts and all… you know how it is.”
“So Sammy accosted Smith, and you put Smith in the infirmary?” asked Sara.
“Yes,” said Verity.
“But you didn’t think to stop the initial assault,” Sara added.
“How could we?” Verity demanded. “We didn’t even know anything was happening!”
“This is a prison,” Sara pointed out. “I mean, there are cameras everywhere here. Didn’t you check?”
If anything, this made Verity even more flustered than she already was. “Our surveillance… has been a little unreliable recently.”
“How so?” asked Grissom. He had already gone across the room to her computer and was pulling up files.
“He sabotaged them,” said Verity. “Inserted some sort of interference pattern into all the cameras between his cell and the basement. They haven’t worked for weeks, and we don’t have the budget to fix them.”
“Sammy did that?” asked Grissom, looking at random bits of footage. “Mechanical sabotage? He didn’t just pick up a rock and throw it at the camera? I’d think that would be much more his style.”
By now, Verity was looking very much on edge, sweating and stammering, her hands shaking and her eyes darting back and forth. In fact, it was such a clichéd suspicious look that Sara nearly laughed. “Not Sammy,” said Verity. “The other one. Smith.”
“Really?” asked Sara. “Considering that he didn’t know up from down the last time I saw him, I scarcely think he’d have the intelligence to sabotage the cameras.”
“No, no, no,” insisted Verity. “That’s just an act. He makes you think he’s an idiot, and then he goes and screws around with things all over the place.”
“Sara, come over here,” Grissom called.
Sara came over, leaning over Grissom’s shoulder. He began to pull up video files of surveillance recordings. “Look, everything’s fine,” he said. The video showed an empty corridor, numbers in the corner showing the date and time. Then, from the right hand corner, Sara could see a glimpse of spiky hair. Then, static.
“Wait a minute,” Sara said.
Grissom pulled up another one. Once again, the moment the spiky haired man appeared on screen, the video feed turned to static. Grissom looked at Sara. Sara looked back at Verity.
“How’d he do that?” asked Sara. She was reassessing the situation in her mind. The surveillance footage appeared to back up her testimony, but Verity was clearly attempting to cover up something important about the situation. And why had Smith wound up in a dumpster?
“I don’t know,” said Verity. Her hands were trembling, and her face was covered with sweat. Sara thought she could hear Verity’s voice shaking. “I told you, he’s not real. His name isn’t even John Smith. He just started going crazy. He kept claiming we were poisoning him, and he stopped eating and drinking. He never slept. He just kept fiddling with things and drawing on the walls.”
“Well, that doesn’t explain how… wait a minute.” Grissom paused, staring blankly at the static on the screen. The image didn’t flicker back to life the way it had before, after Smith was no longer on camera. Grissom clicked forward, and he could see that from that point onwards, there was only static. “Oh, I see. This must be the footage from when Smith took down those cameras permanently.”
Sara, meanwhile, was watching Verity, who had slumped down against the wall and was slowly sliding to the floor. Her forehead was drenched in sweat, and she was still shaking uncontrollably.
“Are you okay, Miss Cordman?” Sara asked.
“Look,” said Verity, very quickly but very quietly. “He wasn’t real. I swear, if he was a real person I wouldn’t have done it. I swear, I wouldn’t have done it. But the Doctor—he’s an alien. He’s not a person. We tested him. Three hours. Three hours he went without air. Not a breath! And two hearts. I don’t, I wouldn’t, not if he was really. But we never meant to kill him. Honest. We thought he’d come back to life, we really did. I swear we did. It wasn’t my fault!”
“Wait a minute,” Sara said. “What doctor? What are you talking about?”
“It’s not my fault!” Verity nearly screamed. She was clawing desperately at the wall behind her. “It’s this thing, in my head. The nightmares. The darkness. They told me to do it. I didn’t want to. They made me. They made me do it all! I tried to fight, that’s why I can still remember. That’s why I got my mind back when they left. But I swear, I—”
Verity cried out, and suddenly toppled over. Grissom and Sara ran over to her, picking her up from the floor and giving her a quick medical check.
“What was that?” Grissom asked.
“I have no idea,” said Sara. “It looked like she got some sort of panic attack and then she began going crazy. I’ll call for an ambulance; I think she’s ill.”
Grissom looked up at Sara, setting Verity back down on the floor. “She isn’t ill,” Grissom said. “She’s dead.”
Nick Stokes and Warrick were having only slightly more success interviewing prisoners about their latest victim. Most of their interviews were pretty much the same, some nearly word for word identical. By the time that Nick Stokes got around to interviewing ‘Suds’, he had already heard the spiel several times through.
“Oh, you mean the Doctor,” said ‘Suds’. Suds drummed his fingers along the table. “Yeah, I remember him. Back a few months ago. Disappeared after he started saying that the food was poisoned.”
“Did he?” Nick asked, waiting for the scripted reply.
“Yeah, he was kind of messed up,” said Suds. “Kept thinking people were out to get him. Had to see a shrink. Then one day we heard he was really sick. Quarantined. Never saw him again.” Suds paused. “I think Sammy saw him. Kept going on at me about it. Claimed they were torturing him. Who knows if it was true. Sammy’s ideas of what was going on never really matched the cameras’, if you know what I mean.”
“What was Sammy’s relationship with the Doctor?” asked Nick. “Was there any form of abuse?”
Suds actually laughed at this, and the sound made Nick jump a bit. None of the previous prisoners he’d interrogated had laughed at him.
“Sammy beating up on the Doctor?” asked Suds through his laughter. “Oh, he tried!” He managed to get himself under control, but still had a smile on his face. “Oh yeah, he definitely tried. After that incident with Joe.”
That was a new one. Nick hadn’t heard anyone named Joe. “Incident with Joe?”
“Yeah,” said Suds. “It was the day the Doctor showed up. Joe was getting ready for a parole hearing, and the Doctor went right up to him, got in his face, and started threatening him.”
Nick frowned, thinking about the thin body he’d found in the dumpster. He didn’t think it was even possible for the man to seem intimidating. “Really?”
“Yeah, really,” said Suds. “But he didn’t pick up Joe and throw him against the wall and start shouting in his face. He just got up real close to him and said, ‘I know who you are, Joseph Harold Trudge. I know what you’re going to do when you get out of here. I’m going to give you one warning, and that’s all you get. Leave her alone.’” Suds shuddered a little. “Gives me the creeps just thinking about it.”
“And Sammy was there?”
“Naw, I told Sammy about it later,” said Suds. “Figured that Smith guy’s like a toothpick, he’d better figure out his place. Not head honcho around here, we figured. So Sammy comes over to him, looking to pick a fight. And that’s when it starts getting weird.”
Nick kept questioning Suds, but he knew this part already. It was about the fourth time he’d heard this fight described, and the only thing Nick was really interested in was whether Suds was planning to stick to the script, or if he’d actually been there. From the extra details Suds kept putting in, it appeared that he really had witnessed the whole thing. Nick sat back and tried to picture it as Suds gave his account.
The Doctor was sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, using his soup to doodle on the table. The doodles meant nothing to Suds—they looked like circles and squiggles. Sammy came over, and slammed a hand down on the table.
Usually, Suds told Nick, when Sammy slammed his hand down like that, the other guy would look frightened and start pleading for his life. Either that, or the other guy would stand up and flex his muscles, giving a sort of ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe. But the Doctor didn’t plead for his life or get ready to fight. He just stared at Sammy with a sort of mild irritation.
“Yes?” said the Doctor.
“Yeah, Toothpick,” said Sammy. “We gotta talk.”
The Doctor actually beamed at this. He jumped up onto his feet. “Do we?” he said. “Oh, well that’s brilliant! I love talking. I never manage to do enough talking, although I do have a tendency to babble. Do you think I have a tendency to babble? My friends are always nagging me about it—”
Sammy shot out a hand to grab the Doctor by his uniform, presumably to shove him against the wall and pummel him into next year. But when he reached out, the Doctor wasn’t there. Sammy looked over, and found the Doctor standing a few feet to his right, pouting theatrically.
“Oh, sorry,” he said. “A bit confused—when you said talking, did you actually mean using me as your surrogate punching bag?” He gave a half smile. “Bit of a Brit, as you can tell by the accent. Never really caught on to Americanisms. You might need to give me a bit of a translation.”
Sammy’s face turned red. His hands were bunched into fists, his jaw clenched. He gave a roar of anger and flew at this smug, babbling man. But once again, the Doctor was gone before Sammy had even come close to hitting him, and his fists made contact with thin air. From behind him, Sammy could hear the Doctor clearing his throat.
“You know,” he said. “We could just sit down together and have a friendly chat. Not to point any fingers or anything, but at the rate you’re going, you could be at this all day, and it really does seem to be making you frustrated.”
Sammy began his assault again, but every time he took a swing, the Doctor was gone. The Doctor, Suds told Nick, was more slippery than a fish—ducking and diving out of the way, not even coming close to Sammy’s barrage of blows. At some point, Sammy thought he had the Doctor cornered against the wall, and swung out to hit him.
In the blink of an eye, the Doctor was right beside Sammy, having caught his fist and stopped it inches from hitting the wall. The Doctor looked him right in the eye, and said in a very low voice, “I wouldn’t, if I were you.”
By this time, a crowd had gathered around the fight, and one of the guys shouted, “Ah, just let him go, Sammy. You can’t even touch him!”
Sammy turned, and Suds was pretty sure that was the first time that Sammy noticed how many people were laughing at him. The anger began to boil in his veins, consuming his mind in fire and hatred. He gave an incomprehensible howl and ran at the mocking voice, probably (said Suds) because he figured if he couldn’t lay his hands on that low-life coward of a toothpick at least he could show everyone else who was really in charge.
Before anyone knew what was happening, there was a blur of motion, and the Doctor had pinned Sammy to the ground. A dark look had flooded the Doctor’s face, and his eyes bore into Sammy’s as if reading his very soul. A hush fell over the crowd. Their laughter was gone. Their chattering was gone. Everyone in the room was silent.
“Don’t you dare,” said the Doctor, in a low growl. And everyone heard it.
Now that Sammy was pinned and defenseless, the other prisoners had expected bloodshed. They’d all seen that look on the Doctor’s face, and they’d all recognized it. It was venom. It was hate. It was death. Suds had expected the thin guy to punch Sammy’s lights out. But he didn’t. Instead, the thin man slowly got up, helped Sammy to his feet, gave him a hard stare, and then he just walked away.
Before he left the room, however, he turned around to address his silent audience. “Oh, and by the way,” he said. “My name isn’t Toothpick. It’s the Doctor.”
And then he left.
Nick had already heard the story, of course, but he had never heard it in this much detail. It was as though he’d gotten the myth, and Suds was giving him the facts. Nick was trying to match what Suds had told him with the barebones accounts he’d gotten before, when Suds cut into his thoughts.
“Course, then Joe came back and told us what happened to him,” said Suds. “Not a lot of us believed him, but it was still kinda spooky.”
“What happened?” asked Nick. This was definitely straying from the script.
“Well, Joe got parole, you know,” said Suds, “and we thought we’d never see him again. But then he shows up at the prison a little bit later, insists on seeing the Doctor. At that point, the warden wasn’t letting the Doctor talk to anybody outside the prison, so Joe asks to talk to me. I’m telling you, Joe wasn’t himself. Looked white as a sheet, his eyes were bloodshot. I thought maybe he was high.”
“But he wasn’t?”
“Oh, no,” said Suds. “He hadn’t seen any pink elephants. He’d seen the Doctor.”
Nick blinked. “You mean in prison?”
“No, I mean on the streets, out in the open, running free,” said Suds.
“And this was after the Doctor was quarantined and had disappeared?” Nick clarified.
“No, no,” said Suds. “This was when he was still sharing a cell with Sammy. The Doctor was just on the other side of the wall from me, and Joe came in insisting that the Doctor was running around free on the streets of Las Vegas.”
“Had Joe been drinking?” asked Nick.
“That’s what I thought,” said Suds. “Either drunk or high. But no, he told me. Stone cold sober, he insisted. Said he’d gone off after his wife—you know, she’s the one who turned him in? Anyways, found her in an alley, tried to knock her off, when suddenly, there’s this high pitched whining sound, and the gun goes red hot in his hand. He drops it, turns around, and there he is. The Doctor. Just the same way Joe remembered him, except now he’s dressed up in brown pinstripes and holding what looks like some kind of pen light or laser pointer or something. Beside him is this really hot young black chic, and she runs over to Joe’s wife and starts saying something soothing to her. Before Joe can figure out what’s going on, the gun’s in pieces and the hot black chic’s gotten Joe’s wife away from him, and the Doctor is looking at him with that terrible anger in his face, just the same way he looked at Sammy. Joe told him, ‘you’re in prison!’ And according to Joe, the Doctor seemed surprised. ‘Really?’ said the Doctor. ‘Wonder what I’m doing there.’ Then the Doctor just gave him a wink and said, ‘Don’t tell Martha—she’ll just tell me off for getting in trouble again.’ And before Joe could think of anything else to say, all three of them were gone.”
Nick frowned. He had remembered that incident—Mrs. Trudge, who had gone into the police station accompanied by a pretty black woman with an English accent. She’d called herself Martha Jones, and had said that the woman was assaulted by her husband, but had not received any serious injuries. Nick hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, but it did seem to back up the terrified Joe’s story. Nick made a mental note to find Joe and bring him in for interrogation when they were back at the lab.
The only other prisoner to break the script was one of Warrick’s. He called himself Dart, and only veered off from the script after he described the fight between Sammy and the Doctor.
“After that,” said Dart, “Sammy never left the guy alone. I thought maybe they were, you know, getting together, but who really knows!” Dart smiled, as if at some untold joke. “We always did like trying to get the Doctor mad, though. Me and some of the other guys. We had this game we liked to play, called it, ‘Who’s the Doctor killed?’ Oh, you should have seen his face when he found out! We really got him that time. Good and proper.”
“This… Doctor…” said Warrick, “liked to brag?”
Dart gave a derisive snort. “Course not!” he said. “That’s what made it fun. He’d be talking about some nonsense or other, and then suddenly, he’d say a name and he’d get this look in his eyes—and we all knew that look. That’s the look of a killer. And then we’d add the name to the list.” Dart thought a moment, tapping his teeth together. “We got up to maybe fifteen before he caught on. We weren’t serious or anything, we just wanted to tick him off. And at first, you know, that’s what it did. When he found out, he just started pacing up and down the length of the room shouting at us about how murder is not a game, and his life is not a game, and you can’t change the past no matter how much you want to. But then he took another look at the list, and he saw this one name and really blew his top. Got all quiet, sort of radiated anger, and when he looked at me, I swear, I thought I was going to die. I really did. He started moving towards me and my life literally flashed before my eyes. Then he just stopped in his tracks, and left. We stopped the game after that.”
“That name you mentioned,” said Warrick. “It wouldn’t happen to be Katherine Marshal?”
Dart just gave Warrick a twisted smile. “Nah, Katherine Marshal never even made the list. Didn’t kill her. Ironic, isn’t it? The man’s probably killed more people than everyone in this prison combined, and the one time he gets caught, he’s innocent.”
Warrick felt his breath catch in his throat. He couldn’t think how he was going to tell Sara. “So what… was the name?” he asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.
“Gallifrey,” said Dart. He clacked his teeth together a few times. “Not sure what kind of a chic would call herself that. We figure it’s got to be a chic. No guy would get that angry unless it’s over a chic.”
Grissom hung up the phone. "Backup is on the way," he told Sara. He looked down at Verity's body. "From a preliminary examination, I see nothing that would indicate foul play. No external lacerations, no discoloration, no entry or exit wounds…"
"Just before she collapsed she showed symptoms of illness," said Sara. She leaned against a desk, folding her arms. "Profuse sweating, uncontrollable shaking, dilation of the pupils. Heart failure, perhaps?"
Grissom fished into his bag and pulled out two pairs of rubber gloves. "I'll leave that for autopsy," he said, putting one pair on his hands. He offered the other pair to Sara. "In the meantime, it appears that this has now become a crime scene. Which means that we have work to do."
Sara got to her feet with a sigh, and took the offered gloves. "This is just like the Case that Never Ended," she muttered.
Grissom was about to ask Sara what she meant when they both heard a sudden "click" sound echo through the room. They looked at one another for a moment. Sara could have sworn it sounded like… a tape recorder? She looked around the office. The surveillance footage and the prisoner files had all been digitized. Who still used audio cassette tapes?
It was Grissom who found the tape recorder. It was an old model, a large black rectangle of metal and plastic with a tape still inside. Grissom dusted the box for fingerprints, and looked back at Sara, surprised. She went over and looked over his shoulder, but when she saw what he'd discovered, she gave a bitter laugh.
"Oh, that is just not fair," she said.
The box was covered in fingerprints. Every surface was filled with them. And every set appeared to be different.
"Apparently, someone figured out that we'd do this," said Grissom.
"Apparently," Sara corrected, "Verity Cordman was paranoid enough to record our conversation."
Grissom considered this, then rewound the tape and pressed play. The recording began with nothing but the background hum of the computer. There were footsteps, but they were not the sharp tap of Verity's heels. So, not Verity. Sara heard a door open and close, very quietly, as if the person who had placed the tape recorder had snuck in. For a few minutes, the recording was silent. Finally, a woman's muffled voice could be heard. Verity Cordman. She must have been outside the door. They heard the door open, and footsteps enter. Verity was humming, her voice now clear through the speakers.
There followed a long period of near silence, save for occasional sounds of coughing, typing, humming, or footsteps. It was during this period that Sara's phone began to ring. She waved to Grissom, walked out of the office, and answered it. "Sidle."
"Yeah, it's Greg," said the voice on the other end. "And I just want to tell you to stop jinxing my machinery."
Sara looked at the phone, as if it was to blame for the sentiment. "What?"
"About three months ago, you gave me this DNA sample, and every time I ran it through the system, the whole thing went nuts," said Greg. "You know the drill. Program freezes, computer blue screens, and suddenly, I'm calling IT and spending my lunch breaks trying to catch up with all the work I'm not able to do. Three months later, same thing happens, and guess what I find out? It's another one of your cases. So I don't know what kinds of samples you keep sending me, but really, if they're not biological, send them to trace."
Sara could hear the protests coming out of her mouth before her brain had processed the information Greg had given her. As soon as she had worked it through her mind, however, she stopped talking. "Hang on, three months ago?"
"Yeah, near enough," said Greg.
Sara felt her blood run cold. "It's the same guy," she said.
Sara had begun pacing in the hall outside the door. Her hand was clutching the phone. "Greg, tell me something. Three months ago, the DNA evidence under Katherine Marshal's fingernails. Did that sample break the machinery?"
"Let me check. Hang on."
There was the shuffling of papers on the other end of the line, and Sara scarcely allowed herself to breathe. She had a terrible feeling about this, and she was hoping beyond hope that her intuition was wrong.
"Yeah, got it," said Greg. "Sorry about the delay, but the computer's down. But I guess you already knew that."
"Greg," Sara cut in. "Please, just tell me."
"Um, nope," said Greg. "Just a simple negative ID, no match found in the database. Didn't scramble any computers."
"Oh, no," Sara breathed. For a moment, all thoughts ceased in her brain, all background noises seemed to fade away to silence, and she could only feel the rhythm of her heart beating in her chest. She was falling, falling into nothing and she didn't know if there would be anyone to catch her.
"Sara?" came Greg's voice on the other end of the phone. "Are you okay?"
"I killed him." The words were coursing through her veins, pulsing through her fingers, tingling in her toes. They leaked through the pores of her body, spilling from her lips, ringing in her ears, scratching at her nose and congealing in her eyes.
The door to the office opened and Grissom came over. She could hear him as he spoke her name. She could feel his hands on her shoulders—those soft, gentle hands that gave her back a touch of the warmth she thought had deserted her forever. She turned around to face him, and again felt the words leak off her tongue. "I killed him."
Grissom eased the phone from her hand, and held it to his ear. "Greg? It's Grissom. Yeah, she'll be fine. She'll call you back." He hung up the phone, and looked deep into her eyes. "I think you should probably hear this," he said, and led her back into the office.
"The side we were listening to was essentially blank," Grissom explained. His voice was more gentle than usual, and Sara could hear it echoing through her mind as she desperately tried to grasp the words. Grissom bent down and began fiddling with buttons on the tape recorder. "Until we entered, that is, but we already heard that part. But then I thought, since Verity was not the person who set up the recording, who did? And what would their motivation be for doing so? Maybe this was just a way to get our attention, and the real message was on the other side of the tape. So I turned the tape over, and…" he shrugged. "Listen for yourself."
He pressed play.
"It's on," came an unfamiliar voice over the speakers. It was low and gruff, a man's voice, but clearly a man who wanted people to feel like he had a certain amount of authority. His words were short and clipped, and he sounded angry. ("Sammy," Grissom mouthed at her.)
"Hello," came a cheerful voice with a British accent. "I'm the Doctor. Not sure who's listening to this recording, but I'm pretty sure that if you're hearing this I'm dead. Not sure how dead yet. Hoping it's not dead for good, that sounds rather nasty. Still, better to live in hope."
The voice paused, and added, "Yeah, bad choice of phrase," as if he were responding to some gesture that Sammy had made.
"Anyways," the British voice continued, "I was hoping to talk to Sara Sidle. From the crime lab, if I remember correctly. Brilliant woman, very good at her job. Gold star! Do they still give those out anymore? Right. Yes. Sorry. Message. Sara Sidle, you've probably figured out by now that I didn't kill that woman. Just wrong place at the wrong time." He gave a sharp breath, and when he continued, his voice had lost that happy, rambling ease. It was softer, more serious, as if every decibel was prying into Sara's subconscious. "I just want to make sure that you know that this isn't your fault. I know what happens when you hold yourself responsible for the actions of others. I know how that guilt eats away at you, and leaves you hollow. So I'm asking you, please, to let it go. First off, I was trying to get here. When we met, I pretty much put a big sign on my head saying, 'send me to jail, please!' Second, I could have escaped dozens of times by now, as certain people keep pointing out to me."
Sammy's voice gave an annoyed grunt.
"And, as I keep pointing out to certain people," the British voice continued, pointedly, "there is someone or something in this prison that's in trouble and needs my help. I don't know what it wants or who it is, but it's prepared to kill a fairly large number of people in order to get me, and as long as I'm here, it isn't harming anyone else. I think it's safe to say that I've met it before, and it wants to extract some sort of revenge on me before it tells me what it really wants. So I'm staying until I can either work out some way to help, find some way to contain my past mistakes, or… well, until I die, which is looking more and more likely each day. I'm just asking you to do one thing in my honor. Keep fighting the fight. Keep stopping the violence, helping the weak, locking up the bad guys. If there's no more Doctor in the world to stand up for what's right, at least I know there's a Sara Sidle out there, helping keep the streets safe." He paused. "Message ends."
The recording went silent. Sara looked at Grissom, who looked back at her. "That was the guy I talked to before," she said. "John Smith. That's our vic."
Grissom nodded. He opened his mouth to speak again, then stopped, and examined her more closely. "Are you okay?"
Sara hesitated before answering. "I think so," she said.
"He's right, you know," said Grissom. "You shouldn't blame yourself. You did not withhold or manipulate information to facilitate a conviction. You didn't come at the case with any preconceived bias. You did your job."
"And he died because of it," said Sara.
Grissom didn't say anything, and Sara could see his face bending into that thoughtful countenance he always wore when he was trying to work out a case. He drummed his gloved fingers against the side of the tape player, absent mindedly. "There's something wrong about this whole situation," he said. "I can't put my finger on what it is… but I think we'll find the answers somewhere in this room."
Nick Stokes stood looking at the faded carvings along the walls of the cell. Most of it just looked like jibberish – circles and squiggles that followed no pattern or logic. But every so often, he'd find something recognizable. Not the intention, of course, because math had never been Nick's strong suit. But it was clearly some sort of complex mathematical equation, and unless Nick had just been swallowed up by the movie Good Will Hunting, he was betting that Sammy hadn't been the one figuring them out.
"Find something?" asked Warrick.
Nick spun around. Warrick Brown was beside the bars of the cell, looking like he'd just solved a very complicated puzzle.
"Go on," said Nick. "Impress me."
Warrick walked over and handed him the key. "Lock me in."
Nick shrugged, took the keys from him, and complied. He looked through the bars at Warrick, who was standing inside the cell with that same look on his face.
"Okay, you're locked in," said Nick. "Now what?"
"Now comes the tricky bit," said Warrick. Warrick turned back to the bars, twisted his body sideways, and put pressure on two bars with his hands, another with his left foot, and one last bar with the top of his head. To Nick's complete surprise, the cell door popped open and Warrick walked right out.
"No way," said Nick. "Don't tell me that's some kind of design flaw and that prisoners have been able to do this for years."
Warrick walked over to the next cell, and Nick locked him inside. He tried the same stunt, with no success. "Apparently not," said Warrick.
Nick and Warrick went back to the first cell, and examined the bars more closely. "It appears that someone figured out the perfect pressure points and managed to weaken them," said Warrick. "Weaken any door at the right points, you damage the structural integrity, and the door'll open for you, no questions asked."
"Think that's what the markings on the wall are for?" asked Nick.
Warrick went over to the wall, and studied the recognizable mathematical symbols. "Yeah, that's it," he said. "But it's… confusing… like looking at a 3D graph in four dimensions."
Nick leaned closer to the bars and examined the filed markings. "Call me a skeptic, but I'm pretty sure Sammy wasn't the guy to come up with this. Mathematical formulas, pressure points, structural integrity… this sounds like something our Dr Smith would have come up with."
Warrick shrugged. "Might have explained why he liked to be called 'the Doctor.'"
Nick looked back at him, puzzled.
"You know?" said Warrick. "Bolster the ego. Make him feel smart."
"I figured he must have been some sort of drug dealer," said Nick.
"Sara didn't find any evidence of drug dealing when she worked on his case," said Warrick. "Doesn't rule it out, of course. But you know what Grissom would tell you. Stick to the evidence."
Nick was about to reply, when he was interrupted by a loud, clear "click". Nick and Warrick both jumped at the sound, surprised, then began looking through the cell.
"It came from somewhere along the back," said Nick. He was fishing around by the wall, trying to find some sort of hidden area. "Aha!" he cried, and pulled out a chunky black tape recorder.
The first thing they noticed was that it was an old model, outdated, and still a little dusty. The second thing they noticed, after dusting the case for fingerprints, was precisely the same thing that Sara and Grissom had noticed back in Verity Cordman's office.
"Oh, you are kidding me," said Nick.
"Think that's all the prisoners?" asked Warrick, gesturing at the many finger prints.
"If they're smart, it'll be all of them," Nick replied. "Too many suspects, too much data, no conviction." He paused. "You think there's something on the tape?"
Warrick started to object, but then stopped, thought it through, and rewound the tape. There was nothing but the sounds of both their voices. On a whim, Warrick flipped the tape over, and tried the other side.
They were not expecting anything, so both of them jumped when they heard the voice.
"Hello," came a cheerful British voice. "I'm the Doctor. But I'm guessing you probably already knew that. And no, I'm not stalking you. That would be creepy. Especially since I'm a voice on a tape. Can you be stalked by a voice on a tape? I'm sure someone's made a movie about that somewhere. Then again, someone's made a movie about everything, so it would hardly be surprising. You should see the bazaars in the late 4300's. You just pull a word out of a hat and they have a list of movies about it. Absolute rubbish, most of them, but… oh, yes. Sorry. Message.
"This is a message for Sara Sidle from the Las Vegas crime lab. Brilliant, wonderful young woman, probably still assigned to this case. Anyways, if you're listening to this, I'm probably dead. Hopefully not for good, but, well, rest assured I've been getting warnings. You can say I've been expecting this for a while now. Haven't heard anyone knocking yet, but pretty sure that's coming soon. Right, well, better make this quick. Don't know when they're coming back, and," he cleared his throat, "some people really do need to get back to their cells and stop risking their lives to try to convince me to leave." He gave a small sigh. "Sorry, sorry. You're being terribly helpful. I really do appreciate it.
"Well, Sara, I know you're an intelligent young woman, and you've probably worked most of this out for yourself. But just in case you haven't… please, watch out. Keep your eyes open. There's someone in this prison who is really very dangerous, and despite my best efforts, I don't see how I can contain him. I'm trying my best to help him, and sometimes I think I might be getting through, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm doing any good. If I'm dead, which seems quite likely given that you're listening to this tape, I honestly don't know what he'll do. So keep your eyes and ears open, and don't trust anyone, even if you know them. Don't trust the people running the prison, don't trust the staff, don't trust the warden, and definitely, definitely, don't trust the police. They may look like your friends, Sara, but appearances are not everything. There's something terribly evil in this prison and it knows who I am. And if it knows who I am, and wants me out of the way, then whatever it's got planned can't be good."
The voice paused a moment on the other end of the recording. "Oh, and not to bias your investigation or anything, but I'd look in the basement if I were you. Just a hint. Message ends."
Nick and Warrick looked at one another for a moment. They suddenly had shivers going up and down their spines. Nick ejected the tape, and put it into the evidence bag. Then, slowly, they began to stand up.
"We better play this for Sara," said Nick.
After a morning of searching through files and unlocking locked cabinets, Sara and Grissom had uncovered only a few minutes of surveillance footage of the vic. All other evidence that Smith had ever existed had been cleared away. Sara was about to give up any hope that they'd find anything on Smith, when Grissom spotted the locked filing cabinet. They tried every one of Verity's keys, but none of them worked. Grissom had just managed to pick the lock, when Nick burst into the room.
"You're not going to believe this," said Nick, "but our vic left a message for Sara. Warrick and I are still trying to figure out whether he's just scaring her, or if he's threatening her."
Grissom took the tape from his hands. "We got one too," said Grissom. "In here. We heard a click and found the message on the other side of the tape. What did he say?"
Nick gave a brief summary, but Sara wasn't paying attention. She was looking at the file cabinet with curiosity. Inside, she found a box full of labeled audio cassette tapes, and a small packet of papers. Sara picked up the packet, and realized she'd found Smith's file.
It was not a file, in the traditional way a file should look. It was more a list of information. The only name given for the prisoner was "the Doctor."
"Didn't Verity Cordman mention a doctor before she collapsed?" Sara asked.
Nick looked over her shoulder. "Oh, that's what the prisoners called our vic," he said. "They all called him the Doctor. I think it's what he called himself." Nick gave them a brief account of the fight between the Doctor and Sammy.
Sara was looking over the file. There were eight different pictures attached, only one of which she recognized as the vic. Of the other pictures, six were crossed out. One looked as if it were taken from a security camera. She kept looking through the rest of the information.
"The destroyer of worlds," she read. "The bringer of darkness." She looked up at Nick. "It says here that those are his nicknames. Any of those sound familiar?"
Nick shook his head. "They did try to call him toothpick. But as far as I could tell, they just called him the Doctor. Warrick said one guy made a list of all the people they think he's killed, and when he found out he blew a fuse."
"It wouldn't happen to be this list right here?" Sara asked. She turned to the second sheet of the file she was holding. On it was a list titled, "The Doctor's Body Count." Most of the names were written in large block letters. However, at the bottom, another set of names had been added in the warden's own handwriting. Nick scanned the list.
"Yeah, maybe," he said. He pointed to one of the names. "That one. Gallifrey. According to our prisoner, that was the name that really got him mad."
Sara nodded. She carefully filed the papers she was holding under evidence, ready to go back to the lab. Before she could say anything, Warrick poked his head into the office.
"Grissom?" he said. "Don't know if Nick filled you in yet, but you know how the vic was supposed to be paranoid because he thought someone put something in the water? Well, someone did."
The team all looked at one another, and then followed Warrick down to the basement. The basement was filled with old police equipment—batons, barricades, traffic cones, etc. To one side was a large water tank, and beside that sat an enormous bottle of liquid aspirin.
"I didn't think that they made aspirin in liquid form," said Warrick, "or that they'd make bottles of it that big, but there we are."
Grissom went over to examine it. "It's half empty," he said. "I don't know if it's in the water, but they've obviously been using it on something." He took a sample of water, and handed it to Warrick. "Send this down to trace, see if they can tell us what's in it." He then turned to Sara. "I'm thinking I can guess one allergy that's not written down in that file."
"Aspirin," Sara said. She walked over to the bottle, preparing to dust it for fingerprints, when suddenly, the basement echoed with a loud "click".
This time they didn't pause, but suddenly all jumped up and spoke at once, trying to work out where the sound had originated. It was Grissom who found the antiquated black tape recorder hidden behind the water tank. He didn't bother listening to the first side at all this time, just flipped the tape over and pressed play.
"Hello," said the voice on the other end. It was less cheerful this time, much more pointed and flat. Without the cheerful mask, Sara realized that she could hear a terrible weariness inside the voice. If the others noticed, they didn't mention it.
"I'm the Doctor," continued the recording. "Leaving this message for Sara Sidle of the Las Vegas crime lab. Listen very carefully, Sara, because this is vital. Somewhere in this room, you'll find a blue police box… hold on, America. Sorry. You've probably never even heard of a police box before. Looks like a phone booth, but without the glass. Big blue box. Kind of hard to miss. Probably right behind you."
Everyone looked behind them, but could find no blue boxes. They looked back at the recording.
"Now, I know last time we talked, you thought I was mad. And you're probably right. I get that a lot. But, well, to put it simply, 'I am but mad north-north-west... When the wind is southerly, I can tell a hawk from a handsaw.' So I want you to listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you. There is something very, very dangerous inside that blue box, and whoever is keeping me here wants that. And if the box isn't there, then… well, that's bad. That's very bad. Not very, very bad, but still bad. Not that anyone can get into it, but someone might still set off the defenses. And that could have some rather nasty side effects. Still, you'll probably find it eventually. Like I said, it's hard to miss.
"Sara Sidle, I know that you're exactly who you say you are. I know that I can trust you. And I'm so, so sorry. I really am. If there were any other way, I swear, I'd do it, but if I really am well and truly dead… I'm going to have to ask you to protect that box. There's a man, about two years from now, Harold Saxon. He's the only person I know who's got the means, ability, and motivation to get into the box and use what's inside as a weapon. If he finds out you have it, he will do anything… and I mean anything… to get that box. Whatever you do, do not give him the box. I cannot stress that enough. He is a master of hypnosis and can be very persuasive, but never, ever, ever give him that box. Don't even let him see it.
"One other thing. If a woman called Sarah Jane Smith comes by and asks to see it, please place this box in her hands. She's a clever one, and one hundred percent trustworthy. Listen to anything and everything she tells you, because I guarantee, you'll need every bit of information to sort out this mess.
"All right, I'm pretty sure that's all I have to say. Be careful, Sara Sidle, and if that police box is gone, be doubly careful. Don't go anywhere alone, keep your eyes and ears open, and if you feel something niggling at the back of your mind, just think nursery rhymes. Good luck, and be brilliant. Message ends."
Grissom stopped the tape, as the others began to search the room. In one corner, Nick found a bunch of old tape recorders covered in dust. It certainly explained where they had come from, though not who had put them there. He was about to point this out to the others, when he heard Warrick's voice coming from the other side of the room.
"Well, it's not a blue phone box," said Warrick. "But it's certainly a phone box sized hole in the piles of junk."
Everyone gathered around and examined where the phone box had been. Sara looked at Grissom, who looked back at her.
"Right," said Grissom. "Gather up all the evidence, we'll meet back at the lab. We've got enough questions; I think it's about time we started getting some answers."
Back at the lab, Nick called Warrick over to his computer. "Look at this," he said. "All the other surveillance footage is saved with date and time. Except for this." He clicked on an icon, which bore the name, "DoctorVisit9." Warrick studied the filename.
"Is it usual for the prison staff to refer to their prisoners by their nicknames?" he asked.
Nick shrugged. "No," he said. "And before you ask, there aren't eight other visits on file. As far as I can see, he only got the one visitor, about three days after he was incarcerated. After that, apparently, he wasn't allowed to talk to anyone else."
Warrick frowned. "Okay, so something in here made them decide he was dangerous. What happened?"
Nick opened up the file. "Take a look and see for yourself," he said.
The visitor was tall, about ten years older than the Doctor, with big ears and no hair. He sat propped back on the chair, his arms folded, wearing a black leather jacket. On the other side of the glass, the Doctor walked in, looking very serious. He didn't have the same emaciated or sickly look he'd had by the time he died, but he certainly wasn't cheery or bursting with energy. He picked up the phone on his side of the glass, and the visitor mirrored the gesture.
"So," said the visitor, "you're the latest model." The visitor had a sharp, northern English accent, and a loud, brash voice. He leaned forward and squinted. "Not bad. A bit tall. Still not ginger."
"The ears are an improvement," said the Doctor.
The visitor just touched his ears and gave a big grin. "Well, I'm gonna assume you called me here for some reason and not just to cause a temporal paradox. Contact?"
The Doctor looked directly into the camera, then back to his visitor, and shook his head. "They know who I am," he said in a low voice. "I don't know how much they know, but I'm hoping they don't know who you are." He paused. "Where's Rose?"
"Asleep," said the visitor. "Back…" he looked over at the camera, just the same way the other one had, and said, "home."
The Doctor nodded. "Look, three nights ago, there was a break-in. Middle of the night. Nothing was taken and nothing was disturbed… except for one yale key."
"Ah," said the visitor. "And you're hoping…?"
"Exactly," said the Doctor.
For a moment the two said nothing, just looking at one another as if daring the other to speak. Finally, the visitor gave in. "And that's all you're going to give me. Just a date and a time. What year is this, anyways?"
"2003," said the Doctor.
"Right," the visitor replied. "And that's all. No extra information. No security rundowns. No guard shifts, or prison schedules, or anything useful? I mean, come on. You've been in here three days? Don't tell me you've just been sitting around here twiddling your thumbs."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. The visitor sighed.
"Just the stuff you learned since you got here, you dolt," he said. "Not from memory. And don't you give me that look. I'm not the one constantly trying to destroy causality. I've got Rose and her little boyfriends to do that for me."
The Doctor gave a tired smile. "Adam?"
"I swear, that's the last time I let her drag those pretty boys into the…" he stopped, looked back to the camera, then back at the Doctor. "Anyways."
The Doctor began talking a mile a minute, carefully outlining the security system, the prison routines, the guard shifts, and everything else needed for a well done heist. "Just you," added the Doctor. "I don't want to bring Rose into any of this."
"Just me, no Rose," agreed the visitor. "Got it."
"And don't try to hide the key around the prison or leave it for me to find later on," said the Doctor. "I just want that key out of this time zone as fast as possible. I have another way in, but it only works for me. I think it's better that way."
"Fine," said the visitor. "Is that all?"
The Doctor faltered. Then he whispered, "Tell Rose…" he stopped, and looked at the other man.
The man across the glass gave the Doctor a hard look. "I can't," he said.
The Doctor looked down. "I know."
"Not just for the sake of causality," added the visitor. He hesitated. "For Rose. I can't." He paused looking off in the distance for a moment, then back at the Doctor. "We told Charley," he said, so quiet that the microphones almost didn't pick it up.
"Yes," said the Doctor, and his voice was so sad, and lost, for a moment he sounded like a little boy. "We told Charley."
The Doctor and the visitor just looked at each other for another moment, and then got up as if to leave. Before he got far, however, the visitor leaned over and picked up the phone, a wide grin on his face. The Doctor picked up his receiver.
"Oh, and Doctor?" said the visitor with a cheeky grin. "They do say that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness!"
The Doctor started yelling incoherently at the other man as the visitor dropped the receiver and strode out of the room. The Doctor just looked after him, hung up the receiver, and muttered something that sounded like, "well, that's always embarrassing."
Nick Stokes looked at Warrick expectantly. Warrick examined the empty screen. "That…"
"Yeah," said Nick.
"I know," said Nick.
"That's impossible," Warrick finally managed.
"They just planned a heist," said Warrick, "that took place three days before the conversation took place." He turned back to Nick. "The man—John Smith, the Doctor, whatever he's called—he said that they knew who he was, but they didn't know who the other guy was."
"Yeah, I noticed that, too," said Nick. "The visitor gave his name as Dr James McCrimmon."
"And there's no such person?" Warrick asked.
"Oh, there was," said Nick. "He died in 1746 in Scotland."
"So, not our guy," said Warrick.
"Nope," replied Nick.
Warrick paused a moment. "Hang on," he said. "Did you say his name was Doctor McCrimmon?"
Nick's eyes widened, as he realized where Warrick was heading. He dug out the copy of the prisoner file that Sara had found. He pointed at the familiar face on the page. "I knew he looked familiar, but I couldn't place him." Nick looked at all the other pictures. "So, you think this is some kind of gang of semi-professionals who call themselves Doctor?"
"Yeah, probably not," said Warrick. He pointed to the second picture, of an old man in a velvet coat. "That picture looks like it was taken in the early seventies," he said. "And he's maybe sixty years old. There's no way he's still around."
"His picture is crossed out," Nick pointed out. "In fact, all these pictures are crossed out except the last two. The two in that video."
"The last two alive?" Warrick asked.
"Seems the most plausible answer," said Nick. Suddenly, he started. "Hang on a second." He turned the page, looked at the Doctor's Body Count. "They kept talking about someone named Rose, didn't they?" He tapped his finger on the page, where, in the warden's handwriting, was the name Rose Tyler. "Think it's the same person?"
"I'll bet it is," said Warrick.
Nick and Warrick looked at one another. "Check the database for a missing persons report," said Nick. "Rose Tyler. Three months ago she was still alive."
They both went off to their computers to search. Warrick found Rose Tyler about an hour later. He frowned. "She's not dead," he said to Nick.
He clicked on the link. "English. Lives in London with her mother, Jackie Tyler. Not dead, not even missing."
Nick checked his watch. "Eight hour time difference. Call the number listed and ask for Rose Tyler. Give her a description of our vic, and his mysterious visitor. See what she knows."
Sara hesitated before she walked into Grissom's office. She had seen him enough to know his moods, and she could see when something wasn't right. He was playing one of the cassette tapes they had picked up from the prison. It appeared that at first, he had been taking notes, but at some point he'd clearly given up the endeavor, as he now had his face buried in his hands. She gave a little knock on the door.
He looked up, stopped the tape, but the moment Sara saw his face, she knew her supposition had been right. He looked nauseous, upset, and his eyes had a terrible, haunted look of pain. He gave her a forced smile and told her to come in.
"Are you all right?" she asked, sitting at his desk.
He shook his head, looking at the tapes. "I don't think he was being paranoid," said Grissom. He hesitated, then looked up at her. "I think he was tortured."
Sara didn't say anything. She just stared at Grissom. She could feel that terrible sense of guilt gnawing at her insides again, that little voice that told her, 'you sent him there. You sent him to that fate.'
"The tapes are for us," said Grissom. "He figured that out right at the very beginning. He keeps trying to provoke the other people in the room so that they'll hurt him on tape. Presumably to give us proof."
Sara looked down at her hands, where she held the paper that Grissom had requested. She put it on his desk. "I got that transcript you asked for," she said.
Grissom gave her another sad smile. He took the transcript from her and examined it, his brow furrowing. Then he sighed. "Yes, that's pretty much what I thought." He looked at Sara. "As I recall, your assessment of our Dr Smith was…"
"Hang on," said Sara. "Doctor?"
Grissom gave a small shrug. "I don't know what his name really is," he said. "But the 'Doctor' part at least stays constant. Especially when Dr Bradshaw loses his temper. Then he just skips the pseudonym all together and merely addresses the vic as Doctor."
"Okay," said Sara. "I think I understand that."
Grissom nodded. "As I was saying, your assessment of Dr Smith appeared to be that he was criminally insane, is that correct?"
"That's what I thought," Sara said. She hesitated. "Why?"
Grissom ignored her, continuing on his train of thought. "It also appears that you thought that you were the one interrogating Dr Smith."
Now Sara really did pause. She examined Grissom's face, for some indication of where this could possibly be headed. "Are… yes, yes, I did." She cleared her throat. "I mean, I was. Definitely. I remember."
"Well," said Grissom, putting the transcript back down on his desk. "I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you weren't."
"You weren't the one interrogating him," said Grissom, indicating the transcript. "He was the one interrogating you."
"That can't be right." Sara grabbed the transcript back and started skimming over the text. She couldn't see it. As far as she could tell, she had been asking Dr Smith logical, straightforward questions, and he had replied with complete jibberish.
Grissom ejected the tape he had been listening to, selected another one, and put it in the player. "At the time, I didn't notice," he said, "because every time he tested you, you gave him the right answers. It was only when I heard someone giving him the wrong answers that the technique became obvious." He looked at her. "Verity was right. That whole crazy rambling thing was all an act. The man wasn't insane, Sara. He was acting insane to get information."
Grissom played the recording.
Sara could hear a deep voice with a Midwestern accent introducing himself as Dr Bradshaw. He gave the date and time and explained that this was John Smith's first therapy session. He then cleared his throat, and continued.
"John Smith, how are you feeling?"
The answer was given in a cheerful British accent, the same voice Sara remembered from the last time that she had heard it. "Oh, I'm just peachy! Peaches and cream, as they say. Or should it be apple pies and cricket, this being America and all. Love your cricket, don't you."
Sara looked back at Grissom as if to say, "See? Crazy." Grissom pointed to her transcript, where she read nearly the same thing.
JS: But all you Americans think of is cricket and apple pie.
JS: I'm sorry?
Sara: Baseball. We don't play Cricket.
She heard Dr Bradshaw's voice over the tape. "I heard you had a panic attack in the cafeteria. Do you believe that we are trying to kill you?"
Sara paused the tape. "Wait a minute, wait a minute," she said. "That just… I mean…"
"As I said," Grissom told her. "You got the answer right. Apparently, Dr Bradshaw got it wrong."
"But how can anyone not know that?" asked Sara. "I mean, he must have just been humoring Smith."
Grissom rewound the tape a little, and pressed play again.
"Do you believe we are trying to kill you?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"Oh, certainly not," chirped the British voice. "Well, perhaps. A bit. Maybe. I'm actually rather under the impression that you intended to threaten me."
"What leads you to that conclusion?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"Well," said the Englishman. "There's the fact that you seem to have dosed all of my food and water with a substance that I personally find highly poisonous. Then there's the fact that every time I set foot anywhere in this prison, the cameras mysteriously malfunction. Oh, and I suppose the most obvious thing, which I'm assuming you failed to mention for a reason, is the fact that as I'm speaking to you, I appear to be surrounded by five armed guards pointing loaded rifles at my head. I'm assuming they are loaded? No blanks?" He paused a moment. "Really, I mean, I know I have a reputation and all, but I hardly think I'm the one being paranoid here."
"And what reputation do you believe you have, Doctor?"
The British voice took in a sharp breath. "Well, I am an insufferable namedropper. There's nothing quite like dropping in on famous historical figures and having tea with them—well, not tea, I guess. Threw that into the Boston Harbor in 1263. But you get the point. Had a great discussion about tea with Thomas Jefferson while he crossed the Delaware. You remember learning that in school? I think all Americans learn about that in school."
"Of course," said Dr Bradshaw, "you know you weren't really at the Boston Tea Party. As you said, it took place in 1263."
Grissom paused the tape this time. "Do you see what I mean?"
Sara was beginning to understand. She looked at her own transcript, where the obnoxious British man had informed her that he had been present at the signing of the declaration of independence in 1764. She looked back up at Grissom. "It's a test," she said.
"Exactly," said Grissom. "As far as I can tell, he's trying to work out if you are the person you claim to be. And it appears that Dr Bradshaw isn't really Dr Bradshaw."
"That's what he meant on those tapes we found throughout the prison," said Sara. "He said not to trust anyone. That people weren't what they seemed."
Grissom fast-forwarded through the tape, pressing play and then skipping again to try and find his place. When he had targeted the next section he wished to play, he gestured for Sara to listen, and started the tape again.
"Of course," chimed the British voice, "haven't been Merlin yet. Still got Excaliber somewhere in my piles of junk—I'm hoping that one day I'll pop my head out and find a medieval English countryside instead of coming face-to-face with an Harpinson Seventeen."
"Do you have some sort of fascination with musical instruments?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"You know," said the British voice, but he was not chirping this time. In fact, his voice sounded almost pensive. "I do find a lot of things fascinating. I find it fascinating that you seem completely unaware of the Arthurian legends, but somehow know the name of a famous instrument created in the 32nd century. I find it interesting that you believe I've been solving complex equations on the prison walls when everyone else I've asked has told me in no uncertain terms that they are meaningless squiggles. But you know what I find most fascinating? I find it utterly baffling that the moment I was arrested, I was immediately asked for my sonic screwdriver, despite the fact that I have it on good authority from the folks at the crime lab that there is no such thing and only a madman would dream of such an item." On this last sentence, his voice turned low and angry. "So if you could please drop this charade and tell me who you are, I would very much appreciate it. After all, you clearly know far too much about me."
"My name is Dr Bradshaw," said Dr Bradshaw.
"Oh, really?" said the Brit . "Just an American Midwesterner who doesn't know about baseball and apple pie? Who has no idea about the Boston Tea Party or George Washington crossing the Delaware? A simple man who believes that the current president is Bruce Wayne and that elections only occur once every twenty years? I've talked to a lot of humans, and I've talked to a lot of Americans, and you are certainly neither. So stop all this nonsense and tell me who you are."
Dr Bradshaw didn't say anything for a moment. But when he began speaking again, he didn't sound rattled or shaken by the previous demand. "Mr. Smith," he said, "since you clearly believe what you say, I can only assume you have some severe mental instability, which I'm sure I can help you to work through in the future. But unfortunately, it appears that we've run out of time for this session."
Suddenly, the sound of five guns cocking at the same time rung out from the tape. Sara stared at Grissom, as a rather hesitant British voice said, "Oh. So I guess this means I'm not leaving yet."
"No, Doctor," said Dr Bradshaw. "Certainly not."
The recording ended.
Sara just kept staring at Grissom, not quite sure what to say. After a long moment, she finally found her voice. "What… what happened?"
Grissom turned over the tape, and pressed the play button again.
Dr Bradshaw's voice came over the speaker, once more giving the date and time, and an account of his patient, which appeared to be interrupted by bitter laughter. Dr Bradshaw ignored the laughter, instead continuing with his questions.
"Dr Smith," he said, "yesterday you told me that you believed that we were trying to hurt you."
"Oh yes," came the British voice, but he did not sound upbeat or chirpy. The voice was tired, worn out, scratchy along the edges. It came with a sort of cold, resigned bitterness. "I have to admit, though, I was expecting you to try to disprove it. It appears you took the other approach."
"Do you feel trapped, Doctor?" asked Dr Bradshaw, almost smugly.
"That's your way of gloating at me, is it?" the British voice asked. "That's your way of telling me that you've succeeded where hundreds of others have failed? The poor, helpless Doctor, tied to a bed, being treated to a rather unpleasant bout of electroshock therapy." He gave a few labored breaths, and then said, in a gentler voice, "I can help you, Bradshaw."
"Do you think I need help, Doctor?"
"I know you need help," the British man replied. "I can feel it in the air. It's that bitter taste of time being all tangled up and frayed at the edges. You're bleeding it, spreading it like an infection. I'm the only one who can help you. Just tell me what's wrong."
Sara was the one who turned off the tape. She couldn't stand it anymore. "I…" she said.
"It wasn't you," said Grissom, but she wasn't listening.
"I put him there," said Sara. "That was my case. I thought he was guilty. And maybe he was, and maybe he wasn't. But I didn't want that to happen."
"This wasn't your fault, Sara," said Grissom. "Smith didn't blame you. I don't blame you. You have to stop blaming yourself."
Sara considered this for a moment. She recalled that cheerful British voice on the recording she found in Verity's office, talking about the guilt eating away at everything inside. He was right. She had to let it go. She swallowed, and asked, "Are all the tapes like that?"
Grissom fast forwarded the tape to the end, ejected it, and filed it away with the others. "Variations on a theme," said Grissom. "Every time, Dr Bradshaw asks him the same question: 'Do you feel trapped?' And every time, the vic sounds worse and worse."
Sara thought about all the people on that list. All the people this man had apparently murdered. And she asked the only question she could think of. "Does he deserve it?"
Grissom contemplated the question for a long time. "Dr Bradshaw asked him that too," he said. "That's another one of those questions that keeps coming up. And Smith always gives the same answer." He looked at Sara, sorrow in his eyes. "He says yes, but not from you."
Warrick Brown, meanwhile, was preparing to speak to the mysterious Rose Tyler, who appeared to be very much alive despite the fact that they had arrested her murderer. Nick Stokes sat beside him, the speaker phone on the table in front of them. The phone rang five times, before a young woman's voice answered, "Hello?"
"Hello, this is Warrick Brown, I'm with the Las Vegas police department. I'm here with Nick Stokes. May we please speak to Rose Tyler?"
There was a shout in the background, and the woman put her hand over the phone. "Mum, it's the police. I don't know what they want, they sound American. Well, how the bloody hell should I know? It's not like I've ever been out of the country." She then spoke back into the receiver. "Yeah, Rose Tyler, that's me."
Warrick looked over at Nick. Neither of them had really expected to speak to her. Warrick continued in a steady voice. "Miss Tyler, it appears that you took a trip to Las Vegas three months ago?"
Rose laughed. "Um, three months ago I was in school. I'm pretty sure they'd know if I skipped out to go to Las Vegas."
"In school," said Warrick. "In London."
"Yeah," said Rose. "Never been to Las Vegas."
Nick leaned over to talk more directly into the speaker phone. "Miss Tyler? Nick Stokes. It is very important that you tell us if you've been in contact with a tall man, looks to be in his forties, no hair, big ears, with a northern accent."
Rose appeared to give this some thought. "I don't think so," she said. "Hang on." She shouted, "Mum! You been seeing any guys, mid forties, bald, northern accent?"
An incomprehensible yell back seemed to answer her question. "Yeah," said Rose. "We haven't seen him. Why? Did he mention me?"
"We just think that you should be careful," said Warrick. "We think you might be in a certain amount of danger."
"How about a very tall, thin man, early thirties, wiry frame, brown eyes, spiky hair, calling himself the Doctor?" asked Nick.
"No," said Rose immediately. She giggled a little bit. "Not sure why you think I've got tons of men around me all the time."
"In all honesty, Miss Tyler," Warrick said, "this really isn't a joke. We think you might be in serious danger."
Across the room, the door opened and Sara stuck her head in. She looked upset, her mouth in a frown, her eyes curious. "Ask her if she knows what a Sonic Screwdriver is."
Warrick and Nick looked at one another. Nick coughed. "I'm sorry to bother you again, Miss Tyler. But do you have any idea what a Sonic Screwdriver is?"
"Um," said Rose. "Orange juice and vodka? No, wait, that's just a screwdriver." She paused, then shouted, "Mum! What's in a Sonic Screwdriver?" Once again came the indecipherable shouting. Rose got back to them, "yeah, we're pretty sure they don't have that in London. But Mum thinks it's just like a normal screwdriver with lemon."
Sara shook her head. "She doesn't know anything, you guys," she said. "Wrap it up." And closed the door.
"We're sorry to waste your time, Miss Tyler," said Warrick. "Thank you very much for answering our questions."
"Yeah, no problem," said Rose. "And I'll be on the lookout for creepy men with northern accents and sonic screwdrivers."
Of course, two years later, Rose would forget the entire conversation.
"So this is what the tapes are for," said the Doctor. "They're for the police to find when my body is on the autopsy table."
"Do you think that there is someone trying to murder you?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"You, apparently," said the Doctor. "At first I thought you just wanted to get into the Tardis, but I'm pretty sure that choking me for three hours was not a method of extracting information."
"We are trying to keep you hydrated and fed, Dr Smith," said Dr Bradshaw. "If you would eat voluntarily, your life would be far easier."
"Or maybe," said the Doctor, "you aren't trying to kill me. Maybe you're just curious. Never seen an alien before, want to see how I tick. How long I can go without air. How much poison you need to pump through my body before I go into cardiac arrest."
"Are you telling me that you are an illegal alien, Dr Smith?" Dr Bradshaw asked.
"Oh, I'm sure you know that," said the Doctor. "Illegal alien. In every sense of the term. Just your own personal lab rat."
There was a pause. Then, quietly, "Do you deserve it, Doctor? Don't you think you deserve it? For Gallifrey?"
The Doctor said nothing for a long time. "Yes," he said. "But not from you."
Nick gave a triumphant, "ha!" when he found Sarah Jane Smith on the computer. "Found her. Sarah Jane Smith. Independent journalist, living in London." He checked his watch. "I don't think we'll wake her up if we call right now."
Warrick hesitated. "You know," he said. "The vic did leave us that message knowing we'd contact her. You don't think it's some kind of trick?"
Nick considered this. "Probably," he admitted. "But I'd say we hunt down every lead we have so we can figure out a little more about who this Dr Smith really is and why it is that all the people on his body count list are either still alive, or died about a hundred years ago."
Warrick considered this, and decided it made a certain sort of sense. He was still a bit baffled that Rose Tyler had been unable to tell them anything useful. After all, she clearly knew the vic, and she clearly knew the vic's friend. That much had been obvious from the surveillance footage. But Sara had told them that if she didn't know what a 'sonic screwdriver' was, she didn't know anything.
"I think it's a sort of codeword," Sara had explained to them. "It's certainly the reason he told us to be weary of the police. When I mentioned it to them just now, they clearly recognized the term. I think it's like, if you know what a 'sonic screwdriver' is, it means you know who the Doctor is. And since I haven't a clue about the screwdriver, I guess that told him something."
So they called up Sarah Jane Smith on the speaker phone and waited as the phone rang. Nick checked his watch again. They were calling fairly late, considering the time difference, so he wouldn't be surprised if she didn't pick up.
He didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until he released it when a woman's voice answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello, this is Warrick Brown and Nick Stokes with the Las Vegas crime lab, and we were hoping to speak to Sarah Jane Smith."
"Speaking," the voice on the other end replied. It was an elegant, deep voice, with a clear English accent. Not that either of them had expected any different from someone who lived in London. "I'm sorry," said Sarah Jane. "Did you say you were calling from Las Vegas? From the United States?"
"That's correct, Ma'am," said Warrick.
On the other end of the phone, Sarah Jane gave a small sigh. "I don't suppose this is about a man in oddly dressed clothing who chases trouble, speaks nonsense, constantly bombards strangers with offers of jelly babies and stubbornly insists that his name is just 'the Doctor'?"
Warrick and Nick looked at each other. "Yes," said Warrick carefully. "I assume this means that you know him."
"Listen," said Sarah Jane. "I know why you're calling, and trust me, you've got the wrong man. The Doctor wouldn't harm a fly. In fact, if he's around, he's probably trying to save the world, and all you're doing by locking him up is making his job more difficult. I've got sources, people you can call. Authorities. Just keep in mind that if the Doctor's shown up, that means things are really, really bad."
Nick cleared his throat. "Actually," he said softly, "I think you've misunderstood. The murder we're investigating… your friend isn't a suspect. He's the victim."
"You mean he's dead?" Sarah Jane asked. She didn't seem upset. She just sounded a little annoyed. "Well, that's just ridiculous. Just wait a while. You'll see."
"I'm sorry," said Warrick, "but your friend is definitely dead. His body is in the morgue, and we checked all his vitals. His heart has stopped, his breathing has stopped, his body is cold. He is definitely dead."
"How long has it been?" demanded Sarah Jane. "When did he die? How long did you wait?"
Nick checked the clock. "Nearly 12 hours," he said.
Sarah Jane gave a sudden sharp intake of breath. "His body!" she cried. "His body. It was stolen, wasn't it? That's why you're calling. He was in the morgue but then his body was stolen and you're trying to figure out who took it."
Warrick and Nick exchanged another look. They had heard people desperate not to believe that their friends and family were actually dead, but they really were not expecting it to go this far. "His body is still in the morgue," said Warrick. "We're legally required to perform an autopsy in these situations. I'm very sorry for your loss."
Sarah Jane said nothing for a moment. "His body is still there," she said in a much quieter voice, "looking exactly the same as when you last saw him?"
"Yes," said Warrick.
"He hasn't just… turned into someone else and walked off?" Sarah Jane asked.
"No," said Warrick.
Sarah Jane paused, and for those precious few seconds, Warrick and Nick thought they might have finally gotten through to her.
"Then it's not him," said Sarah Jane. "If he didn't regenerate, it's not him. You've got the wrong guy. It isn't him!"
"Does the phrase 'sonic screwdriver' mean anything to you?" Warrick prompted.
"So he stole the Doctor's screwdriver!" Sara nearly screamed at them. "That doesn't make him the Doctor. Because the Doctor isn't dead. I'd know if he was dead, and he isn't. He can't be."
"If it helps," Nick told her, "he left you a message."
Warrick gave him a questioning look. He wasn't really sure this was a good idea. But Nick seemed set on it. He took out the tape, popped it into a tape player, and played it for Sarah Jane.
By the end, they could both hear her sobbing. They knew then that they'd gotten through to her. Something in that message must have proven to her beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was really gone. They kept trying to offer her words of comfort, but she didn't seem to hear.
When at last the sobs had subsided, she finally managed to ask, "where's the Tardis?"
"The what?" asked Warrick.
"The Tardis—the blue box he told you to take care of," said Sarah Jane. "Where is it?"
"We didn't find it," said Warrick. "It was gone when we got there."
Sarah Jane gave a small sniffle, but then seemed to pull herself together. "I want to speak to Sara Sidle," said Sarah Jane. "Alone."
Nick and Warrick exchanged glances once again, but Nick reluctantly got up and went over to the door. "I'll see what I can do."
After he left, Warrick kept prodding Sarah Jane for information, but she was stubborn. "I'm only talking to Sara Sidle," said Sarah Jane. "The Doctor said he trusted her, and I trust the Doctor. As far as I know, she's the only one of you who isn't some evil bug-eyed alien trying to take over the world."
Before Warrick could figure out what she meant by this, Sara entered the room. He got up, and offered Sara the seat in front of the speaker phone. She took it, graciously.
"Hello, Miss Smith?" she said. "This is Sara Sidle from the Las Vegas crime lab. I was told that you wanted to speak with me?"
"Are the others out of the room?" asked Sarah Jane.
Sara Sidle looked at Warrick and Nick, who were still hovering over her. She made shooing gestures at them until they buggered off. When the door closed, she turned back to the speaker phone. "Yes," she said. "Now we're alone."
"Keeping things between us Saras," said Sarah Jane. She gave a sad sigh. "Look, if the Doctor's dead, and he left you a message, he did it for a reason. There's something terrible going on, Sara, otherwise he wouldn't be here. He only shows up to stop terrible things from happening. It's what he does. I heard the message he left you, and I think I know what I'm supposed to tell you."
"You think he set this all up just to get me to do something?" asked Sara.
"I know he did," said Sarah Jane. "Listen, Sara. You've got to find the Tardis. There's something very, very bad out there, and it wants the Tardis. I don't know why he downplayed it on the recording—I guess he thought someone was listening. But find the Tardis and guard it with your life."
"The blue box," said Sarah Jane. "It's a police box from the 1960's. Someone's taken it, and like he says, whatever they want it for isn't good."
"I'm confused," admitted Sara. "If he's just trying to manipulate us, why should I try to do what he says?"
"Because he's the good guy," Sarah Jane told her. "I know you probably think he's crazy, but he's not. He has a list of enemies about a mile long because he doesn't believe in killing people, no matter how evil they are. And I've seen him. I was there, when he was asked to destroy the beginnings of the most evil race of creatures in existence. He couldn't do it. He's a good person, and you have to trust him, or else everyone on this planet is going to die."
"What… how…" Sara couldn't form her thoughts into a question. This whole case seemed really familiar, but she couldn't put her finger on how or why. "Who are you?"
Sarah Jane gave the other Sara a brief rundown of her history with the Doctor. "And I know you don't believe me," said Sarah Jane, "but you will as soon as you start questioning the people around you. I think you're dealing with some sort of mind parasite. They get inside your head and control you, and the longer they're inside, the less of you there is left. As soon as they figure out that you're working for the Doctor, they'll try to get you, too. In fact, they may have already gotten into the people closest to you."
"Wait, hold on a second," said Sara. "You sent Warrick and Nick out of the room… are you saying…?"
"Don't trust anyone," Sarah Jane told her. "Don't trust the people you know, don't trust your friends, your family, anyone. The Doctor—he had all these little tricks he used to use to figure out whether people were really themselves or not. I wish I could remember them."
"I remember," said Sara. "He used those tricks on me. Kept quizzing me on history and common idioms."
"Yes," said Sarah Jane. "Do that. Make sure that the people are who they say they are. Just do what the Doctor says, and stay in groups. I don't know why, but I'm sure he had a reason."
Sara considered this. "Would you be willing to come out and identify the body?"
Sarah Jane laughed. "I couldn't if I tried," she said. "He looks different every time I see him. But I'll tell you what. Open him up and look inside. If he's the Doctor, you'll know, because he won't look human. He won't look human at all."
Sara was able to work out fairly quickly that Nick and Warrick were just the same as always. She'd told Nick to check with Greg at trace for the test results, to which Nick had just said, "a little early for April fool's, don't you think?"
She found Warrick a little later trying to sort out a gambling debt, and began to accuse him of losing money at "the Tangerine", a casino she had just made up off the top of her head. Warrick caught it immediately, and was in the middle of giving her a mouthful, when she just smiled and walked off.
Grissom was more worrisome. When Sarah Jane had first warned her about trusting her friends, Sara's first thought had been Grissom. Grissom was a man who knew his literature, inside and out, and she suspected he took a certain pleasure in pointing out literary allusions so he'd sound smart. She remembered when they had been down in the basement, listening to that British voice recite the line from Hamlet about being crazy "north-north-west". She had looked over at Grissom, but he hadn't said anything. Hadn't pointed it out, hadn't told her the play or the act or the line number. She thought she saw a hint of a smile on his face, but could that have been her imagination? Grissom did seem to know more about the vic than anyone else. Was that knowledge only gathered from those tapes?
Sara knew she had to be careful. Grissom had been the one to point out the Doctor's interrogation technique to her, after all. Grissom would be expecting her to question him. And if, somehow, he wasn't the person he seemed to be, the moment she began to question him, he'd know. He'd know exactly what she was doing, and that she had found him out. And she had a feeling that might not go so well.
Not that she actually believed any of this, she told herself. Not that she actually thought that John Smith was actually trying to save the world from inside of a prison cell or that he really did have some terrible weapon that he kept locked up in a phone box. And there was certainly no way that the vic was an alien. She'd heard enough cock and bull stories to know one when she heard one.
It was just like back in San Francisco, when she worked on the Case that Never Ended.
Stop listening to all this craziness and consider the evidence, she told herself. The evidence doesn't lie—that's what Grissom always says. So she considered the evidence. And started getting paranoid again. After all, she'd heard Dr Bradshaw on that tape, claiming that excaliber was a musical instrument and that the Boston Tea Party had happened in the Middle Ages. She'd heard him accepting made up historical events as if they were common knowledge. Sara didn't have an explanation for that. Maybe that was why her heart skipped a beat with every step she took towards Grissom's office. Maybe that was why she still had that horrible thought that maybe Grissom was not Grissom—that maybe the real Grissom was…
Don't say it.
She went over to Grissom's office, where he was listening to one of the tapes while staring at the fetal pig he kept on his desk. That was good. That was in character. She gave a knock on the door and he jumped a little, turning off the tape and ushering her over to his desk.
"Sara," he said with that familiar warmth he used whenever he addressed her. She looked deep into his eyes and knew that for the sake of her sanity, she really, really needed this to be him.
"Yes," she said in an overly cheerful voice. "Just got off the phone with Sarah Jane Smith. Pretty sure she knew our vic, but she didn't really give me any new information. Warrick and Nick are bringing in Joe Trudge for questioning, but until they get back, I'm free for whatever else needs to be done, so… lead on, Macduff!"
Grissom gave an exasperated sigh. "Sara," he said in that lecturing tone, "I've told you a hundred times that Shakespeare never wrote that. It's 'lay on', not 'lead on'. 'Lead on' hardly makes any sense in context. He's asking the man to strike him through with a sword, not asking the man to follow him to a fancy dress party." He paused. "And since when did you ask me what to do next in a case anyways? Are you sure that you're feeling all right? Do you need some time off?"
Sara slammed the door shut, and sank down in the chair in front of Grissom's desk. "No, I'm not all right," she admitted. "I'm not all right at all. I think I'm turning paranoid. I was so sure you weren't really Gil. I really thought…" she trailed off, and looked into his eyes. "That conversation with Sarah Jane Smith sort of freaked me out. She kept telling me things like I'm the only one who's really me and I can't trust anyone. And I just kept thinking about what you said and what the vic said and it just got all mixed up."
Grissom was about to say something in response, when the door opened, and Catherine Willows poked her head in. "I've pretty much finished up that theft case I was working on. Seems like the rest of you are pretty busy. Want me to help lighten the load?"
Grissom gave her a warm smile. "Well, you know what they say. All work and no play makes Clint Eastwood a dull boy."
Catherine looked disappointed. "So you're saying you've got it under control?"
"We're just fine," said Grissom. "Just awaiting the autopsy report. Nothing you could contribute. Best if you just turned in early. Besides, I know you've been worried about Lindsey all week."
Catherine didn't even seem to acknowledge the fact that Grissom had mentioned her daughter, which was odd, considering how worried Catherine had been about Lindsey a few days ago. Sara had tried to sooth her for nearly an hour whilst Catherine lamented that Lindsey was failing math and was falling in with the wrong crowd and all sorts of other typical parental concerns. Now, Catherine just seemed disappointed that she couldn't get to work on their case.
"Well, keep me up to date," she said, and left the room.
Sara turned back to Grissom, who gave her a pointed look.
"Not paranoid," said Grissom. "Just cautious."
"That wasn't Catherine," said Sara. "Catherine… Gil, what's happened to Catherine?"
"I really don't know," said Grissom. "But I think you're right to be careful, Sara. There's something bad going on here, and I can't work out what it is."
Sara could feel her limbs shaking. She had a terrible feeling that she was in way over her head.
"Oh, and Sara," said Grissom. "Make sure that Nick and Warrick know not to pass on any case information to Catherine. Just… find some excuse. You're good at that."
"You're an anomaly," said the Doctor. "Like me. You come from nowhere and go to nowhere. No, it's worse than that. You're… an echo. A ghost."
"Do you encounter many ghosts, Doctor?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"Ghosts, magic, all indistinguishable from technology," said the Doctor. His voice sounded strained, as if he were fighting to stay conscious.
"I think you saw a ghost two months ago," said Dr Bradshaw. "Didn't you, Doctor?"
"Ah," said the Doctor. "Worked that one out on your own, did you? Guess I shouldn't have been so worried about you finding out who he was."
"As far as I can count, you appear to have nine ghosts haunting you," said Dr Bradshaw.
"I think you're a few off," said the Doctor. "You might want to consider that before you try to kill me again. After all, I might be lucky number thirteen."
"Or number ten," said Dr Bradshaw.
The Doctor paused. "Are you sure about that?"
"Oh yes," said Dr Bradshaw. "I'm sure." He paused a moment. "Do you feel trapped, Dr Smith?"
"I'm not sure," said the Doctor. "Ask me in a few hours, maybe I'll have an answer then."
Grissom was still listening to the tapes after Sara left. Sara had insisted on staying in the office with him until Warrick and Nick got back, and it was obvious that the more she listened, the more responsible she felt. It was easy to understand why. The Doctor's voice was growing wearier with every flip of the tape, as he kept pleading with Dr Bradshaw to 'please, please, let me help you'.
"He doesn't sound like a murderer," said Sara. "And Sarah Jane was so sure that he was one of the good guys."
"He's certainly a murderer," Grissom told her. "He's all but admitted it on tape. Remember Lady Macbeth, who claimed to 'look like the innocent flower', while she was, in fact, 'the serpent under't.'" Grissom stared absently at the fetal pig on his desk. "People aren't what they seem." He considered what he had just said. "Nothing is what it seems," he amended.
He couldn't shake the feeling that this whole thing seemed contrived. Convenient. The tapes that just happened to click off while they were investigating a room. The messages telling them what to think and who to trust and what to do. That script the prisoners seemed to follow whenever they were questioned. Verity Cordman dying after she kept insisting that the Doctor wasn't real.
But the Doctor was real, wasn't he? After all, they heard his voice on the tapes. They saw his handwriting scribbled across the walls of his cell. They had his body in the morgue.
Sara was long gone when Greg visited his office. Grissom tried to give him a smile, but in his current mood it came out as more of a grimace. "Greg," he said. "Did you get those machines working?"
"Not yet. But I got your trace results right here," said Greg, waving a packet of papers in his hand. "There's definitely aspirin in the water and the food. And I'm guessing if your vic was allergic to aspirin, he probably would have avoided them. On the other hand, those IV drips you found in the medical center?" Greg put the results on Grissom's desk. "Those were definitely poison."
Grissom couldn't say he was surprised. "Really," he said, but he clearly wasn't expecting an answer.
"Oh yeah," said Greg. "Everything from cyanide to mercury. Pretty sure most good hospitals don't put cyanide into the saline solution."
Grissom flipped through the lab results. "Well," he said. "I suppose that's something." He was interrupted by a phone call. He picked up the receiver. "Grissom."
"Grissom, this is Robbins," came the voice. "I'm about to begin the autopsy on your vic, John Smith. But I thought I should call because… well, several things."
Grissom waited for Al Robbins to continue. The man hesitated, but went on.
"It's been nearly twenty-four hours now," said Robbins, "you'd expect some sort of rigor mortis to set in. But, well, there's nothing."
"I'm sorry?" said Grissom.
"I mean he's cold to the touch, but other than that… it's like he was just murdered. No, it's like he's sleeping."
"Is he breathing?" asked Grissom.
"No," said Robbins. "No signs of life. Just… well, no signs of death, either." He paused. "And that's the other thing. I remember this body when we picked it up from the crime scene. We have photos of all the scars and the knife wounds and the marks around the neck. And… they don't look the same anymore."
"The bruises around the neck look… maybe a few weeks old now? And the cuts have scabbed over. And there's this paste all around the skin. I took some samples, but I have no idea what it is."
"I'll be there in about a half hour. Can you wait for me before you begin the autopsy?"
"Can do," said Robbins.
Grissom hung up the phone. He had a terrible feeling that he was missing something very important, but he couldn't put his finger on what. He remembered what Verity Cordman had said before she died. How much of this case was real, and how much had been fabricated? And why?
"How are you feeling today, Doctor?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"I suppose 'electrifying' would be the best term after the past twenty-four hours," said the Doctor. "I'm assuming that now that we're on tape, you'll stop asking me questions I'm fairly certain you know the answers to, and will start asking me questions that make no sense."
"Do you think my questions make no sense?" said Dr Bradshaw.
"I think you make no sense," said the Doctor. "You need help. You need something I have. Talk to me. Tell me what's wrong. I can help you." He paused. "No, I didn't think that would work. It never does. I suppose I must be going mad."
"Why are you going mad?"
"Because I continue to do the same thing and expect different results," said the Doctor. He gave a sharp cough that sounded unhealthy and crusty. "I'll try something else," he said, his voice a little hoarser. "Do whatever you want to me, but please let these poor people go."
"You want me to release the prisoners back onto the streets?" asked Dr Bradshaw. "You do have a reputation for optimism and faith in human goodness, but this is beyond ridiculous."
"You know who I mean," said the Doctor. "These guards. The kitchen staff. Verity Cordman. The real Dr Bradshaw. You're whispering in their minds, changing around their thoughts. You're taking them over like they're just empty shells, you're squeezing the life out of them."
"Another one of your deluded fantasies, Mr. Smith?" Dr Bradshaw almost sneered. "Why do you think that Verity Cordman has changed? That any of these people have changed?"
"Because Verity Cordman lived in New York two years ago," the Doctor said. "And she's convinced that everything that happened in September occurred on August 14th. Because she thinks that the roadrunner is the national bird and that the president rides around on Air Force 2. Because they all sound like you!" He gave another cough, this one sounding even more sick than the one before. "Just let them go," he wheezed.
"And Sammy?" asked Dr Bradshaw. "Do you want me to let Sammy go? Do you want me to let Sammy back on the streets?"
The Doctor didn't answer, just fell into a fit of coughing.
"I didn't think so," said Dr Bradshaw, with an air of smugness. "Do you feel trapped, Doctor?"
"Yes," admitted the Doctor. "For now."
Grissom was in the car when he heard the phone ring. He turned to Sara, asked her to answer. She did.
"Sidle," she said.
"It's Robbins," said the voice on the other end. He was panting, out of breath. "I… he… the body… I mean…"
"Slow down," said Sara. "What happened?"
"The vic," said Robbins, "he woke up!"
Sara suddenly had the most bizarre feeling that she'd had this conversation before. She almost didn't think before asking, "Does he look the same?"
"What do you mean, does he look the same?" Robbins asked. "Of course he looks the same. Do most dead people tend to get a complete makeover just before their autopsy?"
"I just thought… never mind," said Sara. She had this nagging feeling that this was all terribly familiar, just like that terrible case she'd covered three years back. She shook her head, as if that gesture would rid herself of the déjà vu. The last thing she wanted to do was to reawaken memories of that case. It was because of that case that she'd moved to Las Vegas. "Where is he now?"
"Out cold," said Robbins. "He tried to get up and walk over to me when he just collapsed. I checked his vitals. He's definitely breathing, but his heart is racing and his body temperature is very low."
"We'll be right there," said Sara. She closed the phone, and looked at Grissom.
"He woke up, didn't he?" asked Grissom.
"Yeah," said Sara. "How'd you work that one out?"
"Blood doesn't tend to congeal when you're dead," said Grissom.
Chapter 7: Part II
Enter the Doctor.
Al Robbins hobbled over to the body, a tape recorder in his hands. He had never been particularly mobile with two artificial legs, but he persisted with a determination he was sure few could match. Robbins clicked on the tape recorder, and began his preliminary examination. “The victim: John Smith. Time of death undetermined. Found in a dumpster outside of the maximum security prison. External lacerations to the stomach, apparently congealed since time of death.” He set the tape recorder down on the table beside the body, and hobbled a little closer. “Scarring seems to indicate presence of electrical burns, along with intense bruising around the trachea. Body appears to be covered in a fine powder of some sort, although its chemical makeup is unknown. Of course, the obvious anomaly is the failure of—”
Robbins suddenly cut off, and gave a sharp cry.
On the table in front of him, the vic had suddenly, without warning, opened his eyes.
He looked around, curious brown eyes taking in the entire room. “Morgue,” he said in a cheery but scratchy voice. “Brilliant!” He sat up, wiggling his fingers and toes and waving his arms around like he was testing them to make sure they still worked. “Not strapped down, not being threatened. Fantastic! Marvelous! Molto bene! I was sure that would work.” He paused, and scrunched up his face. “Well, ninety-five percent sure. Seventy-five. Actually more like twenty-five. Twenty-five percent chance I’d actually manage to make it out alive, fifty percent chance I’d never wake up again, and twenty-five percent chance they’d keep my body around hoping I’d regenerate.”
Robbins could hardly breathe, much less speak. He’d been sure the man was dead. He had been absolutely positive. And yet here he was, talking… to a living corpse.
“You…” Robbins managed to stutter. “You’re…”
“Dead?” prompted the no-longer-dead man. “No, not really. Just stopped the left heart, let the right one give an occasional spasm to get the blood to my brain, that way I could kick start the whole system into full operation again. Popped myself into a little mini healing coma, and here I am, right as rain!”
Robbins was sure he was hearing the man correctly, but the words the not-so-dead-man was saying made no sense to him. Robbins had only one question he really felt he could ask at this point.
“Who are you?”
The man beamed at him. “Oh, terribly sorry,” he apologized. “Being rude. Bad habit of mine.” He leapt off the table, now completely naked save for the tag on his big toe, but not appearing to notice. He stuck out his hand. “Hello. I’m the Doc…”
And without warning, the man collapsed onto the ground.
"Severe dehydration," was Grissom's assessment. He had his fingers against the unconscious man's wrist, taking his pulse. "And you're right, his pulse is abnormally high. I think he needs medical attention as soon as possible." He pulled out his phone and began to dial 911.
Sara, meanwhile, had gone right over to the freezer and checked the area where the corpse had been kept. "No signs of forced entry or exit," said Sara. She popped the drawer open, and shone the flashlight inside. "And no marks or other indications of distress from inside. Which means he probably didn't wake up until he was actually outside the freezer. I'd assume that anyone who woke up inside would probably be in a bit of a panic." She paused, thinking through the evidence at hand. "Unless it was all an act and he knew he'd wake up here." Her eyes darted back towards Grissom (who was finishing up his 911 call) and the not-so-dead-man on the floor. She sighed. "At least this one looks the same dead and alive," she muttered.
"It was not an act," Robbins insisted. "I'm not an amateur at this. I know a dead body when I see one. That man was definitely dead."
Sara began to head over to the bins of clothes that had been carefully catalogued and stored as evidence. She stopped herself. This time, she realized, she wouldn't find any missing clothes, because this time, the vic hadn't managed to run off.
"Let me guess," said Sara. "He was dead, completely, one hundred percent dead. And then he just woke up and started talking?"
"Yes," said Robbins. He looked at her suspiciously. "You seem remarkably calm about this."
"Would you imagine this is not the first time that I've investigated a man waking up in a morgue?" Sara asked.
Grissom put the cell phone away and looked at Sara with a bemused expression on his face. "Really?" he said, a hint of a laugh in his voice. Sara thought she saw a twinkle in his eye. "Would you care to enlighten us, Sidle?"
Sara rolled her eyes. "You remember three years ago, when you offered me this job, how eager I was to just drop everything and leave San Francisco?"
"Well," said Sara. "It was because of this one case. We called it the 'Case that Never Ends'. It started off as just a normal…"
From across the room, Sara heard a sudden and loud "click."
Sara and Grissom started, looking at the autopsy table. There, lying neglected and apparently forgotten on the table, was Robbins' audio recorder. Sara could feel the grin spreading across her face, and she was sure Grissom had one on his face as well. They both dove towards the tape recorder, but Grissom got there first.
"You recorded it!" Sara said to Robbins.
"Well, of course I did," said Robbins. "I always record the autopsy reports. I'd just started the preliminary report when the man woke up."
"You know what this means?" Grissom asked Sara.
Sara nodded. "He wasn't dead when Robbins got him out of the freezer," she said.
"No, he wasn't," said Grissom. "But we knew that before. Remember? Congealed blood?" Grissom shook the tape recorder in his hand. "What this means is that our no-longer-vic was awake and aware of his surroundings from the moment that Robbins pulled him out. He was waiting for you to turn on that tape recorder; it was his cue to get up."
"He wasn't breathing when I called you," said Robbins. "No pulse, no breathing. I checked. Definitely dead."
"Just like the other guy," said Sara. "What do you think, Gil? Some sort of deep meditative state?"
By way of answer, Grissom rewound the tape a little and pressed play.
They listened as the incident played out before their ears. The moment they heard the no-longer-dead-man collapse, Grissom stopped the tape. He was looking at Sara, who had suddenly ducked down beside the unconscious man and put her ear against his chest. It looked like she was checking his heartbeat, but then she moved her ear over to the other side of the man's chest. Her eyes widened.
"Oh no," she said.
Robbins began plying her with questions, but Grissom just looked at her, urging her to go on with his eyes. She looked back at the unconscious man in her arms, and then at Grissom. And then, oddly enough, she laughed. "I came to Las Vegas to get away from the Case that Never Ends," she said. "And now, it's followed me here!" She began breathing heavily, and Grissom began to feel a bit worried for her health. "Oh, now it's all starting to make sense," she said. "Everything that Sarah Jane told me, the double heartbeat, the big blue box! Yes, it's all related. It's all the same!"
She jumped to her feet, and advanced towards Grissom. "The cover ups! The people babbling nonsense! The little clues everywhere that keep making things more complicated instead of making them simpler. And that word that Sarah Jane used—I knew I'd heard it before. Tardis. It's the same man, Grissom. This guy, the Doctor. It's exactly the same man!" Suddenly she grew serious, all the mirth draining from her face. "We can't take him to the hospital," she said. "That's what they did last time. That's what the whole thing was about. They thought it was a double exposure. They killed him."
Grissom held out his hands in surrender. "Hang on, hang on," he said. "Slow down, we can't make out what you're saying." He waited for Sara to take a few deep breaths. "Now," he said. "From the beginning. What happened in San Francisco, and what does it have to do with Dr Smith?"
"December 31, 1999," said Sara. "End of the millennium. I remember that. To put it simply, man with two hearts enters a hospital, gets killed, wakes up a little while later in the morgue looking completely different. Like, he died one man, was reborn another. Hospital tried to cover it up—that's why we were called in." She sighed, looking back at the unconscious man. "It's the same guy, Gil. I'm positive."
Robbins began to protest, but Grissom just leaned over and began to listen to the chest cavity himself. Sure enough, Sara was right. Strong heart beat on the left, strong heart beat on the right. Two hearts. He looked up at Sara. "How'd you work that one out?"
"He said it on the tape," said Sara. "Something about stopping one heart and keeping the other going. I knew it sounded familiar. I just knew it!"
"And he did the same thing in San Francisco?" Robbins asked. "Just woke up on the autopsy table?"
"More or less," said Sara. "Scared the mortician half to death, stole some clothes, and ran out of the hospital. The whole thing was just a big cover up for malpractice. They shredded all relevant documents, dumped his personal possessions, fired the doctor who'd performed the surgery, and pretended he never existed."
"Just like the prison," Grissom mused.
"Exactly!" said Sara.
"Out of curiosity, why did you call it the Case that Never Ends?" Grissom asked.
Sara rolled her eyes again. "Because every time we thought we had the whole thing wrapped up, little pieces would come up that didn't fit. Vandalism on an atomic clock. A police officer who claimed a man ran out of an ambulance, offered him a candy, then threatened to shoot himself in the head. A young Chinese-American kid who stole a bag of gold dust, then miraculously managed to escape from prison a week later."
"And you know these things are all connected how?" asked Grissom.
Sara could hear the sirens and ambulances approaching. She looked over at the poor, unconscious man on the floor—this man who kept nearly dying. She remembered how it felt, thinking she was to blame for his death. She couldn't let him die again. She knew she couldn't.
"Because all of these separate incidents revolved around one man," she said. She pointed at him. "That man!"
Grissom looked at her curiously. Paramedics began to swarm through the room, placing the man on a stretcher. Sara draped a cloth over his still naked body, and slipped the tag off of his big toe.
"You can't just die one man and wake up another," Grissom said. "It doesn't make sense."
"It does if you're an alien," said Sara. "And, yes, I know he looks human, but trust me, I heard from pretty much everyone I talked to last time. The guy's an alien and he has two hearts."
Grissom was still not clear exactly why this made sense to Sara, but she was watching the paramedics with something approaching panic in her eyes, and Grissom knew he had to let this drop, at least for now. He gave a sigh. "Sara," he said. "Go with Dr Smith. Make sure they don't kill him again. And if you can get some answers that make sense, I think it would help my sanity."
Sara was halfway out the door, when Grissom shouted, "Oh, and Sara!"
She turned around.
"Only peal-able fruit and only sealed bottles of water," said Grissom. "Make sure everything you give him is tamper-proof."
Sara gave a small but worried smile, and then ran off to follow the mysterious man.
Grissom watched Sara go, then turned back to Robbins. His eye caught the tape recorder still lying on the autopsy table. He picked it up, turning it over in his hands.
"Grissom," said Robbins. "I have the other autopsy reports here."
"Hm?" Grissom blinked. "Yes, yes, thank you. I'll have a look at them later."
"Is something wrong?" asked Robbins.
"I've just realized," said Grissom, "that nothing's what it seems. When you can arrange the time you die and the time you wake up, when you can sabotage all the cameras and leave secret messages everywhere…" Grissom put the tape recorder down on the table, scooped up the autopsy reports, and nearly ran back to his car.
He needed to listen to the last tape. The one they'd found in the tape recorder beside Sammy's body. Because if the Doctor could decide when he'd start living again, Grissom was betting the Doctor had been able to control when he died. And he was betting it was on tape.
Something about this wasn't real. Large portions of this case weren't real. And it was the Doctor who'd suddenly turned them into reality. Grissom didn't know what to believe and what not to believe, but he knew the Doctor had done this for a reason. And above all else, Grissom wanted to know why.
Sara Sidle had just gotten off the phone with Nick Stokes when she heard a small groan from the stretcher in front of her. She put the phone away and met the deep brown eyes of the man whose death she had been investigating for the last 24 hours. He looked around, and suddenly sat up, the sheet sliding down his body. "Where am I?"
Sara gently tugged the sheet back on so that he was decent—or as close to decent as he could get—and explained what had happened. She handed him a water bottle from her bag.
"Sealed," she said. "Grissom said only sealed water and peal-able fruit. I called my friend Nick from the crime lab—he's getting you some food."
"Ah," he said. "Only the fruit from the tree that the Emperor picks with his own hands." He took the water bottle from her, eyeing it carefully. "But you know, Livia still managed to poison her husband. Coated the figs in poison, while they were still on the tree. Never saw it myself, but Gallius Cerapticus swore to me it was the truth."
Sara wasn't sure what he was talking about, but she was sure that Grissom would know. She felt a little lost, and retreated back to her chair. "Am I supposed to be stepping in, here, to correct you?" she asked. "Because I honestly have no idea what you're going on about."
The man opened the top of the water bottle, sniffed it, licked the rim, then gave her a huge grin. "Ancient Rome, Emperor Augustus," he said, raising the bottle as if toasting her. He tilted his head back as he drank, draining half the bottle in one go. "Oh, that's lovely! Haven't had real water in… oh, months now." He gave her another smile, this one no longer so manic, but a sort of genuine, sincere smile that Sara had never seen before on his face. "Thank you," he said. Then he suddenly seemed to recall his surroundings, and looked back at her, and this time she could see fear in his eyes. "Look, Sara, we've got to get out of here. This whole… hospital thing… it's not a good idea. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's really rather a bad idea. Yes, bad, bad, bad, definitely bad." He peered ahead through the windshield. "The moment we hit traffic," he whispered, "you distract them while I jostle those doors open. We'll leap out and find some place to hide, lie low until the pressure's off."
Sara regarded his current state. "Yeah, no offense," she said. "But I'm pretty sure you're not going anywhere the way you are now."
The man looked down at himself, for the first time actually noticing that he was unclothed, and a blush came across his face. He looked back at Sara. "You wouldn't happen to have picked up some pants at the morgue?"
"So you really did just wake up in the morgue and steal someone else's clothing," she said. "I'm not sure if you knew this at the time, but that clothing isn't being kept around as donation items for Goodwill. They're evidence for cases that people like me are trying to solve. Although we never could figure out why you took that Victorian costume instead of any of the normal clothes."
The man in front of her suddenly looked apprehensive. He clutched the water bottle to his chest as if it were a teddy bear, and eyed Sara warily. "Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm Sara Sidle," Sara said, defiantly. "And you, apparently, have been the biggest thorn in my backside since I left San Francisco three years ago." She could feel all the irritation and frustration she had felt from three years back flooding through her system, and she couldn't help but vent. "Every case with you, I get the same thing. DNA evidence? Crashes the machinery. Motivation? None that I can find! Witnesses? They keep turning up, but every time you ask them a question, they just say, 'you wouldn't believe me.' And the trail of bodies that follows you around!"
The man looked down at his lap, with a theatrically sad look. Like a little boy who has just been thoroughly chastised and isn't sure how to get out of it. Good, Sara thought. He deserves it.
"I should slap you, you know," she said. "But since I'm strictly against violence of any kind, I don't think I will."
"You're not a mother, by any chance?" the Doctor asked her. "I always seem to get slapped by people's mothers. I can't figure out why."
Sara felt herself calm down. She actually began to feel a little bit embarrassed about her sudden outburst, though probably not nearly as embarrassed as he felt. She remembered Catherine, and the way she had ignored the mention of Lindsey and suddenly, Sara began to feel a little sick. She looked back at the man in front of her. "So now that you know who I am, I think you'd better return the favor," she said.
The man sighed. "I'm…"
"The Doctor, right," said Sara. "Just the Doctor. No actual name? No actual identity? No actual birthplace?"
The Doctor shook his head.
"Right," said Sara. "Just like Sarah Jane said, then. Just 'the Doctor.'"
At the mention of Sarah Jane, the Doctor's face lit up. "You spoke to Sarah Jane!" he cried. Then he stopped, and suddenly, his face fell. "You spoke to Sarah Jane," he repeated, in a more subdued tone of voice. He scratched the back of his neck. "And it's, what, 2003? Should have thought of that before I made that recording. Well, I guess that explains why she was so sure that I was dead when I met her back in 2006."
Sara could feel her head spinning again, and it was just like it was back in that interrogation room, when he'd been talking nonsense to her. She got herself together, and told her head to cut out the spinning and stay in one place.
"Oh no," Sara said to the Doctor. "You're not about to start doing that again."
"Doing what?" the Doctor gave her another manic grin. "I'd offer you a jelly baby, but, well…" he looked down at his lack of clothing and shrugged. "No pockets," he said.
"Talking jibberish," Sara answered, ignoring his subsequent babble. "Acting like you know the future. Trying to convince me that things didn't happen the way they happened. Talking me around in circles. You know, I was ready to ship you off to a mental institution last time I met you. The only reason I think you're sane now is that Grissom appears to believe all your rambling is just some elaborate trick."
The Doctor tilted his head to the right, considering this. "Grissom," he pondered. "That's the second time you've mentioned something clever he's done. I think I'd like to meet this Grissom. Always good to meet clever people. Make sure they aren't too clever for their own good." He looked back at her with those deep, brown eyes. "But first," he said, his voice suddenly hushed and quiet. "I think we'd better figure out how to get out of here."
"We're not getting out of here," said Sara. "You need medical attention, and I need you to answer a few questions. I'll make sure nobody else kills you." She hesitated. "Again." She looked at him pointedly. "You know, I've seen you die twice and you're still talking. That's got to be some sort of record."
"Yeah, neat trick, don't you think?" said the Doctor. "Just… before we get to the bit where I start telling you that this is a very, very bad idea, and you start explaining to me all the various reasons you think I'm mad… just tell me one thing. How did you figure out that I'm the same as that person who was running around San Francisco on New Year's Eve?"
"Well," said Sara. "I was the one who interviewed Grace Holloway. I'm pretty sure she knew you."
The Doctor had that dopey grin on his face again. "Yeah," he said. "Bet you didn't believe a word she said, though."
Sara shrugged. "Yeah, well, when you've eliminated what's possible, you have to believe the impossible. Isn't that how the saying goes?"
"Sherlock Holmes," said the Doctor.
"Yeah," said Sara. "So go on. Impossible. I've got time."
The Doctor sighed, and lay back on the cot. The water bottle lay abandoned by his side, and he laced his hands behind the back of his head as he stared at the ceiling. "You want me to tell you what happened on December 31st, 1999," he said.
"No," said Sara. The Doctor darted his eyes over to her. "No," she repeated. "Absolutely, emphatically not. And if I never hear anything mentioned about that particular event again, it will be too soon. I want to know who that man was that visited you in prison, and why that visit convinced the warden to poison you. I want to know how you managed to plan a break-in that took place three days before. I want to know why Joseph Trudge is convinced you were in two places at the same time. And I want to know why it is that you and your friends have me scared to move just in case little mind parasites burrow into my head and take over my mind!"
The Doctor waited. "Are you done?" he asked.
"Well," he said. "Then it appears that we've reached the part where you tell me I'm mad." He looked over at her. "You still want to hear?"
"I want to hear a rational, reasonable, logical explanation for all of this," said Sara.
"Ah," said the Doctor. "Can't promise you that. Can't promise you anything close to that, actually. But, well, like you said. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. And that's the correct quotation, by the way." He gave her a wink.
She just stared at him. "Go on," she said.
"Well, I sort of travel through time," the Doctor began.
Sara threw her hands up in the air, but stopped herself before she interrupted. She lowered her hands, looked back at the Doctor, and just nodded.
The Doctor let out a long breath. "Right," he said. "As I was saying, travel through time. And every so often, I meet myself. Not always looking like myself, mind you. I sort of… well, like you said. I die, and kind of… change. Like I did back on New Years Eve—all right!" he said, cutting off Sara's coming protests. "You told me not to talk about it, and I won't. But that's what happens when I die. Well, when I actually die. Didn't actually die this time, just played dead long enough that they'd leave me alone. That's why I still look like me." He suddenly dropped his voice, looking around himself. "Tell me, Sara Sidle. You wouldn't happen to know, for a fact, that we can trust these people, do you? You see, I'd feel a little silly if I were to spill my guts to you only to inadvertently let something slip that I really ought not to."
Sara looked around, suddenly noticing how very alone she was. She looked back at the Doctor. "No," she said, just as quietly. She bit her lip. "Now you've got me paranoid again."
"Good," he said. "Always good to be a bit paranoid. Keeps you on your toes." He winked at her. "One last very, very important thing. Did you find the Tardis?"
"No," said Sara. "I haven't even had a chance to look."
The Doctor frowned. He seemed shaken, almost panicked, by this revelation. "Did you find Sammy?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Sara. "We definitely found him."
"Good," said the Doctor. He looked relieved. "Very good," he muttered, as he closed his eyes.
Gil Grissom got back to the crime lab and sat down in his office, the last tape in his hands. He was just looking at it a moment, trying to puzzle out everything that it might contain. This was the beautiful moment. The moment just before you open Schrödinger's box, the moment when possibilities span out as far as you could imagine, the moment when anything is possible.
He heard a knock on the door. He put down the tape, called for the person to come in. Somehow, he was not surprised when Catherine Willows walked through the door.
"Heard you just got back from the morgue," said Catherine. "How'd the autopsy go?"
Grissom picked up the autopsy reports off the table, tilting the paper so that she could not see what was written on them. "It's an autopsy, Catherine," he said, mildly. As if the question hadn't mattered. As if none of this confrontation mattered. "How's Lindsey?"
Catherine seemed taken aback by the question. "She's… fine," answered Catherine, a little too defensively.
Grissom looked up at her from the autopsy reports. As if she were normal. As if she were Catherine. As if she were just using the brusqueness to cover up an insecurity. "Did you see her?"
"I talked to her on the phone," not-Catherine put in quickly.
Grissom gave her a pointed look. He stuffed the autopsy papers into a drawer, and folded his hands on his desk. "Catherine, can I talk to you, friend to friend?"
Not-Catherine hesitated, but soon decided in the affirmative.
"I know how important your work is to you," said Grissom. Just the same way he would have if this had actually been Catherine. "But you know, you've done this before. And you remember what happened last time? With Ed? Sometimes the best medicine is just being there. For both of you. You told me yourself, you fall too far into this job, your brain becomes clouded with nothing but blood and death. Take the time off, go home, see your daughter, and enjoy living. Okay?"
Not-Catherine eyed Grissom suspiciously, as if looking for some hint that he'd figured her out. But Grissom knew better than that. He knew that she'd be looking for that spark, that suspicion, that hint that something wasn't right. But he'd given her this speech before. And if he told himself this really was Catherine, then he could give it just as truthfully again.
Not-Catherine got up, slowly, and walked out of the office, without so much as a 'goodbye.' Grissom shut the door, and went back to his desk. He looked at the tape where it lay abandoned on the table. The moment didn't seem quite so magical this time. Perhaps because all he could think about was poor Catherine. He couldn't say that he believed that there were mind parasites taking people over or intergalactic plots to destroy the Earth. In fact, he was pretty sure that the Doctor wasn't an alien, either, although Sara certainly believed he was.
Grissom frowned. This case was becoming crazier and crazier by the minute. Grissom believed in following the conclusions he made from the evidence, and he needed to think through the evidence he was presented. How much of it was real, and how much of it might have been fabricated? Grissom got out a pen and some paper, and began to make a list.
The Doctor has two hearts, and his DNA crashes the computers.A growing number of people appear to be acting in a way that is wholly unnatural to their character, and are unable to accurately identify important cultural elements.The Doctor was, apparently, framed for a murder he did not commit, found guilty despite the lack of evidence on hand, sentenced to a far harsher punishment than usual, and then isolated and tortured for three months.During those three months, Dr Bradshaw had never acquired certain information: how to enter the police box in the basement, and the identity of the Doctor's mysterious visitor. The Doctor, on the other hand, also never acquired certain information: the identity of Dr Bradshaw (since he clearly was not Dr Bradshaw), and why he was torturing the Doctor.Despite being skinny, geeky-looking, and easy prey for a frustrated prisoner, the Doctor apparently was well-liked. Given the presence of every prisoner's fingerprints on each of the tape recorders, it appears that each of the prisoners were willing to take a risk in order to help him out. Grissom had also figured out that Sammy had, apparently, been able to escape since the Doctor was first isolated in the medical ward. However, instead of escaping, Sammy had continually visited the Doctor and helped him record messages for Sara.The Doctor is innocent of the murder of Katherine Marshal.The Doctor is still a murderer (although who or what "Gallifrey" might be is still a mystery to Grissom).
Grissom reviewed this list and, like Sara, found more questions than answers. Usually, by this point, he could begin to see what had happened. But not so with this case. The case continued to unravel and get more complicated, leaving Grissom further and further in the dark.
And so much of the evidence they'd gathered seemed to revolve around those tapes. If the Doctor had faked his own death, why bother with the tapes? After all, the Doctor could just as easily have waited and given his story to them in person. Grissom assumed it was to get off of his murder charge, or maybe to receive some chance for parole. Convince a listening audience that he wasn't such a bad guy. But whatever the motivation, Grissom had a sneaking suspicion that his answers lay on that final tape.
Grissom put the tape into the player, and pressed play.
"I've worked it out," said the Doctor.
"I'm sorry?" said Dr Bradshaw.
"I said, I've worked it out. What you're trying to do," said the Doctor. "The reason you keep asking me questions you already know the answers to. The reason you keep flooding my body with poisons and toxins but always find a way to bring me back when my hearts give out. The reason you seem more interested in me than in breaking into the Tardis. I've put the pieces of the puzzle together, and I know what you want." He paused. "You want me dead."
"I believe," said Dr Bradshaw, "that you've mentioned the fact once or twice before. We have been working endlessly to rid you of these paranoid delusions."
"Oh, no," said the Doctor. "No, no, no, no, no. I said you were trying to kill me before, and I have to say, you really did a brilliant job of convincing me of that. Molto bene! No, you don't just want to kill me. You're not trying to bleed information from me, or strangle it out of my dying throat. You're not looking for information. You already have all of the answers. You just want me dead."
"And why would you come to this conclusion?" asked Dr Bradshaw.
"Oh," said the Doctor, "you see, that's the clever bit. Since you've already established that you know who I am and you know that I have had nine other faces, it's clear to me that you've figured out that I don't really die when I'm dead. I regenerate. Every single cell of my body ripped apart and replaced with a new one. New, fresh, healthy body, with none of those pesky mental barriers that I can feel you working so hard to take down. That's what you want, isn't it? You don't want my ship; you want me!"
Dr Bradshaw said nothing for a long time, and the Doctor began laughing. It was harsh, contrived. Forced out through a hoarse and scratchy throat.
"Go ahead!" cried the Doctor, a note of triumph in his voice. "Ask me that question you always love to ask. Ask me again! It's been the highlight of every one of your days so far."
"You want me to ask you about Gallifrey?" Dr Bradshaw asked. "About how it felt to destroy those billions of lives?"
"No," said the Doctor. "Ask me if I feel trapped. Go on! Look at me. Restrained to the bed. Five armed guards with loaded rifles aimed at my head. Sonic screwdriver nowhere in sight. I'll bet you're itching to hear the answer."
"Do you feel trapped, Mr. Smith?" asked Dr Bradshaw, a little hesitantly this time.
"No, Dr Bradshaw," said the Doctor. "I'm in complete control. Because there's one thing you've overlooked in your little plan, one itsy bitsy little thing. And that's control. That human body you're inhabiting has all sorts of involuntary habits. Breathing. Thinking. Digesting. And so you think that all species have those same involuntary little habits. Pumping poison through the bloodstream. Allowing myself to breathe. The beating of my poor little hearts." He paused. "Or perhaps, regenerating after death?"
The Doctor gave another triumphant laugh, this one so hoarse it sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Dr Bradshaw began murmuring to some unheard entity in the room, but the Doctor clearly wasn't paying any more attention to them. "I don't have to keep living, Dr Bradshaw. I don't have to survive in order to deny you what you want. All I have to do is to stay dead. After all it's what I deserve, isn't it? That's what you keep telling me. To just give up, finish us all off, end the species now and forever. It's my right, isn't it, as the destroyer of my own world! I can finally kill off the Time Lords once and for all."
And then, there was nothing. A soft, southern voice echoed through the recording. "I think he's dead."
"Just give him time," said Dr Bradshaw. "He'll come back."
They waited about thirty seconds, none of the voices saying anything. Then, suddenly, Dr Bradshaw's voice came through, far louder than before. "What is that?" he shouted. He sounded as though he was trying to shout over some alarm, but the room behind him was silent.
"It's that thing in the basement!" shouted the woman's voice. "He must have got some sort of alarm connected to his vitals. It knows. It knows he isn't coming back. You killed him, you idiot. We needed him, and you went and killed him for good!"
"No!" shouted Dr Bradshaw, and he sounded worried now, honestly worried, the way he hadn't when he had been questioning his prisoner. There was a sudden sound like a knife slicing through meat, as Dr Bradshaw began shouting, "Regenerate! Regenerate!"
The door opened, and a new voice entered the conversation. It was the voice of Verity Cordman. "What's going on?" she shouted. "I can barely hear myself think." Verity said nothing for a moment, then there were footsteps, and she suddenly gasped. "You moron!" she shouted. "You said you couldn't make this work without him. Why'd you go and kill him?"
"He wasn't supposed to stay dead!" Dr Bradshaw insisted.
Another set of footsteps, then a sudden angry yell. Grissom recognized the voice from the tapes spread around the prison. It was the other man in the room when the Doctor had left his messages.
"No!" Sammy shouted. He sounded like he was trying to decide whether to sob or fly into a rage. "That man was better than anyone else in this miserable hell hole. He could have escaped any number of times and he stayed because he wanted to help you and you just… you just…" he gave out another angry yell.
Five gunshots echoed through the room. Verity Cordman shrieked.
"That was a real person!" said Verity. "Not content with just going all Roswell on us, you actually had to start gunning down people now."
"He knew everything," said the southern voice. "How did he know everything?"
"You know what this means," said Verity. "We're going to have to call the police. We're going to have investigators crawling all over this place in no time. We can't just cover this up. Not when human beings are involved."
"We need another plan," said the southern voice. "The Doctor was our only hope, and now he's dead."
"I'll take the ship," said Dr Bradshaw. "I'll make an escape, hide somewhere until I can find someone else."
"There is no one else," Verity spat. "The Doctor killed them all! He killed every one!"
"Then I'll find another way," Dr Bradshaw retorted. The running of footsteps echoed through the room and down the hall.
"What do we do?" asked the southern voice.
"Well, get him out of here," said Verity. "Wipe the records, delete the files. He's not a real person anyways. Just toss him out with the trash."
"And Sammy?" asked the southern voice.
"I'll call the police," said Verity. "Just don't mention the Doctor. As far as I'm concerned, the Doctor never existed. You got that?"
There were more footsteps. "So," Verity's voice echoed softly through the room. "The mighty Doctor. The destroyer of worlds. The man who wiped out his home planet. The man with ten billion deaths on his head. Just another piece of garbage." And Verity left the room.
Grissom tried to keep his composure after he heard the recording. He tried to think about the facts, the evidence, the crime scene. He tried to revise his list, to put all the pieces together. But all he could think about was Sara, Sara was alone with this madman, and when had they become so wrapped up in all this that they had forgotten that they were still dealing with a dangerous murderer? Grissom left the tape playing in the background. There was nothing of any consequence. People were still shouting, footsteps still echoing, but the chaos and commotion that had accompanied the murder was finished. Oh yes, the Doctor had planned this all right. He had planned all of it. And how many others had he sacrificed in the name of these insane plans? When had he come up with the idea of sacrificing these other prisoners just so that he could feel oh so very smart and wake up in a morgue 24 hours later? What gave him the right to live, when the man who'd helped him died?
And Sara's still out there. Sara's still with him. And she's going to die.
Grissom knew Sara needed answers. And she was waiting for the Doctor to give her those answers. But that was all they had, Grissom realized. The only answers they'd received had been from the Doctor. And he had manipulated everyone and everything around him. He'd brought them all to this point. And the Doctor had singled Sara out.
Right now, Sara was waiting in the hospital, alone, with a madman. A man who had specifically gotten her to that point, a man who'd made sure he'd be alone with her. And in that instant, it didn't matter to Grissom how guilty Sara would feel if the Doctor died. He didn't care about Sara taking the initiative or learning from her mistakes. He didn't even care about constitutional rights or the Geneva Convention. His world, his entire universe had shrunken to Sara.
He pulled out his phone, and dialed Sara's number. He heard every ring echo through his mind, its timbre setting his teeth on edge. Every time he heard that sound, he thought he could see her, a little bit more clearly, the life squeezed out of her. The testimony from the other prisoners came back to him. The Doctor was strong. He was icy. He could make your life flash before your eyes with only a look. He was like death itself.
Grissom felt so overwhelmed with relief upon hearing Sara's voice, he almost couldn't speak. He tried to make out words, but his voice would not cooperate. He cleared his throat, and tried again. Still, nothing.
"Grissom?" Sara asked. She sounded concerned. "Gil? What is it? Is something wrong?"
"Sara," Grissom finally managed to say. "Get out of there. Now."
Sara paused a moment, as if considering. "I'll be back in a little bit. We're finally in a hospital room, and we're waiting to make sure everyone leaves the room before he answers my questions. I know you said it wasn't paranoid, just cautious, but…"
"Sara," Grissom said. He felt like he was pleading with her, pleading that she see reason, that she see sense. "Sara, stop. Don't be alone with him. Just call for backup and leave."
"Grissom, I can't do that," Sara said. She was speaking in a far more hushed tone now, and Grissom figured she didn't want the Doctor to hear. "He's really scared they're going to kill him. He was that close to running out of the ambulance naked. He keeps looking around like he thinks something's going to leap out of the walls. Gil, that man was tortured because of the evidence I put forward in court. I can't just leave him."
"You don't know who that man is," Grissom countered. "There was a reason he was in jail, Sara, and it wasn't just your evidence. It wasn't just Katherine Marshal."
"You know something, don't you?" asked Sara. "You've worked something out."
"Yes," said Grissom. "I know what Gallifrey was. It was his home, Sara. It's where he comes from. You told me you think he's an alien, right? Well, if he is an alien, Gallifrey's his home planet. If he's an alien, it means he destroyed his entire planet, and everyone on its surface."
Sara paused. "You're kidding me," she said, but she didn't sound so sure.
"Ask him," said Grissom. "He said so on tape. He knew we'd be listening. He knew we'd be trying to figure it out. Sara, he worked it all out ahead of time. He's trying to get you alone with him. He's been manipulating us this entire time."
"Breathe," Sara coaxed. "Breathe Gil. Deep breaths. Just tell me what you know."
And Grissom told her what he'd worked out. How the Doctor had worked to manipulate the bars in his cell, not so that he could escape, but so that Sammy would be able to sneak over to him and organize his crazy tape exchange. Grissom explained how the Doctor figured out that he would be taken, he programmed whatever was inside of that box to alert everyone else when he died, which made Sammy rush into the room and led to his death. Grissom told her about how triumphant the Doctor had sounded when he said he'd finally killed off an entire species.
"Okay," said Sara. "Okay, you're right. I'll go, Gil. I'll just… let me just wrap a few things up here and I'll go."
"You can't be alone with that man," said Grissom. "I don't know what he wants with you, but he's been working very hard to get you alone with him. And in my experience, that's never good."
"I won't be, I just… look, I'll be there in a bit, okay? Just… wait for me there. I'll be back, I promise I'll be back. Talk to you soon!"
Grissom was about to protest, but Sara had already hung up.
Sara hung up the phone and turned on the unsuspecting alien in the hospital bed. But by the time she turned around, she realized that he was no longer so unsuspecting. He knew, and Sara was sure he knew, that he'd heard absolutely everything that Grissom had told her. But he hadn't reacted in quite the way she'd expect from the man who'd frightened Gil Grissom. The Doctor didn't immediately throw himself at her in some desperate attack. He didn't grab at the nearest weapon-like object and brandish it in front of him. He didn't even do the evil villain laugh the way aliens did in movies. Instead he sat in the hospital bed, the green gown billowing around his skinny frame, his face looking more serious than she had ever seen it before. He sat there and met her eyes, and Sara thought those brown eyes looked so old, so ancient, so sad and alone. She didn't feel afraid of him. Not the way that Grissom was. She felt… sorry for him.
"Is it true?" she asked. "You're an alien?"
He blinked, his entire stature unmoving except for that one single action. "Yes."
Sara took a sharp breath in. "And you… destroyed your home planet."
"Yes," said the Doctor.
"Everyone?" she asked. "All your friends and family? Your entire… alien species?"
"How many billions of people is that?" she asked herself.
"Ten," said the Doctor. "Ten billion."
She just stared at him. She hadn't expected him to just say it. The last time she'd interrogated him, he'd managed to evade every single one of her questions. That was when she was accusing him of something he hadn't done. Now that she was accusing him of his actual crimes, she'd expected him to talk circles around her. But he hadn't. He'd just told her. Flat out.
"Why?" she asked.
The Doctor didn't answer. She looked at him as if trying to pull the answers from him, but they wouldn't come. His face remained just as somber as it had before. Unflinching, unchanging. Like stone.
"There was a war," he whispered eventually. His eyes left hers, and she could see them looking out the window, out at the sky, as if he were reliving those events in his mind. "And we lost. Everyone lost."
But that was no kind of answer. Sara knew it, and she was sure the Doctor knew it, too. You don't go all Darth Vader on a planet just because you were a sore loser. Although, considering Darth Vader… Sara let the metaphor drop, since it was clearly a bad one, and tried to shape her phraseology to match her ideas. She settled for her original, "that's no kind of answer."
The Doctor looked back at her, and there was such a horrible, lonely sadness in his eyes that Sara began to feel bad for the brusqueness of her questions. No, she told herself. Snap out of it, Sara. This is exactly what Gil told you. The Doctor looks at a situation and manipulates it, guilts you into doing what he wants. Into sacrificing yourself for him.
"I'd say I had no choice," the Doctor told her. "But that would be a lie. Because everyone always has a choice. And I made mine."
"And you chose to kill all those people?" Sara asked.
"I chose a universe without the Time Lords," said the Doctor, "because they chose Time Lords without the universe."
"Oh," said Sara. She couldn't really think of any further reply. It wasn't really the kind of thing you followed with words. No sane, reasonable person would pry further. Of course, Grissom had already confirmed that no sane, reasonable person would remain in the same room as the Doctor, especially not alone, but since Sara was already in a room alone with the Doctor, she had to assume that she was neither sane nor reasonable. And so she ploughed on. "So, you're an alien. Who can travel through time. And solves complex mathematical puzzles on the walls of his cell as a recreational hobby. Your planet was destroyed. And you've come to Earth to, what? Enslave humanity, restart your empire?"
"No," he said.
"So, you're here to dissect us, strap us down to operating tables, see what makes us tick?" Sara asked.
"No," replied the Doctor.
Sara sat down in the chair beside his bed. "Well, I'm stumped," she said. "Why are you here, then?"
He just looked at her, and for a moment he looked so young, as if he were just some little boy who'd lost his mommy. He told her, in a very small voice, "I have nowhere else to go."
That's when Sara finally decided to take pity on him, and stopped asking so many questions. Instead, she put a hand on his arm, and just watched him as he sat in bed, looking so lost and alone.
The moment only lasted until Nick Stokes walked into the room. "I come bearing fruit," he said, raising up the grocery bags.
The Doctor's expression suddenly turned around a hundred and eighty degrees. His eyes lit up, and he gave an enthusiastic grin. "Really?"
Sara had to resist the temptation to punch him in the arm. "You act like such a little kid," she said. "I mean, come on, how old are you?"
The Doctor began rummaging through one of the grocery bags as he said, "Oh, about 903." His head popped out of the bag, a banana in his hand. "Look!" he said. "A banana!" He put the bag aside and began peeling the banana. "You know, there's a wonderful banana grove on Villanguard," he said. "51st century. Or was it the 53rd? Used to be a weapons factory. Selling all sorts of nasty things. Blasters and lasers and plasma cannons…" he took a hardy bite out of the banana, and continued talking, despite his full mouth. "Then they thought, 'I know, let's make some nice big planetary busters and sell them to the highest bidder. We'll be just like Star Wars!'" He looked at the banana thoughtfully. "Bananas were a much better option."
"You killed them?" Nick asked. He had started backing away from the banana-wielding alien.
"Nah," said the Doctor. "Just burned down their factory, slapped them on the wrists a few times, and let them go." He shrugged. "I think they were scared of me. Probably for the best. I hate guns."
Nick hesitated. "Look, I know that you and Sara were talking, but I gotta know. How did you manage to be in two places at once?"
"There are a lot of times I've been in two places at once," said the Doctor, resuming his merciless attack on the defenseless banana in his hands. "You're going to have to be a bit more specific."
"I think he's talking about the incident with Joseph Trudge," said Sara.
"Oh, well," said the Doctor, with a sort of mock authority in his voice. "If you want to hear about Joseph Trudge, well that all depends."
"Depends on what?" asked Nick.
"On what president Dracula thinks," the Doctor told him.
"President Dracula?" Nick shot Sara a confused look, trying to work out how to take this. After a few seconds, he decided this had to be a joke, and gave a hesitant laugh. "Well, there are blood oranges in the bag."
"Are there?" asked the Doctor, absent mindedly. He dropped his banana peel on the floor, then pointed to it, looking back at Nick. "Don't you go tripping on that," he said.
Nick sighed and picked it up, and muttered something that sounded like, "nutter." As Nick threw away the banana peel, the Doctor turned and winked at Sara. Sara had, of course, already figured it out. He had been doing precisely the same thing to Nick that he had done when Sara had first questioned him. He had led him around in verbal circles, trying to see if he would notice. And Nick, being Nick, did.
"So," prompted Sara. "How'd you do it? How'd you know all about Joe and what he was going to do before he did it?" She eyed the alien suspiciously. "You're not going to tell me you're God now, are you?"
"Nope," said the Doctor, taking out an orange. "Not omniscient, not omnipotent, not any of those other omni words. Just… well… lived the whole thing backwards is the best way to put it."
"Wait, what?" asked Nick.
The Doctor began peeling his orange. "Well, for you this happened… oh, three months ago? Two and a half? Something like that. But I first met Joseph Trudge about two years ago. You see, I was with my friend Martha at the time…"
"Martha Jones?" Nick asked. "That's the woman who brought Mrs. Trudge into the police station."
"Yeah," said the Doctor, wrinkling his nose. "Figured it would probably be a bad idea for me to come in with her, since apparently I was already in jail. But, I digress! Martha. Yes, you see, she had never been to the States before, and her first trip was not exactly pleasant." He grimaced. "I hit the Great Depression. Never fun wandering around hoovervilles in the Great Depression."
Nick looked baffled. He was clearly trying to work the chronology out in his mind. And just as clearly failing. Sara, who had long since determined that chronology was useless when you were dealing with a time travelling alien, just nodded at the Doctor to continue.
"So I told Martha, how would you like to see the Empire State Building when it's, you know, finished?" He paused, regarding the orange in his hand. "Well, finished and no longer being overrun by megalomaniacal alien monsters bent on enslaving humanity and then destroying the world?" He looked over at Sara and grinned. "See? Beat that lot off, didn't I?" He plopped an orange slice in his mouth. "Anyways, must have taken a bit of a wrong turn, because instead of New York, 2007, I got Las Vegas, 2003. But, well, still no monsters, so I called that a success."
"And that's when you first met Joe?" asked Sara.
"It's not like I was seeking him out or anything," said the Doctor. "Martha and I were just headed back to the Tardis, when I heard this woman screaming. So we ran out to help. Disarmed the man, took apart the gun. Martha took the wife off to the police and I told the man very politely that he really should stop threatening women with guns and really, had he ever tried just sitting down and talking to her over a nice cup of tea? And that's when he told me that I couldn't be there, because I was in prison. Of course, that was still two years in my future, but, well, I'm a bit curious. 'Oh, really?' I said to him. 'Wonder what I'm doing there?' But instead of just talking like any normal human being would do, he ran off. I found out all about him later when I talked to his wife. Poor woman. She really didn't deserve someone like Joe."
"She's living out of state now," said Nick. "Under a new identity. Not that Joe would try anything. Last time I talked to him, he seemed pretty much convinced that you were God, and if he did anything wrong, you'd come down and smite him."
"Hm," said the Doctor. "I didn't think I was being too terribly menacing at either point in time, but I suppose both of them together might have been a bit unnerving." He plopped another orange slice into his mouth. "Funny thing is, while Martha was in the police station, I started thinking about it and, you know, that date did seem familiar. And then I remembered, I'd gone there a year and a half ago with Rose, so that I could break into the prison and steal that key."
"Hang on a minute," said Sara. "That was you?"
The Doctor grinned. "Yup."
"That older guy with the leather jacket and the big ears—he was you?"
"Well, don't sound so surprised," said the Doctor. "When there are large numbers of you running around all of space and time, it's not like it's unheard of for you to run into yourself. Thought you lot would have figured that out by now. And you know it's possible. After all, you're the one who worked out regeneration," he said to Sara.
Nick began to voice his confusion over the previous tidbits of information that the Doctor had let slip. Neither Sara nor the Doctor were listening to him. Sara was watching as the Doctor stared out the window beside his bed. His expression was getting more and more troubled.
"I really, really think we should leave," he said, eventually.
"Why?" asked Nick and Sara at the same time.
The Doctor pointed out the window. "Because I recognize that man," he said, indicating one of the policemen who had just surrounded the hospital. "He's the one who asked me for my sonic screwdriver the day I was arrested."
Nick stayed with the Doctor while Sara went back to see what had freaked Grissom out back at the crime lab. She told the Doctor she was going to try to talk some sense into the guards, but he caught her arm, and looked at her with pleading eyes, and begged her not to. "They'll know you're my friend," he said. "And they'll try to hurt you. Everyone always tries to hurt my friends. I hate it."
Sara wondered if he knew that Sammy was dead. It was one of the things he'd asked her in the ambulance—whether they had found Sammy. He wouldn't have asked that, of course, unless he'd known. Would he? After all, if Sammy had escaped, the Doctor would hardly want them to come looking for him. Grissom had worked something out about Sammy, and Sara needed to know what it was. Because she had this growing suspicion that they were all overlooking something very important.
It took Nick a while to convince the policemen to stay outside the door to the Doctor's hospital room. They seemed so certain that the Doctor was about to destroy them all. Nick assured them that he had official crime lab questions to ask, and he needed the Doctor to be alone when he asked them. They eventually accepted this explanation and stayed outside the door.
The Doctor was not terribly talkative after Sara left. He was much more prone to sleeping. "Healing coma," he corrected Nick. "Mends my body right up." Then he asked for a towel, and began to scrape off the film of gunk that had covered his skin.
"That's the poison," he told Nick. "Secreted out of the skin, body's good as new."
He closed his eyes, and Nick thought, for a moment, that he was asleep. He sat next to the man, the Doctor's own personal bodyguard, started thinking about time travel and timelines and the whole convoluted mess. Meeting people for the first time when they're already old friends. Or finding an old friend only to realize that they have no idea who you are.
"Guess that's what happened with Rose Tyler," Nick muttered.
The Doctor's eyes popped open, and he jerked his head towards Nick. He had a very stern expression on his face. "What did you do?" he asked, like a parent scolding a naughty child.
"I called her up and asked her some questions," said Nick. "She didn't know anything, so I told her to have a nice night and hung up." He was trying very hard not to look guilty, but he knew he must. He was never very good at hiding those sorts of things. "I didn't say anything about you, I promise!"
The Doctor broke into a grin. "You tried to warn her to stay away from me, didn't you?"
Nick didn't answer, but the Doctor had obviously seen right through him.
"Yeah," said the Doctor. "I tried that when I first met her. And when I met her again. Come to think of it, I kept warning her to stay away from me the whole time I knew her, but she never listened. Rose has this terrible habit of warping the fabric of reality to get what she wants. Nearly caused the end of the universe… at least twice. Well, twice that I can think of, anyways." He tilted his head to the side. "Granted, one of those times, the universe was about to end regardless…" He shrugged. "I don't just abduct people, you know. I'm the nice kind of alien. You know, the kind that… well… fights the bad kind of alien…" He made a face. "You know, that makes me sound not very nice at all." For a moment the two said nothing. Nick watched the alien in fascination, trying to work him out.
"Why'd you drag Sammy into this?" Nick asked.
The Doctor thought about this for a long moment. "Sammy is… complicated," he said, and Nick noticed how he used the present tense. Which seemed odd. The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. "Sara said you managed to find him, even though you didn't find the Tardis."
Nick jumped at the offhanded way the Doctor had put this. He looked back at the Doctor's face, which was suspiciously blank. Nick suddenly had his guard up again. "Yeah, we did."
The Doctor's face didn't change from the blank mask. He just nodded. "And where is he now?"
"Still in the morgue," said Nick. "We're waiting for his family to pick him up for burial."
The blank mask melted and Nick could see a sudden look of horror flooding across the Doctor's features. "He's…" the Doctor trailed off. He closed his eyes, and leaned back against the pillows. "You know, it just makes everything seem so much more… pointless."
"Were you…" Nick hesitated, "romantically involved?"
The Doctor opened one eye. "No."
"Oh," said Nick. That certainly discounted certain stories he had heard.
"We knew each other for one week," the Doctor explained, closing his eyes again. "And most of that time he was either trying to pummel me or engage me in… another aggressive, nonconsensual action that I'd really rather not think about. To be quite honest, I'm really not sure what our relationship was. I'm fairly certain he has—had—a different idea than I."
"But you shared a cell together?" Nick asked.
"For a week," said the Doctor. He furrowed his brow. "Like I said before, Sammy is… was… complicated." He paused. "Maybe, for the sake of his memory, I should just leave it at that."
Nick was about to reply, when he felt a sudden, terrible stabbing at the back of his eyes. It began searing through his corneas into his brain, as if someone had dunked his whole head into ice cold water. He got up. "I'm going to go see if I can find some aspirin, or something. For me, not for you," he quickly added.
Before Nick could go anywhere, the Doctor reached out and grabbed his arm. Nick looked over his shoulder, and found the alien hunched over in the bed, his eyes squeezed tight as if in pain, his mouth gasping for air. He looked like he was having some sort of attack, but Sara had warned Nick not to call in any of the other medical doctors when these sorts of things happened. They'd kill him, Sara had said.
And so Nick went back to the chair by the Doctor's bed, surprised that, in all the excitement, the pain in his head seemed to have vanished. Odd, that. It was nearly two minutes before the Doctor let go of his arm, his face relaxing, and his torso falling back onto the pillows.
"You have to leave," said the Doctor.
"We'll get back to the lab in the morning," said Nick. "Just get some sleep."
"No," said the Doctor. "You don't understand. I didn't say we. I said you. I'll distract the men outside while you get away. They won't hurt you if they're intent on making sure I stay put."
Nick faltered at this. "The moment I leave, those men outside are going to haul you out of here and start torturing you again. And they won't let you get away with that fake-dying trick this time. Is that really what you want?"
The Doctor considered this. "Good point," he said. He leapt out of bed, then wavered on his legs. He ran over to the window. "Hm," he said. "Long way down." He eyed Nick's bag suspiciously. "I don't suppose you have some sort of rope in that bag of yours?"
"No," said Nick. "Just equipment for documenting case evidence."
The Doctor considered this, then shrugged. "Well," he said, walking over to the bed and stripping the sheets off of it, "if it works for Hollywood, I guess it'll work for us."
The Doctor and Nick frantically began knotting bed sheets together, as they heard heavy footsteps and shouting behind the door.
"Here come the cavalry," said the Doctor, throwing the makeshift rope out of the window. "Well, best be going. Humans first. Allons-y!"
When Sara got back to the lab, Grissom was nowhere in sight. She wondered where he could have gone without letting her know, but she didn't have to wait long. Within five minutes, Grissom was through the door, carrying his CSI bag.
"Sara," he said. "Follow me."
They both walked into his office, and he closed the door carefully before facing her. "We've been had."
"We've been what?"
"Manipulated," Grissom said. "Played like pawns on a chess set. We're not seeing the real story. We're not seeing any story. There is no case, because there is no evidence!"
"You think those tapes in the office, the cell, and the basement were red herrings," said Sara. She had half expected as much. They were a little too convenient, a little too useful.
Grissom was pacing the room, anger clear in his face. "Everything's a red herring," he said. "The Doctor is a red herring." His eyes traced the floor beneath his feet. "I went back to the prison to gather new evidence. There is no new evidence, Sara. He's gone and destroyed it all. We've found a criminal who can manipulate time and space to make anything he wants a reality. Did he tell you who stole that key?"
"He did…" Sara said, and only realized after she said it what it meant. "He did," she repeated in a whisper.
"And the cameras leading to the basement?" Grissom said. "Completely nonfunctional. I gave Greg some fingerprints but I'm fairly certain I know whose they are. The bars? Certainly the Doctor. He's been feeding us facts, Sara. He's trying to get us to do something."
"The evidence all points—"
"There is no evidence," said Grissom, "except the evidence that he left for us. Don't you see?"
"But he was tortured," Sara pointed out. "You can't deny that, Gil. There were electrical burns on his body. You could see the bruises around his neck."
Grissom stopped pacing and considered this, still staring at his shoes. "This case isn't about the Doctor," he said. "That's all we've heard about since we started. But he wasn't the only victim we found at that crime scene."
"Sammy," Grissom agreed. "Somehow this whole case is about Sammy. And you know what? Ask any prisoner about Sammy, and they clam right up. Now, why would they be reluctant to talk about Sammy, and not the Doctor? If they feared retribution from some unseen power, it would be the other way around, wouldn't it? They'd tell us all about Sammy and say nothing about the Doctor."
"I don't understand," said Sara.
Grissom looked up at her. "Neither do I," he said. "That's the problem. None of this makes sense. This whole case has been completely fabricated. People who aren't really people. Guards who leave the prison unguarded. Victims who aren't really dead. It's like we've all been dragged into someone's bad Hollywood screenplay."
"But Sammy really is dead," said Sara. "And Verity…"
Grissom pulled out the autopsy report. "She's dead, but nothing caused her death. It's like she had an on/off switch, and someone switched her off."
"Which leaves us with Sammy," realized Sara. She looked back at Grissom. "You're right," she said. "This isn't about the Doctor at all. This whole case is about Sammy." She thought back to her brief time with the Doctor. "He mentioned Sammy, you know."
Grissom raised his eyebrows. "Did he?"
"Yeah—brought him up, actually," said Sara. "He asked me if I'd found the Tardis. When I told him I hadn't even looked, he seemed sort of panicked. Then he asked if I found Sammy. I said yes, and he was relieved." She paused. "Did he die before or after Sammy was shot?"
"He wasn't dead," said Grissom, "so it hardly matters."
"But if…" Sara trailed off, and frowned. "You're right." She considered all the evidence at hand. "The only thing you seem to have overlooked is Catherine."
Grissom paused, sighed, and sat down at his desk chair. "Yes," he said. "Catherine."
"I don't get what's happened to her, but it fits the Doctor's story," said Sara. "And she's one of the only real pieces of evidence we have."
Grissom folded his hands on his desk. "Let's list what we know," he said. "Evidence that we can actually see, evidence that was not filtered through a tape recorder or cherry picked for our convenience. We have Catherine."
"Those burn marks and lacerations on the Doctor's body," said Sara. "They don't look fabricated."
"Then we have Sammy," said Grissom. "Sammy, who shared a cell for one week with the Doctor. And after that one week, a whole string of cameras completely ceased functioning."
"Between his cell and the basement?" Sara asked. "What's in the basement?"
"What was in the basement, you mean?" said Grissom. "That blue box. I figure that was the Doctor's escape route. I'm assuming Sammy had found another."
Sara thought for a moment. "Hang on," said Sara. "We heard Sammy's voice on those tapes the Doctor left for us. Content of the tapes aside, the fact that his voice is on those tapes is proof that he managed to get out of his cell."
"And not just out of his cell," said Grissom. "But out of his cell and into the medical wing. And, geographically, the medical wing is situated right between the cell and the basement."
"Well, that's convenient," said Sara.
"Yes," agreed Grissom, "but for whom?"
"So, here's what we've pieced together so far," said Sara. "Sammy meets the Doctor, and they have some sort of fight."
"Or not," said Grissom. "No concrete evidence, just hearsay and guesswork."
"Or not," corrected Sara. She frowned. "So we're just left with Sammy meets the Doctor, they share a cell." She thought for a moment. "We can't even confirm that someone poisoned the water, can we? After all, we found the bottle of liquid aspirin in the basement, right beside that tape player. It could have been a plant."
"Yes," said Grissom.
"So we have absolutely no idea what their relationship is," said Sara. "All we know is that they met, they shared a cell, and Sammy appears to be assisting the Doctor to set up his little scheme. So maybe they were friends?"
"If they were friends, why not help the Doctor to escape?" asked Grissom.
"On the tapes, he said…" Sara stopped herself. "Right, discount the tapes. Like you said, planted evidence." She thought for a moment. "Enemies?"
Grissom shook his head. "If they were enemies, or if they simply didn't care that much about one another, Sammy would have ditched the Doctor and escaped himself."
"Assuming he could find an escape route," said Sara.
"Oh, he found one," Grissom insisted. "I saw it. He'd even made a nice little hole in the fence."
"Well," said Sara, "could they have been lovers? Or at least bedfellows?"
Grissom just looked at her, raising his eyebrows.
"Think about it," she said. "The Doctor isn't bad looking. When he's in prison, he's… well, Sammy's. But outside, who knows? Maybe Sammy didn't want to take the risk?"
"Interesting," Grissom said, leaning back in his chair. "Bedfellows… or maybe even nonconsensual bedfellows? I think the logic would still work with that thrown in. And we have to consider it, seeing their difference in stature." He nodded. "It does seem a bit unusual to feel in possession of someone when they're being tied up and tortured by someone else. But, as you said, it could be some type of power play."
"So why was Sammy killed?" asked Sara. She hesitated. "And why did the Doctor let Sammy be killed?"
Grissom didn't reply. He just leaned forward, and played Sara the tape.
Nick had a headache, and the Doctor was clearly not himself. Not that Nick knew what was normal for a 900 year old alien, but he was fairly certain it did not involve clutching onto Nick's arm, doubled up, eyes closed with pain, mouth gulping in air as if he could barely breathe. This happened three times between the hospital and the crime lab, and every time it did, Nick's headache got better.
"I really need to stop living on coffee," said Nick. "I think I've been up for nearly 24 hours working on this case, and it's getting to my head."
"How's your head now?" asked the Doctor.
Nick considered. "Actually, not hurting since your last attack," he said. "What do they call that, Schadenfreude?"
The Doctor didn't reply. When Nick looked over at him, he seemed drawn and tired. As if the past few minutes had sucked the energy right out of him.
When they arrived at the crime lab, Nick could see the Doctor stumbling on his feet. The man didn't look like some sort of menacing criminal, but of course, Nick had put away a number of dangerous criminals who looked like normal, ordinary people. But the Doctor didn't really look like a normal, ordinary person either.
"Your friend," said the Doctor. "Warrick. Find him. Make sure he's okay. Then meet back up with us. Stay together!"
"I can't just leave you alone in here," Nick protested, but the Doctor was already down the hall and turning a corner when Nick noticed he'd left. Nick hadn't realized the man had so much energy left in him. "Wait," he called out. "Where are you going?"
"To find Sara!" the Doctor replied.
The Doctor, actually, made a small detour on his way to find Sara, which allowed him to find the clothes and possessions that had been taken from him when he was first admitted into the prison. He now had everything he had arrived with, minus two items; a small key, and his sonic screwdriver. Dressing as quickly as he could, considering how worn out he was feeling, and replacing the items back into his pockets, the Doctor ran off to find Sara.
When the Doctor finally did manage to locate Grissom's office, he found everyone else was there. Sara, Grissom, Nick, and Warrick were all standing, together, at the far end of the room. The Doctor walked in. "Everyone all right?"
Grissom looked up, and narrowed his eyes when he saw the Doctor. "Those clothes were evidence."
The Doctor looked down at his long jacket and brown pinstripe suit. "Well," he shrugged. "They've been evidence for quite some time now. Probably not all that evidential anymore." He gave them a grin.
Grissom was not amused. "What do you want?" he demanded.
The Doctor looked appalled, although it was difficult to tell if the look was theatrical or sincere. "What?" he asked. "Me? Nothing. Well, sort of nothing. Actually," he added in a whisper, "I'd really just like you to sort of bunch up together, kind of like you're doing now."
"Grissom's right," said Warrick. "Every piece of evidence we've gotten up to this point has been fabricated. You're pulling some kind of stunt, aren't you? Trying to find a get out of jail free card?"
The Doctor just gave them a pointed look. "I hardly think I would have given you a full confession on tape if I expected you to find me innocent," he said. He dug into his pocket. "Besides, I've already got one." He handed Warrick a creased monopoly card. Warrick didn't bother to take it.
"So what do you want?" asked Sara.
The Doctor put the card back into his pocket and began pacing the room. "What I really want right now is a cup of tea," he said. "A really nice, hot cup of tea. But seeing as this is America, I have a feeling that isn't going to be possible."
The CSI team all looked at one another. The Doctor didn't notice, just continued pacing in front of them. Grissom reached for his phone.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said the Doctor.
Grissom just glared at him. "Why?" he asked. "Is that supposed to be some kind of threat?"
The Doctor just sighed, but didn't stop pacing. "You know, every time I try to warn people about something, they think I'm threatening them. And they never listen anyways, so really, I'm not sure why I bother." He looked over at Grissom. "I still wouldn't phone the police."
"We are the police," said Nick. "We're just phoning for backup."
"You know which police I mean," said the Doctor. "The ones who carry around guns." The Doctor gave an involuntary shudder. "Don't like guns. Sorry—forgot. America. Second amendment and all that. But I still really don't like guns. They go bang and hurt people."
"And you're telling us that you've trapped us all together in one place, pacing around in front of us, being generally menacing, and you're unarmed?" said Sara. She was clearly dubious.
"Yep," said the Doctor. "And as for trapping you, I'd hardly think that's fair. I mean, I walked into the room, you lot were already here. I just came in and started pacing. I never said you couldn't leave."
"All right then," said Nick, and began to leave.
He was stopped by the Doctor before he got more than a few steps away from the rest of the group. "Granted," said the Doctor, "I still wouldn't. Safety in numbers."
"Safety from what?" asked Grissom, phone still in hand. "You?"
"Nah, just the thing I'm waiting for," said the Doctor. "Not really sure when it'll show up or what it'll look like, but, well, since the little mind-eaters know I'm here, I figure they won't keep me waiting long." A figure appeared in the door, and the Doctor looked up.
It was Catherine Willows. Or rather, it wasn't.
"Doctor," said not-Catherine.
The Doctor stopped his pacing, and edged back towards the other CSIs. "Stay together," he said, fishing in his pocket. He remembered too late that he no longer had his sonic screwdriver, and instead whipped out a pencil, brandishing it at not-Catherine as if it were a deadly weapon.
Not-Catherine laughed at him. It was a cold, hollow laugh. "Missing something?"
The Doctor looked at the pencil, then back at not-Catherine. "Nah," he said. "This is just as good. Get too close, and I can write you a formal letter." He met her gaze, and his expression became grim. "Now, I know you're desperate and I know you're frightened. But I need to know just two things," he thrust the pencil forward, his eyes blazing. "Who are you and why did you kill Sammy?"
"I heard them talking," said not-Catherine. "Before you arrived. You know what they were saying about you?"
The Doctor raised up his other hand in front of the group, as if his long arm would shield the CSIs from any forthcoming attack. "You leave them out of this," he said. "This is between you and me."
"But it was never about me," said not-Catherine. "Oh, no. You never really cared about us. We're a lost cause. You can see it. I can read it in your eyes. You can't bring back an erased timeline. Not without wiping out at least half the galaxy."
"Why did you kill Sammy?" the Doctor demanded.
"I was doing you a favor," said not-Catherine. She walked towards him, her voice mocking. "The all-powerful Doctor. The man who faced down armies of Daleks. The man who can topple empires with just a few words. Trapped by a simple human."
"Stop it," the Doctor gritted out through his teeth.
"You were right, Gil Grissom," said not-Catherine. "This whole thing wasn't about fixing timelines or possessing people's minds. It wasn't about tapes or poison or time travel. No, this was just about the Doctor trying his very hardest to cover up his mistakes."
"Mistakes," repeated Grissom. He began forward, but the Doctor pushed him back.
"Don't touch her," he hissed. "Just stay together." He turned back to not-Catherine, who was now right beside him. She reached out to touch his face, and he flinched.
"Oh, he still remembers," not-Catherine cried, gleefully. "He still remembers all the pain we put him through. All that misery, that torture. All those hours strapped down to a bed, trying to convince one single man that you had to stay. All that work and pain and effort, and now he's dead. You couldn't fix him, Doctor. He's dead."
"You killed him," the Doctor said.
"That's why the Doctor stayed," not-Catherine explained to the other CSIs. "To keep the lion in its cage."
"Not getting any of this," Nick said. He turned to Sara. "You?"
Sara shook her head.
Warrick pointed at not-Catherine. "At the risk of stating the obvious," said Warrick, "I'm pretty sure that's not Catherine."
"No," said the Doctor. "It's not."
"Oh, go on," said not-Catherine. She stepped back a few paces, and folded her arms. "Explain it to your precious little human pets. Tell them what really happened to Sammy."
The Doctor lowered the pencil, and his eyes fell. The other CSIs looked at him expectantly.
"Well?" asked Sara.
"I made a mistake," admitted the Doctor. "When I first got there, I thought… I wanted to be prepared for anything. I started making an escape route, just so I could make a quick getaway if I had to. Knocked out cameras, weakened the structural integrity of the bars, made a little hole in the fence. Simple things, really. I didn't think they'd seal me up in the medical wing, although I guess I should have worked that out."
"So that was your mistake?" asked Warrick.
The Doctor said nothing, and not-Catherine gave another laugh. "Oh, no," she said. "The mistake he made was assuming that Sammy wouldn't figure it out."
"And you two were what?" asked Grissom. "Bedfellows?"
The Doctor looked uncomfortable, shifting from foot to foot. "Well, he certainly tried," admitted the Doctor. "He… I think he had some strange ideas about our relationship right off the bat."
"Obsessed," clarified not-Catherine. "But Sammy always was obsessed with beautiful things he couldn't have." Not-Catherine scanned the Doctor carefully, as if surveying an item she wished to purchase. "Oh, and this body of yours really is quite beautiful, Doctor. You can't deny that."
The Doctor said nothing.
"And what was he to you?" asked Sara. "A friend?"
"It was… complicated," said the Doctor. He began to speak, stopped, then tried again. "Sammy had… some problems. He was dangerous. I couldn't…" he paused, and looked back at the CSIs behind him. "I couldn't just let him escape. That's why I stayed. Because for whatever reason, and I really don't know why, he wouldn't leave without me. So I knew that if I stayed, he wouldn't get out."
"And the tapes?" asked Grissom.
The Doctor suddenly snapped back into lecture mode. He pointed at not-Catherine. "That entity, that thing in your friend's mind, it's been sucking away at peoples' psyches, one by one. But it's harder to swallow when it tries to infiltrate a group. A group of people, all focused on the same thing—they're basically putting their heads together. Doubling their mental defenses. I hoped that if Sammy could organize the prisoners in a common cause, it would be harder for the mind-eater to get at them. So we came up with the idea of leaving you messages on tape. The little click sound was Sammy's idea. He thought it would get your attention."
"Oh, drop the act, Doctor," snapped not-Catherine. The Doctor's expression fell. Not-Catherine smirked. "You're fooling no one but yourself. This isn't about the Doctor versus the monsters. This was all about Sammy." Not-Catherine looked back at the CSIs, cold laughter in her eyes. "You see, this is where it starts to get good. Loyal Sammy, who got so very angry and upset when he saw the Doctor tied up and miserable in the middle of the room. He cared so deeply about you, Doctor, and you twisted him right around your little finger."
The Doctor turned on Catherine. "He was angry enough to kill somebody," said the Doctor. "And I wasn't exactly able to restrain him physically. I thought he was going to run out of that door and snap the warden's neck. So I gave him something to do. Something that wouldn't hurt anyone. I wanted to fix him."
"This doesn't make sense," said Warrick. "If you were staying put just to make sure that Sammy didn't escape, then why'd you go and fake your own death? As soon as he found out that you were dead, he would've been back out on the streets."
"Because they were actually killing me," spat the Doctor, snapping his head around and staring into Warrick's eyes. Warrick flinched beneath his gaze. "I'm not some kind of robot who can take any kind of abuse. They were flooding my body with poisons, restricting my breathing, shooting electrical current through my body. I tried. I really tried. But I was fighting a losing battle, and I couldn't let myself regenerate." He hesitated. His hands were shaking. "When I stopped my hearts, I really didn't know if I'd ever wake up," he said, in a softer voice. "So I… came up with a backup plan…"
"Oh, this is my favorite bit," said not-Catherine. She looked over at Grissom. "You were right, Gil Grissom. Those tapes he left you really were a trap, but not for you. Oh, no, not for you or your team. Would you care to tell them, Doctor, where you asked Sammy to meet you if he actually decided to escape?"
"The Tardis," said the Doctor, in such a small, quiet voice that one had to strain to hear him. He looked back at Sara, pain in his eyes. "I knew you'd call up Sarah Jane. And she'd tell you to make sure you found the Tardis. I figured that way, if anything ever happened to me and Sammy made his escape, you'd still find him." He turned back to not-Catherine, his eyes blazing. He pointed the pencil at her again. "But I was trying to make him better. I was helping him. I was showing him that he could put that anger and passion towards a better purpose. I was getting through to him. You didn't have to kill him."
"Oh, but I did," said not-Catherine, sauntering up to him. "Just to break you that little bit more, Doctor. Just to make sure you were that little bit weaker." She stopped, so close to him that he could feel her breath on his neck. She gave a little fake pout. "Aw, isn't that cute," she said. "You're protecting your little humans."
"They're doing that all by themselves," said the Doctor. "They're stronger than you think."
"Isn't that sweet of him?" not-Catherine asked the other CSIs. "He's put up a nice little mental shield around your little group, and he's trying to make it seem like you did all the work. That's why he wouldn't let you leave. Of course, you and your suspicious little minds thought it was something nefarious. Some evil scheme." She turned back to the Doctor, and stroked a hand gently down his cheek. This time, the Doctor didn't flinch, just looked at her with that steady, threatening gaze. "Of course, Doctor, you know what that means for you, don't you? Spending all this energy and effort just to keep those pet humans of yours safe. It means you are vulnerable to psychic attack." At this last word, she raised her hand to his temple and pressed down. The Doctor doubled up, his eyes shut and his mouth gaping at the air. Not-Catherine looked over at Nick. "Easier than I thought. It looks like he spent most of his energy trying to protect you on the way here, Nick Stokes. How does that feel, knowing that you've killed him?"
Suddenly, the Doctor straightened, eyes open wide, mouth ajar, then collapsed into not-Catherine's waiting arms, his eyelids drooping gracefully shut. The CSIs all looked at one another, not really sure what to do. It was clear to each and every one of them that they really should be doing something, but this was so far out of their area of expertise that they really had no idea what.
"There, there," said not-Catherine, cradling the Doctor in her arms as if he were a child. "It's been so lonely for you in your head. You'll never be alone again, though, Doctor. I'll be here with you. Forever."
Without warning, the Doctor opened his eyes, and clasped her head with his hands. Not-Catherine shrieked, as the Doctor cried out, "Help me hold her down!"
Nick, Warrick, and Sara ran over as fast as they could, pinning not-Catherine to the ground. The Doctor looked deep into her eyes as she continued to struggle. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. But this is going to hurt." And he closed his eyes.
And then Catherine screamed. And opened her eyes.
"What?" said Catherine. She stared at the Doctor in confusion, as he removed his hands from her head. "Who the hell are you?"
Nick, Warrick, and Sara let go, and Catherine got to her feet. She looked around, and spotted Grissom. "Who's he?" she demanded. "And since when do you interrogate suspects in your office?" She turned back to the Doctor. "Oh, wait a second," she said. "You must be that guy that Lindsey's always going on about. Dave or whatever your name is. Well, you know what? She's thirteen years old, so hands off!" And with that, Catherine Willows slapped the Doctor across the face.
The Doctor rubbed his face. "It's always the mothers," he muttered.
Grissom just gave a warm smile. "Welcome back, Catherine," he said.
Catherine arched an eyebrow at him. "Welcome back yourself," she said sarcastically. "What's the big commotion? You didn't just all swamp into this place to help me fend off some perv, did you?"
The Doctor appeared a little hurt by this comment. "Hey, excuse me," he said. "But I am most certainly not a perv."
"You," said Catherine, wagging her finger at him, "stay quiet and keep away from my daughter."
The Doctor sighed, and went over to the other side of the office, while Grissom tried to fill Catherine in on what she missed. The Doctor slumped to the floor, and examined the object in his hand. Sara noticed him and took pity on him. She went over, and sat on the floor beside him.
"I'm sorry about Sammy," she said.
The Doctor didn't answer. He just stared down at his hands, a vacant expression on his face.
"You can't fix everyone, you know," Sara told him. "Sometimes people are just bad to the core, and there's nothing you can do for them."
"I was getting through to him," said the Doctor. "I really was." He shook his head. "You know, that first time he snuck in, I thought, 'this is it, Doctor. You're really in for it now.' And he leaned over and looked at me, and that's when I saw it. That spark you humans all have. That beautiful bit of humanity that just makes you so… wonderful. That's when I thought, maybe it's there. Inside of all of them. All those crazy serial killers and criminals out there behind bars. Maybe they just need someone to bring that little spark out."
"But you knew you couldn't fix him," Sara pointed out. "I mean, you could make him better, but you still wanted him behind bars."
"Yes," said the Doctor, but it was so sad that Sara found herself involuntarily rubbing his arm to comfort him. He looked down at the object in his hand, twirling it between his fingertips.
"Where'd you get that from?" asked Sara.
The Doctor pointed the object at Catherine. "Her mind."
Sara decided she wasn't even going to try to work that one out. "Okay, smarty pants, then what is it?" she said.
The Doctor sighed. "Another problem."
"A bad problem?"
"Less bad," said the Doctor. "For you, at any rate."
Sara looked at him. He was clearly lost in some other train of thought, some train of thought that he wasn't letting her in on. "Would you care to elaborate?" she asked.
The Doctor showed her the object in his hand. It was a yellowish crystal—quartz, perhaps?—about the size of a penny. "I remember these," he said. "From way back. Several centuries ago in my personal timeline. They're found on the planet Manussa in the Scrampus System. Which means I now know exactly who I'm dealing with, and I'm pretty sure I know what they've done and why they need my help."
"You mean you've worked out who this mind-bug is?" asked Sara. She still felt pretty stupid engaging in this game about aliens and mind bugs. As far as Sara was concerned, this whole case was going to fall into the same category as New Years 2000 in her mind—stored away in a big locked chest marked "Do Not Open." But since she was pretty certain she was going nuts anyways, she figured she might as well indulge her imagination. "So that's good, isn't it? I mean, it's always better to fight against something when you know what it is."
"It's… upsetting," the Doctor admitted. "Because it proves what I always feared to be true—that my friend is going to die, and it really is all my fault." He looked over at Sara. "Its name is the Mara. It—well, they—are a manifestation of every evil thought in the human psyche. All grouped together and manifested in the form of a snake. But it can't manifest now. It isn't even real, not entirely. It's just a temporal echo."
"I don't get it," said Sara. "What's a temporal echo? Is it like a ghost?"
"Imagine," said the Doctor, back in lecture mode, "that I went back in time and picked up, oh, I don't know… American…" He tapped the quartz against his lips in thought. "I know!" he said. "Samuel Clemens."
Sara smiled. "Mark Twain."
The Doctor returned her smile with his own manic grin. "Very good."
"It's Grissom," said Sara. "He rubs off on you."
"Well," continued the Doctor, "if I met my good friend Mark Twain back in 1870, and I said, 'tell you what, Samuel Clemens, how about you hop into the Tardis, and I'll take you forward about a hundred thirty years and let you meet some friends of mine in the year 2003?' So we pop off to Las Vegas, 2003, and meet Miss Sara Sidle of the Las Vegas crime lab, and you get to shake the hand of a very famous American writer. Now, you tell me, Miss Sara Sidle, while you're shaking Mark Twain's hand, is Mark Twain alive or dead?"
"Well, he's alive," said Sara. "I mean, if I'm shaking his hand."
"But he isn't," said the Doctor. "He's just a temporal echo. After all, Samuel Clemens died years ago. You can see his grave. In fact, in my nice little scenario I described, I could take Mark Twain off to see his grave and let him morn himself." The Doctor paused. "Don't tend to do that, though. Makes the trips pretty depressing."
"I think I get it," said Sara. "You're saying the mind-eater is a time traveler."
"Not quite," said the Doctor. "He's a bit like me. His timeline comes from nowhere and goes to nowhere. Which means that his homeworld has been unwritten from the pages of history. Torn out of time, so to speak."
"Okay, go slower," said Sara. "Start at the beginning and work your way to the end."
"When I last met the Mara," said the Doctor, "it was hitching a ride back in time by stowing away in the mind of a very good friend of mine, Tegan Jovanka. The Mara seemed determined to cause a predestination paradox. You know, causing his own creation. But at that point in my personal timeline, there were, well, others who could…"
"You mean," Sara cut in, "that your planet was still around."
"Yes," said the Doctor. He took in a deep breath, then continued as if nothing had phased him. "Well, back then, there were certain safeguards in place with time travel. You mess something up, and we'd send someone off to make sure the whole thing got taken care of before anything too nasty happened. But, well, I have this… aversion to violence, you see, which means that I really try hard not to kill sentient life-forms, even if they are evil monsters bent on destroying the world. So I left the Mara in Manussa's past, drained and powerless. And I figured it couldn't possibly do any harm. But the moment I left, Gallifrey no longer existed. The Time Lords no longer existed. The Mara didn't know that, of course. The Mara thought, 'now that the Doctor's gone, I can really make sure I do this right.' And apparently, it succeeded in creating itself before its proper time in history. Predestination paradox. Created a nice big hole in the fabric of space-time, but this time, there's no one around to fill in the hole. Big nasty creatures came out to feed on the temporal bleeding, time swelled out around the planet and plopped it into its own isolated little bubble outside of the universe. And quicker than you can blink, Manussa is erased from history. Never existed."
"Because of me," said the Doctor. "Remember? I'm the space-time anomaly. There are worlds that exist only on my personal timeline. And apparently, there was still a little temporal echo of the Mara left inside Tegan's head." The Doctor stared at his red sneakers, knocking them together at the toes. "The last time I saw Tegan was… oh, about three years from now. In 2006. She told me she was dying. An alien tumor in her brain. I tried to plead with her to let me help, but she was so stubborn. She said she didn't want any alien thing inside her head. And she was right, because I know what that tumor is."
He flipped the quartz over in his hand. "It's time. The tumor in her head. It's the cruel, paradoxical, swirling ravages of time that's slowly destroying her. The Mara must have leapt inside her head, the one last place in the universe it could exist, and the tangle of timelines that accompanied it is slowly killing her. And there's nothing I can do. Even if I take the Mara out of her head, I can't take away that chaos of time. It's impossible." He shook his head. "I always held out hope that I could go back and save her. But now…" He trailed off, and left the thought unsaid.
Sara was about to think of something comforting and reassuring to tell him, when a loud ringing sound cut through the air. Catherine fished out her phone, opened it up, and nearly shouted, "Lindsey!"
No one spoke, but everyone could see the expression on Catherine's face turn from parental annoyance to panic. "Where is Lindsey?" she demanded. "Where is my daughter?"
She looked around, as if trying to spot something in the room. "Oh, I'll give you a doctor," she said. "We'll lock you away in a nice padded cell with hundreds of doctors. Now give me back my daughter!"
Before Sara even noticed that the Doctor had left her side, he had already sprinted over to the other side of the office and plucked the phone out of Catherine's hand.
"I'm here," said the Doctor. "What do you want?"
Catherine turned to Grissom, about to protest, but Grissom held up a hand to stop her. Sara could tell that Grissom was up to something, and didn't want to let on. The Doctor, meanwhile, had begun pacing the room.
"Don't you touch her," said the Doctor. "Not one hair on her head, not one neurotransmitter in her brain. You hear? Because if I find out that you've hurt her in any way, you'll have to answer to me. And I guarantee, you really, really don't want to do that."
The Doctor stopped his pacing, his eyes fixed ahead and yet staring at nothing. "I'll be there," he said, so quietly that Sara had to strain to hear him. He flipped the phone closed, and tossed it to Catherine. Without so much as a word to any of them, he turned to leave the office, his tan coat swooshing out behind him.
"Hey, wait a minute," Nick shouted after him. "You can't leave! You're still under arrest!"
"I know," the Doctor reassured Nick as he vanished out the door. "Won't be a minute!"
Everyone looked at Grissom. "Shouldn't we go after him?" asked Sara.
Grissom sat down at his desk and turned to his computer. "We could chase him around," said Grissom, "although I doubt it would do us much good. He seems like the kind of guy who would be hard to tail. On the other hand, we could listen into his phone conversation, and find out exactly where he's going." He opened up a program and started flipping through files.
Catherine bent over his shoulder. "That's my phone number!" she accused. "You've been recording my calls!"
"Only since you began acting out of character," Grissom explained. He clicked on a file, and pulled it up.
"Lindsey!" said Catherine's voice.
"Not exactly, Mrs. Willows," came a Midwestern accent that Sara recognized immediately. Dr Bradshaw. In the background, Sara heard shouts from a clearly angry teenage voice. If Dr Bradshaw heard them, he didn't seem to care. "I do have your daughter with me, Mrs. Willows, but I don't think you have the bargaining chips necessary to obtain her. Hand me over to the Doctor."
"Oh, I'll give you a doctor," insisted Catherine. "We'll lock you away in a nice padded cell with hundreds of doctors. Now give me back my daughter!"
Sara remembered how fast the Doctor had snatched away Catherine's phone, but his voice still came through the speakers well before she expected it.
"I'm here," said the Doctor. "What do you want?"
"I think you know that already, Doctor," said Dr Bradshaw. "I want you. And I'm willing to make a trade. I've got your Tardis, and I've got this pretty little ape." In the background, Lindsey sounded less than pleased with the metaphor. Dr Bradshaw, again, ignored her. "You give yourself up and come quietly, or I'll make sure this little human doesn't reach her fourteenth birthday."
"Don't you touch her," said the Doctor. "Not one hair on her head, not one neurotransmitter in her brain. You hear? Because if I find out that you've hurt her in any way, you'll have to answer to me. And I guarantee, you really, really don't want to do that."
"That's my deal, Doctor," said Dr Bradshaw. "Your life for hers. If you're not behind the Tangiers in an hour, I start taking off body parts. You got that?"
"I'll be there," said the Doctor. And the call ended.
"Who was that?" demanded Catherine. "What do they… who…?" She whirled around, as if not sure which of her team members to interrogate first. "What is going on here?"
Sara ignored Catherine and looked at Grissom. "You think this is like Sammy?" she asked. "They keep Lindsey around to make sure the Doctor stays put and does what they want?"
"If that's what really happened," said Grissom. "And if it is, Lindsey is in deep trouble."
"What do we do?" asked Warrick.
"I think," said Grissom, "we'd better go to the Tangiers."
Lindsey didn't know what was going on, but she was pretty sure that Dave wasn't showing up. She'd figured that out back when this creep nabbed her. He looked older, lanky, with salt and pepper hair and gold rimmed glasses perched on his nose. But he was clearly stronger than he looked, since he'd managed to not only restrain her, but drag her into this back alley. A supposedly deserted alley, save for a weird blue phone booth at the back.
"I thought those things were supposed to be red," said Lindsey. It was obvious from the one-sided phone call that he was waiting for someone. It was also clear to her that she was in serious trouble. She wasn't worried, exactly. At least, that was what she told herself to stop the rising panic. No, definitely not worried. More embarrassed than worried. After all, she knew who'd come to get her out of this. Her mom would come in and get her out, scoop her up out of harm's way and lock up the bad guys. That's what her mom did. But then her mom would point out that see, Lindsey shouldn't have snuck off to meet Dave in the middle of the night, and she certainly shouldn't be in downtown Las Vegas in the middle of the night. So yeah. Not panic, not fear. Just embarrassment.
That didn't make her hands stop shaking.
"It's not a phone booth," said Dr Bradshaw. "It's a time machine." He gave her a cold smile. "But I guess you'll find that out soon enough."
"You're not gonna let me go, are you?" Lindsey said. "Even if this stupid Doctor guy shows up, you're not planning on letting me go?" She glared at him. She could feel her lips trembling. "Are you going to kill me?"
"Oh no," said Dr Bradshaw. He squeezed her arm and she bit her lip to stop herself from crying out. "You're worth much more alive. The Doctor loves his little pets. He'll do anything to make sure we don't harm his precious apes."
Lindsey tried to struggle out of his grasp, but once again, found it fruitless. "I'm not a pet," she snapped. "I'm not an ape, and I'm not a kid. Even if you can get away from the police, Sam Braun knows who I am. There's nowhere in the world you can get away from him."
"I think he might have trouble finding the place you're headed," Dr Bradshaw told her, the smile never wavering from his lips.
Lindsey continued to struggle against him, but he twisted her arm and she gave an involuntary yelp. He sneered at her, his eyes cold and menacing, and backed her against the phone box. For the first time, Lindsey had to admit that she really was terrified.
"Get away from her," came an unfamiliar voice from the other end of the alley. The weird thing was, it sounded British. Her captor loosened his grip on her arm, and turned around to address this new intruder.
"Doctor," he said. "Come to threaten me with another pencil?"
Lindsey peered at this Doctor guy who was supposed to be rescuing her. He didn't really look like the rescuing type. He was tall, thin, and dressed in a brown pin striped suit and red sneakers. He stood, blocking the entrance of the alleyway, his hands in the pockets of his long, tan trench coat. His silhouette was stark against the light from the streetlamps behind him.
"Not the Tangiers," the Doctor pointed out.
"Nowhere close," agreed Dr Bradshaw. "But I knew you'd be able to find me if I stayed by your Tardis."
"Not like you to be afraid of a few policemen," said the Doctor. "Particularly not ones under your control. But I'm guessing you weren't so concerned about the police as you were about what they were carrying. I'm assuming one of those policemen still has my sonic screwdriver?"
Dr Bradshaw nodded. "So here you are," he said. "No sonic screwdriver, no hope of rescue, and still so very weak inside your mind. You've certainly put up more of a fight than we expected, I'll give you that. But you've lost. You're ours now."
The Doctor looked over and met Lindsey's eyes. She was definitely panicking now, but she tried to smother it under irritation and defiance. So she gave him a look that seemed to say, "yeah, what're you going to do about this?"
"Let me see her," said the Doctor. He started forward, and Lindsey automatically stepped back. She bumped against the wooden box behind her, and cursed. She was cornered between two madmen, and as far as she could tell, no one else knew where she was. She winced as the Doctor came right up to her, and bent over so that he was at her eye level.
From his previous tone of voice, she had expected him to have the same cold countenance as Dr Bradshaw, but when she looked into his brown eyes, she felt oddly comforted. His whole body was radiating warmth and safety, and involuntarily, she felt the tension leaving her body.
"I'm going to look into your mind," he told her softly. "Just to make sure he hasn't put anything inside. Do you understand? It won't hurt, but if there's anything you don't want me to see, just imagine it behind a door, and shut it away. I won't look."
Lindsey hesitated, but when she looked back at him, he just gave her a wink. She swallowed, and nodded at him. Very gently, he rested his hands on the side of her head, and all of a sudden, it was like… like she was in two places at once. She could still see the alley, feel the wooden box behind her, feel Dr Bradshaw's hand still clutching her arm. But at the same time, she was in her living room, sitting in a chair, her feet propped up on the coffee table even though her mom always got mad when she did that.
Close your eyes, she thought she could hear. She looked around the alley, but couldn't see anyone else talking. She sighed, and complied with the voice in her head. Now she knew she was going mental. Hearing voices, being in two places at once.
"You're not mental," the Doctor said. He was seated in the chair across from her, a cup of tea in his hands. "Look, I'm sorry about this. I don't really like to intrude into people's minds without their consent, but I really needed a chance to talk with you." He took a sip from his tea.
"Hang on," said Lindsey. "You mean this whole thing is just in my head? You're in my head?"
"Yup," said the Doctor. "Hope you don't mind the setting. I just pulled something I thought you'd find comforting and familiar." He put his teacup on the coffee table by Lindsey's feet.
"You have to use a coaster," said Lindsey. "Or Mom'll have a fit."
The Doctor shrugged, and the teacup promptly popped out of existence. Lindsey sat up straight in the chair. "What the hell?"
"Not real," the Doctor reminded her. "We're still in your mind, remember?"
Lindsey settled back in the chair. "Oh yeah," she muttered. "I remember." She eyed him suspiciously. "So what do you want to talk about?"
"I think we both have figured out by now," said the Doctor, "that the Mara isn't about to let you go."
"The Mara?" Lindsey asked. "I thought he said his name was Dr Bradshaw."
"Dr Bradshaw is gone," said the Doctor. "The Mara took up residence in his head, and crushed him out of existence. If the Mara leaves his mind, there won't be enough of Dr Bradshaw left to take over. He'll just fall down, dead."
"And the Mara is…?"
The Doctor began running his hands through his hair, making it stick up even more than usual. "Sort of a mind-bug," he said. "Sort of. Dives into your head, eats up your personality, and sticks around to find more victims. He… well, he's sort of a 'they'. A collection of minds. A bit hard to explain."
"Yeah," said Lindsey. "Fine. So it's something that wants to eat my brain. Like a zombie."
The Doctor's face lit up. "Yes!" he said, a boyish smile spreading across his face. "Oh, that's brilliant! You're brilliant, Lindsey Willows, you know that?"
Lindsey scoffed. "Yeah, right," she said.
The Doctor didn't seem to notice she'd said anything, but just continued, his voice bursting with enthusiasm. "Zombies," he said. "The living dead. Just the right metaphor. Because the Mara, well, it's actually dead. What we're seeing now is just a ghost. A temporal echo. That's why they're so eager to get me and my ship. They think I can bring them back into existence, you see, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I comply."
"But why me?" Lindsey demanded. "What are you, some creep who has a thing for thirteen year old girls? This is a set up, right? You hire someone to kidnap me, then you swoop in and save the day like some big hero, and hope I'll fall for you?"
The Doctor looked horrified at the idea. "What?" he spluttered. "I… would never…" He began winding his fingers back through his hair. "Look, I know you probably don't believe me, but this is not a set up. I'm not trying to… abduct you, or seduce you, or bring about the end of the world, or whatever it is you think I'm trying to do. I'm just trying to make sure you don't get hurt."
"Why?" Lindsey demanded. She shot him her best menacing look, but he didn't appear to notice. He just met her gaze with an even stare.
"Because I've seen too many people suffer and die for me," he said. "Because this isn't your fight, and it isn't fair to drag you into this. Because your mother is worried sick. And because…" he paused, a sort of sad emptiness spreading through his eyes. "I couldn't save Sammy," he whispered. "But I can still save you." He blinked, and the empty sadness was gone. The sudden shift in mood caught Lindsey off guard.
"Right," said the Doctor in a sort of no-nonsense tone. "Far as I can make out, the Mara's changed its plans a little bit. Its plans… their plans… never mind. Group consciousness, pronouns can get a little sticky. Now that the Mara knows I can kill myself without regenerating—without letting them into my head, I mean—I'm guessing they are trying to find a new pressure point. That's probably where you come into the equation. A veiled threat. I die for good, and there's nothing left to protect you from them." He gave an involuntary shudder. "I think they proved that point last time."
"Great," said Lindsey. "I'm your Prozac."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her, and she gave an exasperated sigh.
"You know," she said. "The thing keeping you from flinging yourself off a bridge?"
The Doctor was about to protest her metaphor, but decided it was not worth the fight. He just shrugged. "If you want."
"Well, thanks," said Lindsey. "Thank you for coming into my mind and explaining to me just how screwed I am. Anything else you want to tell me? There's no God? Life is just a pointless nothing that leads to an empty void of nothingness?"
"Actually," said the Doctor, a smile on his face, "I've got a plan."
Sara Sidle was trying, desperately, to calm Catherine down as they headed towards the Tangiers. "It's going to be okay," she soothed, but Catherine was hearing none of it. She just kept insisting that Grissom keep checking the walky-talky to see if the police had located her daughter yet. And every time they checked, the answer was always no.
"They have to be around there somewhere," Nick told Catherine. "It was the only meeting place they mentioned in the conversation, and they seemed pretty determined to make sure the Doctor was there."
Sara started, an idea coming into her mind. "Gil," she said. "Remember on that last tape, how everyone kept shouting and claiming that they could hear an alarm going off, even though we couldn't hear anything?"
"Well," said Sara, "I'm betting that phone box of his has some sort of… mental communication. Telepathy or something. And when he died, it started screaming inside of people's heads."
"That seems a little far-fetched," said Nick.
"And even if it's true, I don't see how this helps us find Lindsey," Grissom pointed out.
"Well, that's just it," said Sara. "If the box can get inside the Doctor's head, he probably knows where it is. In that phone call, we thought that the Tangiers was the location. But that wasn't the location at all. It's the Tardis. Find the Tardis, find the Doctor." Sara smiled, and crossed her arms. "I'm right, aren't I?"
Grissom frowned, and pulled the car over. It did make a certain kind of sense. He picked up the walky-talky. "Any big blue boxes in the area?" he asked.
There was a crackle from the other end. "No," said the voice. "No police boxes around here."
"Hang about," said Catherine. "What's a police box?"
"More importantly," said Sara. "How did that police officer know we were looking for a police box?"
The CSI team all looked at each other.
"The Doctor was right," said Nick. "We really can't trust the police."
Catherine had apparently had enough of them all standing around, staring at each other and gaping at how clever the Doctor was. She dug out her phone and started clicking buttons.
"What are you doing?" asked Warrick.
"What does it look like?" Catherine asked. "I'm using the GPS in her phone to figure out where she is."
"Why didn't you do that sooner?" asked Grissom.
"Because I thought I knew where she was," Catherine replied. She stopped tapping at her phone and gave a satisfied "hmph". She handed the phone to Grissom. "There," she said. "That's where she is."
"Half way across town," said Grissom, pulling back into the street. "I guess we should have known."
The walky-talky crackled to life again. "Mr. Grissom, sir," came the policeman's voice on the other end. "Do you want us to scan the area for police boxes?"
Catherine snatched up the walky-talky, and pressed the button. "Forget the damned police box and find my daughter!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.
The other members of the CSI team stared at her, and she smiled. "Well," she said. "That'll keep them busy."
Sara regarded the map on Catherine's phone. "You don't think that they stashed Lindsey's phone somewhere we couldn't track it?"
"Oh, I doubt they know that I can track it," said Catherine. "I never told Lindsey her phone had tracking software installed, and I'm pretty sure if she can't find it, her captor won't be able to either."
"You think they'll let her go when the Doctor shows up?" asked Nick.
"I doubt it," said Warrick. "If that story we got about Sammy is actually true, I'm pretty sure they'll turn Lindsey into another Sammy. You know, keep Lindsey around to make sure the Doctor doesn't try to kill himself again. As long as he stays alive, he can protect Lindsey."
"Yeah, but he believes he's an alien," said Nick. "I mean, even if he isn't nuts, he's hardly going to care about the life of someone who isn't even the same species as him."
"Oh, I'll make him care," said Catherine.
"He's dangerous," Grissom pointed out. "He's smart and manipulative and has complicated motives. We can't predict what he'll do, and we can't predict whether or not he'll try to protect Lindsey."
"He seemed pretty upset that they hurt Sammy," said Sara.
"Yeah, but he wasn't exactly protecting Sammy, either," said Warrick. "If that whole story is true…"
"Which we have no proof of," said Grissom.
"If it is true," Warrick continued, "it sounds like he was using Sammy's friendship to get him to arrange his own recapture."
"As I said before, we can't trust the Doctor," said Grissom.
"So we're leaving my daughter in the hands of a kidnapper and a man who believes he's an alien?" asked Catherine. "Oh, this just takes the cake."
"I'm pretty sure he really is an alien," said Sara, although she wasn't sure if anyone else believed her. "Gil, you believe he's an alien too, don't you?"
"He certainly thinks he is," said Grissom. "And as long as he is certain of that fact, I'm not sure it makes a clear difference biologically."
"It makes a difference if he's mentally unhinged," said Catherine.
Grissom turned the corner. "Just because you're beginning from a different mental starting point doesn't make your methods of reasoning any less valid." He drummed his fingers against the steering wheel. "As I said, it doesn't matter whether he is actually an alien with a spaceship or not. He's got the mindset of a killer, and that makes him dangerous. His motives are confusing and hard to predict, and that makes him hard to catch. But I think Sara's right. I think we'll find him with that phone box of his." He pulled over, and parked the car. "All right, a few alleys away. Let's get moving."
"Stick together," said Sara, as they piled out of the car, but she wasn't sure that anyone was listening to her anymore.
As they approached the alley, carefully, guns in hand, they could hear a conversation taking place. And Sara recognized the voices.
"That's enough," said Dr Bradshaw. "You can see I didn't hurt her."
Lindsey gave a startled yelp, and Catherine looked like she was about to jump out and mow the man down herself, but the others all pulled her back. Grissom was at the front, peering down the alley, trying to assess the situation.
"You've got me now," said the Doctor. His voice was quiet, low. He was probably trying not to scare Lindsay. Grissom watched as he advanced towards Lindsey and Dr Bradshaw. "Let her go."
"No," said Dr Bradshaw. "I don't think I will, Doctor. And I think you already have figured out why. You'll keep yourself alive to make sure we don't hurt her."
"I won't wipe out half the galaxy for you," said the Doctor.
"I think you will," Dr Bradshaw told him. "I think you'll do whatever we tell you to, Doctor. I think you'll find that we are the ones in control."
The Doctor laughed. "You don't know how many times I've heard people say that," he said. "Every megalomaniac I meet, it's always the same thing. 'You are in my control, Doctor. You'll do what we say, Doctor.' Well, you know what? You've bitten off more than you can chew."
As if she had been waiting for the cue, Lindsey leaned over and bit Dr Bradshaw's hand, right where he was holding her arm. Dr Bradshaw gave a scream. Grissom and the other CSIs all ran out into the entrance of the alley, but each of them stopped as they watched the scene before them. The Doctor had put himself between Lindsey and her captor, and was trying to wrestle Dr Bradshaw away from the teenager with one hand. With the other, he snapped his fingers.
The doors to the blue box swung open, and Lindsey ran towards them. Grissom squinted as the light from within spread through the alleyway. From where he was, the inside didn't look like a phone booth. It was too bright, for one, and there didn't appear to be any phone.
"Lindsey!" called Catherine, and Lindsey turned around in the doorway, noticing her mother for the first time. Grissom saw a look of relief wash over Lindsey's face, and for a moment, he was sure she'd use the opportunity to make a dash towards them. Instead, she hesitated.
"Sorry!" she called out, as she ran inside the phone booth and shut the doors. Grissom didn't notice how close Dr Bradshaw was to her position until after the doors had already closed, leaving Dr Bradshaw banging his fists against the blue wood.
Grissom looked back at the Doctor, who was now curled up on the ground with his head in his hands. Grissom raised the gun, and released the safety. "Step away from him, Bradshaw," he instructed. "You're under arrest." He was about to recite Dr Bradshaw his Miranda rights, when he noticed the other man's amused look.
Dr Bradshaw grinned at Grissom. "Oh, I very much doubt that," he said. "Look behind you, Gil Grissom. You've already lost."
Grissom turned around, and found the police had already arrived and surrounded them, restraining the other members of his team. One policeman took the gun out of Grissom's hands, and pointed it back at Grissom. Grissom turned around, keeping his arms raised.
"Okay," he said to Dr Bradshaw. "You got me. Bravo."
"I don't care about you," said Dr Bradshaw. "All I care about is him." He turned on the Doctor, who'd managed to crawl along the ground to the far side of the blue box, his body propped against its wooden surface. Dr Bradshaw remained in front of the doors.
"You got me," said the Doctor.
"Oh yes, we have," said Dr Bradshaw. "And your mind is weak as a kitten now. How many more psychic attacks can you fend off, Doctor? How long before you give in to us?" Dr Bradshaw sneered at him. "You're trapped, Doctor. You can't get into your Tardis and fly off. And that little ape will have to come out eventually. Your clever plan has failed. Admit defeat."
The Doctor turned his head, and looked past the corner of the box. Slowly, and leaning heavily against the side of the box, he managed to get to his feet. He turned around, still resting his weight against the box, and gave Dr Bradshaw a weary smile. "You know what?" he said. "The gold glasses… not really your thing. Try black. Much nicer." He looked over at Grissom, and gave a wink. Then, without warning, the side of the box flew open, and the Doctor dove inside, slamming it shut behind him. A grinding, wheezing sound echoed through the alley, and the box—as unbelievable as it seemed—just disappeared into thin air.
Catherine began screaming death threats at the people around her. The rest of the team were simply trying to process what they'd seen.
"That… that didn't just happen," said Nick.
Dr Bradshaw was still staring at the spot where the blue box had been, and he looked livid. Grissom kept his hands in the air, just in case the furious man turned around. "I think disappearing police boxes are the least of our problems," said Grissom.
"Oh, no you don't, Doctor!" shouted Dr Bradshaw at the empty air. "You aren't getting away that easily. I'll kill everybody. I'll kill them all! I'll make this world run with blood until you get back. You just wait and s—" And then, for no apparent reason, Dr Bradshaw collapsed.
Grissom heard the sound of falling bodies behind him, and turned around to see about half the police force collapsing in the same way. The remaining members of the police force all looked around, puzzled, and tried to ascertain what, precisely, was going on. The rest of Grissom's team quickly managed to get free, and stepped clear of the police force. A number of policemen had begun checking the collapsed people for life signs, but failed to find any. Grissom had half expected as much.
"Just like Verity Cordman," said Sara.
"Just like Verity Cordman," Grissom agreed.
The wheezing, groaning sound came flooding back through the alley, and the CSI team turned back towards the dead Dr Bradshaw. Behind him, the blue police box appeared in the alley, as if from thin air. The door creaked open, and out stepped a very happy Lindsey. Wearing a different outfit.
Catherine ran forward and scooped her daughter up into her arms. She was crying while attempting to give her daughter a stern lecture about the dangers of running into disappearing police boxes with madmen who claimed to be aliens. Lindsey, obviously, wasn't listening. In fact, she seemed pretty upset about her surroundings.
The Doctor stepped out of the box behind her, and shut the door. Grissom advanced towards him, a hundred questions running through his head, but the Doctor didn't notice. He just knelt by Dr Bradshaw's body, and closed his eyes.
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor, quietly. "I'm so, so sorry."
The Doctor looked up at Grissom, then past him, over his shoulder. He suddenly grinned, and jumped to his feet. "Oh, Sara Sidle, you are brilliant," he cried, flinging himself past Grissom.
Grissom turned, and found Sara right behind him, carrying what appeared to be a thin metal tube. The Doctor took it and gave Sara a big hug.
"I'm guessing that's the sonic screwdriver," said Sara, managing to extricate herself from the embrace.
"Oh yes," said the Doctor. He raised it up and kissed it. "Oh, how I've missed you!"
Grissom shot her a look that demanded an explanation. Sara shrugged at him. "The Doctor's been going on at me since he woke up about how the police had his sonic screwdriver," she said. "So when the police surrounded us and one of them was holding a device I couldn't identify, I put two and two together." She looked back at the sonic screwdriver. "It doesn't really look like a screwdriver."
"Well, it's sonic," said the Doctor, defensively. He tucked it into his pocket, and looked over at Lindsey and Catherine.
Lindsey was looking at the Doctor with desperation, as if to implore him to help her escape from her mother's clutches. The Doctor shrugged at her.
"Like I told you before," he said. "I'm not here to abduct you. Go and live your life, Lindsey Willows."
"But it's a time machine," whined Lindsey. "She doesn't even have to know." She made a face at her mother.
The Doctor gave her a warm smile, and turned back towards his ship. He fished a small key out of his pocket, and inserted it into the lock.
"You're still under arrest, you know," said Grissom.
The Doctor paused, the key still in the lock, and looked back over his shoulder at Grissom. "There was only one group of people who ever managed to keep me on Earth for an extended period of time," said the Doctor, quietly. "They're gone now, Gil Grissom. I'm all that's left."
And with that, he turned the key, and vanished back inside his spaceship.
Lindsey reveals what she learned from the Doctor.
Of course, Grissom had to question Lindsey on what had happened when she was with the Doctor, but her testimony didn't really help much. The entire thing seemed so implausible, especially coming from a thirteen year old girl, that Catherine kept interrupting and insisting that Lindsey tell the truth. Grissom eventually had to ask Catherine to leave the room.
"The Doctor was kind of in my head," said Lindsey, now that her mother was gone. "When I was with that Bradshaw guy, I mean. Like a telepathic conference. He told me he wasn't just some creepy old man who abducted thirteen year old girls. He told me he had a plan. He'd distract Bradshaw by talking at him, and when he said the word 'bite', I had to bite the guy's arm as hard as I could and then leap towards the Tardis. That's… the box you guys saw. It's called the Tardis. So anyways, I did that and I leapt towards it, and then the doors flew open and I totally wasn't expecting that at all. I thought I'd have to pry them apart or something, you know. But I climbed in and locked the doors—he said to make sure I did that so that Bradshaw couldn't get in. And so I get inside and I'm like, 'oh my god, this is way too cool.' Because it's, like, huge! I mean, really just massive. And I know he told me beforehand that it was bigger on the inside, but I guess I didn't realize just how big it really was. Anyways, so I was in the Tardis, and found the door in the back of the console room, and I followed his directions and opened up the back entrance. The Doctor comes flying in, I shut the door behind him, and he scrambles to his feet and opens a random door, and then we're back in the console room, which just makes no sense at all. He told me that's because the Tardis is alive and she likes to rearrange all the rooms, but I think he just led me in a circle the first time. He stumbles over to the console, pushes some buttons and pulls some levers, and then there's this ugly noise like an elephant sneezing, and the whole room shakes and the Doctor tells me that we're in flight.
"Flying? Yeah, right, I told him. I mean, it wasn't like this was Marry Poppins with flying umbrellas and tea parties on the ceiling. But he just gave me a smile and a wink, poked some buttons, went over to the doors and threw them open, and, oh, my god, we were in outer space. I know, it sounds totally nutsy, but we were just hanging there, above the Earth, in the middle of outer space. And that's when I knew this guy was totally for real."
"Did he explain to you why he was flying around outer space in a British police box that's bigger on the inside?" asked Grissom.
"Oh, yeah, well, apparently, they're all like that where he comes from," said Lindsey. "Not the police box part—the bigger on the inside part. I mean, he is an alien, you know. At first I was like, an alien, yeah right. I mean, you know, he looks human and stuff. Course, he told me I got it backwards—humans look like Time Lords, not the other way around. And I'm all like, pompous much? Cause I mean, Time Lord. What a stupid name for a species. And he laughed and said, yeah, his people are a pretty stuffy lot, and they don't like him very much because he goes off and has fun while they all sit around having meetings and filling out paperwork."
Grissom didn't mention to Lindsey that he was pretty sure there were no such people. That, even if there had been at some point, the Doctor had killed them all. Clearly, the Doctor hadn't told her this, either.
"So I'm like, 'okay. Cool. You've got a spaceship. So, take me somewhere spacey,'" Lindsey continued. "But he was all like, 'I can't… blah blah blah… mom's still in danger… blah blah blah… duty to the universe… blah blah blah…' and so I'm all like, 'okay, so if mom's in danger and this Mara person is going to kill everyone on the planet, then why did we leave anyways?' But apparently, Doctor I'm-So-Mysterious didn't want to answer me, he just closed the doors and pressed some more buttons on the console.
"So we landed in Australia in the middle of the night. Oh, yeah, the Tardis is a time machine—did I mention that? Yeah, so we got there and the Doctor had a bunch of junk in his hands that he'd fished out while we were still in flight, and he told me to be really quiet because Tegan was sleeping. And I'm all, 'who's Tegan?' and he's like, 'shhh!' And then we open the doors and went off to find Tegan.
"Yeah, she was asleep in her bedroom just like the Doctor had said. The Doctor was really careful to be quiet; he gave me the headgear thing and told me to hold it while he gave Tegan a sedative. Then he took the headgear, and put it on—it was, like, a bicycle helmet with wires and stuff coming out—and then he stuffed this little crystal into the middle, and turned it all on. I thought maybe he was going to hurt her because he looked really sad and upset, but it didn't look like she was in any pain or anything. Then the headgear made this little ding sound, and he took it off, and pulled out the crystal and handed it to me. He said he caught the Mara in that crystal and it was really, really important I hang onto it and didn't lose it and he'd meet me back at the Tardis. I think he was upset about Tegan, so I just left him there and went back to the Tardis. And I know you're going to tell me I'm making this all up, but there really was something in that crystal. It was, like, black and snaky and swimming around in there. It's not like I had to wait long or anything before the Doctor came back. He snatched the crystal out of my hands without even asking me or anything, shoved it into his pocket and told me he'd fixed everything now and he was taking me back home."
"If he trapped this… Mara when it was nighttime in Australia," said Grissom, "how come all those people collapsed while it was still nighttime here?"
"Yeah, I asked him that," said Lindsey. "I learned that lesson the hard way. Never, ever, ever ask the Doctor how anything works, because he'll just start babbling jibberish at you at about a thousand miles an hour. I think he makes it all up. Like he's just trying to impress people or something."
"So he took you to Australia, and then took you back?" said Grissom. "He didn't try to hurt you or convince you to stay with him? Just there and back, without a second thought?"
Lindsey looked at the spot where her mother had been, before Grissom had shepherded Catherine from the room. Lindsey leaned in towards Grissom. "Don't tell mom," she whispered, "but I kind of guilt tripped him into taking me somewhere else first."
Grissom raised an eyebrow at her.
Lindsey giggled. "Yeah, for being this big scary alien that all sorts of nasty people keep trying to get rid of, he's really easy to guilt trip. I just told him that I saved his life, and this was a time machine so it wasn't like he couldn't drop me back off where I was before, and then I added a few pleases in and told him I'd do anything he wanted, and then he got really embarrassed and flustered and he said fine, as long as I stopped doing that because I was thirteen and he was nine hundred and something, and that was just wrong in a whole lot of ways. And apparently," Lindsey added, glancing over at the door where Catherine was waiting for her, "he said Mom already slapped him and he wasn't keen on getting any more slapping."
"So he took you somewhere else?" asked Grissom.
"Oh yeah," said Lindsey, apparently forgetting to whisper. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. "We went to this theme park in the year 3500, and he told me not to wander off and he got pretty mad when I did, and then he told me I was lucky that Mom put a GPS in my phone because otherwise he'd never have found me. And I was like, 'she did what?' but it's not like I could throw it away or anything because, I mean, where am I going to get myself another cell phone when I'm about a thousand years in the future and on another planet? I didn't even know the GPS tracking thing still worked in the future anyways. It doesn't, actually, but he built this tracker thing, and he explained that, too, and I was like, okay, okay, I'll stop asking questions.
"So after we had fun there for a little bit, he was like, 'okay, Lindsey. You're going home.'"
"And he took you home then?" asked Grissom.
"Um, I think he tried," said Lindsey. She laughed. "He's a really bad driver. And he doesn't ask for directions. But yeah, I think it was about… um… a week before I got back home." She sighed, and looked over at the door. "I really thought he'd take me with him. I mean, it's fun, you know? But I think he got a bit freaked out when that giant lobster almost cut off my arm, because that's when he got the Tardis to actually take me back. I mean, he didn't even say goodbye. He just kind of… dumped me back on Earth and ran off." She rocked back in her chair. "And I know he told me not to flirt or anything… but he really was pretty cute. You know, for a 900 year old alien."
"He didn't take advantage of you or anything?" Grissom checked.
"Nah," said Lindsey, but she sounded almost disappointed. She gave another sigh. "Maybe when I'm older…" she mused. Then she looked back at Grissom. "Don't tell Mom I said that."
Grissom just shrugged. He wasn't really sure what to tell Catherine, but he was pretty sure that Lindsey had been returned to them unharmed and perhaps a little in love. He'd leave it to Catherine to explain why it would be a bad idea to sleep with an alien who was several centuries older than you. He figured that did not fall into his responsibilities as a crime scene investigator.
Chapter 13: Epilogue
Sara came into Grissom's office a week later to find him staring at his fetal pig and listening to a recording. It was one of the ones they'd found in the prison when they had first been investigating.
"Well, Sara," said the Doctor, "I know you're an intelligent young woman, and you've probably worked most of this out for yourself. But just in case you haven't… please, watch out. Keep your eyes open. There's someone in this prison who is really very dangerous, and despite my best efforts, I don't see how I can contain him."
Sara leaned her head against the open door. He hadn't been talking about that mind-bug, she realized. He'd been talking about Sammy. The tape was a warning to her about Sammy. And poor Sammy had been helping him record it.
"I'm trying my best to help him, and sometimes I think I might be getting through, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm doing any good," said the Doctor. "If I'm dead, which seems quite likely given that you're listening to this tape, I honestly don't know what he'll do. So keep your eyes and ears open, and don't trust anyone, even if you know them. Don't trust the people running the prison, don't trust the staff, don't trust the warden, and definitely, definitely, don't…"
Sara went over to Grissom's desk, and stopped the tape.
"I know," she told him. "I know exactly what it's like when the Doctor's involved in anything. I've got experience, remember? The Case that Never Ended? You're never going to get the answers you want. It's never going to make sense. Just let it go."
Grissom looked at her with an expression that meant he was trying to piece things together in his mind. "If I can just follow the evidence," he began.
"Stop," said Sara. "Just let it go."
Grissom sighed, ejected the tape, and put it back in the evidence bin. "This is why you were so willing to accept everything he told you, isn't it?" he asked. "Because you knew that if you questioned the abnormal too much, your whole world would fall apart."
"Like you said before," said Sara. "Just because you're approaching something from a different mental starting point doesn't make the reasoning beyond that point any less valid. Really, let this go, come back to the real world, and pretend this whole thing never happened."
Grissom nodded at her as she led him out the door.
"Come on," said Sara. "I'll buy you breakfast."
In a hospital room in 2007, Tegan Jovanka lay sleeping on the bed, looking pale and fragile. She was hooked up to every machine imaginable, machines to monitor her heart rate, to monitor her brain activity. Machines that fed her, medicated her, helped her breathe. And yet, despite these machines, Tegan Jovanka was dying.
A man sat beside her—a tall, skinny man wearing a brown pin-stripe suit. He watched her, reached over and held her hand as she took those last few breaths. He stayed as he saw her body fail, watched that spark of life wiggle free from her mind and fly off to someplace unknown. He leaned over, pressed a kiss to her forehead, and walked out of the room.
On her bedside, he left a small crystal, about the size of an American penny. It had been nearly black when he first put it there, filled with phantoms and ghosts and destroyed vestiges of time. But by the time the nurses found it, the gemstone was clear, and the Mara was well and truly gone.