There was little to distinguish the road from others in the area. Winding from one village in the vague direction of another, it ran on a low embankment, intended to lift it above the reach of floods. On either side, a straggling hedge separated it from the fields through which it ran.
Though by no means abandoned, the road was hardly well-trafficked, and no shepherd or labourer was passing by as an unearthly, hollow groaning sound filled the air. At the foot of the embankment, on the eastern side of the road, a tall wooden box, painted blue and topped by a flashing light, faded slowly into existence. The words POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX were clearly marked above its door; words meaningless in a century that had neither police, nor call boxes.
A few minutes after the box had assumed complete solidity and the roar of its arrival had died away, the door at the front opened and three people emerged. First came a short, untidy-looking man with a mop of dark hair, clad in a baggy coat and checked trousers that seemed a size too big for him. He was followed by a young man wearing a sleeveless jacket, kilt complete with sporran, and heavy boots; and a petite brunette apparently in her late teens, almost completely hidden from view inside an immense raincoat.
"Now, then," the first man said. He looked around, giving the impression that he was inclined to be satisfied with what he saw. "What have we here?"
"Gravity and atmospheric composition were Earth normal," the girl said. "Are we on Earth again, Doctor?"
"Och, what's the point of asking him?" the younger man said. "You should know by now he's never got the faintest idea where we are."
The older man gave him a mild look of reproach; this subject had obviously been the topic of discussion on many previous occasions. "I don't think that's very fair, Jamie."
"It looks like Earth," the girl persisted. She glanced around. "We ought to get a better view from up there."
She suited her actions to her words, scrambling up the bank and pushing her way through a gap in the hedge.
"Zoë, wait... Och, come on, Doctor, we'd best get after her."
The Doctor nodded, and in minutes he and Jamie had joined Zoë on the road. Although it was no more than a few feet above the level of the field, this gain in height was enough to give them a commanding view of the entire area. The fields stretched away in all directions, intersected by dykes and roads, dotted here and there with villages or farmsteads. In the distance, to the north and east, the land rose in gentle slopes, but elsewhere the terrain was, as far as could be discerned, completely level.
"Can't be Scotland," Jamie said. "It's too flat."
Zoë nodded. "This looks like reclaimed land. Are we in the Netherlands?"
"Maybe," the Doctor said. "I can't be sure yet. I think we need to explore."
He set off along the road, having chosen a direction apparently at random. Jamie and Zoë obediently followed, walking along the outer edges of the embankment where the surface of the road was less rutted and the view of their surroundings was best. The fields seemed to stretch away forever, dotted with reed-edged pools and seemingly given over entirely to grazing sheep. In the sky overhead, seagulls wheeled.
The TARDIS had long since been lost to view in the twists and turns of the road when Zoë called "Doctor!"
The Doctor and Jamie spun round, to see Zoë standing on the edge of the embankment and looking down. As they got closer to her, Jamie recognised her expression; it was the regretful, almost queasy look that Zoë always got when she saw an act of violence, or its aftermath.
"Down there," she said, pointing down the embankment.
The Doctor and Jamie looked. All the time they had been walking, the road had been running alongside a dyke; and it was into this body of water that they now directed their attention. Floating in the water was what, at first glance, appeared to be a discarded scarlet coat. But a closer look revealed that the coat had an occupant. Face-down in the water, unmoving, there was little doubt that this was a dead man.
The Doctor glanced around, apparently satisfying himself that they were the only three people in earshot, then cautiously made his way down the bank of the dyke, beckoning his companions to follow him. Soon, they were standing at the edge of the water.
"We'd better get him out of there," he said.
It took all three of them to drag the waterlogged corpse out of the dyke and onto the grass bank. In addition to his red coat, the man had been wearing pale breeches, boots and a crossbelt.
"He's a redcoat!" Jamie said.
"I can see that," Zoë replied. She seemed reluctant to look too closely at the dead man, preferring to concentrate on wiping her hands on the grass of the embankment.
"No, you don't understand. I don't just mean his coat's red. He looks just like those soldiers we fought against. Before I met the Doctor."
The Doctor nodded. "Yes, Jamie. That's definitely an eighteenth-century British uniform. I wonder..."
He paused in thought for a few moments.
"Zoë!" he said sharply. "We need to report this to someone in authority. Go back to the road and keep going. You should come to a village or a town sooner or later. Tell them what we've found."
Zoë rose to her feet. "What are you going to do?" she asked.
"Jamie and I will keep an eye on the body. We'll be fine."
Though she wasn't capable of great speed in her cumbersome raincoat and Wellington boots, Zoë did her best to comply, hurrying away in the direction they'd been heading.
"Why did you send her?" Jamie asked. "I'd have been faster."
"Well, I don't know exactly where and when we are," the Doctor admitted. "It's quite possible that you're breaking the law at the moment."
"What? How's that?"
"After Culloden, they made it illegal to wear those." The Doctor pointed at Jamie's kilt. "I didn't want you to get arrested."
"Not allowed to wear the kilt?" Jamie snorted. "I suppose they think if they take our kilts away we'll all turn into good wee bootlickers who'll do what King George says."
"Also," the Doctor said, putting his arm around Jamie's shoulders and hastily changing the subject, "I don't think Zoë would have liked waiting about in the company of a dead body."
"Ah, well, she's only a lass. Ye cannae expect it of her."
"No." The Doctor knelt by the dead man. "You've got more experience of that kind of thing. I'm sorry to say that it does tend to happen, if you travel with me for any length of time."
It was more than half an hour by Jamie's watch before Zoë returned, accompanied by a group of people. In addition to a number of men wearing coarse homespun, who might have been farmers or labourers, the party included a soldier, wearing a more elaborate version of the dead man's uniform; an elderly man in a frock-coat; and a bespectacled, stooped clergyman, who was accompanied by a small, shabby fellow dressed in black.
"This is the place," Zoë said, addressing the group.
The soldier took a few paces down the bank, briefly glanced at the body, and then looked up.
"You were quite right, miss," he said. "He's one of my men. Travis, his name was." He turned to the other men of the party. "I fear there is nothing you can do for him, doctor, Reverend."
The little man standing beside the parson shook his head. "Nothing doing. I've seen 'em pulled out of the water like that, when I was serving in His Majesty's navy. Been dead some hours, I'd say." Leaving the group on the road, he approached the body. "Best thing to do is get him in the ground as soon as possible. Oh. Ain't introduced meself, have I? Mipps is the name. I'm by way of bein' the sexton 'round these parts — and the undertaker."
One of the labourers was promptly dispatched to fetch a handcart, while the elderly man — presumably the local doctor — and the clergyman made their own brief examinations of the body.
"You'll have to come back to Dymchurch with us, of course," the officer said. "The magistrate may have questions for you. You're not local people, are you?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No, we were just passing through."
"Captain Nicholas Holloway." The officer held out his hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr..."
"Doctor." The Doctor vigorously shook his hand. "Allow me to present Mr James McCrimmon, and my, ah, ward, Miss Zoë Heriot."
"Another doctor? We're quite a distinguished company." The Captain turned as the other two gentlemen regained the top of the bank, and formally presented them: the medic was Doctor Sennacharib Pepper, while the clergyman was introduced as the Reverend Christopher Syn, Doctor of Divinity, Vicar of Dymchurch and Dean of the Peculiars.
Once the handcart had arrived, four of the workmen, under the direction of Mipps, loaded the body onto it and covered it decently with a sheet. Then the party set out once more in the direction of Dymchurch.
"Where is Dymchurch, anyway?" Jamie asked.
"It's on the coast of Kent," the Doctor explained. "All this countryside is the Romney Marsh."
Jamie glanced around dismissively. "It's still too flat."
"Well, as Zoë says, it's reclaimed land. They have a big sea wall, all along the coast, with sluice gates to drain the water. Otherwise all these fields would be flooded every time the tide came in. I expect that's it, over there." He pointed at a green bank in the distance, which appeared to run more or less at right angles to the road they were on.
The Doctor decided Jamie was in no mood to be educated and turned to Zoë. "You didn't have any trouble finding help?"
"I couldn't find a policeman," Zoë said. "So I asked people who I should talk to, and they said I should go to the vicarage, Doctor Syn would know what to do. Well, he sent Mr Mipps for Captain Holloway and Doctor Pepper — why do they call him a 'sawbones'?"
"Because that's what he does," Jamie replied, with a grin. "If there's something wrong wi' your leg or your arm, he saws it off. With a couple of strong men holding you down."
"That's—" Zoë broke off, looking sick, and obviously turning words such as 'primitive' and 'barbarian' over in her mind.
"That's the state of the art, I'm afraid," the Doctor said, patting her on the shoulder. "Remember we're about three hundred years before your time — you've got to make allowances. I take it these other gentlemen came of their own accord?"
"Yes. I suppose word had got around by then." She looked up at the Doctor. "What happens now?"
"Well, the magistrate will make enquiries," the Doctor said.
"That would be the squire, in this parish," Doctor Syn remarked. He'd obviously been close enough to hear at least some of their conversation, and had decided that the newcomers ought to be educated in the ways of the Marsh. "My good friend, Sir Antony Cobtree." He shook his head. "I'm afraid he won't care for it."
"I should think not," Zoë said emphatically.
"Oh, not in the way you're thinking, young lady. I only meant that he'd rather be out riding to hounds than asking questions of witnesses and going over evidence."
"Yes, I see," the Doctor said. "You mean he'd prefer a quick answer."
"Well, shouldn't be a problem, should it?" Jamie asked cheerfully. "Yon Redcoat fell in the ditch and drowned."
The two Doctors exchanged glances. Doctor Syn coughed politely.
"In all conscience and honesty, I must say that I do not believe this to be an accident," he said.
"Why?" Zoë asked.
"My dear young lady, this is not the time or the place to discuss such matters."
He moved away slightly, deliberately marking the subject closed for the present.