After Christmas, after Clara, after the Doctor regained a small spark of what he'd once been and ran off in search of a mystery, things in Paternoster Row settled down to their more typical pace. However much the three loved him as a brother and desired his company, the Doctor was at his best whilst off and running. Thus relieved of the burden for his care, a certain ease passed over the three residents of the household. Strax regained the spring in his step as he happily pondered various means of obliterating the neighbours whose dog left a mess in the garden. Jenny's always-welcome smile graced her cheeks more often, rosy in winter's chill as she kept the fires stoked, and baked steamy loaves of bread, and diligently polished the swords until they gleamed like silver. Madame Vastra herself spent too much time in the humid environment of her hothouse, impatient for the cold to pass, but she read thick volumes of esoterica to pass her time, and she consulted on the cases brought to her from her contacts at the Yard.
One day, dark with cloud cover and too chilly for one born in a clutch amidst the warm fronds of a fern forest, Jenny came to her. "Inspector McIntyre to see you, ma'am."
"Send him in, my dear, and bring the tea."
Jenny bobbed and hurried out, returning minutes later with the red-faced inspector, the last of the snow on his boots still melting.
His coat and hat were gone, no doubt warming near the fireplace in the parlour. His hands were large, callused, and red with cold as he twisted them together. No gloves, then. He owned one pair of mittens, poorly-made, a fact which, matched with his thin wedding band, suggested they had been a gift from his wife. The lack of both wedding band and mittens suggested his wife had left him over the holiday, likely returning to her family in the north after one too many nights alone. McIntyre's face bore the distinct blotches of long alcohol abuse, though Vastra had observed him enough to believe he was a soppy drunkard rather than a cruel one, a man who spent his late hours after work at the pub, drinking to forget the horrors of the day. Not a good man, not a kind man, but a man she could understand and not despise.
All this she thought in a flash, as she indicated the chair for him to sit and Jenny hurried out again to make tea. "Inspector," said Vastra. "I'm sorry to find out about your wife."
McIntyre startled, though not as much as he did the first time they met and Vastra asked about his sister.
"Madame, I ask you not to work your sorcery on me," he muttered. "But thank you."
Hardly sorcery, she would say, merely observation, but now was not the time. "What mystery has the Yard uncovered that requires my services?"
He coughed. She listened for the worrisome sounds of contagion, but he appeared to have nothing more than a mild cough brought on by the chill in the air, working itself out here in the moist warmth. "That fellow you brought in last week."
"The strangler? I've been following the papers. Is he to be hanged?"
"Certainly, but when we went through his belongings, we discovered an item that is highly unusual."
"Mm." She left the sound non-committal. She'd discovered early on that 'unusual' for the dear apes at the Yard often meant 'I haven't seen it before so it must be demonic' when oft as not, the item in question was in fact nothing more than an aid to prurient indulgences, brought by a sailor from some foreign port. "Did you bring it?"
Jenny came in with the tea at just the right moment. Vastra's mouth curled into a smile. Jenny always loved watching their faces as Vastra explained, with gestures, the use of the unusual items.
"No!" McIntyre's whole expression changed. Vastra leaned closer with curiosity. Typically, McIntyre gave away his own suspicion with a hefty cough and a colour blooming on his already carmine features, but now he showed all the signs of terror. Fascinating.
"Tell me more."
With more bluster, many pauses, and two cups of Jenny's strong tea, McIntyre eventually gave Vastra the information she needed: the item did not look man-made yet it was clearly a constructed thing, it fit perfectly in the palms held together of a man, and it made that man vanish from sight not to be returned. Men, he'd said draining the second cup. They'd lost three before someone had the sense to leave the damn thing alone.
"The item is still at this man's residence, yes?"
"Yes, Madame. We're baffled on how to move it. I've got policemen stationed as guards, but they can't stay there forever."
"Tell them I'll be along directly. Thank you, Inspector." Jenny showed him out.
When she returned, Vastra stood, stretching her limbs in anticipation of going out. Jenny asked, "Will we need the swords, ma'am?"
"I don't believe so, but bring them just in case. Have Strax ready the coach." She read the hesitation in her pretty wife's face. "Tell him he can bring a grenade, but only one, and it must stay outside."
"I'll tell him."
The strangler possessed an easy-to-forget face with an easy-to-forget name who lived a forgettable life on an unremarkable street. Vastra credited all these details with his success. Researching his crimes she'd found a pattern that went back two decades. Her only regret was that she put an end to his grisly work in the company of some well-meaning bobbies, who'd insisted on leading him in front of a judge. Vastra came from an era before judges. Justice would have been simple.
Life amongst these creatures still grated on her at times.
The rooms the killer had lived in were low and dark, empty of the other possessions the police had already carted off. The disappearing device lay in the middle of the floor, resting where it fell from the hands of the last man to hold it.
"As you see, we can't just leave it here," McIntyre said as she paced in a circle around the faintly blue sphere.
There had been disappearances, she recalled from her research. He chose his victims well, but left traces. Scotland Yard believed the bodies had been dumped in the river or buried. They'd only discovered his crimes when someone had inadvertently interrupted him as he'd been in the process of killing some poor lad on his way home from the factory, although the killer had taken to his heels and escaped before he could be caught.
He might have made the bodies vanish with this. "Strax," she said. "Have you seen a device like this before?"
She didn't have to warn him. He got down on his belly on the floor, peering at the silver-blue orb. "Unknown. I've dealt with transmats in the past. Personal transmats are rare." He twisted his bulky body to glance up at her. "It could be."
"We daren't touch it," said McIntyre. "It vanishes whatever does touch it."
She glanced down again, noting how the object lay on the rug, how the rug lay on the wooden floor. "I think that is not the case." Vastra shrugged her cloak off, wrapping her hands before she bent down. With only the shortest hesitation, she scooped the device into her hands. Nothing happened.
"My people made objects activated by touch. There are scientific institutes which could study this," she said, holding it out as McIntyre pulled back. "However, I can think of but one where it will be stored and handled correctly. They are in Glasgow. I will give you the address. Do not touch the device as you wrap it and you should be safe, but include a letter that the scientists there do not make the same mistake."
Hardly a case worthy of her talents, she thought, though sad it was that the strangler had taken more victims, some of whom may have been living.
"We're not going to bring those men back?" Jenny asked as they climbed into the carriage.
"It might be worth travelling wherever the poor policemen were taken to see if we could rescue them from their fate, but for all we know, they've been transmatted into cold space, or the heart of a star, or the belly of a mountain."
"Perhaps they went somewhere nice, instead of that," Jenny offered. "Perhaps they ended up some place nice and warm."
Vastra leant back against her seat, the cold sinking into her. Jenny watched her hopefully, not wanting to acknowledge the deaths. She was a fighter, but her heart was soft, and Vastra could not complain. Jenny's heart was soft enough to let Vastra inside.
"Perhaps they did."
Maybe what happens is that you're not used to working after finding yourself kicked out on your ear for not hiding yourself well enough, only to have the President himself tell your boss to stuff it. Maybe you find yourself in the limelight of your former and current colleagues' glares, never mind the obnoxious comments. It's exactly the wrong place to be around the men and women you're risking your life for, and who are supposed to be risking theirs for you.
Maybe you're fed up with one too many snide comments at home about your space boyfriend who never came back, and who never met your real boyfriend. Maybe you snapped back a little too hard when you should have made a joke and probably should have said something nasty about said space boyfriend. You always did duck when you should have rolled, and vice versa. You definitely shouldn't have said anything about the space boyfriend being less crazy.
Maybe you should have done everything differently, starting with not following the space boyfriend and his pals into the blue telephone booth to begin with, and never mind that a very small part of you was still ten years old and hoped you'd find Superman inside.
And maybe you should stop talking to yourself and feeling miserable and sorry for your own bad choices.
Canton threw back the last of his drink, paid his tab, and walked out into the night. He kept his hat in his hand, partial to the dashing figure he thought it made him look, and aware of how most other people saw him as a nimrod, dressing like his father.
He ought to go home, crawl into bed, and get up in a few hours to do it all again. Instead, he waved for a taxi and went back in to work. He hadn't had too much to drink, not enough even for his hands to tremble as he used his key. Inside, he was alone, the overhead lights turned off except for the handful they kept for the overnight guards.
Canton waved to Larry as he made his rounds. "Working late again, Mr. Delaware?"
"Nah, coming in early to beat rush hour."
Larry laughed and moved off. Canton went to his office. He had a desk in a room he shared with five other guys. As the senior agent, and the one the President liked, his desk was screened from the rest by one wall made up of the backs of four filing cabinets.
The file was out on his desk. Bad habit, he knew. Most of what they did was classified, and he ought to put the manila folders back when he was finished. Paperwork accountability. Yeah. One glance at the other desks in the office showed him vast piles of manila folders, some slumping over like drunks on a bench, ready to tip to the floor. Ladies and gentlemen, America's best and brightest.
He hung up his coat and then sat at his desk, flicking on the lamp rather than the overhead. There'd been fifteen disappearances in the case that they knew of, probably more. Too many of the missing were involved in the antiwar movement, not exactly the high water mark of closely tracked locations on people. Some dumb college kid or cute coed would get caught up in peace signs and telling Nixon to go to hell, and before you could turn around, they were living on a commune in northern California, making friends with Mary Jane, and calling themselves Brother Turnpike or Sister Moonbeam. Distraught parents didn't know where to find their offspring, blaming kidnappers and cults instead of draft fears and normal teenage rebellion. Add a few crossed state lines, and suddenly it was the Bureau's problem.
Except not all the kids turned up in communes, or in Brother Turnpike's All-Volunteer Harem, or washed up across the border with a burned draft card and a sudden desire to see Toronto. Some people really did just vanish.
They ought to go in the Missing Persons dead end file, where the cold cases went to rot. Maybe one of the weirdos who dug into the serial killer cases would go looking for someone who fit a profile some day, and offer a grieving family a new reason to grieve. Maybe Janie War Protester would show up in ten years living as Sally Supermom.
But these files were different. For one thing, Canton had traced a line across the country with these, and could trace the vanishings with surprising accuracy. For another, one of the missing persons was the daughter of a Congressman. For a third, he had a witness to her disappearance.
Canton reread the witness statement:
Witness: She...uh. Okay, she picked it up? And it was blue?
Agent Sloane: What was 'it'?
W: A ball. Like a silver ball. But blue. Glowy. *giggle*
S: What happened next?
W: Like, she picked it up, and she just went poof gone bye.
S: She was disintegrated?
W: No. It was a pop, like you know when a balloon breaks and there's air?
Canton set the paper down. One of the eggheads he'd run this by said it was consistent with a sudden vacuum created by instant transfer of matter from one place to another. The hippie freak didn't have the science for that, being a hippie freak music major rather than one of the more troublesome hippie freak chemistry majors.
Transfer. Matter. Instant. And this was why it had landed on Canton's desk. When you meet a time-travelling alien in the Oval Office whom you later help to hijack the signal from the moon landing because of not-exactly-aliens who live standing right behind you, you get a reputation for weird. You also get a chain-smoking bastard asking you questions you don't intend to answer, and you're pretty sure that man is going to make your life hell one of these days. And you really gotta stop talking to yourself.
He'd tacked a map on the wall. Canton traced the journey of the vanishings. They headed straight here, the last one being Congressman Frost's little girl who'd last been seen at that chick school down the road in Frederick by her hippie freak boyfriend.
The hippie freak had never seen the face of the guy with the ball. Ten pages of questions, and all they had was, "Long hair, maybe?" The hippie freak was in jail for a drugs charge while they tried to figure out if he was lying, but Canton thought not.
He's coming to DC. There was no other thought, but it didn't help track down one maybe long-haired guy who might be trying to give the President blue balls. So to speak.
Canton stared at the map, the line across the country drawn like a hitch-hiker would.
He really wanted another drink.
They gathered around the console of the TARDIS. Amy leaned back against the metal, careful not to bump any of the levers, not like last time. That had been a fun trip, eventually, once they escaped the space lobsters. Her hair still smelled faintly of butter.
"Albertina the Seventeenth," said the Doctor, flipping switches and turning a dial Amy would swear hadn't been there yesterday. Ever since they'd met the TARDIS in a woman's body, she'd taken a more active role in redecorating her own insides, possibly as a way of saying hello. Rory said he'd love to get a better handle on the organic functions of their time machine now that they knew for a fact she was a sentient being as well as a ship, but Amy had said no. Best to ask.
"Who is Albertina the Seventeenth?" Rory asked, when Amy didn't respond. The Doctor got cross when no-one picked up his prompts.
"Glad you asked," said the Doctor, and Amy just smiled through her private, Of course you are. "Albertina was the Empress of the Twelfth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Interesting time in history. Haven't been that far forward in a while." Some shadow crossed his eyes, God knew what.
Amy rolled once to arrive at his side. She squeezed his arm. "Sounds like fun. Far futures, empresses."
"Lobsters?" Rory asked, worried.
"No lobsters," the Doctor promised him.
"As you know, giant space crabs do not count as lobsters."
They took what Amy hoped would be a holiday back home. The TARDIS materialised on a lovely estate with rolling fields all around, and a formidable-looking manor house at the end of the lane. The Doctor led them out, sniffing in the air, then out again with a sigh. "Welcome home, Amelia Pond."
She looked around herself. This wasn't anything like the town where she was little, nor Leadworth. "Doctor?"
"It's Scotland." He looked pleased with himself.
"Where in Scotland? Scotland is enormous."
Rory pushed past her. "Remember when we took that trip right after school?"
"Into Glasgow. You got robbed."
The Doctor said, "See? You've been here before."
Amy said, "We're in Glasgow? Why are we in Glasgow?"
The Doctor held out his arms. "To enjoy the Scottish air, and the Scottish fields, and the Scottish manor houses. Bagpipes. Haggis. Scottish things." He waved his hand vaguely.
Amy put her hands on her waist. "Have you ever even been to Scotland before?"
His hands stopped their waving and one rested on the back of his head. "Actually, I have. I've been right here before. It's been some time."
As if to emphasise this, Amy spotted something at the horizon, going by. "Oh my God," said Rory, "is that a flying car? An actual flying car?"
"2073, Scotland. Scottish flying cars." Ignoring the flying car, the Doctor headed off toward the manor house. Every so often, he'd stop, and he'd stare, as though looking at something not quite there.
Amy and Rory looked at each other. Flying car. They could go see the flying car. But the Doctor wore his old looking into hell face again. The pair of them dashed to catch up, reaching him as he stood in front of the gates.
"Torchwood," Amy read. "I know that name from somewhere."
"Yeah." Rory scratched his head. "I want to say we had company once?" He squinted, trying to scratch up a memory. Amy didn't have any better luck.
"Come on," the Doctor said. He soniced the lock on the gate, which rolled open smoothly. As they walked inside, everything was quiet and eerie.
Amy found herself walking closer to Rory, who was practically sharing the Doctor's clothes as he walked. It was like walking through a pyramid, some tomb that wouldn't mind seeing them dead. Then she thought about River, and she shoved that thought away as fast as she could. If she didn't think about River, and about Demon's Run, she could make herself believe none of that had ever happened. She could turn the bad dream into another fading memory like that thing she and Rory had just been talking about, tip of her tongue.
Rory asked, "Won't they mind us just walking in?"
"Not now," said the Doctor. "There are automatic alarms of course, but I disabled them at the gate. No-one's been here in a long time. The Institute mothballed the location after the last curator passed away. It's a museum now, but one no-one ever comes to visit because they've forgotten it exists."
Amy felt a sudden drop in her stomach like the loss of the idea of a friend. When her mum had sat her down, and told little Amelia that her great-grandmother had died, she'd cried even though she'd never met the woman. The same sad wave ran through her now.
The Doctor held up his screwdriver. "Through here."
After walking through fine corridors and large, elegant, dusty rooms, they found themselves in a room filled with boxes labelled with tape and marker. Amy recognised the names of some things: Cybermen, Dalek, Sontaran. Others were complete mysteries. "Doctor?"
But the Doctor was busy. His screwdriver glowed with a bright light the closer they got to one box. Rory lifted the box, and with a nod from the Doctor, tried to prise off the lid. No use. Amy searched the room before locating a pry bar stored in the corner, obviously for just this use. Together, the three of them wrenched the lid free.
Inside was a ball, silver, a bit blue, sitting on some old paper. It was gorgeous. Rory reached in just as the Doctor said, "Wait!"
Torchwood Glasgow stood proudly on the site where Her Majesty first said to build the Institute. Twenty men, and Miss Chesfield, manned the site, constant in their fight against mysterious visitors from other worlds and other phantasmagoria, ever vigilant in their search for the Doctor. The Queen asked for regular reports on their work. Young Miss Havisham, as she insisted they refer to her, had been here for training just a month ago, and had taken word of their latest accomplishments to the upstarts at the London site.
All in all, Torchwood Glasgow was a fine force, highly trained and prepared for anything the world of aliens might throw at them.
The psychotic talking potato sat on Dr. Hendley's chest, brandishing a letter. "Repeat the instructions or face annihilation."
Dr. Hendley could barely breathe, and wondered why his backup had not yet appeared. "I am to place the letter with the device. I am not to remove the other letter. I am not to read the letter."
"Or you will come back and rip out my lungs, feed them to your horse, then you will eat the horse."
Amy let out a small scream as Rory disappeared. The ball dropped to the floor. The only thing preventing her from scooping it up herself was the Doctor's arm, strong as a bar against her chest. "Whatever you do, don't touch it!"
"Where is he?" Panic set in. Rory was.... Rory was everything. He shouldn't have been. She knew she could live without him, but she also knew from experience after experience that she didn't want to. "Doctor!"
The Doctor shrugged off his tweed coat and used it to pick up the ball. "He's inside the ball."
Amy looked down. But they'd fit inside the Teselecta, hadn't they? "What's going on?"
"This is a personal transport unit. Very popular in the Eighth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Hold on, pop inside, you're very nearly in stasis until it's time to pop out again."
"There are people in here," said the Doctor. "They're ageing very slowly. Or most of them are. One of them is awake enough to have sent me a message." He flashed his screwdriver. Music pulsed with the ball's pleasant blue light.
"Rory's in here. He's not alone. We need to find a second ball. Connect the two, and everyone inside will pop out." He set the ball and coat gently at his feet.
"Great, let's get another ball. Which box is it in?" She turned around, but the Doctor was already digging in the open box. He pulled out two letters, scanning them quickly. Then he smiled.
"What's that for?"
"Letter from a friend." He set the letter back inside, put the lid back on the box, and put the box back into the stack. "There. Hardly a change, no-one will come looking. Let's go."
"To visit a friend."
They were walking rapidly now. Amy had a bad feeling the security systems were about to come back online, and she didn't like the thought of armed guards appearing out of nowhere to ask why they'd stolen the little blue ball. "Who sent the letter?"
The stomach-drop again. Amy liked Vastra, and she'd appreciated her help on the very bad day she was trying desperately to forget, but remembering her wasn't helping the forgetting. "So we're going to see Vastra?"
They exited the gates, which slid shut behind them just as the warning light clicked on. "No. We're going to see Canton."
"Because Vastra sent her thanks for returning the missing people, and sent her regards to our friend Mr. Delaware."
Amy stopped asking questions. It was easier.
Okay, so, just listing the things in the positive column, Canton was having a good day. To start with, when morning came and his head was clear enough to drive, he'd taken his own car to Frederick and he'd talked to the hippie freak in jail himself. The hippie freak didn't have a better description on the guy with the ball, but whatever brain cells he'd anaesthetised earlier had woken up enough to remember the motel where the guy'd been staying, and the motel had the guy's name. Then it'd just been a matter of making a million phone calls. He'd tracked down the suspect and here he was face to face with him in another anonymous motel room.
From one point of view, he'd done well for himself.
From the point of view where his backup had yet to arrive, he'd been riled up enough to go in alone without a partner, and as a result he was not only facing down the perp but as it turned out, the perp's two buddies, both of whom were armed, this was turning out to be a less than stellar day.
You've got to keep them talking because when they stop talking to you, they're going to kill you, and then it won't matter if you're talking to yourself because nobody is going to be left to listen.
"Boys, have you really thought this plan through? You're never gonna get close enough to the President."
One of the guys laughed. "We're not after Tricky Dick. He's a puppet. We want Laird and Abrams."
Canton raised his eyebrows; his hands were already in the air. "They'll just be replaced by the next two in line."
"Then we'll get them too." The second guy patted the blue glowy thing with a gloved hand. He had that look about him, the revolutionary who believed fervently if he just chopped off enough heads, the hydra would fall over. His pals didn't seem quite so sure, but most revolutions had plenty of guys who signed on to brag about their connections and impress girls. Revolutionary Guy brought his ball closer. "Put your hands on it, pig."
Revolutionary and idiot. Canton wasn't a cop. "Thanks, no."
The barrel of a gun poked the back of his head, hard. Probably In It For the Girls Guy Number Two said, "Hold it yourself or we'll wrap your hands around it when you're dead."
"Not the first time I've heard that," Canton said, "but you're not my type."
He heard the noise, and his heart jumped, knowing the sound before his brain kicked in. He cast a wild look around the small motel room. "Guys, it's about to get very crowded in here." Then he kicked back, pushing himself into the body of the guy with the gun and already twisted into wrestling him for it as the TARDIS materialised in the middle of the room.
The perps shouted and screamed. Canton punched the guy under him and grabbed his gun, as the TARDIS door popped open. The Doctor stepped out, saw the guns and raised his hands in that vaguely panicked way he had. Canton expected the other three to flow out behind him, but only Amy emerged, carrying a blue ball of her own wrapped up in something.
Canton swung his new gun around to Revolutionary Guy's buddy. "Drop your weapon," he ordered, "or my friends here with the blue space ship are going to vaporise your brainstems."
The Doctor turned to him, clearly offended, but the threat worked: the other gun fell to the ground. Revolutionary Guy fell back, still startled. Then he wet his lips and peeled off one glove. "You'll never take me alive!"
He pressed his hand against the metal globe and vanished. His friends gasped. Canton nodded to Amy and the Doctor. "Nice to see you. Can you help me hold these guys before my backup gets here to arrest them?"
"In a minute," said Amy, prancing over to the fallen blue ball. "Like this?"
"Yep," said the Doctor.
Amy placed the two balls together so that they touched.
Then the room got a lot more crowded, and nobody looked more confused about that than Revolutionary Guy. Canton pointed to Revolutionary Guy. "Rory, punch that guy."
Rory, who'd just appeared, blinked twice, then turned and socked Revolutionary Guy in the jaw. Then, shaking his fist, he said, "I've missed something, haven't I?"
(Later, when he had time to think things over, Canton would wonder if the TARDIS had extended her space-bending thing to help fit everything into the room, but by the time he came up with this theory, he'd already had four beers, and he forgot about it entirely by morning.)
The TARDIS appeared in the garden. Jenny was confused by this; normally the blue box set down in the parlour. Then the door opened and a large number of people emerged, confused and frightened.
"Ma'am," she shouted over her shoulder to her lady love, "we've got guests."
Maybe you get to spend a little extra time with the guy who isn't your space boyfriend, and two of his three best pals, and maybe you don't ask why they change the subject when you bring up Number Four. You figure there's some complications there, and it's none of your business. You do soak up the cool factor of being back inside the time machine, especially since this time you get to travel in actual time. You're not going to believe you went to the past, though, not when there were so many aliens, no matter how old-fashioned their clothes. Whatever. Those poor jerks who'd been caught inside the second blue ball for so long seemed glad to get back there. Meanwhile, you have a whole stack of formerly missing persons you're going to have to deal with reassimilating when you get home, a return trip the Doctor swears he can arrange so that it'll be like you were never gone.
You're not sure what to make of the fact that Amy then teases the Doctor about his driving, and something about five minutes. Worrying won't help, though.
Talking to yourself is a perfectly reasonable response to the weird turns your life has been taking lately.
The TARDIS came to a halt with a sudden jolt. Driving, huh? Canton held onto a strut. "Home," said the Doctor. "So good to see you again. Vastra sends her love."
"I know, I just saw her."
The Doctor waved his hand. "Call it avoiding a paradox."
The door opened. Canton paused. "Will I see you again?"
"Definitely," said Amy, though she didn't look happy.
Rory shrugged. "Take care."
"You too." He disembarked. This wasn't work, and wasn't his apartment. He turned around to tell the Doctor there'd been some mistake, but the TARDIS door was already shut and the blue box was disappearing.
He ought to be frightened, worried about where he'd been dropped like the survivors from the balls, but he did know this house and this neighbourhood. He'd stood in front of this door before, and the last time it'd been slammed in his face.
He ought to go home. But hadn't the Doctor just told him he was?
Canton swallowed. Give him a crime to solve, give him a weird alien device that vanishes people, give him revolutionaries who want to overthrow the government and end the war. Fine. Ask him to knock on his ex's door and say he's sorry for being a jerk, and can they talk? He wasn't sure he was up to that challenge.
He really wasn't sure.
Then he knocked, and he waited. The door opened.