The little car wheezed and rattled its way along the road, threatening to give out at any moment. Clara huffed irritably in the passenger seat.
“Oh, Clara, look at my amazing car! It's blue!” She grumbled. “It also breaks down every 20 miles!”
“She doesn't break down. She just needs to rest. She's delicate.” The Doctor snapped, stroking the steering wheel as though he was soothing a skittish horse.
“I may not know much about cars, but I'm pretty sure they don't need to rest. Since they aren't alive.” The car spluttered in protest as the Doctor took a corner a little too sharply.
“That shows what you know.” He said under his breath. He was stony faced and it made Clara feel a little guilty.
“Sorry. She's great, a really great car.” Clara said, patting the dashboard. The Doctor grumbled indistinctly. She wasn't really angry about the car anyway. That was to say that she wasn't exactly angry, just exasperated.
After 4 months of searching, going investigating almost every weekend, they still had yet to find any sign of another creature. The creature they had seen in London had been particularly good at hiding so she hadn't thought much of it at first. She just thought they needed to dig a little deeper. Now, after four months of nothing, she was starting to think she might have imagined the first one.
So far they had solved the mystery of the teenage son that had run away, the old man who had a heart attack and a woman who thought the squirrel living in her roof was a ghost. It was starting to get a little boring.
“So what did this man say? You must think we're onto something if we're spending the whole Easter break there.” She tried to keep the excitement out of her voice, though it was hard. She had a good feeling about this one. From what the Doctor had said, there was a mysterious murder that would take more than a weekend to deal with.
“Hmm?” He looked around at her, shaken from his thoughts. She was sure he was just thinking about the car, though. “Oh, well, maybe we are. Couldn't say. It's just...” He trailed off and looked lost in thought again.
“Right, yes. I thought we should spend a little more time on this one because of who's called us down.”
“Why, are they famous?” Clara asked excitedly.
“No. It's... an old friend actually.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“So when you said that you didn't have any friends, you were just lying?” Clara said, keeping her tone friendly to let him know that she didn't mind this particular lie.
“That's not what I said. I said I used to have friends. Alistair is an old friend. Very old. Haven't seen him in years. Might not even like him any more.” The Doctor pulled the car into a lay-by as it was starting to complain more than usual. He turned to look at her. “He was in the army. Brigadier or Major or something like that. He's retired now, but he runs an orphanage. That's where we're going.” Clara felt a little sick at that news.
“It wasn't a child that got killed was it? You said there'd been a murder?”
“No, someone who worked there. Strange circumstances. Coroner was stumped.” He gave her a meaningful look.
“So we are onto something?”
“I think so. Then again I thought that attic squirrel was something for sure, so who knows.” He killed the engine and leaned back in his creaking seat. She pulled out the map, trying to work out how much further they had to go.
“How do you know him then?” She asked from behind the map. She had an idea of course, since he was in the army. She wasn't sure why, but she felt the need to hear it from the Doctor. She just felt like she wanted him to share with her a little more, the way he had on those quiet nights in London while they hunted the creature.
The Doctor didn't reply and she wondered if he had even heard her. She lowered the map and saw that his expression was a little dark.
“The war. He was my commanding officer. So he has some experience with these creatures as well. That's what makes me think we might be onto something.”
Clara nodded and looked back down at the map. It wasn't much but she would take what she could get. The Doctor still had that dark look on his face so she decided to change the subject to assuage her guilt at putting it there. “So we're near Bath. What was the name of the place we were going again?”
“Lethbridge house. Portishead is the nearest town.” He leaned across and tapped his finger on the coastal town.
Clara snorted. “Portishead. Weston-Super-Mare. Who names these places?”
“We're in the West country now Clara. Unfamiliar territory for a Scot and a Lancashire lass. Better stay on our toes.” He grinned wolfishly and started up the engine again. “Listen to that! She's purring like a kitten.”
Clara hummed noncommittally, but it seemed enough for the Doctor. He pulled out and they finished the last hour of their journey in higher spirits. They didn't have to 'rest' the car again and Clara spent a fair bit of time finding the funniest place names on the Doctor's enormous road map. The Doctor was either very well travelled, or else he just liked to have an opinion on everything, so he shared little bits of wisdom about each place. Dove Holes was apparently a startlingly boring village, while he insisted that Bunny was a town of dark secrets. She ended up laughing in a quite unladylike way at his elaborate story about his trip to the sleepy village of Sheepy Magna.
“Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'm not welcome there any more. They really didn't like what happened with those ducks.” The Doctor said, while Clara wheezed with laughter.
“Sorry, there is no way that really happened!”
“I swear Clara! Exactly like that.” The Doctor said with wide eyed innocence. He stuck his arm out and pointed out the window, his arm right in her face. “There we are, Lethbridge house.”
Clara shoved his arm out of her face and craned her neck to see the orphanage. The sun was starting to set but the house was lit from below. It gave it an imposing appearance. It was a large house, more like a manor, with grand windows and towers. She wasn't very familiar with architectural styles but it looked very old to her eyes.
“Wow. Its nice” she said, a little breathlessly after her raucous laughter.
“The Lethbridge family home. Put to good use.”
“So your friend is even richer than you?” She looked appraisingly at the hedges cut into the shape of birds as they were pulling up the long driveway. She leaned forward to get a better look at the house as they got closer. The lights cast long shadows across the grounds, that looked to Clara like grasping claws reaching out to the little car. She shuddered and tried to push the thought back.
There were lights on in some of the windows and shadows flitted across them. Clara imagined they marked the movement of overexcited children running around in the halls. It made her smile, almost forgetting her initial unease. Perhaps this would be a nice Easter holiday? A beautiful manor house with a garden and happy children playing in the grounds. She turned to say as much to the Doctor when something caught her eye. A shadow in the window that was different from the others. She looked back sharply, her good mood suddenly plummeting.
She couldn't see what it was, but she was suddenly shook by images of those same happy children being advanced upon by a skeletal, smoky bird. She pointed up to it urgently. “Look! Up there, what is that?” She asked. The Doctor slowed the car to a crawl and looked up to where she was pointing.
“It's a person...” He said uncertainly. Clara looked closer and the shape seemed to solidify. He was right. It was a child. She suddenly felt incredibly foolish. “Why is he staring at us?” The Doctor asked uneasily. “See, this is the problem with children. They haven't learned how to do normal things yet. It's not normal to stare at people.” He pulled up and parked outside the house.
Clara climbed out of the car and looked back up at the window. The child was still there, looking down on them, unsmiling. The Doctor was right, it was a little unsettling. She smiled up at him and waved, but he showed no reaction.
She swallowed down her sudden sense of unease when she saw someone coming down the front steps of the house. It was an older gentleman, with the rigid, disciplined posture that could only come from a lifetime in the army. The Doctor watched him approach with apprehension. He came to a halt in front of him and stood to attention, with a brisk salute that the Doctor didn't return.
“At ease Private Smith!” he said with a surprisingly cheeky smile on his face. He was older than the Doctor, by at least ten years by Clara's estimate, and he had a quite impressive, bushy grey moustache.
“Alistair.” Said the Doctor uncertainly.
“Look at you, eh? What's the matter, can't afford a haircut?” Alistair eyed the Doctor's slightly wild, greying hair, that had slowly become a tangle of curls over the last couple of months. Clara had to admit she wasn't totally sure why he hadn't had his hair cut, but she thought it suited him well enough, so she hadn't mentioned it.
He ran a hand through his hair, apparently surprised to find it so long.
“I've been busy.” He seemed incredibly awkward considering this was supposed to be his old friend.
“You certainly have old boy! Who's this? You never said you had a daughter.” Alistair held his hand out to her with a kind smile on his face.
“Daughter?” The Doctor said, bewildered.
“No, I'm not his daughter, we aren't related!” She said hurriedly, taking his hand.
“Oh, my apologies.” His glanced at the Doctor curiously.
“Right, this is Clara! She's... ah...” The Doctor struggled to find the correct word to describe exactly what she was. She realised that the longer he took to come up with a word for what she was to him, the more scandalous it probably looked to Alistair.
“We're colleagues. The Doctor isn't very good with people so he has me to help with that.” The Doctor nodded his agreement with that assessment of why Clara was there.
“Ah, you've noticed that too, eh?” Alistair said, leaning in conspiratorially. They both laughed, while the Doctor scowled. “So you kept the old nickname, eh, Doctor?”
“Well, it's better than John Smith, at least.” He tugged on his wild curls self consciously.
“We gave him that nickname, back during the war. We had another John Smith, bit of an idiot. We wanted to tell the difference and he was a smart lad, good at emergency first aid, so we called him the Doctor.”
Clara smiled at the idea of an 18 year old Doctor, being a little know it all. “I bet you have all sorts of stories don't you?” Clara said with a laugh.
“Oh, like you wouldn't believe.” Alistair's moustache bristled in amusement.
“Shall we head inside?” The Doctor said loudly.
“Of course, of course!” Alistair offered Clara his arm and led them up the steps into the entranceway. The inside of the house was quite beautiful, with a grand staircase decked with a fine red carpet and a huge, sparkling chandelier. It all seemed a little much for an orphanage.
“Nice place.” The Doctor said, still scowling from Alistair's gentle teasing. “Very suitable.”
“Yes, you're right of course.” Alistair looked up at the chandelier with a sigh. “I'd get rid of it if I wasn't scared of being haunted by my grandmother's ghost. Nanny loved that old chandelier.” He smiled fondly.
Clara wandered further into the house, admiring the fine furnishings and the enormous painting of a Victorian gentleman with an impressive moustache.
“The moustache runs in the family then?” She said.
Alistair laughed heartily and clapped the Doctor on the back. “You've got yourself a good one there Doctor!” He turned and opened a side door, gesturing for them to go through.
This room was a little more sedate and cosy, though there was a large, ornate fireplace at the far side. A fire crackled in the grate, throwing long, twisting shadows across the floor. Alistair gestured to a few handsome armchairs and they took a seat.
A woman poked her head around the door and smiled when she saw Alistair sitting in the room.
“Yer friends got here safe then Mr Lethbridge?” She said. She was a stout, middle aged woman with a thick Bristolian accent. She seemed like the sort of person it would be hard to dislike.
“Oh yes, no trouble Maude. Why don't you see if Mr Boissy will bring us some drinks. Scotch for you I suppose?” He asked the Doctor.
“If it's going. Clara won't have any though, she can't stand the stuff.”
“Oh? Maybe I've misjudged you, young lady? Scotch is a fine drink!” Alistair said congenially. “What's your poison then? I'm sure Mr Boissy could find you a nice wine, he hordes the stuff all over the kitchens.”
“That sounds lovely.” Clara said, a little taken aback at being offered wine in a manor house. It was so far from what she was used to that it felt a little surreal.
Maude hurried away and left the three of them alone in the drawing room. Alistair stood a little stiffly and went to the fire place.
“So, I suppose we'd better get down to business.” He said, suddenly grim. “It's gotten worse since I asked you to come, I'm afraid.”
“Worse than a dead employee? Lucky we came.” The Doctor seemed more at ease now they were talking business.
“It's two dead now, actually.” Alistair turned back to look at the painting over the fireplace. “The police are looking into the second one, but they say the first was natural causes. They don't know what killed him, but they said there's no sign of foul play.” He looked back at them and began to pace the floor restlessly.
“Who were the victims?” The Doctor pulled his notebook out of his pocket in anticipation.
“The first was Thomas Creek. He was in charge of the day to day running of the place while I'm away. Quiet young man, kept to himself. Think he was well liked, never had any formal complaints. Really it's the circumstances of his death that made me get in touch with you.” Alistair paused in his pacing to look at the Doctor. “A perfectly healthy young man, completely alone in a room, locked from the inside, drops stone cold dead without a mark on him. How do you suppose that might happen?” The two men shared a dark, meaningful look. “Any ideas young lady?”
Clara was startled at being addressed, she had been so caught up in what Alistair had been saying.
“Oh, well... poison maybe?” She said. She knew what she thought it was, she knew what the Doctor thought it was, but she wasn't sure exactly how much Alistair knew about all that and she didn't want to sound foolish.
“No trace of any known poison in him.” Alistair fixed her with a penetrating stare.
“Well, maybe if it was something that could... Get in through a small gap? Like under the door? Then just, leave afterwards?” She said hesitantly.
Alistair nodded. “Precisely my idea as well. A creature unlike those we know perhaps?”
“Let's not act like we don't all know exactly what you mean!” The Doctor said irritably. “We both saw that thing in the war and I've seen more since! Clara killed one of them so I think she's as close to an expert as you're going to get.” Clara felt a little swell of pride at the Doctor's words, although she would be the first to admit that he did a lot of the work.
Alistair continued his pacing. “A spectral beast like the one we saw in the trenches, yes. But how did it get in? The room was sealed, no space under that door for a pin to squeeze through. Windows were shut tight.”
The Doctor looked very interested now. He scribbled something in his notebook. “Classic locked room mystery. That's one of my favourites.” Alistair frowned at him.
“He means that he can't wait to start investigating. So we can catch whoever did it.” Clara offered. The Doctor was sitting too far away for her to kick him in the shins so she settled for a scathing look.
“Yes, that. That's what I meant.” He agreed. “Anyway, what about the other one?”
“Oh yes, dreadful business. Evelyn Davis, fairly new hire, nice woman from what I could see. Just a few days ago I get a call from Maude, saying they found her dead out in the grounds. Must have happened some time in the night, but what she was doing out there at that time I have no idea.” He looked troubled by the whole business, but the Doctor seemed too engrossed in taking notes to care. Clara stood and went to lay a hand on his arm. He smiled sadly and patted her hand.
The Doctor looked up, as Alistair had stopped talking, and looked baffled at seeing the two of them standing together. “And?” He prompted.
“It was the same as Thomas. Not a scratch on her, just stone cold dead, poor thing. But Maude did mention one thing...” He hesitated and glanced at Clara. “This might be a little dark for a ladies sensibilities.”
“Oh, I wouldn't worry about that.” The Doctor said dismissively.
“Well, all right then. She said that when she found her... the look on her face, she looked like she was screaming in terror.” He said gravely. Clara felt a shudder pass down her spine. She remembered the visions the creature in London had shown her when it was trying to kill her.
“Interesting.” The Doctor said, apparently unaffected. “Did either of the victims have any enemies? Any disagreements?”
“Well-” a knock at the door cut him short. “Come in.”
A man entered, carrying a tray with a couple of bottles and glasses on it. He was tall and thin, with a pencil moustache and black hair. “Your drinks Mr Lethbridge.” He said coldly. His accent sounded French.
“Ah, excellent Mr Boissy! Hope you picked a nice wine for the lady. I know you horde the best ones for yourself!”
Clara saw him subtly roll his eyes as he set the tray down. “Of course Mr Lethbridge.” He turned to Clara, holding the bottle and gave her a fairly genuine looking smile. “A Bordeaux. Home of the finest wines. This one is grown within a few miles of my childhood home.” He set a wineglass down and poured her a tiny amount into the glass and looked at her expectantly. Behind the Frenchman's back Alistair caught her eye and mimed drinking. She picked up the glass and downed the small amount of wine obediently. The man continued to look at her in anticipation.
“Very nice?” She said. He smiled graciously and filled her glass to the brim, before making his exit. Clara had never been served a drink in a way that was so stressful before.
“They can be a little strange, the French. They take their wine very seriously.” Alistair explained. “Excellent cooks.” He added, as an afterthought.
The Doctor cleared his throat. “You were saying?”
“Right, of course. It's lucky I got stopped where I did actually. Didn't think about being overheard.” Alistair went to the door and peered out, then shut it tight and walked back to the fireplace. “You see, one person I know they both had disagreements with was him. Remy Boissy, he's the cook, used to have quite the lucrative job in Paris before the war, but that all went by the way of course. From what I've heard, he and Thomas had a raging argument in February. Everyone was pretty tight lipped about why, but it is all a little suspicious. And he and Evelyn seemed to take a dislike to one another a few weeks into her working here. Again, no word on why.”
“So you think he's involved?” The Doctor asked. Alistair laughed unexpectedly.
“Well, I have no idea old boy! That's for you to weed out, isn't it?” The Doctor seemed to consider this for a moment, then shrugged in acceptance.
“Sounds like we'll need to take a look at the crime scenes then.” The Doctor stood and looked at Alistair expectantly.
“Well surely you don't mean now? It's dark out! You just got here, relax! Have a drink, we can catch up.” Alistair patted the Doctor on the back hard enough to make him wobble. “Now Clara, has he ever told you about the time he captured 20 enemy soldiers with only a broom?”
“He did?” Clara said disbelievingly. The Doctor opened and closed his mouth a few times, looking simultaneously like a dying fish and a deer in the headlights.
“That's a bit of an exaggeration.” He said, once he was able to form words.
“Now don't be modest!” Alistair took his seat and took a sip of his scotch. The Doctor did the same, though he tossed his drink back like a man intent on getting blind drunk. “It was one of the bravest or perhaps stupidest things I ever saw a soldier do!”
“That sounds like the Doctor.” Clara said, grinning into her wineglass.
“Nice to see you haven't changed old boy!” Alistair laughed heartily and poured them all another drink. “So we were pinned down, under heavy fire, but we needed to take the enemy trench or risk being pushed back.” He leaned forward, looking suddenly very intent on his story. Clara got the impression that this was a story he had told many times before. “We were low on ammo and morale was sinking. But this one-” He pointed to the Doctor, whose expression was hard to read. “says 'enough of all this!' And hops over the top, and goes charging through a bloody hail of bullets towards the enemy trench. Of course what he didn't know was, instead of his gun, he'd grabbed an old broom! So of course I missed the whole thing, but from what I could tell afterwards, he jumped in the Jerry's trench, whacked the first man he saw over the head with his broom and the rest were so terrified of the madman that they all surrendered!” Clara and Alistair both laughed uproariously at the image.
“Why didn't you ever tell me that story?” Clara asked.
The Doctor, who had shrunk back into his seat, spread out his hands and shrugged.
“Well, it wasn't all daring feats and humorous stories in the war, of course.” Said Alistair soberly. “And you took a bullet or two didn't you?”
“One or two. I don't recall.” The Doctor glanced at Clara with a dry expression.
“Two world wars in our lifetime. And they took a lot from us didn't they?” Alistair shook his head, suddenly morose. “Lost two toes in the first and my son in the second.” He gave the Doctor a sad smile, which the Doctor returned to Clara's surprise.
“I'm so sorry.” Clara said. Her good mood felt suddenly sour.
“Oh it's all right. Whole family of soldiers the Lethbridge clan. We've lost a fair few.” He drank some more of his drink, perhaps to give himself something to do. Clara and the Doctor followed suit.
“So I suppose he never told you about what happened with the pigeons?” Said Alistair, a cheeky smile twitching his moustache again.
They spent an hour or two together in the drawing room, with Alistair regaling them with war stories and Clara filling him in on the creature they had killed in London. After a few drinks, the Doctor even joined in, sharing his usual outlandish stories that Clara was beginning to suspect might actually be true.
Eventually, Clara's eyelids started to droop as the alcohol began to take it's toll. Drinking tended to make her feel tired and they had been up very early that morning getting ready for the trip. Alistair called Maude down and she escorted the two of them to neighbouring rooms. They were fairly simple, unlike the entranceway, though there was a large double bed in each.
Maude fussed around with the bed and drew the curtains for her, chattering away while Clara swayed in the doorway sleepily.
“I'm sure the little ones are gonna be proper excited to have visitors about.” She gushed. “Are you all right my lovely?” She looked at Clara as she swayed a little drunkenly.
“Too much wine.” She said apologetically.
“Oh aye, I know that feeling!” Said Maude cheerfully. She took Clara's arm and helped her over to the bed. “I hope you and yer friend can sort this all out. It's got Mr Lethbridge proper worried. He says it all fine but he's been coming by 'most every day since poor Mr Creek died.” She shook her head and went to the handsome wardrobe in the corner to get a towel. “There we go my lovely, showers are down the hall if you need one in the morning.” With that she left before Clara had a chance to say anything in reply.
Clara sat on the bed, thinking about what Alistair had said that evening. How did a healthy man drop dead in a room that was locked from the inside? If It was one of the creatures, how did it get in and out without anyone seeing it, if there was no way under the door? And the woman who was killed, what was she doing out in the grounds at night, and what had terrified her so much that she looked as though she was screaming, even in death? It had to be one of the creatures, surely?
There was a creaking sound out in the hallway and a shiver ran up Clara's spine. She found it harder to sleep these days, any small sound in the night had her sitting up in bed in fear.
She stood shakily and went to the door, peering out in the hopes that it was just the Doctor. There was someone standing in the hallway, a little girl. She was peering under a desk that sat just outside Clara's room. “Hello? Nanny?” She called.
“Are you okay?” Clara asked.
The girl leapt in shock, as though she had shouted at her and stared at Clara wide eyed and fearful. The girl nodded sharply and hurried off down the corridor without saying a word.
“Well... Bye then I suppose.” Clara went to her bed, where someone had put her suitcase, and put on her bedclothes. She thought about going next door to say goodnight to the Doctor, but she felt too sleepy and dizzy to do anything. She settled down in bed and dreamed of silent children and spectral monsters.
If you haven't heard a Bristolian talk, just know, they talk exactly like that and it's amazing.
Chapter 2: The Locked Room
Time to check out the crime scenes
Alistair led Clara and the Doctor up a narrow winding staircase. Clara had rather been enjoying the peace and quiet of the manor and the delicious breakfast but the Doctor was not so easily impressed.
In fact he had been itching to check out the crime scenes all morning, fidgeting with his toast restlessly at breakfast and asking Alistair when they would be getting down to business.
Alistair had informed them the room Thomas had died in was his office, at the top of the north tower. There was only one way up to it, via a poorly lit spiral staircase. Once they reached the top, Alistair struggled with the key and they all filed into the room. It was a largish, round room, with a small desk and lots of bookshelves. There were picture frames sitting on most of the shelves, but rather than pictures of family or friends, they held landscapes. Clara examined a few and found the rolling hills of the peak district and the Yorkshire moors. The Doctor went straight to the desk and started rooting through the drawers unashamedly.
Alistair seemed a little put out by the Doctor's lack of respect for the dead.
“So this was his office?” Clara asked, hoping to distract Alistair from the Doctor, who was opening some letters he had found in the drawer.
“Yes, he chose it specifically. Lovely view you see.”
“Why would he lock the door?”
“Well, I suppose to keep the children out. He was quite a private person. Certainly he'd hate the thought of strangers reading his letters.” Alistair gave the Doctor a pointed look.
“Probably because of how boring they are.” The Doctor dropped the letters back into the drawer and moved on.
“And he had the only key? How did anyone get in to find him?” She asked. The Doctor was pulling books off the shelf and flicking through them.
“There's a master key for all the doors. Maude has it. She's the one who found him.”
“What's this?” The Doctor stopped sharply in front of a closed door to the left of the door they had come in through. He pulled it open with a flourish. It was a cupboard.
“Wow. Brilliant.” Said Clara drily.
“Maybe it is Clara? Maybe the killer hid in here after doing the deed?”
“If the killer hid in there, they would have to be a child. Are you saying you think one of the kids killed him?”
“Maybe.” The Doctor said, with an air of mystery. “And not necessarily. You'd fit in there.”
Clara walked closer and eyed the cupboard critically.
“No...” she said uncertainly.
“You would!” He insisted. “Go on get in.”
“To prove someone could hide in there!” He said, as though that should have been blatantly obvious. “Come on, I'll lift you.”
The Doctor came over and Clara decided to just go along with it, gripping his shoulders so he could lift her more easily.
They were cut short by the sound of Alistair clearing his throat. “I'll just leave you two to it then.” He said, his eyes twinkling. He left them the key on the desk and headed back down the spiral staircase with an odd smile on his face.
The Doctor seemed a little put out by his reaction but once Alistair had left the room he went right back to putting her in the cupboard. He lifted her quite easily, which still surprised her even though she knew he was perfectly capable of it.
She shuffled back and drew her knees up to find that she did indeed fit inside.
“There you go, the killer could have hidden in the cupboard. Not very exciting but you should try to go with the most likely explanation.”
Clara frowned and wriggled her way out of the small space. “In this case, I thought the most likely explanation was that it was a monster?” Said Clara a little sarcastically.
“Well maybe the monster hid in the cupboard?” He said.
“It was too big to fit in there!” She huffed. “And if you thought it was a monster anyway then why did I-”
“What's this?” He said, turning his back and clearly no longer listening. He turned back, holding a teddy bear.
“Is that a real question?” She said irritably.
“What's it doing in here? What does a grown man want a teddy bear for?” He looked down at the the teddy bear, turning it over as though looking for some deep secret it might contain.
“Well he works in a orphanage so I wouldn't say it was the mystery of the year.” Clara took the teddy bear from him. “It must belong to one of the children.” She tucked the small bear under her arm, intent on finding some time to return him to his owner.
The Doctor went to the window and peered out. Alistair had been right about the view, it was quite beautiful, overlooking part of the gardens and the lake. It was also very high, with a sheer, impossible to climb wall. The Doctor checked the lock, which was sealed tight and seemed satisfied that no one could have gotten in that way. He went back to the cupboard and peered in.
“Clara, what would you do if you found a co-worker dead in their office?” He asked conversationally.
“How dead?” She asked.
“How dead? Is that a real question?” He spluttered.
“I mean, it would depend on whether I knew they were dead or not. If the were obviously dead I would go down to the phone and call the police, but if I wasn't sure then I would go and check on them.”
The Doctor nodded. He went to the door and examined the room. “We need to talk to Maude. I need to know exactly how she found the body.” He said. He paced across to the desk, deep in thought. “Presuming he was at his desk, she must have gone over to check, since he didn't necessarily look dead. Once she knew he was dead, she would have gone downstairs to call for help.” The Doctor went to the cupboard and looked between the door and the desk.
“But she wouldn't have looked in the cupboard.” Clara said, following his train of thought.
“There would be no reason to.” The Doctor agreed. “And there is only one phone, all the way downstairs.”
“So the killer would have plenty of time to leave the room while she was gone.” Clara finished. They looked at each other, both contemplating the likelihood of the situation. “But was it a person or something else?”
“Hard to say.” He grinned at her suddenly. “When we interview the suspects you'd better go and stand next to them. Let me measure up whether they would fit in the cupboard or not.”
“Yes, very funny.” Clara went to the door. “Better go talk to Maude then.” She opened the door and they headed down the spiral staircase.
Maude seemed more than a little distressed by the whole situation. She kept bursting into tears and left the Doctor quite put out.
“Could you just tell me what you did after you found him?” He said again, massaging his temple as her crying continued.
“That poor old love, he was just sitting there, dead as a dodo in his chair!” She sniffed. Clara handed her another tissue patiently.
“Yes, indeed he was.” The Doctor grumbled through clenched teeth.
“So you went to check on him?” Clara said softly. “Did you do anything else before you went to call for help?”
“Yeah, I went over and I says 'ere wake up Mr Creek, you've got work to do love. But he still didn't move and he hadn't heard us knocking on his door or nothing. So I gave him a right good shake and that's when I saw-” She hiccuped loudly and a few more tears leaked out of her eyes. “His eyes were wide open, staring out of his head. And I were so shocked I ran straight off down them stairs and called an ambulance.”
“You went straight to the telephone?” The Doctor pressed. “You didn't speak to anyone, or do anything else first?”
“No, I didn't. 'Course Pat were with me as well, but she didn't come in the room. She was just there to to go off on one about Mr Creek being late.” She wiped at her reddening face with her tissue. “We both went downstairs after that. I said 'stay there with him' but Pat had come over all faint. She was right upset.”
The Doctor nodded slowly and he and Clara shared a look. It seemed completely possible that the killer, human or otherwise, could have hidden in the cupboard and then left when Maude went to call the police.
Alistair chose that moment to enter the room. He looked put out, but not surprised to see Maude was crying.
“Now, now Doctor! You certainly know how to talk to a lady, eh?” Alistair went to Maude and helped her to her feet. He took the soiled tissue away and handed her a fine monogrammed handkerchief. She blew her nose into it noisily. Alistair didn't seemed too bothered and patted her on the back gently.
“It's all right old girl. Why don't you take the afternoon off? I may as well do a little upkeep on the place since I'm here, eh? Need to talk with the gardener about those roses. Not safe for the children.”
Maude sniffed as he led her to the door, but she seemed to have cheered up quite a bit since he arrived.
“Quite right Mr Lethbridge. Don't know what he were thinking!” She shuffled off and Alistair shut the door after her.
“You should have said you wanted to know more about how she found him! She and I have already spoken about it, you should have just asked me!” Alistair said. He wasn't exactly angry, but he seemed a little upset that they had made Maude cry.
“A second hand witness is no use to anyone.” Said the Doctor briskly.
“We thought it would be best to get it directly from her, it's very important that we know exactly what happened.” Clara supplied. Alistair seemed to accept this.
“Well, did she clear anything up? Any ideas?” He asked.
“One or two. Could we see the other crime scene?” The Doctor stood, eager as always to be doing something. Clara stood as well, feeling equalling eager. This was a mystery that finally seemed to be leading somewhere and she wanted to find out exactly where that might be.
“Not much to see really, just grass. But I suppose if you think it would help.” Alistair held his arm out to Clara, ever the gentleman, and lead them both out into the grounds.
It was spitting with rain by the time they arrived at the crime scene, if it could be called that. It was really more of a lawn in Clara's opinion.
“So you weren't wrong when you said there wasn't much to see.” Clara noted. She kicked at a tuft of grass and turned up the collar of her coat to protect her hair from the rain. The Doctor seemed completely unconcerned by the rain and was looking around as though he expected to find some amazing clue.
Alistair laughed and patted the Doctor on the back. “Well I'm sure you two have some investigating to do, and I need to have a word with the gardener. I'll just leave you to it.” He headed off across the lawn.
The Doctor crouched down and started to examine the perfectly ordinary grass.
“Find anything?” Clara asked.
“Hmm.” The Doctor seemed lost in thought, despite the fact that there was absolutely no sign that anything unusual had happened. Clara crouched down next to him and peered at the grass.
“Doctor. It's grass. There's nothing here.”
“Isn't there?” He glanced at her. “Don't you see?” Clara peered more intently at the grass.
“No I don't see. It's just grass. There aren't even footprints.” She said, starting to feel a little perturbed.
“No, not the grass! Look around, what do you see!”
She stood upright and craned her neck to get a good look around. She wasn't sure what exactly she was supposed to be seeing.
“I see... Bushes? Roses? The house?” The Doctor tapped his nose.
“The house? The house we were just in? Why is that interesting?”
“Because if you were in the house you would be able to see this spot very clearly, especially with the lights.” He pointed to the lights that lined the path a few yards away. Clara looked up at the house, noticing how many windows were overlooking the scene.
“Someone in the house could have seen it. We need to talk to the people who stay in those rooms.” Clara looked across at the doctor who was standing and squinting at the windows. “Those are the children's rooms I think. We'll have to talk to the children.”
“Well, you like children, don't you? You can talk to them.” The Doctor started walking back towards the house.
“What on my own? What are you going to be doing?” She jogged to keep up with him.
“Electromagnets!” He said happily.
“Oh no, not this again! You spent hours playing around with those bloody magnets last time and it didn't do anything! It was a complete waste of time!” The Doctor had spent several hours the week before, setting up electromagnets at strategic places in an old woman's house.
“Well, magnets don't work on squirrels Clara.” He said, as though he was explaining something to a very slow child.
“I know that! They don't work on people either! What's the point of putting them all up if it turns out the killer is a person?” She huffed. She latched onto his arm to slow him down, since he could walk quite a lot faster than her when he wanted to.
“Better to have them and not need them. It's a safety precaution Clara. For the children.” He explained. Clara felt her annoyance dissipate.
“All right, fine. You win. Play with your magnets. I'll do the leg work.”
They sat together in a side room, eating a small lunch. The chef, Mr Boissy, had brought it through personally, while his assistants served up the lunches for the children in the grand dining room. It was quite delicious, Alistair had been right about the Frenchman's cooking skills, though it was a little rich for what Clara was used to.
“So after lunch...” Clara said slowly.
“I'll be setting up my electromagnets. You get to play with the children.”
“I think you got that wrong. You mean you'll be playing with magnets and I'll be interviewing the children.” She grinned at him and he raised a single bushy eyebrow.
“Sounds like we'll both be having fun then.”
“Don't you think we should be talking to the staff? They should know more than Alistair.”
“We should tread carefully. Every one of them is a suspect at the moment.” He said darkly.
“Well as far as you're concerned the children are suspects. Anyway, I thought you thought it was one of those creatures?”
“Jumping to conclusions a little, aren't we? It's the squirrel all over again.” He raised an eyebrow. He took a sip of his tea, then spat it back into the cup with a scowl. “That Frenchman might be able to cook but he can't make a cup of tea.”
“You're lucky it's just the two of us in here! What would Alistair think if he saw you do that?” She said with distaste. She pushed her tea away without trying it.
“Oh I'm sure he'd send me away in disgrace. Lucky you don't mind, eh?” He grinned his sharks grin.
“So everyone's a suspect?” She said, changing the subject to avoid getting annoyed. “Does that include the children? Alistair?”
“Well, Alistair has an alibi. The children don't, so try to keep an eye out for a small criminal mastermind.”
“And how will I know when I've found one?” She asked, suppressing a grin.
“Tiny evil moustache.”
Clara snorted with laughter just as Mr Boissy came in carrying a tray.
“Crème brûlée.” He said, presenting them both with a small ramekin containing a mysterious crispy looking foodstuff.
“Oh, thank you. It looks...” Clara grasped around desperately for the correct word to describe it.
“Interesting.” The Doctor offered. “What is it exactly?” he tapped at it with a spoon, an action that made the chef scowl at him reproachfully.
“Dessert.” He addressed Clara, though the Doctor was the one who had asked. “I used to make it in my restaurant. It is a little much for the children, but having guests gives me the chance to, ah... spread my wings.”
“Well thank you!” Clara scooped up a spoonful and tasted it. It was sweet and creamy and probably the most delicious thing she'd eaten in years. “Oh wow, it's lovely!”
“You are too kind.” He gave a small bow and left the room, looking very pleased with himself.
“I hope it doesn't turn out to be him. I want him to come and live at my house and cook for me.”
“Well, maybe he likes being bossed around. Could be husband material.” Said the Doctor drily. He glared down at his crème brûlée as though it had insulted him.
“Eat it you miserable old man! It's not poison.”
The Doctor grumbled under his breath about not being too sure about that and ate a spoonful of it. He made no further comment. Clara found that her dessert ran out far quicker than she would have liked.
“Just remember, everyone's a suspect. Even if you like them.”
“Well then technically I was a suspect back in London, but you still slept at my house. Not a very clever move.” Clara pointed out. She sneaked her spoon across the table and took some of the Doctor's dessert.
“Exactly. Do as I say, not as I do. If I get myself killed I only have myself to blame.” He pushed the dessert towards her and let her finish it.
Clara thought to make some retort about how it was the same for her, but the Doctor looked suddenly lost in thought. She decided to leave him to it.
“Well, since we're done I'd better go and 'play with the children.' We'll meet back up for dinner?” She stood, startling the Doctor somewhat.
“Yes. Those electromagnets won't rig themselves!” He agreed. They stood awkwardly for a moment, before both heading out for their respective jobs.
Chapter 3: Detective Oswald
Fun with kids and magnets!
Clara stood outside the first door on the second floor, straightening out her clothes and taking a deep breath. It was time for her to dust off her investigation skills, and perhaps put her teacher skills to good use as well. She raised a tentative hand and knocked. There was silence for a moment, during which Clara's mind flitted between confidence and terror several times.
She knew children, she was good with them. She loved children. But what was she supposed to say? How could she broach the topic of a double murder with a child? The door creaked open a sliver and a pair of big blue eyes peered out at her.
“Hi! Hello, I'm Clara. Mr Lethbridge asked me to come down here to sort out all the trouble that's been going on. Can I come in?” She said, with as much confidence as she could find.
The girl looked her up and down, sizing her up. “Okay.” The door opened fully to reveal a small girl of around 7 or 8, with a mass of curly red hair. The girl shuffled over to the bed and hopped up. She seemed completely disinterested in Clara as she sat on the bed clutching a threadbare doll.
“Can I sit down?” Clara asked, gesturing to the small chair beside the girls bed.
“Okay.” The girl said again, shrugging. Clara sat on the chair, that was small even for her, and smiled across at the girl.
“So I'm Clara. I already said that didn't I?” She blushed, starting to feel flustered as she got closer to broaching the topic she had come to discuss. “What's your name?”
“Madeleine.” The girl didn't take her eyes off of the doll in her hands. She bounced it up and down on her knee the way one might bounce a small child. One of it's eyes was loose and dangled from a piece of thread.
“That's a nice name.” The girl shrugged again. “Do you... Do you know what's been going on recently? With Mr Creek and Evelyn?”
“They're dead.” The girl said dispassionately. She clutched the doll by it's little arm and bashed it against the bed frame. Clara flinched at the dull sound it made.
“Oh, well, yes they are. I'm here to find out exactly what happened to them. I wanted to know if you might have seen something on Monday? Out of your window, maybe?”
The girl stared at her for a few moments. “No.” She said with a certain finality. She went back to bashing her doll against the bed frame, staring at Clara as she did.
Clara sat for a moment, wishing she knew what she should say. The little girl seemed completely uninterested in elaborating further.
“Well.” Clara stood hesitantly. The doll struck the bed frame again, then slipped out of the girls hand and hit the floor. “I'll just be... Going then?” She went to the door and hurried out, pushing it shut and leaning against it. She let out a tense breath, trying to shake the feeling of unease that had begun to settle over her. “Well that didn't go very well” She muttered to herself. She was starting to feel that there was something very wrong with this place. She spent a moment or two gathering herself together, then puffed out her chest, straightened her shoulders and went to the next door.
“Okay, Detective Oswald, on the case. It'll go better this time.” She thought maybe if she said it aloud, she might believe it. She raised her hand and knocked, filled with forced confidence.
The door opened quite quickly to reveal a small boy of around 6, with his hair shaved close to his skull.
“Hi, I'm Clara, Mr Lethbridge wanted me to talk with all the children on this floor. Can I come in?”
The boy nodded and let her in, scurrying back over to the little toy soldiers he had lined up on the floor. Clara took a seat on the bed and watched him play for a moment, shifting his toy soldiers about in a childlike approximation of war. “Is it okay if I ask you a few questions?”
The boy looked up at her uncertainly. “Like school questions?” He asked with a scowl.
“No, just questions about what's been going on around here. Nothing difficult.” She picked up one of the toy soldiers and looked down at him. He was painted in the bright colours of old fashioned military regalia. Clara wondered if it had perhaps once belonged to Alistair when he was a child.
“I don't know a lot.” The boy said morosely.
“That's okay. People don't tell you a lot about what's going on when you're little. But I bet you still know more than they realise.” Clara handed the boy the little soldier and he clutched it in his hand and gazed up at her.
“Are you a teacher?” He asked.
“Well, I am actually, but that's not why I'm here. I'm here about Mr Creek and Evelyn.”
“They're dead.” He said sadly. Clara was starting to think she might not need to tread so carefully with these children. They all seemed very aware of what had happened.
“Yes they are.” She agreed. “We wanted to figure out exactly what happened to them. Did you see anything on Monday evening, out of your window maybe?”
The boy's face went very still, as though he was scared any little facial expression might tell Clara something he didn't want her to know. “I didn't look out the window.” He said carefully.
“You didn't look out there at all?”
“No, I didn't. I don't know anything.” He said, resolutely not looking her in the eye. This all felt very suspicious, but what exactly was she supposed to do? She stood and went to the window. There was a lovely view of the garden, and she could easily make out the spot where she and the Doctor had been standing earlier that day.
She glanced back at the boy, who was looking at her furtively out of the corner of his eye. “Well thank you for talking to me. I'll leave you alone now.”
“Do you want to play? You can be the good guys and I'll be the Germans if you want!” He held out the toy soldier to her shyly.
Clara hesitated, wanting to move on to the next child but not wanting to disappoint him. She knew this was exactly what the Doctor was probably imagining she was up to.
“All right, five minutes okay?” She sat carefully on the floor and lined up the little red soldiers. “I'm supposed to be working, so don't tell my friend” She whispered conspiratorially. The little boy grinned at her.
She visited the other rooms along the corridor but had little success. The children varied from believably clueless to suspicious in their denials of having seen anything. Some seemed friendly enough, one even insisted that Clara read her a story before she left, while others seemed indifferent and stand-offish as though they thought she might be up to something sinister.
There were only two more rooms left that overlooked the scene and Clara was starting to feel disheartened. She really didn't want to have to go back to the Doctor and admit she had nothing. Undoubtedly his adventures with magnets had gone swimmingly and she would look like a failure.
She knocked on the next door with a renewed sense of purpose, feeling determined to get something, anything that might be useful. There was the sound of movement from the other side of the door but no answer for almost a whole minute.
Eventually a girl of around ten answered the door and Clara thought she looked a little familiar. She had a head of wild brown hair and had the long, gangly look of a child who had grown a lot in a short time. She was around the same height as Clara, despite her age.
“Hello I'm Clara, I'm here about Mr Creek and Evelyn. Can I come in and talk to you for a minute?” The girl looked apprehensive.
“Okay...” She let Clara in and went to sit on the bed. “Do you work for the police?” She said looking sceptical.
“No, I'm a guest of Mr Lethbridge, he asked me and my friend to come and look into what happened.” She smiled at the girl but only received a worried glance in return. “What's your name?”
“Susanna.” she shifted on the bed, and glanced at the window. Clara followed her gaze and saw that the window was open.
“So I wanted to ask you if you might have seen anything on Monday evening? Out of your window maybe?”
Susanna's eyes flicked back to the window and she wrung her hands nervously. “No. I didn't see anything.”
“Are you okay?” Clara asked. Susanna seemed more uneasy than any of the other children, she seemed almost like she was in distress.
The girl froze and her eyes widened as she looked up at Clara. There was a sudden spark of recognition for Clara. This was the same little girl she had seen the night before, in the hallway outside her room. Clara said nothing, though the girl clearly recognised her as well.
“Yes.” She got up from the bed and pulled the window shut, before taking a seat in the small chair instead.
“Are you sure you didn't see anything? Or even before Monday, like around when Mr Creek died?”
The girl scowled. “I don't know, I didn't see anything. We're better off without Mr Creek anyway.”
“What makes you say that?” Clara crouched down before the girl, trying to make her meet her eyes. “Mr Creek wasn't a very nice man.” she said solemnly.
“What did Mr Creek do?” Clara asked softly.
“He didn't care about us.” She said evasively. “I'm sorry about Evelyn though, she was nice.”
“I'm sad she's dead. I'm not sad about Mr Creek though.” The girl furtively glanced back to the window again. Clara stood and looked out of the window to see how good of a view could be had. The view would have been clear, had she chosen to look out.
“Well thank you. We'll try our best to find out what happened to Evelyn, okay? If you think of anything that you think might help, I'll be here for the rest of the week.” Susanna didn't seem to be cheered up by the promise that they would try to find out what had happened to Evelyn.
“Maybe nothing happened? Maybe she was just sick?” The girl blurted out as Clara turned to leave.
“Maybe...” Clara watched the girl fidget nervously for a moment. “Goodbye.” Clara pulled the door closed behind her and stood for a moment, trying to gather her thoughts. Susanna knew something, that much Clara was sure of. She seemed tense, but why? Was she afraid of the guilty party? A sly little voice in her head (that sounded a lot like the Doctor) suggested that perhaps Susanna was the guilty one. It was a ridiculous thought, but she was sure the Doctor would propose it when she told him about her.
She went to the last room that overlooked the crime scene. The last chance that she had to find something more than a slightly suspicious little girl. She knocked and was greeted after a few moments by a boy around the same age as Susanna. He was tall for his age too, with dark brown eyes and brown hair.
“Hello, is it okay if I come inside to talk? Mr Lethbridge sent me.” She asked.
“Is it about Evelyn?”
“Yes it is.”
The boy nodded and opened the door wider to let her in. “You're a bit short for a policeman. And you're a girl.” He looked her up and down critically.
“All right, cheeky!” She scolded. “I'm not a policeman. I'm an... independent investigator.”
The boy snorted with laughter. “Okay Miss Marple!”
“You're a little smart alec aren't you?” She huffed, but she couldn't suppress her grin. It was hard to dislike someone who enjoyed Agatha Christie, even if her stories were a little morbid for a child.
“I'm Bruno.” The boy held his hand out to her and she shook it, even though the action felt very odd and formal.
“Clara.” She said. “So I'm sure you know what happened with Evelyn and Mr Creek.”
“They died. Mr Lethbridge thinks someone killed them.” Clara nodded. This child seemed to be quite on the ball. She had a feeling she might actually get something useful from him.
“You don't agree?”
He shrugged. “I don't know about Mr Creek. None of the kids liked him but I guess the grown ups did.”
“Why didn't the kids like him?”
Bruno gave her a lopsided smile and sat down on the bed. “He was a bully. He didn't like kids. I don't know why he wanted to work here. Maybe it was because he could boss us all around.”
“The sort of people who want to be in charge are usually the worst people to give power to. That's what my mum used to say.” Clara said. Bruno bobbed his head up and down looking thoughtful. “What about Evelyn?”
Bruno looked troubled. He went to the window and looked out. “I saw her... On Monday night.”
“What did you see?” Clara pressed, trying to keep the note of urgency out of her voice.
“She was running over the grass. I heard her, because she was shouting and I had the window open.” He looked down into the grounds and frowned deeply. “If I tell you what I saw, you won't laugh will you? I'm not stupid or a liar!” He raised his chin defiantly.
“Trust me, I could tell you things that I've seen that would make you think I was a liar or an idiot.” Clara smiled at him warmly.
“Okay, well... There was something chasing her, when she was running. But it was like... Maybe an animal? Not a person.”
“Maybe an animal? What do you think it was?”
“It looked like a shadow. It was really dark. She was really scared of it.”
Clara nodded solemnly. The Doctor had been right. The description sounded too familiar to be a coincidence.
“That's very helpful. I really mean it.” She felt like she should say something more, something reassuring. She should tell him that he was safe, but she wasn't at all sure that it was the truth. But there was no need for him to be scared when she didn't really know if he was in danger or not. “You don't need to worry. Me and my friend can sort this all out, okay?”
He smiled, reassured.
The thought of one of those creatures here, with so many children around was like a nightmare. She remembered watching helplessly while the creature from London sucked the life from a homeless man, while it nearly did the same to the Doctor. It nearly did the same to her, filling her mind with terrible memories, ones meant to paralyse her with sadness and regret. She couldn't let that happen to a child.
She said her goodbyes to Bruno, making a mental note to check up on him again and headed back down to find the Doctor.
It didn't take very long to find him, since he appeared to have settled himself down in the entranceway, peering into a box that was fixed to the wall. He was surrounded by piles of wires and tools and random pieces of metal. They sat all around him, spread out across the floor, looking rather like a factory explosion. He was sat at the epicentre, his hair sticking up more than usual, a screwdriver held between his teeth, while he fiddled with the wires inside the box.
“You're having fun then?” Clara asked. He showed no reaction to her presence, his brow furrowed in deep concentration.
“Could you hand me a Phillip's head screwdriver?” He said awkwardly, still holding another screwdriver in his mouth.
Clara looked down at an array of screwdrivers, all of different sizes and shapes. “How am I supposed to know which one that is?” She picked up a handful of screwdrivers and sat herself down next to him. She presented the whole lot of them to him, dumping them unceremoniously onto the floor.
“That red one with the cross on the end.”
She pulled the screwdriver from between his teeth and gave him its replacement.
“Any luck?” He started unscrewing something with renewed vigour, perhaps to make it look like he was working hard.
“One boy out of about 25 says he saw something.” She reached out and brushed dust from the Doctor's silver hair. There was a little on the end of his nose as well. She decided not to ask how that got there.
“And it sounds like we actually are onto something. Alistair was right. This boy says he saw something chasing Evelyn across the grounds. A shadow.” The Doctor paused and gave her a meaningful look.
“Lucky I've set up some electromagnets, eh?”
“Hmm.” Clara frowned. “Is that really enough to make it safe for the children? They aren't in any danger are they?”
“Safer. Under the influence of the magnets it can be harmed by magnetic metals. Iron, nickel, cobalt.”
“Well, lucky I always carry my cobalt dagger around with me.” She said sarcastically. The Doctor rolled his eyes.
“I'm trying my best here Clara. The children are in no more danger than we are.” A loose wire sparked and he leapt back from the box, almost knocking Clara flat on her back.
“Yeah, you seem really safe.” She shoved him back upright and snatched his hand to check for any damage. “Should you really be doing this, it looks dangerous?”
“Who would you rather be in danger, me or the children?” He asked irritably. He pulled his hand away from her as though she had electrocuted him as well.
“Neither!” She snapped.
“Well you can't have everything Clara. Anyway, I know exactly what I'm doing.” He picked up a hand full of wire and started untangling it. He didn't inspire much confidence. “So what else did you find out?”
“Not much from the children. They all said they didn't see anything. Some of them were pretty suspicious though. I think some of them do know something, but they aren't telling.”
“Suspicious are they? Maybe I should have a word with them.”
“Oh yeah, if they were scared to tell me anything, I'm sure a grumpy old skeleton will change their minds.”
He huffed in irritation. “So that's it?”
“Thomas Creek wasn't as nice as he seemed to Alistair. The children don't seem upset about him dying. Apparently he was a bully.”
“He bullied orphans?” The Doctor said distastefully.
“That's what I heard. The boy who said he saw the shadow told me, so I think it's a pretty good source.” Her mind returned to the girl in the second to last room. Susanna. She had almost certainly been hiding something, but what it was she couldn't imagine. “There was another one. A little girl. She knew something, she just seemed too... not scared exactly but just... not willing to say. I don't know what it was. She knows something.”
The Doctor hummed thoughtfully and tugged absent mindedly at a loose wire. The box sparked again.
“Right, that's it, you're done here!” Clara snatched the screwdriver from his hand. “Let's go and talk to Alistair.” He spluttered in irritation and tried to snatch his screwdriver back, but Clara had already stood and danced out of reach.
“I need to finish this Clara! I can't leave it like this!” He picked up a different screwdriver and returned doggedly to his task.
“You're gonna get yourself killed!” Clara snapped.
“That's my problem.” He grumbled, not looking at her.
“That's both of our problem!”
“I know exactly what I'm doing Clara.” He said levelly. “There's not enough power going through here to kill me.”
“Is that true?” She eyed him suspiciously. She had the distinct sense that she was being lied to.
“Of course.” He said easily. She sat back down beside him. Whether he was telling the truth or not, it would be best if she kept an eye on him until he was finished.
This website is mildly frustrating, or I'm too stupid to work out how to use it.
Chapter 4: Suspects
Some hardcore detective work
Clara woke from a dream filled with dark shadows and frightened children. She felt that same uneasiness she had felt when they first arrived settle in her bones. It was perhaps too early to start the day but she felt the need to be up and active. She got dressed hurriedly, filled with nervous energy, and went straight to the Doctor's room.
The Doctor answered the door already dressed for the day and looking completely alert despite the early hour. He looked surprised to see her awake.
“What are you doing up?” He asked.
Clara hesitated to answer for a moment. “We should get started, right? Lots to do!” She turned and headed down the corridor with the Doctor following reluctantly.
“I was going to check on my magnets before you were up. You don't usually get up this early do you?”
“No, but I'm up now.” Clara said evasively. Best to not let the Doctor think she was some superstitious, nervous wreck. “We should meet with the staff right?” She glanced back at him.
“Yes, I suppose that's the next step.” He raised his eyebrow at her. For a moment she thought he would say something, question her further, but he remained silent. The only sign that he thought something was wrong was a single raised eyebrow. “I'll do the talking.”
Clara laughed in spite of her poor mood. “No, I think it should be a team effort. Definitely let me do some of the talking.”
They headed down the grand staircase and saw a woman in the entranceway manoeuvring a long feather duster while balanced on a stepladder. She was a particularly small woman, probably shorter than Clara and appeared to be Indian as far as Clara could tell. She looked to be in her thirties and had very long, shiny black hair tied in a bun. She was stretching up on her tiptoes to reach the top of the chandelier with her feather duster.
The Doctor cleared his throat to let her know they were there, but she jumped in surprise nonetheless.
“I'm very sorry sir! I didn't know anyone was awake yet!” She squeaked. She hopped down from her stepladder and clutched her feather duster as though she was hoping to disappear behind it.
“That's fine. You can just keep going if you like.” The Doctor said. He went to head across the entranceway but Clara grabbed his arm.
“Actually, is it okay if we talk with you for a minute? We're here about Mr Creek and Miss Davis. You're the cleaner, right?” Clara shot the Doctor an encouraging look. He sighed in resignation.
“Yes, would that, uh... be all right with you?”
“Yes sir, but I am very busy...” She looked around the pristine entranceway as though she could see filth everywhere.
“We only need a few minutes Mrs...”
“Shrimankar.” She gave the Doctor a strained smile and her eyes flicked up to the chandelier as though she was angry with it.
The Doctor ushered her through to the room they had shared with Alistair the night they had arrived. He gestured for her to sit but she remained standing. The Doctor looked to Clara, obviously wanting her to start the questioning.
“I'm Clara, this is... John. We're friends of Mr Lethbridge and we wanted to clear up exactly what happened with your colleagues.” Clara held her hand out to shake the other woman's hand simply because she felt the need to do something. “Sorry, what was your name?”
“Kiran.” She said, shaking Clara's hand.
“Kiran.” Clara repeated. It was an unfamiliar name to her and she felt the need to try it out and make sure she was saying it correctly. “So I'm sure you know about what happened with Mr Creek and Miss Davis.”
Kiran visibly shuddered. “Yes... They are dead of course, but what killed them...” She shrugged.
“Did they have anyone here at the house that they didn't get along with?”
“Ah...” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Miss Davis was not here for a very long time. She was... nice.” Kiran didn't look particularly convinced by her own words.
“You don't seem too sure about that.” Clara questioned.
Kiran shook her head. “I do not think Miss Davis liked me.” She said darkly.
“Oh. And what about Mr Creek?”
“He was a very private man. He was always in the tower during mealtimes. I did not see him often.” She shifted about awkwardly, glancing up to the corner of the room where a cobweb hung tauntingly. The hand clutching the feather duster twitched.
“And was there anyone who didn't get along with him?”
Kiran hesitated. “He was very unkind to Mr Boissy. They argued.”
“Do you know why?”
Kiran shook her head sharply. “It is not my business. Excuse me!” She suddenly seemed to snap and hurried over to the corner to poke at the cobweb with her duster. “There is always mess in these rooms! So many rooms!” She huffed.
“Yeah, it's a bit much for an orphanage.” Clara laughed. Kiran smiled, embarrassed by her sudden outburst.
“I'm sorry. There is too much to clean here! The children are so untidy and when Mr Lethbridge is here I cannot get into some of the rooms to clean them.” She twisted the feather duster in her hands in irritation.
“Oh believe me, I know about children being untidy! I'm a teacher and I have seen some really strange things that children can do. Spitting balls of paper at the ceiling!”
Kiran laughed and nodded. “Yes, yes! They do this here as well! And throw food! Mrs Wragg gets very angry with them!”
They were cut off from their laughter by the doctor clearing his throat. He frowned at Clara.
“Right. Yes. When was the last time you saw them? Before they died.”
“I did not see Mr Creek very often. Maybe it was even the day before he died? I don't remember.” She said apologetically.
“And Miss Davis?”
“We did not see each other much, but I saw her that evening taking the children to bed. It must have been about eight in the evening.” Clara nodded and glanced across to the Doctor. She couldn't think of much else to ask and she didn't see any reason to be suspicious of Kiran.
“May I ask what brings you to this miserable little island Mrs Shrimankar?” The Doctor asked. Kiran looked taken aback by the question. “My husband Brijesh came to work at the shipyards in the war. I joined him after a few years apart.”
“That must have been hard, being separated for years.” Clara said.
“Yes it was.” Kiran smiled sadly. “But not as bad as it has been since he died.”
“I'm so sorry.”
The Doctor looked thoughtful. “But you stayed, after he died? Why not go back?”
“Money is short for me now and most of my family is gone. I can live here more easily than back home.” She looked down at the feather duster in her hand mournfully.
The Doctor nodded and looked back to Clara, clearly not sure what to say now that he had asked his questions.
“Well thank you for talking to us. It was very helpful. We'll let you get back to that ridiculous chandelier now.”
“Ridiculous, yes. A chandelier in an orphanage! Very stupid idea!” Kiran grumbled as she headed back out into the entranceway, brandishing her feather duster like a weapon.
Clara turned back to the Doctor to see that he had his back to her, gazing out of the window.
She went to stand beside him and stared out at the grey skies. “So what do you think? Anything useful?”
“Only very occasionally.”
“No, nothing particularly useful. Mr Creek the orphan bully kept to himself and Miss Davis didn't like the cleaner for reasons I suspect are based around her country of origin. It's not hard to imagine that some people may have had reason to want them dead.” He ran his hand through his hair that was looking bushier and more untidy than ever. It seemed to contribute to his overall mad professor look.
“So now you think it could have been a human killer?”
“Could be. Or it could be a creature like the one in London. Or a little of both.”
“Well, glad we're getting closer to the truth.” She said drily.
“The truth is usually boring anyway.” The Doctor said dismissively.
“The truth back in London was a monster sucking the life out of people! It must take a lot to keep you entertained!” Clara watched him incredulously. The Doctor continued to look out of the window.
“Well then you should be flattered that I find you so entertaining.” He suddenly seemed to tire of gazing out across the grounds and went to the door. He glanced back at her with an impatient expression, as though she was holding them up. “Are you coming?”
The kitchen was a flurry of activity when they arrived to speak with the chef. Breakfast was about to be served and the skinny Frenchman was crashing about and shouting orders to his two assistants as though he hated them. Plates laden with eggs, toast and spam were whisked out the door by the beleaguered assistants and the chef himself was dropping poached eggs onto plates with startling speed.
“Hurry up! These eggs will be spoiled if you don't move faster!” He snapped at the nervous young man taking the next plates out. He quailed under Mr Boissy's glare and an egg slipped off of the plate he was holding. “Poutain! Tu es un cretin!” He snapped. Quick as a flash he dumped another egg on the plate and shoved the shaking boy out into the dining hall.
“Should we come back later?” The Doctor asked, watching Mr Boissy with distaste.
“No no! My apologies. I am nearly finished.” He gave the Doctor an insincere, strained smile. “I would have been done sooner but my assistants are very stupid.” He shouted the last part loud enough that the whole dining room likely heard him.
“Yes. Charming.” The Doctor rolled his eyes and patted Clara on the shoulder, turning away from the chef who was wiping his hands clean on a dishcloth. Clara took this as her cue to take over. The Doctor clearly wasn't in the mood to talk with him.
“Is it okay for us to talk with you now Mr Boissy?”
“Of course, of course!” He took Clara's hand and kissed it, before holding his hand out to the Doctor.
The Doctor looked at the proffered hand as though he was being offered a live rat.
“No thank you.” He said, leaving the chef looking crestfallen.
“You may call me Remy. You are Clara, yes?” He redirected his attention back to Clara, now clearly as disinterested in making nice with the Doctor as the Doctor was with him.
“Yes that's right.” She thought for a moment about how to broach the subject of their investigation. She felt more uncertain than she had with Kiran, since the chef was currently the closest thing they had to a suspect. For some reason this whole thing had felt much easier back when she thought the Doctor was a policeman. It was just a matter of confidence. “So, what can you tell us about Mr Creek?”
Remy straightened up with a frown on his face. “We did not get along.”
“And why was that?”
“Some men are not worth getting along with.” He didn't seem too inclined to elaborate.
“That's true enough.” The Doctor grumbled, eyeing Remy with dislike. “And where were you when Mr Creek was meeting his untimely end?”
“Here in the kitchen. If I am not sleeping then I am here.”
“And was anyone here to see you?” The Doctor had drawn himself up to his full height and was glaring at the chef.
“Ah...” Remy hesitated and glanced at the door to the dining room almost unconsciously. “No. I was alone.”
“What do you see?” Remy's face was blank but there was a hint of anger that Clara could detect in his eyes.
“That you were here all alone while a man you openly dislike was dying mysteriously. Nothing to read into that, eh Clara?” He spoke in a flippant tone but Remy bristled nonetheless.
“I am not a killer if that is what you are saying! Of course I did not like that man, or the woman who died either but I do not turn to violence to deal with people I do not like! If you knew more about this man you would not like him, but I am sure you would not kill him!” He snapped.
“I'm sorry, we didn't mean to imply anything. Right Doctor?” She glared at him.
“Speak for yourself.”
“And what about Miss Davis? You said you didn't get along?” Clara spoke loudly to drown out anything else antagonising that the Doctor might say.
“She did not like me. I did nothing to her.” He said darkly.
“Why didn't she like you?”
“She had ideas about how the world should be. I disagreed.” He picked his dishcloth back up. “I must clean up this mess. I will need to finish before I can get ready for lunch.” He turned abruptly and began to gather up pans in a cacophony of banging and clanking. Clara felt that there was surely more to talk about, he had given them almost no information that they didn't already have, but the Doctor gestured for them to leave.
She rounded on the Doctor the moment they were out the door. “That was a complete disaster! Why did you have to antagonise him like that? Have you not learned anything about how to talk to people? He didn't tell us anything useful because of you!”
“He never would have told us anything useful, no matter how much you flutter your eyelashes at him!” The Doctor griped.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“He has something to hide Clara. You must see that?”
Clara had to admit that the Doctor was right. Although of course she wouldn't admit it out loud.
“So you think he's the killer? How exactly did he kill someone, lock the door from the inside and then get out of the room?”
The Doctor produced something from his pocket. It looked like a gnarled, stubby root. The Doctor snapped the root in half to reveal the inside. To Clara's alarm, the inside of it was a sickening, almost fluorescent orange. He held it out to Clara and she took it unwillingly.
“What is it?”
“Turmeric. Now what do you think a French chef wants that for?” They shared a look of understanding. Clara remembered what he had said about dealing with these creatures. They hated sage. And they hated turmeric.
“Protection maybe? You think he's working with it? Or he knows about it at least?”
The Doctor tapped his nose. “Exactly.”
Clara looked down at the turmeric. The Doctor's gift of sage had saved her life back in London, maybe the turmeric would prove just as useful? She turned it over in her hand then dropped it abruptly with a yelp.
“Yuk! What's wrong with this stuff?” She examined her hands, now stained bright yellow wherever her skin had touched the plant's innards.
“Oh, right! It's very staining. You should have watched out for that.” He advised with no hint of irony.
“Great, thanks for the warning.” She went to wipe her hands on her dress but the Doctor caught them before she could make contact.
“Best not. Unless you really don't like that dress.”
The staff of Lethbridge house consisted mostly of middle aged women, who all seemed incredibly put out at being rounded up by Mr Lethbridge, and one elderly man who Clara supposed must be the gardener. One tall, well built woman was complaining loudly about how much she didn't want to talk to them. The Doctor was scowling at the prospect of talking to so many people, or perhaps it was just being in a room with so many people that was annoying him.
“Ready?” Clara asked, using her most upbeat teacher voice.
“I'll never be ready for that.” He said, with his eyes on the loudest, most irritated woman, who was still pontificating to whoever would listen.
“Yeah, that's the spirit! Lets start with loud-mouth over there so she can leave.” Clara waved her hand to Alistair.
“All right then! Everyone get in order!” He bellowed, in his booming army general voice. The gathered staff members fell silent and almost as one, they turned to look at Clara and the Doctor. It was unnerving, but Clara gave them all a winning smile.
She glanced down at the list of staff Alistair had given her, weighing up calling a name and hoping it was the loud woman. “Why don't we start with you? Then you can go back to what you were doing.” She said to the woman, who huffed irritably. Clara had a feeling that literally anything they did would be annoying to her. Clara turned to the Doctor and gripped him by the upper arms. He looked alarmed by the contact. “Okay, we're a team, right? So I'll soften them up, then you come in with the hard questions, okay?” He nodded with wide eyes. His face pulled off some impressive gymnastics to look equal parts pleased and alarmed.
They adjourned to another room, leaving the rest of the staff to continue their noisy complaining.
The woman took a seat opposite them and scowled deeply. She had an angular, somewhat unkind face that might have been considered pretty if it weren't for her sour expression.
“I'm Clara, this is John. We just wanted to ask you a few questions about Mr Creek and Miss Davis. It won't take long, but anything you can tell us about them or their deaths could be really useful to us.”
“But you're not police so I don't have to answer any of your questions do I?” She crossed her arms and sat back in her chair with a belligerent expression.
The Doctor huffed loudly, looking like he was ready to jump in right away with the hard questions.
“This is exactly why it's best to pretend to be a police officer.” He muttered darkly. Clara laid a hand on his arm and forced a smile at the woman.
Her accent sounded Northern, Sheffield if Clara wasn't mistaken. She glanced down at the list of Employees and made an educated guess at who she was speaking to.
“Mrs Patricia Wragg, yes?”
The woman nodded slowly. “Clever trick. Is he gunna saw you in half next?”
Clara laughed politely, though Mrs Wragg didn't lose her grumpy expression for even a moment. Clara recalled Kiran mentioning a Mrs Wragg that morning. Something about her getting angry at the children?
“So what can you tell us about Mr Creek?” Clara asked. The Doctor pulled out his notepad and stared down at it, perhaps to distract himself from the urge to speak.
“He kept himself to himself. I got along with him, he did his job.” She spread her hands out as though she was expecting them to disagree.
“But he didn't get along with everyone, did he?”
“You mean the Frog? No, they didn't get along. Dunno what made them go off on each other though.”
“That would be the Chef? They didn't get along. When did that start?”
Patricia tapped on the table impatiently. “A few months ago? I dunno. I just remember Tom had gone down to talk with him late one night and the frog goes off on one and throws him out. But Tom was giving as good as he got, saying something about how he was a waste of space or something. Dunno what he caught him doing.”
For a woman who hadn't wanted to talk to them in the first place, she seemed to be relishing the opportunity to gossip.
“And Miss Davis didn't get along with Mr Boissy either?”
“Yeah, but she was pretty quiet so whatever was wrong she never said anything.”
“Was there anyone else who didn't get along with them?”
“Well, it's funny you ask, cos Evelyn was a sweet girl but I know she never got along with that cleaner. The Indian one.” Patricia raised her eyebrows meaningfully, as though Clara was supposed to have understood something from that.
“So you suspect Mrs Shrimankar?” The Doctor cut in sharply. “Please tell me your no doubt genius reasoning.”
“Well I actually have some good reasons if you must know!” She glared at the Doctor but Clara found she really couldn't blame him for antagonising this time. “For one thing, neither of them liked her and she didn't like them right back. I catch her all the time, lurking where she shouldn't be. Round the kitchens. She doesn't need to be round there because she doesn't clean the kitchen, so what is she doing there? Well it's exactly where you'd go if you wanted to poison someone!” She leaned back in her chair, looking triumphant.
“Well Clara, sounds like we have a real detective here. Perhaps we should head home?”
Clara struggled to keep the smile from her face, particularly at the sight of Patricia's scandalised expression.
“I didn't come here for you people to take the mickey out of me!”
“No, you came here to help us with our investigation. So why don't you elaborate.” The Doctor had set down his notepad and pen, something Clara took to mean he was no longer interested in what this woman had to say.
“Well I don't know much about India, but I heard they believe in all kinds of weird stuff. If anyone here would know a poison that we couldn't detect, it would be her! They worship elephants and stuff there, I'm sure they probably don't feel the same way about killing as we do.”
The Doctor rolled his eyes.
“Well... Thank you for your time.” Clara gestured towards the door. The scowl returned to Patricia's face and she stood and went to the door.
“You think I'm wrong, but she's hiding something!” She crowed, before exiting back out into the other room.
“Clara, have you considered that this might be a complete waste of time?” The Doctor asked conversationally.
“I hadn't until about five minutes ago.” She groaned. She rested her forehead against the cool wood of the table.
“Ready for the next one?”
She lifted her head and looked up at him incredulously. “Are you?”
“No, but lets get it all over with before I can grasp the level of my own suffering!” He gave her a manic grin and leapt up to open the door. “Next please!”
A small woman with mousy hair entered and the Doctor pulled out her seat in a surprising act of thoughtfulness.
She sat and looked between the two of them curiously. “So you two are private investigators?” She asked.
“Yes, I suppose that's what we are.”
“That must be exciting!” She watched Clara with admiring eyes. Clara felt a swell of satisfaction at being impressive to someone.
“Not nearly as exciting as you might imagine.” The Doctor said sourly.
“Yeah, pretty boring really.” Clara muttered. She looked down at her“What was your name sorry?”
Clara checked down the list and put a tick next to her name.
“So, what can you tell us about Mr Creek?” Clara asked, while the Doctor picked his notepad back up in readiness.
“Not a lot I'm afraid. He was very private.”
“Did he have any disagreements?”
“Just with Remy. The Chef. I don't know what went on, but I'd never seen either of them so angry. Remy shouts at his kitchen assistants but its not... its different, he's just very passionate about cooking. When he argued with Mr Creek it was something else entirely.”
The Doctor seemed to have relaxed, probably because this interview was going a lot better than the last.
“Did they come to blows?” He asked writing something in his notepad.
“No, nothing like that! I don't know about Mr Creek, but I don't think Remy is the sort. In fact I remember Mr Creek was calling him a coward because he wouldn't fight him.”
“But Miss Davis didn't like the chef either?” The Doctor pressed on, getting into the interviewing now that he had a more agreeable respondent.
“I think so, but I've got no idea why.”
“And she didn't get along with the cleaner, Mrs Shrimankar?”
Annie shook her head and sighed. “No, she didn't. She didn't make a big deal about it but she seemed quite annoyed by her... foreignness. Silly really, she's much better than the cleaner we had when I first started. Keeps everything looking beautiful.”
Clara cut in. “What did you think of them?”
She looked taken aback by the question. “I really didn't know Mr Creek that well. I didn't much like it when he argued with Remy. He was very antagonistic, like he was spoiling for a fight. But I honestly never really spoke with him.” She paused. “I... Never really got along with Evelyn. She was quite quiet around the staff, but she could be harsh with the children. I didn't like her all that much if I'm honest. I did have to tell her off once for shouting at the children.”
“Interesting.” The Doctor scribbled in his notebook. “Nice to see some honesty. And politeness.” He smiled his sharks grin at Annie, who looked like she didn't know whether to be flattered or afraid.
“So, Evelyn could be unkind to the children? What about Mr Creek?”
Annie shook her head. “I don't know, he always seemed to be okay with the children.”
Clara nodded and the Doctor wrote in his notebook.
Annie left them and the Doctor leant back in his chair with a sigh.
“Could we try a different approach?” He grumbled. “You wander around the house late at night, talking about how vulnerable and sad you are and I'll hide round the corner waiting for the monster to jump out?”
“You want me to be live bait?” She asked incredulously.
“Worked last time.”
“Call the next one in.” She said flatly. “Just nine more left and then we're done.”
Chapter 5: Peace and war
The fire was crackling in the grate, making the room a little too warm for the pleasant spring evening. Clara was sitting in a handsome, high backed armchair, her head resting on her hand and her eyelids drooping shut. With the room so warm and dark and quiet she could barely stay awake.
“Clara! You can't sleep there.” The Doctor's voice made her jump, her chin slipping off the hand it was propped up on.
“Damn it!” She snapped. She sat up a little straighter and fixed him with a glare. “I wasn't asleep, I was just resting.”
He raised an eyebrow at her but didn't comment on the very small difference between those two things.
“Come on Clara, I can barely concentrate on these boring papers as it is. You're supposed to be helping.” He glared down at the notepad and the papers Alistair had given them.
With a sigh, she hauled herself up and went to stand beside him. The papers were strewn randomly across the tabletop and his notebook hadn't even been opened. She nudged him aside and started organising the papers.
“Some method might help.” She scolded. “How have you ever managed to work anything out when you have absolutely no organisation?”
“I'm very clever, I don't need organisation.”
She paused and turned to look at him. “If that was true, you wouldn't need me.” She picked up a few papers and held them out to him. “Files on the chef. Get started.”
The Doctor stifled a groan of annoyance. “Fine, the screaming chef.” He snatched the papers and flopped back into one of the armchairs. He turned the pages with a vicious flourish. Clara picked up the files about Patricia Wragg, hoping she might find something incriminating about her.
The file consisted of personal history; family, previous jobs, education. She noted that Patricia was married but had no children and had bounced around between several jobs during the war, before settling at Lethbridge house two years prior. All in all it was fairly useless information.
“What have you got?” She looked up from the papers to see the Doctor dozing in his chair, the files looking ready to slip from his grasp. “Hey!” He startled awake and peered down intensely at the papers in his hands as though he hadn't just been caught. “Just resting, yeah?”
“I was thinking.”
“And it tired you out?”
“Well in my defence it's very boring.”
She stood and went to perch on the arm of his chair. “What does it say?”
“42, unmarried, French.” He said flatly, dropping the papers into his lap.
“That's it? That's what you got from it?” She snatched the papers up to examine them for herself. “Ok, so he ran a restaurant in Paris before the war. La Camelia. Burned down in 1941. Came to live here after the war. Hmm.” She turned the page over, hoping to find something more interesting on the back. It was blank.
“He's hiding something.” The Doctor said unexpectedly.
“Hmm.” She turned to look at the Doctor. In the pleasant glow of the firelight his features looked uncharacteristically soft and calm. “Do you think he's involved?”
“Maybe. What do you think?”
“I think he's definitely hiding something.”
Clara stood and sank back into the other armchair. She felt exhausted even though it was still early evening.
“It's one of those creatures though. It has to be. People dropping dead, a shadow chasing someone. It must be?”
“Could be.” The Doctor conceded. He ran a hand over his face wearily. “Could be something else. Poison, sickness. The lights could have played tricks on our witness who saw the shadow.”
Clara sighed again and settled back in her chair. She felt useless. She had spoken to so many people she was starting to feel like a machine, performing the same task over and over. She had very little to show for it.
“We can do this though. We'll figure it out.” She said, forcing confidence into her voice in the hopes it would instil confidence in the Doctor. He seemed to perk up just a little at her words.
“Well, we did it before.”
“When did Alistair say he was coming back?” She decided to change the subject to something that wasn't so frustrating.
“Sometime after Sunday. Said he promised his daughter he would spend Easter with them.”
A calm, comfortable silence stretched between them. The room really was very warm. As the fire dropped to embers emitting a steady glow, she found herself fighting off sleep again. The furniture cast long shadows that spilled out across the floor. The swell of the fire made them look like they were moving. Shadows ballooning out across the floor, smoky and ethereal, advancing on her, a clawed black hand reaching out.
She startled awake with a cry, and looked around frantically for the Doctor. She half expected to see him standing, wielding a torch like a weapon, the way he had that night in London. But he was still sitting in his armchair, watching her with concern.
“You should go and sleep.” He said.
“I'm fine.” She straightened up in her seat and shook off the unsettling images in her mind. “Why don't you tell me about all these friends you used to have? Alistair made you sound like you actually used to be fun.”
“I was never fun.” He growled. “I was a know it all and an idiot at the same time.”
“How is that different from how you are now?”
He grinned at that, somehow not at all offended. He stood and stretched out his back, pacing back over to the table with all their notes. “I've had plenty of friends, but you know how it is. Can't keep in touch forever. People die or move away, settle down. They don't have time for you any more.”
“Well why didn't you just settle down too? Can't keep wandering around looking for trouble forever.”
“And who says?” He grinned again, but it quickly faded. “I did try you know. I was married and everything. But she didn't want to slow down either. We were as bad as each other.” The Doctor absent-mindedly twisted a heavy ring that was on his finger. Clara had never noticed it before.
“What was she like?”
“I don't even remember her that well now. She's been gone for a long time. She was... clever and adventurous. ” He fidgeted with his ring even more.
“Is that why you didn't have kids?” She found herself wondering what the Doctor would be like if he had kids. She couldn't decide if he would be a grumpy, distant father or a mad, brilliant one.
He went very still at that question, a frown cutting lines across his face.
“I was a father. Once.” He said softly.
“You said you never had children.”
“I said I have no children now. He died in the war.” He turned away to look at the fire, leaving Clara with an icy, leaden feeling in her stomach.
She wanted to speak, but couldn't find any words. She was sure they would sound hollow, even if she could find them. She stood slowly and went to where he was standing at the table.
His back was to her and he was chewing almost anxiously on his thumb. She placed a hand very gently on his arm, expecting him to shrug her off the way he usually would. Instead, he seemed to relax, the tension going out of him. He turned to look at her, his face looking harsh in the firelight.
Clara lifted her hand to rest against his cheek, a gentle touch to convey what she couldn't seem to with words. His face seemed to relax, his eyes drooping shut.
“Tell me about him.” She said softly. She withdrew her hand but stayed close to him. For once he didn't seem to mind the closeness.
“What is it they say? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree?” He leaned back against the table, as though he was now too exhausted to stand upright. “We were a little too alike. I didn't want him to go to war, so of course he went. Most of his childhood it was just the two of us, wandering around. We were thick as thieves for a long time.”
“Oh yes, in spades. Just like me at that age, only not as soft.” He smiled bitterly. “He was a good soldier by all accounts. If you can call a soldier good.”
“You must miss him.”
“Him and his mother and all the rest of my family who are all gone. Everything ends. There's not much you can do. But you keep going.”
“He was lucky to have you.” She declared.
He sucked in a breath then chuckled gently. “I thought I was a disorganised idiot?”
“Yeah, but you're okay. You're clever and... brave.” She felt a little embarrassed and looked down at her shoes. The Doctor seemed a little embarrassed as well.
He turned away again and gnawed on his finger. “I suppose all of that made me easy pickings for that creature. Should have factored that in.” He looked thoughtful as he gazed down at the papers.
“Yeah, you said... it preys on people's weaknesses. Regrets and grief.”
“You got that too did you?” He cast her a furtive glance. “Yes, it seems it paralyses it's victims with emotions rather than poison like an animal might. Regrets and grief and our darkest fears.”
“I saw Danny.” She said. They didn't look at one another. Clara felt suddenly raw and exposed in her honesty and no doubt the Doctor was incredibly uncomfortable with the whole thing. But she wanted to get it out. She wanted, for once in her life, to share her feelings, with someone who she was sure would completely understand.
“Oh?” He said. He looked at her then, his expression quite unreadable. His face was so expressive she found she could usually quite easily see how he was feeling. It was a strange sight.
“Like a memory. The last time I saw him. It was just a stupid conversation. I didn't even tell him that I loved him. I should've told him.”
“Well... I'm sure he knew that. And I'm sure he would be glad to know that his memory wasn't misused to harm you.”
She nodded, finding that her words were stuck in her throat.
“I got quite the show you know. Lucky you showed up when you did. Seeing my life played back to me was too much after all that running and heavy lifting.” He said flippantly. “When you have fifty years of stupid mistakes...” He trailed off.
“You've won plenty of times though. If even half of your stories are true, you've done plenty of stuff to be proud of. More than I have.”
“Well I am quite old. And busy. The more you do the more times you can fail, but the more times you can win.”
She smiled at him, a silly sort of smile, something light and easy. “Well now you've got me helping you we'll improve your record. Because I don't like to lose.”
He straightened up and crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking down at her imperiously. “Well really, who likes to lose?”
They smiled at each other and Clara felt a strange sort of clarity and peace in that moment. The Doctor was the best friend she had ever had, strange as that might seem. Old and tactless and peculiar as he was, she realised that she cared for him more than she had for anyone in such a long time. Even with the lies he had told that first time they met, she knew that she would trust him even in the most dangerous of situations.
She suddenly felt a desire for action. Her hands were itchy and she couldn't look away from the Doctor's face, still so open and honest from their discussion. His eyes were such a brilliant icy blue, she wasn't sure if she had ever noticed that before. She moved closer, so their bodies were almost touching. He didn't move away and his expression remained the same.
“Clara.” His voice was very soft, almost just a breath.
A sudden, shrill sound cut through the tranquillity of their private room. Someone screaming, high pitched and strident. Angry or scared, Clara couldn't tell.
The spell between them was broken and they both leapt back from one another in surprise, as though shocked to find themselves standing so close.
“We should-” Clara pointed to the door awkwardly.
“See what that is, yes.” They both bolted towards the door and headed out into the corridor. The sound was clearer now, it was a woman, her enraged shouting clear for the whole house to hear, though Clara still couldn't make out the exact words.
Clara listened intently to work out exactly what was being said.
“The kitchens!” The Doctor said. He seized her hand and pulled her towards the kitchens, the voice becoming clearer the closer they got.
She realised it was Patricia's voice. But there was another voice, softer, placating, but still heated. They rounded the corner to the sight of Patricia, her hair coming loose from its bun, screaming and red faced. The object of her rage was Kiran, looking somehow even smaller than she had when they had met her that morning. She seemed to have shrunk in on her self, in embarrassment and fear.
“-But I know it was you! You snake! Poisonous and slithering around where you aren't wanted!” Patricia shouted all of her admonitions directly into Kiran's startled face. “You heartless cold bitch! I should-”
“Mrs Wragg!” The Doctor's booming voice somehow rose over Patricia's screaming and she faltered. Clara took the opportunity to step between them, wrapping an arm around Kiran's shoulders and moving as far away from Patricia as the small hallway would allow.
“What is wrong with you!” Clara scolded. She released her grip on Kiran, who seemed keen to wriggle free in her embarrassment.
“With me! Me? I'm not the one who's killing people! You wouldn't want to get cosy with her if you knew! She could finish you off next!” Patricia's face was incandescent with rage and she shook tightly clenched fists at them all.
“I would think that if Mrs Shrimankar had any murderous feelings at all right now, there would only be one person she could reasonably be directing those towards.” The Doctor spoke very delicately, his voice low and level, in stark contrast to Patricia's screaming.
“Yeah I bet you'd love to get rid of me, wouldn't you? Well I'm not eating the food around here, not any more! You want to poison me, you'll have to try bloody hard!”
“What exactly makes you think she's poisoned anyone? Do you have any proof at all?” Clara snapped.
Patricia held out her hands and gave a hysterical laugh. “What's she doing down here, eh? Always down near the kitchens! I told you, she's poisoned them! That's how Tom could just drop dead like that! Right after he had his dinner!” She pointed a bony finger at Kiran and jabbed at the air with it viciously. “She did it!”
Kiran shook her head fiercely. “You don't know anything. I can go where I please in this house!” She was clearly angry but she kept her voice low, like the Doctor had. “You embarrass me and you embarrass yourself. You will wake the children.”
“What do you care about the children? They wouldn't never let you look after them! You'd make them all weird! Cleaning toilets, that's all you're good for!”
“That's enough!” Clara said harshly. “I think you need to calm yourself down, before you say something that I'll make you regret!” She stood as tall as she could, still much smaller than Patricia, but found that there was enough anger in her to make the other woman quail.
“Idiots, the pair of you!” She looked between Clara and the Doctor contemptuously.
“That may be, but it doesn't mean you aren't an idiot too.” The Doctor said. “I think it's best you leave now, while you still can.” Clara felt his eyes on her.
Patricia turned and stormed off down the corridor without looking back.
“Are you okay?” Clara turned to Kiran, who was looking down at her feet in embarrassment.
“I am just embarrassed. I am very sorry.”
“Not your fault.” The Doctor said, still staring down the corridor that Patricia had walked down with an unimpressed expression.
“Still, I am sorry that you had to be disturbed by this.”
Clara felt a blush start to spread on her face at the though of exactly what she had been disturbed from doing. “No, it's fine. We weren't really...”
“What exactly were you doing down here, Mrs Shrimankar?” The Doctor asked. Clara shot him a look. “Since I doubt you were here to poison us all.” He added hastily.
“I... I like to cook things that remind me of home. The chef is very kind and he lets me come here to make roti and dhal. I only make these things for myself, I don't touch anyone else's food!” She wrung her hands in distress.
“But Mrs Wragg didn't like that perfectly reasonable explanation?” The Doctor raised a questioning eyebrow.
“She is a bad woman! I would not normally say this but it's the truth!”
“Do you think she could be involved?” Clara cut in.
“I don't think so...” Her face twitched with nerves. “I think... You must talk to the children. I don't think that they are guilty, but they know! They know who has done this.”
“What makes you say that?” Clara asked, though really she had to admit she agreed with that assessment.
Kiran fidgeted with uncertainty. “I don't want you to think I am foolish...”
“I've never let looking foolish stop me.” The Doctor said with a crooked smile.
“In my country we know of lost spirits that can take the form of an animal or a man. They are called bhoot. If you are not careful and let them in your home, they will take control of you. I think... You will think this is silly but I think this is what has caused all of this.” The Doctor nodded slowly.
“Let me guess, turmeric and iron can ward off a bhoot?”
Kiran looked taken aback. “Yes, this is right. How do you know?”
“I think you might be onto something. Keep your eyes open for trouble.” He advised ominously.
Chapter 6: Night Time Affairs
Some naughty business has been going on
It must have been around 2 am when Clara startled awake that morning. She found, to her surprise, that her whole body was shaking. She couldn't remember the dream she had been having, but she found herself feeling highly strung, her heart hammering in her chest. She sat up in bed to take a drink of water, hoping to calm her breathing.
The floorboards outside her room creaked.
She leapt up instantly and snatched the torch off her bedside table. She had kept the stolen police torch next to her bed every night since that night in London. She crept to the door, carefully on silent feet.
There was another sound, a thud, then a voice, cursing softly. Clara wrenched the door open to reveal the Doctor standing at the end of the hallway.
“What are you doing?” She hissed.
He looked at her for a moment, caught in the act. “Ah...”
“You'd better not be doing stuff without me.” She scolded, hurrying as quietly as she could along the corridor.
“I was just looking around. Didn't want to disturb you.” He glanced around the dark corridor as though he was looking for a way out.
“Well I'm disturbed now. What's the plan?” She crossed her arms over her chest and peered up at him. She offered no chance for disagreement.
“A little late night wander.”
“So no plan then?”
“You know how I am with plans.” He said. He latched onto her arm and pulled her deeper into the shadows. “Lets just see if there's anyone else up at this hour? We might even run into a monster or two!”
“Yeah, exciting.” She said drily.
They crept along the hall, Clara compulsively checking behind them every few steps. The corridors were dark and filled with deep shadows. She felt like she was being followed.
“Do you feel like you're being followed?” She asked the Doctor in hushed tones.
“Yes, but it's just you so I'm not too worried.”
She rolled her eyes and pushed ahead of him. They got to a staircase and Clara began to descend, when a noise caused her to stop in her tracks. The Doctor nearly stumbled over her, before he grabbed the bannister for support.
A shadow moved across the hallway and Clara felt her whole body tense. She gripped the Doctor's arm tightly. He moved forward down the stairs with Clara holding on tight and following behind. Halfway down the stairs a figure became visible in the darkness.
Tall and thin, the figure stalked silently across the hall. She realised with relief that it was Remy, the chef. He moved quickly and silently, disappearing through the door that led to his bedroom.
They glanced at one another, silently agreeing to go back upstairs.
Back in the quiet of the Doctor's room, Clara sank down onto the bed and sighed.
“The chef.” The Doctor said darkly. “I knew he was up to something.”
“He must be in league with one of those creatures. There's one here I'm sure of it.” Clara shuddered involuntarily at the thought of it stalking the halls. “Kiran can feel it too, she just doesn't know exactly what it is.”
“Well at least it isn't as greedy as the last one. Or maybe the chef has more control over it than the priest did.”
“It's only attacked people he doesn't like. Maybe he's directing it?”
“Either way...” He opened his bedside drawer and rooted around. Clara caught sight of several strange items; screwdrivers and broken pocket watches and a little yellow wind up bird that twitched and chirped when he nudged it. His hand closed around something and he held it out to her. “You'd better take this. It's made of iron.”
Clara reached out curiously, then recoiled when she realised what the Doctor was holding.
“A knife! Why do you have a knife? There are children here Doctor!”
“Well they won't be getting their hands on it because I'm giving it to you.” He said, as though it was silly of her to be concerned. “It's a dagger by the way, not a knife.”
Clara took it reluctantly. She was feeling pretty uncertain about taking things the Doctor gave her. They tended to vary from very useful to stolen to disgusting. She put it into the sheath he handed her and placed it next to her on the bed.
“Keep it with you. With the electromagnets it should be enough to finish off one of those things.”
“Okay.” She gazed up at him, suddenly aware that she was in his bedroom in the dead of night. After their talk that evening it made her feel more uncomfortable than it ever had. Before she had always been aware of how uncomfortable the Doctor was feeling about being close to her, but now she found that he didn't seem nearly as awkward, while she was feeling much more awkward than usual.
He took a seat on the bed beside her. She noticed that his pyjama trousers were an ugly green plaid. She smoothed down her nightdress self consciously, even though the Doctor had never once in the time she had known him made any comment about her choice of clothes.
“Well, we have something to go on now. You can sleep in if you like. We'll be up late.” He advised.
“Lurking, spying, the usual.”
“Oh yeah. The usual.”
The Doctor came to her room around one am that night. He had insisted they take it easy during the day, since they would need all their energy for the evening. Unfortunately the Doctor's idea of taking it easy was not Clara's and they had ended up lost in the hedge maze for a good half an hour before the gardener had escorted them out. After that she had kept him confined to the house and managed to entertain him with a book until bedtime.
She had opted not to sleep, instead waiting up for the Doctor to come and get her. The Doctor, on the other hand, looked as though he had taken a nap. His hair was sticking up in all directions and he was wearing his ugly pyjamas again. Clara had chosen to change into a dark dress and cardigan since she thought that was most appropriate for late night investigating.
“Nice pyjamas.” She said, slipping out to join him in the hallway.
“Thank you. I don't think much of yours though. Bit impractical.” He eyed her clothes critically, perhaps the first time he had ever noticed what she was wearing.
“These aren't pyjamas. These are clothes.”
“Why aren't you wearing pyjamas?”
“We aren't going to bed!”
He looked thoughtful. “Ah, yes...” He looked down at his own clothing then shrugged. “Well, at least I'm comfortable. Shall we go?”
They crept off down the corridor. Clara had chosen to bring her police torch along and had left the Doctor's dagger behind in her bedside drawer. She didn't fancy being caught wandering around an orphanage at night while armed. The Doctor clearly had no such worries, since he was carrying a large, philips head screwdriver.
They made it to the stairs and Clara paused to listen for any sound of movement. There was no sign of anyone. They crept down the stairs and out into the corridor. The Doctor went to the door to the chefs room and pressed an ear against it.
“Is he in there?” She whispered. The hand clutching her torch shook a little.
“No idea.” The Doctor leapt away from the door and snagged her other hand, whisking her off down a different corridor. “Let's check the kitchens.”
Clara struggled to keep up with his sudden burst of energy. He could be like a difficult child at times, quiet and sullen one minute and charging about full of energy the next.
They made it to the kitchens much quicker than Clara would have liked, since for some reason they had run the entire way. The Doctor stopped abruptly at the door and very slowly pressed down on the handle. There was the tiniest noise, a light click, and he let the door swing open.
The kitchen was empty, it was one o'clock in the morning after all. A little light filtered in through the back door that led out into the grounds. It glanced off shiny pots and pans still sitting out on the worktops and hanging off of hooks on the walls. The Doctor found a light switch and the fluorescent lights flickered on, blindingly bright.
“Ow, god that's bright!” She pressed her hands over her eyes for a moment, while the Doctor moved around the kitchen, apparently not bothered. “Why have we come to the kitchen?”
She squinted across at him. He was looking in cupboards and hopping about like a child at playtime.
“Come on Clara! Look around, might find something.” He produced a small magnet from his pocket and started pressing it experimentally against all of the knives in the drawer.
She rolled her eyes and turned away to check the pantry. It was cool inside, the kind of damp cold you might find in a cellar or a very old church. Strings of onions and garlic hung from beams and wooden crates on the floor held fresh vegetables. It all seemed very French to her, especially when she spotted a whole leg of smoked ham hanging in a corner.
There was a small wooden table at the far end, covered with jars of all different sizes. She bent down to examine them. They looked to be full of seeds of all different types. Little round ones, long thin ones, as well as dried, shrivelled looking chillies and powders of varying shades of brown. She recognised a few of the contents; one jar held cinnamon sticks, while another had a gnarled root of ginger inside and one was filled with cloves that she was sure she could smell even with the lid screwed on.
“Doctor!” She called as softly as she could. His head popped around the door curiously.
She wasn't really sure that what she had found would count as 'something' in his opinion, though it was certainly out of place with the rest of the pantry, so she simply pointed to the collection of jars. He ducked through the door, dodging around the strings of onions that hung at just the right height to hit him in the face. He lifted one of the jars up to his eye line and studied the little round seeds inside. He unscrewed the lid and sniffed.
“Coriander.” He said. He held the jar out to her and she caught a familiar fragrant scent that wafted out. He put it back and examined the rest. “Cumin, fenugreek, cardamom...” He snatched up a jar of brilliant yellow powder. “Turmeric!” He looked triumphant.
“If he has the turmeric for protection, then why does he have all the rest of them?” She picked up the jar with the cinnamon sticks and waved it at the Doctor. He shrugged. “It's obvious isn't it! They aren't his! Remember, Kiran said she comes here and cooks sometimes. They're hers! They're all hers.”
The Doctor's face fell. “Ah, good point.” He cast around as though hoping to find something else incriminating to hand, but there wasn't even a bunch of sage nearby for him to latch onto. “I'm surprised he lets her keep it in his kitchen though. He's not the friendliest sort.”
“Just because you don't like him, it doesn't mean he's guilty.” Clara said, carefully keeping her eyes on the collection of jars rather than the Doctor.
“It's not that I don't like him. He has something to hide. And if we were going on who I disliked the most then he has some pretty tough competition from Mrs Wragg.”
Clara laughed. “Oh boy, she is really-” She stopped abruptly at the sound of footsteps from the corridor. The Doctor leapt into action and pulled the door to the pantry shut, throwing the whole room into a deep darkness. “How is that going to help? He'll know we're here-” He shushed her and pulled her down into a crouch behind a couple of large sacks
The door to the kitchen clicked open and there was a scuffing of feet as the person entering froze in the doorway.
“Hallo?” It was Remy. He must have been surprised to find that the kitchen light was on. She heard him pace across the kitchen and heard the clank of his knives in the drawer. “Is someone in here?”
Clara struggled to keep her breathing as silent as possible, afraid that even the tiniest sound would give them away. She heard him pace back and forth across the kitchen, pausing every few steps. She realised he was looking for an intruder.
She was suddenly startled by the feeling of some harsh, scratchy material being thrown over her head. The Doctor had grabbed some loose Hessian sack and covered them both with it, probably in the hopes that it would make them look like a sack of potatoes when Remy came to check the pantry. It was a pretty poor disguise but she had to admire the effort.
She felt a hand on her shoulder as the Doctor pulled her closer to him. She pressed close, trying to make them seem as small as possible so their disguise might be more believable. She could feel his breath puff out against the top of her head, feel the steady beat of his heart against her back.
The pantry door clicked open and the light from the kitchen filtered through the thick weave of the sack.
She heard the chef step into the pantry, then his footsteps as he walked to the end of the room. She could hear him breathing. She held her own breath, even as she grew light headed. The Doctor's hand squeezed her shoulder.
“Hallo?” The chef stayed motionless for what felt like a solid minute, but was probably only seconds, then he paced back out of the room.
The door slid shut and cast them both into darkness again. She heard the light in the kitchen go off, then the door click shut.
She sucked in a relieved breath as the Doctor's vice-like grip on her shoulder loosened and he wrestled the sack off their heads.
“I really don't think it would have been that bad if he found us...” Clara said, just now realising that fact. She had been so caught up in the moment that she had forgotten that the chef really wasn't very threatening.
“Yes, but now we can follow him, come on!” He snatched up her hand again and dragged her out of the pantry and into the dark kitchen. “He took my screwdriver!” the Doctor squawked.
“Why did you leave it out here?” She asked, but she got no answer as he dragged her out into the dark corridor.
They darted along in Remy's wake, Clara feeling very glad that they had both chosen to go barefoot, since it muffled their footsteps. She caught sight of their quarry ducking around a corner and heading off in the opposite direction to his bedroom. The Doctor stopped abruptly and Clara bumped face first into the velvet smoking jacket he had thrown over his pyjamas. She let out a little huff of irritation but he shushed her and pulled her forward towards Remy's bedroom.
“Let's see what we can find in here.”
“His bedroom? We can't look in there!” Clara protested, tugging back on his hand.
“Yes we can, he's not in there, he went the other way!” He carefully opened the door, but Clara tugged more insistently on his hand.
“What if he comes back?”
The Doctor glanced at her with a small smile. “Not scared are you?”
“No! Shut up!” She said reproachfully. “You know, if you really think he's guilty, you should be scared too!”
“Yes, we could be in great peril.” The Doctor grinned as though that was a dreadfully exciting thing. “Come on!” She let him pull her into Remy's bedroom.
The Doctor went straight to the bedside table and started to rifle through it. He tossed a few things onto the bed in his frantic searching.
Something in the growing pile caught her eye. A piece of cloth, much brighter and more vibrant than anything else in the room. She picked it up carefully and found that it was made of a very fine, soft material. It was decorated with an intricate design of gold and silver thread on a deep red background.
“Doctor, look at this.” She held it out to him and he ran it curiously through his hands.
“Sanskrit writing...” He said examining it closely. “It must belong to Kiran. Why do you think he has this?” He frowned down at it.
Clara felt a sort of creeping realisation come over her. There was a very obvious explanation right in front of her eyes but she felt like it was just out of reach. She took the cloth and looked at it intensely, sure that it held some great secret about the chef.
“I think we've been been barking up the wrong tree here...” Clara said slowly.
The door opened suddenly and Clara leapt to her feet with a yelp. At her side the Doctor nearly toppled off the bed in his surprise.
“What are you doing in my room?” Remy stood framed in the doorway, looking stunned. Peeking shyly from behind his back was Kiran, a mortified expression crossing her face at the sight of them.
The Doctor made an elaborate show, as though he had just been startled awake. “What am I doing here?” He slapped his hand to his forehead.
“You were sleepwalking!” Clara said shrilly. She grabbed his arm and pulled him up, hoping she might be able to drag him out into the hallway before anyone could ask any more questions.
“You were looking through my drawers! How dare you!” Remy spluttered, suddenly seeming very tall.
“No! No we weren't, he's just a very lively sleepwalker. I'll take him back to his room!” Clara tugged the Doctor to the door but found that Remy was unwilling to step aside and let them through.
“You were in the kitchen also! You are spying on me! I lived in Paris during the war, I am used to this kind of treatment.” He said ferociously. “You think the GMR did not come sniffing around my restaurant? You think it burned itself to the ground?”
“Well you are acting pretty suspicious.” The Doctor dropped his sleepwalker act abruptly. “Wandering around at night.” He raised his eyebrows . “What are you doing here?” He said, spotting Kiran, hiding behind Remy's back. She spluttered nervously and glanced up at Remy, whose face had grown red from a combination of anger and embarrassment.
“Er... Doctor...” Clara tugged on his sleeve. The realisation from before had ceased its creeping and fallen on her like a ton of bricks. “I think we should go.”
“No, we may as well do this now. What are you doing sneaking around at night?”
“I think it's a little obvious now.” Clara shared a look with Kiran, whose abashed expression confirmed her guess. The Doctor looked down at her, confused. “We should leave these two alone. I think they might like some privacy.” He frowned deeply, then his expression twisted into one of shock and realisation.
“Oh! Ah, right!” He looked over at the pair of them appraisingly. “The two of you...” He pointed between them.
“I don't think that is any of your business.” Said Remy stiffly.
“Well either way that clears up a few little mysteries.”
“Please don't tell anyone!” Kiran squeaked. “Mr Creek was very rude when he found out about this...”
“Yes, there was a blazing argument.” The Doctor nodded his understanding.
“Some men are not worth getting along with.” Remy said pointedly.
“Yes, I think you might be right there.” he held out his hand to Remy, who looked at it with confusion. After an awkward moment Remy took his hand and shook it. “Sorry about the spying. We might have got a little carried away.”
“If you could stay out of my things now... It brings back bad memories.” Remy glanced down at Kiran, who had laid a comforting hand on his arm.
“We should go.” Clara pulled on the Doctor's arm again and this time Remy stepped aside to let them leave.
They walked together in silence towards the Doctor's room. The darkness seemed a little less foreboding than it had when she had thought someone with a dislike for the Doctor might be killing people.
When they arrived back at his room the Doctor sank onto his bed with a sigh. “That was a complete waste of time. Now we're back to square one.”
“At least we've solved one mystery.” She said buoyantly. “We've narrowed it down a bit.”
“And wasted a couple of days chasing a dead end.” He started gnawing on his thumb thoughtfully. “If he'd just told us what he was up to he could have saved us a lot of work!”
“I think they'd prefer not to tell people. It looks like they didn't get a very good reaction from Mr Creek.”
“Who really cares what other people think anyway?” He threw his hands up in irritation. “Some stupid man looks down on you? Well who cares if you're happy? You don't get many chances to be happy.”
She nodded her agreement, not sure what to say in response. He was right of course. Who was anyone to judge them, really? Two people living in an unfamiliar country, from different cultures, finding a little common ground. It was quite sweet really.
“I think, with the lives they've had, they probably deserve to have a little happiness.” Clara said slowly. The Doctor seemed to relax at her side. He looked thoughtful. Clara laid a hand on his back, tentatively. She could feel his breathing, slow and even.
“Yes...” He glanced down at her. “We should sleep. We'll have to start over fresh in the morning. You need lots of sleep or you get bossy.” He stood sharply and opened the door for her. She was a little taken aback by his sudden change of mood, but she went to the door.
“Goodnight.” She lingered in the doorway a moment. She wasn't sure exactly what she was waiting for and it seemed the Doctor didn't either. He shifted uncomfortably under her gaze.
Chapter 7: Death at the Orphanage
A bit of light detective work before the shit hits the fan
The next morning Clara was disappointed to find that Remy had not made them a special breakfast as he had on the previous mornings. Instead they ate the same eggs and spam on toast that the children had. The Doctor seemed unconcerned, in fact she wasn't certain that he had even noticed. He tended to wolf down whatever was put in front of him like a starving man.
Clara poked disinterestedly at her spam, a little put out that she wasn't enjoying the same delicious pancakes from the previous day.
“This is your fault you know.” She said, glaring at the Doctor as he shovelled the last forkful into his mouth.
“What did I do this time? I have trouble keeping up.”
“Dragging me off to snoop around Remy's room! Now he's obviously angry with us.” She pushed her plate away and crossed her arms over her chest. “We could be eating pancakes right now.”
“Yes, pancakes! Lovely.” He pulled her plate over and started on her breakfast as well.
“We should apologise. We shouldn't have gone through his stuff.” The Doctor didn't react. “In fact, you're going to apologise, it was your idea!”
“I already apologised. I'm not going to go out of my way to soothe his hurt feelings.” The Doctor looked bewildered at the suggestion. “He was hiding things from us so we investigated. Perfectly understandable.”
“We're going to see him after breakfast.” She pressed. “Don't argue, we're doing it.”
He sighed resignedly and grumbled something about wasting time.
They finished their tea and Clara poked the Doctor towards the kitchens, intending to drag a semi-sincere apology out of him. As they rounded the corner towards the kitchen Clara was startled by Kiran hurrying out into the hallway.
“Kiran! We were just looking for Remy, is he in there?”
Kiran laughed lightly. She seemed in good spirits. “I don't think you should see him now. One of his chefs did not come in today. He is very busy, he will probably shout at your friend.” She eyed the Doctor with a barely contained smirk.
“That's all right, he deserves it.” They both laughed and the Doctor scowled.
“Is there going to be a point to all this? We do have a possible killer on the loose.” He grumbled, low enough that only Clara could hear him. She shushed him and focused her attention on Kiran.
“We just wanted to apologise really. We shouldn't have looked through his things.” She gave the Doctor a pointed look.
“Ah, yes... Quite right. I... Apologise.” He said stiltedly. It was probably the best she was going to get out of him.
“No, no! You are here to keep us safe, you need us to be honest. I should have told you, Remy could not have killed Mr Creek because he was with me the whole evening.” Clara thought she could see a blush creeping across Kiran's face. “We just didn't want everyone knowing about this. Some people are very cruel.”
“Stupid is the word I would use.” The Doctor cut in. “I wouldn't worry yourself too much about those sorts of people. One day the world will judge them much more harshly than you.”
Kiran smiled up at the Doctor. It was one of those rare moments where he somehow managed to say exactly the right thing.
“Thank you sir. I do not think Remy is angry with you. He is a kind man, really he is. He was just upset because of things that happened in the war. The police, the GMR, they spied on him. He is private about his things now.” The Doctor nodded his understanding.
“Well, I suppose, maybe, I might have misjudged him. Maybe.”
“Make sure you tell him how sorry we both are.” Clara insisted.
“Yes yes! But you should not worry, he is not too angry with you.”
Kiran agreed to pass along their message and hurried away to clean the children's rooms.
“Right, now we've finished with that waste of time, shall we do some work?” The Doctor asked.
“Yeah, okay, anything to make you stop sulking.” She linked her arm with his and let him pull her towards the grounds.
The sun was dazzling as the children ran across the lawn, throwing balls and chasing one another. It was a beautiful, warming sight, almost enough to make Clara forget why they were there. A child went charging past the Doctor, squealing and nearly knocking him off his feet.
“Horrible little creatures!” He growled.
“Oh be quiet.” She slapped him on the arm.
“Well, which one was the suspicious one?” He asked, surveying the children as though they were a pack of wild dogs.
“Most of them.” She admitted. “There was one...” She glanced around, before spotting the girl sitting under a tree a short distance away. She pointed her out to the Doctor. “Susanna. She definitely knows something, but it could turn out to be nothing knowing our luck.”
The Doctor eyed Susanna with suspicion. “Ah yes... The image of a criminal mastermind.” His head lolled to the side and he cast her a deeply sardonic look.
“What happened to 'everyone is a suspect'?”
“What happened to children being innocent little angels?” He shot back.
“I never said that.” She crossed her arms and squinted in the sunlight to get a better look at Susanna. She was sitting alone and looking at her feet. She seemed a little... wistful? It was an odd look for a child. “I'm a teacher, I know better than anyone what little monsters children can be.”
“So she's our new suspect?”
“Well, children can be horrible, but plotting murder is a bit much.”
“Murder is always a bit much.” He scowled at some nearby children who were pointing at him and laughing. “What is so funny?”
“I don't know, maybe the hair?” She cast a sideways glance at his hair which was sticking up as though he had been fiddling around with his electromagnets again. He flattened it down self consciously. “Shall we go and talk to her?”
He gestured towards the girl and Clara went ahead of him, making a beeline for the shade of the tree.
“Susanna? Is it okay if we talk with you for a minute?”
The girl jumped in surprise and eyed the Doctor as though he was a circling vulture.
“Y-yes. That's okay.”
“Can I have a sit down? He's had me running about all week.” Clara pointed to a spot on the grass beside her.
“If you want.” She shifted about under the Doctor's gaze as though it was generating heat.
Clara carefully took a seat on the grass and smiled at the sight of the other children playing. The Doctor loomed over them awkwardly studying Susanna with a harsh eye.
“Doctor.” Clara patted the grass beside her. “Sit down.”
He looked like he wanted to protest but the children were darting around dangerously close to him, so he took a seat a little awkwardly, his long limbs sticking up in a way that made him look like an overgrown spider.
“Don't you want to play with the other children?” Clara asked softly.
“No. I'm tired.” Susanna said evasively.
“Why is that? Are you having trouble sleeping?”
“No.” She looked away from them.
Clara felt a little put off by the girls blunt answers.
“You know you don't have to be scared, right? Me and my friend are gonna find out who did this and we won't let anything happen to any of you, okay? If it's keeping you up at night you can tell me.” Clara reached out and squeezed the girls shoulder comfortingly. All she received in return was a strained smile.
“Why are you lying to her Clara? She has every reason to be scared. Two people have been murdered. One of them died just over there.” He pointed over the way at the unassuming spot where Evelyn had been killed. “She'd have to be completely mad not to be scared!”
“Doctor, shut up!” Clara hissed. She cuffed him over the head with her hand, ruffling his wild hair even more.
“I'm just being honest Clara!”
“Well don't!” She said in hushed tones. She shot him a glare that she was sure would have made a lesser man run a mile. The Doctor just schooled his features into a look of innocent confusion.
“Is it not wrong to tell lies any more? I can't keep up with you Clara!”
Clara scowled at him and returned her attention to Susanna.
“Look, it's true that we don't know who's done this, but we are doing everything we can to catch the person responsible. And I will not let anything happen to any of the children here, okay?” Susanna didn't look especially comforted. She glanced at the Doctor who was watching her like an angry, skinny hawk.
“What we really need, Susanna is for you to be completely honest with us.” Clara said carefully. “If you know anything at all, you need to tell us. We won't be angry with you, we won't tell any one what you told us, but we need to know. It'll help us keep all of you safe.”
“I don't know anything.” Susanna looked away, fidgeting and breathing hard.
“You aren't in trouble, really. If you know something you should tell us. Whoever is responsible, we won't let them hurt you.”
“No! No she wouldn't hurt any of us!” Susanna's face went red as she realised her mistake. Clara felt a sudden excitement that they were on the verge of cracking the case.
“She?” The Doctor asked delicately.
“I don't know anything!” Susanna said desperately, but it was clearly too late to fall back on that lie.
“Susanna, we both know that's not true.” Clara said.
“She was just trying to help! She wouldn't hurt us! Please just leave us alone!” Susanna's eyes welled with tears and she leapt up and ran off across the lawn.
Clara glanced across at the Doctor. They shared a look.
“Looks like someone knows who the killer is.” Clara said.
“Oh yes! We're closing in.” He grinned.
“You need to work on how you talk to children though.” She chastised.
“Please Clara, you need to give me a little more credit. I can see when someone is scared and she was not afraid in the slightest.” He looked pleased with himself.
“So you knew what she was going to say all along?”
“Not exactly, but that's what you're here for.” He stood up and held out a hand to help Clara to her feet.
The Doctor paced back and forth between the fireplace and his chair, gnawing thoughtfully on his thumb. It was now the afternoon, just after a hearty lunch that Clara was pleased to note was an improvement on breakfast.
“So, the girl knows who did it, which of course means we can lose the notion that the deaths were accidental. Then of course we know it's a woman! But that's not that helpful, it just rules out the chef, who we'd already ruled out anyway, and the gardener. So, who has the motive? Well, no one wanted to own up to any motives, but they never do. But of course someone must have benefited from their deaths. But who?” The Doctor paused in his pacing and glanced around at Clara.
She was startled to suddenly be addressed. “Sorry, are you actually asking me? I thought you were talking to yourself.”
“What, you think I keep you around just to have someone listen to me being clever?”
“I never thought about it but that sounds like it might be exactly why you keep me around.”
The Doctor huffed and flopped down into his chair. “So, no ideas then? Do I have to do everything?”
Clara stood and snatched up a folder from the table. She perched herself on the arm of the Doctor's chair.
“It really is lucky that you have me here, you know. I actually read most of these last night. A few interesting things in here.” The Doctor reached out to take the folder but Clara whipped it out of his grasp. “So now you want to read it?”
“Now that I know it's interesting I do.”
She opened the folder up and flicked to the relevant page, reading aloud in her best teacher voice. “Mrs Patricia Wragg, senior caregiver. In the event of any illness or absence of Thomas Creek, Mrs Wragg will be required to take over the running of the orphanage for the duration of the absence.”
“Ah.” The Doctor looked up at her. “So with Mr Creek dead, she's gets the top job?”
“It's not permanent though. She's the manager until they get everything sorted out. But looking at the files, Evelyn would have be the most likely person to get the top job, since she actually had the most experience.”
“Ah!” He sat up, starting to look interested. “Motive.”
“Not a great motive though.” Clara pointed out. A small pay rise and increased control over a group of children didn't sound like enough to kill for.
“Well what other options have you got for me?”
“I don't know, they've all blurred into one person for me. Those interviews were rough.”
The Doctor looked smug to hear her say that, but he didn't say anything. “What about the nice one? Small, brownish hair. Er... Thought you were interesting?”
Clara frowned, trying to remember all the different women they had talked to. “Annie?” She guessed.
“Yes, that one.”
“What makes you suspect her?” Clara asked sceptically.
“You heard what the girl said. 'She was just trying to help'.” The Doctor stood sharply and resumed his pacing, apparently re-energised. “What do we know about Mr Creek?”
“He kept to himself?” Clara guessed. The Doctor waved his hand at her, encouraging her to go on. “He wasn't very nice to the children?”
“Yes! He was cruel and, according to Annie, Evelyn was unkind to the children as well.” He stopped at the fireplace and looked back at Clara. “Wouldn't any nice young lady want to help the children in her care, keep them safe?”
“Yeah but killing people?” Clara stood to join him by the cold fireplace and crossed her arms over her chest.
“I think people will go far further and do much more for love than for personal gain. Most murders are crimes of passion, not carefully laid plans.”
Clara frowned doubtfully. “It's still just speculation, isn't it? Patricia is a much better suspect.”
“Hmm, she is the only suspect we have any motive for. I'm not convinced though.” The Doctor looked put out. “The way the girl told it, she made it sound like the culprit was trying to protect the children. Doesn't sound like Patricia.”
“No, it doesn't. But if a kid caught her in the act, wouldn't she spin some story about trying to help them? Make Susanna think she should lie for her?” Clara felt pretty pleased with that bit of deduction. The Doctor looked almost won over.
“But how did she kill them?” He pointed his finger right in Clara's face. A challenge.
“We haven't ruled out a little non-human influence, have we? We know from London that you can communicate with those creatures. She must be working with one!”
“Hmm.” The Doctor nodded. “Good work Detective Oswald. Or at least, something to go on.”
A group of children were being herded towards the large ballroom for an hour of quiet reading when Clara and the Doctor headed out to find Patricia. Easter was just two days away so lessons were cancelled in favour of more fun activities. Clara rather thought that an hour of reading sounded like something she would have loved as a child, but she didn't miss the way the women watching them said 'fun', as though it was a joke.
“If you want Patricia, she's out on the lawn watching the little ones while they have some outside time.” She said disinterestedly. “Andrew, you'd better find yourself a book this minute or you'll be sitting in the corner doing nothing for an hour!” With that she stormed off into the room without a second glance at them.
“Brilliant, back outside then?” The Doctor grumbled.
Patricia was sitting on an ornate bench in the gardens, decidedly not watching the raucously playing children. Her eyes had drooped shut and she was basking in the sunlight while some nearby children rolled about in the grass making a mess.
“Are you sleeping?” The Doctor said sharply.
One of Patricia's eyes cracked open and she scowled up at the Doctor. “What do you want?”
“All right go on then. One word, but no more than that, eh?” She grunted.
“Don't be facetious.”
“I don't know what that means, but how about you don't be so bloody pompous?” She let her eyes slip closed and settled herself into a more comfortable position on the bench. Clara squeezed the Doctor's arm.
“We want to talk to you about the case. In private.” Clara cut in.
“Can't you see I'm busy? Bloody nosy stupid pair you are. I already told you it's that bleeding Hindu who's done it.” She sat up and fixed them both with a glare, giving up on her attempt to rest.
“Busy? No, I don't think so. We need to talk to you, we have a few questions about your position here. You're temporary manager now, right?” Clara said pointedly.
“Oh sure, I killed off Thomas so I could be lord of the bloody manor!” She spat. “I've got work to be doing, unlike you two who can fanny about playing Sherlock Holmes and Mrs Hudson!”
“Mrs Hudson!” Clara said, scandalised. She was no Mrs Hudson. She wasn't even a Watson.
“Can you two clear off now? You wanna talk, come back after I've put the kids to bed.” She closed her eyes again and looked as though she was completely uninterested in any more conversation.
“You know, you are a real nasty piece of work!” Clara snapped, feeling a quiet rage boiling up inside her. The Doctor caught her by the shoulders and started to steer her away. “Doctor!” She snapped.
“Come on Clara, let's not start any fights when we're so incredibly small.” He muttered, leading her off across the lawn. Clara wriggled free.
“You keep your bloody hands to yourself!” She snapped. The Doctor looked taken aback and cowed at her harsh words. “Sorry, just... I'll do what I want, all right? If I want to start a fight I can't win then that's not for you to worry about.”
“So you're allowed to worry about me hurting myself, but I can't worry about you?”
“If it's life threatening I think worrying is appropriate.”
He scoffed at that. “If I let you get in a life threatening situation again then I'm not doing my job.” He said. Clara felt a little heat spread across her cheeks. What exactly was that supposed to mean?
It was getting late when Clara and the Doctor headed back out to speak with Patricia. The children had all been ushered off to their rooms which meant the staff would likely be gathered downstairs in the large parlour.
The Doctor had donned his fine velvet smoking jacket and appeared to have combed his unruly hair into a more pleasant style, his silver curls all neat and orderly. Clara wasn't sure what had prompted him to make an effort with his appearance. He actually looked rather handsome, though of course she wouldn't ever tell him that.
They headed out from their bedrooms and onto the landing. The Doctor permitted Clara to hook her arm through his as they walked down the corridor. The light overhead flickered weakly and went out, causing Clara to squeeze the Doctor's arm a little too tightly in shock.
There was movement in the darkness, a quick darting shadow that skittered around the corner. She froze for a moment, and loosened her grip on his arm to clutch at his hand instead.
“Did you see that?” She said sharply.
“Just a shadow?” He replied. They moved along the hall slowly and rounded the corner cautiously. There was something lying on the floor at the end of the hall, something large lying in their way. It looked like a pile of coats.
“What is that?” Clara pulled ahead of the Doctor to go and inspect whatever it was, but his hand closed tighter around hers and he held her back.
“Don't!” He said, his voice suddenly harsh. He stepped forward and moved towards it almost reluctantly. He pushed at the lump gingerly with his foot. It slumped over and Clara had to stifle a cry of shock.
It was Patricia, horribly pale in the weak yellow light coming through the window. Her eyes bugged out of her head in shock and her mouth was open, now stuck forever in a frightful scream. She was dead.
Clara flinched away from the sight and buried her head in the Doctor's jacket, not wanting to look at her for more than a second. She felt the Doctor's arm come up around her reflexively and he pressed her closer to his chest.
When he spoke, the Doctor's voice shook a little. “I think, perhaps, Mrs Wragg may not be who we were looking for.”
Hey hey, thanks for the comments! Y'all are sweet.