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The rain had left the air smelling clean and refreshed. A duck glided along the river with a stately grace, while her ducklings trailed behind in a more haphazard fashion. A squirrel watched them from its perch in the crook of a tree branch, the leaves around it already dusted with the first yellow of autumn.
A car rattled up the street carrying its owner to work. A cat cried out as the car thundered through a puddle hurling up a wall of spray. Back arched in irritation, the cat eased its way through the narrow bars of the fence and into the churchyard. Its paws scrunched the sandy-coloured gravel of the path as it bounded inside the church for warmth.
* * *
'The Bible teaches us that God created all of the creatures that walk the planet. He created the beasts of the earth, the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. And he created man. And man, more than any of the others, is somehow special.
'But what is it that sets us apart from all of the other animals? We are made of flesh and blood just like any other creature and anyone who has watched the chimps or the dolphins at the zoo or has teenage children would argue that it's not our intelligence that makes us unique. No, what human beings possess, that thing that, in my opinion, no other animal has, is a soul.
'But what do we mean by a soul?'
'An interesting question.'
Reverend James Keating looked up from his notes. There was a man sitting at the end of a pew near the back of the church. He was stooping to pet a cat that had strayed inside.
'I'm sorry, I didn't realise anyone was in here,' Keating said.
'That's quite all right, the man said, sitting up. 'I enjoyed listening to you.'
The man was dark skinned, with hair that had once been black, but was now peppered by white and grey. He peered at Keating over half-moon spectacles that rested on the bridge of his wide nose.
'I do hope I'm not intruding,' the man said.
'Not at all,' Keating assured the stranger as he descended from the pulpit. 'I wish I could say that the door is always open, but, what with the vandalism around here, we've had to start locking the church. Still, as long as someone is here, you are more than welcome, Mr ?'
The man smiled beneath his neatly trimmed beard and got to his feet.
'Doctor,' he corrected, extending his hand.
Keating took it and was surprised by the strength of the Doctor's handshake.
'James Keating,' he responded. 'Call me James.'
'James it is then.' The Doctor's voice was a low rumble, which seemed to echo within the empty church. He was about a foot taller than Keating and the vicar found his head pulled upwards by the strength of the Doctor's stare. The large brown eyes seemed to expect something of him, something he was not sure he could give.
'I was just preparing for Sunday's sermon,' Keating explained hurriedly. 'I like to rehearse my words in here before hand. See what they sound like in the proper surroundings.'
'Interesting,' the Doctor said.
'The words. They sound interesting,' the Doctor explained. 'I find the concept of a non-corporeal side to the self fascinating.'
'But you're not a believer,' Keating deduced.
'Sometimes I think I've seen too much not to believe,' the Doctor admitted.
'But you don't,' Keating persisted.
'Let's say, I've yet to be convinced,' the Doctor replied, 'but I'm keeping an open mind.'
The doors to the church banged open and a tall woman with grey hair tied up in a bun barged into the nave. She cradled a pile of books in her arms.
'Mrs Beckett,' Keating called out, feeling guilty for having to fake his enthusiasm. 'Is it time all ready?'
'Half-nine precisely, vicar,' Mrs Beckett pronounced sharply, setting her music books down on a pew. 'Time for me to rehearse this week's pieces, as usual.'
'Of course, of course,' Keating said, ignoring the sarcasm. 'Well, we'll leave you in peace then.'
'Yes, that would be best.'
Mrs Beckett's spectacles hang from a chain about her neck. She used her left hand to set them on the end of her nose. She glared through them at the Doctor.
'And who might this be?' she asked.
'I am the Doctor.'
He stepped forward and extended his hand.
Mrs Beckett made no move to take it.
'Indeed,' she said.
There was a long silence as Mrs Beckett gaze bored into the Doctor and he in turn refused to be cowed.
'Well, perhaps we should continue her discussion outside, Doctor?' Keating suggested.
'After you,' the Doctor said, still matching Mrs Beckett stare for stare.
She looked away.
'As if we didn't have enough problems all ready,' she muttered, gathering up her books and scuttling up the nave towards the organ.
Shaking his head, the Doctor slung a battered leather satchel over his shoulder and stepped out into the sunlight, the stray cat at his heels.
* * *
Bacon popped and crackled under the grill. Janine cracked an egg into an old mug and then poured it into the hot oil in the frying pan.
'Something smells good,' Tori remarked. She was standing in the kitchen doorway, her hair hanging loose about her face. She was wearing an old dressing gown and her bunny slippers, the ones with an ear missing.
Janine took a moment simply to watch her daughter.
'Mum,' Tori said at last, 'you're starting to scare me.'
'I'm sorry,' Janine said. She looked away briefly, then glanced back. 'It's just I missed you, Tori. I missed you and now you're back and and I don't know what to do and '
'And the bacon's burning,' Tori said. She took a couple of plates from the cupboard above the sink and helped dish up breakfast while her mother attended to Timmy.
Timmy's highchair was on wheels so it slid silently across the tiled kitchen floor as Janine manoeuvred it over to the table. Screeching followed in Tori's wake, however, as she dragged over a chair for herself.
'Dave would've had a fit if he'd caught you doing that,' Janine said.
Tori glared and her mother looked away.
Tori attacked her crispy bacon, her knife skidding across the plate when the bacon suddenly cracked. Janine moved her own plate to one side as she attempted to feed Timmy. Timmy smiled and gurgled as he steadfastly refused to open his mouth to accept the spoon. When Janine finally did him to empty the spoon, Timmy fired the contents back at her.
'I'll get a cloth,' Tori said, sliding her chair backwards.
'No, I've got it,' Janine said. She turned on the cold tap and ran the water over a cloth.
Tori watched her.
'Tori,' Janine began, 'I'm sorry. For what Dave did.'
'He beat me,' Tori said. She dipped the end of her bacon into her egg and dragged the runny yolk around her plate.
'I know '
'No. You don't know,' Tori said. Her voice was calm and level, devoid of anger or any other emotion. 'He hit me. Discipline, he said. It was assault.'
'He didn't know any better,' Janine protested.
'Mum, he came at me with a knife,' Tori responded. 'I still have the scar.'
Janine turned off the tap.
'I know,' she said quietly. 'I was there.'
'Yes, Mum,' Tori replied, 'you were there and you didn't stop him.'
'What was I supposed to do?' Janine demanded hotly. 'Do you think you were the only person frightened of him?
'He never laid a finger on you,' Tori shot back. 'Not once.'
'And you think that means I wasn't scared?' Janine asked. 'Scared for me. Scared of what he might do to you.'
'What he might do to me? You could see what he was doing to me.'
'But what if what if whatever I did made it worse?'
'You could have left him,' Tori said.
'I loved him,' Janine replied.
Janine had her back to her daughter, but she could feel Tori's accusing stare boring into her.
'You what?' Tori exclaimed.
'I loved him.' It was easier for Janine to admit second time around. 'I was scared of him and I hated him, but he was still the man I married and I still loved him.'
'More than your kids?' Tori asked.
'No, no of course not,' Janine insisted. 'How can you think that?'
'Let's see,' Tori began, 'could it be the fact that you let him beat me?'
'I I didn't know what to do.'
The raised voices had upset Timmy and he started to cry. Janine scooped him up in her arms and tried to comfort him.
'I don't understand you, Mum,' Tori said. 'How could you let Timmy stay in the same flat as that monster?'
'Dave would never have hurt Timmy,' Janine said. 'He's his baby, too.'
'And what about me?' Tori asked. 'It's a good thing he walked out when he did. Otherwise I might have '
'Have what?' Janine demanded. 'Killed yourself?'
Tori looked away and Janine bounced Timmy up and down gently until he quietened.
'I'm sorry,' Janine whispered. 'That was uncalled for. The important thing is that we're together again. As a family.'
Tori laughed. It was a horrible sound and Janine found herself taking an involuntary step backwards, shielding Timmy's face against her chest.
'You really don't get it, do you?' Tori mocked. 'I didn't ask you to bring me back. I chose to die. That's what I wanted.'
'How can you say that?'
'What, you think I want to grow up to be like you?' Tori asked. 'To have a gaggle of squealing children and a violent husband? To live in a council flat and scrape by on child benefit and the dole? Do you have any idea how hard I worked to get out of here? Do you? All I wanted was to get into college, to have a chance to make something of myself. But my sort isn't welcome out there. I'm supposed to stay in the gutter where I belong.'
'So you killed yourself because you couldn't get into college?' Janine said.
'You don't understand,' Tori insisted. 'You don't know what it's like. All I ever wanted to do was get away, away from this life. And in the end in the end I was only left with one way out.'
Tori buried her head in her hands, her body shaken by silent sobs.
Janine stepped forward, her hand hovering just above Tori's shoulder, hesitant to actually touch her.
'I'm sorry. Oh baby, I'm so sorry.'
'Sorry!' Tori whirled on her. 'You brought me back! I wanted to escape and you brought me back. You couldn't just leave well enough alone, could you?'
'Tori ' Janine put her arm around her daughter.
Tori shoved her away. She shot to her feet, sending her chair skidding across the floor.
'Leave me alone,' she shouted. She ran from the room.
'Tori!' Janine called after her.
'Go to hell!'
The front door slammed closed.
'Nice to see the mother-daughter bonding is going so well,' a whining voice commented.
The ginger-haired boy was perched on the worktop, his heels banging against the cupboard doors as he swung his legs to and fro.
'How did you get in here?' Janine demanded.
'Humans,' the boy sighed. 'It's okay for me to raise the dead, but an unannounced entrance is big news.'
The boy hopped down from his perch and began to walk around the edge of the kitchen towards her. Janine began to move as well, keeping the table between herself and the intruder.
'What do you want?' she asked.
'I did you a service,' the boy explained, 'and, though it delights me to see the two of you together, there's no such thing as a free lunch. You owe me a soul and I'm here to collect.'
* * *
Keating ushered the Doctor into the vicarage.
'Welcome to my humble abode,' Keating said.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow.
'I know what you're thinking,' Keating said.
The Doctor frowned.
'You're thinking that this is hardly humble compared to what my parishoners have to put up with. And you'd be right. But the church feels it's clergy should live in a certain style and I am but a little fish in a very big ocean.'
'Who complains vigorously about the injustice I'm sure,' the Doctor remarked.
'Well, if I thought it would do any good '
'Don't worry, James, I'm not here to judge,' the Doctor assured Keating.
'Then why are you here?' Keating asked.
'We're not going to get philosophical, are we?' the Doctor joked. 'The truth is, I'm not entirely sure. I thought if I just wondered around a bit things might start falling into place.'
'And have they?' Keating led the Doctor through to the sitting room.
'Not as yet,' the Doctor replied. 'Still, lovely day for it.'
'You'd think that, wouldn't you,' Keating said. 'Make yourself at home. I'll just go and put the kettle on.'
'What do you mean, I'd think that?' the Doctor asked as he took off his satchel and duffel coat and draped them over the arm of a brown settee.
'Of course, you haven't heard, have you.' Keating filled the kettle up at the sink, then lit the gas beneath it.
'I would assume not,' the Doctor remarked, 'given that I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about.'
Keating emerged from the kitchen and opened a tupperware box on the sideboard.
'Humbug?' he offered.
The Doctor declined.
'A teenage girl committed suicide yesterday,' Keating explained, unwrapping a sweet for himself. 'She overdosed on her mother's sleeping pills.'
Keating popped the sweet into his mouth, then rushed back into the kitchen as the kettle began to whistle.
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor said. 'Where you close?'
'We used to chat after Sunday services,' Keating said as he poured the tea into china cups. 'She was very sharp. Look, do you mind if we talk about something else.'
'Not at all.' The Doctor accepted his cup and settled back on the settee. He picked up a framed photograph.
'Your wife?' he asked.
'Maureen, yes,' Keating replied.
'Will she be back soon?'
'My wife died eight years ago, Doctor,' Keating explained. 'I moved up here shortly afterwards. The house just didn't feel right any more.'
'I'm sorry. I seem to be making a habit of putting my foot in my mouth,' the Doctor said.
'It's not your fault,' Keating assured him. 'I'm sure her soul is in a better place.'
The Doctor sipped his tea and smiled.
'Yes. You never did get to finish telling me what you thought about souls.'
'Do you like music?' Keating asked. He didn't wait for a reply, crossing instead to a stack of LPs in the corner. 'I'm a jazz nut myself. Charlie Parker. Dizzie Gillespie. I'm particularly fond of Chet Baker. Listen to this.'
He took a record from its sleeve and placed it on the record player. The needle bounced twice over a scratch, but finally settled into the groove. A haunting, fragile voice took up the strains of My Funny Valentine.
'You feel that?' Keating asked. 'You don't just hear the music, you feel it. You react emotionally to it. That, to me, is your soul. I'm not talking about lusts or desires or physical needs, but pure emotions resonate within the soul.'
'Pure emotions?' the Doctor repeated.
'Love, Doctor,' Keating continued. 'The ability to put the needs of others above those of yourself. An ability to distinguish between right and wrong.'
'So you're saying that the soul is our conscience.'
Keating looked deflated.
'Well, if you want to be really simplistic then yes,' Keating agreed. 'But it goes beyond that. It reflects the fundamentally human trait of being able to reach beyond our desires and to make a moral judgement to do the right thing.'
* * *
Mina slumped in the plastic seat. She should be sitting up straight, hands folded in her lap. That was the proper way for a lady to behave, wasn't it? But that was uncomfortable and she should not have to sacrifice her comfort for appearance sake, should she? She could recall her lessons, her instruction on how a respectable lady should behave - what she should wear and say, how she should act - but it all seemed so distant now, so pointless. And while Mina wrestled with these ideas she continued to slump.
Mina looked up. Mike was standing over her.
'I didn't expect to find you here,' Mike said.
Mina was staring at his chest. He seemed a well-built young man. She wondered what that chest looked like beneath his blue nurse's uniform.
She shook herself.
Where had that thought come from? This was not like her. This was wrong. At least, she thought it was wrong. She remembered it being wrong. So why could she not remember why?
'I I'm sorry,' Mina said. 'What was that you said.'
'I said I didn't expect to find you here,' Mike said.
He dropped into a crouch in front of Mina.
'Are you all right?' he asked. 'You look flushed.'
Mina looked up at him. He had a square jaw, a strong jaw. She could see the fine stubble leading up to his cheekbones. She wondered what it would feel like to run her fingers over it.
Enough, Mina! she scolded herself. You are not having these thoughts.
But she was.
This is wrong, she told herself. This is so very, very wrong.
But it felt right. If she wanted him, why couldn't she just have him.
Wilhemina Harker, pull yourself together this instant!
She tore her eyes away from the nurse, looking for something else, anything else, to focus on.
'Mrs Harker?' Mike repeated.
'I-I am fine,' she insisted.
But you're not, are you? a traitorous voice whispered. But you could be. You know what you want. Why don't you just reach out and take it.
Why not indeed?
'You know, if you're not ill then you really can't stay here,' Mike was saying.
'I can't?' Mina was not really listening. Mike's voice was being drowned out by the voices in her head.
'Well, much as I'd like you to stay, this is a hospital,' Mike explained. 'Sick people only.'
'O-Of course,' Mina agreed. That was the third person she had seen fetching a drink from that machine over there. What would the fourth person be like?
He wants you, the voice whispered.
Tall or short? Fat or thin?
He said so himself. He wants you to stay.
A man or a woman? Perhaps a little girl. Yes, a little girl with blonde hair. With plaits down her back.
And you want him. What's the problem. You only have to reach out and take.
Plaits down her back tied with red ribbons. Her sister plaits her hair for her before she goes to school in the morning.
'Do you have somewhere to go?' Mike asked.
'Yes,' Mina said distractedly. 'No. Maybe. Do you think she would have freckles or not?'
'I'm sorry? Freckles?'
'That girl over there. The one with the plaits and the red ribbons and the sister and '
Her words were tripping over each other, racing to escape.
'Mrs Harker, I really think we should get you to a doctor,' Mike said. 'Here, let me help you.'
He reached out a hand and touched her shoulder.
Mina flinched away. Her shoulder felt hot where he had touched it and the warmth was spreading across her body, invading her. And it felt good.
This is wrong, her own weak voice was telling her.
Go on, take, the other voice, just as much her own, ordered.
'I've got to go,' Mina stammered. She pulled away from the nurse and ran from the room.
A red headed boy was standing at the drinks' machine as she passed. He smiled to himself as he watched her flight.
* * *
The saucer chimed as the Doctor set his cup down.
'Tell me,' he said, 'have there been any strangers around lately? Within the last day or so?'
'Hmm, I'm not sure,' Keating replied. 'I keep myself pretty wrapped up in my work.'
'Please,' the Doctor said, 'it could be important.'
'Regarding what you're looking for?' Keating asked. 'Well, there was something. Yesterday, while Tori was well, anyway, there was a stabbing down by Arundel House. A man and a woman. No one seemed to know who they were.'
The Doctor leaned forward.
'Tell me about the woman,' he prompted.
'Not much to tell,' Keating admitted. 'She had been taken to the hospital by the time I got there. I do remember someone making a comment about her clothes, though. Dickens.'
'Dickens said something about her clothes?'
'No, no. Her clothes reminded him of Dickens. She looked like a character from one of his novels. Hey, you don't think they're making a TV thing around here, do you?'
'I'm sorry, I wasn't listening,' the Doctor confessed.
'I was just saying that maybe they were part of some TV thing or another,' Keating explained. 'The BBC do some wonderful period dramas, don't you think?'
'I find that TV isn't what it used to be,' the Doctor commented. 'Where can I find Arundel House, wasn't it?'
'Yes, Arundel House,' Keating replied. 'Fancy name for two blocks of council flats. Over that way. You can't miss them, they're the tallest buildings for miles.'
* * *
Janine looked out of the window. There were people far below, wandering through their meaningless lives. They all looked the same from up here.
I could be one of them? she thought. Is that really what it's come down to. Am I just going through the motions, day after day? Maybe Tori had the right idea.
She was rocking Timmy gently in her arms. He was heavy and her arms were beginning to ache, but the rocking kept him quiet. Between the pain in her arms and the squealing in her arms, she could tolerate his weight.
What's the point? What's it all for?
Her mum had wanted her to be a dancer, back when she still had the figure for it. They had had dance lessons at school and she knew she was good at it. The other girls worked too hard on trying to remember the steps, trying not to forget to keep their heads up or their arms out or to point their toes. Janey, as she had been known, had not worried about any of those things. She simply lost herself in the music and danced.
Her dance teacher had convinced her mum to send her to dance school and her dad had approached the building society for a second mortgage to pay for it. But Janine had turned them all down.
Dancing was fun and all, but she wanted a family. She did not want the adulation of a theatre crowd. She wanted to see the love in the face of her own child.
Plus, she had been two months pregnant with Dave's kid and hadn't told anyone yet.
At the time it had seemed the right thing to do, but now a voice kept asking her why? Why had she given up the opportunity of being a star to subject her body to the rigours of childbirth, not once, but three times over. She had put her own life on hold to pander to her children's needs and for what? Well, it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
What do you want? a voice inside her demanded. I want to get out of here, Janine admitted. Tori was right, this was a waste of a life. Tori had taken the easy way out, but at least she had the guts to reach out and take what she wanted.
Timmy gurgled in her arms. He was a curious creature. Still completely dependent upon her. He trusted her to make him safe. And in return she offered him the same life she had offered Tori. A life of pain, of misery and with no light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to.
Janine's eyes alighted on the large kitchen knife in the washing up bowl. The black handle felt warm in her palm.
* * *
The wind tore at Mina's flesh through the thin material of her blouse.
It had been warm inside the hospital. She should go back there.
No. No, she would not.
She would go back to the TARDIS. Yes, the Doctor would be waiting for her there. Assuming the child had managed to bring him back. She thought of what she had sacrificed for him. Why? Why had she done that? What was the Doctor to her?
Her memories confused her. Her actions did not make sense. Repeatedly she made the choice to suffer while another benefited. That was not right, surely? She was missing something, some piece of the puzzle that would bring it all into focus.
Either that or she really was going mad.
She would go back to the TARDIS. The Doctor would know what was going on.
But his behaviour was even more contradictory than her own. Less than a day ago he had chosen to interrupt an altercation that had nothing to do with them and, as a result, he had ended up with a knife through his heart. Why? Why had he done it?
Her head throbbed. She put her hands to her temples and felt the pressure building against her palms. She had to do something to rid herself of this pain. She needed to understand.
She scrunched up her eyes and prayed that the world would stop spinning.
When she opened them again there was boy standing on the other side of the road.
Mina recognised him. He was the boy who had spoken to her last night. He had done this to her, whatever it was. He would be able to put it right.
The boy met her eyes and then ran off down the street.
Mina hurried after him.
* * *
Aaron lounged against the wall of the fish and chip shop picking the dirt out from beneath his fingernails. He had once tried to do this with his penknife, thinking it would look cool, but had ended up having three stitches in his hand. He tried to look composed and relaxed. He knew that he was failing miserably.
'What are you looking at!' he demanded of a bespectacled man as he passed.
The man darted into the chip shop without answering.
Aaron went back to his fingernails.
He had known. That man had known about yesterday. He had known that
Get it together, Aaron, he scolded himself. He doesn't know nothing.
Nobody knew. Only that was not quite true was it. His gang would not say anything, but there was that woman. And Scott's sister, but she was dead now. Killed herself, the stupid cow. He wondered if it had been because of what he had tried to do. Well, it wasn't as if he'd had the chance to do anything, really. If she was going to top herself the least she could have done was let him have his fun first.
But what about the other woman, the one in the fancy dress? What had they been thinking going out dressed like that? They were practically begging for trouble. Maybe they weren't thinking. Maybe they were touched in the head. Yeah, that was it. He'd probably done the poor bloke a favour.
He was not convincing himself.
A tall black man in a blue duffel coat was standing in front of the Boots opposite. And he was staring at Aaron.
Something about the way those eyes were studying him made Aaron very cold indeed. He should probably ignore him, wait until he got bored and moved on.
'Oi, darkie,' he cried out. 'What do you think you're playing at?'
The man started to cross the road. A red Volkswagon had to brake suddenly to avoid him. The driver thumped the horn.
The man in the coat ignored him.
'I know you, don't I?' the man said to Aaron. 'I've seen you somewhere before.'
'Not likely, mate,' Aaron said. The man's closeness made his skin crawl. 'I'd remember someone as ugly as you.'
'It was recent, wasn't it,' the man continued. 'You were with a girl.'
'You'll have to narrow it down more than that,' Aaron joked. 'I've been with lots of girls.'
The man put his hand on the wall above Aaron's shoulder. His coat brushed Aaron's legs.
'This one was unwilling,' the man said. 'Do you remember her? Of course, it probably didn't matter to you because you had a knife.'
Aaron pulled the knife from his pocket. It caught on the lining, but he tore it free and waved it at the other man.
'Now back off,' he warned. 'I'm not afraid to use this.'
The man's hand clamped down on Aaron's wrist. He had not even seen him move. The man's grip increased and Aaron's grip on the knife weakened. He dropped it and it fell into the palm of his assailant's free hand.
'You shouldn't play with sharp objects,' the man scolded.
'I wasn't playing,' Aaron retorted.
The man tightened his grip and Aaron felt the bones in his wrist grinding against each other. He squealed like a baby and he hated himself for doing it. But he hated the man more.
'I know you,' the man whispered, 'and I know what you've done. Remember that.'
He turned the knife so that he was holding it by the blade and offered it back to Aaron. Mutely, he accepted it.
The man spun on his heel and strode off down the street.
Aaron did not follow.
* * *
Mina leaned against the metal railing and scanned the ground below. She was looking for the red-headed child. She had followed him here from the hospital and was sure that she had seen him climb this building, but now that she was up here herself there was no sign of him. She had thought that maybe he had gone through one of the doors that lined the wall behind her, but there were all locked up. She had tried knocking to attract attention, but no matter how loud she pounded she would get no response.
She slammed her palms against the top of the rail in frustration. She wanted, no, she needed answers and she knew that the child could provide them. But where was he?
Her stomach growled. Her first reaction was one of embarrassment, but that was almost instantly replaced by curiosity and perplexity. Why should she feel embarrassed over what was a natural response of her own body? And, now that she began to think about it, why should she feel embarrassed about anything at all? What function did embarrassment serve? She was beginning to believe that she was waking up from a dream. When you are dreaming, she reasoned, everything that happens make sense, real logic becomes replaced by dream logic, and it is only when you wake up that you realise that you can't in fact fly.
Her stomach rumbled again. When had she last eaten? She knew that she had had a meal on board the TARDIS, but how long ago was that?
She could hear singing. It was faint, but she recognised it as a lullaby. It reminded her of a song she had sung to Quincey, but that seemed a long time ago now. Mina strained her ears and traced the sound to a green door, the third door from the staircase she had used to climb this far. She knew that the door was locked, but something made her try the handle anyway.
The door swung open.
Somewhere in the distance a child laughed as she crossed the threshold.
The room beyond was dark and cramped. Objects were strewn haphazardly over the floor and across the furniture. Something in Mina wanted to stop and try and bring a little order to this chaos, but she was more interested in finding the source of the lullaby. A short corridor led her to an open door and into a small bedroom. A mirror hung on the wall opposite the door and thin curtains fluttered in the breeze coming through the open window. A woman was sitting on the bed, humming softly to the bloody remains in her lap.
Mina's stomach growled again.
* * *
Aaron stared straight ahead. He did not need to turn to know that the boy was standing behind him.
'Well, aren't you going to whistle?' the boy asked.
Aaron did not respond.
The boy stepped round in front of Aaron, brushing his arm as he did so. Aaron flinched, but refused to look down at the child.
'You're scared,' the boy said. 'Somebody knows your big bad secret. Well, what are you going to do about it, Aaron?'
The boy prodded Aaron in the gut. Aaron tensed, but refused to be provoked. He told himself that he did not want to hurt the boy. The truth was that he did not believe that it would be the boy getting hurt.
'What is this?' the boy demanded. 'The big tough bully reduced to the mewling kitten. What would all your playground victims give to see you now? But it doesn't have to be this way.'
The boy stood on tiptoe so that he could whisper into Aaron's ear. His breath felt like dozens of tiny insects trying to crawl into Aaron's skull.
'You can be the thing they're scared of again, you know. All you have to do is shut this guy up once and for all. And you know what? I'd like to help you with that. If you'll let me.'
* * *
Someone had tried to wash the blood off of the pavement, but a dark brown stain was still visible, if you knew where to look for it. The boy was staring at that stain when the Doctor arrived in the alley.
'Not the place I would have chosen for my final moments,' the boy said. 'Lacks a certain class.'
'I know you, don't I,' the Doctor said.
The boy cocked his head to one side.
'Now that would be telling.'
'What have you done with Mina?'
'Always with the questions.' The boy tutted. 'What happened to a bit of verbal sparring? Now the other guy '
The Doctor grabbed the boy by his shirt, lifted him up and slammed him against the wall.
'I don't have time for games,' the Doctor snarled.
The boy smiled.
'This is a new look for you, isn't it,' he said. 'I like.'
The Doctor dropped the boy and stared at his own hands.
'Don't like what you're becoming?' the boy asked. 'Tough luck. This is who you are now. Thanks to me.'
'What have you done?'
'And again with the questions.' The boy got up. 'Are you going to try and beat me up again because that was fun. Tell you what, Doc, I'll do you a favour. I'll answer one question for you, but only one and then I'm out of here.'
'Where's Mina,' the Doctor asked.
'Up there,' the boy said, pointing to the nearest of the two blocks of flats. There was an open door on the fourth floor and the Doctor knew that that was what the boy was indicating.
'I'll want to speak to you again,' the Doctor said, turning away from the boy.
'I look forward to it,' the child returned.
* * *
There was an out of order sign on the lifts so the Doctor sprinted up the stairs instead. A man wearing a beard and a blanket sat on the stairs drinking from a chipped bottle. The Doctor leaped over him and continued onto the balcony.
He dived through the open door, pausing in the front room just long enough to see that there was no one there, before moving on to the next room.
He found the women in the far room, sitting next to one another on a single bed. A blooded kitchen knife lay on the pillow.
The Doctor's knees buckled, though from exhaustion or shock he did not know.
Mina looked up at him.
Blood stained her mouth.
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