Authors: Doctor Who
‘Naturally I was interested. Immediately after the funeral I looked through all Granddad’s paperwork and checked the village out. It seemed feasible. But I needed access to the Gaskin Tunnel and for that I needed Henry onboard.’
Gaskin took up the story. ‘Nigel came to see me. He was very discreet. He told me about all the information he had regarding the tunnel and the treasure, and he believed that with a moderate amount of effort it could be retrieved. I certainly couldn’t have attempted it on my own.’
‘I suppose he offered you a share of the takings?’ said Angela.
‘A place like this costs a lot to run. I can’t deny that the money 127
would be useful – if there was any. I kept reminding Nigel that the story about the gold was only a story. . . but he seemed convinced.’
Gaskin frowned, contemplating. ‘Actually, “convinced” isn’t the right word. He seemed driven. Almost obsessed. . . ’
‘He couldn’t help it,’ said the Doctor. ‘If he had the stone with him it would already have been rewiring parts of his subconscious using telekinesis.’
Nigel nodded. ‘It was when I came to Creighton Mere that it first started speaking to me.’
At this the Doctor put down the marmalade jar and sat forward, licking his fingers.
‘You mean it actually spoke to you?’ Gaskin sounded dubious. ‘You never mentioned that to me at the time.’
‘Well I’m not stupid! And anyway I couldn’t do it all on my own. I got my two best friends from university to help. We all agreed to split the treasure equally. Everyone would be a winner.’
‘And did they know that you were in telepathic communication with a stone?’
‘They just thought you were in it for the treasure.’
‘I was. Or at least I thought I was. The stone kept helping me, guiding me, urging me on. . . ’
The stone’s influence was actually changing the way Nigel’s brain worked and functioned, making sure that his priorities always coin-cided with those of the Vurosis,’ said the Doctor. ‘But the Vurosis was using your interest in the well treasure to disguise its own objective.’
‘I couldn’t resist it. All I knew was that I had to get to the treasure at the bottom of the well.’
‘The stone’s treasure – the Vurosis itself.’
Nigel looked down. ‘I didn’t know that at the time. But the closer I got – the more obvious it became that the treasure wasn’t gold or jewels or anything else. It was something much better. Much more valuable.’
Nigel shrugged. ‘I’m not sure any more. It seemed very clear to me at the time. Power, I suppose. It wanted power.
‘The closer Nigel got to his target, the more the stone’s own thoughts and feelings affected him,’ explained the Doctor. ‘At the end the two were probably indistinguishable.’
‘But you must have suspected something was wrong.’
Nigel frowned, uncertain. ‘I suppose so. The stone did start to behave very oddly.’
‘You mean more oddly than any other kind of talking stone?’ muttered Gaskin.
‘It became very insistent, impatient. Almost aggressive.’ Nigel’s hands trembled on the table. ‘It started to. . . hurt me.’
‘Deliberately?’ Martha asked.
‘I don’t know. I don’t think so. It just didn’t seem to care,’ he swallowed. ‘How I felt didn’t matter.’
‘Nothing.’ Nigel shut his eyes. ‘Just nothing.’
They all found themselves looking at the stone on the table. It seemed so innocent and harmless. ‘So what’s it doing now?’ asked Martha.
‘I have no idea,’ replied Nigel sadly.
‘Shall we find out?’ said the Doctor.
A space was quickly cleared on the kitchen table. The Doctor placed the brain carefully in the middle, put on his glasses and fished out his sonic screwdriver.
‘There’s a low-level field of background radiation surrounding it,’
said the Doctor, scanning the brain with the screwdriver. He glanced up at Nigel. ‘That’s what probably killed your granddad in the end, by the way. Prolonged exposure is usually fatal.’
Everyone took a couple of steps back from the kitchen table, leaving the Doctor alone. He looked up and smiled wryly over his spectacles at them. ‘It’s all right. . . a few minutes won’t do anyone any harm.’
‘Perhaps it’s dead,’ suggested Angela hopefully.
‘Nah,’ said the Doctor. ‘Something like this doesn’t just die. It’s waiting.’
‘Waiting for what?’ asked Martha.
The Doctor brandished his sonic screwdriver. ‘Let’s try asking it.’
‘Is there anything that device can’t do, Doctor?’ asked Angela.
‘Well, it can’t make a decent cup of tea. . . ’
Sadie took the hint and put the kettle on. Everyone else watched the Doctor as he made a series of adjustments to the screwdriver and then pointed it at the brain. The tip glowed and the brain was bathed in a cool blue light. No response. The screwdriver emitted a high-pitched whirr as the Doctor made further alterations to the settings and then tried again.
This time the result was spectacular.
The stone cracked open and a jagged flash of green light jumped straight out at the Doctor. He was hurled backwards, chair and all, to crash onto the kitchen floor.
‘Doctor!’ Martha ran to him but she was too late. The Doctor lay sprawled on his back, eyes closed, skin white. ‘Doctor! Are you OK?
Can you hear me?’
Martha looked back at the brain. It sat on the table, unchanged. It had sealed itself up and now it looked as dormant as ever. It showed no sign of life at all.
And neither did the Doctor.
‘What’s happened?’ demanded Angela, looking at Nigel ‘What did it do to him?’
Nigel looked shocked. ‘I’ve no idea!’
Sadie had knelt down by Martha and was resting her fingertips against the Doctor’s throat. ‘No pulse,’ she said gravely. ‘I think you’d better call an ambulance!’
They laid him out on the kitchen floor, more or less where he fell.
Someone found a cushion to put under his head. His skin was bone-white and as cold as marble. He was hardly breathing.
Of course, at first they had all thought he was dead, but Martha knew that the Doctor’s pulse was much slower than a human’s and the best way to check it was to listen to his chest: after she had managed to quieten everyone down, she had detected the faintest beat on the right-hand side.
Sadie still wanted to send for an ambulance, but Martha had managed to dissuade her; she knew it would only complicate matters.
Eventually, unsettled and strangely embarrassed, everyone else had filed out of the kitchen and left Martha alone with him.
Carefully she folded the Doctor’s glasses up and put them back in his inside pocket, along with the sonic screwdriver. She straightened his collar and brushed the spiky fringe of hair away from his forehead.
Then she sat on a stool and watched him.
Gaskin sought out a quiet corner in the music room and sat down on his own. He felt exhausted, his mind in a whirl. He knew he should be doing something positive, but he couldn’t for the life of him think 131
what. The only person with any idea was the Doctor, and he was KO’d on the kitchen floor.
Jess came in, tail wagging.
‘Hello there, old girl,’ Gaskin said warmly. ‘Tracked me down, have you?’ He stroked her and she sat down by him, looking up with big, liquid brown eyes. ‘Everything’s a bit topsy-turvy at the moment, isn’t it? It wasn’t all that long ago we were wondering how to pay the bills. . . now look at us. Talking about space aliens and brains and tele-what-have-you. Puts things into perspective, I suppose.’
Jess gave a little whine and licked his hand affectionately.
‘And who’d have thought we’d have Angela Hook here at the manor?
I thought she’d given up on me a long time ago. Time was when I’d have turned to her and Roger at a time like this. He’d have known what to do, and Angela would’ve been right behind him.’ Gaskin rubbed his dog’s ears gently, allowing himself a few moments of nos-talgia. ‘I wish Roger was here now. I wish I hadn’t let him climb that blasted mountain. And I wish Angela would forgive me for letting him.’
‘That’s three wishes,’ said a voice from the doorway. ‘You’re only allowed one.’
Gaskin jumped to his feet as Angela walked in. ‘How long have you been out there?’
‘Long enough,’ she said. She stood watching him carefully, her hands deep in the pockets of her camouflage jacket. ‘This was Roger’s coat,’ she said.
‘Yes. I remember him wearing it.’
Angela hunched her shoulders. ‘Makes me feel close to him, somehow. It’s silly, I know. But we all do silly things sometimes.’
‘You mean like talking to a dog?’ Gaskin said ruefully.
‘I mean like climbing a mountain when you’ve got a heart condition.’
Gaskin cleared his throat. ‘Yes, well. We all make mistakes.’ He sighed heavily, his shoulders slumping. Then he looked up at Angela and said, softly, ‘Roger insisted that I went with him, you know. I did everything I could to persuade him not to go. I told him he was being 132
a damned fool. I told him that he wasn’t being fair to you. That he was being selfish.’
Angela swallowed. ‘He said he couldn’t bear the thought of dying in bed. I tried to make a joke out of it. Told him to sit up all night and read a book if he was so worried about it.’
‘He was worried about it.’
‘I know. But he could be very stubborn.’
‘He had to be, married to you.’ Henry reached out and held her hand. ‘I did everything I could to stop him, Angela. I forbade him to go. But Roger knew what he wanted in the end. He said he’d go without me if necessary. That he’d do the climb on his own if he had to. Well. . . I couldn’t let him do that, could I? If he was going to die, then I didn’t want him to die alone.’
‘He didn’t have to die alone.’ Angela wiped an eye briskly. ‘I could have been with him.’
‘Not halfway up the Jungfrau you couldn’t.’
‘No. But you were there.’
Henry didn’t say anything more. He nodded briefly and then stood up. ‘Right. I think it’s about time we did something.’
‘Where are you going?’ Angela asked, following him out of the room. He strode purposefully along the hallway with Jess trotting along at his feet.
‘I’m going to put a stop to this business once and for all.’
He stopped at a large mahogany cabinet and inserted a key into the lock. There was a heavy click and the door swung open. Inside were two shotguns. He selected the Webley & Scott 12-gauge and a box of cartridges.
Angela put a hand on his arm. ‘Henry! Don’t do anything rash!
Nigel Carson’s a broken man. It’s not really his fault. Leave him to the police, for goodness’ sake!’
‘The police can’t do anything here,’ Gaskin said gruffly.
He broke open the box and shook out a handful of cartridges. ‘Besides, I’m not going to shoot Nigel Carson, I’m going to shoot that 133
He concentrated on loading the shotgun with two of the cartridges and put the rest in his jacket pocket. ‘Jess, we may need a lookout,’ he told the dog. ‘Guard duty. Think you’re up to it?’
The Collie wagged her tail eagerly as Gaskin opened the front door and let her out.
‘Expecting trouble?’ Angela asked.
‘The Doctor thought so. Best be prepared.’
‘What’s going on?’ Sadie asked as she met them in the hallway. She looked uncertainly at Gaskin and his shotgun.
‘Henry’s going to shoot the brain thing,’ said Angela.
Martha stood up when they came into the kitchen, alarmed at the sight of the firearm. The Doctor still lay prostrate on the floor. He looked more like a corpse than ever.
Gaskin ignored the Doctor, stepping over him as he headed for the kitchen table.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Martha.
Gaskin nodded at the stone. ‘I’m going to take that damned thing outside and blast it to Kingdom Come.’
‘What? Are you sure?’
‘Absolutely. It’s caused nothing but trouble. I don’t want it in my house for a moment longer.’ Gaskin moved to pick it up and then, at the last second, hesitated. ‘Is it safe to touch?’
‘I have no idea,’ Martha said. ‘It was all right before. But since the Doctor did what he did. . . ’ she glanced at his unconscious form and shrugged. ‘I’m not so sure.’
‘Why don’t you get something to pick it up with?’ suggested Sadie.
‘Like tongs, you mean?’
‘A shovel or a dustpan would do.’
‘Good idea,’ Angela found a dustpan behind the door and went to hand it to Gaskin, but he was already holding the shotgun. ‘Oh.’
‘Here, I’ll do it,’ offered Sadie.
‘No, no; it’s all right,’ Angela said. ‘I can manage it.’
‘Wait a minute,’ Martha said, getting to her feet. ‘Do you think this is the right thing to do?’
‘I’m not having it here any longer,’ Gaskin insisted.
‘No, but. . . shooting it? That can’t be the answer.’
‘Can you think of anything else?’
Martha looked at the Doctor again. ‘Well, er, no. . . ’
‘Then we get rid of it – permanently.’
‘But you don’t know what will happen. It may not be possible to destroy it like that.’