Doctor Who: The Many Hands (7 page)

BOOK: Doctor Who: The Many Hands
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'But—'

'No, you must go, ' Monro hissed sharply. 'Or—'

'Father?' came a shout from further down the
corridor. 'Come help, old man.'

Monro turned to Martha. 'Go,' he said. Then he
hurried down the corridor.

For much less than a moment, Martha considered
ignoring his advice, considered following Monro to
confront his son, like the Doctor would. She could
hear the younger Monro arguing with his father
further down the corridor. It sounded like they were
trying to drag a wardrobe down after them, with
much banging and scraping of wood across stone
walls. The experience didn't seem to be making either
of them any more cheerful. Perhaps it wouldn't be so
bad to hide and watch the anatomists.

She hurried down the corridor until she came out
in a large gaslit room filled with rows of seats looking
down on a dark-stained wooden table. Beside it was
another, smaller table that glistened with medical
instruments, most of which Martha could name
despite there being two and a half centuries between
her hospital and 1759. It was a lecture hall, quite
obviously. Monro or his son would stand at the table,
and row after row of students would watch and take
notes as the demonstration progressed.

Martha heard a noise behind her, and remembered
that she wasn't alone. She hurried down to the end
of a row and ducked down behind the seats. Looking
back behind her, she could only see a very thin sliver
of the rest of the room. She heard them before she saw
them, bickering and panting and bumping something
unwieldy down the central stairs to the waiting table.

'Be careful,' the young Monro said.

'Of course,' his father snapped.

They passed briefly into the thin field of Martha's
vision, carrying a large wooden box between them.
The father was at the front, taking the bulk of the
weight, while the son steadied it from behind. They had
passed by in a matter of moments, and the gaslights
didn't exactly make it easy to see from one end of the
room to the other. Even so, Martha thought she knew
exactly what the box was, mouldy and muddy as it
was. She just prayed that she was mistaken.

'There,' came Alexander's voice from the bottom
of the room.

There was the sound of more panting and banging
and scraping, and then a soggy thud that must have
been the box dropping heavily onto the table. After
that, there was nothing for a few moments except the
sound of old Mr Monro trying to get his breath back.
Martha wondered whether she should risk peeking
out at them.

'We must get ready,' Mr Monro said, more than a
little stagily.

'Did you collect the hands?' his son asked.

'Here.'

'And the girl?'

There was a pause, and Martha wondered just
how good an actor Monro was. Her heart began to
pound as she imagined the old man's eyes flicking
momentarily up to the auditorium.

'You should not have trapped her there,' Monro
said sharply. 'The hands... they are beginning to show
signs of anger.'

'Anger?'

'One attacked. They aim for the heart, Alexander.'

'Interesting. The heart?' Alexander gave another
pause. 'And the girl was hurt?'

Martha didn't think he sounded particularly
concerned.

'We must get ready,' Monro said again, colder than
before.

'Yes, yes.'

And then there was the sound of a door closing,
and nothing but the faint crackle of the gas lamps.
Martha took a deep breath and counted to ten. Then
she stood up, slowly.

The room was empty.

Except for the box.

Martha knew that Monro expected her to use this
opportunity to escape. Perhaps even the Doctor would
want her to: he might already have lost McAllister
and be waiting at the door to be let in. Except that she
knew him well enough now to know that his plans
never quite worked out how he intended. There was
always some kind of flaw, something he'd missed.

She didn't know how much time she had. If the two
Monros came back and caught her... well, probably
the best that she could hope was to be put back in
the room with the hands. The angry hands that had
learned to go for the heart. She should go, get the
Doctor. Except that the box sat there, on the table,
bowed with damp and with age. It still had something
of its original shape, but all the same Martha wouldn't
let herself believe it. Not until she'd checked.

She moved down the stairs.

As she got closer, the musty smell of mouldy
wood assaulted her. The box smelt like it had been
underground for a good few years: there was still
damp earth clinging to it, here and there. But that
didn't mean... She had to be sure, so she stepped up
next to it. On the top – the lid – there was a little brass
plaque, smeared with wet earth. She reached out with
a hand and cleaned it off as best she could, revealing
the engraving.

John Monro
, it said.
(1670–1740).

NINE

Inside the church, there was that dry chill to the air
– that brittle silence that was the fear of echoes the
Doctor always felt in churches. It was the way they
were built: massive cold stones held together by a
sense of awe and then filled with the devout and the
fearful. They collected energy these buildings – faith,
history – and it warped the space within them.

'Hello,' the Doctor said quietly.

Because you never knew when you might get an
answer.

McAllister and his soldiers were running around
the church, looking for doors and windows that they
could guard. The Captain barked the orders, and his
men followed them in silence. That way, no one had
to think about their friend Ernest, hammering on the
closed and bolted church doors with the rest of the
walking dead. McAllister's voice echoed around the
church, seeming thin and insubstantial. In the pews,
the congregation sat and huddled together, looking
with wide eyes to their minister.

He stood beside the Doctor, watching his flock.

'Please,' the minister said, holding his hands up.

'Don't be afraid. The doors are bolted. Whatever they
are outside, they are outside. We have time to find a
solution, and we will use it.'

'There is no time, Reverend,' an old man growled
from a centre pew. 'It's the end of the world. The Lord
has judged us, and the dead are here to drag us down
to Hell.'

There were some frightened murmurs at that,
each member of the congregation turning to their
friends and family and each deciding that yes, they
might well have been judged badly. The Doctor made
to step forward and appeal for calm, but the greyhaired
minister was already cutting across the low
mumbling.

'Is that right, Thomas?' he said sharply, his voice
filling the cold church. 'And what sin have you
committed that was so grave that Our Father could
not forgive you for it even as you sat in His house and
praised His name? What sin has Alf Smith committed,
or Rebecca Parr and her son? No, even though we
don't know it, there is some earthly reason for this.

And that should give us hope, because it means we
can find an earthly solution.'

'Quite right,' the Doctor agreed, flashing the
minister a smile.

But doubting Thomas wasn't quite ready to give
up.

'Perhaps it's not our sin, Reverend Yarwood,' he
muttered darkly. 'But yours.'

There was a silence, and the minister floundered
for a moment.

'And what sin would you have our Gordon commit,
Thomas?' said a bear of a man pulling himself to his
feet. 'One sip too many of the communion wine?
Mistaking the ale house for his home? Or would that
be the sins of some other?'

'I wasn't talking to you, Ralph,' Thomas spat,
although his face made it quite clear he knew those
sins intimately himself.

'It seems to me that we've more pressing matters
at hand than casting the first stone,' the round-faced
man continued. 'Those poor souls are outside, and
we are here. Perhaps we would be best served making
sure we can keep things that way?'

There was a general murmur of agreement, and the
congregation automatically looked to the man to tell
them what to do next. There was something in his
very presence that seemed to reassure them. Before
he could speak, one of the soldiers shouted from the
window.

'The creatures are standing back.'

'Well,' the Doctor said with a smile. 'That's good
news, isn't it?'

He tried not to wonder what they might be waiting
for.

'Wonderful church you've got here,' the young man
said, his smile flashing. 'Perhaps you could give me
the tour? I'm the Doctor.'

The Reverend Yarwood took the man's hand and
shook it. The man's manner was light enough, but
there was something in his eyes that suggested he had
serious matters to discuss. It never once occurred to
the Reverend to think that this Doctor was another of
the scared souls huddled in the church, needing his
reassurance that the creatures outside would at least
be deterred if not explained. In fact, the Reverend
Yarwood felt more as if he should be asking the
Doctor to comfort him, to make him safe again.

'The Reverend Yarwood,' Gordon said, taking the
Doctor's hand in both of his. 'Gordon. I'm the minister
here at St Cuthbert's.'

'And it's a lovely place,' the Doctor enthused.

Gordon took a look around the church. Ralph had
split the congregation into two parties, and both were
working hard at their allotted tasks. Ralph himself was
helping the first group lift the heavy wooden pews
and barricade the doors with them, whilst the second
scurried around looking for anything that might be
used in their defence. The soldiers stood guard at the
windows, muskets at the ready.

The house of God was slowly being transformed
into His fortress.

Ralph looked across to Gordon and gave him a
solemn nod.

'It's falling apart,' Gordon answered the Doctor's
question. 'The Chapel of Ease is the only part that
might stand up against those creatures outside. I'm
sorry. I thought I was doing the best thing in bringing
you here.'

'Nonsense,' the Doctor protested. 'Where else were
we going? And this old place will still be around for
a while yet. Well, sixteen years to be precise, but...
Reverend Yarwood: has anything like this ever
happened before?'

Gordon paused for a moment. 'I did read once of a
man named Lazarus,' he answered.

The Doctor smiled.

He had led them very casually away from the work
that Ralph had instigated. Perhaps he understood that
the congregation would feel uncomfortable tearing
up the church under the eyes of their minister, even
if it was necessary. It had been Gordon who had first
spotted the boat and its pursuers, standing at the
pulpit about to begin. He had seen the Nor' Loch
bubbling and part of him had, he was sure, hoped
that it was the Apocalypse. Like Thomas before him,
Gordon would have been remarkably comforted to
find that his faith hadn't been misplaced all of these
years.

But instead he had run out, to see what help he
could give. The Lord had given him faith, but He had
also given him intelligence, and Gordon doubted that
God wanted him to give up either to the other. His
head told him that this was an earthly tribulation, and
that his congregation needed what little protection he
could give.

'Will they be safe?' Gordon asked.

The Doctor looked away. 'You worry about them,'
he said, with a tone that made it clear that he had
someone to worry about as well.

'I'm responsible for them,' Gordon answered.
'From this life, into the next.'

'They seem to appreciate you,' the Doctor said.

He was looking across the church, at the small
group hefting a pew across the doorway. Ralph was
standing at its centre, a large round man with chestnut
hair running all around his face. He had paused in his
work for just a moment, leaning down to the tearful
blonde child who was trying to cling to his leg. He
gave his daughter an all-enveloping hug and kissed
her forehead, and without a word made her feel that it
would be all right. Gordon knew that the Doctor was
thinking of Ralph jumping to Gordon's protection,
and smiled gently.

'Ralph Williamson, perhaps,' Gordon said. 'But
then he did marry my sister. She wouldn't expect any
less.'

'They're here,' the Doctor said, 'and they're not
panicking. I think you can take the credit for that.'

'Perhaps,' Gordon said. 'I think perhaps it is partly
that they have long memories, too. I still sometimes
think that they come here because they hope I might
show myself to be one tenth the minister that their
previous was. They still talk about him now as the
best minister the church ever had, and the Reverend
McVicar died some twelve years ago.'

The Doctor smiled. 'There's always someone to tell
you the last one was twice as good as you are,' he said.
'Doesn't mean that they're right.'

Gordon gave a little sigh. 'They tell a story,' he said
quietly, 'about the Reverend McVicar. He was a brave
man, and he wasn't afraid of pushing himself forward
if he knew it was right. Not everyone loved him for
it: one man, the story says, announced that he would
have gladly thrashed McVicar, if it hadn't been for his
minister's coat.'

Gordon looked down at his own neat dark coat.

'The Reverend McVicar threw his coat on the
ground, shouting "There lies the Minister of the West
Kirk and here stands Neil McVicar, and by Yea and
by Nay, sir, come on!",' Gordon told the Doctor. 'The
man didn't wait to see if he meant it.'

The Doctor put a firm hand on Gordon's shoulder.

'The day's not over,' he said. 'They might be telling
stories about you yet.'

The Doctor kept his eyes flicking about the church,
and tried to think of the positives. McAllister's men
had spread out and were actually obeying orders,
rather than trying to catch sight of the creatures for
themselves. Two manned the barrier at the main
doors, whilst the others were covering the windows.
McAllister himself stood at the pulpit and oversaw all
that he surveyed. His eyes momentarily caught the
Doctor's; he nodded briefly, then turned away.

The Doctor, meanwhile, ran through the options
in his head. The dead rising wasn't as uncommon as
all that, and his main problem in identifying the cause
was that there were too many to choose from, not too
few. He needed more information. So far, all he knew
was that they had come out of the water and they
were waiting outside. That, and they hadn't attacked
the living until that first frightened soldier had fired
off his musket.

Something caught the Doctor's eye.

One of the parishioners had broken off from the
main group, the white-haired man called Thomas. He
was walking strangely, a vacant sort of look on his face
that the Doctor didn't much like. He looked to where
the old man was heading, and he saw a small window
and a door that the soldiers had missed, hidden by a
thick curtain. Behind the window, there was a dark
shadow patiently waiting.

'This Reverend McVicar,' the Doctor asked. 'Where
did they bury him?'

'In the churchyard,' the Reverend Yarwood replied.
'Why?'

'Oh, no reason,' he said.

'He's come back to us!' Thomas cried out in
disbelief.

The Doctor closed his eyes, briefly.

Everybody in the church turned and looked, but
nobody reacted.

The Doctor launched himself over a pew and raced
to intercept, but he knew he was going to be too late.
So much for getting an overview of the stage before
the curtains went up.

Thomas had reached the door and was already
swinging it open, and a gasp went through the church
as everybody realised what he was doing.

'Prepare arms!' McAllister yelled. The Doctor
didn't know if the Captain expected his men to shoot
Thomas, or what was going to come through the
door.

'Wait!' the Doctor yelled, unsure who at.

But Thomas stepped back, turning to the
congregation with a look on his face that suggested
he expected them to be just as happy as him. Standing
in the doorway was a squat, dark figure with broad
shoulders and a powerful build. He was still dressed
in the same drab minister's coat that they had buried
him in. The same coat he'd once thrown to the ground
to make a point.

The Reverend McVicar had returned.

BOOK: Doctor Who: The Many Hands
7.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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