DS Cole's version of the Jordan case is less than reliable; everyone knows that.
— What do you expect, says Yates. — Them jungle bunnies, always blaming someone else. He smiles cheerfully, candidly at their colleagues. — Nignogs is all the same. Can't take the pressure.
Nicky endures; he has no choice. There are gaping holes in his recollections. But he remembers the blood. Official Secrets. Men with UN-issue guns watching Errol and Matty on the beach.
Vivid, fragmented and true, nightmares tear his precious rest hours apart. And he says nothing. Does nothing. Waits for the Doctor to call.
Six months earlier
— Dance of the Dead, mutters the Doctor, reflectively. — Of course.
Nicky looks up from the crimson puddles on the floor, irritated by the careful way the Doctor puts the CD cover down exactly where it was. In the shadows; in the blood. You'd never know it had been moved.
The little man gives him the shits something chronic.
— Of course, he mutters under his breath. Cwej meets his eyes and coughs, hiding a brief but striking smile. Nicky tries not to notice Rick noticing.
— Something you'd like to share with us, Doctor?
Blue-grey eyes study him unsettlingly from the shadows.
— Saltatio Mortis. Appropriate for a mediaevalist, wouldn't you say?
He fiddles idly with the stereo, letting loose a cacophonous tribal blast; bagpipes, drums, a frenetic torrent of Latin.
— Sackpfeifen, says the Doctor, happily, and turns it off.
— Fucking racket more like. Begging your pardon, Miss.
Forrester ignores him, concentrating on the search. Nicky tries to do the same, far too aware of the Doctor's gaze and the muscular blond kneeling beside him. Rick Astel's carefully looking at something other than Cwej.
He's spoiled for choice. Professor Jordan's flat, standard council circa Wilson, feels oddly large and rambling. Nicky's buggered if he knows why, given the shadows and clutter. Ugandan tribal masks, all dark wood and paint; gargoylish figures in wrist bands and lumpen statues; paintings – Jordan’s own? – of Dark Age figures in that curious, two-dimensional style. Perhaps that's the trick - so much stuff and so little light that one can't help thinking the dark spaces between them lead on forever.
Jordan... no, the killer, whoever he may be, has left them a little present. A pyramid of parts; torn pieces of expensive boy's-toys, wired together with cutlery and an old coathanger. Clarky, Cwej and the Doctor between them identified most of the components. Bits of a GPS, a mobile phone camera, DVD recorder, chips, reinforced wiring, shards from the screen of an internet fridge. Even part of one of the new-issue police radios, something to do with frequency allocation.
Broken toys, and no bloody fingerprints.
To cap it all off, Jordan eschewed technology. All of it. Didn't even own a stove.
The Doctor, on the other hand, recognised every part of the... the what, artwork? Beetling his brows, and muttering about 'dimensional stabilisers'. All of which puts him well ahead as the suspect. It must.
The Doctor evades his gaze, takes Rick gently by the arm.
— I wonder. Sergeant Astel, can you show me exactly where they found the second child...?
Their footsteps echo and recede as they climb the stairs. Forrester watches them go, suddenly livelier than she's been all day.
— Cwej? Back in a sec.
She waves a lighter and ducks out fast. Nicky flashes his best 'don't you dare' look at PC Clark, clearly dying to follow. The youth scowls, kicking aimlessly, surly as hell.
— What's up your mate's arse then?
The blond, Cwej, smiles absently. His voice is mellifluous and strangely, subtly accented.
— Be patient. The Doctor'll explain it all eventually.
— I still don't see why you lot are involved, says Clark petulantly. — This was our call.
— That's enough, Constable.
Clarky's young; for all his blasé manner, murder and violence enthrall him. The road to glory, he thinks; the shining path. Nicky can see him, in ten years time; when, if, he finally makes it to CID, he'll be just another Yates. Lazy, white, and mean.
— It's what we do, says Chris, comfortably. — Interfere. I'd be crukked off too, if I was you.
His smile is infectious. Inviting. Nicky concentrates on the job at hand, shuffles a little further away.
— Right now I'll take any help I can get. We haven't even identified the victims, let alone... oh, sod.
Nicky's moved into one of the stains, without noticing. It seems larger, now, than when they came in. Dark crimson marks the fashionably faded denim of his jeans; in smudges, blots, capillary streaks.
— Hang about...
— Exactly, says Cwej, shuffling closer on equally stained knees. — It's still wet.
— After two days?
Nicky starts to rub at the stain, then changes his mind, not wanting it on his fingers.
— Upstairs is the same, says Forrester from the doorway, disinterestedly. Dropping ash on the crime scene. Nicky's crime scene.
She doesn't sound at all concerned.
Nicky's notes, his evidence, skips happily over the impossible. There are papers somewhere detailing his superiors' intransigency when it comes to the Doctor; others, doggedly, despairingly inchoate, about the Tiresian oracle. The sacrifices, the torture. The abyssal terror of one's first step on another planet.
He knows they've been read. A shambling, soft-spoken man dropped in for a chat with his family; sat there with smiling eyes and stories of Rick. — Nice boy, says Errol. — Ever so considerate.
A shift man himself, with large and gentle hands; he wouldn't hear of waking Nicky up.
— Not at all your usual policeman.
His C19 details are false; file references in disguise. The accompanying letters, blank.
Nicky burns the one addressed to Rick.
Nicky calls friends in the Met; like-minded, like-skinned, the fast-tracked and incorrupt. Those who know, and there are those who know, all say the same: back off, leave well alone. Leave me alone. You're in enough trouble already.
Desperate, he pulls some very personal strings; eventually a DCI at National Crimes hacks him into CRIMINT. An old friend; a rising star whose career disintegrates spectacularly four days after they speak.
Every line of the coroner’s report sings they can’t take the pressure.
It’s worth it, it has to be. Nicky presses on, despite the suits. Despite isolation, persecution, even Rick’s new AA friends; atypically handsome boys young enough, dark enough, primed to roll off the wagon.
Until Matty's school newsletter, pristine and sealed, spills glossy photographs of "Jordan's victims".
Nicky gives up. His scars burn, keep him awake.
There’s only one deliberate omission in his notes. The afternoon with Cwej it all went wrong; that’s there, their detour via Nicky’s bed isn’t. His report skips glibly from a bar to a mobile call, from a promising lead to Rick shooing the public away from what used to be two young Pakistani brothers.
One minute they’re waiting for the pathologist, watching Clark throw up; the next there’s a noise like hell giving birth, and the Doctor appearing from nowhere. Taking over, taking charge. Knowing far too much and calling the dead boys by name.
Nicky’s had enough; slaps the handcuffs on and pushes Cwej aside. Into the light. Too much light.
— Oh dear, says the Doctor. – They’re early.
There’s more, but Nicky never hears the rest.
He wakes, eventually, on another world.
Khaxai talons, like those of any predator, are filthy. Nicky's wounds are rife with vermin, bacteria, fermented flesh; bowel and abdomen knit together wrongly. His blood mustn’t clot, they say; he doesn’t care why. He survives, just, as the jagged tears are opened and re-opened, poisoned and cleaned; in a locked-down, sterile environment, kept awake and bleeding and mad with pain.
Lucky to be alive, claims Forrester from her cage across the room; his colour and fitness render him more useful than the children.
Precisely why is unclear. Seventeen, he learns, were taken; a third found, torn and dead. Beyond race, beyond pain.
— Genetics, says Roz, muzzily. — Psychic memes; dimensional synergies. We tried to warn you.
She has an easier time of it, the bitch; her wounds are surgical, exploratory, permitted to heal. She must be mad; she claims a nanotech advantage, tiny robots in her blood providing palliative care. In any case the Tiresian order is matriarchal; the Doctor's skilful handling of the sisterhood ensures she suffers less.
But she remains a prisoner; a subject. Her lack of hate, of resentment, astounds him.
Jordan's here too; riddled with anticoagulant and screaming in Masaba. Nicky doesn't know how he knows this; the professor stopped using words long ago.
Rick and Cwej haven't been seen for weeks; working with the resistance, hints the Doctor. As if he should know what that means.
— This won't last much longer. Be strong.
Nicky, when his mind works, doesn't trust him; the little man shows no interest in anyone's fate, preferring to chatter with obscene enthusiasm about the medi-lab, or the Khaxai's sophisticated grasp of psychic motility, whatever the fuck that is.
Nicky doesn’t care. About anything.
Forrester tries to explain, when they are alone; a story of exploitation, a peasant class, unsuitable psychic fodder. Of viral technology, a sisterhood; gateways between the planets, timelines and humans and why the Doctor needs to interfere.
Nicky, male and expendable, closes his mind after a while. Knowing is pointless. All he wants is Rick, and to die.
Eventually, his wish is granted.
Rick's drinking again. Screwing his ex-wife, this far from demotion, couldn't care less.
— They’ll give me CID, he says. — They will. They owe me. You’ll see.
The relief ignore him, kindly, like a blind and flatulent family pet. He’s fixated. Irrelevant. Even Clarky won’t work with him now.
Rick calls Nicky from phone boxes, mid-morning, midday, on shift or off. He won't use mobiles now; won't call from work. They've never talked about the nightmares, but somehow Rick always knows, rings and wakes him just when it gets bad.
He never speaks. But Nicky knows it's him.
They’re becoming experts on silence. C19 never say anything either.
Nicky, discarded, dead and forgotten, wakes one day, without pain, somewhere in the TARDIS. Resurrected, for real. Brought tea. So much for the grand finale.
— Same old, same old, says Forrester, propped insolently against the wall. — You didn't miss anything.
Her face is odd, somehow; burned, yet not; scarred, yet not. He puts it down to the Doctor's drugs. Whatever the alien fucker's using on him, it works. More, please.
Behind her, Cwej and Rick are embracing. Rick seems older, more frail, than his forty-odd years. Perhaps he is, now. Nicky doesn't ask.
— He found you, says Cwej, quietly, and leaves them alone. It's enough to be going on with.
Nicky doesn't look at the skeletal, scarred mess in the wardrobe mirror. Doesn't speak to Rick, during the months it takes to heal, to become whole enough to return. Planets come and go; weekends in Kent, of all places. Says the Doctor. He doesn't believe in Earth any more. Doesn't believe in home.
One day he steps outside; finds himself in the station forecourt. The TARDIS door shuts behind him, bang smack in Yates' parking space. Nicky'd laugh, if he remembered how.
Inside, it’s chaos. It's the day they left; the day he was taken. Rick’s drunk. Nicky, dizzy, can't find his desk.
— Leave it to me, says the Doctor, and takes the DI aside.
Yates diagnoses concussion, drives him home. Errol doesn't look twice. — Back early? he says, and nags him about Matty's football practice.
The brass give him a week off; insists on a full report. Nicky writes it at home, surrounded by quiet men from C19. Signs another, a lie, when Jordan turns up in Benwell, babbling of demonic creatures straight out of the mediaeval folktales he's spent his life researching. The Emergency staff swear Nicky was there, and heard an unforced confession to murder.
Inconclusive evidence suddenly isn’t. CID celebrates, long, loud and drunkenly.
— That’s that, says Carter.
— No Doctor. No Cwej.
— But no more children are missing.
Nicky's tired. Nicky agrees.
He studies CCTV from the mortuary. Tape after tape after tape. Interfered with. He knows it in his bones.
He goes home, and fails to sleep. Not ringing Rick, from his cold and lonely single bed. Waiting for Rick to ring from his.
— It's what we do, rings in his ears. — It's what we do. It's what we do. It's what we do.
=== © arjuna 2006 ===