Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

It was early morning, not quite light yet, and The Doctor was lying in bed. Rose slept beside him and through the open door to the nursery Peter was dreaming in his cot. The sound of them both breathing quietly was soothing to him as he lay awake, his mind and body relaxed, letting thoughts and ideas drift through his brain slowly. In his old life, these were the hours when he would have been somewhere in the bowels of the TARDIS rewiring something or re-routing a power source or doing something to ostensibly improve his ship’s performance. A lot of the time what he was doing wasn’t particularly necessary. It was a way of concentrating his thoughts. And he found he could do that just as easily while lying comfortably in a warm bed with his wife by his side and his child asleep in the next room.

Even if he had been asleep, Chris’s voice in his head would have woken him quickly enough. He wasn’t sure if he had yelled as he sat up or not. But if he had he wouldn’t have heard his own voice.

“What’s the matter?” he asked as he calmed his great-grandson down enough to respond to his urgent appeal for help.

“Mac is dying,” Chris said. “Chiv is hurt and his brother is dying.”

“What?” The Doctor was already getting out of bed and finding his clothes. Rose stirred, alerted by his feverish activity. “How?”

“I don’t know,” Chris answered. “Chiv isn’t making a lot of sense. He’s in an ambulance, they’re taking him to hospital. He’s in a bad state.” Chris paused. “Oh! No! No!. That can’t be right.”

“I’m coming to get you,” The Doctor told him reassuringly. “We’ll get to your friend as soon as we can. Don’t worry. Is Davie still offworld?”

“Yes,” Chris said. “I talked to him, but he couldn’t get back for hours.”

“Tell him to stay put. We can handle this.” He turned to Rose and quickly related what he knew.

“Of course you’ve got to go,” she said. She picked up his shoes and unfastened the laces for him as he pulled on his socks. He ALWAYS took his shoes off without unlacing them at night. She supposed it was a sort of compliment. He couldn’t wait to get into bed beside her. He smiled gratefully at her as he took the unfastened shoes and put them on. “I hope Chris’s friend makes it. It's horrible. I thought maybe Humans might have learnt by THIS century. But still they flip out and do horrible things to each other.”

“The universe is full of senseless cruelty,” The Doctor sighed. “Best I’ve ever been able to do is keep it away from those I care about.” He finished dressing and reached to hold her for a brief moment and blessed his luck in having a wife who didn’t make a fuss about these things.

Chris was fully dressed and pacing up and down in the driveway of his home when the TARDIS arrived in its old, familiar spot in the carport. The Doctor opened the door and stepped out as the boy ran to him.

“All right,” he said. He turned and looked as David and Susan came to the car port door. “I can’t say how long we’ll be,” he admitted to them. “I don’t know what’s happened, whether it’s a domestic gone tragically out of control or something more sinister.”

“Take care, both of you,” Susan told him. The Doctor kissed her gently on the cheek. Chris kissed his mother, too, and then they were away. Susan sighed and shook her head. Once she had wanted a normal life. She had given up on that the day her grandfather came back into her life.

“Are you still in contact with Chiv?” The Doctor asked as he set the co-ordinate for the West Cornwall hospital in Penzance.

“No,” Chris answered him. “He slipped into unconsciousness in the ambulance. He’s in a bad way. Mac is worse. I couldn’t reach him at all. I think it might be too late.”

“It’s never too late until it’s too late,” The Doctor told him. “Are you familiar with Schroedinger's Cat Paradox?”

“A cat is placed in a sealed box. Attached to the box is an apparatus containing a radioactive atomic nucleus and a canister of poison gas. The experiment is set up so that there is exactly a fifty per cent chance of the nucleus decaying in one hour. If the nucleus decays, it will emit a particle that triggers the apparatus, which opens the canister and kills the cat. If the nucleus does not decay, then the cat remains alive. According to quantum mechanics, the unobserved nucleus is described as a superposition of "decayed nucleus" and "undecayed nucleus". However, when the box is opened the experimenter sees only a "decayed nucleus and dead cat" or an "undecayed nucleus and living cat."

Chris took a breath. The Doctor blinked and grinned at him.

“Well done, text book explanation. Nothing wrong with your memory at all.”

“Horrible idea. Poor cat.”

“It’s just a theory. Schroedinger was a very nice man who would never do anything so cruel to an innocent animal. But the point is that we have a very similar situation here. Until we get there, your friend can be either alive or dead. I hope his chances are a bit more that fifty-fifty, but…”

“You’re trying to tell me there’s no need to worry about it until we get there.”


“Easier said than done. This isn’t a theory.”

“That’s the problem with theories.” The Doctor looked at his great-grandson and then reached out his arms to him. “Come here. Just because you’re eighteen now and a transcended Time Lord doesn’t mean you don’t need a hug now and again.”

“I just… Davie and me… we never had very many REAL friends. I know a ton of people turned up for our party. But they weren’t REAL friends if you know what I mean? Even if people didn’t think we were weird at school, we had to keep so much secret from the people who did like us, they eventually drifted away and joined the ones who thought we were weird. Chiv and Mac… they seem so much like us… they have gifts they can’t tell anyone about. They don’t have so many friends either. And we could have been good for each other.”

“You still will be.”

“According to Shroedinger we can’t be sure of that.”

“Shroedinger forgot the one important Human factor – hope.” He smiled reassuringly and turned to the console to seek out a suitable place to land the TARDIS within the hospital. He chose a linen room in the Accident and Emergency department. To his secret surprise, after eight hundred years of not always getting it exactly right, the TARDIS materialised in the linen room of the A&E.

“Do you think we should put on a couple of these white coats?” Chris looked at the rack of crisp linen that The Doctor moved in front of the TARDIS to conceal it from the casual eye. The more than casual eye would just have to deal with the presence of a 1950s police telephone box in the linen room their own way. The door was sealed and there was no chance anyone was ever going to find out what it really was.

“We don’t need old clichés like that,” The Doctor answered. “We’ve got psychic paper and Power of Suggestion.”

The Doctor was right, too. They walked unchallenged past triage. At the nurses station The Doctor checked where Chiv – or Chivney Ross as his medical record named him - was and they were directed to the recovery room.

He was heavily sedated still and his eyes barely flickered as they came to his side.

“All right, son,” The Doctor said gently to him. His chest and arms were bandaged. He looked deathly pale though that was most probably shock. The Doctor put his hands either side of his face and concentrated on entering his mind as gently as possible. The boy had been traumatised enough.

What he saw there in his semi-conscious thoughts was shocking. Chiv and his brother had both been stabbed in a frenzied knife attack. Chiv had taken several deep wounds to his shoulder and arms. He had taken some deflected cuts to the chest, but none of those had been as life threatening as they might have been if he hadn’t defended himself.

His brother had not been so lucky. Chiv’s half-conscious mind was like a video looping around on itself. He kept replaying in his head the moment when his brother took the first knife thrust in the stomach. He had tried to protect Mac from further wounds, but the first had done enough damage to leave him near death.

And what shocked The Doctor was that it was, apparently, the boys’ father who had wielded the knife.

“That’s what he said earlier,” Chris told him. “But I thought he was just delirious. His own FATHER?”

“Sleep easy,” The Doctor whispered to the boy. “And don’t let this prey on your mind.” Chiv gave a deep sigh and his half opened eyes closed. He looked as if he was peacefully sleeping now, untroubled by the physical pain of his wounds or by any mental anguish.

“I’m looking for the other patient who was brought in with stab wounds,” The Doctor said to the nurse on her station outside the ward.

“Which one?” she asked. “We have eight stab victims.”

“Mackenzie Ross,” The Doctor answered, wondering just how dangerous Penzance could be on a weekday night to have THAT many people injured. “He’s seventeen. His brother was brought in with him.”

“He’s undergoing surgery now,” the nurse said without querying his right to ask. “Emergency splenectomy.”

“Can you please let me know when he is in recovery?” The Doctor began to step away from the station when there was an urgent shout and paramedics rushed two trolleys in. The Doctor glanced once and saw two teenage girls, bleeding profusely from what looked like stab wounds. A hospital doctor came at once and looked at them both and ordered them to be taken to the crash unit at once.

“Call Doctor Snell again,” the doctor instructed the nurse but she responded by informing him that the said doctor had not answered the previous three attempts to contact him.

“These children both need urgent attention. Get somebody down here right away… anyone…”

“It’s all right,” The Doctor said, stepping forward. “I’m here.” He beckoned to Chris and pointed to a row of hooks where white coats were hanging. Cliché was one thing, saving lives was another. He swapped his leather jacket for something more appropriate and set to work examining one of the girls while the real doctor took the other.

Her wounds were amazingly similar to Chiv’s. Deep shoulder injuries, deep defensive cuts to her arms and glancing blows to the chest. None of the wounds were life threatening, but she was losing a lot of blood. He looked around and made sure nobody was looking and then tasted a drop of fresh blood on the end of his tongue. The quickest way he knew of confirming blood types but one Humans tended to find a little disturbing. “I need Type AB for a transfusion,” he called and a nurse scurried off. He looked at the other girl. “For both of them. They’re sisters.”

“Like Chiv and Mac,” Chris whispered as he helped his great-grandfather treat the girl’s injuries. “That can’t be a coincidence.”

“It’s not, and it’s not the only one. Listen.”

With their Time Lord hearing they could both hear the sounds of ambulances arriving outside the A&E department. And they heard the sounds of running feet and trolleys being wheeled in. There was a voice that seemed to be a police officer.

“Another one for you. Teenage boy this time - stabbed by his mother. That’s the tenth one tonight. I don’t know what’s going on. Is it something in the water? Parents attacking their own kids?”

“Any of them dead?”

“One… out on the Newlyn road. In the car. Father stabbed his son and then turned the knife on himself. Couldn’t live with it, I suppose. But the rest of them… they’re sitting in the cells at the station, saying nothing. Just staring at the walls. They don’t talk or scream or cry or anything.”

The Doctor and Chris looked at each other and neither needed telepathy at that moment. They both recalled what The Doctor had said to Susan - ‘I don’t know whether it’s a domestic gone tragically out of control or something more sinister.’

Now they knew. It was something sinister.

“She’ll live,” The Doctor said at last as he stepped back from the injured girl and a porter wheeled her out to a recovery bed. Almost immediately another youngster was brought in.

“We still can’t get hold of Doctor Snell,” the other doctor told him. “If you could help out for the time being.”

“Where is Doctor Snell?” The Doctor asked. “Is he at home or…”

“Home I suppose. He lives up on the Newlyn Road. He was supposed to be on duty an hour ago.”

“Newlyn.” The Doctor ran back in his head what he had overheard. “Does Doctor Snell have children?”

“Yes, a teenage son. But…”

“I don’t think he’s going to be in today,” The Doctor said, keeping his voice steady with an effort. “You’d better try and find somebody else to take over here.”

“Granddad,” Chris whispered as the overworked porters passed by with another patient on a trolley. “That’s Mac. He’s out of surgery.”

“Go to him,” The Doctor told him.

Chris followed the porters to the recovery room. He used his psychic paper and Power of Suggestion to be allowed to sit with them both. With their father sitting in a police cell staring at the wall they needed somebody.

It was another hour before the hospital administrators managed to find somebody to take over the work The Doctor was doing. By then everyone knew that their own colleague, Doctor Snell, was dead. And how he had died.

“I can’t believe that,” the staff nurse said, biting back tears. “Snell loved his son. He talked about him all the time. He was so proud of him.”

“I can’t believe any of these people did what they did,” The Doctor said, sliding himself into the conversation. Nobody seemed to realise he had no right to be there. “Do you know if anything unusual has happened in recent days? Anything… I don’t know… something in the water… lights in the sky?”

“Lights in the sky?” The staff nurse looked at him incredulously. “Are you making fun of this tragedy? It’s not a game. People have died. Others are injured…”

“Who are you, anyway?” The Doctor looked at the nurse who had asked that question and she looked distracted for a moment and then forgot she had asked. “What happened and why isn’t our job. Our job is to look after the casualties.”

“Well it’s my job,” The Doctor said. He slipped away quietly. A few minutes later the nurses both asked the same question – Who was that? They all felt he had a right to be there. They didn’t even question that. But they didn’t know WHO he was or why he was there.

“They’re both going to be all right,” Chris said as he came into the recovery room. Both boys were unconscious still, hardly aware that anyone was there. “But I’d like to stay with them, if it’s ok by you.”

“It’s ok by me. I’m going to the police station. I’m going to see if I can bluff my way into talking to their dad and some of the other people they have in the cells.”

“What do you think is going on, granddad? Some sort of mass hypnotism?”

“People being hypnotised to murder their kids?”

“Maybe. But… why?”

“There has to be a why? This isn’t just a random phenomena?”

“No,” Chris said in a decisive tone. “There’s a reason why this is happening. It might be a stupid reason. But there IS a reason and I know you’ll find it.”

He looked at Chris and saw in his face the trust and faith in him he had since he was a boy. If he needed an extra incentive to get to the bottom of this, after seeing so many youngsters brought into the hospital with the most terrible injuries, it was that.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he told him. “When they wake, tell them I’m doing my best for them.”

He turned and hurried out of the A&E department. He hailed a taxi to take him to the police station. It wasn’t worth using the TARDIS for such a short trip, but since he didn’t actually know where the police station was it was useful to be driven there by somebody who did.

“More ambulances!” the taxi driver commented as he waited for them to pass before setting off. “What’s been going on in this town tonight?”

“There have been a series of accidents,” The Doctor told him. “You don’t have kids, do you?”

“They live with the ex-wife in Derbyshire,” the driver answered. “I don’t see them very often.”

“You’re probably lucky,” The Doctor murmured quietly. The driver didn’t hear him.

“I blame this Halloween thing,” the driver said. “Kids out at all hours in the dark.”

“Halloween?” The Doctor looked at his watch. It was a little after six o’clock on November 1st. “The Feast of Samhain,” he added to himself. Was the driver right, he wondered. WAS it that old Earth custom? Halloween used to be a serious pagan ritual involving sacrifices. In latter years it became a children’s game, dressing up in costumes and collecting sweets. It wasn’t something he let Vicki and Sukie get involved in. He didn’t entirely approve of the idea of it. But he knew some people kept the ‘tradition’ up.

Blood-letting WAS a tradition of Samhain. Blood-sacrifice was a key component of it. But these youngsters were all attacked in their beds by their parents with kitchen knives. Hardly a pagan sacrifice. If there was a connection he couldn’t see it.


He glanced at his watch again and shivered. It wasn’t exactly in his remit. Interfering with the religions of other worlds was never written into the Laws of Time by his own people, but it was drilled into him as a student that even the most barbaric practices, if it was a part of the culture then he should not interfere. And it had taken a lot of effort to obey that unwritten rule. He had SEEN human sacrifices on countless planets, Earth included. He remembered once escaping from an Aztec village where Susan was narrowly saved from the sacrificial altar. It had been difficult to persuade her, to say nothing of Ian and Barbara, two good hearted 20th century Londoners, that they couldn’t interfere with the way of life of 15th century Mexico. And THEY, although they tried, couldn’t persuade the young man chosen for the ‘honour’ of being sacrificed that he should not give himself up willingly.

The worship of blood-thirsty gods WAS the dominant culture of that place and that time. He couldn’t interfere with it. Paganism was certainly the dominant culture in the British Isles a couple of thousand years before that. And blood sacrifice on the feast of Samhain would have been common. Though it wasn’t necessarily Human sacrifice. November would have been a bad time to be a chicken.

The point he was trying to make to himself, was that if he came to Cornwall in 500bc, it would be no concern of his to stop either chickens or the first born of the household from being sacrificed. It was how it was done, and he would be interfering with the course of history if he did so.

But this was the year 2216 and though paganism may still be a minority religion the taking of Human life was illegal even for pagans and if that WAS what was going on here then he COULD sort it out.

And he damn well WOULD sort it out. He had never seen anything so chilling as the stream of children being brought into that hospital, all bleeding from vicious wounds inflicted upon them by their own parents.

He was wrong. Even what he had seen in the hospital was not so chilling, so harrowing to the very soul as what he found when he reached the police station.

The first thing he found was a distraught woman coming out of the station in company with a younger woman who looked as if she was barely holding it in. They approached the taxi The Doctor was just paying off and asked if it was free now. The driver began to say that he was about to knock off at the end of his shift, but a sharp look from The Doctor made him change his mind.

“Come on, Jean,” the younger woman said kindly. “You’re tired. You’ll feel better when you’ve had some sleep.”

“When I’ve slept, my husband will still have knifed my son to death and then slit his own throat,” Jean answered with what The Doctor thought was perfect logic, though logic that offered no comfort.

“Mrs Snell,” he said to her, making the obvious connection. She looked at him and wondered where she knew him from. “I’m sorry,” he said with feeling and the empathy of a parent who had once lost a child. “I’m sorry I can’t take away your pain right now. I wish I could. Time will make it a little easier. Be assured of that.”

“Thank you,” she said gratefully. “Thank you…” She grasped his hand. He suppressed a gasp as he felt through the physical contact all of her grief and sorrow.

He helped Mrs Snell into the car and her sister got in beside her. He closed the door and it drove away. He watched it disappear before he turned and went into the station.

In the reception he was met with another chilling scene. A woman was insisting loudly that her husband was not a violent man, that he would never hurt their children in a million years.

“You have to let him go,” she sobbed. “Please. You must….”

“Madam,” the duty sergeant insisted. “Go to the hospital and stay with your children. There is nothing you can do here.”

“He’s right,” The Doctor told her. And this time at least he could help. Mrs Snell was a bereaved woman. Nothing in the universe could ease her burden. He knew that from his own bitter experience. But he could ease the grief and anxiety of a woman whose husband and children were alive still. He touched her face gently. For a moment she looked as if she resented something so personal from a stranger, then her face softened. “Go on. Your husband will be all right. This will all be sorted out soon. Go to your children.”

Hope. It was a gift he could willingly give. The woman left the station with an easier heart. He hoped he could live up to his promise to her.

“I am here to see Mr Ross,” he told the desk sergeant after she was gone. “I understand he is being held in custody here.”

“Are you a lawyer?” the desk sergeant asked.

“Do I look like a lawyer,” The Doctor asked with a disarming smile. Actually, he WAS a lawyer, but he wasn’t sure a qualification from the Prydonian Academy of Gallifrey would help right now. “I’m The Doctor,” he said truthfully.

“Doctor?” The desk sergeant nodded. “Well, we’ve a whole row of cells full of people who need a doctor! A psychiatrist, anyway.”

“I can be any kind of doctor they need me to be. But I’ll see Ross first.”

The policeman at the hospital had described the prisoners accurately. The Doctor looked at Mr. Ross for a long time. He sat on the bench against the cell wall and stared into nothing. He defined the word expressionless. The Doctor had expected to find him in a state of shock as he realised what he had done. But it wasn’t even that.

“Mr Ross.” He reached out and touched the man as he spoke his name. There was no reaction. “Mr. Ross…” he said again.

Hypnotism. It WAS the only explanation. Nobody could be this unresponsive through mere shock. He sat on the bench next to Mr. Ross and looked at his face carefully. Yes, hypnotism.

Chris had been bang on right when he thought of it. He hadn’t entirely dismissed the idea. He had seen people driven to do all sorts of crazy things through hypnotism, including murder. His old adversary The Master was very adept at that. Getting some innocent stooge to do his dirty work for him was his modus operandi.

But The Master was dead and gone and even if he wasn’t, this didn’t have his hallmark on it. These children were not obstacles in his path to universal domination. They would not have interested him.

“Let’s look into your head, Mr. Ross. Let’s see what’s been happening.” He was gentle, as always. Mind probing was a form of violation. He took it very seriously. He usually asked permission to do it. But in this case needs must.

“Oh dear,” he whispered after a few minutes examining Mr Ross’s memories. “You’ve all got yourself way over your head into something you don’t fully understand. But at least I know what’s going on now. And I know who’s behind it.”

He withdrew carefully from the unfortunate man’s mind and reached for his sonic screwdriver. He adjusted the setting and the usually steady blue beam pulsated rhythmically. He shone it into Mr Ross’s unseeing eyes until he saw him blink and turn his head away from the light.

“You’ll be all right now,” he told him.

“Where am I?” he asked. “What am I doing here? What happened? Who are you?”

“I’m a friend,” The Doctor assured him. “As for the rest, don’t you remember anything? Anything at all since All Hallows Eve?”

“No,” he said slowly. “No. I…”

Then his face changed, from confusion to horror and The Doctor knew it was coming back to him. Anyone who believed actions done under hypnotism couldn’t be recalled to the memory would have been thoroughly confounded as Mr Ross remembered with awful clarity everything that had happened.

“My boys… my children… I killed them… I…” he held up his hands in front of him. They shook as if he was suffering a fit. “I cut out their hearts.”

“You tried to,” The Doctor told him. “They fought back. All the children fought back. All but one. Mac was very badly hurt, but he’s out of surgery now. Chiv is already getting better. My grandson is with them. They’re going to be ok.”

“Oh, thank God….” he cried, burying his face in his hands. “If God has anything to do with me any more. After what I did. If He turned his back on the whole cursed lot of us…”

“Even if He did, I won’t,” The Doctor assured him. “I’m not finished yet. I want you to lie down now and rest. You’ve been hypnotised for long enough, so I’m not going to do that to you again. But…” He put his hand over the man’s eyes and caught him as he gently slipped into sleep. He laid him down on the bench and as he left the cell he told the duty officer to keep an eye on him.

“The others will be ok. They’re all still hypnotised. I’ll bring them out of it later when this is all over. It will be less traumatising for them. Meanwhile, I need to see your Chief Superintendent.”

“The Chief… He won’t be in his office until nine o’clock. It’s only…” the officer glanced at his watch. “Half past seven.”

“I think you’ll find he has been in his office all night. Don’t worry, I’ll find my own way up. But send a couple of officers up after me, would you. There may be an arrest to make.”

“Arrest?” The duty officer looked puzzled. “You want us to arrest you?”

“No, I want you to arrest the Chief Superintendent,” he answered. He didn’t wait to see the expression on the duty sergeant’s face. He swept out of the custody suite and made his way up the stairs to the Superintendent’s office. He was guessing exactly where that would be, of course. He had never set foot in this police station before in his life. But they tended to be of a similar pattern. The senior officers always tended to have their offices on the upper floors.

The office was locked, but there was a light on inside, and a setting of the sonic screwdriver told him there WAS at least one living body no more than a few yards away behind the wall.

“Sir, what are you doing?” Two police officers came up the stairs as he was using the screwdriver’s most basic function to unlock the door. “Step away from that door.”

“Oh, please don’t be tiresome,” he sighed. “I could hypnotise you into thinking I’m in authority but I’ve been up half the night and I’m beat. Besides, there are enough people under somebody else’s influence around here. Just take it from me that there is something wrong inside this room and keep behind me in case of trouble.”

He finished unlocking the door and opened it. He stepped inside and looked around the empty office.

“Sir… you should not be in here,” the officer protested. “I must ask you…”

“No… shush. Listen…” The Doctor looked around, trying to work out where the sound was coming from.

“Somebody crying?”

“A child crying,” The Doctor said. “There…” He stepped up to the wall and started to feel around. “Ah!” He pressed what seemed an ordinary section of wall and there was a click. A concealed door swung open to reveal another room behind. He heard the two policemen murmur as the child’s voice was clearly heard. She was pleading for her life.

The Doctor didn’t hesitate. He ran into the dark room, pungent and smoky with some sort of incense. In an eyeblink he took in the robed figure and the wooden ‘altar’ in front of a strange shrine to some pagan god. The child, aged about twelve, was in her nightdress, bound hand and foot. She was lying across the altar. Her eyes were big with fear as she saw the hand raised above her, the knife glinting in the sudden light from the opened door.

The Doctor’s hand caught the arm as it descended. His other arm came around and punched the man in the face. The hood fell back as he reeled from the blow. One of the officers behind him exclaimed loudly.

“Chief Superintendent Tremayne! What are you….”

The other officer didn’t waste time on words. He moved forward and grabbed the girl up off the altar.

“His own daughter…”

“Take the child downstairs. See if there’s a WPC to look after her.” The Doctor turned back to Tremayne. He had fallen to the floor, stunned by the punch but he wasn’t knocked out completely. The Doctor dragged him up to his feet. “Your own child? What kind of monster ARE you?”

“She was to be a handmaiden of Samhain,” Tremayne said. “It is an honour. Her blood would appease him and he would reward me.”

“Yes, Mr. Ross had a lot of that sort of hokum in his head, too,” The Doctor answered. “There are thirteen of you in all, members of a neo-pagan group – You’re the grand master, the high priest. You told them all that Samhain must have sacrifices. You told them they had to give up their dearest blood.”

“What on Earth!” The remaining police officer exclaimed in astonishment.

“My thoughts exactly,” The Doctor told him. “I hope you’re taking notes. This is a police matter when all is said and done.”

The officer hadn’t in fact, but he grabbed his notebook and began to scribble furiously.

“Samhain demanded the hearts of their children. They were to do it during the night of Samhain. The hearts were to be brought to his altar…. I brought my own child here to sacrifice her on the altar personally. She was to be the first…”

“They didn’t do it,” The Doctor said. “Only one of them. The others couldn’t do it. You see, hypnotism doesn’t change Human nature. It only confuses it. Yes, people can by hypnotised to kill. I’ve seen it done. But hypnotised to kill their own children… No. The parental instinct was too great. They tried. There are twenty odd children in hospital with horrible injuries, some of them serious. But none of them succeeded in killing, in cutting out their children’s hearts - except the unfortunate Doctor Snell. I don’t know why he was different. Possibly because he was a surgeon. Cutting into flesh wasn’t such a strange thing for him to do. His brain didn’t sound the warning signal the way it did for the others. At least not until it was too late. When he came to his senses he couldn’t live with himself. Poor man.”

“The others were weak,” Tremayne declared. “Fools… Samhain will punish us all now. The power will be taken away…”

“You are the fool,” The Doctor told him. “For one thing there ISN’T a god called Samhain in any culture on this planet. Samhain is Gaelic for the month of November. It simply means the end of the summer. The ancient Celtic pagans made sacrifices to mark the end of summer and beginning of winter – they didn’t recognise spring and autumn as seasons, just wetter bits of the two main seasons. But either way it was just a way of marking the passage of time. They weren’t doing it to appease any god or expecting anything in return except the weather to get colder.” He paused and looked at the strange statuary around the shrine. “That looks vaguely like the old Celtic god Lugh, but I think you’ll find he was the god of light and harvests. The Christian harvest festival derives from worship of him. And he has nothing to do with killing children.”

“No,” Tremayne said. “No, you are wrong. Samhain promised me power if I brought him the blood sacrifice. If I brought him the hearts of the children.”

“He promised YOU power?” The Doctor laughed ironically. “Didn’t you tell those unfortunates that they would SHARE the power? That’s what Mr. Ross was led to believe.”

“As high priest I would receive the greatest glory. But I told them to expect great fortune.”

“These people loved their kids,” The Doctor continued, ignoring the ‘power and fortune’ bit as mere window dressing on the delusion. “They wouldn’t have tried to do as you asked without a controlling influence on them. But how did YOU put them into such a deep hypnotic state that they would try to murder their own children?”

“I didn’t. Samhain did it.” Tremayne looked around at the altar, and the statue of what The Doctor had identified as a completely different Celtic deity to the one Tremayne thought he was serving.

“What is this?” The Doctor stepped towards the shrine and pulled the statue aside. Behind it was a strange mechanism. It looked almost like an old fashioned film projector and when he switched it on there was a flickering white light not unlike when the film runs out. But there was a pulsating rhythm in the beam. One that would affect the brain waves of a Human and make them susceptible to suggestion. He turned it off. He didn’t need to see any more.

“You brought them in here, for ‘worship’ before the altar. Your machine hypnotised them. But like I said, it wasn’t enough. They resisted. Ultimately, at least subconsciously, they cared more about their children than about your promised glory.”

“But… If he knew it was fake… just hypnotism… Why did he try to kill his own child?” The Doctor looked around at the police officer as he stood at the door listening to the whole strange story.

“THAT is a very good question,” he said. “Do you want to answer that, Mr Tremayne?”

“It IS real,” he insisted. “I serve Samhain. And he will punish me.”

“He’s lost his mind. He must have.”

“Very probably,” The Doctor said. “Let me see if I can find it.” He pressed his hands either side of the Superintendent’s head. This time he WAS forcing his way in. He didn’t bother to ask permission. Later, somebody would have to do some kind of formal interview downstairs and put all this into some kind of coherent statement with which to prosecute the man for his crimes. He wanted to know for his own peace of mind that it WAS Tremayne’s delusion and that HE himself was not under some other influence that meant that this went higher even than him.


“So the man was mad?” Chris asked when his great-grandfather told him everything later.

“You asked me to find out the reason,” he said. “That was the reason. Tremayne had a nervous breakdown. He wove a fantasy around himself based on some half-understood ideas about Celtic mythology. He believed himself to be a pagan high priest worshipping a god. The depth of his madness can be measured by the fact that he didn’t even have a REAL Celtic god. He got the real mythology mixed up with all sorts of myths about All Hallows, blood sacrifice, the rest of it. And he sucked in his friends.”

“What on Earth made them join a neo-pagan group in the first place?”

“I don’t know. Some people have the strangest hobbies. It probably sounded more exciting than the local am-dram society. If they’d just contented themselves with chanting and dancing around bonfires, it would have been nobody’s business. But Tremayne’s madness turned it into something tragic.”

The Doctor sighed. It was a pathetic explanation. It saddened him. He had half expected some extra-terrestrial entity at work, some alien influencing the people to this madness. He had been prepared for that. It was what he had dealt with all his life. An ordinary Human being’s ordinary madness was much more frightening and so much harder to fight.

They both turned and looked through the window into the hospital room where Mac and Chiv were recovering well now. Their father sat between their two beds. He looked like a man who still had a mountain to climb. But he was at least out of the bottomless chasm he was in before.

“There probably won’t be any charges against anyone other than Tremayne,” The Doctor said. “But they’ll need a lot of help. The emotional scars will take longer to heal than the physical ones. The boys will need your friendship more than ever.”

“I’ll do what I can for them,” Chris promised. Then he shivered involuntarily. “I kept thinking… if it was us… if it was our dad…”

“Never in a million years,” The Doctor assured him. But the thought had crossed his mind more than once. Mr Ross, Doctor Snell, they were ordinary men, ordinary parents. It could have been any parents of any children.

Even himself?


No, he told himself. No. In a million years he knew he could never raise a hand to his own children that way.

He was sure of that.

“Go and say goodbye to your friends,” he told his great-grandson. “It's time we went home.”

Chris nodded. He had caught his great-grandfather’s thoughts. He wanted to go home and hug his children. Chris felt he wanted to go home and spend some quality time with his father. He felt more than ever in his life how important that was.