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

Trudi opened her eyes and looked up at a pearl white sky. She seemed to be lying in some kind of inflatable boat and she was utterly unable to remember how she got there.

“Tristie!” She screamed.

“I'm here,” her husband answered.

“Not you! Baby Tristie.”

“He’s here, too. It’s all right. We’re safe.”

Trudi sat up and swung around to see their one year old sitting next to his father under a sort of curving sail arrangement. The boy was wearing a child sized life jacket over his normal clothes. So was Tristie senior and so was she. Tristie junior seemed to think that it was all a great adventure. He was gurgling happily with every wave that rocked the small boat up and down alarmingly.

“How did we get here?” she asked. “Where is here? Where is the TARDIS?”

“I don't know times three,” Tristie answered. “I think we are on Earth, because the instructions for inflating the raft are in English, French and Japanese, but apart from that I don't know.”

“The last thing I remember was telling you about a cool place in London I wanted to visit. Then you started yelling about temporal malfunctions. And the whole TARDIS started rocking about like it was at sea. And then....”

“I initialised the emergency landing procedure.”

“And now we're in a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean.”

“Maybe not the middle. There is land a few miles to the east of us. And I can see some sort of structure. We seem to be drifting towards it.”

Trudi turned around again and looked towards the structure. It was white and barely visible against the clouds. It looked unreal, like a house made of the clouds. It looked as if it was floating towards them – rather than them floating towards it.

“That's lucky,” she managed to say.

“Actually I think the TARDIS is guiding us towards it. The lifeboat was created to protect us as part of the emergency protocol.”

“Wouldn’t keeping us inside the console room have been safer?”

“Not if there was a fire and lots of smoke and the carbon monoxide scrubbers weren’t working and… lots of other reasons why we’d be safer outside the TARDIS.”

“It’s a funny sort of building,” Trudi said, deciding not to speculate on the exact nature of the TARDIS’s problems. “It isn’t on land, for a start. It’s….”

“Very peculiar,” Tristie agreed. He looked in a waterproof pocket in the side of the boat and found a pair of binoculars. They brought the structure, still about a mile away, into focus. It seemed to be some sort of lighthouse - though it didn't resemble any lighthouse he had ever seen before. It looked more house than light for a start - a white painted wooden house of the sort he might expect to see in a small prairie village in the American midwest.

It didn't belong on a platform on stilts in the sea.

But their lifeboat, under the influence of the TARDIS, was taking them inexorably towards the odd structure. Soon it was close enough for Tristie to judge that the whole thing was about twenty metres above sea level and that the platform supporting the ‘house’ was a little over halfway up the whole height.

“I wonder if we’re in the Channel?” Trudi suggested. “The English Channel, I mean. I read somewhere once, or maybe it was a TV programme, about these forts that are stuck out there in the water.”

“No,” Tristie answered her. “I know the places you mean. I’ve been to one of them. But they look different to this one.”

“It wasn’t a totally barmy idea, though, was it?” Trudi asked anxiously. Sometimes her lack of formal education worried her. Sooner or later her own son was going to be smarter than her – probably before he was five. She didn’t want to be left behind.

“It wasn’t barmy at all,” Tristie assured her. “But I’m pretty sure we’re not in the English Channel. Something about the air pressure around here feels wrong for anywhere near England.”

That was just the sort of thing that she had to contend with. Tristie could work out his location in both time and space by things like air pressure, the sort of sand on a beach, the smell of smoke from a chimney. He was beyond ordinary smartness. He was brilliant. She loved it when he did things like that, even though she sometimes wondered if she really measured up to him.

As if he had read her thoughts, he hugged her around her slim waist and kissed her on the cheek. Tristie junior gurgled with laughter to see his parents do that and fell off the seat onto the rubber bottom of the boat. At the same time, the prow bumped against the iron ‘legs’ of the lighthouse structure. Tristie let go of his wife and carefully pushed the boat around until it was next to a ladder going up to a landing platform. He tied it up securely and then picked up the child and put him on his back.

“Hold on tight, son,” he said. “We’re going up.”

Trudi watched him climb confidently, then she grabbed onto the metal rungs and made her slow way up. She was, as usual, wearing a rather short skirt, and she was glad there was nobody else coming up beneath her. The way the sea breeze whipped around her thighs was disturbing enough.

“Now what?” she asked as she reached the wooden platform.

“Now we climb up into the house,” Tristie answered. “Up there.”

Another ladder was suspended in the middle of the platform. It led to a trapdoor in the floor of the building above. Again Tristie went first. Trudi watched anxiously, worried about the boy falling onto the hard wooden platform.

Then again, falling into the sea would have been far more dangerous and she hadn’t even thought of that. She was confident that Tristie would look after him.

He had already reached the trapdoor and passed the boy up first when she began to climb. When she emerged into the spacious and surprisingly comfortable looking room Tristie was making conversation with three people who were already there.

“Here she is, my lovely wife, Trudi. Sweetheart, these are Mark and Dennis Blackwood and Mark’s wife, Angela. There are two other people here, too, Graham and Esthelle Whitman, Angela’s brother and his wife.”

The other couple came in from a kitchen with trays of coffee. Trudi thought she had never seen anything so welcoming. She was starting to realise how cold she had been in the boat. This living room with four old but serviceable sofas and a big, squashy armchair, rag rugs and some old chests of drawers was surprisingly warm and cosy. The heating came from bottled gas fires that added a peculiar smell to the room, but that wasn’t a problem. Lighting fuel was provided by camping gas canisters, too. Three lamps hung around the wooden roof.

“Do you live here?” Trudi asked as she sat on one of the sofas and sipped the cup of coffee that was handed to her. Estelle had brought orange juice in a sippy cup for Tristie junior and he was happy.

“No,” Mark told her quickly. “We’re marooned here the same as you. Our yacht got into difficulties and we managed to reach this place before it capsized. We’ve contacted Key West, but they can’t send anyone out to get us until the morning. There’s a hurricane headed our way and all we can do is hunker down and wait.”

“A hurricane?” Tristie queried. He was studying a map on the wall. “This is the Rebecca Shoal Lighthouse, sweetheart,” he added for Trudi’s benefit. “It’s just south-west of the Dry Tortugas islands in the Florida Keys.”

Trudi took the news of where they were philosophically. Tristie had been right about them NOT being in the English Channel, of course. The rest was just geography.

But a hurricane?

She must have looked stricken because everyone was quick to assure her that there was nothing to be scared of.

“The seas off Florida get hit by a half dozen tropical storms every year,” explained Dennis Blackwood. “One in every four is upgraded to a hurricane. Mostly they’re downgraded again before they strike land.”

“But we’re not on land,” Estelle pointed out. “Don’t be so blasé about it. I’m scared. I’m trying not to get silly about it, but you could at least take our situation seriously.”

“I’m serious,” Dennis responded. “But these two are British. They don’t know about this sort of thing. I see no reason to scare the living daylights out of them. This platform has stood since 1886. God knows how many hurricanes have hit it since then, and it’s still standing. We’ve got food and water, fuel, beds for the night, and when it’s over the coastguard will send a helicopter for us.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Tristie conceded. “I’m not sure how much sleep any of us are going to get. I have a feeling it might get noisy. But I think we’ll manage.”

“I’m making a stew,” Graham said. “I’m a chef, you see. The food here is all tinned or dried, but you can bet I can make something edible out of it.”

“Oh don’t show off,” Angela told him. “ANYONE can open tins and throw them together into a pan. It’s not going to be cordon bleu.”

Graham looked at his sister and scowled nastily at her, then turned and went back into the kitchen. There was a tense silence for a while, broken only by Tristie Junior sipping the last of his orange juice loudly and the two women setting a bare wooden table with hard wearing enamel plates and stainless steel cutlery. When Graham returned to the main room he set a large metal serving dish in the middle of the table and invited everyone to help themselves.

“Well, I feel quite hungry,” Trudi announced. “And it’s well past little Tristie’s tea time.” She moved to the table and sat with the baby on her knee. Tristie served two plates and put a smaller serving in a bowl. While the rest of the diners were busy helping themselves he held the bowl in his hands and carefully reduced the temperature of his blood. Ice cold hands quickly cooled the food for his son. Trudi ate her own meal with one hand while feeding Tristie Junior expertly.

“It is very good,” she said to Graham. “Even for store food.”

It didn’t escape her notice that Angela frowned at her for praising her brother’s culinary skills. What lay behind that she couldn’t imagine. She just hoped they wouldn’t carry on all night or the hurricane would be more interesting to listen to.

“Is there a bathroom?” she asked when she had finished her supper. “Tristie needs his hands and face washed before settling him down to bed.”

“That’s the baby, she’s talking about,” Tristie joked. “Not me. My bedtime is later.”

Nobody laughed.

“Upstairs, on the middle floor,” Mark said. “You need to be sparing with the water, though. It’s from a rainwater tank. No hot baths here!”

Nobody laughed at that joke, either. Trudi carried Tristie junior up the wooden stairs to the next floor. She found the bathroom easily enough and performed the necessary ablutions without draining the meagre freshwater supply.

When she was done she looked around the empty rooms. There were two bedrooms with sets of bunks in them, and also the wireless room.

She looked around that carefully and in doing so found out two important details about the place they were marooned in and the people they were marooned with.

“Come on, sweetheart, back downstairs. It’s too cold up here to hang about for long.” She carried Tristie junior back to the warm living quarters. She settled him on the squashy armchair with a cushion and a blanket over him and kissed him goodnight. The adults were all settling themselves back on the sofas. She nodded to her husband meaningfully and volunteered to make the next round of coffee.

Tristie followed her into the kitchen and banged cups around noisily.

“There’s something really weird going on,” she said. “I just checked on this jazzed up ‘smart phone’ you gave me. It says the date is August 19th 2004. But those lot out there…. they’re dressed like they’re from the 1960s.”

“I bow to your expert knowledge of fashion trends,” Tristie told her. He looked at the tin of dried milk which had been used to colour and flavour the coffee. “This was packed in 1946. Stuff like this keeps for ages, of course. But even so….”

“There’s more,” Trudi told him. “There’s a calendar in the wireless room from 1953. And there’s another thing. The wireless…. I don’t think it could possibly work. It has an old fashioned sort of battery, and it’s all corroded and leaking.”

“I’ll have a look at that later,” Tristie said. “But it doesn’t sound too good. Mark said that he’d used it to contact the coastguard.”

“Why would he lie about a thing like that?”

“Perhaps he wanted to reassure the others. But then… if he didn’t radio… how does he know that there’s a hurricane coming?”

“I wonder what the real date is? 1946, 1953, the 1960s, or 2004.”

“More to the point, what date do THEY think it is?” Tristie added. “Let’s see if we can find out.”

They brought the coffee through and distributed them. Everyone drank quietly for a while, then Tristie suggested a game.

“We’re Brits, you’re all American. Let’s have a quiz… find out what you know about our country and we know about yours. “Like… easy one, what’s our capital city….”

“London, of course,” Mark answered.

“And yours is Washington DC. Your currency – the dollar….”

“Pounds sterling,” Dennis immediately responded. “Something harder - your premier… prime minister, I mean…. Alex Douglas Home?”

“No,” Angela contradicted him. “Douglas-Home replaced the other one – Harold Macmillan. He resigned - remember all the fuss about that woman and the politician. Then there was an election late last year. The new man is…. Oh, I completely forgot his name.”

Trudi had an idea that Angela knew perfectly well who the British Prime Minister was, but she had already revealed too much intelligence on the masculine subject of politics by remembering the aftermath of the Profumo affair so well. She pretended to have forgotten the rest of the story.

“Harold Wilson,” Mark supplied, restoring the intellectual balance to the male line.

“Spot on,” Tristie confirmed. “And of course, your president is Lyndon B. Johnson… sworn in under your twenty-fifth amendment after the death of JFK.”

“But he won the election last November in his own right,” Dennis corrected him.

“By a landslide,” Graham pointed out triumphantly.

“It was barely a year since Dallas,” Mark commented. “He was still riding on Kennedy’s coat tails. The country is still pretty much mesmerised by the legend. Eventually they’ll come to their senses and realise that the Democrats are going to drive the country to ruin.”

Graham replied to that statement caustically. Mark responded in kind. Dennis came down on the side of the Democrats, opposing his brother. The two ‘Brits’ were forgotten as the three men debated heatedly.

Tristie wasn’t interested in either point of view, but Dennis’s comment about the election firmly placed them in the summer of 1965. That year at least matched their clothes.

But then why did Trudi’s smart phone say it was 2004, and why did the food and the calendar suggest it was far earlier in the second half of the twentieth century?

He was puzzling over the question when Angela suddenly told the men to shut up and asked where Estelle was. Everyone looked around and realised that she wasn’t in the room. Trudi looked into the kitchen and the third bedroom which was on the same floor. Graham went upstairs.

When he came down again he was pale and worried.

“She’s not there. I went right up to the top floor, where the lamp is. There’s… Oh my God, there’s nothing there except glass windows and a bit of a balcony all around. What if she fell?”

“Calm down, Graham,” Angela told him. “You always make a big drama about every little thing. Why on Earth would Estelle go up to the lamproom? Why would any of us go up there? The light is automatic. Nobody goes up there except maintenance people every once in a while.”

“She was sick to death of us going on about politics,” Graham answered. “She wanted to get as far from us as possible.”

“I can believe THAT,” Dennis remarked. “If I was married to you, I’d dive off and swim to the Keys to get as far away as possible.”

“That was uncalled for,” Angela told him.

“Stop arguing,” Tristie told them all. “Go and look upstairs again. Maybe she went to lie down on one of the beds or something.”

Angela went to look. As she did, the building shuddered as a high gust of wind struck it.

“The hurricane?” Trudi asked.

“Not yet,” Mark answered. “This is just a foretaste – a bit of a squall before she really gets going.”

Tristie nodded as if he agreed with that assessment, then to everybody’s surprise he reached for the trapdoor in the floor. Trudi called out to him as he dropped down onto the ladder.

“I’m just going to check,” he said, though he didn’t say what he was checking. Mark closed the trapdoor to keep out the cold. Trudi watched and waited. Angela came back downstairs to report that there was no sign of Estelle just moments before a knock from beneath the floor indicated that Tristie was back.

“Oh, my God!” Graham cried out in shock as Tristie passed the cold, wet, limp body of Estelle up to Mark and Dennis’s hands before climbing back himself. “Oh God, no. No. She can’t be dead. She can’t.”

“I’m sorry,” Tristie said to him. “She was already dead when I reached her. She must have fallen from the lamproom… and the waves threw her body back onto the platform. That’s where I found her.”

Graham broke down in pitiful tears as Mark wrapped the body in a blanket.

“I’ll take her upstairs,” he suggested. “I don’t think that little kid wants to see her like this.”

Tristie Junior wasn’t even looking. He was lying on his side with one thumb in his mouth and tracing patterns on the arm of the chair with the fingers of his other hand. All the same, it made sense to take the body upstairs to one of the unused bedrooms, a quiet place where Graham could sit with her and grieve.

“How did it happen?” Dennis asked as Graham followed Mark upstairs and the main room went quiet. “What you said about her falling… and then being thrown back onto the platform…. How likely is that?”

“Not very likely,” Tristie admitted. “But I can’t see any other way it could have happened. We’d have seen her if she’d gone through the trapdoor. Besides, her body wasn’t just wet – the way I got wet down there from the waves coming over the platform. She was saturated. Her clothes, her hair… her mouth and nose were full of seawater. She drowned out there in the sea.”

Angela sobbed. Tristie apologised for being so graphic in his description of how Estelle had died.

“It’s not your fault,” she told him. “If it’s ANYBODY’s fault, it was Graham. It was him going on and on that drove her out of the room, away from us, away from where she was safe. I hate him. I really do.”

“He’s your brother,” Trudi pointed out.

“Yes, and he drives me mad. He drives everyone mad. His restaurant – kitchen staff or waiting-on – most people manage two, three months before walking away. They just can’t take him any longer than that. I’ve had him my whole life. Poor Estelle – five years of marriage to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if she THREW herself into the sea.”

“Oh, I hope not,” Trudi said. “That would be so horrible.”

Mark came back downstairs. He sat on the sofa next to Angela and comforted her. Dennis sat for a while, then paced the floor anxiously.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he repeated.

Tristie agreed with his assessment of the situation. Estelle’s tragic death was the latest of a string of things that didn’t make sense, including the confusion about dates and the damaged wireless set.

“Where did you start out from in your yacht?” he asked Mark, just to break the silence.

“Key Largo,” he answered. “It was just a pleasure trip – south-west along the bottom of the Keys, down around Key West and on past Dry Tortugas before heading north-east along the top side of the Keys and back home.”

“Just a day trip, then. But didn’t you think of putting it off, knowing there was a hurricane brewing offshore?”

Mark looked at him as if it was a silly question, but Tristie had added that to his list of things that didn’t make sense.

The one thing that did make sense was the weather. A hurricane was forecast and in the next hour, it arrived with a vengeance. The wind howled and shook the lighthouse and nearly horizontal rain battered the shutters outside the windows. The most disturbing sound was the waves crashing over the platform beneath the house. Everyone was reminded of how slender the iron legs supporting the structure was.

“The fact that they’re thin is good,” Tristie remarked. “They don’t offer much resistance to the waves. The water just cuts straight through under us. Anything bigger would be battered and bent out of shape. I could get really boring about wave mechanics and all that, but I don’t think it would be appreciated.”

Trudi was reassured by his comment. She wasn’t sure about the others. Tristie junior had fallen asleep before it got really noisy. She was hoping the noise wouldn’t wake him. He could be quite fractious if his sleep was disturbed. But so far he was quiet, as if the howling wind and the driving rain were his lullaby.

Once, just out of curiosity, Tristie lifted the trapdoor. He looked down to see black water just a few feet below. He closed the trapdoor again and pulled one of the rag rugs over it to deaden the sound a little.

“Estelle might have been out in that,” Angela commented. “Her body, I mean – smashed around until she was unrecognisable.”

“We ALL might have been out in that if we hadn’t made it to this place,” Dennis commented. “As it is, most of us are all right.”

“That’s a really selfish attitude,” Angela told him. “Estelle is DEAD.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Dennis apologised. “But the fact is, the rest of us ARE alive, and we have more chance of staying alive here than in that bloody yacht.”

Mark was not happy about that comment and said so. Dennis countered with a remark about the state of the life jackets and the fact that the onboard radio had broken down two hours out from Key Largo.

“That wasn’t my fault,” Mark replied. “Some idiot dropped a tray of Martinis over it and shorted out the power.”

Dennis shut up straight away. He was obviously the idiot in question.

Angela made a remark that implied TOO many Martinis had been consumed quite apart from the ones spilt over the radio.

“I didn’t drink ANY of them,” Mark pointed out. “I wasn’t drunk in charge of the yacht. We had mechanical problems. It MIGHT have helped if everyone else was sober enough to help me out, but I’m not pointing any fingers.”

“Actually, I think you ARE,” Dennis retorted.

“Is there ANYTHING else you lot want to argue about?” Trudi asked, tucking the blanket around Tristie junior meaningfully. “If there is, then I think you ought to take it into another room. I’m not even going to tell you what I think about you all drinking on a yacht, with a storm brewing. You can work it out for yourself.”

Dennis looked at Trudi in surprise and seemed about to say something to her. Tristie shifted slightly in his seat and he changed his mind. Instead he stood up and walked upstairs. The crash of an especially loud gust of wind against the side of the building covered the sound of his footsteps on the wooden treads.

It was about an hour later that Angela made more coffee.

“Dennis can stop sulking and come down for his,” she said. “But I’ll bring a cup to Graham.”

Her anguished scream a few moments later did what the sounds of a hurricane outside hadn’t done. It woke Tristie junior. Trudi gathered him in her arms and comforted him while Mark and Tristie both ran upstairs.

Angela was in the bedroom where they had left Estelle. She was standing over the body of her brother who lay in a puddle of dark water that was spreading across the floorboards and merging with the brown stain of coffee from a dropped cup. Tristie bent over him and confirmed that he had drowned.

“How could he have drowned?” Angela demanded, her voice right on the edge of hysteria. “He’s indoors. He hasn’t been anywhere near the water.”

“He drowned,” Tristie repeated. He opened the dead man’s mouth and water rushed out of it. He caught a drop on his finger and tasted it before spitting the bad taste away. “He drowned in sea water.”

“It’s impossible,” Mark commented as he comforted his wife.

“I know it’s impossible, but it also happens to be true,” Tristie insisted. “I could go on about Occam’s Razor and what Sherlock Holmes said about eliminating the improbable, but actually I’m not sure. Whatever is happening here isn’t natural and isn’t the least bit probable.”

“What are you saying?” Mark asked. “That Estelle and Graham were murdered by ghosts or something?”

“I’m not….” Tristie began. Then Trudi’s scream echoed up the stairs and he sprang from the bedroom and ran down to her straight away….

….Almost falling over Dennis’s body at the bottom of the stairs.

“What the hell….”

“I don’t know,” Trudi answered, clinging to their little boy tightly. “He just came stumbling down the stairs, dripping wet, and then keeled over. He’s… dead, I think.”

“Yes, he is,” Tristie confirmed. “The same as the other two.”

“How the hell could this happen?” Mark asked. Angela was a rag doll in his arms, crying uncontrollably. He made her lie down on one of the sofas, but she sobbed continuously. Three of her immediate family were dead and she was grief stricken.

“I don’t know,” Tristie said in answer to the question. He covered the body and brought it into the bedroom next to the main living room, then went to comfort his own son. The boy quietened in his arms so that Angela’s crying was the only counterpoint to the storm outside.

“Tristie, are we all going to die?” Trudi asked in a quiet voice.

“No, we’re not,” he answered. “We’re NOT going to die. Nobody else is going to die, because we’re going to watch out for each other. From here on, nobody leaves this room on their own. Even toilet trips… We look out for each other.”

Mark agreed. He sat opposite his wife and watched her carefully. Tristie held his son on his knee and his arm around Trudi. He felt as if holding them would keep them safe. He hoped it would. Three people had died without anyone else being near them. For all he knew, his family were next.

But nothing, not even something supernatural or extra-terrestrial, was going to take them without a fight.

It was gone midnight now. Tristie junior was asleep out of sheer exhaustion. Trudi was doing her best to stay awake because she was too frightened of what might happen.

“I’m here,” Tristie whispered. “I’m not going anywhere and I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise. So just lie down there with Tris junior and go to sleep.”

Trudi mumbled a little incoherently and allowed him to lie her down under a blanket with their son in her arms. He sat beside her, stroking her hair gently until she was fully asleep.

Angela was asleep, too. A quiet calm had come over the inside of the room. They had almost become accustomed to the noise of the hurricane passing over, under and around the lighthouse. It was certainly irrelevant to the drama that had taken place inside.

“How long have you two been married?” Mark asked as the two men kept guard over their wives.

“Three years, nearly,” Tristie answered. “She’s still the same terrific girl I fell for the first time we met. I love her like mad.”

“I’m glad for you. It… seems to have been harder these past few years for us. We all seem to be arguing all the time. Me and Angela, me and Dennis, Angela and her brother. I don’t know why we thought this trip would be different. You’ve seen what a mess we all are. At least, we were. Now… there’s just the two of us… nobody else to argue with. It all seems so very pointless… all the things that used to get on my nerves about Dennis… about Graham… about….”

Mark stopped talking. He coughed and gagged, then dropped to his knees as he choked on the water that poured from his mouth and nose. Tristie tried to help him, but there was nothing he could do. In minutes Mark was lying dead in a pool of water that was slowly seeping through the floorboards to join with the great mass of wind driven water beneath them.

Tristie turned and looked at Angela on the sofa next to him. He wasn’t sure whether to be surprised or not that she was also dead. She was soaking wet and water poured from her mouth over the sodden blankets.

He went back to Trudi and baby Tristie and sat next to them, holding them close. He knew he wouldn’t be sleeping tonight.

It was a long night. The hurricane shook the lighthouse as it passed across the Rebecca Shoal on the way to batter the uninhabited Dry Torgugas and then the thoroughly inhabited Florida Keys before making landfall south of a well-prepared Miami. The noise didn’t bother him. It was just nature at its loudest and most destructive. If he let it, the utterly inexplicable deaths of five people, two of them right in front of his eyes, would have bothered him.

If he had been an ordinary Human, perhaps he would have let himself be spooked. But he wasn’t even an extraordinary Human. He was a Time Lord. He was not afraid of anything, even the strange and inexplicable.

Just before dawn it seemed as if the hurricane was moving on, ceasing its assault upon the surprisingly resilient house on stilts and moving on towards those more interesting targets to the north-east of Rebecca Shoal.

Then as a grey daylight filtered through the cracks in the window shutters, Tristie heard another noise, one almost as wild as the storm, but familiar and reassuring. He opened the trapdoor and looked to make sure before he shook Trudi awake.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“We’re leaving here,” he answered. “Come on, sweetheart. Don’t look around. Just give me the baby and you head down the ladder first.”

She didn’t look. She didn’t see that Mark and Angela, both wrapped in blankets, weren’t just asleep. When she looked down through the trapdoor she did see that the platform was being gently lapped by a few inches of sea water – enough to just reach the doorstep of the old Type 40 TARDIS that long ago got stuck in the shape of an English police public call box.

Waiting for them on the threshold was the man in black jacket and jumper who several generations of Tristie’s family knew and revered as The Doctor. He smiled warmly at Trudi and gave Tristie junior a carton of orange juice with a straw.

“My TARDIS is missing,” Tristie said as The Doctor’s TARDIS took off in hover mode, rising above the Rebecca Shoal Lighthouse.

“Your TARDIS is at my house,” The Doctor replied. “It sustained some major faults and went into phase one repair mode. Phase one, in the old days, meant instant recall to Gallifrey’s TARDIS depot. Now it comes to me. Davie is fixing it. He’s the one who built it, after all. Meanwhile I followed the emergency transponder signal to find the three of you.”

“Thanks,” Tristie told him. “You have no idea how glad I am. We had a seriously weird night.”

He explained about the five people who had drowned in the most peculiar circumstances. The Doctor nodded.

“What you met, was five ghosts. Mark, Angela and Dennis Blackwood and Graham and Esthelle Whitman, of Key Largo, Florida, all died in August 1965 when Mark’s boat capsized only a few miles short of Dry Tortugas. They never made it to anywhere as safe as a lighthouse.”

“That… explains why Trudi’s phone said it was 2004 and they were from the 60s. But it doesn’t explain why the lighthouse itself was stuck in the 50s.”

“Because the Blackwoods and the Whitmans were not the only ghosts you came in contact with. Go to the door and look outside.”

Tristie stepped to the open door of the hovering TARDIS. He looked down at a much simpler arrangement of iron legs rising up out of the water to support a solar panelled light that warned shipping of the danger of sailing too close to the Rebecca Shoal.

“The lighthouse you spent the night in was demolished in 1953,” The Doctor told him. “But it kept you safe through Hurricane Charley in August 2004 – the ghost of a lighthouse.”

“Why?” Tristie asked as The Doctor closed the door and strode back to the console to set a course for his home in twenty-third century London. “How?”

“I’m not altogether sure,” The Doctor answered. “Except… according to the temporal clock in your TARDIS you went off for a jaunt in time and space on October thirty-first.”


“Happy Halloween, Tristie, my lad.”