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

Jenny Flint sat up in the bed and turned to the bedside cabinet. She reached for an orange from the basket of them left by Madam as a small compensation for the huge risk she was taking and how alone and vulnerable she felt in the midst of it.

Jenny liked oranges. Once, when she was a little girl a stallholder on the market had given her an orange – a whole one – all to herself. Once she worked out how to peel it the exotic imported fruit had been a sensual delight – the tangy taste, the overabundant juice, the smell of it on her fingers long after the last segment had been swallowed made her smile all day long.

Now she had lots of oranges. She took her time peeling this one and ate it with the same joy as that first one, but with a little more refinement. There was less juice around her face and less of the smell on her fingers, though enough to evoke a memory of her first orange, still.

She still had half of the orange when she climbed out of the bed and went to the window of the clinically neat private room. There was a nice view. The hospital’s gardens ran right down to the Thames at a place called Teddington Lock. It was all the way outside of the city of London, in the county of Middlesex, though the river tied it to the capital in a reassuring way.

She felt perfectly well, now. For nearly a week she had been physically sick, tortured by fevers and bad dreams in her sleep and hardly feeling awake for more than an hour at the most. Her recovery had been slow and painful.

“Jenny, I am sorry, but I need to make you ill,” Madam had said.

“You want me to watch you eat?” Jenny replied archly.

“It is no matter for levity. There is a great risk involved. But I must have somebody on the inside at the Kyle Hospital. I do not believe in ‘miracle cures’. Something must be going on there, and I mean to find out what it is.”

Madam’s suspicions were first raised more than a week before then. A carriage had arrived next door. Their neighbour, Miss Abigail Dutton, alighted and walked steadily up to her own front door.

Miss Dutton had been an invalid for years. She had a weak chest and coughed even on good days. The London smog sent her straight to bed. When she was seen outside at all it was in a bathchair pushed by a maid, her chest and throat wrapped in silk scarves.

But there she was, climbing down from the carriage easily and walking with a veritable spring in her step.

Madam had called around to pay her respects at once. She discovered that Miss Dutton had been treated at the Kyle Hospital where Doctor Anthony Kyle had developed a wonder drug from a plant he had discovered when travelling in the African interior.

This set madam off on an investigation that led to a dozen more ladies who had been treated at the hospital for any one of several often fatal and certainly debilitating illnesses in impossibly short periods of confinement.

“I don’t believe it,” Madam had insisted. “My own people had drugs that could work that fast, but they never shared them with Humans. I don’t believe any of these foolish apes has developed similar medicines. They haven’t even worked out their own blood groups, yet.”

Jenny hated it when Madam called Humans ‘stupid apes’ and pointed out that, if anything, Mr Darwin had proved that they were intelligent apes.

“Apes, one way or another,” Madam bristled. “Is it possible one of them has infiltrated a Silurian hibernation nest and stolen our technology? It would take a great deal of intelligence to discover how our medicines work, but if one of your kind persevered he might be able to claim to have found a wonder cure.”

“Or he really is clever and found it for himself – like Doctor Edward Jenner who discovered how to cure smallpox. I read about him in a book.”

“That was a very rare exception,” Madam replied. “No, I must investigate this hospital. I need somebody on the inside. You are the only one who can do it. Strax and myself are too ‘different’. I will have to inject you with a serum that will give you all of the symptoms of typhoid fever. You WILL be very ill for a while, but not so long as you would

be if you really did have typhoid. Once you’re getting better you will have to fake a relapse to keep you there long enough to investigate thoroughly.”

“Oh, lovely,” Jenny sighed. “The things I do for you.”

“All thoroughly appreciated, my dear,” Vastra assured her and kissed her gently on the cheek to prove her word.

The kiss and the oranges were both appreciated, as well as the cards and notes and the flowers that came every day, but it couldn’t be denied that she had been through hell. She had not really had typhoid fever, but it had felt like it. And now that she was over it she still felt wretched. She was lonely here. Because typhoid was an infectious disease she was isolated from any other patient and even the nurses who brought food and took her temperature and pulse at intervals wore face masks so that it felt as if they were physically separated from her.

As for Doctor Kyle, himself, he seemed nice, but she was supposed to be investigating him. She couldn’t really talk to him.

She missed home, the house on Paternoster Row with the people she knew and loved. She missed Vastra with a deep ache in her very core. She missed Strax, though it seemed incredible that anyone could feel any emotion at all about such a strange being as he was. She missed young Joe and Millie the scullery maid who curtseyed and called her ‘ma’am’ when she came into the kitchen.

She wanted to go home, but she had a duty to perform here, and just like Milly, who ran to do everything at her command, or Strax who was born to be a soldier, she fully understood duty.

She couldn’t go home until she had found out the secret of Doctor Kyle’s Wonder Drug.

She heard footsteps in the corridor outside and hurried back to bed. She made a pretence of just waking up as the nurse came in with a cup of tea and a tray of instruments. She was nice, a dedicated nurse who really seemed to care about her charges. Her name was Vera Atkinson, Nurse Vera to the patients, though Jenny had been too ill to call her anything up until the last few days.

“Good afternoon, Miss Flint. How are you feeling?”

“A little better than yesterday,” she answered in a feeble voice that she had mastered when she really had been sick a week ago.

“Never mind, you’ll be on your feet in a day or so,” Nurse Vera said brightly. “Then you’ll be able to sit in the garden for a little while each day.”

“That would be nice,” Jenny responded. The nurse turned to adjust the curtains and that was her opportunity to swallow a mouthful of the hot tea before it was time to have her temperature taken. Jenny wondered why the nurses had never worked out the connection between the tea and the thermometer in her mouth that zoomed up to fever level. Madam had supplied her with some pastilles that warmed the mouth, but they tasted awful and the tea was much preferable when it was available.

“Still high. Doctor Kyle will be disappointed. He’ll probably want to give you some more medicine.”

Jenny pulled a face. She wasn’t acting. The medicine was worse than Madam’s heat pastilles.

“Now then, Miss Flint, in other hospitals the cure for a fever would be an ice bath. Doctor Kyle is very advanced in his thinking.”

“I’m sure he is, but his medicine smells like a sweaty cat,” Jenny retorted. She took the glass half full of the green-grey suspension and tried not to smell it as she gulped it down in one.

“There you go,” Nurse Vera said brightly, taking an inordinate time to straighten the bed. Jenny just buried her head in the pillow and looked like she was going to sleep until the woman finally left the room.

At last she was alone. She quickly leaned forward and spat the mouthful of medicine into a glass vial hidden in the vase of flowers on her bedside table. Madam had wanted a sample to test. This had been the first time she had been able to hold enough in her mouth until the nurse left her alone. As it was she had accidentally swallowed some of it. Whatever else the stuff did, she was sure it made her drowsy. If she had less of it she might be able to stay awake and find out things.
But she did drift off to sleep. The next thing she knew it was supper time. The bowl of soup was placed on the table beside the bed before her temperature was taken. Soup was as good as tea for that. Again she was extraordinarily feverish.

“We’ll have Doctor Kyle take a special look at you tomorrow,” she was told. “I’m leaving a sleeping draught in case you have trouble getting off. A good night’s rest will do you a power of good.”

That was just what she was hoping. They always supervised her taking Doctor Kyle’s remedy, but they trusted her to take the sleeping draught by herself.

She gave it a few minutes, then took the draught to the window. She lifted the casement a few inches and poured the vile stuff away. She left the glass on the bedside table and ate the soup and soft bread roll, then she laid down in the bed and pretended to be asleep until the last check about eleven o’clock when the nurse closed the window and took away the empty glass from the sleeping draught and the bowl and spoon from supper.

She gave it another hour, sitting by the re-opened window so that the cool air drove off any sleepiness. She had put a knitted cardigan over her nightdress and slipped two oranges in the pockets while peeling and eating a third. It passed the time until all the lights were out except in the night nurse’s room.

She made some preparations. First a bolster under the covers that would pass for a body at a glance, then some handy tools went with the oranges in her pocket. Then she went back to the window.

She had no shoes except some felt slippers under the bed for visits to the bathroom. They were quite useless for anything else. She slipped out in her bare feet and climbed down a drainpipe she had seen in daylight and knew would do as good as a fire escape.

There was grass below, cool and damp beneath her feet. She walked in the dark along that east wing of the sprawling Georgian mansion that had been converted into the hospital. Somewhere, she knew, there would be a way back into the building that would give her access to its secrets.

What she found was a kitchen garden and a locked back door. Of course, locks were no problem. She extracted a picklock from her cardigan pocket and set to work. Moments later she was inside. Her feet crossed cold stone flags to a corridor with no windows and the same stone flags.

“No problem.” She extracted what Madam called a ‘globeworm’. It was actually the long dead and petrified remains of a worm from the Eocene period. Madam’s people had kept the living ones in bowls of liquid. This one was sealed in a glass orb that was covered in two hinged silver hemispheres. Swivelling one half on its hinge revealed a pale pink light that allowed her eyes to see what was around her. The light was diffused, casting no shadows and no reflections that might be spotted from outside rousing suspicions from passing policemen.

She walked carefully, feeling the walls and the recesses where the doors were, expecting steps at some point leading up into carpeted areas where the going would be easier.

In a properly maintained household there would be a butler’s room here and she would have to go very carefully not to be caught, but Doctor Kyle had few full time servants.

Which was why she was surprised when she thought she heard a voice calling to her from inside one of the doors.

She stopped and reached out. The door was locked. That wasn’t unusual in itself. The corridor from her own kitchen had locked doors to the pantry and the rooms where the silverware and best china were kept.

But nobody had ever called out to her from those rooms.

“Are you all right?” she replied as loudly as she dared. “Why are you locked up? Wait a minute, let me help.”

It occurred to her that there might be good reasons why somebody should be locked up. They might be a danger to themselves or to others. Perhaps this was the padded room for lunatics.

But she opened the door, anyway.

It was dark and windowless inside the small room. Properly speaking it was less a room and more a large cupboard, the sort where she kept the linen in the house at Paternoster Row.

In the pale light of the globeworm Jenny saw a large pair of eyes looking back at her. The owner of the eyes was much smaller than she was. The voice was strangely accented.

No, the voice was absolutely not Human, and not speaking any Human language. If she concentrated, she could sense what it sounded like to anyone else passing along outside – nothing but low grunts like an animal. They probably told everyone who asked it was some

kind of fierce dog. To her, with the residual artron energy from her TARDIS trip to Demons Run all those years ago still having an effect on her mind, it was a voice, pleading to be let out of the darkness.

Jenny thought it looked something like a long armed, round bodied, round faced monkey.

“I’m Jenny,” she said. “I’m a friend.”

“Scraat,” the creature replied. That was its name. It reached out one of the long arms while sniffing the air. Jenny was a little worried when it went into her cardigan pocket, but what it sought there was just one of those oranges she had brought with her.

Scraat was a messy eater. He bit a huge chunk, peel and all and chewed noisily, juice spurting out over the long, grey-green fur of its belly. He took another bite, then another until the whole orange was consumed in half a minute.

“Niicee citruussy,” he said in his sibilant way. “Scraat likes.”

Jenny immediately passed him the other orange which was dispatched in the same fashion.

“I’ve got more in my room,” she said as the inquiring nose discovered no more ‘citrussy’. “Come with me and we can talk.”

The way back up to the private rooms was easy enough. The halls and stairways above the kitchen area were carpeted. Their footsteps weren’t heard. The most dangerous part was just down the landing from her room. A new patient brought in an emergency ambulance was being settled into bed. Doctor Kyle was prescribing the cure. Nurses tucked the woman into bed with kind words.

Jenny and Scraat watched all this from a linen cupboard. Scraat shivered and whispered his fear of Doctor Kyle.

“Don’t worry,” Jenny told him. “Doctor Kyle won’t hurt you any more.”

She had planned to make a getaway once she had the evidence she needed, shoes or no shoes. She planned to find a way to send a message to Madam and Strax from the first safe place she reached. But that was when she thought the evidence would be chemical formulas and patient notes from the miracle Doctor’s office. Now a different plan formed in her mind. As soon as Kyle and the nurses were gone she slipped along to her own room with Scraat.

She picked the lock and went inside, locking the door from within and putting a chair against it for extra certainty of privacy.

She gave Scraat another two oranges and a handkerchief for wiping his mouth and fur. She noticed it was only grey-green on the front. His back from head to long toes was honey coloured. With the big, appealing eyes he was rather an adorable thing.

Between sloppy eating of oranges and prompted by the right questions at the right time he told his story to her.

“That’s very interesting,” Jenny said, handing him another orange. “I think my friends should know about this. I’ll arrange for them to meet you in the morning.”

Scraat made an assenting noise and ate another orange. Jenny got into bed to warm her feet up and laid her new plan.

When Nurse Vera arrived in the morning with the breakfast tray and a thermometer, Jenny was sitting up on top of the bedcovers in her nightdress, cardigan and felt slippers. On the bedside table the basket that had been full of oranges now contained only a half a dozen pips and the closed globeworm sphere. She took the thermometer without resort to hot tea and showed a perfectly normal temperature.

“I am feeling much recovered and I will be leaving later this morning,” she announced as she picked up the bowl of sweetened porridge and ate heartily. “I would like a telegram sending to my wife to expect me home, my outdoor clothes and shoes, and a cab, in that order.”

“Doctor Kyle will have to see you before you are discharged,” Nurse Vera replied in a matter of fact way. “And, I’m afraid that could take a while this morning. He’s got a bit of an emergency.”

“I bet he has,” Jenny responded archly. “Go and tell Doctor Kyle that Uojisia is nowhere on the African continent.”

“Yoo… what?”

“Uojisia,” Jenny repeated. “Go on, tell him. I think he’ll want to see me straight away.”

Nurse Vera was puzzled, but she repeated the word twice to be sure then left the room. Jenny finished her porridge and the cup of tea and waited for a few minutes before Doctor Kyle, accompanied by the same nurse, came into the room.

“Good morning, Doctor Kyle,” Jenny said in a pleasant tone. “I understand from Nurse Vera that you’ve got a problem. Something missing, is it?”

“No, not at all,” Doctor Kyle answered nervously. “Nothing of the sort. We’re just very busy, this morning. New patients expected. My cure is becoming well known.”

“The cure you get from a plant you found in the African interior?” Jenny suggested. “Or the one you get by ‘milking’ a creature from an alien world that you found in a surprisingly empty orange crate at Wapping Dock where you used to work before you took on the title of ‘Doctor Kyle’. You know the authorities really ought to check up on people who get fancy degrees printed and hung up in their offices.”

“I….” Doctor Kyle looked guilty for a moment, then rallied. “Miss Flint, I think you’re still very ill. You’re imagining things.”

“Oh, that must be right. I imagined a sweet faced creature with a passion for oranges, a Scraatho from the planet Uojisia. Nurse Vera, meet Scraat. He’s the reason you have a job here.”

Scraat slid out from under the bed and stretched out a long furry arm. The nurse gave a soft gasp but didn’t scream.

“Scraathoans found out centuries ago that their milk cures diseases in other races, especially Humans. Being kind, generous creatures they willingly offered the milk to those in need of it. But Scraat met Kyle, who thought he had to keep him locked up and take the milk by force.”

“Milk… but you said ‘he’.” Nurse Vera was looking at Scraat with puzzled but not frightened eyes. When she looked at Kyle her expression hardened. She was losing faith in the ‘good’ doctor.

“Oh, things like that don’t matter on other planets. It is only Humans who worry about that. When we say ‘milk’, of course, it is that nasty tasting stuff you’ve been giving the patients. Scraat thinks the taste could be adapted to make it nicer, but Doctor Kyle doesn’t listen to him.”

“This is nonsense,” Kyle protested. “That… monkey… must have escaped from the zoo.”

“I don’t think it is a monkey,” Nurse Vera said. She let the creature take her hand in his. It was soft and gentle. She looked into the endearingly large eyes.

“Whatever it is, it doesn’t belong here,” Kyle responded.

“But I think it does,” Nurse Vera replied. “I don’t quite understand its words, but I can feel what it wants to say. It belongs here, but not locked up.”

“You understand, don’t you Doctor Kyle,” Jenny said accusingly. “Scraat gave you a translation globe so that you could follow his instructions and get the medicine from him. You were greedy and cruel. But Scraat’s people are the opposite. They are kind and forgiving. He forgives the Human race for the bad example he met in you, and he will give them a second chance. Not you, Doctor Kyle, but the nurses who help people get better. He will work with them to make this an even better hospital and help many more people.”

“He will do as I tell him,” Kyle responded. “I won’t negotiate terms with an animal.”

“He doesn’t wish to negotiate with you, Doctor Kyle. You’re dismissed. He’ll talk to Nurse Vera. His requests are simple. He wants a room like this one, with a window, and as many oranges as he can eat. That’s all. For that you can treat as many people as you like.”

“Me?” Nurse Vera queried.


“Never,” Kyle objected. “This is my hospital. You can get out, Miss Flint, since you’re clearly a fraud who came here to spy. And you are dismissed, Nurse Vera. As for that thing, it goes back in the cupboard.”

“You can’t do that,” Jenny told him. “I know the truth. So does Nurse Vera. We can tell other people.”

“What other people?” Kyle sneered. “Who would believe you?”

“I would,” replied Madam Vastra as she came into the room.

“And I,” Strax added, following her. He positioned himself just behind Kyle in case his particular talents for dealing with uncouth humans was required.
“Just in case, I went back downstairs before anyone was up and phoned my family from your office,” Jenny explained. “Now you have too many witnesses to silence. You had better just resign now and be done with it.”

“I think that would be an excellent idea,” Madam Vastra said. “There are far too many men in the human medical profession. This will be a much better facility with the women in charge.”

Kyle again tried to maintain his position but he was slipping fast. Soon he tendered his resignation in writing to the shareholders. Meanwhile, Nurse Vera discussed terms with Scraat. An arrangement was agreed. It involved a lot of citrus fruit.

Jenny dressed and packed her suitcase. She was ready to leave the hospital. She said goodbye to Scraat, offering him a bag of Satsumas as a parting gift.

Then she went home, looking forward to sleeping in her own bed and a chance to recover from being in hospital.