“It’s two days to Christmas,” Gwen said as the team shared a Chinese meal around the table while doing various strange things on PDA’s and hand held computers and generally NOT relaxing and switching off from work for their lunch hour. She wondered sometimes whether the whole lot of them were doomed to ulcers and stress-related illness by the time they retired from this job.
Then again, mornings like they’d had today, she wondered sometimes if any of them would LIVE to retire. She thought of the ‘thing’ they had contained in the cells now. Contained in a sealed container inside a tank of water, inside the cell, that is. The only way to hold a Prssyr Plasma Being, Jack said. Owen only complained that it wasn’t possible to give it the kicking it deserved now it had reverted to its true form and stopped impersonating lollipop ladies in order to kidnap children. When Gwen pointed out there were rules about kicking prisoners in custody anyway, he reminded her that they operated above the police, including the PACE rules and vowed to find a way to make it feel like it had got a good kicking after lunch.
Tosh sided with him. She had been the one who found the children locked in the hold of the spaceship. They had been intended as a stock of live inflight food as it travelled back to where it came from.
Both had teased Gwen for still thinking like a policewoman.
But they dealt with kidnapped kiddies and all sorts of Human nastiness in the police force, Gwen thought. And they still put up a tree and a bit of tinsel in the police station. She repeated her comment about it being two days to Christmas.
“I just wondered if we could make the hub look a bit more festive,” she said. “I’ve got a spare tree at home. We both bought one last year by mistake. Rhys thought he had to pick it up on the way home from work and so did I…”
“Christmas trees confuse Myfanwy,” Jack told her. “And so do streamers and balloons. There’s a nice Advent screensaver programme we can run on all the computer screens if you like.”
“That’s a START,” Gwen replied. “Come on, I know we’re Torchwood and we know things ordinary mortals don’t want to know or need to know. But we can enjoy ordinary things like Christmas, can’t we?”
“Christmas tends to be our busiest time of year,” Toshiko said. “I don’t know why it is, but all kinds of weirdness pops up. I haven’t had a NORMAL Christmas day for at least three years running. Last year was the least weird. Most of the action was down London at least. Then there was the year before, with the alien space ship doing an impression of Independence Day overhead. But we still had a third of the population of Cardiff standing on top of every roof with easy stair access to deal with.
Jack, Ianto and Tosh both looked at Owen.
“Yeah, ok,” he said. “You’ll never let me live it down, will you. I don’t know what came over me. My mind was a complete blank for about four hours until I woke up and found myself on top of the Assembly building with a lot of other people.” He looked at Jack. “I never thanked you for pulling me back from the edge.”
“Least I could do,” Jack answered.
“At least THAT one was over in time to eat Christmas dinner,” Owen added. “If we’re lucky, we still have two days to go. We might get this year’s December madness out of the way by Christmas Eve and have a little peace and goodwill on the DAY.”
“EVERY Christmas something weird happens?” Gwen looked at her colleagues. Were they just trying to scare her? Was it their way of reminding her that she was no longer in a job where you could expect anything to go to plan.
“Every Christmas,” Owen confirmed. “All the way back to 1869.”
“What happened in 1869?” Gwen asked.
“That was the year the Cardiff rift opened for the first time,” Toshiko said. “Up until then you get ghost stories and odd little things that could be laughed off by the sceptical. But Christmas Eve, 1869, Hell tried to break into our world through the basement of an old house that used to stand at the corner of West Bute Street and Ship Lane.”
“What happened?” Gwen asked, despite herself.
“Nobody is entirely sure,” Jack said, taking up the story. “That was ten years before the Torchwood Charter of 1879. When they opened up the first Cardiff office in 1896 there was some research into it. They didn’t do a bad job considering the resources they had. But all they could really conclude was that the rift was closed again in the explosion.
“Two people died in the house,” Toshiko said as she brought up computer facsimiles of the original documents on her laptop. “The old man who owned the building and his housemaid. They…” She stopped and looked up in surprise. “Oh my…”
“Good grief!” Ianto said in a tone only slightly more surprised than his usual tone of voice.
“Fuck me!” Owen swore as he looked over her shoulder.
“Not while I’m eating,” Jack answered. “There’s a time and a place.”
“Yeah, but…” He reached over Tosh’s shoulder and turned the laptop so that Jack and Gwen could both see what the other three were looking at. Jack’s reaction was to swear quietly under his breath.
Gwen gave a startled cry of distress and stood up from the table, her chair falling back noisily. She turned and ran. Her startled colleagues looked at each other as they heard the pavement lift rise up.
Jack glanced once again at the picture on the laptop. It was an old photograph of a Sunday School outing from 1867. One of the bright, well scrubbed faces was a girl of about seventeen years of age. An enhanced inset picture showed her features clearly.
Gwynneth Connors. The housemaid who died in the fire in 1869.
Jack nodded and sighed. He stood up slowly and went to follow her.
She wasn’t far away. She was sitting on a seat down by the bay end of the Plas. Even Jack felt cold but she seemed oblivious to the discomfort.
“Ok,” he said in a quiet but firm voice. “Twenty minutes maximum for throwing a wobbly about what you saw and then we’ve got work to do.”
Gwen looked up at him. It seemed such an insensitive thing for him to say. Yet what else could she expect? Tea and sympathy wasn’t his style.
More like a beer and an amnesia pill.
“You think I’m being a silly girl?”
“No, I can understand why that would be startling. But I’m not sure how it helps sitting out here freezing your extremities off.”
“Nearly the same name as me. Gwen Cooper, Gwynneth Connors…”
“Well, she died aged 19 and single. And she was a Sunday School girl. I don’t think you’re her illegitimate descendent.”
“No such thing.”
“That’s something different. Honestly, Gwen, I’ve seen that file a couple of times since I started working at Torchwood. I’ve glanced at her face and then forgotten it. It didn’t even click with me when you joined us. Not until just there when Tosh brought it up. It has nothing to do with you coming to work for us. There’s no mystery. No weird stuff. No psychic magnet that drew you to the Hub. No connection between you and her except you’re both lovely young Welsh girls. And that’s probably all there is to it. Wales is a small place. The gene pool is limited. The same faces are bound to pop up now and again.”
“Can we take a walk… it might take a bit more than twenty minutes, but when we’re done I promise I’ll be ready to get on with our work.”
He had an idea where she wanted to go. He didn’t say anything as they walked up past the fountain and left across the insanely busy A4232 onto James Street before reaching the junction of West Bute Street and Ship Lane.
On the corner where the two roads met in a sort of point there was a building called ‘Byles Chambers’, the ground floor of which was being used as a second hand furniture shop. Next to it was a Caribbean restaurant.
“This building is later than the others,” Gwen said, looking at the furniture shop. “Look at the brickwork. At least fifty years newer than the rest.”
Jack looked above the modern fascias and plate glass windows of the shops and saw that she was perfectly right.
“It happened here then?”
“The rift was opened for about ten full minutes, and then closed again,” Jack said. “We’re not sure how or why, or who had the understanding of that sort of advanced physics to either open or close it…”
“It WAS deliberately done? It wasn’t a natural phenomena?”
“Opening a rift takes phenomenal energy channelled in a special way,” Jack explained. “I don’t completely know how it’s done. I used to know somebody who did…”
Jack’s voice trailed off. Gwen looked at him. He was smiling in a strange way. He walked up to the building called Byles Chambers and touched the stone wall.
“You WERE there, of course,” he said. “I’d forgotten. That’s how you knew where to find the rift. YOU did it. But the girl died. You didn’t mean that to happen, did you?”
He wasn’t talking to her. Gwen knew that. Jack had moments like this, sometimes. He seemed to be in a different place entirely. And yet she never doubted his sanity or his fitness to lead them in so many dangerous situations.
“I thought I might feel something,” Gwen said. “Some kind of aura. Some connection. But I don’t. I just feel…. REALLY silly standing here looking at a building. There’s people in there looking at us, wondering if we’re going to buy some furniture or throw stones at the window.”
“I’d vote for throwing stones,” Jack said. “As for feeling anything… It’s not the original building. Nothing is likely to be left, except possibly some cellars. Not even sure about that. The 1869 fire report concluded that the gas leak started in the cellar.”
“Do you think….” Gwen asked. “Could we…”
“You want to see in the cellar.”
“I just feel I want… If I go back to the Hub now…”
“You promised to get on with your work.”
“I know. And I don’t break promises. But….”
“But if we don’t go back to the Hub…”
“Then I don’t have to hold you to your promise.”
“I don’t understand,” said the owner of the furniture shop as he showed them both down to the cellar. “I’ve had this shop for two years. I never heard of any murder happening in the cellar.”
“Nobody did,” Jack answered. “Until this guy walked into the police station and said he walled up his wife down here ten years ago.”
“Errk,” the shop owner said. “So… she might be down here still?”
“He could be a nutcase,” Gwen said. “But we have to investigate. We’ll be as quick as we can. And we won’t make any mess. Don’t you worry, Mr Pryce.”
“Unless of course we think there IS a body,” Jack added, “In which case the whole wall will have to come down and we’ll have to bring in the whole of Cardiff CSI, full investigation…”
Mr Pryce looked about to protest but something about Jack’s stare made him change his mind.
“Well… er… if you need me… I’ll be in the shop.” He retreated up the stairs leaving them in the cluttered cellar.
“I feel a bit mean for doing that to him,” Gwen said. “There isn’t REALLY a body down here.”
“I hope not,” Jack answered her. “Imagine what DCI Swanson would say when we call it in!”
He looked around the cellar. It was used to store various rubbish that couldn’t be sold upstairs in the shop. But Jack wasn’t interested in that. He got his bearings and moved towards the back wall. He put his hand on it, feeling the smooth plaster. He knocked on it and noted that it was hollow.
“This is just plasterboard. The real original wall is behind it. Where the rift was, according to the reports.” He looked around and found a heavy old fashioned lampstand. He picked it up and used it to break a hole in the plaster.
“Jack,” Gwen protested. “I really don’t think…” But he carried on breaking the plasterboard until he had a sizeable hole. He pulled more of it apart with his bare hands.
“Wow!” he said. “That’s…”
“What?” Gwen asked. “Don’t tell me there IS a body?”
“No, nothing like that. Come here, give me a hand to clear some more of the plasterboard away.”
Gwen looked hesitantly at him.
“Come on, you’re not the type of woman who worries about splitting her nails.”
That was true enough, but she didn’t much enjoy pulling lumps of plasterboard apart. The loose plaster got in her hair and eyes and made her sneeze. Jack looked like a ghost with his black hair and his face whitened by it. He grinned at her and she couldn’t help grinning back.
“Ok, that should do it,” he said. “We can get through now.”
“Why would we want to?” Gwen asked. “It’s just a wall.” She looked at the wall. It was old brick. It was a sort of arched alcove of brick that must have been there since the house was built. Or the first house was built, she reminded herself. Because something sinister happened down here and everything but the foundations was rebuilt.
“It’s a wall with a strong temporal resonance,” Jack told her. He reached out and touched it and Gwen heard him swear under his breath. He withdrew his hand as if it had received an electric shock. But immediately afterwards he reached out again.
“This is where the rift opened in 1869. This wall… remembers it.”
“What do you mean, the WALL remembers…” Gwen demanded. “A wall can’t…”
She stopped. After all the time she had worked for Torchwood, she still kept doing that. She kept thinking the way an ordinary person thought. She kept thinking things were NORMAL, that there was no such thing as ghosts, no such thing as aliens, that people couldn’t travel through time and space or come back to life again.
After all she had seen, why not a wall that remembers?
“But it IS just a brick wall,” she insisted. “Jack… do you see something ELSE?”
“Yes,” he said.
“I’ve got some unique abilities,” he said. “You know that.”
“You can come back to life and stuff. And you’ve LIVED for at least a hundred years without getting older. That or you’ve travelled in time. You’re a mystery all of your own and you won’t tell any of us.”
“It’s a long story. And some of it I don’t want to have to remember,” he said. “But just take my word for it. I’m not looking at a brick wall right now.” He reached with his other hand and took hers. The tiny part of Gwen’s psyche that was forever a teenager with romantic ideas about men flipped as it always did when he touched her. But as he pressed her hand against the wall, she forgot all about that.
It wasn’t a wall. It was like a mirror looking back into the same room they were standing in. Except they didn’t see their own reflections. They saw the cellar as it was a long time ago.
“When the rift opened?” Gwen asked.
“Before then,” Jack said. “Before it opened, it existed as a hairline crack.”
The cellar was lit by oil lamps. A lot of oil lamps. The man they saw working there clearly wanted to have as much light as he could. Gwen heard Jack whisper that his clothes were about 1800s, give or take. And he was clearly some kind of chemist or scientist. The desk he worked at was covered in the sort of equipment that Mary Shelley gave Doctor Frankenstein’s laboratory. It was missing the self-made man waiting to be re-animated, but that was all.
“What’s he doing?” Gwen asked.
“I think he’s trying an early experiment in time travel,” Jack answered. “He’s trying to harness the temporal field. But he’s got it wrong. It can’t possibly work…”
Jack called out ‘stop’ instinctively, even though he knew the man could not possibly hear him. It WAS just a resonance of the past, like a playback of a CCTV camera that had been in place for about two hundred years.
The man started up the contraption he had invented. Electricity crackled and arced from it in true Hammer Horror Mad Scientist fashion. The man gave the sort of laugh that went with that genre and preceded sentences like “He’s alive!”
Except the experiment was clearly going wrong. The oil lamps were dimmed by the actinic white light that issued from the machine. For a brief moment they saw the man’s body as if in an x-ray, every bone visible. And then as the afterimage still left dizzy spots in front of their eyes, Jack and Gwen saw the man fall to the ground. In the lamplight they saw his body, aged beyond human endurance, crumble. Even the bones turned to dust.
“He got it wrong,” Jack said quietly. “He got caught in a temporal flux and was zapped by time. Aged at least two hundred years.”
“Horrible,” Gwen said with a shudder.
“But most importantly… look.” Jack pointed and Gwen looked. A ragged line of the bright light was snaking along the floor. As it got longer it got thinner until it was invisible but Gwen had the feeling that it had kept on going even when it reached the wall.
“The rift. Only a hairline crack at the moment. But stretching from here down as far as the bay. About where the old coal dock WILL be built in forty years or so. The one that was filled in later and where later still the Hub was built underground.”
“So that’s where it began, with a man doing a dangerous experiment?”
“Yes,” Jack said. “It seems so. I never knew that. Nobody did. We just knew that the rift dated back a couple of hundred years and that something must have been the catalyst for it.”
“So now we know.”
“Yes. But…” They both stared as the ‘mirror’ image shimmered. Both had the same thought. They were being fast forwarded through time from that first incident.
“That’s where it began for us all,” Jack added. “It was the presence of the Rift created right here in this room that led to Torchwood having a base in Cardiff.”
The view cleared again. The cellar was a sort of bedroom. A girl in a servant’s uniform of around the mid-nineteenth century was sitting on the narrow bed, combing her hair. Gwen looked closely. But it wasn’t the girl called Gwynneth Cooper. It was another servant girl.
“A bit earlier,” Jack said. “Maybe 1840. I wonder why she’s important though…”
“Does she have to be?” Gwen asked.
“It takes a highly emotionally charged moment to become imprinted on time like this,” he said. “Something significant must happen.”
Something did, but not anything of historical importance, and nothing of significance to the Torchwood archives. Just something very horrible. They watched as the door to the cellar room opened and a man in a butler’s uniform came down the steps. He looked as if he had been drinking, and he clearly didn’t have permission to be in the girl’s room. She shrieked with fright and backed away from him. But even if he was a little unsteady in his gait, he was still fast enough to catch her. Gwen cried out futilely as she heard the girl’s dress rip, saw him push her to the ground. She turned away and Jack put a comforting arm around her shoulders and let her bury her face in his chest. He kept watching, not out of voyeuristic desire, but because he felt unable to look away. He was disgusted. He had enjoyed sex of all kinds, in all permutations of partners, with more than one partner. He had enjoyed slow, soft sex, and fast, hard sex. He’d had rough sex that left him feeling bruised all over.
But never with anyone who didn’t wholeheartedly want it. The idea of forced sex had never interested him. The idea of using his strength to subdue somebody weaker than himself for the purposes of having sex froze his heart.
The brutal rapist was finally satisfied and stood up. He turned away and left the room, stumbling still because of the drink inside him. The girl sobbed on the floor where he left her. For a while she did nothing but cry piteously. Then she dragged herself up from the floor, stumbled to the bedside. Jack saw the flash of a pair of scissors. He saw her stab them into one wrist and cut deep enough to sever the radial artery. She switched hands and tried to do the other wrist, but she was already bleeding so badly that she could barely cut through the flesh. She lost consciousness soon after, and when the view shimmered again Jack knew that had to be the moment when she died.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered to Gwen. “I’m sorry, but you understand it happened over a century ago. There was nothing we could do.”
“I know,” she answered. “I know you wouldn’t have let him… if there was ANY way you could have… I know you would have stopped it.”
“Yes, yes I would,” he assured her. Then his attention was turned back to the view as it cleared again. This time there were gas lights illuminating the scene. As Gwen turned to look, she and Jack both gasped. She was startled by the sight of the girl in a maid’s uniform who had the same face as her - the girl called Gwyneth. Jack stared with a suddenly faster beating heart at the man with short cropped dark hair whose clothes did not fit those that everyone else was wearing. They watched as the girl stood in the very alcove where they stood. Her back was to them. As she stood there she was surrounded by a blue-white light that suddenly became an angry red one. They guessed from what was being said that the girl was in some way a focus for non-corporeal beings that wanted to open the rift so that they could pass through into this world. They saw the experiment go badly wrong. They saw the others running from the room, the dark haired man last of all, then the explosion that was too bright to see precisely what happened to Gwyneth’s body.
“He left her to die?” Gwen asked with anger in her voice. “He didn’t try to save her? That man. He could have…”
“Not the way I heard it,” Jack said. “She was already dead. The things that were trying to get through were just using her body. If he could have done anything to save her, he would have done. If only because he knew it was his fault...”
“You know him?” Gwen asked. But Jack didn’t answer. Gwen chalked it up to yet another of Jack’s personal mysteries as the window into the past shimmered again.
The cellar was illuminated this time by an electric light. Just a single bulb in the middle of the ceiling. This was the building that had been put there after the explosion of Christmas Eve, 1869, reusing the old foundations, the old cellar. Again, the door at the top of the stairs opened. A man and a woman came down into the cellar. The man was wearing the uniform of an officer in the British army of the Great War. The woman was in a dress that matched that period.
“Put these on,” she said, giving him a bunch of clothes, and he quickly stripped and changed from the uniform to a civilian suit. She picked up the uniform and stuffed it in a cupboard. He sat down on the bed.
“I am sorry, Dilys,” he said to her. “I am sorry to cause you any trouble. But I just can’t face the idea of going back. You don’t know what it was like. All those men cut down in front of me, bodies that looked like meat on a butcher’s slab, not Human beings. When I was hit, I was glad. I thought, if I die, I’d have peace. And if I don’t die, at least it would be over for me. I’d be invalided out. But my wounds weren’t bad enough. They say I have to go back… Do that all over again.”
“You’re never going back, Alyd,” she assured him. “Never. You’re staying here with me. Nobody knows you’re here. I’ll bring you food, and books. And… and…” She reached out and kissed him. “And we’ll be together. Nobody can part us, ever again.”
This was consenting sex, this time, but Gwen was glad they turned down the lights first. After the rape they had witnessed in that same place she wasn’t ready to watch Dilys and Alyd at it.
Neither was Jack.
“Coward,” he was saying. “Fucking coward. Yes, it was bad. I was there. I know. It was hell on Earth. But we did what we had to do. We lived or we died depending on sheer dumb luck most of the time. But we kept on.”
The view shimmered several times. They watched as Dilys hid Alyd in the cellar for days, weeks, months. They made love frequently. She brought him books and newspapers. Jack caught a glimpse of the headlines of some of them and could guess just how long he had been hidden down there.
Then the cellar door was flung open with a crash. Dilys was screaming and crying as two soldiers forced their way past her, their guns drawn. Alyd gave a yell and reached under the pillow of his bed. He pulled out his service gun and opened fire on the nearest of the two men. The other screamed for him to drop the weapon and put his hands up. Alyd did so and the officer moved in to arrest him. But he hadn’t seen Dilys move forward. They didn’t see her pick up the gun dropped by the dead officer as he fell. She screamed as she opened fire on the officer. Alyd screamed as he saw the man fall. Then he ran to Dilys. They held each other tightly for a long moment, then he became busy, packing clothes into a bag. He took her by the hand and they ran up the stairs.
“What do you suppose happened to them?” Gwen asked Jack as the view shimmered again.
“I hope they both hanged,” Jack answered with seething anger. “He was a coward. And she was a fool.”
“They loved each other,” Gwen said. “She was prepared to kill to save him.” But Jack didn’t see the romance of it at all. He just saw a deserter who killed a man to save his own skin, and a naïve woman who did the same.
The cellar didn’t change much over the next decades. But the tragedies of Human life went on. They watched with sickened hearts as a series of women lay on a stained mattress under the same bare electric light while another woman performed abortions on them with a piece of wire and an ether soaked rag that she placed in their mouths to stop them screaming. Thus passed the twenties and thirties in that place. The 1940s saw people shivering with fear as Cardiff took its share like every other British city in the Blitz. They watched three different babies being born amidst screams of agony for which there was no relief. Two were healthy children, one a pathetic stillbirth that was taken away quickly from the sight of the grieving mother as the all clear siren penetrated their hiding place.
The house stood through the Blitz. The 1950s and 1960s saw nothing much going on. The 1970s saw only an attempt at a séance by a group of hippy types with incense and chanting that came to nothing. Then nothing happened at all that was important enough to leave an imprint. The next time the view cleared, Gwen was astonished to see herself and Jack looking back. She was surprised to see that he had his arms around her waist. She had not even been aware until she saw it. But he was holding her tightly and her head was pressed against his shoulder. There was nothing in it. They had just both sought solace as they witnessed so many horrors one after the other and their own emotions had become overloaded.
“Is it just this house?” she asked. “Because so many horrible things happened in it? Or…”
“I think bad things happen everywhere,” Jack said. “This is the only place that can tell us about it. But…”
Gwen thought that was the end of it. She and Jack were both surprised when the view shimmered once more and the colour darkened to a sort of reddish glow and then resolved again. She felt his arms tighten closer around her and she was glad of it.
Again, people were hiding in the cellar, much as they did during the Blitz. They were wearing clothes that looked not too different than those she and Jack were wearing, but Gwen had the impression this was in the future. How far in the future, she didn’t know. But there must have been about thirty people in the cellar. Men, women, children. They sat where they could, sharing small rations of food, comforting each other, praying, fear on all their faces.
Then there were screams of terror as the cellar door was blasted away by a weapon that Gwen knew could not be of Earth make. Two men came in. They wore strange helmets that seemed to be controlling them, and from the terrified people, trapped in a room with the only escape blocked, they heard the word ‘Robomen’. They heard voices pleading for their lives, for their children’s lives. But the Robomen raised terrible looking weapons and opened fire. People died instantly, bodies falling on top of each other. Soon there was silence except for a strangely inhuman voice that came from the top of the stairs. Gwen looked at the metallic body of the thing that stood there. It was shaped like a pepper pot, with a base covered in rounded bumps, two ‘arms’ that seemed to be weapons of some kind and a ‘head’ that rotated as an eyestalk with a blue light blinking on and off scanned the scene of carnage. The thing turned and left. The two ‘Robomen’ followed. Gwen watched for a few minutes more, long enough to see a few survivors pick themselves out from under the dead. A man with tear-streaked face, a young girl clinging to a crying baby, a boy who screamed with grief as he clung to his parents’ bodies. Then she tore away from Jack’s arms. She ran away as far as the cellar steps before turning to look at Jack. He stepped away from the alcove towards her.
“What… what was that thing?” she asked.
“That was a Dalek,” Jack told her.
“Dalek? You mean… the things people said were in London – at Canary Wharf?”
“Yes. Except those were a more advanced sort. They had worked out how to fly, as well as basic time travel. The ones you saw here… they couldn’t do stairs. That’s why they had to kidnap humans and turn them into mindless zombies to do their work for them.”
“When…. When will that happen?” Gwen asked. “It’s in the future. Everything else we saw was the past. But that was the future. When….”
“2163,” he answered. “That’s when the invasion will begin. The Dalek War of 2163 to 2164. That’s what history books will call it eventually.”
“2163?” She breathed what seemed like a sigh of relief. “I’ll be dead long before then. Me and Rhys, we’ll both be long dead.”
“Your grand-children won’t be. It’s not that far away. The twenty-first century is when it all changes. The twenty-second is when it happens. It’s what we have to be ready for.”
“For the Daleks to invade? To kill all of us?”
“Not all of us,” Jack assured her. “The Human race… we never stop fighting. We’re tough. We resist. And we have help. There’s a man I know… who won’t let us down. He’ll be there. But we have to help ourselves first. That’s the point. We have to be ready. That’s why Torchwood are here. We’ll be ready.”
“We came here out of curiosity. To find out what happened to Gwyneth Connors. We found out a heck of a lot more. Some of it I could live without remembering.” He looked around at the broken plasterboard wall. “I’ll arrange for it to be repaired. We’ll tell your man upstairs there was no body after all. It was a hoax - apologise for the inconvenience. The wall behind is no threat to anyone. I’m about the only Human being who could see anything unusual there. Maybe a few genuine clairvoyants would get a vibe off it, but I don’t think they would guess the truth.”
“And that’s it?”
“When we get back to the Hub, you deserve a stiff drink,” Jack said. “You’ve got till we get there to decide if you want a dash of Retcon in it. If you want to forget what you saw…”
“I’ll think about it,” Gwen answered.
She thought about it. When they got back Jack ignored all the questions about where they had been. He brought her to his office and poured liquor into two glasses.
It was later in the day. Tosh and Owen had both gone home. Ianto was still manning the front office but Gwen and Jack were alone in the Hub itself.
“You okay?” Jack asked, standing by his office door and watching her at her workstation.
“I’m… I’m coping,” she replied. “I did a bit of research. Dilys and Alyd… they WERE caught. She was hanged. He was court martialled and shot.”
“Justice was done then,” Jack commented.
“Maybe,” Gwen said. “I don’t know. But there’s more. July 1841, the local papers had the story of a suicide – a servant called Sally Jenkins. And in 1842, a butler, with the same address, drowned in the Taff.”
“Suicide?” Jack queried. “He did himself in over her?”
“I don’t think so. It looks like he was drunk and fell in. Nobody seems to have made the connection. But he died. The cruel bastard died. And good riddance.”
There were tears pricking her eyes. Jack understood why. The man had deserved to be punished just as much as Dilys and Alyd. But in the real world what was right and what was just didn’t always neatly happen.
Gwen cleared her throat and blinked.
“Anyway,” she said with a forced smile. “I looked further. There were newspapers of a sort in 1801. More like newssheets really. And a lot of it was gossip rather than real news. But there was a report of a man called Thomas Lloyd, who owned the house. He vanished out of a locked room. His friends, relatives, they couldn’t find any trace of him.”
“They didn’t look in the dust on the floor,” Jack commented, but the look on Gwen’s face told him she was in no mood for frivolous comments like that.
“Well, anyway,” she said. “I’m not sure what use it is, if anything. But now you know the name of the man who first caused the rift.”
“Yes,” Jack said.
“It’s something, at least.”
“Yeah. Something. Tell you what. I think you need another drink.”
“I think I do,” Gwen answered. “But I don’t need any Retcon, ok. I’ll cope with this my own way. No funny business. Or I’ll never trust you again.”
Jack could have pointed out that she wouldn’t remember warning him if he DID slip her the Retcon. He didn’t bother. Nor did he do anything to her drink. She was right. She would learn to cope with the experience for herself.